Brains and Brawn… Three keys to physical fitness

Published 10:25 pm Friday, March 5, 2021

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Many times, while working out over the years, a fellow lifter would approach me and ask something like, “What supplements are you taking, bro?”

I would always reply to the effect that they are putting the “cart in front of the horse,” and that supplements are a small if not insignificant part of any fitness plan.

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I would continue and tell them that there are basically only three things that can change your fitness level significantly – diet, training, and rest/rehabilitation.

Often, this would disappoint the fellow lifter. They wanted a pill or a powder to take that quickly gave them the results they were looking for.

Sadly, such a thing does not exist.

All the advertisements that say otherwise are trying to sell you something. To reach high levels of strength and fitness takes a lot of hard work, but you can move far more efficiently towards your goals by knowing what really makes a difference.

Diet is the most important aspect of any physical fitness plan, and admittedly the one I struggle with the most. Wasting food is close to a mortal sin in most Appalachian homes.

We have known generational hardships and frugality is part of our essential nature. So, not finishing your plate is nearly impossible for us.

There are a ton of fad diets, and some of them work well, but there is a basic calculation at the heart of any diet, calories in versus calories out. In other words, you must burn more than you eat to avoid fat gain.

Resting metabolic rate changes over your life. That is why young people can typically stay thin more easily.

So, as we age, we simply must eat less. This is a hard pill to swallow, especially for me, but it is the only way. Portion and calorie control is a great place to start when planning a diet.

A person can calculate the calories they burn in a typical day using the health app on their phone and then make sure to eat only that much or less. This requires mental toughness, but you can do it!

Training is the next most important part of any fitness plan.

The good news about this is there are many ways to approach training that will all have a positive impact on your fitness.

Everything from hardcore weightlifting to briskly walking around your yard or neighborhood would be valid choices. Again, that same calculation is key, calories in versus calories out.

If you exercise vigorously and burn a significant number of calories, the amount you can eat without gaining fat increases.

Often this is what motivates me the most, knowing that I can have a bigger meal without guilt after a challenging workout. The key is to find some exercise routine that you can do consistently 3-5 days a week and stick to it!

The final key to physical fitness is rest and rehabilitation.

The single most important element of this is to get around 8 hours of sleep every night.

Another consideration is overtraining. There are different kinds of discomfort that arise from training vigorously. The first is the healthy sort of muscle soreness that means you had a great workout. This is not anything to worry about.

However, small injuries can accumulate and give you more persistent and acute discomfort. If this happens you should rehabilitate your body by changing up your training plan and allowing those injuries to heal.

For example, if you jog 5 miles a day and your knees are having persistent discomfort, it might be a good idea to switch to a rowing machine for a few weeks.

Dieting is absolutely no fun but, unless you are one of those genetically gifted souls who do not gain weight, you must consider calories in versus calories out when eating.

Also, to be fit and help with those calories, you should have an exercise plan that you perform regularly.

Finally, get your rest, listen to your body, and take care of any rehabilitation needs.

Physical fitness is essential to living your best life. Give yourself the gift of increased fitness by getting started today!