“Creating a Holistic Fitness Routine: Bite-Sized Steps to Overall Wellness”
Does your workout routine leave you feeling sore, exhausted, and swollen? Do you wake up feeling worse than when you started? I have been in health and fitness for the past 13 years and have seen my share of issues, from metabolic conditions and injury to exhaustion and stress. So many people are running in circles, doing ‘all the right things,’ but seeing little to no progress. Some are even worse off than when they started. If this sounds familiar to you, let me say this: ‘It doesn’t have to be this way!’
There are several common mistakes that people make in their fitness routines that can leave them feeling unbalanced, exhausted, and weaker than they started. Here are a few of the biggest ones I have seen over the years:
- Overtraining: One of the biggest mistakes people make is overtraining, or pushing themselves too hard without giving their bodies enough time to recover. This can lead to fatigue, injuries, and burnout, and can actually hinder progress rather than improve it.
- Focusing too much on cardio: Cardiovascular exercise is important for overall health and fitness, but if it’s the only type of exercise you do, you may be neglecting other important components of fitness, such as strength and flexibility.
- Neglecting recovery: Recovery is just as important as exercise itself, but many people don’t give it the attention it deserves. This can lead to burnout, injuries, and a lack of progress.
- Not fueling properly: Proper nutrition is essential for fueling your body and supporting your fitness goals. If you don’t eat enough, or don’t eat the right types of foods, you may feel weak, tired, and unable to perform at your best.
- Lack of variety: Doing the same exercises over and over can lead to boredom and stagnation in your fitness routine. Incorporating variety in your workouts can help keep you motivated, engaged, and prevent plateaus.
By avoiding these common mistakes and focusing on a holistic approach to fitness, you can create a routine that supports your physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and helps you achieve your fitness goals in a sustainable way. But What is a holistic routine even mean?
A holistic fitness routine is a wellness practice that aims to integrate physical, mental, and emotional health into a comprehensive approach to fitness. Rather than focusing solely on exercise or nutrition, a holistic fitness routine considers all aspects of a person’s well-being, including their mental health, stress levels, sleep habits, and more. It incorporates a variety of practices, such as mindfulness, nutrition, exercise, and rest, to promote overall health and well-being.
By addressing all aspects of a person’s health, a holistic fitness routine can lead to improved physical fitness, mental clarity, emotional resilience, and a greater sense of balance and fulfillment in life.Here are some tips on how to create a holistic fitness routine that incorporates mindfulness, nutrition, and exercise:
- Start with mindfulness practices: Mindfulness practices can help us become more present in the moment, reduce stress, and increase self-awareness. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga are great ways to incorporate mindfulness into your fitness routine. Start with just a few minutes of practice each day and gradually increase your practice over time.
- Prioritize nutrition: A balanced and healthy diet is essential for good physical and mental health. Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks, which can cause inflammation and negatively impact our mood and energy levels.
- Incorporate strength training and cardiovascular exercise: Exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy body and mind. Strength training helps to build muscle and improve bone density, while cardiovascular exercise improves heart health and endurance. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, incorporating a mix of strength training and cardio.
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body feels during and after exercise. If you feel pain or discomfort, adjust your routine to avoid injury. Rest and recovery are also important parts of a holistic fitness routine, so make sure to give your body time to rest and recover between workouts.
- Create a routine that works for you: Everyone’s fitness journey is different, so it’s important to create a routine that works for your individual needs and preferences. Experiment with different types of exercise and mindfulness practices to find what feels good for you. Don’t be afraid to switch things up if you find yourself getting bored or stagnant in your routine.
So, what does a healthy program look like? This does vary from person to person but some thing to think about are listed here. The Functional Aging Institute recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, spread out over at least three days per week. That’s a total of 2.5 hrs. Of that 2.5 hrs, aim for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, also spread out over at least three days. In addition to these recommendations, the FAI suggests that older adults incorporate activities that improve balance, flexibility, and agility into their routine to support overall functional fitness.
A an example of a week’s calendar may look something like this:
- Upon waking up:
- No cell phone
- Drink a glass of water
- Practice a minute or two of gratitude
- Listen to a Podcast/Read a book
- Eat a protein dense breakfast
- Before each workout:
- Take a few minutes to focus on your breath
- Set an intention for your workout.
- Prioritize whole, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet.
- Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day and during workouts. Consider adding trace minerals to your filtered water.
- Consider incorporating mindfulness practices into your eating habits, such as mindful eating or keeping a food journal to increase awareness of your food choices.
- Plan and prepare your meals and snacks ahead of time to make healthy choices more convenient.
- Aim to eat a balanced mix of macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) to support your fitness goals and energy levels.
- Go for a 30 minute brisk walk outside
- 30 minutes of strength training exercises targeting major muscle groups (e.g., squats, lunges, push-ups, rows)
- 20 minutes of balance exercises (e.g., standing on one foot, heel-to-toe walk)
- 20 minutes of flexibility exercises (e.g., stretching, yoga)
- 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., swimming, dancing)
- 30 minutes of strength training exercises targeting major muscle groups (e.g., deadlifts, chest press, lat pull-down)
- Rest day or light activity, such as gentle stretching or walking
- 30 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., jogging, high-intensity interval training)
- 30 minutes of strength training exercises targeting major muscle groups (e.g., leg press, bench press, bicep curls)
- 20 minutes of balance exercises (e.g., side leg raises, single-leg squats)
- 20 minutes of flexibility exercises (e.g., stretching, tai chi)
- Rest day or light activity, such as gentle stretching or walking
Movement and exercise create and increase the number of neuropathways in the body, which can have a range of physical and cognitive benefits. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and adapt in response to new experiences, including physical activity. When we move our bodies, whether through exercise, sport, or other physical activities, we create new neural connections and strengthen existing ones. This can lead to improvements in balance, coordination, agility, and other physical skills.
Additionally, regular exercise has been shown to have cognitive benefits, including improvements in memory, attention, and executive function. These benefits may be due, at least in part, to the creation of new neural connections in the brain through physical activity.
From the perspective of Chinese medicine, movement and exercise can help to balance the flow of qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy, in the body. When qi is flowing smoothly, the body and mind are in a state of harmony, and health and vitality are promoted. Exercise can also help to regulate the circulation of blood and other bodily fluids, promoting overall health and well-being.
But this isn’t all. When charting your own holistic fitness routine, there are several factors to consider beyond exercise, mindfulness, and nutrition. Here are a few additional considerations:
- Sleep: Getting adequate sleep is essential for physical and mental health, and can impact energy levels, mood, and overall well-being. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and prioritize establishing a regular sleep schedule.
- Stress management: Stress can have a negative impact on physical and mental health, so it’s important to have strategies in place for managing stress. This could include mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga, or other stress-reducing activities, such as spending time in nature, listening to music, or spending time with loved ones.
- Social connection: Humans are social creatures, and maintaining social connections is important for overall health and well-being. This could involve participating in group fitness classes or sports, volunteering in the community, or simply spending time with friends and family.
- Self-care: Taking care of yourself is an important aspect of holistic health. This could involve activities such as getting a massage, taking a relaxing bath, or engaging in hobbies or other activities that bring you joy.
- Health history and current health status: It’s important to take into account your individual health history and current health status when developing a holistic fitness routine. If you have any chronic health conditions or injuries, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate types and intensity of exercise.