The past 2 weeks, we’ve spent time talking about the basics of the Pyramid of Vitality and how the Pyramid is run by your values and your purpose. If you missed those articles, I strongly suggest you read them. You can find them HERE and HERE.
In this articles, we are going to begin to cover the 3 characteristics of vitality. Like we mentioned in the first article, the 3 characteristics of vitality are Fitness, Lifestyle, and Fulfillment. On the surface, it seems easy enough to understand each one of these characterstics. After all, there are thousands upon thousands of articles, podcasts, videos, books, and documentaries on each one of these topics. And yet, as a country, we continue to become more and more unhealthy and less and less happy.
So, before I digress any more into a rabbit hole that I can’t get myself out of, let’s start with the characteristic of fitness and work our way around from there. Fitness, after all, is where most people start in their health and vitality journey. This way you can have a better understanding of what functions impact your fitness level, and what changes you can make to improve them.
Each one of the characteristics of vitality has 3 functions. These are the 3 categories that impact each characteristic. Yes, there are only 3 things that you can change in order to have an impact on your fitness level. It seems absurd considering the plethora of programs out there and multitude of fitness “experts” giving you advice on what you need to do to stay in shape. But, when it really comes down to it, all of these different modalities and interventions can be broken down into 3 categories:
The first function on fitness is How You Move. How You Move seems simple enough, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s only 3 words, so how much can you really break that down? Well, let’s look and see.
How You Move can mean a lot of things. Like I mentioned before, there are thousands of experts out there willing to give you advice on what you need to do to be fit. Generally speaking, this fits in the category of How You Move. For instance, if you choose to do Yoga as your form of exercise, that’s choosing one way to move. If you also choose to resistance train 3 days a week, that’s choosing another way to move.
Sport and recreation are also included in this category. Playing basketball or softball or golf are all form of movement. Rock climbing, hiking, and mountain biking would be included in here as well.
Not moving also fits into this function. A lot of people have desk jobs. And because of that, we are much more sedentary now than we were 20, 30, 50 years ago. Our jobs impact how we move, or don’t move.
As you can see, there is A LOT that fits into the category of How You Move. And How You Move will have a significant impact on your level of fitness. Choosing a movement modality may depend on your goal or your physical limitations or simply come down to what you like to do (BTW, this last one, what you like to do, is vastly more important than the others. Because if you don’t like to do what you’re doing, you won’t do it for long, especially when it comes to fitness.
The second function of fitness is How Often You Move. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll go into more detail so you have a better idea of how to improve it.
How Often You Move can mean a couple of different things. For instance, the most basic definition of How Often You Move is simply how often you’re moving throughout the day, week, month, or year. Like I mentioned before, our jobs impact how we move. They also impact how often we move. Because of the culture we’ve developed over the decades, this function has probably taken the greatest hit. We’re moving less and less and sitting more and more (more on this later).
The intensity of your exercise can also be included in How Often You Move. By intensity, I don’t mean how much weight you lift or how fast you run. By intensity, I mean the number of repetitions you do in a workout or the number of miles you run in a given time. Or maybe it’s how many seconds you perform an interval or how many minutes it takes you to swim a couple of laps.
The third function of fitness is How You Rest and Recover. Within these 3 categories, there should be a level of balance. You can run too much, or lift too often, or do too much Yoga (yes, you can do too much Yoga. Hard to believe, I know). You can also rest too much, which is what most people do.
We are masters of resting and recovering (although, most of us wouldn’t label it this way). When you get finished with work, you go home, sit on the couch, and let your brain “rest” from the day. So, when I say rest and recover, I don’t mean sit around and do nothing.
What I do mean is purposefully resting and recovering your body from the day. For some people, this includes Yoga. Yoga is a great form of rest and recovery. Massage is another way to recover your body from sitting all day or working out too hard.
Doing nothing can also be thrown into rest and recovery. But you have to do nothing purposefully. I won’t get into that too indepth right now. Basically, your do-nothing time could be used to meditate, be grateful, write, read, or improve your life in some other form or fashion.
Now that we’ve covered the 3 functions of fitness, I want to give you some strategies to improve each one. I’m not going to be very specific today, because I will go more in-depth on each function in the future. So for now, we’ll stay surface level to figure out what, generally, will help improve each one of these functions.
As individuals, we all have different goals and aspirations for our bodies. Some of us want to be big and muscly, some of us want to be lean and mean. Others want to be able to run slow and far. And still others want to run short and fast. With each of these goals, there are specific things exercise modalities you can utilize to get the most bang for your buck. However, for overall health and vitality, there are some rules that apply to everybody:
No, I don’t mean you have to become a bodybuilder or powerlifter. These are extreme ends of the strength and hypertrophy continuum. I do mean that everybody, no matter what your age or sex, is constantly battling the aging process. And part of that process is loss of strength and loss of muscle. So working to constantly improve your strength and muscle mass is not necessarily about being big and strong, but about living the longest, healthiest life you can.
The only way to improve your strength and muscle mass is with resistance training, simple as that. You must put force on your muscles in order for them to build strength, and you must do it repetitively in order to build muscle. If you want to do this efficiently, try metabolic resistance training. This is a form of training that mixes resistance training with interval training, helping to improve both your muscular system and cardiovascular system at the same time.
Being strong and moving proper muscle mass doesn’t mean anything if you can’t move. This is where a lot of gym goers struggle (especially those I would throw into the “meat-head” category. I’m allowed to say that because I was one at one point). Being big and strong is fun, don’t get me wrong. But if you’re doing in with detriment to the mobility in your joints, you’ll be in for some unwelcome surprises as you age.
This is why it’s important to do mobility and stretching work with every workout you do. If you don’t have time, like many people say, to mobilize before or after your workout, simply do it during. How much time do you waste between sets, waiting for your rest period to go by? Instead of doing nothing, pick a couple of mobility or stretching exercises to do during your down time between sets.
Yoga is also a wonderful thing to do here. Although I don’t agree with every aspect of Yoga, I do believe in the balance between mobility and breathing. So incorporate some of these practices into your routine.
Then, of course, there’s cardio. The bain of most people’s gym existence. Cardio is what keeps your heart functioning out its optimal level. But cardio doesn’t have to mean getting on the treadmill for an hour. Like I mentioned before, metabolic resistance training is a wonderful way to get weight training and cardio in together. Don’t let yourself get sucked into believing you have to be on a piece of cardio equipment for hours on end in order to get work done. You can figure out ways to burn more calories in 10 minutes with a kettlebell than you can with 60 minutes on a treadmill.
The biggest point that I want to make here your movement throughout the day. Our daily energy expenditure can basically be thrown into 3 categories:
This is the amount of energy it takes your body to metabolize your food. Some foods are higher on than thermogenesis scale than others. For instance, protein has the highest thermogenic effect of the macronutrients. It takes your body more calories to digest protein than it does to digest carbs and fats together.
By metabolism, I mean your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Your RMR is the amount of calories your body burns at rest. So while you’re sitting at work at your desk, your body is burning calories. The calories your body burns during these times of rest is your RMR. The biggest way to impact your RMR is by having more muscle (remember what we talked about before with muscle mass and longevity?). Muscle is active tissue, fat is not. The more muscle you have relative to your body size, the more calories you will burn at rest.
Activity can be broken up into 2 categories: Exercise and NEAT. Exericse is activity for the purpose of improving your fitness. Notice I said PURPOSE. NEAT means Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is every other bit of activity (or lack of activity) you do other than exercise. This is activity that is non-purposeful. Things that fit in the NEAT category are things like yard work, cleaning the house, and washing the car. Oddly enough, this is where you can have the biggest impact on your daily movement. Increasing the amount of NEAT you have in your life will improve the amount of calories you burn in a day drastically!
Then, of course, there is rest and recovery. We’ve talked a bit about this in the beginning. Some wonderful ways to rest and recover are massage, mobility work in the morning, or meditaiton. Self-massage is imperative for soft-tissue health. You can achieve self-massage by buying a foam roller or lacrosse ball and using it every morning.
Like I said, meditation is another great form of rest and recovery. Not only does your physical body need rest, your mental self needs it, as well. Meditation is a great way to refocus and improve your mental clarity. Shoot to start with 10 minutes in the morning. Simply sit down, set a timer, close your eyes, and start paying attention to your breathe. Meditation does not have to be complicated. Once 10 minutes becomes easy, move it to 12 minutes. Keep going up until you find your sweet spot. For me, 15 minutes does the trick
Thank you for hanging in there with me on this article. I know we covered a lot. I want to be able to break some of these ideas down a little more, so look for articles on these functions later. Until then, keep working hard on improving your health and vitality. Your goal should be to live as long as you can and as well as you can. These strategies will be a good beginning to get you moving in that direction.
If you’re not involved with something that is improving your life and are ready to make a change in your health and vitality, start by setting up your Vitality Strategy Session! Our Pack is here to support you on your journey.