Written by Mike Jones
If your goals include to feel healthier, happier, live longer or perform better I think it's essential that you spend 5 minutes reading this post. We're meant to thrive in life and it's not meant to be difficult to do so. With a little knowledge, guidance and some prods in the right direction, we can ensure that we make that we maximise our potential and live the lives we are meant to live. You're already training which is awesome, reading this blog will help you be even more awesome.
Being a member of a CrossFit gym is a strong statement to ourselves. Being a member of a CrossFit gym is a statement that we value our health and are willing to act to improve/protect it. It's no secret that our lifestyles are becoming increasingly sedentary due to the nature of our jobs and the world in which we live. For hundreds of thousands of years we have spent our days walking, running, climbing and lifting things. It's only over the last 40 years that we have moved into lifestyles that require and encourage us to sit. If we consider that Homo Sapiens (that's us) have been around for approximately 200,000 years (most likely longer), that means that our new low activity lifestyles account for 0.025% of our existence on this planet. We're born to move and when we stop moving serious physical and mental health problems arise, problems each and every one of us have seen and have likely experienced.
When recognising this issue, the majority of us do not have the option to chop in our jobs and become full time goat herders or gardeners. CrossFit founder Greg Glassman found a solution to our modern, very vexing problem - Intensity.
If we have significantly less time to move, that's ok - We can make up for the decreased volume with increased quality and intensity. In fact, functional movements at high intensity are so effective that we can predominantly work out for less than 20 minutes a day and experience incredible fitness prowess. That sounds wonderful 'Doing less and getting more? give me some of that!' But as most of you reading this know, working out at intensity and mastering movement is hard.
By being a member of a CrossFit gym you've committed to addressing a serious problem. You show, on an almost daily basis, your willingness to work hard to address that problem. CrossFit gyms create incredible environments, provide the best training program in the world for improving fitness and highly professional, committed coaches to deliver that program. They provide facilities and equipment needed (unlike many other gyms) to develop and maintain a healthy body. You know this, you experience the benefits of this, your passionate about it, you like to talk about it and you can't believe you didn't get into it sooner.
The reason I start with this is because I think it's important that each of us understand how much we value our own health, and how much we're already doing to protect it. We're not just training half-heartedly because we know we should be moving more, we've gone out of our way to find the most effective professional training there is. It's also important that we give ourselves credit for the hard work we are already doing and have already done. Just walking through the doors of a CrossFit gym is an achievement in itself that, unfortunately, many will never find the courage to do. Considering that we care about our health enough to do what we do, each and every one of us should understand something very important.
CrossFit (or any type of fitness) is not enough on its own, to achieve peak physical fitness and wellbeing.
Fitness is a key component to being a healthy and happy individual. CrossFit is the best way to achieve and continue to achieve true fitness. Physical fitness is just one component of many that contribute towards our health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, like our increasingly sedentary jobs are encouraging us to move less, it seems that many aspects of modern life are geared towards pulling us away from a healthy lifestyle. As previously mentioned, fitness is a key component to a healthy happy life, but it's not the only component. I identify four key components - The power 4, that are pivotal in either improving or damaging our fitness and wellbeing. Let’s identify and briefly explore them:
Most of us understand the importance of exercise to physical and mental wellbeing. We've already identified the problems that we face and how effective our approach is to tackling those problems. Unfortunately, a lot of people in today’s world that don't have the joy of a sport or an active job tend to have negative experiences with exercise and fitness. People join gyms that are designed primarily to sell memberships on contracts. When the inevitable happens and people realise they don't have a clue what to do in gym (gym franchises know this will happen that's why the contract is there) their only options are to spend more money on personal training, keep going alone with minimal results or, the most common option just don't go at all and continue paying. The result of this is that many people become disappointed with themselves and fall into believing that fitness just isn't for them. The reality is people are just being failed by a system designed to make money, not to help people.
The fitness industry is unfortunately, full of stuff and people that have little to do with fitness which again leads to people being confused and developing a negative relationship with fitness. The right exercise makes us feel good and healthier. The right exercise improves our flexibility, strengthens our bones, muscles, hearts and lungs. Fitness should make us more capable in life, more able to throw our kids in the air, more able to carry our shopping, more able get up off the floor into our old age. What we know helps us achieve this very well is constantly varied, functional movements at high intensity. This is the definition of CrossFit.
Having a poor diet when exercising regularly will inhibit our bodies from developing the way they want to develop. It's a fact that you can't out train a bad diet. Eating poorly and drinking calories stops or significantly restricts our bodies ability to burn fat and build muscle. Not only this but it encourages our bodies to store body fat, regardless of exercise levels. Again, regardless of exercise and fitness levels, eating a diet high in alcohol, processed foods and processed animal products (meat and dairy) puts us at a significantly increased risk of heart disease and cancer, whether we are overweight or not. Of course, the modern food industry is overloaded with everything I have just mentioned because it makes money, more money than you can comprehend, you don't ever see apples on buy one get one free for a reason.
An ever-increasing body of research and science is mounting to show that a predominantly plant based diet including eggs and fish in moderation is best for the health and longevity of us and our planet. Avoiding processed foods, cheap meats, sugar sweetened beverages, salty snacks and excessive alcohol consumption is essential for health. We'll be providing a lot more information on diet, healthy meals and useful tips in the coming weeks/months. For now, we want you to understand how important it is to your health and performance to eat well.
Many of us understand the importance of exercise and are willing to act to change it. Most of us understand the importance of nutrition but due to our busy lives and our terrible food industry, find it a little more challenging to address it. It's amazing though, how little we're educated on sleep. From my time in the military I learnt that sleep depravation is one the worst forms of torture that you can inflict on someone. The Guiness World Records have removed the sleep depravation record because it's so dangerous... yet most of pay little attention to how much sleep we get. Sleep is, pivotal to our physical fitness and wellbeing.
A goal for many of us is to lose excess body fat. Neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker reveals in his book 'Why we Sleep' that consistently sleeping for less than 6 hours a night, regardless of how you feel after, inhibits your body’s ability to burn fat and therefore brings about weight-loss primarily through the loss of lean muscle tissue. In simple terms we lose muscle, maintain body fat and struggle to gain strength.
We need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Before the invention of artificial lighting, factory whistles and alarm clocks we would have slept when it was dark. We now have tv's, computers and smart phones with increasingly bright screens. Screens and lighting trick our brains into thinking it's still day time and stop us falling asleep naturally. Lack of sleep is extremely detrimental to our health and fitness. Our bodies recover and regenerate when sleeping, body fat is burnt and muscle tissue is generated (we get slimmer and leaner). Although we may be able to get by on minimal sleep, we are certainly not able to thrive. We'll be posting a lot more on sleep, providing useful tips and helping you out in the coming weeks/months. Right now, you can read coach Reece Reynolds blog on Sleep HERE.
Stress is an inevitable and regular part of life that we all face. It's hopeless trying to cut out stress but important to learn how to recognise, handle and switch off from it. Stress is actually key to growth and development. Exercise is the intentional stressing of the body in order to force it to repair a little bit fitter and stronger. Mental stress is a very real thing. When we stress and worry excessively, the impacts on our health can be dramatic. I would go as far to say that handling our stress is more important than exercise and nutrition. Excessive worry and stress forces our bodies to rely on adrenaline which becomes exhausting. Not only does it tire us out, again, it forces our bodies into storage mode which stops us from being able to burn fat/build muscle. The risk of serious disease when we are chronically stressed is also significantly increased. I'm not writing this to make you stress about being stressed. It's essential to understand how detrimental stress can be in order to affectively start addressing it. The first stage is recognition and acceptance.
Historically, our stresses have been much more serious than they are today, but we have also been in very close knit supportive communities. Throughout history people have shared and talked about their stresses. Now we work longer hours and spend significantly more time alone or communicating through social media. When we stop talking to people regularly our stresses and problems mount up in our minds. Stress is, like the rest of the power 4, a huge subject which we will be examining more and providing useful tips and links on in the coming weeks and months through our blog. For now, we should understand that stress management is as important to our health as our 400m run time.
All of us know that CrossFit works, we've do it and we repeatedly feel the benefits of it. We're most likely fitter than we have ever been in our lives through our CrossFit training regardless of our age. Problems arise when, because we know that it works, we rely solely on our training to improve all areas of our health and fitness.
Our lives have historically provided us with what we need to live well. When looking at healthy cultures people don't make good health decisions, they just do what they need to do to survive. They are active every day maintaining their gardens their land and animals for food. They eat natural food that the land supplies. They sleep when it's dark and wake up when it's light, and they belong to close knit supportive communities. They talk about their troubles and their worries which helps them manage their stress. They don't choose to do this, they don't make a conscious effort to eat well, to exercise, to sleep regularly and to destress it's what they have to do to survive.
We are now in a time where we have freedom and choice like never before. This is great but it also means that being fit and healthy is no longer just a natural process, we have to make decisions and take actions to be fit and healthy. You've already demonstrated that you want to make good healthy decisions by joining a CrossFit gym. I hope that through our gym and through our blog we can help you continue to make more good decisions and avoid the many traps being made by people/corporations that are after pure financial gain, to the detriment of your health.
About the Author: Mike is a CrossFit LV2 Instructor and Gym Owner. He is passionate about health and believes that the key to being healthy and happy is helping others do the same. He loves CrossFit because he believes helps people address a lot of modern life's health problems. Mike is influenced by eastern culture and philosophy, particularly Buddhism. When Mike isn't coaching at or developing his gym he's working with businesses, schools and communities spreading a love for everything exercise, nutrition, mindfulness and community.