As the decade of 2010 comes to a close, my addictive yet fulfilling relationship with fitness celebrates its 10th year. The routines, exercises and eating styles I’ve done since I first started are vastly different from what I’m doing now and I predict that it will continue to evolve over the years to come. That is because exercise and nutrition science are relatively new fields and, for me, it’s important to stay flexible and updated with new methods and techniques in these disciplines.
Although, I may still be considered a beginner compared to the more seasoned practitioners, athletes and professionals, I’ve come to develop my own philosophy of fitness over a decades time. By no way or means do I claim that my style of doing things is the best out there nor is it the perfect one for any given individual, but I personally came from a mentally handicapped background of teenage insecurity, lack of direction and social anxiety and have always believed that fitness is an area in which we can build our body, strengthen our mind and develop our character. More than looking good, getting strong or prolonging my life, I’ve always been passionate about how fitness can give a sense of fulfilment in the present moment.
With that being said, here are my top 10 tips from my 10 years living a fit and healthy lifestyle.
1. Start with the end in mind.
Exercise strengthens our bodies and increases the capacity of work it can do. However, do it too often and we risk getting addicted to the endorphin rush and increases the risk for overtraining. I know for some gym goers and myself, taking a rest day is way harder than getting in an extra set. In the same light, eating healthfully fuels and heals us, but stressing too much about eating the “right” type of foods leads us to develop eating disorders like orthorexia.
As gloomy as it may sound, starting with how our lives will end gives us a vision for balance and longevity. Why would you push yourself to workout when you’re sick? This will only hinder your body from recovering. And why would you go perfectly ketogenic if you know you can’t sustain it in the long run? As with anything, you have put balance and sustainability as top priority. With this mindset, we’d stay practical and reasonable in in our training and nutrition.
2. Educate yourself.
Either you research on your own or seek professional guidance, learning the ins and outs of fitness prevents you from seesawing results, plateauing and hurting yourself. Once you gain an understanding of the proper methods, continue learning other techniques and be open to point of views from different schools of thought. As a coach, I don’t believe in just telling my clients what I think is the “right” thing to do or the “proper” foods to eat. That’s being narrow-minded and having a personal bias. Instead, I help them develop what I know is applicable in their own lifestyles. But to know what is applicable to people of vast walks of life is to be a student of life for life! Simply put, always be a student!
3. One small step at a time.
Consistency drives results and consistent results drives habits. A sure way to consistent progress is setting one realistic and small goal at a time. Instead of thinking about the best approach, focus on doing something a little bit better. Before you worry what your heaviest set in the squat will look like, put on your shoes and get out the door first. Like going up a staircase, achieving one small step leads up to the next. Then before you know it, you’ve reached the top.
4. Use fitness as a tool.
Never train in the gym only to be good in the gym. There will always be someone stronger than you, more good looking or more advanced than you. Instead, train your body to be functional in your daily activities and be useful in your community. Fitness shouldn’t be the end, but only a means to the end. Go outside of yourself and do it for a bigger purpose, not just for bigger biceps. Having an end goal that is beyond our personal wants and desires is the secret of enduring pain for a long period of time.
5. Build mental and physical awareness.
As with growth in different areas of our lives, training our muscles to grow is painful. Use this pain to gain awareness of how your muscles contract and how your body moves. Do your knees cave inwards when you squat? This subtle movement error indicates weakened glutes and may cause knee pain when you go off to run. Being aware of how your limbs move is a conduit to being connected with your body and therefore being fully aware of the present moment. Also, withstanding physical pain during exercise trains our mind to develop focus and be constantly aware of danger.
6. Take nutrition seriously.
I achieved better results during a year of eating right than from my first three years of eating cheeseburgers pre and post workouts. Back then, I thought that I can reward myself with junkfood if I pushed it hard enough in the gym. I was doing it all wrong. I treated food purely for pleasure instead of it being fuel and nourishment.
One of the biggest eye-openers I had is how food actually drives most of the results and not exercise. You can actually look fitter, get stronger, feel better and think clearer by eating right with very little exercise. What a shocker! Exercise breaks our bodies down and food builds it back up. Food replenishes our energy but more than that, it is nature’s medicine for health and longevity. We are naturally built to be healthy and survive, not to get sick. So it’s just right to eat naturally with real food that nature provides.
7. Recover and sleep adequately.
Our bodies have evolved to hunt and gather during the day and doze off during the night. The invention of light, technology and modern living has disrupted our body’s natural rhytms and now in the 21st century, we are fighting to reclaim our health through exercise and food. However, doing fitness also causes stress the body and the mind. The best way to recover is through adequate sleep. Sleep enables us to process the foods we eat and release the toxins we absorb in the environment (or produce on our own). Each of us needs different lengths of sleep depending on our age and lifestyles, but research shows getting 7 to 8 hours a night is optimal.
8. Do what YOU enjoy.
Fitness is a personal journey, so before you jump on the bandwagon and do what the next guy is doing, learn first whether it’s enjoyable for you or not. Remember, it’s your own effort that gets you results, not others’. How can you sustain the pain of hard work in something you don’t take pleasure in? The secret to staying on track forna long time and embracing the discomfort is to enjoy what you do. Fitness is not a quick fix, but a lifestyle of struggle and accomplishment. It’s gonna get hard so get comfortable with it.
9. Listen to your body.
“Experts” may have mastered all the techniques, diets and hacks but in no way can they be a master of your life. You are always your best teacher. Listen to your body’s pain signals. These are warnings and signs of whether you’re improving or injuring yourself. Likewise, take note of the little changes in your body and in your mood. Are your muscles shaping the way you want them to? If so, you may be doing the right type of exrercise. Are you increasing your speed in your weightlifting? Then you’re program may be working for you. Continue to listen and note down data because what works for you now will not work forever. Our bodies are built to adapt that is why fitness is a science of observing, listening, gathering information and experimenting.
10. Find support and accountability.
Whether it’s a gym partner, a group class or a fitness coach, having someone accountable to keeps you going and on track. Man is built to grow together, not alone. Have other people check your form and call out your mistakes and do the same for them. Learn, suffer and grow together. You push others to improve and others push you. It’s that simple!
With these 10 simple tips, you’re now set to start the new year right and to hopefully use fitness to live the best life you can live.
For more tips and in-depth training and nutrition guide, I am offering one on one online and in-person coaching to dedicated individuals. Feel free to ask and send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org