There are so many voices shouting in the health and fitness arena today – so many ideas, opinions and beliefs are flying at us left and right about what is healthy and what isn’t. I bet you’ve felt overwhelmed if not down right frustrated at hearing so many opinions about which diet is best, which supplements are most important, which workouts are most effective.. Right?
I know I have!
I poured lots of time and money into a bunch of different things that all eventually fizzled out – what was I doing wrong? I couldn’t ever stick with anything. Was I broken? Why was I not seeing long lasting progress? Why was this so hard? Is this what was in store for my future – forced gym sessions and baked chicken? Maybe I should just be fat.
That was honestly my mindset, I’m sorry to say. I had a skewed vision of what health and fitness looked like and it led me down a lot of dark and fruitless roads.
In this video I want to dive into some simple indicators that can reassure you or nudge you in the right direction about your own personal health which – may I remind you – is totally unique and no one can understand unless they understand you.
First, let’s get a few things straight – skinny or fat isn’t the discussion we’re having. You can have varying percentages of body fat and be ultra healthy, very sick or happily in between. You are worthy and have so much potential for joy no matter how you look: muscular, soft, or your unique blend of both.
There’s also two different kinds of health we need to talk about to have a complete and honest discussion, and those are physical health and mental (or) emotional health. What we do with our bodies and what we put inside of them are pretty much the only ways we directly determine our own health (how we move and what we eat) so I’ll be making the case for training often and eating well, and keep in mind that both of these things together are important – you can’t eat well and never move, and you can’t out exercise a bad diet.
Now it’s way easier to indicate physical health because the markers are clear and more definite – so let’s start there and lay some groundwork for what HEALTHY looks like.
**just a side note – all of these indicators show that you have accomplished health, so if you answer “no” to a lot of these then continue to the end of the video where I’ll link to two very helpful and simple videos where I break down exactly how to begin eating and training for your best and healthiest life yet**
- You have less pain – maybe you’re even pain free
- You have less inflammation (like joint stiffness, autoimmune flare ups, and more)
- You have better mobility (better range of motion on a particular movement, or you feel more mobile in general)
Now don’t take this too far – if you’re tight and lack mobility that doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy. Sometimes it can almost feel like it’s the other way around… I know loads of very fit people who have terrible mobility because they carry a lot of muscle on their frame. People with lots of muscle and especially those who frequently train intensely can suffer from acute tightness and poor range of motion – that’s why at all stages we need to focus on increasing our range of motion as a skill. If you’re bad at mobility (aka stretching and moving to the full range capability of your joints and body), you’re going to have to train it just like you do your muscles.
To help you get started with this – because stretching sounds simple but if we don’t have a plan for recovery and mobility it just never happens – I’ve linked to an awesome program below called ROMWOD – they put out daily stretching routines you can follow and increase your mobility within 12-15 minutes / day.
But let’s keep going… the remaining physical indicators include:
- You take fewer medications, or a lower dose of them
- You have better blood work or lab tests
- You have fewer digestive problems
- You heal and recover from injury or illness more quickly
- You perform better athletically
- You can do daily-life tasks better (like lifting things into the car, carrying groceries, managing a dog pulling on a leash, and so on)
Interesting that nothing about thigh gaps or abs popped up in that list, huh? I want you start thinking about your health differently, and these lists are great places to start for monitoring and valuing about your body as it pertains to your overall health.
Think about that – all of these indicators revolve around important life needs and priorities. There’s not always something wrong with wanting to look fit and healthy, but looks just don’t determine health, it’s that simple.
I want to take a peek into the athletic performance indicator for a second too…
How do you know if you’re performing better athletically? You’ll only know this if you’re (#1) tracking your progress and more important (#2) training progressively.
If you’re a CrossFit athlete you are probably doing this with your olympic lifting #’s and benchmark met-cons. Power lifters will also be subscribed to progressive training by the demands of their sport. But if you’re new to a regular fitness routine, often training alone or training out of a commercial gym, this may be a new concept to you. Here’s why you should be training using progressive overload, and 5 ways to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck with your workouts.
- Extend your range of motion
- Increase your time under tension
- Increase your reps + sets
- Overload your nervous system / fatigue
- Increase your tonnage (overall reps x sets x weight)
If you’re confused about what any of that means I’d got another video that explains those briefly and gives you some awesome starter workouts to begin building progression in your own routine, you’ll find the link to this in the end credits.
Now let’s get back on track and move on to EMOTIONAL / MENTAL health indicators…
- You feel more confident
- You feel like change is possible
- You feel better about your choices
- You feel more knowledgeable
- You feel clearer about your goals and the path to get to them
- You feel mentally more “on” – you’re thinking more clearly, with less fuzziness or forgetfulness.
- You feel more open to trying new things
- You feel happier and more positive
- You feel motivated (motivated to train or simply motivated to persist)
Here’s my case for moving more.
Our bodies were made to move, that’s pretty obvious. It’s why we have limbs that rotate in joints and complementary muscles that help us get around. Because of technology – and cultural norms like the “hustle” mentality which keeps us working because work has been a high standard of value – we work a ton and don’t have time or energy for extra activity. And many of us are no longer required to labor a great deal throughout the day or perform manual work. We don’t even have to grow our own food. So it’s up to us to build movement back into our routines, and recognize that what we may have forgotten – or never known – which is that physical activity actually does a lot for us mentally and emotionally too. It works from the inside out to create a barrier against sickness
Fitness creates a barrier against sickness.
So of course let’s throw in the final list of APPEARANCE based health indicators:
- Your skin looks better (e.g. less acne; fewer rashes; general improvement)
- Your hair and fingernails are stronger
- You look generally “fitter” / more athletic
- You’re walking taller and more confidently
The realities of training, as highlighted in the Level 1 CrossFit training guide:
Can I Enjoy Optimal Health Without Being an Athlete? No! Athletes experience a protection from the ravages of aging and disease that non-athletes never find. For instance, 80-year-old athletes are stronger than non-athletes in their prime at 25 years old. If you think that strength is not important, consider that strength loss is what puts people in nursing homes. Athletes have greater bone density, stronger immune systems, less coronary heart disease, reduced cancer risk, fewer strokes, and less depression than non-athletes.
What if I Do not Want to Be an Athlete; I Just Want to Be Healthy? You are in luck. We hear this often, but the truth is that fitness, wellness, and pathology (sickness) are measures of the same entity: your health. There are a multitude of measurable parameters that can be ordered from sick (pathological) to well (normal) to fit (better than normal). These include but are not limited to blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, body fat, muscle mass, flexibility, and strength. It seems as though all of the body functions that can go awry have states that are pathological, normal, and exceptional and that elite athletes typically show these parameters in the exceptional range. CrossFit’s view is that fitness and health are the same thing (see “What Is Fitness? (Part 1)” article). It is also interesting to notice that the health professional maintains your health with drugs and surgery, each with potentially undesirable side effects, whereas the CrossFit trainer typically achieves a superior result always with “side benefit” versus side effect.
Neuroendocrine Adaptation “Neuroendocrine adaptation” is a change in the body that affects you either neurologically or hormonally. Most important adaptations to exercise are in part or completely a result of a hormonal or neurological shift. Research has shown which exercise protocols maximize neuroendocrine responses. Earlier we faulted isolation movements as being ineffectual. Now we can tell you that one of the critical elements missing from these movements is that they invoke essentially no neuroendocrine response. Among the hormonal responses vital to athletic development are substantial increases in testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, and human growth hormone. Exercising with protocols known to elevate these hormones eerily mimics the hormonal changes sought in exogenous hormonal therapy (steroid use) with none of the deleterious effect. Exercise regimens that induce a high neuroendocrine response produce champions! Increased muscle mass and bone density are just two of many adaptive responses to exercises capable of producing a significant neuroendocrine response. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the neuroendocrine response to exercise protocols. Heavy load weight training, short rest between sets, high heart rates, high-intensity training, and short rest intervals, though not entirely distinct components, are all associated with a high neuroendocrine response.
Here’s my case for eating well…
The body is the only thing allowing you to exist on this earth. It’s your invitation to life, you can accept or reject that invitation by honoring or trashing your body. I believe you should eat well because
- Food obviously directly affects your physical health
- It affects your hormones and brain and therefore emotions and mental state
- You need to learn to love your body and therefore want to fuel it well and treat it right – this isn’t about punishment. Long lasting and consistent health comes out of a cycle of love and appreciation, not shame and guilt.
Take a few minutes and consider these questions:
What is food?
What is food… for you?
Is it fuel? Is it information? Is it personal freedom? Is it shame? Is it self-esteem? Is it comfort?
Then consider these questions:
What would you like food to be?
What do you imagine it could be?
If you’re thinking – okay cool so all I’ve taken away from this is that I’m definitely not as healthy as I’d like to be and you’re wondering, now what the heck do I do to become healthy?
You simply need to train often and eat well. And yes, I’m aware that this is a painfully oversimplification of those two things… but really it’s not that complicated. I am all about doing the small things consistently, and if you’d like to learn about the beautiful and simple way that I train for max results then check out that video which I’ll link to in the end credits. I’ve also got a guide on how to begin eating well – again, not “easy” but it is SIMPLE!
I hope that this helped give you some new tools for how to measure your health. You don’t have to look a certain way to be healthy — and isn’t that the main goal of our lives, to live well and live long? Who cares if we’re super jacked or skinny and miserable, right? I’ve been there and am no longer interested in what the mirror wants to tell me. I’m looking at true health now and pursuing being my fittest (and therefore healthiest) self.
Bye guys, see you soon to chat more about the mindset behind our health and fitness!