While many things in life are not in our control, there are many aspects of fitness that are completely in your control.
For instance, you can't change your genetics....
.....but you can change your habits.
A well-crafted routine can help you achieve your fitness goals on auto-pilot.
In this article we'll go over five fitness principles that are foundational to physical and mental wellbeing.
Making these principles part of your life will go a long way towards helping you lead the productive, vibrant life that you desire.
1. Eat Real Food
A diet rich in high-quality meats, fruits, and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of disease (1).
This should come as no surprise.
Awhole-food dietemphasizes real foods; this includes vegetables, fruits, tubers, and legumes, and also includes other great sources of nutrients like seeds, beans, grassfed beef, chicken, and whole eggs.
Here's a quick guide to help you get started with eating more REAL food.
a) Eat fewer convenience and proceeded foods (if the product is stable on your shelf for more than a year - stay away!)
b) Don't eat foods with enriched flour or added sugar
c) Eat plenty of fruits and veggies (shop at your local farmers market if possible)
d) Stay away from processed vegetable oils, such as canola and soybean oil (these are polyunsaturated oils which are unstable in the body and can cause cellular damage and inflammation)
A simple rule of thumb to live by when it comes to eating a healthy diet is to:
"eat real food, not too much, mostly plants" (2).
This simple maxim boils down all of the complex dietary research that has been done in the past 100 years.
Keep it in mind next time you go to the grocery store and buy real food.
2. Stay Active
Your body is designed to move.
If you spend long hours sitting on the couch or typing on the computer, there's a good chance you're compromising your health (3).
Instead, make sure you stand up and move around every 30 minutes or so - it's a simple habit that will keep your muscles AND brain active.
Making this small change will go a long way in boosting your health.
TIP:if you have a fitness tracker (like a Fitbit) you can program it to *beep* whenever you have been inactive for too long (every 30 minutes, etc..). Every time it beeps you can stand up and do some stretching (or air squats!).
Whenever you find an opportunity to walk, do it.
Even if it means parking your car farther away from where you're going, it still counts.
Take the stairs more often.
When you combine all of these small things together, they will help to keep your health in check.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough sleep will drain your energy and kill your productivity (4).
TIP:If you're having trouble sleeping, it may help to wake up at the same time every day. A consistent sleep pattern will make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
Make it a goal to get a minimum of 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night so that you're able to be productive the next day.
If you struggle with occasional sleeplessness, check out our award-winningnatural sleep aids.
We also have an awesome article (written by a top sleep scientist) on the10 Best Sleep Tips.
4. Increase Your Work Capacity Over Time
One of the keys to getting in better shape is to strive to get progressively better with each workout.
Add 5 extra pounds to the bar.
Do one more rep.
This concept, called progressive overload, is what causes your body to get stronger and leaner over time.
If you focus solely on body composition changes, it can be easy to get down on yourself because it can take a long time to see changesin the mirror. Plus, if you're used to seeing your body every day, you'll often miss the changes your body is making.
So instead, focus on increasing your work capacity.
Strive to get stronger with each workout.
To do an extra set.
This way you can make incremental progress every day.
This will keep you motivated in the long run and will help you to reach your fitness goals!
Here's are a few simple tips for increasing your work capacity:
1. Don't Rest Too Much Between Sets.
Lifting weights allows you to rest between sets, as opposed to cardio which keeps you constantly on the move. In order to increase intensity during weight lifting, you have to reduce the amount of time you spend resting between sets. Decrease your rest time gradually until you have just 60 seconds to adjust the weights or jot down some notes in your workout journal.
2. Do More Work Overall.
This is simple and you can add more work by lifting more weight or by doing more sets/repetitions. Do one more lap around the track, etc...
3. Switch Up Your Workouts.
Have you stuck to the same workout for months? If yes, then it might be time for a refresh. You can introduce new workouts, switch the order of your current exercises, do different forms of cardio, or start a completely new workout routine. There are endless ways to switch up a workout. Just make sure that you have a way to track progress with each new workout (remember the concept of progressive overload).
5. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is one of the most important daily habits for health.
Your body is comprised of over 50% water, needless to say, getting enough daily water is important for your health and wellbeing (5).
One major benefit of getting enough water intake is that it allows your body to more easily excrete toxins.
The recommended daily water intake guides are below (6):
•Adult males should drink around 12 and a half cups of water each day
•Adult women should drink around 9 cups of water each day.
BONUS TIP: Work on Flexibility
If you've never been able to touch your toes, don't worry, you're not the only one.
Start with a workout program and add on a good nutrition plan + adequate hydration, and with time you will be able to improve your flexibility - which is important for preventing workout injuries.
We have a few rules for improvingyour range of movement:
a) Start with adynamic warm-upbefore each workout. Static stretching isn't as effective as dynamic warmups. So start with simple movements targeting your whole body - like push-ups, lunges, jumping jacks, and squats. This will get your blood flowing and your oxygen intake will increase.
b) Finish your exercises with long static stretching. Long-duration stretches are good for lengthening muscles that have been tightened up during a lifting session. Focus on hip flexors, lats, and chest, as these are more likely to be tight due to posture.
c) Incorporate massage. Regular stretching and training are good for boosting the range of motion, but massage has the added benefit of breaking up stiff tissues and those tight knots that form in your muscles after an intense workout.
d) Learn how to breathe properly. Belly breaths are the best and should be performed daily to improve your posture and get you to relax.
Fitness is a key part of life.
Whether your goal is to compete in a Crossfit competition or simply to be able to keep up with your young kids, make exercise a part of your daily routine.
Whether it's weightlifting or walking, find an exercise type that you enjoy and stick with it.