This week I come to you to talk about not just living day to day, but living life to your fullest physical potential every single day by pursuing the fitness life. This means making decisions or choosing options that will help build you up and not those that will tear you down. The decisions or choices I am referring to are those that involve your physical and emotional well-being. You know what I am talking about, right? I want you to choose to be stronger, both inside and out.
To get you started, let’s talk about the four components to 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 points directly to your level of aerobic conditioning within the first of the five fitness basics. When you are doing your “cardio” workout, you need to be doing some huffing and puffing. So, if you are jogging on a treadmill, you should not be carrying on a conversation with the person next to you without it sounding 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 last couple of articles. This again is a very important component to fitness. As we have learned, resistance training builds muscle which makes you stronger; it increases your metabolism which helps you burn 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 pursuing the fitness life.
Remember those feel good chemical reactions that take place in the body when you exercise. Well those are the players in the psychological well-being component of the fitness life. 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 happy 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.
Water intake is a conversation I have daily with my clients. Our bodies are approximately 60% water. It 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 provides cushions 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. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. The old 8 glasses of 8 ounces or “8×8” is easy to remember and a minimum to get daily. I remind my clients that this 8×8 is a minimum; it is to count for water alone and does not bring other fluids into the equation.
When I talk to clients about nutrition, I start with asking them what the first 3 letters of DIET spell. That is right, 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) and yes, it is sad. Do not get me wrong, I love a good cheeseburger or a nice slice of pizza once and awhile, but it definitely is not what you need to be eating on a regular basis. Your diet needs to consist of lean protein sources and fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables should be raw, fresh and lots of colors. In fact 9 plus servings a day is what you are after, not the old 5 to 8 we were taught years ago. Just think about it, once a fruit or vegetable is picked or pulled 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. We have a great opportunity to get fresh fruits and vegetables locally here this time of year 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.
Okay, last on the talk is one most clients ask about and that 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. The market is full of bars, powders and liquids 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.
I hope this information has you looking at your current lifestyle and asking yourself questions about where changes can be made if you need to make some. Start with small steps and gradually start making strides into the choices that will put you on the path to a fitness life. I wish you great success.