Written as I sit with a glass of wine in one hand, a packet of chocolate within arms reach and the same happy, healthy feeling that I have when I swap that for water and a sweat towel. How? Because I’ve learnt (unfortunately through many a breakdown, relapse and guilt ridden outburst) that true wellness lies in more than just food restriction and smashing out high intensity workouts.
Burpees and diet plans can play a huge role in your fitness and health goals and I love a good high intensity interval session as much as the next person. But, it really only takes one (maybe ten or eleven) injuries/burnouts to know that there has to be more. So, this is me giving you the early heads up that I didn’t get, or possibly just didn’t listen to.
Wellness is the latest buzzword across the ever changing health and fitness industry, but can anybody really define it? Wellness can and should mean different things to different people and you can make your own definition as you go along, as flexible and interchangeable as your health and fitness journey itself.
To me, wellness is holistic, it’s all encompassing of health and happiness involving mind, body, spirit and soul. But, it is not a state, I see it more of an awareness, a journey and a fluid process. The most important thing is that it does involve every part of you, inside and out. Being free from illness and injuries, whilst part of it, is not enough. The journey to becoming free of these, is wellness. Including your nutrition, your joint health, range of motion, socialising, state of mind, self love, confidence, happiness, contentment and the list can goes on.
Does it sound like all you need is to hit the gym and stay out the fridge? Nope, didn’t think so.
One of my favourite terms in the realm of wellness is, prehab (no, it’s not a place to go to spot celebs at their worst and spellcheck is telling me that’s not actually a real word but stay with me here). This is the work you do prior to needing rehab (on your joints and muscular structure), the work you do to prevent the need for rehab entirely. Essentially, avoiding injury and illness.
If you do a lot of high intensity training then this one is going to be vital for you. All those burpees, jump squats, running, and more, can do big things for your entire body and I don’t just mean your fitness and fat loss. That kind of impact on a long term and regular basis can do damage to your joints. But, we can help to prevent that, reduce it and counteract it.
What you need to remember is that, your body is the only one you will ever have. Those joints (aside from the reconstruction possibilities in science these days) are going to carry you and move you for the rest of your life. Now, when you’re older, when you have children, when you’re very old, you’ll still have the same joints, the same body - so now is the time to make sure it’s best equipped for that long journey.
Mobility sessions are the key. The range of motion possible at your joints is vital for all the moving you want to do forever and it is a big part of my wellness definition. Whether it be a yoga class, a home video, pre workout foam roll, at home flow session, you name it, it needs to be a regular addition to your exercise schedule. I’m not saying you need to be able to do the splits or hold the greatest downward dog in the world, goodness knows I can’t, but, flexibility, recovery of muscles and as mentioned, joint range of motion is so important for overall body health it really cannot be left out. Help prepare your body for all the high intensity you want it to go through, recover from all the work you do, counteract all the terrible sitting positions we’ve adopted, the long drives and the slouching. Yes, even resting in the wrong position can wreak havoc.
Somedays, or for a whole week or the best option, weeks at a time, mobility and flexibility should be the real focus. Try cycling your high intensity days with mobility sessions and a variation of different workout goals month to month. And if some days you don’t feel like you want to slog your body through a killer session, try a slow movement flow session instead and feel comforted in the knowledge that this too, is wellness. This too is taking you to your goals.
Which leads very well onto my next point, variation of workouts. Strength, cardio, mobility, flexibility - these are the workout goals that I rotate month to month in order to get a well rounded and healthy exercise schedule. You can’t just do one type, all have their place in whatever your main health and fitness goal might be. You need to be strong, not Arne strong or anything, but you need strong legs to walk around on every day, you need strong arms to lift yours and other peoples children up (strictly talking about people you know here), to open stiff jars, to move house. You need cardio fitness for running around after said children, walking around exciting places and you need good joints for getting in and out of chairs, up stairs (didn’t meant to rhyme) and for still walking when you’re 75. If you’re not sure of the best way to plan your training then get someone who is to write you a periodised plan. Listen to your body, listen to your true thoughts and they will tell you what they need on the days you need them.
As I have now finished both the chocolate and the wine that I had, it’s time to talk about diet plans. Or rather, a lack of them. Your nutrition affects so much more than just your weight but it’s so easy to get caught up in a “what will this food do to my size”mindset. We need to stop eating for or worrying about eating for a small figure. The bottom line is that we need to eat to stay alive, it’s a basic fact. The food we eat can change our health, immunity, happiness, energy, mental state, skin, physicality, fitness, all of us.
Tell me, how do you feel when you restrict your intake?
When you deprive yourself of foods you crave? When you say no to social occasions because of the calories it might involve? I’m guessing, not all that happy. I’ve been there, I’ve done the super strict diet thing and whilst I was happy with the results at the end of it, I remember being a grumpy, crying mess a lot of the time, and the results didn’t last all that long after I was “back on the wagon”. There’s something about forbidden fruit (or cake) that makes us want more, even if we survive the allotted calorie restriction time, we somehow then want even more of the forbidden foods than we would have normally eaten.
So, my advice is, balance and moderation. Yes, we know these words already! You can still enjoy all the foods you want without compromising your health and fitness goals (unless you have an allergy, that’s a thing you’ll have to learn to live with I’m afraid but more blogs on that soon), if you moderate their intake to a healthy level.
And, the best news is that you do already know what a healthy level is. That can take care of your mental health while you monitor your diet for physical health. Which is what we ought to manage our nutrition by, health, not looks.
Next time you want to plan a dinner or a weekly meal schedule, think not what the food may do for your appearance but instead what it can do for your immunity, your speed on your next run, your recovery from this weeks workouts, your skin, your hair health, your digestive system and so on. Instead of diet plans and calories restriction that leave us crashing and binging, follow a consistent healthy nutritional intake where all your needs are the priority. You can help fight disease, fuel your lifestyle and enjoy treats and social occasions in moderation.
Just the same as with your exercise intensity, let your mind tell you what it feels, what it needs to eat or not eat. With a balance of things you’ll find you are less stressed when it comes to planning meals, avoiding treats isn’t an issue because you allow them so you don’t always crave them and have to fight sugar FOMO constantly. You eat well for your happiness and your health.
Question, would you consider sitting on the beach part of your wellness journey? How about with a good book? I would. (If you’re appropriately protected from the sun that is). Time to do the things you love, maybe beach reads aren’t your thing, maybe it’s paintball, who knows. You do, you know what you love to do and setting aside the time for it can do wonders for your mind.
Time in nature, in fresh air, time laughing with your friends, time by yourself. All change the amount of hormones running around our bodies, making us happier, feel better, healthier. It’s all involved in wellness. Maybe you feel like going for breakfast with your favourite people and laughing your head off instead of the gym, go for it. Your mental health will thank you and laughing can burn over 150 calories per hour.
Today it can be so easy to get distracted by the people on social media or TV showing you how hard they work in the gym, and feel like you should be smashing it everyday too. Remember, these are highlights, these people may well chill on their sofa with cake or take a whole day out to stretch in a grassy meadow and ignore the workout schedule from time to time, but they aren’t going to show you that. It’s also their journey, not yours. Focus on your journey, your body, your mind, your wellness. Not only is this the only body that you’ll have for the next 60+ years but it’s the only mind you’ll have as well. Do you know anything else that can last that long? As humans, we are pretty damn amazing, but equally as complicated inside. We need lots of care to make sure we can in fact last all that time in peak condition. Treat your body and your mind well, and it will look after you forever.
Wellness then, is the awareness of all the things that make up your overall physical and mental health. You don’t have to get everything correct 100% of the time, but understanding that there is an ebbing and flowing journey to wellness, that is dictated completely by you, not social media, not your friends, not your trainer, not the “should’s”, you.
Will do more for yourself than burpees and diet plans ever could.