These days everyone is concerned with which exercise program they should use or which foods they need to eat to reach their goals. Countless workout programs and diet plans are constructed every year to take advantage of this desire to find the magic combination. In truth, many of these plans CAN work but often there is no guarantee that they WILL work. While there are many reasons for this mercurial nature, one of the most common reasons your program isn’t working is due to a poor health and lifestyle foundation.
You can’t expect to construct a beautiful house without first pouring a solid foundation. Otherwise, you’ll spend an endless amount time and money trying to keep it standing. Eventually, the house will crumble away no matter how hard you work so save it. You have to think of your own body as the house you are trying to construct. Many people try to maintain a nice looking “house” through diet and exercise but fail to execute the basic lifestyle practices that will fortify the integrity of their “foundation.” These practices are not talked about often in fitness but are incredibly helpful. In reality, these BLP’s are perhaps more important to your health and performance than working out and eating the correct foods.
The Main Culprits that Steal Your Health
The basic lifestyle practices are meant to serve as protection from the effects of our crazy world. We as humans have fallen out of rhythm compared to how we lived a thousand or even a hundred years ago. In the US especially, everyone has a “living to work” attitude which forces them to sacrifice health in the name of productivity. We sleep less than we should, over-fill our stress cup constantly, and under-nourish ourselves in almost every domain of health.
We know inherently well that sleep is important to our proper functioning. But often, people will choose to forego sleep in order to get more work done. This is then compounded by the fact that we keep our screens in our faces all the way up until we go to bed. Making things worse are the myriad of lights that we keep in our bedroom which disrupt our sleep patterns. Our poor sleeping habits automatically predispose us to dealing with our life less efficiently and degrading our own health.
Another thing that keeps us up at night would be the tendency to fill our lives with stress. We refuse to let ourselves rest and recover as we try to fill every moment of our life with productivity. But this doesn’t just affect our sleep. Constant stress leads to changes in hormone function, organ function, and thus diminished health. As such, chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer can result from this long cascade of events.
Finally, under-nourishment rears its ugly head in many aspects of our lives. This doesn’t mean we aren’t eating enough calories. Instead it means that our eating habits and food choices are out of sync. We under-hydrate and rely too heavily on nutrient void sources of calories. This has had an impact on our biological signals which make it harder for us to maintain normal dietary habits and find true success in our fitness program.
Fixing These Issues with the BLP’s
You may be thinking, “okay, so what can I do to fix these issues?” Obviously, you’re going to have to change some of your lifestyle habits in order to combat these common problems. So let me outline a few of the basic lifestyle practices I like for people to incorporate in their lives:
- Prioritize Sleep
It is so tempting to sacrifice sleep in order to be more productive throughout the day. Many people view it as a waste of 7-9 hours. Why not just get 3-5 and have more time to do things? Although it may increase productivity in the short term, you’ll actually suffer in the long run. A good night of rest makes you more efficient with your time which will more than make up for the extra hours you spend in bed.
- Stress Management
It’s time to start trimming the fat and letting things go. Get rid of unnecessary stressor in your life. There are some things we can’t get away from like work, family, or financial stress. But many other stressors are unnecessary and can be eliminated from your life. Practice active stress relief techniques such as mediation or breathing exercises and you’ll begin to see your life in better perspective.
- Circadian Rhythm
We as a society have strayed pretty far from our normal biological rhythms. Many hormones like serotonin, melatonin, and vitamin D respond to the light/dark cycle of the sun. As such it is crucial for us to expose ourselves to the sun on a regular basis. Additionally, we must limit our exposure to bright light in the evening hours so that our body can adequately prepare for sleep. Limiting screen time and lowering the lights at night will help tremendously with this.
- Prioritize Recovery
As fitness enthusiasts, we often are only concerned with how we can work out hard to reach our goals. But recovery may actually be most important when it comes to our fitness. If we can’t recover then we can’t adapt and thus we are just spinning our wheels in the gym. Make sure you take the time to relax and treat your muscles right with things like sauna, Epsom salt baths, and even massages.
- Nourish and Hydrate Yourself
Most people will admit that they don’t drink enough water. But proper hydration is crucial to health and performance. Dehydrated tissue just doesn’t conduct bodily functions very well and so your organs and muscles will not work well without enough water.
Proper food choices also make a huge difference in providing the necessary vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and macronutrients for your bodily demands. But don’t overlook the importance of eating habits as well. Sitting down and chewing your food thoroughly goes a long way toward improving your health and performance.
Just as with everything in life, you have to have the basics in place in order to be successful. But many people overlook the basic lifestyle practices that contribute to good health. This isn’t entirely the fault of the individual as our society has heavily influenced the way we choose to live our lives. But those who are passionate about living healthy and performing well should do their best to improve their lifestyle habits.
Stress, poor sleep, under-recovery, and poor nourishment are some of the biggest threats to a well-established foundation. Thankfully, battling those threats is easy as long as you put a bit of effort in upfront. Changing your lifestyle habits is never easy, but it is necessary to stay as healthy as possible. So get to work on incorporating some of these BLP’s and you are sure to notice the difference!