Intro Guide to Fitness
My belief in superpowers has secretly endured long after most's had given in and grown up. The idea of a chance genetic mutation or the activation of key genes allowing humans extraordinary abilities lasted years after Santa ceased visits and the Boogie Man stopped hanging out under my bed.
What's more, we have seen them! The humans who walk among us and defy logic time and again with proven skill. In our time alone, people like Scott Flansburg, Concetta Antico, and Daniel Kish have wowed us with their superhuman brains, and individuals such as Wim Hof, Jim Thorpe, and Stig Severinsen achieve physical feats that continually push the boundaries of what we thought was possible.
What does this have to do with your fitness journey? As much as you want it to.
The human body is an incredible machine that allows us to achieve nothing short of miracles; alas, over time, the colors of our potential have dulled in the mirror. Like so much magic and technology, it is underappreciated in our time. So mesmerized by external distractions, we forget that we are each capable of our own unique set of natural abilities or super powers given the right environment and motivation.
I aim to start an ongoing empowerment series for our inner supers that covers different aspects of health and fitness while traveling and at home. To kick things off, I'm taking us back to the beginning and sharing some basic yet vital bits of fitness knowledge.
Time to learn and level up!
"I don't have the time."
The biggest hurdle for most who are trying to get into shape is carving out the hour or two per day it takes to get to the gym; a task that often requires you to get pumped up just to make it out the door, causing us to laze away from the idea of working out altogether. But you should not have to stress about setting massive chunks of your time and energy aside. Fitness is a lifestyle best maintained by small yet powerful choices.
This is even easier than it sounds. Fitness is primarily dependent on proper diet, and up-keeping our physiques can simply be done by adjusting the way we participate in the present moment. We spend a great deal of our lives waiting around - for transportation, in queues, in a meeting with someone who's running late, for dinner to ding, your phone to ring, the Fat Lady to sing - you get where I'm going.
Seriously though, if you calculated the cumulative years we spent waiting around in some way throughout our lifetime, it would shock you. Alas! This is a perfect moment to cognitively reframe and make those small yet powerful choices.
Squat jumps or push ups at the bus stop. Calf raises while waiting in line at the grocery store. Do kegels while seated - men too. Lunges while scrolling your phone. Stretch when watching television. Focus on your diaphragm and breathing while reading this article.
Kindly remind yourself to do these whenever it pops into your mind. Soon it becomes automatic. Then the numbers begin to add up.
Small tasks daily will rival the labors of Hercules.
It is also important, as we'll discuss towards the end, to remind ourselves that we are of Nature, and Nature does not usually adhere to society's 9 to 5 schedule nor always align with the times you had planned for your workout.
So move when your body asks you to. Excuse yourself from that board meeting for two minutes, dip into the bathroom away from the party, stand up from your table at the coffee shop, and give your body a few seconds to shake it out. Even if you only take a moment to stretch, let your body know that you have heard it. The more you do this, the more it will talk to you. Our bodies possess wisdom on how to best care for our individual selves, so it is important that we give it proper attention when feeling restless.
"I don't have the money."
Far too many of the greatest athletes in history came from nothing and trained with nothing for you to be able to use money as an excuse to not be in shape. In fact, I believe it shows that money can often over-complicate things.
All the skinny teas, waist trainers, and fat burners are bullshit. You don't need to wait for those new yoga pants. Gym memberships can be overpriced. You technically do not even need shoes.
This is primal shit. Money only serves as 'fun coupons' in this world.
As a species, we have become strikingly disconnected from nature - and thus, the most basic wisdom of ourselves. Physical Education and Health have become partial subjects in schools instead of a naturalistic part of our lives taught at home. Not that it was their responsibility, but our modern education system has failed us in these subject areas.
Media has also managed to fear-monger falsehoods through comparison and aesthetic competition into the most basic knowledge taught to children in order to promote corporate gain and political agendas. Now, it can be difficult to tell fact from fiction in regards to what truly works for our bodies.
Here are some basic yet vital facts that might adjust your relationship with fitness, or alter your path altogether:
The fact that popular magazines still get away with publishing articles like"Beyonce's Secret Body Workout" or "The New Model Diet" is proof that we, as a society, are not educated when it comes to our own bodies.
Unless you were born looking like a model, you probably never will. These people did not simply put in hard work to make it to the runway; they were born having won a specific genetic lottery; same goes for most of the world's elite athletes and super-brained geniuses. This is not to say that those born without these gifts can't improve upon their station of skill or appearance if desired, nor it does not mean that those naturally gifted will always win out in the end (Gattaca, anyone?).
All this means is that if our bodies are liken to temples, then we should take pride in ours being unique. We each have a rare set of genetic building material, our heredity, as well as construction tools of our own devising, lifestyle choices. No two temples were meant to be alike.
Height: ~ 80% heritable
Aerobic fitness capabilities: ~ 40-50% heritable
Strength and muscle mass: ~ 50-60% heritable
Mix of “slow twitch” and “fast twitch” muscle fibers (muscles being better at endurance vs sprinting): ~ 45% heritable
Competing in sports: ~ 66% heritable
Obesity: ~ 70% heritable
Keeping in mind that multiple genes make up each characteristic, there is a great deal of room for error when trying to pinpoint what routines and habits work best for our individual selves.
Two people with no difference in age, gender, body mass, nor commitment can take on identical exercise and diet regimes, only to have completely different results by the end. Everyone has their own version of the "perfect routine." We are not forsaken to the cards we were dealt; in nature versus nurture, we can never underestimate the strength and determination of the human spirit.
But when was the last time you heard of a superhuman envying another's powers and it going well? If you get anything from this article, I hope you stop using your energy searching external sources, magazines or the latest Insta diet fad, for answers that will best come through personal internal observation.
Be patient finding your routine.
Diet is 80% of fitness.
While this may be sad news for those who were hoping to out-exercise their bad diets, it is wonderful news for many who are tired of over-exercising.
Food is not just fuel, it is medicine, and that can also be a tricky balance to nail down. Muscle mass, fat accumulation, energy levels, acne, and much more is highly dependent on how our diets interact with our specific genetic variants. One of the most reliable factors to begin honing in on your balance is your blood type!
Blood type plays a huge role in determining what foods and activities will respond best when refueling our systems. There are some interesting recommendations in the eat Eat Right for Your Type diet guide.
In addition to our regular food intake, there are certain part-time diets that offer powerful healing possibilities. Since ancient times, a raw plant-based diet has been used as a rapid fix for those looking to get into shape or cure a number of more serious ailments:
Type II Diabetes
The ancients also believed in regular fasting, a practice that as endured as many health and spiritual groups still practice it today. Humans can survive weeks without food, and when done properly, fasting is a safe, excellent way to cleanse and reboot our systems through ketosis. Being hungry does not mean dying or drained; science has confirmed that this is when our bodies and brains kick into survival mode and begin functioning at a sharper capacity. Long-term benefits of the practice include:
Prevention of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders
Shrinkage of cancer cells
Stimulates cellular autophagy
Slowing the aging process
Improves immune regulation
Improves genetic repair mechanisms
Improves insulin sensitivity
Reduces levels of inflammation
There are dozens of methods within the school of fasting, so do the research to find the one that would best suit your body.
There is No Such Thing as Burning Fat in a Single Area on Your Body
Spot reduction, or targeted fat loss, is a myth.
Anytime you lose fat, it burns from around your entire body. You can workout a specific muscle group and lose general weight, then the targeted area seems to be shedding fat faster than the rest of your body because you've been giving it more attention and pumping it up.
But no, you cannot just lose tummy fat.
About the Workout
My relationship with fitness started before I can remember it beginning. Both of my parents were star athletes during their youths and workout junkies when I was a kid. My brothers and I would accompany them to the gym and exercise outings where my father taught us weightlifting, climbing, gymnastics, martial arts, nutrition, mindset, and the importance of incorporating nature into our lifestyle.
I was five years old when I fell in love with high intensity interval training. Dad set up obstacle courses for us, then timed our runs. This laid the foundation of respect for the work needed to gain new skills for the sports I've competed in or worked with throughout my life: gymnastics, basketball, dance, track, boxing, and highlining.
Despite thorough fitness involvement in my upbringing, it was never a center-point in my life, rather a consistent friend and outlet when the rest of life became too much. Even in university, I began putting up professional weightlifting numbers and competed as a boxer, going on to win two national championships undefeated, but these were for no other benefit than to supplement my personal growth.
This mindset allowed me to learn a variety of methods from diverse schools of thought. Throughout my journey, these are my favorite tips for improving my abilities thus far:
Workout to be Strong and Capable - Looking Good will Follow
I was taught that fitness is meditative, and each workout is an educational opportunity for personal growth. It wasn't until high school that I registered people chose to workout simply for aesthetics.
When I workout, I am not motivated by what people will think of me in a bikini. I'm preparing to scale buildings, leap across moving train car gaps while fighting bad guys, escaping from the quicksand that cartoons implied would be a much more common problem in adult life. This also makes the process fun and more purposeful for me.
Your body is capable of so much more than you realize, so when you limit your goals to something as minute as visual appearance, you're doing yourself and your potential a great disservice.
Half Hour is All You Really Need
Stop pussyfooting around. If I'm not training to compete or complete a project, I never do more than 45 minutes for a workout session when traveling. At home, never more than two hours, that includes a thorough warm up and stretching after.
Try for Mornings
Anytime you can get a workout in is the best time as consistency is the key to fitness, but once the day gets rolling, the likelihood of you getting a workout in dwindles. Random opportunities arise, new interests pop up - especially while traveling.
Cut the coffee and use this as a natural energy booster.
Suck it up. You'll feel great after.
If you don't have spare time, try running through a quick stretch routine before bed or when you wake up. Nothing crazy, the point is to keep your body active.
Use New Location to Advantage
If you are traveling, enjoy yoga on the beaches of Belize. Get lost jogging through the streets of Rome. Hike the canyons of Utah. Dance with strangers in India.
For many people, exercise has become a chore when it also has the potential to be much more. It is what you make it, and this is an opportunity to add stories and layers to your day, to your trips, to yourself.
If you are not traveling, have you truly explored past your own backyard?
Warm-up Before, Stretch After
Yes, stretching before a workout is important, but not as important as warming your muscles up so that they loosen themselves. In fact, stretching for long periods beforehand can weaken muscles by over 30% and reduce tension which increases risk of injury during a workout.
Try a thorough warm-up and light stretching before your exercise and a deep, meditative stretch afterwards.
Have Go-To Exercises
Having default workouts that you can do with minimal to no equipment is important for maintaining a smooth relationship with fitness.
These should be simple exercises that get the blood pumping while also rooting you in your body, so make sure it is something you truly find enjoyable.
I often pack my jump rope and a resistance band since they give me a complete workout anywhere and take up little space.
Do not be afraid to look goofy sometimes.
Chances are you will get some stares while pumping out a few reps on the park bench to break up your jog or dancing while you wait for your Uber or stopping out of the way to take a few breaths and recenter your head space, but being extraordinary means standing out. If you want to blend in, you will start to, not just physically but mentally and spiritually as well.
If you do not create your own energy and opportunities, you are limiting yourself to opportunities when and where they are available to the masses.
Be careful what you wish for: If you're afraid of standing out, you will start to blend in.
Motivation will not always be there.
Even the most enthusiastic athletes wake up some days with their passion hanging on by a thread. Naps and binge eating feel like a more appropriate use of the day. But still, they drag themselves out of bed, get into gear, and do the work.
No matter how passionate you are about your medium or your goal, you will not always feel that internal drive pushing you along. Some days, it is simply gutting it out. Consistency, even when your motivation is lacking, is how you build the lifestyle into habit.
Back to the Basics
Stretch and Water
This is in every health, wellness, and fitness article out there - but here we are, still not getting enough water nor stretching. It can be a pain in the ass to make a habit, but once you start making it a regular part of your day, incredible things begin to happen!
Day-to-day, your energy will increase, skin will perk up, moods will be lighter, and cravings will steer towards healthier foods. Not to mention, these kick-start your metabolism, in turn, burning more fat.
I know you've heard this a hundred cliché ways, and for many it is easier said than done. While self love is important for a myriad of reasons, I have one you might not have considered:
Your physical body, metabolism, skin, energy levels, etc., all respond to the neurochemicals your brain puts out. And those neurochemicals are largely dependent on your active mindset.
Still with me?
So if you try to love and appreciate yourself and body, even if it is not a perfect relationship, your brain will produce more dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. This can boost metabolism, steady out sleep, amp up workouts, and encourage a pull towards positive routines and habits.
Earthing, or grounding, is putting our bodies in direct skin contact with the earth.
Both the earth and human bodies have electro-magnetic fields surrounding and running through them. Most cells in the human body use ions to generate electricity, which sends messages through your nervous system, tells your heart to pump on rhythm, etc.
The earth, as most things in a calm state, contains a mildly negative charge, and humans build up positive charges throughout the day. Uninterrupted contact with the earth can help people balance out these positive charges and allow us to return to a neutral state.
Although we still have much to learn about this phenomenon, studies have already proven many benefits:
Reducing chronic pain
Lowering stress and promoting calmness by reducing stress hormones
Normalizing biological rhythms including circadian rhythm
Normalizing blood pressure and blood flow
Relieving muscle tension and headache
Improving menstrual hormone symptoms
Speeds healing- used in some places to prevent bed sores
Protecting the body from effects of EMFs
Shortening recovery time from injury or athletic activity
Helping support adrenal health
Reducing jet lag
We are not connecting with Mother Nature but reconnecting with ourselves. You might not be a monkey, but you are, in fact, a primate. This is a fact that many of us quite often forget. The more in tune you are with nature, the better rooted you will be in your body, and you will begin to feel the weight of your decisions. You will have a deeper craving for what is meant for you.
20 minutes per day is all you need to start seeing changes. And do not assume that if you do not get the 20 minutes, you haven't gotten anything out of it. Putting in the effort to show up for a few seconds is better than doing nothing.
Step on the grass. Hug a tree. Smell the flowers.
Don't forget your brain.
From ancient yogi practices to modern biohacking, there are lifetimes worth of knowledge we can learn about ourselves. Some of the easiest ways to begin showing your brain some love:
Turn off the television
Solve brain teaser puzzles
Learn a new skill
Read something different
Eat seeds, nuts, and good fatty oils
Train simple lifestyle changes
Take a walk with no phone and allow your mind a chance to be "bored"
Gaining a general knowledge of health and wellness practices from across the globe, both Eastern and Western, will better direct you towards finding your perfect lifestyle combination.
Physically, mentally, and spiritually - never stop growing.