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The Pieces of the Healthy Lifestyle Puzzle

Posted November 25, 2010 by

My philosophy in training is that no one aspect of life is responsible for one’s health and fitness. A true, healthy lifestyle is in fact comprised of five different components, each of which is as important as the others. For true health and fitness to be achieved, no component can be ignored nor eliminated. Below I have outlined each of the components and how they help to complete the “healthy lifestyle puzzle.”

Nutrition

Nutrition refers to the food and drink that we consume each day. Like everything in life, having a solid plan of action will guarantee success much more reliably than aimlessly freewheeling it. A successful nutrition plan is actually much more simple to construct than much of the fat-loss industry will lead you to believe (after all, if you can do it yourself, what do you need them for?). The most important (and most-often ignored!) factor is determining the number of calories that we need to eat each day. Following that, finding the right balance between protein, carbohydrates and fat and finally, making sure that the sources for each come from healthy, natural sources is critical to our nutritional success.

Cardiovascular Training

Cardiovascular (or simply “cardio”) training refers to the type of exercise that increases the efficiency and health of our cardiovascular system, made up of our heart, blood vessels and the blood itself. Beyond the benefits to the heart and supporting structures, cardio training is also the primary way to increase our caloric expenditure each day. Many folks who weight train (men in particular) completely ignore cardio training, which is a mistake; even when the desired body composition is reached, without cardio training all of the internal benefits of cardio training will be forfeited.

Resistance and Flexibility Training

Resistance training refers to any exercise that uses a form of resistance, whether weights, bands, cables, machines or even the weight of the body itself. Just as cardio training is often ignored by the male population, resistance training is often avoided by women. This tends to either be because of a feeling of unfamiliarity with the equipment and movements necessary to perform the exercises or because of a fear of “getting to bulky.” The bottom line is that resistance training will NOT cause women to get bulky (I will save the elaboration for another article). Instead, resistance training will help prevent osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, maintain muscle mass and definition, increase metabolism and improve posture to help reduce pain that can otherwise typify senior living. Additionally, improvements to strength and the knowledge to perform resistance exercises with proper form can provide trainees with an increased sense of self-confidence! Flexibility training goes hand in hand with resistance training and should be done each and every day to retain or even increase the range of motion necessary for optimal resistance training movements.

Nutritional Supplementation

While our nutritional program should cover most of our macro and micronutrient requirements, it’s often hard to ensure that we get the optimum amount of vitamins and minerals each day. Additionally, the individuality of our genetics, lifestyles and diets can lead to deficiencies in various natural substances in our bodies, requiring some of us to need supplementation above and beyond what we get from our daily diets. This supplementation needs to be planned just as carefully as our diets—the mantra of “more is better” does not apply! Instead, the proper forms of supplements (if any are needed at all) need to be consumed at the right times in the right quantities.

Personal Guidance and Accountability

As you can see, all of the factors above have a pretty steep learning curve. Beyond that, each can prove to be just as difficult to maintain as to start in the first place due to the time and effort it takes to fulfill the requirements of each on a daily basis. Thus, the guidance of a personal trainer (who will also hold you accountable to keep you on track for the long term) is critical to your success. In addition to helping you form the proper exercise program for your individual body, a personal trainer can help educate you on proper nutritional practices and aid you in forming a supplementation plan of action that will allow you to enjoy long term, maximal results.

Only when all of these factors come together in perfect balance is true health and wellness achieved. This is why I stress that adopting a nutrition plan is just as critical as working out consistently for getting fit. This is also why even the most advanced bodybuilders, fitness models, celebrities and even personal trainers themselves rely on others to help guide them towards success and hold them accountable along the way.