It shouldn’t be news to anyone that I love a reasonable approach to health and fitness. Once you reach a certain point in your fitness you start to see diminishing returns of your time spent in the gym.  You’ll have to put in considerable time to get only little improvement. In other words, be content with being there 98% and spend your time doing other important things. Unless you are competing in high level of sports there is only so much you need. Can You Go, a book by Dan John has a great sentence: “Your perfect place is a blend of health, lifestyle and values”. Now take about five minutes to let that sink it.

Let me explain what the above quote means to me:

1. I need to be strong enough to do daily tasks at home. Whether it is to carry groceries home or to move a fridge. When something comes up, I need to be ready to deal with it.
What does this mean when it comes to my training then? I’ve steered clear of maximal one repetition max lifts for the past year or so. My body and my lower back feel better with more frequent but less intense training, so 5-8 repetitions is usually the heaviest I go. I still keep getting stronger at that rep range but the risk to reward ratio is better than me trying to pull my absolute max on deadlifts etc. Pulling a heavy deadlift is awesome but if it means that my back is giving me the middle finger for the next week or even longer I rather not risk it. I’ve made my peace with that. *

2. My aerobic fitness needs to be enough so I can run up the hill to get to my morning bus without feeling like my lungs are about to explode. At the same time my anaerobic fitness needs to be enough so if I get in to an awkward situation with a bunch of youth hooligans I can sprint away.
What does this mean when it comes to my training? I keep my heart rate high during my weight training sessions by limiting rest periods. Few times a week I push the prowler around to REALLY crank the heart rate. To me this is more enjoyable than running. Full disclosure: I hate long distance running/jogging with a passion of a thousand burning suns. Come think of it, the only thing I hate more than running is snakes. Running with snakes is what most of my nightmares seem to come down to. I do enjoy going for walks to clear my head so that’s what I rather do.

What I don’t need is extreme endurance to run marathons or any other long distance events. I don’t need extreme endurance so why spent my time training it when I can do something else that I enjoy. My joints love it too.

3. My mobility and flexibility needs to be enough so I can move pain free and with grace and show all the movement to my students. I don’t need to get my ankles behind my head unless I am trialing for Circus Du Soleil. I only need so much foam rolling and stretching in my life. More is not better with this. If you are doing excessive amounts of flexibility and still feeling tight there’s something else going.

4. I need to have enough power and explosiveness that I won’t fall flat on my face when stepping on a banana peel (happens all the time) . Or when I am returning from a coffee shop and need to dodge a mad cyclist coming my way. I need to be able to react fast. I can get this done with medicine balls and some reasonable jumps (note to myself; I should do more of this). I don’t need to go through the learning curve of Olympic lifts to get enough power output. Nothing wrong with them but I don’t need it. Once again, I see it as a risk to reward and how much time I would have spend to learn them. A lot.

5. My eating habits need to be in line so I feel great and avoid any lifestyle related chronic diseases in the future. The nutrition needs to power me through my training sessions.
To me it’s important to enjoy good food with friends and family or to share a bottle of wine with my wife. Both are more important than it is to think about how much this meal is going to affect my six-pack (full disclosure; I don’t have a six pack).
I keep my health, lifestyle and values in balance. Just enough of everything but not too much of anything.

I used to be the complete opposite, trust me. There was a time when everything in my life revolved around having and keeping a six-pack, I saw it as a pinnacle of health (I was wrong). I was counting calories and all the other awesomeness that comes with it. That was the most miserable I’ve ever been in my life!

The above is what my lookout on health and fitness is now and what I preach to my students. Keep everything in balance. There comes a time when you have to train hard to test yourself. Or tighten your diet for a particular reason. When that happens, go for it. But always bring it back to the middle. That’s when you will be the happiest and most successful. Not too much, not too little but just enough.

I bet I just made health and fitness sound super sexy for you.

* Mike Boyle’s blog post Lifelong Patient Syndrome gives a great perspective on risk vs reward with training.