In short health and fitness is an ever evolving state of being, our ability to play sports, the effectiveness of our immune system to keep us from falling ill and most obviously the shape of our body.
This is what my idea of health and fitness was when I was a kid. I thought if you could play a game of soccer, swim in the pool, had a six pack and rarely got sick that you were healthy and fit. As I got older – around my late teens I noticed that this wasn’t quite the case. My perception then became to include strength as well. I was of the understanding that you couldn’t be fit and healthy without being strong. You didn’t have to be able to lift a car onto it’s side – but strength was important, physical strength in my mind SHOULD be a co dependent of health and fitness.
I started in the personal training business when I was twenty and my perception of health and fitness had changed again. Fit and healthy meant that you were lean, ripped, strong, able to run, able to swim, could play any sport you chose, rarely got sick, that you could work hard, play hard and live life. A little bit of vanity had snuck in… just a tiny bit. I’m now a bit older again, twenty six and you would not lose a cent if you bet that my opinion had changed again. It is an ever evolving phenomenon. The more I learn and the more I know – I become overwhelmed by just how little I know and how much more there is to learn.
There is no doubt in my mind that in four years when I am thirty and no doubt my life circumstances have changed again that so too will my perception of health and fitness. What is my perception now? I’m not even sure if I know exactly what it is yet but I will lay it out as best I can – I realise now though, as I write this post that my perception is much more “Bigger Picture” than it has ever been before – I am not too sure why – I just know that it is. For my reasons and beliefs as to why my definition is what it is, you need to know one important part first… We have all heard people say that you only live once. We know that right? It has cliché written all over it and is the annoying hyper happy talk that frustrates the hell out of everyone else – BUT – we really are only in this life for a short time. To all the smart asses out there yes I understand we won’t ever do anything for as long as our life lasts, but even still – it is a short time.
In November I went to a strength and conditioning course in Sydney where the presenter Keegan Smith bought to our attention the idea of a worthy ideal, or something similar to a life quest, or mission. Over the last six to nine months I have noticed that my opinion regarding health and fitness was going through changes but I guess I never really understood how to place all the parts and pieces together. It was never a whole picture to me, but during this course I started to put it together.
Then, as most people tend to do – I completely forgot to write it all down. It wasn’t until I was stuck on a bus trip to Sydney, a two day trainer induction and a following trip on the bus back to Canberra that it started to play on my mind again. Why then who knows- but it did and I have been thinking about it ever since!
I mentioned it on the Elevate Health and Fitness Facebook page, asking people for their opinions as to what health and fitness REALLY means to them, why it means that and the difference health, fitness and well being has had on their lives. As I said, my new perception is very much a bigger picture outlook. Who knows, it may seem delusional, may seem cool, may seem outrageously stupid or far worse but at the end of the day it is my opinion so it can’t be wrong for me. Strap yourself in and get ready….
First of all, when looking at health and fitness I believe that there are three main pillars. These are the big dogs that everybody knows about, they are your exercise, nutrition and stress management. You can’t have health in my eyes without having all three. You have been living under a rock for the last few years if you haven’t noticed there is a momentum shift towards exercise- in particular resistance training. People are becoming more aware of the benefits and luxuries afforded by maintaining an active exercise routine. Compound lifts are king, working big muscle groups, building lean muscle, boosting the metabolism and increasing strength.
Obviously these are the ideal, but not everybody can perform chin ups, squats or deadlifts let alone exercises on the rings. When you were a baby you had to crawl before you walked and the same applies to your exercise- if it hurts to run, start by walking, add small jobs in eventually from time to time and build those intervals up.
As important as exercise is, it is either equaled or beaten by nutrition.
I have been reading a book recently on the state of our nutrition nowadays and one of the quotes that really stood out to me is this “Our nutrition doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be as complicated as we make it”. Eat fresh foods and eat them regularly. More of your meals should be made up of a variety of vegetables, fruits, meats and fish and far, far less should be spent leaning over a McDonalds meal inhaling hundreds, if not thousands of useless calories. As the saying goes, you wouldn’t fill your car with dirty water and expect it to run well or to even get far. Why then is it perfectly acceptable to fill your body’s energy tanks with rubbish and expect optimal physical and cognitive function. Variety in diet is key, fresh is best, organic is better but keeping variety on your meals is the first step to success. Cook the foods you enjoy and do just that, ENJOY them! You will never stick to anything that you don’t like and nutrition is included in this.
Finally, stress management is another incredibly important pillar to your health. Too many of us are overstressed, overtired, overweight, overindulging, overeating, over-thinking and these stresses are impacting our cognitive function, our physical performance, our body fat levels, our digestive proficiency and much more. Just think about it, how many levels stress can affect you- just for a moment think… just think. Considering it can quite easily be managed- it really can- do you think you could change some elements to create a better lifestyle? If money is something that stresses you out- I get it. People have bills to pay, plus the necessities and if the money isn’t there to pay for it, it just isn’t there! Take a look at your expenses however and if money is that tight only pay for the necessities, leave the luxuries out until you have steadied the ship. Digestive stress? Simple! Eat better foods! Hate your job and you are overstressed and not enjoying life? Find a new job – there are plenty out there.
Most importantly however you should aim to take time out. Take time to relax, meditate, sleep or to do some yoga- just take a break and make the most of it. If your body is saying you need it, chances are you REALLY need it.
Balancing these three pillars is another line of important elements. They are the following: water, rest, passion, purpose, relationships, enjoyment.
When you take into consideration just how much of our body is made up of water, you quickly realize just how much we NEED water and not just any water. Good water. Great water if possible. How much should you drink? Who knows, depends on weight, activity levels, metabolism, what foods you’re eating, outside temperature, office temperature and many other elements. A simple way to identify if you are running on a good level or if you’re dehydrated is to take a look at your urine. If the colour represents the waters found in your local river then you had best get your growler around some extra water. If it’s clear, well that is a good thing. Just keep it clear. Obviously you shouldn’t go nuts and drink litres upon litres of water. Be smart and just make sure it’s clear the majority of times you go to pee. Your hydration will allow for the entire body to work in unison, doing the tasks it was designed to do and one of those is the role your kidneys and liver play in breaking down fats.
Rest is pretty obvious. You are tired – go to sleep. You are sore- get a massage. You are so tightly wound with stress – go meditate, or sleep, or a massage. Your body will function much better when it is well rested. Aim to sleep between 7-8 hours per night ideally between the times of 10pm and 6am. To encourage a deeper sleep make your room as dark as possible and remove any devices emitting a WiFi signal. Deep and uninterrupted sleep will allow for the body to repair from the previous day and prepare for the following. You would be mad to knock that cycle around too much if you really are serious about your health and fitness.
Relationships are a funny one. In an ideal world your family, your partner and your friends will want to support you as opposed to bringing you down. Getting healthy isn’t always easy, in fact it often isn’t easy. It’s tough but believe me it’s worthwhile. However on those tough days it is much easier to come home to a girlfriend that supports your decisions to get in shape or similar views by a parent or child.
Enjoyment really ties under the stress management pillar but is an important inclusion none the less. If you are stuck in a rut and not enjoying your job- GO… HAVE… SOME… FUN. Whether your idea of fun is playing laser tag, going jet skiing, skydiving or cooking – who cares. Have some fun, make it a regular occurrence and enjoy yourself more often. You and your health will be much better for it.
I have left them until last, and by no means are they the least important. Both passion and purpose are crucial to your health, well being and happiness. You will notice that I have just thrown in happiness- more a benefit from health rather than a necessity to having it. It is very hard to be happy while unhealthy, or ill. However if you achieve purpose and live with passion you will surely find happiness provided you respect the other elements of health and fitness. When it comes to purpose and passion, I refer again to the idea of a worthy ideal. Question, if money wasn’t a necessity, would you still work your job even if you were given nothing in return? Are you happy enough with your purpose that you would do it for free? The fact that you get paid is just another added bonus? I have always been a firm believer in working a particular career path because you are passionate about it, that you feel it is your purpose- once you apply this mindset the success will come as your passion shines through. It doesn’t just apply to your career, it is about finding something that you will happily dedicate your time too, that you truly believe in and will give without a moment’s hesitation whatever time or efforts you need too.
It may seem long winded, but this is what I truly believe health and fitness is. No longer is being healthy about exercising or just eating healthy. Will my opinions on health change over the coming years? Probably. But for now, focus on the small things, rest, hydrate, seek enjoyment, pursue your passion and purpose and when you are doing these maintaining the big three will become much, much easier.
Rest + Water + Passion + Purpose + Fun x (Exercise + Nutrition + Mindset) = c
c= health and fitness, lifelong change and most importantly happiness.
– Clint Hartley
Personal Trainer at Elevate Fitness