Something the fitness industry doesn’t want you to know is that the underlying principles of physical fitness are neither mysterious nor complex. As with any field of specialized knowledge, there are oceans of nuance within which one could become immersed. However, the average person doesn’t need to know most of that. There’s a minimum effective dose of knowledge that I can boil down to a simple checklist that applies to most people’s situations.
As is often the case, less can be more. But just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. With that in mind, let’s look at the essential factors that pertain to most people. If you have medical conditions, you will have to adjust for your own situation; however, most people can focus on this basic fitness equation:
Hydration + Nutrition + Activity + Rest = Results
Your body is mostly water. As such, every function of your body has a direct relationship to hydration.
The average American experiences chronic dehydration. By drinking plenty of water, especially when exercising, you can better maintain body temperature. You will ensure that working muscle can process energy, and you will access body fat. Water also flushes out toxins. All this is doubly important when exercising in a hot place with elevated ambient temperatures.
You aren’t necessarily what you eat. Many people have inflamed gastrointestinal tracts that cannot properly digest food. You are what you absorb.
Give your body high-quality, natural foods. Avoid highly processed foods as much as possible, especially sugar (which can be very addictive and causes dangerous levels of inflammation). Opt for natural sweeteners and complex carbohydrates wherever possible.
Hydration and nutrition together account for 75 percent of your success in terms of personal training. If you are following a cleansing diet such as Whole30, you will have to be much more selective about food while you are doing it. Once you are done, focus on fresh fruits and vegetables of a variety of colors. Nuts and seeds are nutrient dense (where allergies don’t prevent their consumption). Whole grains and legumes get a bad rap lately, but contain very important heart healthy substances (again, where allergies and/or inflammation don’t prevent their consumption). Don’t forget a variety of natural fats, and the high quality, natural proteins of your choice. If you do this and still need additional protein, make sure you choose a high quality product.
Activity is definitely essential. Without exercise, bones become brittle, muscles atrophy, and reflexes diminish. To get results, you don’t have to work out for long sessions. In some instances this can undermine progress. You should, however, seek to challenge your body. The harder you exert yourself (with proper form), the shorter your sessions will be.
A personal trainer or wellness coach can easily adapt High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) formats for cardiovascular, strength, and plyometric training. If you are short on time, you can get your daily exercise done in only 15-20 minutes!
Also, progressive calisthenics uses body weight to improve strength, endurance, and mass without gym equipment. Between HIIT and calisthenics, you can bust through the time, money, and space obstacles that might undermine your progress. It’s important to monitor your heart rate during intense conditioning sessions. Be sure you have a reliable heart rate monitor.
To create change in the body, you want to exhasust yourself without losing control. You should feel energized after, not utterly depleted. Expect discomfort, but always avoid pain. Focus on breath, proper technique, and appropriate exertion levels in order to break a sweat, engage your body’s systems, and enjoy the benefits of an active lifestyle.
You cannot overvalue rest: A huge number of Americans are sleep deprived to one degree or another. In addition to undermining your general wellness, it also undermines your personal fitness results. Without adequate rest, your body cannot heal.
You will break down your body when exercising, but it will not become stronger until you rest. Fueling your body provides the material for the repairs that we understand as “strength” or “fitness,” but these changes happen only when you are asleep. Human Growth Hormone reaches it peak during sleep, so don’t scrimp on it!
You must get enough sleep, or you will blunt the results of your training. Sleep isn’t the only form of rest. Days between exhausted body parts count too. And so do short stretch breaks throughout the day while at work.
Simplifying your fitness practice will help you meet your goals. Focus on fuel, form, and rest. They are what matter most and yield sustainable results!