Most people hire a trainer or physical therapist wanting quick fix solution. Typical issues presented to trainers and/or therapists include different types of pain, difficulty with movement, struggling with being overweight, wanting to increase muscle mass, improve overall athleticism, or any number of other physical issues or goals.
What most people understand, yet fail to accept, is that building and maintaining a strong, mobile, lean, athletic body requires a lot more than simply hitting the gym 3-6 times a week and starving yourself. While many variables can change depending on your training goals, there remains one underlying principle that will ultimately dictate how successful you are with any type of training program: balance. Specifically, balance in relation to what I call ‘the six pillars of overall holistic health. These are: movement, nutrition, hydration, cognition, rest, and stress management.
When we look at how our bodies adapt to the stressors we subject them to, we must understand that without balance, our bodies will eventually break down and progress will stagnate altogether. If you train 4-5 days a week, eat the right amount of calories with perfect macronutrient ratios, drink plenty of water, but only sleep 4-5 hours a night and are constantly over-stressed because of your job, you will stagnate. On the other end of the spectrum, if you make sure to alleviate stress from your life, get 7+ hours of sleep every night, and eat well, but don't train with intensity, consistency, or intelligence, your results will leave a lot to be desired.
A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link. The human body and its many intricate systems are interconnected. If one of these systems is out of whack, we won't achieve our desired outcome, particularly when it comes to training and performance. Below are the keys you need to prioritize when it comes to each of these components of health. You don't need to follow these general guidelines perfectly, but the more you adhere to and balance these components, the better your training results will be, I guarantee it.
- Movement -
- Work on mobility until you have what is necessary to perform the foundational basic strength exercises.
- Get strong with the basics
- Squat: 1.5x your bodyweight x 5 reps (below parallel)
- Deadlift: 2x bodyweight for a 1-rep-max
- Pullups: 10 strict from dead hang (3 for females)
- Overhead Press: bodyweight for a 1-rep-max (0.75x bodyweight for females)
If you can do these things, you are strong and fit. Period. Are these numbers arbitrary? Sort of, but you can't argue that these are not impressive, while feasible feats of strength.
- In addition to getting stronger, make sure to also include various types of mobility training and specialized exercises meant to address your weak points and improve movement efficiency. This may include various supine, quadruped, tall kneeling, half kneeling, or split stance drills. It may also include using a variety of different training tools. Challenging exercises performed in these different developmental positions of stability.
- Nutrition -
- Know how many calories you should be consuming each day based on your goals. If you want to gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you expend. If you want to lose weight, you must expend more calories than you consume. This is the golden rule of nutrition.
- Eat your body weight in grams of protein. If you weigh 150 pounds, eat 150g of protein per day. Manipulate your carbs and fats based on what works best for your genetic makeup and lifestyle.
- Learn how to roughly estimate your daily caloric intake without using a macronutrient calculator. You should be able to more or less eyeball your daily calories. Developing this skill will help you manage your weight over thelong term. I will go into this more in a future article.
- As a general rule of thumb, I recommend clients drink a gallon of water a day. 128oz. 16 glasses. This is a simple and effective way to measure how much water you drink each day, and almost guarantees you are well hydrated.
- Always have water with you. Whether you are at work, driving, at the gym, running errands, or anywhere else, make sure you have water with you. This will help you with adherence.
- Cognition -
- Pick something that you want to learn about or learn how to do, and learn it. This can include anything from cooking, to writing, to learning a new language or skill.
- We need to exercise our minds much in the same way we need to exercise our bodies. Make sure whatever it is you decide you want to learn, make sure it truly challenges you and forces you out of your comfort zone.
- Rest -
- Make sure to actually schedule in "nothing" time. This will ensure you have some time dedicated to just relaxing and being in a restful state of mind.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Minimum 6, and don't oversleep either, unless you really need it.
- To help yourself get a better night's sleep, turn out lights and electronics an hour or two before actually going to bed. Make sure you sleep in a cold room. Make sure your room is as dark as possible.
- Stress Management -
- Being aware of primary stressors in your life is the first step to helping manage your stress levels. Identify the 3 most significant sources of stress in your life, and develop strategies to help alleviate the situation.
- Have a physical means of dealing with your stress. Often times yoga, meditation, working out, stretching, etc. are helpful to take your mind off of what you are dealing with and channels your nervous energy into something that requires focus.
- Have a mental means of dealing with your stress. Meditation, reading, music, games, puzzles, hobbies, etc. are great ways to center your thoughts, and challenge you cognitively.
If you can strike a softly ebbing and flowing balance of these things, you will without a doubt see the best results with your training. Not only will you kill it in the gym, but you'll feel so much better in every facet of your life. This type of natural balance is what everyone should strive for.