There are a couple times every year when we say to ourselves, “Man, I really need to get back into the gym and get in shape.”
New Years resolution season in the wake of holiday indulgences, the start of spring and tank top weather, or right around Memorial Day, when the neighborhood pool opens and you start getting invited to pool parties and cookouts.
These can be stressful times to feel out of shape.
But what does “getting fit” mean? And what does it take to get fit?
“Fitness” simply means building a strong body and mind that enables you to handle everything life throws your way. Think back to high school science class – survival of the fittest.
Today, I want to share the 5 PILLARS OF FITNESS with you to help you become fit for any challenge or pool party invite.
Without these five things, you don’t stand a chance of getting fit. They are all vitally important to your success, and to your survival as a fit and healthy person poised to confidently tackle life’s adventures.
I will also share exactly how to implement these pillars into your life. Because reading about fitness and gathering the knowledge is nothing without action. It’s a good start, but you must take action.
Let’s dive in and get started with the most important pillar.
PILLAR #1: Mindset
“Because whether you think you can, or think you can’t… you’re right.”
Thoughts become actions. If you talk to yourself critically and negatively, you’ll begin to treat yourself that way. Be your own best friend, not your worst enemy.
When a negative thought about yourself crosses your mind, ask yourself:
- Is that really true?
- Would I say that to a friend?
Then, try to reframe the thought into something useful. Being mindful of the way we talk to ourselves is an incredibly important skill that shapes our beliefs and actions. I’m not saying it’s easy – it’s damn hard to do! – but it’s a useful practice to check in with yourself and reframe your inner dialogue.
Another mindset misstep is comparing yourself to others. Stop it!
Your friends, neighbors, and coworkers are at a point in their fitness journey that is impossible for you to know, and they have their own unique struggles and goals. The only useful comparison is against your past self.
Are you becoming a better version of yourself? If not…
Focus on getting just 1% better every day. You won’t get everything right, straight off the bat. By consistently nailing the basics of a healthy lifestyle and forgiving yourself when you make a mistake, you will be far more likely to stay the course. Strive for progress, not perfection.
To put this into practice, make the best choice available to you at the time. For example, it’s hard to eat healthy on the road, but it’s getting easier than ever to find a healthy option, even at fast food joints. It might not be a perfectly healthy choice that fits some ideal diet in your head, but it’s better than the other options available to you at the time.
Remember that you always have a choice. Make the choice to change for the better, and consistently execute on the best available options.
“Fitness” isn’t a 30-day challenge or a get ripped quick scheme. You are in this for the long haul.
A positive mindset is the foundation of a lifetime of health and fitness.
PILLAR #2: Nutrition
Once you embrace the process and mindset of “fitness,” you need to work on the second pillar of fitness – nutrition.
Nutrition is the next most important pillar because “you are what you eat” is true, and you cannot out-exercise a poor diet, no matter how hard you try.
But with so much nutrition information out there – Atkins, Paleo, Mediterranean diet, vegetarian, vegan, keto, intermittent fasting, macros – the simple concept of what to eat gets CONFUSING!
Here’s a simplified approach to nutrition:
- Eat mostly real, whole foods as close to their natural state as possible.
This includes meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Use your common sense. For the most part, we intuitively know what food is good for us, and what food makes us feel like crap. Eat the good stuff, not the junk.
- Choose nutrient-dense foods as often as possible.
This means food that is high in vitamins and minerals, but relatively lower in calories. Veggies are a perfect example of nutrient-dense food because they contain a ton of vitamins and minerals, but are extremely low in calories. Choose a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to make sure you get a variety of vitamins and minerals.
- Eat 3 meals a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner – and limit snacking. Learn to eat when you’re truly hungry, and stop when you’re satisfied, not stuffed.
- Drink water. Lots of it. Probably more than you think you need.
A great way to put this into practice is to cook at home more often than not. That way, you can control exactly what goes on your plate and into your body. Learn to prepare a couple of staple dishes. Cooking should be a fun, social experience once you get over your fears of “messing up” – that’s part of the learning process.
Apply these principles about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, eat food you enjoy, even if it isn’t “good for you.”
You don’t have to call it “treating” or “cheating” on your diet. You’re not a dog. You don’t earn food treats. Just enjoy the damn ice cream. And NEVER regret a food choice; that creates a very messed up mindset around food and can lead to disordered eating. We want to stay sane about food.
These recommendations are a sane, sustainable approach to a healthy diet that you don’t need to be on/off/on and off again. This is a nutritional approach you should be able to stick to for life.
Once you master the basics, we can talk about calories and macros and meal timing. Until then, it’s all just noise distracting you from the big picture.
PILLAR #3: Strength Training
Though you cannot out-train a bad diet, you definitely should strength train to get fit.
Being strong makes everything else easier. Literally everything. From carrying your groceries in one trip, to picking up your kids/grandkids, or climbing a mountain for fun… strength makes it easier to get through the day.
Not only does strength make it easier to LIVE, it makes it easier to THRIVE!
Being strong helps you make the most out of your life; to give each day everything you’ve got; and to tackle adventures and the things you’ve always dreamed of doing.
Which is what I think you want for yourself, right?
You don’t want to just get by, get through the day, and collapse in a heap at the end of it, only to do it again tomorrow. You want to seize the day and kick some ass!
That’s why it’s a shame that most people turn to cardio when they want to “get fit.”
Don’t get me wrong, aerobic exercise is important. It makes your heart strong. But what I’m talking about is making your ENTIRE BODY stronger so that you can thrive, not just survive the day.
What makes strength training important?
- Resistance exercise boosts your metabolism. It does this better than cardio, in fact. Lifting weights builds muscle, and the amount of muscle on your body is directly responsible for how “fast” your metabolism burns. A scrawny person will naturally have a slower metabolism than an otherwise equal-sized person with more muscle mass.
- Weight lifting builds muscle, which makes you look lean and toned. I get this a lot, especially from women – “I want to tone, but not bulk up.” Here’s a well-kept training secret for you: you won’t get bulky from weight training unless you’re taking steroids or eating like an animal! That toned, sexy look you’re going for requires building muscle. Cute muscles – but still.
- Weight lifting strengthens your bones and connective tissue, making you more resilient and resistant to injury. It’s pretty hard to be “fit” if you’re always injured, so lifting weights to strengthen your bones, tendons, and ligaments is essential to getting and staying fit.
And most importantly, lifting weights is FUN!
At least, I think so. Because you know what’s not fun?
- Asking for help to open a pickle jar because you have a weak grip;
- Struggling to load a new big screen TV into your car because it’s too heavy;
- Falling and twisting a weak ankle or breaking your brittle bones.
Strength training solves all of these problems.
While we’re on the topic, if you’re curious about the best strength training program check out this article later.
In general, you should strength train 3-4 times per week. Focus your training on compound movements like squats, lunges, hip hinge (deadlifts), upper body pushes and pulls. Lift heavy weights, progressively increasing the weight you lift from week to week. Step away from the little pink dumbbells, please. You’ll make faster progress with heavier weights.
That’s it. Keep it simple. Complicated does not equate to effective.
PILLAR #4: Recovery
For any training program to be truly effective, no matter the program you choose, you must manage your recovery.
Why? Because strength training is stressful! Training breaks down your body so that it adapts and grows stronger.
Add that to the other stress we experience in our daily lives – at home, at work, at school, in traffic when some jerk cuts you off… and we’re basically basket cases. Your body can’t really distinguish between physical, mental, and emotional stress, so it all adds up.
In order to grow stronger, you must prioritize recovery:
- Rehydrating during/after workouts
- Refueling with quality foods
- Resting and taking days off
- Sleeping 7-8 hours per night
You DO NOT grow stronger in the gym. You grow stronger through recovery.
Remember survival of the fittest? You can’t be the “fittest” if you’re burnt out, injured, and tired.
This goes much deeper than just taking a day off from the gym. It can also mean taking a good look at other parts of your life that cause you stress, like a bad job situation or a relationship that isn’t working anymore. That can be hard. But your sanity is worth finding a solution to those problems.
Some ways to manage life stress (not just gym stress) include:
- Going for a walk
- Talking to a friend
- Practicing gratitude
- Getting outside into the fresh air and sunshine
- Finding something that refreshes you mentally/physically
- Setting aside “alone time” to just think and be with yourself
Again, you’re in this for the long haul. It’s not just about having a six-pack or being able to bench press a brick house. Take care of your mind and body and prioritize recovery.
PILLAR #5: Fun!
I wanted to save the best for last. The first four fitness pillars might have seemed pretty deep/serious.
I get it. This stuff can be scary, challenging, or intimidating when you’re just getting started. It can be confusing because of the misinformation out there.
And it can be easy to throw up your hands and give up when it all becomes too hard.
But it can also be incredibly REWARDING if you stay the course.
The fittest people don’t give up. They have a strong mindset, and they work on these four pillars day in and day out, so that they can reap the rewards from their fitness.
If you’re the badass I think you are, you don’t just want to survive, you want to thrive so that you can have fun with your hard-earned fitness.
If you think the first four fitness pillars are hard or scary, remember that working on those things (mindset, nutrition, training, and recovery) enables you to THRIVE and live a fun and fulfilling life.
I challenge you to get out there and use your fitness to do something amazing. No matter your current fitness level, there’s an infinite amount of fun you can have with your fitness.
Putting The Pillars Into Action
I know that was a lot of information. But remember that knowledge is nothing without action.
Take these pillars and find one or two little things you can implement into your daily life. You won’t get it perfect at first, but by focusing on getting 1% better every day, you’ll make amazing progress in three months, six months, one year, and beyond.
That’s how “getting fit” works. It’s a lifelong process.
So, what’s it going to be? Are you going to make the tough choice and work on your fitness, or throw your hands in the air and walk away? I hope you make the first choice, even though the road is long and tough.
Struggling to manage all five of these fitness pillars?
Apply for your FREE strategy call today.
We’ll discuss your fitness goals, figure out what’s holding you back,
and design a custom program to help you balance all the aspects of your fitness!