The other day I read an excellent article from Dr John Berardi regarding stress and men's health. Within that article was something that jumped out at me in the way it was said;
"Embrace exercise minimalism"
If you follow the Zen Blog regularly, you know I love simplicity and basics and coach clients with this mindset, especially as I move deeper into my career. Especially as I see daily stress levels and confusion about how to take care of ourselves constantly growing and health in our modern society constantly decreasing. There is more need for THIS approach now than there was over two decades ago when I jumped into the industry.
Strength Coach, Dan John always says "Little and often over the long-haul". It's the same idea as what Dr Berardi eludes to with saying "Embrace exercise minimalism".
Due to the media, BS information and a host of other mind-bendingly confusing things out there we very much think backwards when it comes to our health and health practices (which as humans, we prove every month and year now in our modern world that it's counterproductive, due to our DECREASING health statistics). When it comes to exercise, especially in North America, we think "go big or go home", "all or nothing" and we definitely want to be sure we do things that impress people so we can brag about it right!?
But that approach doesn't work for MOST people.
We often look to elite athletes to see what these amazing human beings are doing to perform at that level and look that way the way they do so WE can be "just like them". Aside from the fact that pro athletes are a VERY small percentage of human beings, after working 11-years with amateur to elite athletes, I don't deny these humans don't work hard too. BUT the fact that gets blurred and skewed is that the "crazy workouts", intense nutrition habits etc that you see, are a very small fraction of the ACTUAL overall routine/habits these athletes go through. If they did these things intense workouts all the time for example, they'd perform poorly because they'd have nothing left in the tank! And that can't happen! They NEED to perform at their best! In their world, a 1% advantage can mean a win or a loss. They need to be 100% ready for action (not exhausted, sore and wiped out). MEANING, they have to be smart about WHAT, WHEN and HOW they prepare their body AND recover before the next competition.
This means, the majority of elite athletes are trained with the mentality and approach of "what's the LEAST we can do to achieve MAXIMUM results".
Sounds very similar to Dr Berardi's words doesn't it??
The great news is, WE (the general population) DON'T NEED to be that specific with our routines. We can do VERY simple things, things we enjoy and do them consistently and see wonderful health benefits inside and out. IF we can set our egos aside and open our minds to the fact that LESS is often MORE.
Here's a few ideas of how to approach your health practices in a more minimalistic way...
If you're currently NOT doing anything for your health, choose 1-2 things MAX to ADD into your day. For example- If you want to walk more, but aren't really walking consistently right now, shoot for a daily 10min walk. Perhaps around the block. JUST DO THAT. Everything else, go about what you're typically doing. Ensure you put your energy into making that 10min walk happen each day. Do it for 2-3 weeks.
If you haven't been able to find time for a workout routine, choose 1-3 exercises ONLY. For example - if consistency and enjoyment in a routine has been tough on and off for you, start with 1-3 exercises MAX. Do them 3-5 days per week for 1-3 sets each. Do it for 2-3 weeks. Ensure you do just THESE set exercises, but consistently over that period of time.
If you've been curious about meditation or want to try to get back into a practice, start with 1min each day. Like the above, don't aim to go from 0-100. Start simple and with consistency. A 1-minute meditation every day for a week, then two weeks, then three weeks will yield more enjoyment, simplicity, less stress and consistency than aiming to START full tilt with a 20+ minute meditation session.
If you've been struggling to keep your health practices consistent, break it up into chunks throughout the day. "Sprinkle" your health routines into your day at various times. As luck would have it, I've written an entire post arguing FOR doing things in this manner to more easily make health part of your days.
"Embracing exercise minimalism" is an incredible approach to alleviating all the unnecessary stress that comes with so many of the modern "cool" routines/programs etc that we do (or think we "have" to do). Try it for a while. 6-8 weeks practicing this approach consistently, I guarantee you're going to feel so good inside and out about your health practices and about yourself simply because you're doing SOMETHING MOST DAYS for your health... and it's making you FEEL GOOD!