Lift some weights, drink a protein shake and you’re good, right?
As a guy, this used to be my attitude towards fitness. Even though I grew up playing sports from a young age and stayed active, I never truly understood the balance between movement, nutrition and recovery. I always gave my best effort during practice or games, but outside of that, never considered the impact that nutrition and recovery had on my performance. My belief was that as long as I worked hard in the gym, that’s all that mattered. It wasn't until I became a personal trainer that I came to appreciate the importance of these three pillars. Our bodies, similar to a 3-legged stool, cannot support itself unless there are a balance in each of these areas.
Most men that are looking to improve their health & fitness are laser-focused when it comes to training but let their nutrition fall by the wayside. Our diets become an afterthought and we often choose food that is most convenient instead of what is most nourishing. The reasons for this are understandable— lack of time, cooking ability, or interest altogether. You simply can’t out train a poor diet. Hours on the treadmill or maxing out your ClassPass will never help you reach optimal health on their own. There needs to be a balance in exercise, nutrition and recovery to perform at your best. Once you start to focus on all three of these areas of your health, you will notice a dramatic improvement in performance. You’ll have more energy for workouts and recover faster in between training sessions.
When it comes to movement and exercise, mobility should be a top priority. It’s not all about strength and how much you can bench press. If you have reduced ranges of motion in your hips and shoulders, you’re not going to be able to move well and are also putting yourself at risk for an injury. I neglected my mobility for a long time to the point where my hips were so tight that I could no longer sit cross-legged. Most of us just assume this is what happens as we age and accept it. This doesn’t have to be the case. It took months of practicing yoga to restore the mobility I had lost, but it gradually improved over time. Being more mobile allows me to move better and keeps my body durable and resistant to injury. I believe everyone, especially men, should incorporate some kind of mobility training into their workouts.
When cooking more for yourself or being more aware of the types of foods you're consuming, you will begin taking note of how different foods make you feel. Is that take-out advancing your health goals? Is sugar or caffeine making you crash in the afternoon? Does dairy leave you feeling sluggish? As a personal trainer, my schedule can be hectic and I’m often left scrambling for meal options if I haven’t planned ahead. Having an organic meal delivery service, like Provenance, is essential to keeping things easy for me when I'm running between clients and have limited time for cooking at the end of a long day. Without this pillar the whole structure ceases to exist.
One of the most overlooked areas of health is recovery. A myth I often find myself having to dispel is the idea that you get stronger while you are working out. In fact, the opposite is true. We actually break our bodies down when training and then through the recovery process, regenerate and grow stronger for the next session. More is not always better when it comes to workouts. Just as training on a poor diet will get you nowhere, exercising without allowing your body to recover will only leave you vulnerable to injury. Adding active recovery sessions on days where you’re not feeling 100% are much more beneficial than trying to train hard through soreness and discomfort. Dial back the intensity of your workout and spend some extra time foam rolling areas that are tight or sore. At the end of the day, sleep is the best recovery aid for the body. Getting adequate, high quality sleep allows the body to repair muscle tissue and replace aging or dead cells. Sleep also allows the brain to recharge. This will help keep you focused an motivated toward your fitness goals.
Taking a holistic approach toward your health & fitness is the only way to make long-lasting changes. It can take time to find balance in each of these areas and incorporate them into your lifestyle. As a personal trainer, I enjoy helping clients to identify areas they need to focus on and creating a plan of action to help them become their best versions of themselves.
By Isaac Lacey (@fitxplorer)
Isaac is a NCSF certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor based in Brooklyn, NY. With a background in competitive sports and a former career as a professional model, he has a lifetime of experience dedicated to health and fitness. As a coach, he takes a holistic approach to help clients prioritize their health and discover their fitness potential by challenging what they think is possible. To learn more about Isaac, visit fitxplorernyc.com.