There isn’t a day that goes by without a new fitness regimen that will help make you stronger, live longer, and have six-pack abs. Nutritional advice that pushes ketogenic diets, fasting, meat only, vegan only. Even though there are merits to these tactics, they can be highly confusing, if not overwhelming. Over the years, I’ve dug deeper into the advice and compressed them into simple ideas for myself.
Stick with it 80% of the time. Whatever regiment you settle on, stick with it most of the time. Don’t aim for perfection. You’ll have busy days when you’re sick and moments when you don’t feel like it. It’s OK. If you can stick with it most of the time, you’ll benefit from the compound effect over time.
Get started. The most common phrase I hear is, “I’m going to start hitting the gym next week.” It’s great to hear the intention to improve. What ends up happening most of the time is that life gets in the way. Something was due at work. Feeling tired. Had an appointment. These are all legitimate reasons. Incorporate workouts that you could do consistently. That could be taking walks two times a week. It could be doing pushups one day bodyweight squats the next. Just get started. Trust me, you’ll start craving it after a few weeks.
Progression and Periodization. Your body will adapt over time to the routine you’re doing. If you’re at the level of fitness you want, fantastic! If you want to do more, incorporate progression and periodization techniques. Over some time, typically weekly, adjust your routine slightly, 1-5%. That could mean lifting more weight, a couple of reps, time, or distance. Do this over 4-6 weeks, then pull back or entirely rest. This gives you space to recover and hold onto those adaptations. What works best for me is 4 weeks of progression, with a week of 50-70% of load, followed by another progression block ending with a complete rest week. Conveniently, this is modeled from my kids’ school scheduled breaks.
Mix it up. Don’t do the same thing all the time. It would be great to play tennis one day, run another day, and lift weights a third day. You work different parts of your body. You’ll also fight the boredom of doing the same thing. If you love one thing, like I love running, you can mix it up within your sport. I usually run easy effort most days, incorporate speed drills in several runs, and run long once a week.
Eat whole foods. Fill your day with whole foods - proteins, carbs, and fats. If you need to know how many calories you need and eat, track it. Use apps like MyFitnessPal to log what you eat. Use a TDEE calculator to understand your basic needs. Remember that as you push your body more, you must fuel slightly more. If you feel like you need to lose weight, then eat slightly less. A couple of hundred calories. Will this take longer? Yes. Will it make it easier for your body to adapt and maintain for the long haul? YES!
Rest. You build muscle and gain fitness when you give your body time to use the food you eat to recover.
Give it time to change. Change requires time. After two weeks of a routine, you’ll feel different. After four weeks, you’ll see a chance. After six, you’ll be ready to take on a new challenge. Compound that over the years, goals will always be within reach.
Andrew Huberman has a series with Dr. Andy Galpin on breaking down fitness protocols. It’s a six-part series, but Dr. Galpin breaks down concepts and compresses the ideas for easier understanding.
Get after it!