The Three Master Keys to Building Fitness
By Mikkel Gisle Johnsen
The word health literally means «whole», and that’s because it takes a whole spectrum of good lifestyle habits to make a person healthy and wholesome. Apart from diet, sleep, rest, sunshine and many other aspects of living healthfully – fitness is of utmost importance. Unfortunately, most of us today find ourselves lacking when it comes to maintaining a high level of physical fitness, and there are some very simple reasons why. In today’s article I want to give you Three Master Keys that you can use in order to take your fitness to the next level.
WHAT EXACTLY IS FITNESS? Contrary to what people think, building fitness (on a day to day level) does not have to take a lot of time, or be very hard for that matter. It is a process that takes time however. Sustained, long term fitness – which is what we want in order to be healthy – requires sustained, long term investments.
Fitness differs from the concept of activity because it has to do with the state of your body at any given time rather than how active you are. Obviously, the more active you are, the fitter you will likely get, but fitness is nevertheless an aspect of its own. It includes things like body fat percentage, muscle mass, strength, speed, endurance, cardiovascular fitness, types of muscle fiber, capacity for oxygen utilization in the muscles (Vo2max), lactic threshold, flexibility, balance and much more. It’s all about how well your body functions, as well as how adapted it is to a certain activity. We can’t be perfectly fit for everything at once though, most sports require specific fitness adaptions. A boxer requires a very different physique than what a long distance runner does – but they will still share many of the underlying fitness factors that healthy people have in common.
To develop a general, or specific, factor of our fitness we need to stress that factor. As a result of stressing individual factors of our physiology, and allowing for adequate recovery to follow it, our bodies adapt to the new demand put on it. This is called the training effect.
So then, now that we know what fitness is and what the training effect is, let’s talk about how to go about building it on a day to day basis. These three keys are general in nature, and apply to just about anything in life. Apply them, and you’re guaranteed growth!
MASTER KEY #1: MOTIVATION Motivation is always going to be the first step in any endeavor. Without it, we don’t engage. How then, can we maintain the motivation for building and maintaining fitness over a long period of time – indeed for a lifetime?
First of all we need physical motivation which translates to good health basically. If you don’t feel good on a day to day basis, you won’t be interested in doing much training at all. This is why it’s so important to pay attention to all of the various facets of health. There are however two of those facets that play a more important role than the others when it comes to being motivated for training.
For one – you simply MUST get enough sleep on a regular basis if you are to have the energy and motivation to train. How much is enough? You’ve had enough sleep when you wake up refreshed without an alarm clock and you could not sleep any longer. For most people this is typically between 7.5 and 10.5 hours per night. If we are completely honest with ourselves, and completely stress free, I think it’s safe to say that the higher end of that spectrum is more accurate.
The other aspect of health that affects motivation a lot is diet, and more specifically carbohydrates – or a lack thereof. Eating a diet high in carbohydrates (more than 80% of total calories) is of paramount importance if you want to stay healthy, positive, motivated and clear headed. Your body runs on sugar! Your brain loves the stuff! Low carb diets are notorious for causing brain fog and depression! Your physiology is that of a tropical frugivore species. Eat lots of fruit (ideally an all fruit diet) and alternatively roots, tubers, grains and legumes. All those good plant foods that have sustained us for the entire span of our biological history! Carb the f**k up basically!
The second part of staying motivated has to do with your mental/emotional motivation. This is easily achieved by cultivating it consciously. Keep reading books about fitness and health. Learn about how the body works. Watch YouTube videos about the subject. Hang out with likeminded people. Watch cool documentaries. Subscribe to newsletters that keep you inspired. Just stay inspired basically. It’s like keeping a fire burning – you’ve got to keep fuelling it with wood!
As your fitness improves, so will your health and inspiration (now that you’re seeing results), and this in turn means you will be more motivated to train. As you can see – it’s a positive spiral.
MASTER KEY #2: EXECUTION No plan can work off motivation only. We need to execute. We need to get it done! This is where a lot of people go wrong – not because they don’t do the training, but because they do it the wrong way!
In a simple sentence, here’s how you do it right: Not too hard, not too easy – juuust right!
Work too hard, too much or too often and you risk the chance of burning out, injuring yourself or just plain hating it. Train too easy and you end up not reaching your potential, or worse – losing motivation due to the lack of results. You’ve got to hit it just right!
What is just right? Well, that depends on what you’re doing.
Generally speaking though, you want to do most of your training in a somewhat comfortable state that you can sustain for some time. That doesn’t mean that you should lift light weights if you’re trying to build muscles though (they need to be fairly heavy), but it means that when you’re done with your session you feel good – not completely exhausted. Most of your fitness activities should be enjoyable and playful – yet hard enough to experience growth. You’re in it for the long run – no pun intended!
Then when it’s time to go hard – you really go hard. Just remember, no one can go hard all the time. Save your “hard” for those focused, concentrated efforts you do on a regular basis.
This advice is very general, and it needs to be taken as just that. Adapt it to whatever specific sport or activity you’re doing and just remember to keep pushing the envelope juuust enough to keep growing, but not so much that you injure yourself or burn out. Keep this rubber band analogy in mind at all times: “Think stretch – not snap”.
MASTER KEY #3: CONSISTENCY The last master key, and arguably the most important one for long term success is consistency. It takes time to get good at something, and building fitness is not different. The body needs lots of time to adapt to the stresses you expose it to, and since you can’t expose it to too many stresses all at once you have to spread it out over days, weeks, months and years. I’ve read that it takes 10 000 hours of training for an elite level endurance athlete to reach his or her potential in the sport. That’s more than 10 years of elite level training!
The good thing about this aspect is that building and maintaining fitness should be a lifelong endeavor! In other words we literally have all the time in the world! There are no quick fixes to health and fitness. It’s all about the slow and steady. Sure, you can get some substantial gains here and there within a short period but generally speaking things take time.
There’s also the concept of diminishing returns, which dictate that the more you do something, the less you get out of it as compared with when you just started out.
For me, the concept of consistency is reassuring and relaxing. It makes me realize that there’s no rush, and that the only way to get great results is to just keep doing it, little by little, day by day over the long haul. There’s no need for an extreme effort at any given time. The effort is light on any given day, but over time those light efforts add up to something great. Whether it’s training or business, consistency yields better results than any other single factor out there. Patience my friend. Patience.
CONCLUSION So there you have it. Fitness is an important part of health in general, and cultivating it is very easy – as long as you follow these three Master Keys. Simply stay motivated by living healthfully (especially by sleeping enough and eating enough carbs) and feeding your mind with daily inspirational materials, execute your training juuust right in order to see results and avoid burning out, and last but not least stay consistent with what you’re doing – it’s all about sustainability long term!
Most of all have some serious amounts of FUN!
The information in this article reflects the views and opinions of the author and is intended for educational and informational purposes only. This is not medical advice. We are not responsible for any action you may take based on the information given in this article. For medical advice please see your medical professional.