The importance of regular exercise is immeasurable! Getting the body moving is one of the best ways to maintain our body weight and image, health and wellness. When considering overall human well being from a holistic perspective, there are 3 additional balancing factors that are of about equal relevance as exercise. These are nutrition, sleep (rest), and mental/ emotional health. These components are comparable to the wheels of a car. If any one wheel is out of balance then the car will not run efficiently. Perhaps it can still run, but will be out of balance to varying degrees, and could potentially do significant damage to the vehicle. With parallel to this topic, let’s consider the vehicle the “person”, either in or out of balance. Lets correlate nutrition and hydration as the “fuel”, sleep as “maintenance”, and mental/ emotional health as the “electrical system”.
Some people don’t work out much at all, and some workout regularly, yet mindlessly. A small percentage of people are “Workout Warriors” who HAVE to get their work out, no matter what... even if exhausted, undernourished, stressed out or dehydrated, in which case the body can be left depleted.
With a more holistic approach to fitness, one can reach better health from the inside out!
It’s important to remember to make all these things a part of your lifestyle to achieve optimal health.
There will be times where the energy for a hard workout is just not there due to other stressors. Perhaps that’s a day to skip the heavy lifting or intense Spin class, and work on flexibility and core instead.
If you give yourself a break, you will come back next time with more quality energy to give your workout.
Because we often get caught up in following a program or taking regular classes, we can become rigid and overlook signs of stress or fatigue in our bodies. A “Workout ” is an output of bodily energy (or calories), and that energy is generated and upheld with nutrition, sleep and emotional wellness. If there’s lack in any of these 3 relevant other balancing components, the workout should be modified or sometimes even skipped. (Sometimes it’s more beneficial to take a nap than to workout!)
Nutrition and hydration as “fuel”
The calories we consume are much like the fuel we put in our car. For optimum performance, we need optimal fuel, or the best possible nutrients. And just as our cars can not properly run without water as a cooling mechanism, neither can our bodies. Balancing our caloric and water intake can be a daily challenge, but without the right nutrition and hydration, our bodies can’t properly function and the whole car (person) will be off balance.
We often get consumed with calories in and out. There are some common mistakes and misinterpretations that we make with regard to nutrition and hydration. With so much information out there, it’s hard to discern what’s right and what’s wrong.
A common scenario and story heard time and time again is of the person who has no morning appetite so chooses not to eat. They might have some caffeine, and then perhaps have something light to eat as soon as they feel hungry. (Why not take advantage of this lack of appetite while it’s there, right?) As the day progresses, the lack of calories in always catches up. Commonly,
in the afternoon or before bedtime, they get ravenous, because they have not had optimum nutrients (or the right calories) that are necessary to fuel their day. Often binge eating begins... nuts, crackers, cheese, lasagne, whatever is in their path... they’ll eat it. Often guilt sets in and they wonder why they try at all. It’s a pattern that is experienced by many, and commonly indicates imbalance of nutrients and blood sugar. It’s so crucial to get the right nutrients down at the right times of day to diminish this pattern. Often times when the diet is properly regulated, a person finds that they are now consuming a lot more calories than what they are used to, however they still are able to lose weight.
Sleep as “maintenance”
We can look at rest and sleep as we do the maintenance of a vehicle. When at rest or in sleep, the body systems are repairing and regenerating... that is the physiological purpose of rest! So if our sleep patterns are out of sync then it can be detrimental to the body and overall health. People who need to travel often for work experience jet lag regularly with the added stress of
altitude adjustments. Physical pain and/or mental and emotional stress also inhibit our sleep cycles. Millions of people complain of insomnia and take prescription drugs to help with the problem. More holistic approaches to improving sleep patterns would be mental and emotionally focused. Such practices could include mental focus and breathing exercises, meditation and yoga.
Mental and emotional health as the “electrical system”
The whole person is a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual component, comprised of systems. Such systems include the musculoskeletal, visceral (organs), limbic (emotional) and hormonal, which link to more subtle body systems. In our bodies, the nervous system regulates our body systems with regards to stress and emotional balance. Just as the electrical system in a vehicle regulates proper functioning.
Our bodies are always seeking balance and to minimize stress on any given system. The natural tendency for the body is to share stress with the organ and hormonal systems. If these systems can’t balance the stress on the body, then something will break down... just like an electrical malfunction could result in the car not starting or running.
Each of these systems works independently, yet if one is overstressed it impacts the whole. For example, if you are continually overworking and are plagued with financial stress, you can see how that overloads the limbic (emotional) system. To help you recover both physically and mentally, you must get adequate sleep and nutrients to aid in repair. To reduce stress and emotional fatigue, (which can cause havoc on our nervous system and hence, whole body) once again, breathing and mental focus practices, meditation and yoga can be very effective in aiding emotional well being. These are just some of many, many options.
Balancing these extra elements of your life along with your workouts can result in amazing changes and transformation in a short period of time. Bear in mind that you should strive to make all four of these factors an equal part of your new lifestyle to pursue the quest for optimal health!
This blog was written by Christine Kramer, Personal Trainer at Body Kinetics of San Rafael.