When it comes to fitness there are many ways to achieve it depending on your goals. For example, a swimmer and a runner have distinctly different methods. A person trying to gain muscle weight and person trying to lose fat weight have different methods of doing it. Me personally, I’m a runner first. Run/walker to be exact but we’ll get to me a little later.
The point I want to drive home here is no matter what fitness means to you, why you want to do it and what your purpose is, your success ultimately comes down to three components: diet, exercise and rest.
Let’s get into these in more detail.
1. Diet. It’s often said that Diet is 80% of the equation when it comes to achieving and maintaining fitness with exercise occupying the other 20%. I’m sure you’ve heard the popular quote, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Let’s set one thing straight. When I say “diet”, I don’t mean the temporary fad that you adopt until you reach a certain goal and then you go back to eating junk. Diet is how you eat, plain and simple. Even if you eat nothing but fritos and oreos all day with soda on the side, that;s your diet because that is how you eat. I’m assuming you don’t eat that way or at least you no longer want to or else you wouldn’t be reading this. There are plenty of ways of eating out there and more to come I’m sure, from vegetarianism to veganism to paleo to gluten free, etc. For the past few years, I’ve been what you call a flexitarian which is a mostly vegetarian diet but still including meat on occasions, which usually for me were my cheat meals and special occasions like going out to eat or holiday meals. Lately, I’ve decided though to shock my body a little and I’ve jumped to the other side of the spectrum and adopted a mostly Paleo lifestyle. So instead of meat 2-3 times a week, it’s more like once or twice a day but fruits and veggies still make up most of how I eat. Also, and I think this is important to any diet you choose to follow, focus on whole foods. Whole foods include fruits, vegetables, meat from the butcher, fish, eggs. In other words, foods that aren’t processed and most packaged foods. A good rule of thumb is to shop on the outside aisles of the supermarket. That’s where most of the whole foods are. Canned vegetables and beans are cool but watch the sodium. It’s okay to indulge in things you enjoy but make those indulgences infrequent. Another good rule of thumb is to strive for healthy eating 80% of the time and the other 20%, do what you want. However you choose to eat, enjoy it!
2. Exercise. It doesn’t really matter what you do, just be active. Like we often mention on this site, walking is a great way to get exercise. Playing sports is great. A basic formula for a great fitness routine is strength training, cardio and stretching. Your workout should always start with a warmup and stretching and end with a cooldown and stretching. I admit, when I’m pressed for time or just feeling lazy, sometimes I “forget” to stretch but I do it more often than not and I definitely tell the difference when I don’t stretch. Being in my 30s, stretching is that much more important because when you’re in your 20s, your bodies are more resilient and can take more punishment. You’re less brains and more physicality. When you hit your 30s, you have to work smart and hard. My workout consists of morning stretching (sometimes yoga), running or some type of cross training, followed by calisthenics for strength and a final stretch to work those muscles out and, quiet as kept, it feels good.
A lot of women tend to shy away from strength training for fear getting big and bulky and men tend to shy away from cardio because they think it will make them skinny wimps. People, you’re both wrong. Ladies, you’re not genetically pre-disposed to be built like men and gentlemen, you need the cardio to burn the fat so you can see those muscles you’re building. How much exercise should you be doing? At minimum, 30 minutes, 3 days a week. AT. MINIMUM.
And on to the last point and possibly the most important…
3. Rest. Rest is so important because though it may not seem like it, during recovery is when you get stronger, faster, better. The workout breaks you down but rest builds you back up. The reason why I say rest and not sleep is because sleep isn’t the only form of rest. Anything that isn’t strenuous on the body can be considered rest. A light stretching session can be rest. With all that said, sleep is the king of rest though. While you’re asleep, your body is doing wonderful things inside of you since it doesn’t have to concentrate on keeping you up and supplying you energy to move about. Not getting adequate rest can lead to minimized gains or even losses. How can you be better when you won’t give your body a chance to recover? I won’t tell you how much sleep you should be getting because even though the general consensus is eight hours, eight tends to be too much for me. Anything more than 7 hours and I’m actually more tired. So I’ll say whatever makes you feel rested, aim for that. I know, I know, you don’t have time to sleep a full 8 hours or whatever your number is because of your commitment. Trust me, make the time. Watch a little less TV or, God forbid, put work aside until tomorrow. It’ll be there when you get up, trust me.
You have to take care of your body and mind, but your body especially. It’s true that if you take care of it, it will take care of you. When these 3 are working in tandem in my life, not only do I feel unstoppable, I AM unstoppable. My body feels healthy, my mind feels healthy. You want to hear your body thank you? Put diet, exercise and rest at the top of your priority list. It will not only make you a better athlete but a better person.