How to Stay Fit for The Rest of Your Life (Pt. 1)
Stay fit for the rest of your life? Is that really an obtainable goal?
So maybe you’ve completed your fair share of fitness challenges, muscle building goals, or weight loss plans, but you always end up falling off the rails right after. Maybe you even recently completed one of these challenges and you’re looking to prevent this from happening ahead of time.
I believe there is certainly a way to achieve a lifetime of health, fitness, and longevity (both mentally and physically), and I believe it extends further than simple fitness programs, or militaristically scheduling out every waking second of your day. Here’s how you can stay fit for the rest of your life.
1. Choose the Type of Physical Activity that Suites YOU
As a strength and conditioning coach I think most people would expect that all I ever recommend is barbell training. Nope.
A common issue trainers face is many people claim they don’t like exercise, and that can definitely be true. More likely, however, is you just don’t like the type of exercise that’s been forced on you.
Believe it or not there is certainly more to fitness than the squat, bench, and deadlift. There’s more to fitness than running on the treadmill, or climbing the stair master, or spinning away for untold repetitions on the elliptical. There’s even more to fitness than HIIT classes, spin classes, pilates, yoga, zumba, or whatever new fad class your local gym happens to be offering at the moment. There are so many activities that qualify as “physical activity” that it’s a shame that we get trapped in this small box of what’s considered “acceptable exercise”.
I will only ever recommend the type of physical activity which a person actually enjoys. I don’t care if that means you like walks around the neighborhood, mountain hikes, playing out back with your dog, an innumerable amount of sports and hobbies, whatever it is that get’s you moving, do it. Just make sure at the end of the day you’re moving.
Motivational speakers will constantly quote “learn to love what you hate”, and I get it. Makes for a badass quote, we should be looking to challenge ourselves sure, and whether we enjoy the activity or not we do have to embrace that exercise is hard. But in general “learn to love what you hate” is crap advice. For the vast majority of people if they hate a certain form of exercise they aren’t going to “willpower through it” they’re just…not going to do it…
When a person genuinely enjoys their chosen form of physical activity your going to see much better adherence to it. Not to mention the individual in question isn’t going to have to summon superhuman levels of motivation everyday just to get a workout in. It’s important that people are simply being physically active more so than it is what specific type of physical activity they are actually doing. Gym cultural has made it seem like you’re only exercising if you’re hitting some barbell lifts or blasting away miles on the treadmill, but there are plenty of activities that qualify as physical activity with no gym membership required.
2. Make Sleep a High Tier Priority
One of our most backwards societal behaviors is constantly complaining that we feel rundown, we’re tired, need 3 pots of coffee to get through the day, you name it. Then turning right around and casually joking to our coworkers that we only got 5 hours of sleep last night. Yikes.
Now obviously there is more than one reason you could feel rundown or fatigued, but I urge you to take some personal responsibility on the issue of sleep deprivation. There are very few situations in which getting more sleep is genuinely out of your control. These situations would involve something like someone who has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and that’s what’s getting in the way of their sleep. Not, “oh I got sucked into this new show on Netflix and time got away from me”. For the vast majority of us, we will vehemently claim that we “just don’t have enough time to sleep” and I’m telling you in the kindest way possible you’re lying. We are usually just deflecting away from our poor planning/decision making skills and giving ourselves an out for why we don’t get enough sleep and we need to own up to it.
There’s most likely a way for you to get more sleep in your life, whether it be forcing yourself into a bedtime routine, rescheduling your work day so it doesn’t run late, or forcing a self rule of no electronics before bed, make it happen. For those of you about to tell me you “literally cannot fall asleep”, that may actually be true. There are plenty of conditions which can get in the way of sleep quality and in these cases I would urge you to continue seeing professionals about the issue until you get a solution. Be incessant about it. Maybe you don’t get a perfect solution, but any improvement in sleep is a win compared to settling for sleep deprivation for the rest of your life.
Sleep is not a “suggestion”. It’s a physiological need with severe consequences when not fulfilled. On the other hand, with proper sleep you’re looking at increased productivity, increased recovery, reduced stress, improved memory, improved mood, and weight maintenance just to name a few benefits. Proper sleep is amongst one of the most life changing behavioral changes a person can make for their physical and mental health, and ranks above any other fitness or health tips I can give you. You just have to put in the effort to make it happen.
3. Cook More Often
Nutrition is always a difficult question to tackle because it’s such an individualized question. What works for one person may not work for another, making it difficult to give broad strokes advice. What I can recommend to absolutely everyone though, cook for yourself more often. The more meals that you can make for yourself over the course of the week the better.
Now when I say cook I don’t mean finding a premade boxed meal and chucking it in the oven to heat up. I mean really cook. Not only is this a basic life skill everyone should have, it’s an easy and carefree way to basically guarantee you end up eating healthier (Great for those of you who abhor calorie counting). Cooking is a fantastic way to learn about the calorie costs of certain foods, you are in control of every ingredient that’s going into the food you’re eating, and you can adjust things to your EXACT needs. Not to mention those more decadent foods that really rack up the calories you may find at restaurants, they’re just flat out harder to make in a home kitchen so it’s less likely you’ll end up having them (Example: Fried foods in a home kitchen is a PROCESS).
Much like sleep, most will say they don’t cook because they don’t have enough time. Also much like sleep, I’m here to remind you that you’re lying again. When I say cook more often, I don’t mean you need to be planning out extravagant “took you 45 minutes to make” dinners. All I mean is that you are the mastermind behind most of the meals that you are eating. There is a whole section of the internet dedicated to fast and delicious meals. Even more dedicated to prepping out meals for an entire week if that’s your thing. Again, YOU CAN MAKE THIS HAPPEN. It’s just going to take some dedication and effort.
Cooking more often for yourself is the best broad strokes advice I can give for a healthy and balanced diet without having you stress out about certain diets, nutrient timing, macros and micros, and a whole bunch of other stuff you don’t need to stress out about. Not to mention the additional benefits of cooking like learning new skills, learning about other cultures, bonding with friends and family, oh…and having a kickass meal to eat for dinner.
4. Find Your Stress Relievers
Stress is not an abnormal thing and is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the vast majority of the population would indicate that they are concerned about their stress levels. When stress begins to feel like it’s getting out of hand you need some go-tos for quick relief. Whenever the topic of stress relief is brought up I believe everyone and anyone jumps to meditation and yoga. Not gonna lie these are fantastic options, I’d give them a thumbs up myself, but maybe you aren’t ready to make that jump yet. Maybe that’s on the list of “you don’t have enough time for it”. Stress relief can certainly be even simpler.
On the big list of stress relievers to pick from:
-Spend time with Friends and Family
-Listen to Music
-Spend time with a pet
-Try Breathing Exercises
– Say no when you need to (You know who you are)
-Find something that makes you laugh
-Hug a loved one
– Get Creative (Art, Music, Content, you name it)
-Go for a walk
-Read a Book
As a bonus stress reliever: If you really need a quick way to abate stress and anxiety check out “box breathing” for a quick an easy breathing exercise.
Fitness in and of itself is obviously also counted as a stress reliever. But often times I ironically find that it is those exact personality types that love fitness, that end up running themselves into the ground with it. If fitness is your jam I would highly consider you have some non-physical activity related stress relievers on top of your regularly scheduled exercise.
Good to note is your stress relievers should only ever be building you up, not breaking you down. An easy example would be alcohol usage which, could be seen as a stress reliever, but not for the right reasons. Keep in mind these are just quick stress relief solutions and in no way should be used as a method to replace true long term solutions for stress and anxiety such as professional therapy and medical treatment.