5 Fitness-Boosting Strategies That Actually Work

Thursday, 4 March 2021

 As anyone who has tried it will attest, finding new levels of fitness is hard. You can run and run and run and never really improve how it feels. Even after many years of practice, you can still look enviously at people who seem to be able to do it so effortlessly. 

Usually, the problem isn’t with your body (or your mind), but your approach. You think that eating lots of white pasta and putting your body through gruelling jogs on Saturday mornings is what you need to do to get the job done. But that’s not it at all. 

Start In The Kitchen

What’s the real reason you’re huffing and puffing all the time? Is it because you didn’t do enough training this week? Or does it have something to do with the meals you’re preparing in the kitchen? 

Here’s the weird thing: there’s a massive gulf between what nutrition science says you should eat, and what athletes actually put in their bodies. 

Common athlete meals include white rice, white pasta, and chicken breasts for “protein.” This approach seems like common sense. You need carbs to fuel your body. And you need protein to rebuild it. 

But that’s not at all what nutrition science says. In fact, it’s the polar opposite. No nutritionist worth their salt recommends eating refined carbohydrates or large quantities of meat.  

Improving fitness is all about finding ways to make it easier to get oxygen into your cells. And the best way to do that is to eat foods that make the cardiovascular system work better. That’s one of the reasons why you see so many runners loading up on beet juice before a long jog. Experience shows that it helps dilate blood vessels and deliver oxygen to tissues. 

Other great strategies include eating lots of greens, focusing your diet around beans and whole grains, and avoiding pumping yourself up on caffeine. 

Measure Your Progress

Some people view fitness quite subjectively. But if you really want to know whether it’s improving, you actually have to measure it using a beep test distance. I know, I know you're having flashbacks to high school gym class and now you're panicking. But don't stress too much!

The idea here is pretty simple. You place two cones a certain distance apart, and then you try to run between them before the beep. If the beep goes off before you reach the cone, that’s your level of fitness. 

With training, you should notice that your beep test performance improves. This way, you can keep track of how fit you are objectively, instead of going off how you feel. 

It can also help you stay motivated. We often get frustrated if we're not seeing quick, massive results. Tracking your fitness growth can be empowering and help you stay motivated.

Don’t Make Things Too Hard, Too Fast

Fitness is a marathon, not a sprint - if you’ll pardon the pun. It takes time for the body to adapt to the stimulus you give it. Nobody built a gold-medal-winning body in a couple of weeks. It takes years of dedication. 

What you want are workouts that are challenging, but that also feel good overall. That way, your body naturally wants to go back to the gym and do it all over again. 

The basic concept is progressive overload. You want to add slightly more resistance every day to continue stimulating your muscles and forcing them to grow. 

Going too hard too soon has the opposite effect. Unconsciously, it makes you not want to go back. So don’t sweat it: enjoy it, and the fitness will come. 

Mix It Up

If you’ve hit a plateau, try mixing up your workouts by doing something completely different. If you spend most of your time in the gym, try your hand at an obstacle course. If you spend your time on obstacle courses, go sailing, or ride a mountain bike. 

Whatever it is, add some variety into the mix. This approach will keep your body guessing and ensure that you develop a rounded physique. Doing the same motions over and over again can lead to injury. 

Train For Just A Few Seconds

Training for just a few seconds doesn’t go hand-in-hand with western philosophy which says that you must work hard to succeed. 

But the body doesn’t care about such notions. It just responds to input. 

That’s why so many people now make high-intensity training a part of their routines. You go all-out for a short burst and then spend the rest of the time recovering, before going all-out again - usually just three or four times. 

The amazing thing about this approach is how quickly the body gets the message. It suddenly wakes up and realises that it has to make big changes if it is going to adapt. And, mostly, it does, accelerating your fitness progress.

What helps you stay motivated throughout your fitness journey? Is it a type of workout? Signing up for a race? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

And until next time...

Stay curious!

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