I don’t know about you, but with each passing year, I find that the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.
As more research, studies and information become available; there is always a seemingly new approach or important new “thing” to do (or not do!) regarding health and fitness.
We may come to know a lot of things in the pursuit of knowledge, but wisdom comes from understanding what is best for you. One of my favorite quotes from Jack Kornfield is:
“We do not need more knowledge but more wisdom. Wisdom comes from our own attention.”
So while I do not profess to be wise by any means, I thought I’d share a few lessons about health, fitness (and life in general) I’ve come to learn* from my own experiences that I wish I’d applied sooner:
*And by learning, I mean I’m still working on it!
#1: Your health is the most important thing (even if your brain still wants you to focus on your weight).
Our body will only respond to our workouts or diet to the degree that it is healthy. I know that number on the scale can feel important (and it can be one of the many ways to gauge physical changes), but it can only provide a small snapshot of what is happening within your body. It cannot measure how much weight is in water, muscle, bone, or fat. It cannot tell you how healthy, strong, or fit you are. If weight loss is one of your goals, don’t forget to focus on your health first.
“We often try to lose weight to be healthy, but we need to get healthy to lose weight.” – Dan Garner
#2: Your body responds to averages over time.
Going on vacation? Down with the flu? Don’t worry too much about missed workouts or time away from healthy eating. Your body (and biology) responds to averages over time. So as long as most of your year(s) includes regular exercise and healthy eating, a few blips in your routine aren’t going to be enough to derail your progress (in fact, sometimes they can be beneficial – see #3).
“Being consistent is not the same as being perfect.” – James Clear
#3: Rest and recovery are as important as work and effort.
It has been said that music is made not in the notes but in the space between them, and the same can be said about the work and effort we put into our training and our life in general. While the work is essential, it’s what we do in between that is what creates growth and change.
Strength training, for instance, breaks down parts of our muscle tissue fibers, and it is when the muscles repair that improvement in muscular strength and growth occur. And that repair process can only happen if we are well fueled, hydrated, and get enough quality sleep.
There will be times in life (and entire seasons) when rest will be more necessary than others. Don’t ever feel guilty about allowing your body the time it needs to recharge and recover. It may keep you on track longer and more consistently with time versus trying to power through periods of higher stress.
“Rest is, quite simply, when you stop using a part of you that’s used up, worn out, damaged, or inflamed, so that it has a chance to renew itself.” ― Emily Nagoski
#4: Don’t skimp on sleep!
Speaking of sleep, don’t skimp on sleep! Morning workouts are a great way to fit in fitness before the day gets away, but if you have to choose between getting enough sleep or a full workout, get enough sleep first (it’s that essential!). If possible, try moving your bedtime earlier by about 15-minute increments until you can find the right amount of shut-eye that allows you to wake up feeling rested and ready to go.
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”. — Thomas Dekker
#5: More isn’t always better.
Sometimes too much of a good thing can still be too much, even when it comes to exercise. If you exercise consistently, but your body is constantly in pain and aching (and not from that subtle muscle soreness), it may be time to evaluate how much and how often you are training. Every body’s needs are different, so be sure you are constantly adjusting your programming to help you feel and perform at your best.
“More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more.” ― Barbara Benedek
#6: Your body is constantly communicating with you. The more you try to push past it, the louder those messages will get.
Often it starts with a gentle whisper, like a slight sensation, but with time if the issue isn’t fixed, your body will begin sending louder and louder signs and signals to get you to pay attention. Don’t ignore those warnings! The sooner you can address what is going on with your body, the more likely you will be able to prevent or more easily fix potential health issues and injuries.
“Your body is your best guide. It constantly tells you, in the form of pain or sensations, what’s working for you and what’s not.” – Hina Hashmi
#7: Your body listens to everything you ‘say’ to it.
Just as much as your body communicates with you, it’s also listening to everything you are saying to it — do you constantly look in the mirror and pick apart your physical appearance? Your body hears you. Do you talk about how tired, fat, etc., you feel? Your body hears that too. Often we speak more harshly to ourselves than we would our own worst enemy, and those negative messages certainly aren’t helpful.
“Your body can’t outrun the thoughts that flow through your mind; every single one of your cells literally vibrates with the energy that your thoughts create. We think an estimated 50,000 – 80,000 thoughts per day, so basically our brains never stop the endless banter, and I am sure to bet that the voice you typically tune in to isn’t always the kindest.” – Sarah Fragoso
#8: Consistency always trumps intensity.
Instead of short, occasional intense sprints, focus on what is sustainable (and healthiest!) for the long term. While intensity in the proper doses can be a good thing to spark positive changes in our body, if your program is too intense too often, it can wear you out fast, leaving you depleted and unable to stick with your routine over the long term. We’re aiming for healthy long-haul habits since our body responds to what we can continue to do over time. (again, see #2)
“Do it again and again. Consistency makes the raindrops create holes in the rock. Whatever is difficult can be done easily with regular attendance, attention, and action.” – Israelmore Ayivor
#9: Don’t fear failure.
Failing is the path to growth. Trying different things is how we find what works. When we lift weights, working to failure is how we get stronger, it’s the goal. Learning to embrace this mindset has helped me also embrace failure in other aspects of life. By allowing (and, at times, expecting) failure, it allows us to not be afraid to try — and not succeed — every time. Sometimes that is the best way to find out what does work, and ultimately, what will create success in the long term.
“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho
I love hearing from you! Tell me, do you have a lesson you wish you’d learned sooner?