We get that’s the most clickbait title we’ve possibly every used, but it will make sense by the end of this article.
At the start of our journey to better health and fitness, we think it’s all about training. “I’m going to the gym to lose weight/get fit/tone up/gain strength.”
The gym is a great catalyst for all of this. It really is. You can feel absolutely euphoric after a good training session. In fact, we’ve talked before about how it’s a keystone habit. So it’s relatively easy to tick the box to say you went to the gym and took care of your health for the day, especially if it’s an enjoyable experience like at CFI.
Plus, it’s human nature to want to solve the problem, or achieve the goal, by doing more. Doing something is easier than not doing something. You only have to do something once (go to the gym today) then NOT do something continuously and forever (resist the urge every time you walk by the vending machine in work). This is why we want to do one thing that will improve everything (and why we click on links like this in first place ?).
Eventually, everything slows down and you can’t get by with training more. Although you want to, you just can’t. So the next natural step is to look at nutrition. Food will fix everything!
And there’s no denying it, food will have a huge impact on your mood, mental concentration, recovery, performance, body composition, etc. etc.
What we’d like to point out is that there are two other avenues to improve your health that really get downgraded to the bottom of the priority list.
The first is sleep. Somewhere along the path of human society sleep got a bad rap.
But sleep is literally the one thing we can’t do without if we want to be at our best. The big problem with sleep deprivation is we can’t even notice most of the time how much sleep is affecting our mental and physical performance. (And before you try to defend yourself by saying that you get by just fine with low levels of sleep, ask yourself – are you surviving without an alarm clock and snooze button? Are you trying to catch up on sleep during the day or at weekends? Do you need 10 cups of coffee just to get going in the morning?)
We’re not saying we’re perfect in this, and we have to remind ourselves of this too when there’s so much we want to accomplish. Our simple tip for improving this area of your life is to start tracking how many hours a night you sleep. We report to each other daily on our previous night’s sleep so we can be held accountable. By taking this step we’ve improved our sleep quantity and quality, and improved our productivity along with it.
Finally, there’s stress management. What has this got to do with gains in the gym? A whole bunch. For a start, if you can’t relax your muscles they can’t contract with enough force or frequency when we need them too. You can’t turn on something that’s already turned on.
Not to mention your body doesn’t really distinguish between one form of stress than another. Getting chewed out of it by your boss, being berated because you haven’t visited your mother, stressing over finances, all take the toll on the body in much the same way as running, pull ups and squats do.
Yes, the gym CAN be your stress relief, and we feel better after training too. In addition to this form of therapy or time out for you, extra downtime is really important.
Benefits of mediation can be found here, and we’d suggest a meditation app like Stop, Breathe, & Think is a great place to start. The app allows you to check in with how you’re feeling and provides guided meditations based on your answers. The meditations themselves are short (around 5 minutes) so it’s not a big time investment.
Stress relief can also come in the form of deliberate time outs, be they watching a movie (i.e. picking one you want to watch and switching off rather than just putting on the tv and watching crap out of routine), going for a walk, reading, etc.
None of this has to be perfect. In fact, trying to be perfect stops more of us in our tracks than we’d like to admit. A small improvement in each area, applied daily, accepting that we’ll slip up and regress, beginning again, will add up to those gains you’ve been chasing. Sure what is perfect anyway?