Welcome back to the Inner Athlete series where today we will dig into the body element.
No matter if we compete in the board room, at home or on the field, our body is the vehicle that allows us to execute and win.
Having a strong, balanced and durable body is critical to our success and longevity in anything that we do. It enables us to perform physical tasks, convey confidence, hop out of bed each morning or compete at the most elite levels of sport.
If we want to maintain and build upon our successes of today, then it is imperative that we take care of ourselves and prioritize time for training, nutrition, and recovery.
While preparing for high school football, I quickly fell in love with weight lifting – it was all about the healthy competition in the weight room, hitting and exceeding my core lift goals (bench, squat, etc.), seeing the changes in my body, and ultimately experiencing the hard work translate into positive results on the field.
As my playing days came to a close, I continued to work out as it became my primary stress reliever and contributed to a positive self-image. Not saying that is a good or bad thing – only the truth. It was the motivation I needed to expand my knowledge and interest around training to include the importance of nutrition and recovery.
Each of us has our unique training goals and therefore no matter what anyone may tell you, there is not a one size fits all program or routine. Knowing our body’s strengths and weaknesses allows us to understand our specific starting point and build ourselves up from there.
The most important aspect of training is the acknowledgement that you must continue to dedicate and prioritize the time to do it. There is no magic pill or 30, 60, or 90 day program for the perfect body. It is consistent hard work – period.
Which leads me to the most important rule of training – to paraphrase NerdFitness, the best exercise is the one that you will actually do! Personally, I hate running… it isn’t fun and I don’t get the runner’s high after I’m done. Therefore if I was to build my training program around running, I would lose all motivation and fail.
So once you understand your fitness goals you must find the type or types of exercise that will help you win. Whether it is running, yoga, Pilates, weight training, power lifting, Cross Fit, etc., you must do what you enjoy to ensure long term success.
Here are a few training guidelines to stay motivated and challenged:
- Love your exercise – Understand which types of exercise fire you up, and which ones you dread – focus more time on the ones you enjoy and supplement the ones that you don’t like as much, but are still necessary for a well rounded body.
- Give yourself something to train for – I’ve been weight training for so long that sometimes I forget why I’m doing it… General good health and well-being is great, but isn’t always motivating. I just signed myself up for a Spartan Sprint to kick my a$$ into high gear – no time to slack off now! Find something fun to train for that will motivate and inspire you to push yourself harder.
- Be adventurous with exercise – Try something new – maybe it’s a new class or group workout. Maybe you’ve been power lifting for the last decade, so flip your fitness world upside down and try yoga! If you ever hit a plateau in your training, work out differently, keep your body guessing, and blast through those barriers.
Earlier I compared our bodies to a vehicle, and when it comes to nutrition there is no better analogy. Fuel your body with nutritious foods, and you will be firing on all cylinders. Fill it with garbage, and plan to spend your day pulling yourself up off the couch.
We are surrounded by fad diets, pills, shakes, cleanses, and liposuction. Honestly, it’s all crap. If I was to leave you with one lesson on nutrition, it would be that the only good ‘diet’ is one focused on real foods (meats, fish, fruits, vegetables and seeds) that you will follow for the rest of your life.
Yes, the rest of your life.
Most people fail in their weight loss efforts and end up gaining back more than they lost. No, not because they chose the wrong diet. It’s because they did not change their relationship and mentality around food, and aren’t willing to commit to a good decisions in the long term.
Want to start to get your nutrition on point? Try the following:
- Eat real food – this was worth repeating – if your food wasn’t previously alive (walking, swimming or growing from the ground), don’t eat it! Focus on quality meats, fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts. They will fill you up and you won’t ever have to worry about deciphering list of chemicals on food labels.
- Don’t drink your calories – Never waste calories on drinks. Even 100% fruit juices are jam packed with sugar and other garbage you don’t need. Replace sodas and juices with water, coffee and tea. Save your calories for nutrient dense food!
- Practice the 80% rule – Life is meant to be lived, and sharing food with friends and family should be a special time. Give yourself permission to indulge every once in a while when the situation arises. After the meal, get right back on track. Note: beer and wings three nights a week with the guys does not count as ‘special time’.
- Sugar is the enemy – There really is no way around it… more and more studies are coming out citing the long term, negative results of consuming sugar. It’s everywhere and goes by all sorts of code names and aliases. Don’t believe the hype? That’s fine. At least challenge yourself and cut out sugar for a couple of weeks and then introduce it back into your body. I promise you will feel the difference, and it won’t be pleasant.
The recovery component of the body is unfortunately the one piece I’ve most neglected over the years, and it is now coming back to bite me. The older we get, the longer it takes to get loosened up or recover after a trying physical event – that could be running a marathon, competing in a weight lifting competition or even wrapping up a long business trip filled with time trapped in a car, train or plane.
They all take their toll and require that we give ourselves time to recover.
We must take that time to recover to future-proof our body and ensure we can keep doing the physical things we love to do long into our old age.
So let’s look at some high impact ways to take care of our bodies:
- Go to bed – Prioritize your sleep – it’s your body’s built in mechanism to heal, rebuild muscle, fight sickness and power yourself up for the next day. Too often we pride ourselves on burning the candle at both ends and sacrifice our best form of recovery. The recommendation is 7-9 hours. Find out what your body needs to feel its best and adjust your schedule to make it happen!
- Invest ($$) in your recovery – one of the reasons I’ve neglected recovery is due to the price tag. Massages, chiropractic work, acupuncture, etc. can be expensive despite its great benefits. If your finances allow for it, shift your mindset and look at these as investments in your body vs. expenses. I’ve got a massage scheduled in a couple days and can’t wait!
- Make the foam roller your best friend – since a massage isn’t always in the cards or budget, invest in a foam roller and make time to use it each day – I’ve worked through some hamstring tightness in a matter of weeks that was plaguing me for years.
- Find your inner yogi – Bonus points for those whose primary form of training is yoga! No matter what we do or how we exercise, we can all benefit from getting in tune with our bodies, increase our flexibility and incorporate more natural movements. Skin tight yoga pants not required.
While I’m just scratching the surface of the body, I still hope some of the content here is new to you and getting you thinking differently about how to strengthen and maintain the vehicle that will drive you towards all of your goals and dreams.
Take care of it, and it will take care of you.
Just to be clear, I’m not a doctor or licensed fitness professional. Everything I’m sharing are things that worked for me and made a positive impact in my own training, nutrition and recovery over the years. If exercise is new to you, or you are planning to shake up your diet or recovery tactics, be sure to consult your doctor.
Now go ahead and take the week to review your training, nutrition and recovery, and then we will dig into the mind of the Inner Athlete.
Discussion Question: What aspect of the body do you need to dedicate more time towards? What will you do to strengthen that area? Now do it!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."