Fitter, flexier, faster, stronger. Pretty sure that’s how that song goes… Anyway, that’s what most of us are aiming for in our exercise efforts. As well as weight loss or weight gain of course. But with the right nutrition, those last two come as a by product of the first four.
You might have picked up from my blogs or my Instagram or maybe just knowing me that I believe in health as priority, and the way you look comes as a result.
If you’re strong, fit, flexible, with a healthy gut and a diet full of nutrients – you’re going to look and feel fantastic. If you’re weak, easily out of breath, tight, with poor gut health and a diet seriously lacking in nutrients – you’re going to look and feel awful.
So, to work towards that first (assumingly preferable) option, all you need to do is put in the work to get stronger, fitter, and more flexible from a physical point of view. Alongside, of course, getting all the right things in from a nutritional point of view. If you’re not sure of the best way to do that, check out this blog to learn a better way to think about food. Or, this one to learn one simple question for better food choices.
Use It Or Lose It, Pal
If you ask it to, your body will transform you into a slightly better version of yourself every single day. On the flip side, if you ask it to, your body will transform you into a slightly worse version of yourself every single day.
If you don’t use it, you lose it.
That old saying of “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is exactly what’s happening all the time in your body. And, it’s opposite of “if you use it you improve it” is always happening, too.
If you ask your body to get stronger or stay strong by doing resistance exercise – it will.
If you ask your body to get fitter or stay fit by climbing 20 flights of stairs a day – it will.
And of course if you ask your body to get more flexible or stay flexible by stretching – it will.
But, the opposite is also true.
If you don’t do any resistance exercise, you’re telling your body it doesn’t need to be strong – so it won’t be.
If you don’t climb any stairs or do any cardiovascular exercise, you’re telling your body it doesn’t need to be fit – so it won’t be.
And, if you don’t ever stretch, you’re telling your body it doesn’t need to be flexible – so it won’t be.
You’re Getting Better Every Day
Now that you’ve decided you want to be stronger, fitter, and more flexible (which hopefully you have); we just need to know how.
As I’ve already mentioned, you can get better every day. All you need to do, is ask your body for a little bit more every day. For the nerds out there, this is called Progressive Overload. For everyone else, you might call it stepping outside your comfort zone.
It’s doing that little bit extra every day that takes the activity you’re doing from easy to uncomfortable. And that can be all it takes, just into that level of uncomfortable. Because that makes your brain and body think, “ooh, I don’t want to feel like that again. I’m going to change a few things in here to make sure I don’t feel like that next time.”
So, you get that little bit fitter or stronger or more flexible. Here’s how to do it in each area.
Stronger Every Day
If you want to get stronger, you need to be doing resistance exercise. That could be with an external weight or with your own bodyweight, as long as it’s that little bit harder than what you can currently manage.
Take the example of push-ups. First, find out what type of push-up you can do with good technique – that’s your resistance level. It may be Platform Push-ups, Kneeling Push-ups, Full Push-ups or maybe even a more advanced variation. Go for three sets, and see how many reps you can do.
You might get 15 in your first set, 13 in your second, and 10 in your third.
Once you know that, go into your next workout aiming to do 15 reps in your first set, 13 in your second, and 11 or more in your third.
It’ll probably feel a bit of a struggle to get those last couple out, and that’s the point. Going into that range of discomfort makes your body adapt and come back stronger next time. Take a note of how many you managed, then come into your next workout aiming to do an extra few reps again.
Do that every time, and you’ll get stronger every day.
Once you’ve reached the recommended Progression Standard (in the case of bodyweight strength exercises) for that exercise, move on to the next variation.
In the case of using external resistance (dumbbells, barbells, machines etc.) follow the same kind of pattern. As a general rule for muscle building or fat loss – aim for 3 sets of 15 reps with whatever weight you’re using. If those 3 sets go 15, 12, 9: use the same weight next time, and aim for more reps until you’re able to do 15 good reps in all 3 sets.
Once that happens, up the weight. Your rep numbers will drop down again slightly, but that’s okay. Do as much as you can, then come back next time and do a little bit more to work back up to 3 sets of 15 reps.
Rinse and repeat.
Fitter Every Day
The same principle of Progressive Overload applies to cardiovascular exercise, too. If you’re aiming to run a 5k, and you can’t currently run more than 100 metres: next time you lace up your trainers, aim for 110. Or, run for 30 seconds, walk for a minute or two, then run for another 30 seconds repeat that 3 times altogether and you’ll probably end up running further in total than 100 metres.
Then next time, do that same things but repeat it 4 or 5 times altogether. And the next time go 6 or 7 times. And the time after that try and run for 35 seconds. And the time after that reduce your walking time.
This is the whole basis of the Couch to 5k App which I’d strongly recommend if improving fitness is your goal and your stuck for where to start.
Do a little bit more each time, and you be fitter every day.
More Flexy Every Day
I’m sure you’ve got the idea by know and you totally know where this one’s going. But, just in case, here’s how to use the principle of Progressive Overload to get more flexible.
First, decide what movement it is you’d like to be more flexible and what stretch you’re going to use to make that happen.
Then, do that stretch. The feeling in the muscle goes on a scale like this:
- I’m not stretching at all
- I can feel a bit of tension
- That’s just a bit uncomfortable now
- Nope, that hurts, please stop
- TOO FAR TONY
Obviously, don’t go too far. Trying to force yourself straight into the splits when you can hardly touch your toes is like trying to do a 200 kg deadlift when you can barely do a push-up.
Don’t be daft.
The point to aim for is “that’s just a bit uncomfortable now”.
Once you go there, spend a bit of time there with some deep breathing, and come back out of it, your body will again adapt over time to make you more flexible so that next time, that position is a bit more comfortable.
Take That Knowledge. Have A Little, Patience…
Now get out there! Keep a track of your workouts and push yourself into that discomfort zone every time. If you do, you’ll be fitter, stronger, and more flexible every day. And you’ll look and feel fantastic to boot.
Don’t try and rush it. Don’t try and jump 5 steps forward when it would be easier and less injury-risking to take just 1 or 2. Be patient, keep pushing, get better.
What are you waiting for?