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Eight Habits for Long Term Fitness Success–#8 Embrace the Suck

There are thousands of different workout programs and methods to use to become more fit.  These range from at home workout videos, to aerobic or yoga classes, to bootcamps and group functional training workouts.  Methods, benefits, and risks/drawbacks could be debated until our last breath and often are among fitness professionals.  One thing I’ve come to learn in my twenty years in this industry is that dogmatic approaches rarely pan out, and you are better off steering clear of anything or anyone who claims any one method of training is optimal and a cure all for everyone under every circumstance.  However, I do believe that there are some universal habits that will vastly improve someone’s fitness.  For the sake of this article, I will stick with habits which only involve movement, with an understanding that nutrition, rest, recovery, stress management, and body weight all impact fitness as well.

To know what habits will best improve long term fitness, we must first define the term.  There are three definitions of fitness. The first (and newest, brought on by the growth of the fitness industry) is “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” This definition misses the mark as it uses the root of the word in it, and doesn’t really tell us anything.  The second definition is “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”  This definition is a little bit better.  We can see here that the fitness required to be an NFL offensive lineman and the fitness required to run the Ironman in Hawaii is much different.  This still doesn’t get to what most of us think of when we describe someone as being fit.  The third definition, and the one I find to be most relevant to the general population, is “an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.”  Put differently, your ability to reproduce and pass your genes onto the next generation.  At first glance, this may seem like a poor definition.  If we go back 100-500 years to a time where modern technology and medicine couldn’t “fix” everything, this definition is ideal.  If someone is over or underweight, they struggle with fertility.  If someone has major health complications, injuries, etc. they would have a hard time attracting a mate, defending themselves/home, or feeding themselves.  Certain lifestyle choices will absolutely reduce fertility rates (smoking, drinking, stress) therefore decreasing one’s fitness.  Operating with the biological definition of fitness, I find that the following eight habits will set you up for a lifetime of greatness.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Embrace the Suck

As humans we tend to gravitate toward things that we are good at and that don’t make us uncomfortable.  In training it’s fine to play to your strengths.  Do the things you like, enjoy, and are good at.  After all, one of the most important things for long term success is consistency.  If you don’t like what you are doing, then long term you won’t stick with it.  However, the things that we aren’t good at often expose critical weaknesses or shortcomings.  Find the things you aren’t good with and do at least one of them each time you train.  This could be mobility, balance, heavy strength work, a certain exercise, etc.  For every three things you do that you like and are good at, try to have one thing included that is mentally and/or physically challenging that doesn’t feel natural (but is still pain free) and you don’t particularly enjoy.  This will help ensure that there are no “kinks” in your fitness armor.

Wrapping It All Up

Move daily doing something.  Accumulate 4+ hours of training each week.  Hit every movement pattern while minimizing machines and single joint movements.  Training should be ordered as follows: Soft tissue/self-massage, stretch/mobilize, activation/core/balance, speed/power/agility, strength, and then conditioning/cardio. Do things you aren’t good at, and don’t ignore pain.  Do all of this for months, years, and decades on end and reap the rewards of a solid fitness program on quality of life, aesthetics, and resiliency.