For the first two decades of my adult life I pursued a career in the family tradition of construction. My father, grandfather, uncles, cousins, and other extended family were all involved in home building, remodeling, or other construction in some way. I even owned my own homebuilding business for more than a decade. During that time, my own health and fitness were always a priority, working with trainers and coaches to help me take care of myself and perform better. When I decided it was time to make a career change twelve years ago, it seemed only natural to shift into something I was passionate about, fitness.
Despite being more than a decade removed from home building, I often still think in those terms. Building a home that will stand strong against the elements requires a set of plans which need to be constructed in a specific order. The roof cannot be put on before building the foundation or framing the structure, and none of it will fit together and work properly without architectural plans. Our individual fitness and well-being works in a similar way.
If we want to build a healthy sustainable lifestyle that will stand the tests of time, it takes patience, good execution, and a well-designed overall plan that includes the components of consistency, purposeful exercise, unstructured activity, nutrition, rest and recovery, stress management, health care, emotional self-care, and social interaction. It’s not just exercise and diet. Only paying attention to exercise and diet while ignoring the other components would be like trying to build a house with just framing and shingles without first building the foundation or putting in electrical and plumbing systems afterwards. Like a tent, you may be able to survive in it, but you can’t LIVE.
Professional personal trainers like myself wear the hats of architect and general contractor for your health and wellness home. We don’t just serve as the roofer nailing on the shingles or the mason bricking up the walls. We design your overall plan, coordinate the efforts of a team of people that can include massage therapists, registered dieticians, yoga or Pilates instructors, your family physician, physical therapists, and other fitness and medical practitioners.
Consistency is your foundation. No matter what types of exercise, diet, and other components you choose, doing them consistently is essential to long term success. Don’t confuse consistency with perfection. It’s not necessary, and arguably counter-productive in the long run, tct. You don’t need to eat perfectly every meal, nail five perfectly executed workouts every week, get eight hours of sleep every night, and meditate every day to be your healthiest. In fact, most people do best when they cut themselves a little slack and instead of perfection, strive for well-executed individual components that add up to a well-balanced lifestyle. Consistency means doing good things the majority of the time, week after week and month after month, not perfect things every time. Once you figure out how to maintain that sort of consistency, you’ve built the foundation. Even if the details of the programs aren’t yet ideal for you, establishing consistency in doing the things you do will set you up for success with the other elements of your healthiest life.
Nutrition is the framed structure. Even when life throws us challenges that make finding the time for exercise or other self-care difficult, continuing to eat a healthy diet on top of the foundation of consistency keeps us healthy physically. It also provides stability and self-assurance to build on. When we neglect to develop and practice healthy eating habits, fewer benefits are gained from exercise and our bodies’ systems don’t function as well. A poor diet can even impact our moods and cognitive function.
Exercise and activity are the windows, doors, roof shingles, and brick. Exercise is formal and structured, and activity is unstructured and informal movement. Like their homebuilding equivalents, they make us more durable and help protect us from life’s “storms”. Consistent exercise and activity improve immune function, maintain bone density, and support a higher metabolism. With adequate exercise and activity, we are less vulnerable to diseases and heal more quickly in the event of an accident. Neglecting this aspect of our “home” can result in more damage than necessary when we encounter inclement weather in life. That little tumble off the curb tends to cause much more damage when we’re not physically strong and fit.
Homes need plumbing, electrical, and heating/cooling systems, and our health and wellness home needs stress management, rest and recovery. Massage therapy, meditation, and adequate amounts of quality sleep all help us recover from exercise, deal with stress, and maintain balance in our lives. Electrical systems provide energy and plumbing systems dispose of waste. The practices we utilize for stress management and rest and recovery do the same for our bodies. Not doing them can leave us feeling short of energy and like we have things we need to flush down the toilet.
Emotional self-care and social interaction are the interior finishes – paint, trim, flooring, etcetera – of our “home”. They are the things that make our home comfortable to live in. Making ourselves a priority and maintaining strong relationships with friends and family is what makes life worth living. The alternative is a home that looks great from the street and is the envy of all the neighbors but feels cold, uncomfortable, and lacking on the inside…Cough…social media influencers…cough…
Our primary care physician, and other medical care providers are the service technicians who provide ongoing maintenance of all our home’s components and systems. Ignoring regular maintenance of our home will result in costly repairs that could have been avoided, and the same is true for our bodies. Neglecting preventive medical care can result in medical issues and treatments that could have otherwise been avoided.
Like a home, we can only be our healthiest when we put all the important parts in place in the correct order. Neglecting any one of them results in a “home” that isn’t as sturdy, functional, or comfortable as we’d like.
Isn’t it time you built your dream home?
– Don Larkin