Are you an exercise addict? Or perhaps a tad lazy? If you’re confused about what balanced fitness means, then you’re not alone.
High school gym class originally taught me that running every day was the key to fitness. I was then informed that power yoga was definitely the way to go, so I ditched my running shoes. Now I’m told that high-intensity training is the fitness miracle. After years of yo-yoing from one fitness fad to the next, I’ve finally put my foot down and embraced a new approach that I called "balanced fitness."
What is balanced fitness? Essentially, I define balanced fitness as a fitness regime that challenges, strengthens, stretches and restores the body and mind with a range of motion. Balanced fitness realizes that there is really no silver bullet fitness solution. Instead, a balanced approach to fitness suggests incorporating a variety of fitness techniques, sports and movement into your fitness regime.
It’s important to note that balance should not be confused with perfection! With fitness fads, as with fad diets, it’s tempting to follow a strict regimen with an "all-or-nothing" approach. Instead, balanced fitness encourages listening to your body, developing a healthy relationship with your body and using your fitness regimen to support health and healing instead of focusing on strict goals that may harm the body.
Ready to dive in? Here are five key elements that you’ll want to include in your balanced fitness plan. Whether you simply want to reap the healthy benefits of fitness, or you’re a competitive athlete looking for max performance, this is an excellent place to start.
1. Moderate cardio/endurance/aerobic exercise.
You’re probably familiar with this one. Slow-paced jogging, biking, walking, swimming, etc. all fall into this category. Often thought to be the cornerstone of fitness, this area is generally given the most attention. However, though regular cardio is an important element of fitness, it's important to not over do it. Beware! Too much cardio can actually wear out the body, increase inflammation, burn muscle and cause weight gain in the long run. A few hours of “slow-go” cardio a week is plenty for most people. Also, be sure to mix it up with a variety of different sports and activities!
2. High-intensity exercise.
Many of us neglect this key piece of the fitness puzzle. Did you know that a short blast of intense exercise is a powerful fitness tool that strengthens the heart, lungs, bones and immune system, not to mention trains the body to burn excess fat, increase muscle, and prevent injury by improving joint strength? Welcome to the world of sprints, high-speed jumping jacks, quick sit-ups, burpees and fast-paced sports such as soccer or rugby. The best part? Pushing yourself to the limit means you can spend less time working out while still reaching peek athletic performance. Integrating a few high-intensity sessions into your fitness routine each week will bump your degree of fitness to new heights.
The physical and emotional benefits of yoga are endless: strength, balance, flexibility, healthy joints, mental control, stress reduction and restoration. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different yoga styles and move your body in a variety of ways. A Kundalini class will affect your body much differently than a stand-up paddleboard yoga class.
4.Strength training with light weights or body resistance.
Unless you regularly practice ashtanga or some other athletic yoga style, you’ll want to incorporate this element into your fitness routine as well. Try adding light weights (2-3 lbs. for ladies, 5-10 lbs. for guys) or some kind of resistance exercises to your fitness routine. To tone and strengthen your body, heavy weights aren't necessary (unless you’re looking to build muscle). Classes such as Pilates and yoga sculpt are also a great way to integrate strength training into your routine. A strength-training session even once a week can support you with toning muscles, strengthening bones, boosting metabolism, managing chronic conditions and strengthening the body as whole.
5. Restoration and rest.
Most of you will be happy to hear that balanced fitness includes rest days! It’s essential to let your body recover from intense workouts. You can even enhance rest days by treating your body to a restorative yoga session, often called the dessert of yoga. Incorporating rest and restoration is key to balanced fitness. In fact, lack of rest (over-exercising) can be as damaging as lack of exercise. Exercise addicts, take note!
Take a moment to consider which if these areas you might be neglecting. Perhaps you need to integrate more high-intensity exercise into your regimen, or maybe restorative yoga and rest need to be priorities. Listen to your body, and do your best to incorporate these five elements of fitness into your life. You might be delighted to find that a balanced fitness regimen keeps your body and mind engaged, inspired, and on track, while helping you feel and look your best.
Ready for a new fitness challenge and adventure? Be sure to visit me at the Tailwind Jungle Lodge!