I want to talk to you about living life to your fullest physical potential every single day by becoming a more fit you. To accomplish this, you need to make the decision that you are going to make choices that will help build you up and not choices that will break you down. The choices I am referring to are those that impact you both physically and mentally. I want you to choose to be stronger not only on the outside, but the inside too.
Let’s get started by looking at the four components of fitness: cardiovascular & pulmonary health; musculo-skeletal integrity; psychological well-being; and nutritional support. Within these four components there are five fitness basics: exercise; managing stress levels; drinking water; nutritional intake; and supplementation.
Cardiovascular & pulmonary health deals with your level of aerobic conditioning. When you are performing your “cardio” workout, you should be doing some huffing and puffing. That means if you are jogging on a treadmill, your conversation with the person next to you should sound a little breathy. That does not mean you can’t say a couple of words without sucking in some air, it means you should sound slightly out of breath. If you do not have a heart rate monitor to track your heart rate beats per minute, you can use a method known as the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). In using the RPE method, you should look at your breathing on a scale of 1 to 10 in which you should be feeling like you are at a 6 or 7+.
The musculo-skeletal component brings in the resistance training I have written about in the past. This again is a very important component to fitness. I have talked to you about how resistance training builds muscle which makes you stronger; it increases your metabolism which in turn burns more calories; and it can increase bone density which helps fight osteoporosis. Another part of this component incorporates stretching which helps you to improve your flexibility. A strong and flexible body is a great result of building a more fit you.
Do you notice how good you feel after a workout? Those feel good chemical reactions that take place in the body are the psychological well-being parts of a more fit you. When you exercise, endorphin levels are raised in the body. The brain produces the calming and feel good chemicals of serotonin and dopamine. These are part of the body’s feel good chemicals. They reduce your perceived levels of pain and promote feelings of well-being. Have you heard the phrase “a runner’s high”. These provide very positive and energizing feelings and relate directly to your outlook on life.
I have written a lot about the importance of daily water intake. I tell my clients to work at drinking 50% of their body weight in ounces of water. The old 8 glasses of 8 ounces or “8×8” is easy to remember and a minimum to get daily. Our bodies are approximately 60+% water. Water is needed for our bodily functions to operate, like sweating for example. Sweating is the body maintaining temperature control and water is needed to replace that which is sweated out. Your kidneys require water to maintain the ability to remove waste and toxins. Water is needed to transport nutrients to your cells and it provides cushioning for your joints. In fact your muscles are over 75% water. Staying well hydrated is reflected in the health of your skin as well. Water should be consumed before, during and after exercising. An easy way to check yourself is to look at the color of your urine. It should be clear to a pale yellow, like straw. A bright yellow to orange color shows signs of mild to severe dehydration. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
When I talk to clients about nutrition, I start with asking them what the first 3 letters of DIET spell. When you restrict your calorie intake, to less then what the body requires to support its daily functions, it starts to shut energy requirements down starting with slowing your metabolism. At the other end of the spectrum is the over consumption of useless calories. These are the calories that compose most of what Americans eat, the Standard American Diet (SAD). Your diet needs to consist of lean protein sources and fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables should be raw, fresh and lots of colors. Your goal should be 9 plus servings a day and not the old 5 to 8 we were taught years ago. Once a fruit or vegetable is picked from the vine it starts to lose it nutritional value. Here in most American cities from vine to grocery shelf can take days, many days. So by the time you consume it, it is safe to say it has lost 30% or more of its nutritional value. This time of year we have a great opportunity to get fresh fruits and vegetables locally here with all of our farms and roadside stands. You have to take advantage of that. You can visit www.mypyramid.gov to get an up to date look at how the pyramid has changed over the years.
The last piece of this puzzle is supplementation. I want to stress that supplements do just that, they supplement and not replace a solid nutrition plan. Your nutrition should be 95% or more whole, real food. There are a ton of bars and powders on the market. A good number of them are touted as meal replacements and they should only come into play when real food is not available. It is better than skipping a meal all together as we do not want to start slowing down our metabolism due to the lack of fuel coming in. Just read those labels very closely and look for something that is low in fat and sugar as some protein bars (and powders) can have as many calories as a candy bar.
There you have it my friends, and I hope this helps you to make the changes needed to become a more fit you. Most folks cannot make 180 degree changes instantly. Start with small steps (small choices) as you gradually increase your strides to lifestyle changes that will put you on the fitness path. As always, I wish you great success. Bob