This article is not for the person who will set some half ass New Year’s resolution, only to follow through for a few weeks. The tips and strategies below are only for the people who want to commit and take their fitness game to a very high level.
First, a few initial parameters you must adhere to in order to reach your highest fitness level in 2016:
1. You must WANT to be fit. It's no secret that you get what you continually center your attention on. You must focus on the things you desire to achieve, the direction you want to go, and who you want to become. If you are not repeatedly thinking about your fitness goals, day in and day out, well you probably will not get there. Your thoughts turn into action and if your thoughts support your goals, odds are, your daily action will follow. Right now, make the decision to be aware of your thoughts and derail any non-supporting and self-rejecting thoughts. Focus on the process and your daily rituals that are needed to achieve your goals.
2. You are willing to do what it takes to reach your fitness goals. Many people will embark on some generic weight loss goal starting January 1st. They will lethargically say, “I want to lose weight this year,” without truly recognizing the sacrifices and habits needed to reach that goal. Once the year starts progressing, and March rolls around, the initial “New Year” motivation will wear off. If you want to get in the best shape of your life and actually follow through, you need to fully commit to a lifestyle change; not some quick fix, “I’m in shape in 6-weeks” mindset. Be willing to go through the process and have the patience to develop properly.
3. You understand that the journey is not easy. If getting fit and reaching high performance levels were a cakewalk, wouldn’t you think more people would be in shape? This is NOT EASY! Reaching a high fitness level takes a tremendous amount of work, dedication, resilience, and effort. You must accept the tough days, the days you may not feel like working out, the days you might not feel like eating healthy, or the days your body is rebelling. What will you do then?
Now that we are on the same page, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of reaching insane fitness levels. Again, if you are just starting out, this advice may not be specifically for you. Know that it takes time to reach high levels of performance. And when I say time, I mean many months and ultimately years of consistent training and adherence to the program.
Strategy #1: Set a goal and create a game plan. Knowing where you want to go will direct your path. What do you want? Faster 5k or marathon? Reach 8% body fat? Lose 50 pounds? Sub 5 hours for a Half-Ironman triathlon? Go back and read parameter #1. If you do not know what you want, then you will aimlessly go in circles. Focus on your objective. Build the habits necessary to go after the goal. Execute the plan. Be consistent. Adjust when needed. Once the goal is set, you can now list the action steps that are needed for you to achieve the goal. Once these action steps are written down, be obsessed with following through. It’s the daily rituals completed that guide people to reaching insane fitness levels. Plan your workouts. Plan your meals. Plan your rest days. Being organized sets you up to be successful.
Strategy #2: Workout! Yeah, this is mandatory if you want to reach high fitness levels. Looking back over the last two years of my training plan, I have logged over 710 hours of training! I am not saying you need this much volume to get in shape; I am making a point that you must workout and understand that it takes time and patience to build fitness. If you only workout 3 or 4 times a week, you can get in decent shape, but if you want to be one of the fittest people in the room, you need to train daily. This DOES NOT mean you are taking your body to its maximum threshold everyday and never taking a day off. Adding in lighter, active recovery sessions, movement routines and lower intensity training into your week will allow your body to recover faster so you can train harder during your more intense workouts. When your body and mind are telling you to take a day off, go for it; but for insanely fit people, this day off is seldom. Usually your body can handle two days in a row of hard and aggressive training. Any more than that, and you risk overtraining and/or injury. If programmed correctly, you can “train” daily, but you must be disciplined to listen to your body and be smart with your routine.
Here is an example of a training cycle:
Day 1 and 2: Hard training
Day 3: Active recovery or Mobility work
Day 4: Medium intense day
Day 5 and 6: Hard training
Day 7: Active recovery or day off
Day 8: Medium intense day
Day 9 and 10: Hard training
Day 11: Complete day off
Strategy #3: Stay injury free. Consistent training is mandatory to reach high fitness and performance levels. Notice the word CONSISTENT. If you are frequently getting hurt, progress will be halted and your development will be inconsistent. Ultimately, you want to stay 100% pain free, but that’s easier said than done. One of the biggest components to staying injury free is becoming a good manager when pain surfaces. Be wise when your brain is telling you something hurts. That’s a red flag. Find remedies and solutions to mitigate the pain. Talk to a qualified fitness specialist or physical therapist that can guide you to a proactive approach when dealing with pain. Implement maintenance work: corrective exercises to improve imbalances in the body, tissue work with a foam roll or massage stick to improve muscle tissue, and mobility and movement sessions to stay loose and flexible. Proper nutrition is also a vital component to helping you stay injury free. Eat foods that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties (blueberries, dark greens, raw nuts, healthy oils, fish, etc), nutrient dense, and antioxidant rich. These foods will promote recovery and help reduce your chances of injury. See the next strategy for more nutrition tips.
Strategy #4: NUTRITION! You NEED to dial in your nutrition in order to reach high fitness levels and change your body. Your nutrition lifestyle must support your goals. If you want a leaner physique and higher performance, it’s a MUST to focus on improving your nutrition. This is not some quick fix idea or extreme diet. In fact, I do not recommend following some excessive diet plan. I encourage building a lifestyle around the goals you are aspiring to achieve. Understand that nutrition is such a detailed subject and should be individualized based on your own specific requirements. But here are some basic principles to follow:
· Main foods: lean and low fat proteins (chicken, eggs, lean red meat, fish, whey protein), a variety of vegetables and fruits, healthy fats (avocado, olive and coconut oil, raw nut butters, olives), low fat dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, cheese), whole grains in moderation (oatmeal, brown rice, pasta, breads), raw nuts and seeds and beans/legumes. Fill your diet with these foods and you are destined to feel better, stronger and more fit.
· Drink half your weight in ounces of water. Water is the nucleus for fit individuals. This is the first thing they think about when waking up in the morning, “I need a glass of water.”
· Limit empty calories like alcohol, sweets and processed sugars to no more than 4 servings a week. If you want a lean physique and high fitness levels, these foods will disrupt your progress.
· Know your calorie demands. Go to bmrcalculator.org and figure out your Metabolic Rate so you know an approximate amount of calories you need to take in to reach your goals. An Ironman triathlete needs more calories than the stay at home mom looking to shed ten pounds. Know your individual needs.
· Know your macronutrient ratios. If the goal is more endurance focused like running a marathon or triathlon, you need higher amounts of quality carbohydrates to fuel your body so you are prepared for your training. If the goal is more physique oriented, muscle building or fat loss, you need less of the carbohydrates and more focus on lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, healthy fats and small amounts of slow releasing carbohydrates like oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes.
· Be consistent. Nutrition is all about consistency. One healthy meal does not get you lean, just like one unhealthy meal does not make you fat. Look at the big picture. If you are looking for insane fitness levels in 2016, your nutrition needs to consistently support the goal.
Strategy #5: Do the extra stuff. Meal prep. Extra workouts. Log your foods. Continue your education…. In addition to the normal training days and healthy eating, the fittest of the fit individuals do the additional work needed to reach high performance levels. They do not cut corners or skip out on “an extra workout”. They are reading to learn more about fitness and nutrition. They are continually asking, “What else can I do to help me reach the next level of fitness?” And then they follow through and execute. No excuses!
Strategy #6: Be patient and accept the journey. This is the final strategy but probably the most important. The mainstream fitness industry puts a quick fix lens on fitness and this suggestion is totally false. Following through on the above strategies for six months will build a solid foundation but at the end of the day if you want to reach high levels of performance and fitness, it takes years… massive hours of training, constant progress and development, learning about your body, adjusting your plan, eating the right foods most of the time, taking time off when needed, evolving as an athlete… the idea is that it’s a constant process. The individuals that fully commit for the long haul will be the ones who reach these insane fitness levels.
So where does that put you? Do you have to be obsessed with fitness to reach high levels? It’s a good question. And the answer depends on where YOU want to go. If you want to get in the best shape of your life in 2016 and reach insane fitness levels, there is a level of commitment that is needed to achieve that particular goal. Ultimately, you must know your passions and what drives you in your daily life.
If having high levels of health, performance and fitness is a priority, GO FOR IT!
And Make it Happen!