Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Back to Basics: "The 5 Pillars of Fitness"

The fitness world seems to be a never ending roller coaster of "do this", "don't do or eat that..."Sometimes it can be confusing to figure out what is your best option. Now, it should be noted that there is no one-size-fits-all program out there that will work for everyone. However if you follow the 5 pillars below and tailor them to your fitness level & goals, you are likely to achieve success.

1. Exercise
Gee, no shit right? Of course exercising should be a part of your regular fitness routine.  Well in this case, exercising just means breaking a sweat, lifting things up and putting them down, burpees, medicine ball throws, circuit training, the list could go on forever. Essentially anything that consists of multi-joint movements done a a relative high intensity; in other words, exercising to burn calories and maintain/improve basic strength & functional movement.

2. Train
Exercising is great and you should do it as often as possible but it is also important to incorporate a more structured training regimen. If you are lifting weights this means progressively overloading your musculoskeletal system by increasing the load (weight lifted) or volume (# of sets x reps) or some combination of the two during successive weeks in your program.  If you are performing more endurance-based training this means monitoring your work:rest ratios used during interval training or selecting a "target race pace/heart rate etc" to train at regularly; again making sure to progressively increase the difficulty of the training sessions. Training is a more structured "form" of exercise that utilizes more specific and individualized principles of training to help you achieve a goal or prepare for a competition of some sorts.

3. Physical Activity
Wait, didn't I talk about this in the first pillar? In my opinion, physical activity is a little different than exercise and constitutes as being generally active and performing sustained muscular contractions for extended periods of time (i.e. slower steady-state cardio). Go for bike rides or take your dog for a walk every night. Get out for hikes on the weekends or swim some laps in the pool.

4. Reduce Sedentary Time
MOVE MORE. I could just end it there as this pillar basically speaks for itself.  Try to reduce the amount of time spent sitting, lying on the coach, or even standing still. Get a stand-up desk (as sitting is terrible for your body), go for short walks throughout the work day, park at the back of the parking lot, take the stairs, cancel your cable TV...whatever it takes to get you up and moving around more (hopefully getting you to do more of #1, 2 and 3).

5. Food
If I were to select the most important pillar it would probably be this one. I cannot emphasize this one enough. Fitness goals cannot be met without considering what and how much you are putting into your body.  Check out these articles for suggestions on how to improve your daily nutrition:

Flexible "Dieting"

Diet Dating

How to implement below:

How often do you need to incorporate them?
Pillars 3, 4 and 5 should be done/considered on a day to day basis as they are essential for general health and wellness. Pillar 1 should be the focus of at least 2-4 days a week in order to maintain a healthy body composition, level of strength and functional movement.  Pillar 2 doesn't necessarily need to be followed every week but a few times a year it's not a bad idea to ramp up your level of focus when it comes to your training program and really put together a structured program designed to elicit a specific goal.  Obviously this will not get you to an elite level of athleticism but if you follow the basic pillars listed above you should improve your overall fitness and well-being.

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