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Last time we talked about “become your happiest.” Today we’re going to focus on the second portion of our mission statement:  “become your healthiest.” Health is one of those funny words, like happiness, that is subjective and for most people is hard to define. What does it mean to be healthy? What does it mean to you?

To us at CFN, health is all-encompassing, all-comprising–it deals with the whole human being. In that definition we include the physical, mental, relational/emotional, and spiritual. Each has its own mode of training necessary to ensure its ability to grow and thrive in health. Development and balance of these four areas of integrative health is essential. When balance is out of whack, typically problems arise and quality of life diminishes. Very rarely is one component isolated or mutually exclusive.

Each dimension of health is intertwined, and interwoven with the others.

Have you ever noticed when you get stressed at work that you feel less likely to head to the gym and workout as you planned earlier in the day? Or how about the foods you typically gravitate to under the same conditions? Or how about how some of us feel when we miss our regularly scheduled sweat-therapy which aids in our sanity-keeping and de-stressing?

When you are well rested do you find that you are better able to interact and communicate with those around you at work and less likely to snap at children or spouses when they do something that annoys you? And how do you feel about those interactions upon reflection?

How easy is it to get up and make meaningful, positive change in your life when you don’t believe there’s a point or meaning to it all? Or for that matter, how many have been helped by the organization Alcoholics Anonymous through the foundational belief that there is a higher power or meaning and it’s worth living into?

So we have this whole-health concept…but how do you live into “become your healthiest”?

We don’t suggest that we are the core component in addressing each of the above facets, rather we aim to be a connector or facilitator for congruence and balance among these four aspects of health.

We’re passionate about all of these and will expand upon them all in time, but today we’re going to focus on the physical.

The model for physical health we adhere to was penned by Greg Glassman, the cofounder of CrossFit, in his article “What is Fitness?” In this article he claimed that there are various biomarkers for physical health that lie upon a continuum ranging from sickness to wellness to fitness.

We as individuals exist somewhere upon this spectrum by virtue of being alive, and our exact position is decided by factors which are within our control.

These factors within our control are proper nutrition, exercise, and recovery.

The kind of nutrition, exercise, and recovery is determined by the demands of the environment upon a human being (as far as I know that’s who will be reading this…but I suppose more importantly that’s who we’re speaking to with our mission statement…).

For instance, a mother of two still needs to be able to pick her kids up, carry them up the stairs, and ideally do so in a way that allows her to continue to do so the following days and months. She needs to eat in a way that she will be able to do the above as well. “Low energy” is a hard state to live in on a daily basis for the mom-on-the-go.

A student carrying a heavy bag full of books, trapper keepers (yeah, I said it), and laptop similarly needs to be strong enough as well as conditioned enough so that if they wake up with five minutes to make it to a midterm across campus with that heavy bag in tow, they can. An elderly couple who wish to remain independent need to be able to get into and out of chairs, up and down stairs, and on to and off of the toilet.

Of course all three scenarios above are predicated by the individuals wanting to be able to live in that way.

The degree to which an individual requires attention to each of these physical health factors is determined by their goals, aspirations, who they currently are, and who they want to become.

Nutrition:

The first and arguably most impactful input to our physical health is the food put into your body on a daily basis. The majority of the time we should be following a nutrition protocol (i.e. “diet” or “dietary intake”) which balances our goals with our desired lifestyle.

There are many, MANY strategies and methodologies that can be utilized. The most impactful to you will be the one you stick to (adherence), that makes changes subtly, and methodically.

Our quick nutrition tips for success:
  1. Create a sustainable plan which aligns with your goal(s). Whatever strategy you use should be sustainable–you should be able to do it more often than not across the entirety of the year.
  2. Balance your meals to include meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and limiting sugar. Keep intake to levels that support performance but not body fat.
  3. Prepare meals/snacks to align with your goals and to keep you reaching for nutritious, convenient foods.
  4. Be consistent with your eating throughout the day/week.
  5. Drink more water (~80 ounces is the goal) and limit the amount of calories you are drinking (coffee additives, juices, sodas, alcoholic beverages)
  6. Track what you’re eating to gain awareness of patterns/habits. We like the app MyFitnessPal.
  7. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and keep you accountable as opposed to drag you down and away from your goals.
  8. Track your progress. It’s difficult to tell whether a nutrition strategy is working without some

For more information on how we recommend folks to do this, see our Northland Nutrition page. 

See also:

Exercise:

We believe that all human beings require a certain amount of strength as well as conditioning in order to fulfill the requirements of the environment they live in. The grandparents above need to be able to get into and stand up from chairs, cars, toilets. The student needs to be able to carry her heavy books.

Typically the best style of training to improve or augment everyday life, will mimic the demands of that life. Standing up from a low sofa without knee pain is very easily sustained by continuing to do deep squats with weight. Carrying around a sandbag or medicine ball while under fatigue will prime our student to ace her physical exam of the race across campus. Step-ups and weighted step-ups will ensure our mother is able to climb up the stairs with kids under arm. Carrying your groceries from the car inside in one trip will be much easier after farmer’s carries. Getting up off the floor looks a lot like a full sit-up to air squat, a push-up to lunge, or a burpee.

Our quick exercise tips for success:
  1. You should have enough range of motion (and the requisite control of and strength throughout that range of motion) to do whatever it is that you want to do on a daily basis. This might include climbing the stairs, sitting into and out of your car or a lower sofa, doing ring muscle-ups, performing an overhead squat, or playing a pick-up game of basketball.
  2. Biasing compound, multi-joint movements will give you a better return on your time investment than will isolated, single-joint movements. There’s a time and place for bicep curls and leg extensions, but typically these should not be the majority of training. Instead, incorporate squats and deadlifts, pull-ups and rowing/pressing (with bodyweight, barbell, dumbbells, or any other weighted implements).
  3. Assuming you need to gain strength or range of motion, you should plan to do so 3-5 times/week training strength and flexibility–again aiming to maintain or expand strength and control through those ranges of motion.
  4. Metabolic conditioning, or cardio-respiratory endurance, can and should be done several times a week as well, with the recommendation across the week typically looking like 2-3 hours total. If you like it, you CAN do more, but likely won’t see added health benefits from it.
  5. Increasing intensity (weight, reps, speed) should only be done once proper mechanics/techniques as well as consistent display of those mechanics has been achieved. Failing to do so will likely lead to injury, which would be counterproductive to the idea of pushing ourselves to the right on our continuum.

For more ideas you can see www.crossfit.com, check out their workouts, their options for different fitness levels, as well as their exercise library. There is a wealth of information out there.

Recovery:

Often overlooked is our body’s ability to process and adapt to the stresses undertaken on a daily basis. If recovery is suboptimal, so will be your ability to absorb and deliver nutrients (nutrition), perform exercise as frequently or intensely, and/or a to rebuild the tissue broken down through exercise.

The goal with recovery is to re-establish a baseline from which we can continue to operate at the required level. Often these practices are seen as “extra” and only if time permits. Paradoxically, it is precisely those who feel pressed for time who would likely benefit most from this category.

And to answer the question before it’s asked–no, you don’t need need pills, sports drinks, fancy machines or anything else. Those can be used, but are by no means magical.

Our quick tips for recovery look like:

  1. Drink enough water. Yes, this is in the nutrition and recovery tips.
  2. Prioritize sleep quality and quantity. Aim for 7-9 hours/night. This can and likely will be a topic we cover in more depth in a later article.
  3. Participate in de-stressing activities such as spending time in nature, praying, meditating, deep breathing exercises.
  4. Maintain a practice of restorative tissue work. This can look like regular mobility, yin yoga, massage/soft tissue therapy, etc.
  5. Get 10-20 minutes of sunlight a day.

See also:

Becoming our healthiest selves means we’re intentionally addressing each one of these dimensions of physical health. As we make beneficial changes to our nutrition, exercise, and recovery, we will make meaningful changes towards being our healthiest self. We are excited to play a role in helping you become your healthiest self!

Further reading: