I recently started reading the book 12 Rules For Life and while making my way through the book, a thought struck me. This book detailed the rules for life in general, but given my line of work and expertise, why not put together a list geared specifically towards health and fitness?
So that’s exactly what I did.
These rules will put your mind and body in the best position possible for you to live a long, healthy, and enjoyable life. While some of these rules may be more applicable than others given everyone’s unique life, all of these rules are applicable to anyone looking to optimize their health and fitness.
Rule #1: Use it or lose it.
This can apply to almost anything with regards to your physical, mental, and emotional abilities: range of motion, muscle mass, mental capabilities, empathic communication, special skills (like playing an instrument or sport) power and quickness… you name it.
Our bodies are continually adapting to the stressors placed upon it. When placed under heavy loads, our bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles will adapt by becoming stronger and more resilient. When we practice a new skill, like playing the piano, our brain will essentially re-wire itself to learn and commit to memory the skills necessary to complete that task.
So it’s no surprise that when you stop performing a task or skill regularly, your body becomes less adept at said task or skill. (Duh).
In order to maintain a healthy, pain free body that will perform well into it’s golden years, there are a few physical qualities that everyone should strive to use it so they don’t lose it.
Joint Range of Motion
Our bodies are capable of moving in tons of various ways and planes of motion…. but rarely does John and Jane Doe take their joints through full rotation, extension, or flexion on a regular basis.
As a result, we lose the ability to do so. Our brains aren’t going to waste precious energy and resources keeping your joints mobile when you never take them through their full available ranges anyway. It’s like when a big company discontinues a product that has routinely produced poor sales… why waste money producing the product when no one friggin’ buys it?!
Muscular Strength and Size
Fun fact: your muscles love working. When they’re stimulated adequately, your brain is literally better at recruiting them to do work. Calories eaten go towards repairing them. They’re capable of handling bigger and heavier external loads.
But when they’re not stimulated, maybe because of a desk job that requires you to sit for hours on end, these abilities are wasted away. You become weaker. Your calorie burning, metabolism boosting muscle mass withers away to next to nothing. This can result in all sorts of problems like fat gain and even a decrease in mobility.
That’s right folks! Your “tight” hamstrings or low back are often a result of you just being too damn weak.
Muscular Power and Explosiveness
There is no other “use it or lose it” quality on this list that deteriorates quite as fast as the ability to move your body explosively. For every percentage point that muscular strength drops by simply not using it, muscular power drops twice as fast.
Perhaps this isn’t a big deal to you now. But when life throws you a curveball in the form of falling off a ladder, needing to chase a pet that has gotten off leash and headed straight for a busy street, or dodging a foul ball at a baseball game, you’ll be damn glad you can still move quickly.
Muscular power is the most overlooked aspect in the general fitness enthusiasts training program, but it shouldn’t be. Muscular power is the fountain of youth. It keeps you spry, agile, and capable of handling whatever life has in store.
So what to do?
Stay moving! Perform some sort of mobility work on a regular basis, focusing on taking your joints through their full, complete ranges of motion. An easy way to do this every day is simply spend more time on the ground. Sit, lay, eat, who cares. The act of getting on and off the floor requires more range of motion in your hips and ankles than you might imagine.
Give your muscles the stimulation they crave in the form of strength training and some sort of power work that matches with your ability levels.
When you regularly use your joint’s full ranges of motion, your muscles, and your ability to move fast, you’ll find that nagging issues and pains that are often associated with growing old don’t seem to be that troublesome as many people would have you believe.
Rule #2: Train to be strong enough.
Telling you to be strong is such a vague guideline. What the hell does “strong” even mean? Should you be striving to compete with The Mountain from Game of Thrones? Probably not.
Strong enough is a relative term for everyone. Their goals, lifestyle, and gender will all factor into creating their definition of “strong”. But regardless of those things, everyone should be able to do a few universal things when it comes to movement.
First off, it doesn’t matter if your male or female, everyone should be proficient in handling their own bodyweight. This means being able to complete the fundamental movements like squats, lunges, hip hinges, pushups, planks, and chin-ups* with no major issue.
*Yes, even chin-ups. For the fellas, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern. And while this may be more difficult for women, it’s still totally and 100% doable.
This means everyone should be able to stand up from a deep squat, knock out a few lunges, and perform a couple pushups without looking like they’re going to collapse in on themselves. If these seem too lofty for you, or maybe you think these standards are too high, you really need to reevaluate your standards of what’s considered difficult in terms of physical exertion. Sorry, but just being honest.
Want a simple test to see if you can handle your bodyweight?
Lay on the ground on your back, completely flat.
Now stand up.
Was it a struggle? Did you need to use both hands, an elbow, both knees, and roll to your stomach first? Or can you pop right up, hands free?
Simple actions like this are good indicators of whether or not you can handle your own bodyweight. If that test was a struggle, you might need to start taking some steps to increase your overall strength in order to preserve your health.
But bodyweight standards are the bare minimum.
Being able to handle your bodyweight is like graduating high school with a D average. It’s like, yeah, congrats… but that’s kind of expected of you. When it comes to higher standards (which all of you should strive for) here are a few standards to strive for.
- Bodyweight bench press
- 5 pullups
- Deadlift 150% of your bodyweight
- Goblet squat 50% of your bodyweight for 25 reps
- Farmers walk with 50% of your bodyweight in each hand for 50 yards
- 5 strict pushups
- Deadlift 100% of your bodyweight
- Goblet squat 50% bodyweight for 15 reps
- Farmers walk with 35% of your bodyweight in each hand for 50 yards
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Now is it vital for everyone to hit these goals? No, not necessarily. But the individuals who can hit these marks tend to be healthier overall as well. This means fewer mobility issues, nagging pains, chronic aches, and to put it bluntly, a better quality of life.
Strength is a physical quality that enhances all other qualities. It makes fat loss easier, increases endurance, safeguards your joints, bolsters resiliency… you name it.
You don’t need to be a strongman or even necessarily hit the numbers we’ve laid out. You need to be strong enough to adequately accomplish your goals, navigate your lifestyle, and stave off negative issues associated with muscular weakness.
Rule #3: Eat like an adult.
This might be one of the most important rules on this list simply because diet will have a bigger impact on your overall health and longevity than exercise ever will. Period.
Just do some simple math. There are 168 hours in the week. Even if you exercise an hour per day, there’s still 163 hours left. And considering most people eat multiple times per day, this leaves an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of time to spend stuffing your face, snacking, and undoing any exercise you’ve already completed.
The food you eat will literally become part of the cells within your body, helping to carry out numerous physiological functions. Once digested, the nutrients contained within the food are absorbed into your bloodstream and sent throughout the body to help rebuild muscle, remove disease causing free radicals, boost immunity, etc.
So when you constantly eat honey buns, cosmic brownies, potato chips, hot pockets, and soda all day, you provide your body with an excellent source of calories… but not nutrients.
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Overly processed, highly refined foods like this are often stripped of all the nutrients but jam packed with fats and sugars (which is a perfect combo to make them taste amazing). This results in providing your body with a metric shit ton of calories compared to the nutrients needed to do things like improve heart health, lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, etc.
Think of it like this.
You can put all the gas you want in your car. Fill ‘er up every day. Never go below half a tank. Sounds great, right? Your car can just go, go, go… and that’s what’s important, right?
Now imagine amidst all the non-stop gas tank filling, you neglect to fill up your windshield washer fluid.
Then you forget an oil change.
After that, you ignore the low tire pressure warning.
In a few weeks, the AC and heat break, but you choose not to fix it.
Soon the brakes start to squeal.
…but you’ve always got a full tank of gas!
Well after a few months, you’re now driving a fully gassed up piece of shit.
This is what happens when you eat a diet full of overly processed, calorie dense, nutrient sparse diet.
You need calories. After all, you can’t survive without them. But your body craves and needs “wiper fluid” and “air in the tires” as well. Naturally occurring whole foods like fruits, veggies, animal proteins, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, all provide calories with a whollop of micronutrients and naturally occurring good-for-you compounds that help your body function more effectively and efficiently.
So if your regular diet would excite a 5 year old, you’ve gotta change things up.
Eat your veggies. Drink your water. Learn to cook, or at least as a bare minimum learn how to season your foods so “healthy” foods don’t “taste bad” anymore.
Rule #4: It’s better to be good consistently instead of great occasionally.
The greatest, most scientifically up to date training program completely customized to your specific body type and genetic make up means jack shit if you don’t actually follow it on a regular basis.
When deciding to finally make a change for the better, many people dive head first into a new diet, sleep routine, or workout with the best intentions and unmatched levels of motivation. You’re a new person for 7 straight days. Your body is a temple. Workouts are done promptly and with vigor. Only organic, grass fed, locally sourced food for you! You are the epitome of health!
Until your kid gets sick and you’ve got to play doctor all day.
Or the project you’ve been working on for your boss gets a new completion deadline and your workload doubles.
Perhaps your friend calls and tells you Beyonce is in town doing a surprise concert where the first 50 fans get free tacos. Queen B AND free tacos?!
Life happens. And when it does, your plans and priorities for health and fitness can get totally messed up. This might cause you to miss a workout or swap your healthy meals for an unhealthier, highly convenient take out option.
It’s fine. One hiccup won’t disrupt anything. This was an emergency, an unavoidable occurrence that needed to be taken care of. Won’t happen again….
…until the next “something” happens, and you miss another workout or play fast and loose with your diet because you’re crunched for time. And before you know it, your initial seven days of greatness are followed up by 12 days of mediocrity with 3-4 days of greatness sprinkled in. Over time this becomes the norm, and you find your motivation and effort levels constantly yo-yo-ing between “I am a Goddess of Health” and “is it that bad if I eat the whole can of Pringles?”
The problem with this approach to fitness is that it’s damn near impossible to establish any sort of consistency. One day of being on point with your health and fitness followed by one day of falling off the bandwagon just cancel each other out. This puts you right back at where you started, or worse, even further behind (it’s waaaay easier to overdo it on the bad days than the good days).
This is why being “good” every day will always top being “great” every once in a while.
Being good on a regular basis allows you to build habits, shape behaviors, and cultivate better decision making skills in the long run. It’s the “hitting singles” approach to health (instead of occasionally hitting home runs for all our non baseball people).
Instead of completing an absolutely awesome workout every once in a while, focus on completing an “OK to good” workout 5 out of the 7 days of the week.
Instead of completely cutting your favorite unhealthy foods from your diet, focus on eating appropriate portion sizes of these foods that will still fit within your overall calorie needs.
The problem with the “all or nothing”, let’s-be-great approach to health and fitness is that the pendulum of motivation tends to swing back hard in the opposite direction over time. Radical changes and extreme efforts aren’t sustainable in the long run. This makes seeing results pretty tough because you’re constantly going back and forth between unrealistic efforts and little to no effort whatsoever.
The best approach to health and fitness is to simply be 1% better than you were yesterday. No crazy leaps and bounds in progress. This approach isn’t sexy and it takes time. But it is, guaranteed, the best way to see continual and sustainable results. The old adage “slow and steady wins the race” is definitely true in this regard.
Consistency breeds results.
Nobody wants to take this approach because, well, it takes too damn long. We live in a world where instant gratification reigns supreme. People want amazing results and success with little to no effort put forth on their end. But the cold hard truth is life doesn’t work that way. It sounds dumb and cliche, but the only place where success comes before work is the dictionary.
You’ve probably never heard anyone tell you to just be good instead of great, but that’s exactly what you should strive to do with your health and fitness. Consistently good will ALWAYS trump inconsistently great.
Rule #5: Your ideal lifestyle should coincide with your ideal body composition and/or level of fitness.
Some people love tacos, cookies, and beer. Some people love having visible abs.
Can you love both? Absolutely! Can you eat nothing except the unhealthier foods you love and still have visible abs? Eh… unless you’re blessed genetically, probably not.
It’s no secret that if you want a beach ready body that makes heads turn, your diet and other lifestyle factors need to be dialed in in order to achieve that look. This probably means that tacos and beer can’t exactly be a staple in your diet if your main goal is to look like Gerard Butler in 300.
When it comes to long term success regarding your health and fitness, sustainability is going to play a huge role in determining your results. This means creating a routine that you can repeat over and over for extended periods of time.
Certain health and fitness goals require tons of sacrifice and hard work, often for months on end. Take finally achieving a six pack for example. Getting down to a body fat percentage low enough to get those cover ready abs (<12% for guys, <22% for ladies) requires 7-8 hours of sleep every night, about 45-60 minutes of moderately intense exercise every single day, a diet consisting mostly of protein, vegetables, and fruit, and severely reducing alcohol and sweets.
Some people don’t have an issue with this. To them, it’s no big deal to sacrifice dietary indulgences, navigate (or skip) unhealthier social situations, and dedicate a good chunk of their free time to exercise.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, tons of people are not ready to give up drinks on the weekend, unplanned “cheat” meals with friends, or to dedicate an hour per day to exercise.
And there’s nothing wrong with that either!
What you have to do is figure out what your sweet spot is. What lifestyle can you live and enjoy that will simultaneously allow you to look and feel how you’d like?
You want abs year round? You need to be prepared to get your diet dialed in, year round.
You’re ok with a little more fluff without running into internal health issues? Then you can be a little more lenient. Just don’t let this mindset turn into a slippery, sugary, fat laden slope.
Considering we wrote a full post about this topic, we won’t dive too deep into this. Instead, give this a read.
But at the end of the day, you need to find that sweet spot between “how awesome do I wanna look and feel” and “what how hard am I realistically willing to work for it”. Once you identify your sustainable sweet spot, now it’s just a matter of implementing and following through on the steps necessary to maintain it.
Rule #6: More is not better. Harder is not better. Better is better.
To be completely transparent, I blame the popularity of Crossfit over the last decade and social media for this rule. I’d say sorry…. but I wouldn’t mean it.
Incase you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, Crossfit is a form of exercise where high intensity and setting “PR’s” is the name of the game. This is totally admirable as you absolutely should strive to get a little better with every single workout that you perform.
Except setting a new personal record at Crossfit gyms is often placed above all else… many times at the expense of form, technique, and injury unfortunately. Though to be fair, not all locations are like this… but unfortunately enough of them are to make this broad generalization.
And to the average social media user, seeing stuff like this is entertaining so it gets showered with likes, comments, and shares. Gruesome workouts where limits are absolutely pushed and broken (especially when you don’t wear a shirt) are faaaar more appealing to the masses when compared to Jen, mother of two, performing a simple lunge (fully clothed).
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See what I mean?
And while devastating workouts may draw copious of amounts of likes on social media, these types of hardcore workouts are hardly what the average person needs, especially when just starting off. Intensity is just one of many variables you can manipulate to achieve a desired training effect. But to the rookie exerciser (or shitty coach), it seems like it’s always the best option. More reps! Heavier weights! MAKE IT HAAAAAARDER!
Assuming that intensity should be the first thing to increase in a training program is irresponsible, if not dangerous.
The human body is an amazingly sophisticated organism that can become more resilient and adapt to the demands that are placed upon it… but it can also deteriorate and soften if no demands are placed upon it. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where more and more people are sitting for prolonged periods and engaging in very little physical activity during the course of the day.
As a result, tons of people experience a loss of strength, mobility, and more often than not, both. This makes fundamental movements, like squats or even simply reaching your arms overhead without compensating, a lot harder.
So when a fitness class or coach asks someone to perform multiple barbell overhead squats every minute on the minute for 15 minutes, you’re just playing with fire near an open container of gasoline.
Sometimes you need to one step back in order to take two steps forward.
Performing barbell overhead presses with crappy shoulder mobility is probably not a good idea. So instead of just grinding through it and hoping for the best, maybe switching to a landmine press or pushups is the better idea. This would allow you to still train but put your body, namely shoulders, in a better position to avoid injury.
Maybe instead of jumping straight into barbell deadlifts, which is arguably one of the more advanced progressions, you opt for a trap bar, which tends to be more user friendly because of the decreased shear load on the spine and overall mobility requirements.
Do these simple swaps, which could be defined as regressions, mean you’re not training hard? Hell no. I challenge anyone to perform heavy trap bar deadlifts paired with bodysaw pushups and tell me they’re “not training hard”.
The main point here is that making something difficult or intense just for the sake of making something difficult or intense is a stupid way to go about exercise. You need to find what feels right for your body and your ability levels and focus on making small progressions from there. Don’t assume just because something is hard that it’s necessarily good for you as well.
Rule #7: Train fast and explosively now or regret it later.
Let’s face it, Father Time is a douche.
Once 30-35 years old hits, this guy swoops in and starts his global degradation of essentially your entire body.
Every year past 30 you get a teensy bit weaker, fatter, dumber, less mobile, and more brittle. But no physical quality deteriorates quite as rapidly as your ability to recruit and contract muscle fibers quickly. In fact, some studies suggest that it decreases twice as fast as muscular strength does.
“Big deal, I don’t need the ability to move fast when I’m older. I’m not training for the NFL.” – You, maybe.
Except here’s the thing… you absolutely should still be training to stay fast and powerful, especially into your later years.
First off, the ability to recruit and contract muscle fibers is essentially an insurance policy you take out on your body. Things like falls account for tons of emergency room visits and surgeries as people begin to age, but here’s a fun fact. The reason many injuries occur as a result of falls or similar accidents is not because older people are just more fragile (though it’s a factor). In fact, the main reason so many people get hurt is because they simply cannot react fast enough to prevent the fall or accident.
If you’ve ever witnessed a fall before (or have seen “fail” videos on the internet), you’ll notice tons of falls almost seem to happen in slow motion. There’s the initial trip or stumble, followed by 14 attempts to regain balance or ‘right the ship’ so to speak.
When your ability to act quickly is diminished, you’ve got no choice but to succumb to gravity’s cruel pull towards the Earth.
And when you’re older and don’t quite have the resiliency you possessed in your 20’s or 30’s, falls can result in hip replacements instead of bumps and bruises. So while it might not seem like a big deal right now, if left unchecked, your lack of power could be your downfall in the future (pun fully intended).
Secondly, the ability to move fast is basically the equivalent to the fountain of youth. When you think about what happens as you age, I’d be willing to bet images of walkers, canes, and shuffling instead of walking come to mind. And while there’s no preventing the aging process, you can absolutely, 100% delay it.
Your body adapts to stresses placed upon it, no matter what age you are. So it goes to reason that if you start incorporating variations of sprints, throws, jumps (all things that require fast, explosive movements), your body will adapt to become… well, fast and explosive.
Now while you might not be able to compete with elite athletes as a result, your independence and quality of life will absolutely be enhanced. The 65 year old who can still perform a 12″ box jump is 1000% more capable of handling his or her business than the 65 year old who struggles to even step onto it.
Unfortunately for tons of people, the loss of power (and subsequently quality of life) is often a realization that happens once things have taken a turn for the worse. Start implementing these training methods now so you don’t regret it later!
Rule #8: Have fun!
Have fun? Seriously? Shouldn’t working out and exercise be all about pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion, working through the pain, and punishing yourself as an insurance policy for overeating?
Too many people view working out the same way they view going to the dentist or doing their taxes: a necessary evil. Because of this, there’s rarely any positive feelings or emotions with it. It’s more of an “ugh, let’s just get this over with because I should be doing it.” Even worse, if you’re doing an activity that you flat out dislike (ex: long bouts of cardio but you still jog because… well, you’re supposed to), you’re missing out on the #1 factor that contributes to you even seeing success.
The chances of you sticking with exercise you don’t look forward to are slim to none. Think about any activity you hate doing: laundry, yard work, staff meetings… how stoked are you to do these things?
You’re not. You probably dread it. Maybe you even give a half assed effort in an attempt to make sure you get it done as quickly as possible.
This approach will lead to failure when it comes to your health and fitness, almost guaranteed.
When you have fun, you look forward to exercise. When you look forward to exercise, you stay consistent. Where there’s consistency, there’s probably gonna be results. Results breed more motivation. Increased motivation results in even more consistency and even more results.
So if you’re gonna be active and exercise, have fun while you do it.
Rule #9: Focus on habits and behaviors, not results.
This is a good rule, but it’s one that not too many people actually do.
Everyone and their mother is usually hyper focused on the end result when it comes to fitness. The goal weight, the increased strength, the ideal body fat percentage… and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the reason you’re choosing to exercise, eat better, etc.
But more often than not, these goals are months away from being achieved. After all, 12% body fat or the ability to do a strict chin-up doesn’t happen overnight. It takes multiple weeks, months, and dare I say… YEARS to achieve them. And when you look at things from this perspective, achieving results can seem damn right daunting and overwhelming. This is especially true if you’re starting point is nowhere near the end goal (50+lbs to lose, deadlifting 300lbs when you can barely deadlift 135lbs, etc)
So instead of focusing on your goal which may be a loooong ways away, shift your focus to smaller more doable tasks on a day to day basis. Why?
You ever hear the phrase “the clothes make the man?” I like to twist that saying just a tad.
The habits make the man.
Your habits dictate how you live, the decisions you make, and the behaviors that make you, well… you!
This means that if you get into the habit of getting quality sleep every night, prioritizing protein at every meal, getting 10K steps per day, working out 3x week, or whatever it may be, you’re setting yourself up for consistent progress.
Consistent progress leads to small weekly improvements.
Small weekly improvements make reaching your goal a million times more manageable than simply harping on the fact that “oh crap, I gotta lose 30lbs…. that’s a lot”. Get what I’m saying?
On the flip side, if you get into the habit of hitting snooze 6 times per day, eating Pop Tarts for breakfast because you’re always running late, and then ordering takeout because you just “don’t feel like” cooking, well…. kiss your goals goodbye.
Focus on the small changes that you can implement to improve your day to day living, with the keyword being small.
Remember, when it comes to your health and fitness goals, you can’t eat an elephant in one bite.
Rule #10: 10,000 steps per day is good… not great. Move your body in multiple planes.
10,000 steps per day is a great way to maintain overall health. That will never not be true. From helping recover from harder bouts of exercise to giving your body some low impact, general movement that it needs and craves, walking more should be a goal of every single person on the planet.
It’s not the absolute best recommendation if you’re looking to optimize your health. And the reason for this is simple.
Walking occurs in just a single plane of movement: front to back. But your body is capable of so, so much more than simple forward and backward motion.
Your hips, shoulders, wrists, ankles, and spine need movement in all planes of motion if you’re really looking to keep your body humming like that of someone still in their twenties.
Remember rule #1? Use it or lose it?
While 10K per day is great, it neglects the full and various ranges of motion that your joints are capable of. Walking utilizes a small range of motion at the hip, so you’re not even getting the true benefits of complete hip flexion and extension (the two movements occurring at the hip during walking).
Taking a stroll around the block doesn’t move your hips quite like that video above (unless you walk like A WEIRDO). But if overall health and longevity are a goal, your joints absolutely need to move like this. The healthiest and most resilient joints are the ones that can be moved, and more importantly controlled through large ranges of motion. Walking doesn’t quite cut it in this regard.
So please, keep getting those steps in. But don’t place “10K per day” atop your exercise pedestal as the end all be all. Look to incorporate things that will move your joints in multiple planes of motion. Flex, extend, and rotate those joints, baby!
Rule #11: Sleep 7 hours every night.
I implore everyone right now to go order Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker for an in depth look at just how important sleep is to your overall health. But for those of you who would prefer the Cliffs Notes version, let me provide it for you.
Sleep is pretty f*ing important to your overall health and longevity.
Sleep affects quite literally every aspect of your health: physical, emotional, mental, and some could even argue spiritual. Without diving into a super detailed dissertation about sleep, just take a look at an abbreviated list of things poor sleep can do to your body:
- The hormones that regulate your appetite and ability to feel full are totally screwed up, resulting in overeating
- Your problem solving skills now suck
- You become an irritable assh*le
- You now have the memory that rivals a gold fish
- Coordination and reaction time? What’s that?
- You wanna feel strong during your workout later? Don’t count on it.
- You like increased risk of injuries during physical activity? Then you’re in luck!
- Believe it or not, based on studies you actually appear uglier after bad sleep
- Quite literally everything gets worse.
Now I know what some of you are thinking. “7 hours? Yeah, right buddy. I can get by on 4-6 hours no problem. Been doing it for years.”
People who claim that they can get by and function normally on less than 6 hours of sleep are not functioning at an optimal level. They have just grown accustomed to operating at 65% their entire lives. They’re so used to feeling like crap that their brain quite literally tricks them into thinking that’s how they’re supposed to feel.
When in actuality, if they changed their ways and switched to 7 hours every night, they very well might feel like a friggin’ superhero.
And don’t take my word for it, these are facts taken directly from that book mentioned above. And the author is only a scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. So he probably has no idea what he’s talking about. #sarcasm
For the time being, you should check out our podcast about how to optimize sleep.
Rule #12: Prioritize stress management in whatever way works for you.
Stress is an often neglected part of overall health because you can’t exactly measure it like you can a calorie or pounds on a barbell. It comes and goes and most people don’t even notice it unless there’s a particularly bad day filled with chaos and pandemonium. And while acute bouts of stress are actually totally fine, and often necessary for various processes throughout the body, chronic stress can wreak absolute havoc on your physique, posture, and overall health.
The stress response is a totally natural physiological response in the body that occurs whenever your brain deals with a perceived threat. This response, known as the fight or flight response, prepares your body to run away from the threat or stand your ground and fight. Some of the physical responses include dilated pupils, increased heart rate, increased muscle tone, decreased digestion… all things geared towards making you more capable to deal with the threat.
These changes are super beneficial when dealing with legit physical threats like being mugged in an alley or coming face to face with a loose tiger.
But the thing most people don’t appreciate it is that your body responds to both mental and physical stressors the same exact way.
This means the deadline you’re close to missing at work is perceived by your brain the same way a loose tiger would be. Your body will still kick into fight or flight, meaning all the physical adaptations come with it. But no one in today’s world needs increased muscle tone or a rapid heart rate to deal with work deadlines. It’s a totally different type of stress compared to our ancestors of thousands of years ago… but the response to the stress is still the same.
Left unchecked, these physical changes can manifest into some serious health problems.
Decreased digestion and GI tract activity leads to poor gut health, resulting in food intolerances and digestion issues.
Increased muscle tone results in a decreased level of mobility and flexibility, often resulting in nagging aches and pains.
High blood pressure and a rapid heart rate put a ton of unnecessary stress on your heart and arteries, shaving years off your lifespan.
To be blunt, chronic stress kills you slowly and silently.
Which is why you need to deal with it, especially if you work a high stress job, have a type A personality, have kids, etc…
Breathing drills, meditation, low intensity cardio vascular exercise, yoga, coloring, listening to music, reading, having sex, getting a massage, walking your dog… find what works for you and make it a non-negotiable part of your schedule. Even 60 seconds of breathing can help reduce high stress levels.
“But I’m incredibly busy all the time! I’ve got important work from the second I open my eyes until the second I close them!”
For anyone out there with this line of thinking, I offer you the following statement:
If you can’t take 5 minutes for stress management, then you need to take 60.
People who think they can’t spare a precious few minutes of their lives to help deal with stress are usually the ones who need it the most. Stress won’t be readily apparent in terms of adverse health effects. But in 10-15 years when your doctor tells you you now need to be on medication for the rest of your life to help deal with blood pressure, you might have a twinge of regret that you didn’t address it sooner.
Stress is the silent saboteur. Deal with it now.
Still confused? Agree with the list but aren’t sure where exactly to start your own health and fitness journey?
Send us an email at gritfitperform@gmail or send us a direct message on Instagram. We’d love to chat and help you get started on your journey to becoming the best version of yourself possible.