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The Most Important Thing for Your Health and Fitness

In addition to Founder and Head Trainer at CrossFit Slipstream, I teach PE1014, Conditioning, at the University of Minnesota. Teaching is what I do in both positions, but the experience is quite different.  In the gym, I instruct, encourage, motivate, restore, and enhance. In my academic position, I do all of that, but I also give graded quizzes and assignments, which is a very interesting enterprise.  On a recent quiz, I asked the following multiple-choice question:

“When it comes to health and fitness, the most important thing is…

A)…to keep progressing to more difficult challenges.
B)…to improve your nutrition.
C)…to improve your fitness level.
D)…to stop acting like living a healthy life is a big deal.

The correct answer was (D).  This post is about why (D), including the attitude it contains, is correct.

Related: Why Dieting Does Not Work

Progressing to more difficult challenges can be a wonderful part of your fitness journey, but it does not relate to health – you can only be so healthy.  New challenges can help motivate, maintain interest, and expand your horizons, but if you are happy with what you are doing and the results you’re getting, it is not necessary.

Nutrition is the single most important factor for your health.  Period.  But if your nutrition is already good, improving it may no longer be the most important thing for your health and/or fitness.  Excellent nutrition will improve your recovery from training, which increases the rate at which your fitness improves.  However, there is something more important.

“Lifestyle” is just a summary of your habits.  It’s what you do. And who you are. 

Improving your fitness level combines the issues of new challenges and nutrition – after a certain point, you probably don’t need additional fitness.  Are you able to accomplish daily tasks?  Are you able to keep yourself upright when the sidewalks are icy?  Are you able to help others in need?  Then you probably have the fitness necessary for your life.   The rest is really bonus or to serve your desire to perform in competition.  In fact, the real test of your fitness is whether you are unfazed by the prospect of doing something that might reasonably happen to you, such as getting out of a burning building, or helping someone with a sprained ankle get to a hospital.

Those are the shortcomings of the other answers, though “nutrition” looks like a really good answer.  So why is “…to stop acting like living a healthy life is a big deal” the better answer?  Because when you act like living a healthy life is a big deal, that means it is an effort.  Habits are what we do automatically, without effort.  If living a healthy life is an effort, it is not habit.  This means that any disruption to your normal routine can knock you off your health and fitness efforts, causing you to slide back into your old unhealthy routines.

Related: What Does It Mean To Be an Athlete?

Another word may help us understand this better – lifestyle.  “Lifestyle” is just a summary of your habits.  It’s what you do.  And who you are.  To actually get your lifestyle to be healthy – eating well, sleeping well, moving well, moving often, and moving fast and hard from time to time – means your habits will help you return to these activities when you face life’s inevitable challenges.

We are surrounded by a society that makes its living providing us with the means to be mindlessly unhealthy – convenience foods, daily life that requires virtually no physical effort, passive entertainment, the cult of the workaholic.  Sit back, relax, let us feed you, entertain you.  No need to get up – we’ll take care of it with this machine, robot, or electromagnetic spectrum segment.  You just keep working (or watching).

Living a healthy lifestyle is a rebellion against the status quo, so acting like it is a big deal may be necessary — at first — as you steel yourself against the forces in your life pushing you to be like everyone else.  When you no longer need the effort, the ego attachment, when it is just who you are and what you do, you are free from the shackles of an unhealthy culture.  And life begins in freedom.

Contact me at john@crossfitslipstream.com or 612-644-9781 to discuss how we can help you create a healthy lifestyle.

— John Bryant

Founder & Head Trainer