The Basics of Fitness: Fundamentals, Not Fluff
The “formula” for getting fit and staying fit is actually very simple. The key is consistent daily execution over the long term.
Strength Train 3-4 Days Per Week (45-60 minutes)
Many people are under the assumption that they build muscle in the gym, and those people would be wrong. Lifting weights in the gym actually breaks down muscle tissue. Strength training is the stimulus for a positive adaptation. What you do outside the gym (nutrition/sleep) is what determines how well you will grow and progress.
In the case of strength training less is definitely more. You just need the minimal effective dose in order to achieve the positive adaptation. You would actually grow and progress faster by training less and focusing more on what is happening outside of the gym.
The focus of these sessions should be on the main compound movements. Squats, presses, hinges (deadlifts), rows, lunges, carries, pulls, and rotation/anti-rotation movements. Each session you come at the gym you should have a goal in mind to do one more rep or a little more weight than the session before with a certain movement (progressive overload).
Eat Lots of Nutrient Dense Whole Foods (Most of The Time)
Way too many people try to overcomplicate health and fitness. 90 percent of the time eat whole foods (meats, veggies, nuts/seeds, starches, fruit, etc.), and then 10 percent of the time allow yourself some freedom to enjoy the typical “dirty” foods.
Making sure you are eating enough is going to play a huge part in how well you recover from your strength training sessions, and how well you feel overall. Here are the basics: eat sufficient protein, carbohydrates should be based on training volume/intensity, and healthy fats are critical for optimal hormone function so don’t skimp here either. Neither fats or carbs make you fat, and they are both important.
Meal timing, macronutrient ratios, supplements, high carb, low carb, and all these subtle nuances won’t even cover 1 percent of your results. Stop worrying about the gimmicks and minute details. Nobody ever got fat eating too many vegetables or steak. Focus on the fundamentals, not the fluff.
Every now and again life calls upon us to go into extremes. That especially goes for elite athletes, or anyone trying to achieve something on a high level. That said, finding a sustainable approach with your nutrition is what will yield long-term results. If you can’t see yourself eating a certain way for the rest of your life then you are setting yourself up for failure. There is no one-size fits all nutrition plan, and don’t let someone try to sell you on the fact that there is.
You Probably Aren’t Sleeping Enough
I say this because I was one of those guys that would say, “I perform great on just six hours of sleep!”
Let me squash that now by saying nobody performs at his or her maximum capacity on anything less than 7-9 hours of sleep.
Deep sleep is where our bodies and minds recover and grow from all the stressors we applied to it throughout the day. We learn in our sleep based on the things we studied throughout the day. Our muscles recover and grow in our sleep. Think of sleep as the ultimate performance-enhancing drug, and the best part is that you don’t have to pay for it or get it out of a bottle.
NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) / Daily Movement
Non-exercise activity and more overall movement throughout our day is one of the keys to living longer, avoiding injury, recovering faster, staying leaner, and having more energy.
Rising with the sun means more time to move and more hours to eat well. This also helps regulate our natural circadian rhythms for better energy throughout the day and better sleep at night.
Some of my favorite non-exercise activities are long walks (great way to explore your city or when you travel), boxing, surfing (when I am in an area where I can), hiking, and kayaking.
People are always so worried about how many calories they burn during a workout, but you burn the majority of your calories during things like non-exercise activity and sleep. The higher your resting metabolic rate the better (that’s why strength training is awesome).
If you work in an office, or you are a student then find creative ways to build movement into your day. Walk during your phone calls versus sitting at your desk, ride your bike to work/school, take the stairs every time it is an option, or do some mobility/stretches while you watch TV at the end of the day.
When I went from a desk job to personal trainer I almost immediately noticed my mood and energy levels sky rocket because moving throughout the day increased necessary blood flow to my body and mind.
Don’t like bodybuilding or powerlifting? That’s cool. Do Crossfit! Don’t enjoy Crossfit, and you would rather do yoga? Sweet! Do that!
My point is that you should be enjoying the daily process towards your goals. If you don’t enjoy your workouts then you won’t stick to them long term. That’s part of the non-exercise activity piece. Finding a skill or hobby outside of the gym will add a level of motivation to your training.
Hit it hard in the gym 3-4 days per week, and then go focus on your skill or hobby! It could be gardening, playing guitar, boxing, woodwork, fixing an old car, or whatever else you enjoy! If your skill/hobby isn’t very active then add in some long walks. Additionally, if you are an athlete this gives you more time to focus on your sport.
There is so much cool stuff going on outside of the gym. Don’t think you need to live out of a gym bag and shaker bottle in order to achieve awesome results.
All of these pieces really do blend together. One of the most important pieces to the fitness puzzle, however, is to be consistent.
I don’t care how perfect your workout and nutrition program are. If you are not being consistent day in an day out over the long term then you will just find yourself spinning your wheels.
That is why actually enjoying the process is such a key thing to get down. Then hitting your goals almost becomes effortless and enjoyable!
If you are starting a new routine then reverse engineer. What is your three month or 90 day goal? All right cool, now what is your three-week goal? Great. Then make small daily goals that work towards that larger goal. It could be something as simple as ride my bike to work today, or drink one gallon of water today. Just focus on something small and achievable each day.
After enough small daily battles won you will eventually find yourself at your goal not even realizing how much time has gone by.
Do What You Love,