Lots of people stop caring as soon as they can't make it to the gym - but the gym is just one piece of the health puzzle, there are many other factors that will impact your health that are not at all related to the gym that you should be equally as focused on.
In the gym
In the gym there are of course very influential factors that are completely under your control and have a large impact on the type of results you see and the progress you make.
1. Training Type - What type of training you are doing will determine the outcome. If you are looking to improve your cardio endurance then choosing appropriate aerobic training is the way to reach that goal. If you are looking to increase your strength or lose body fat then resistance training is a much more suitable training style for you. Ensuring the training style is appropriate for your goal is extremely important and something you may require help from a coach with if you are unsure.
2. Overall Effort Level - It's simple. The level of effort you put in determines the results you get out. If you turn up at the gym and only give 50% then your results will not match those of someone who is giving it their all. Equally, if you're only turning up to your training sessions 50% of the time then you cannot expect to see great results.
It is common for those who train alone or those without a coach to be accountable to to give less effort as there is nobody pushing them. If you think this is an area you struggle with it might be worth finding a gym buddy who can keep you accountable or a coach to act as your accountability partner.
3. Quality of Movement - What I mean by this is the quality of the exercises you perform. Are you performing the exercises with correct form? Incorrect form can lead to injury and will mean the intended muscles are not doing the work they should. You may require the assistance of a coach to teach you the correct form.
Outside the gym
So now you know what you can do in the gym, what can you be focused on OUT of the gym to keep moving in a positive direction?
Many clients do not have regular access to a gym either because they are travelling or because their job means they simply don't have time to make it some days. That doesn't mean they give up on their goals, it means we switch the focus to other areas of their health to ensure they keep pushing forwards wherever they can.
The largest area you should be focusing on, whether you make it to the gym or not, is your nutrition. What you put in to your body is the largest determinant of what you will get out of it - and not just in terms of physique. Your energy levels, concentration ability, sleep and so much more is all impacted by this.
You do not need to be prepping all of your meals and weighing out your oats to be ensuring your nutrition is on point. Simply knowing the number of total calories your body requires based on your current stats, lifestyle and goals and how those calories should be made up (proteins, fats & carbs) is a great starting point. After that the focus should be placed on ensuring you give your body the micronutrients it needs as these are what run your internal systems.
Without correct nutrition your internal processes cannot run optimally. This will impact your ability to lose body fat, to digest food, to keep good hair and skin quality, to repair damage and so on.
It is your choice what you put into your body every single time you eat or drink. Making good choices here will have a huge impact on what you get out.
2. Hydration Levels
Being well hydrated is super important for your body to run at it's best.
The effects of dehydration can include a loss of concentration and energy, reduced skin quality, reduced digestion abilities as well as reduced ability to break down fat cells. You are also likely to eat more if you are dehydrated as your body does not differentiate between signalling to you when it's hungry or thirsty, leading most people to assume the signal is to eat.
Your body needs between 7 and 9 hours of good quality sleep in order to function well.
Your body uses this down time to do all kinds of internal updates and repairs, so if you're starving your body of sleep your internal systems are likely to suffer, which has knock on effects such as lack of concentration, lack of energy, inability to lose body fat, frequent sickness and much more.
There are many things you can do in order to improve the quality of sleep you get at night such as ensuring the room is dark and quiet and a suitable temperature among other things.
Equally as important as the time and effort you put in at the gym is the time you give your body to rest and recover.
I'm sure you've all heard coaches emphasize the importance of rest days - but do you listen? There can be a tendency among driven individuals to skip rest day in favour of another training session with the belief this will get them to their goals quicker, but in reality you are not doing your body any favours or reaching your goals any faster by doing this!
Stress is not your friend. Carrying a lot of stress is not good for your body in any way. Being stressed affects the body in many ways from your digestion to your sleep to your hormones and more.
Not only does stress have a direct negative impact on the body it can also lead to stress-induced negative behaviours such as 'comfort eating' or the lack of desire to do anything.
If you stressed with work problems or personal problems your focus should be on resolving these issues before you look at anything else.
It can be worth seeking the help of a professional to reduce stress levels depending on their cause.
6. Digestive Health
Another very important area that requires your attention is your digestive health. Is your gut healthy? Are you digesting food properly?
To work efficiently your gut requires you to be taking actions such as ensuring you are eating enough fibre, keeping your stress low, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, keeping your hormones in balance and taking action when you suspect something is wrong such as potential parasites (everyone gets them, they aren't as unusual as you think!).
So whether you're hitting the gym or not, there is plenty for you to focus on when it comes to looking after your health and working towards your goals.
Health goes much deeper than your skin, if your internal systems are not functioning at 100% then your attention should be placed here, before it is placed on the gym and external appearance.
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