The idea of a “magical solution” for improved health has existed since the beginning of time. The latest and greatest supplements, eating plans, and equipment grab out attention at every turn, promising to provide “the answer.”
Please hear me clearly. There is nothing wrong with any of these. There is certainly value to working closely with a nutritional expert to fill in our body’s gaps. It is wise to fine-tune our choices of foods to match our lifestyle and goals. And yes – there are outstanding (and cool!) equipment choices that can benefit us in both our daily lives and our competitive pursuits. The problem is we’re seeking these out in the wrong order!!
The 3 above components can do wonders in pushing you up over the top – driving that last 5-7% of performance improvement. Unfortunately, far too often we focus on the 5-7% and miss out on the 93-95% that REALLY has the biggest impact (and sets us up to actually benefit from the final steps). A comparable example might be the idea of washing your car to improve your gas mileage while simultaneously watering down the gas you’re putting in the fuel tank. Does the clean car move through the air with less resistance? Sure. But it makes little sense to pursue step two until the real issue is addressed.
So when it comes to our health and wellness, what components make up the initial 93-95%? Very simply, it’s the BIG THREE: Sleep… Movement… Fuel. Even within these three elements, it’s easy to “step over dollars to pick up dimes.” For the purposes of this brief write-up, the goal here is simply to insure you’re taking care of the basics (of these basics) before you’re moving on. This will sound SO simple, but unfortunately the vast majority of the population is missing the mark in one or more areas.
Before you look for the magical solution to improve at the margins, make certain these core areas are consistently addressed:
- Sleep: There is nothing that will improve more areas of your life than consistent and reasonable levels of sleep. Faith Hill once sang “the secret to life is there ain’t no secret,” but sleep may just be the closest thing we have available. Everyone is unique in our specific needs (generally 7-8 hrs). Life is busy and sleep is often the first to take a hit. However, more often than not, that “hit” is self-imposed and tied directly to one more TV show, a few more Facebook posts, or an afternoon shot of caffeine that may not affect the ability to fall asleep, but certainly impacts the depth of that sleep. Before you do ANYTHING else (not tied to a medical directive from your Physician), add 30 minutes of sleep to your daily schedule and see what happens. After 2 weeks, continue adding time in 10 minute increments until your body proves you hit the mark (no longer needing afternoon caffeine and optimally waking up before your alarm sounds in the morning). Interestingly, research demonstrates that an effective sleep has an immediate impact on both of the following components the very next day, making it the natural place to start.
- Move: Is running or biking better for me? What type of shoes should I get? Which GPS watch would be best? All good questions – eventually. But “move” is just like it sounds. Get up out of your chair or couch and get moving. Stand, walk, run, bike, take the stairs, etc. But be sure you’re doing SOMETHING every single day. Once it’s a real habit, THEN we can have the conversation about good/better/best. But in the beginning, it’s all about consistent movement.
- Fuel: Do I need more Vitamin X? Should I consider more healthy fats in my diet? What about the amount of fiber I eat everyday? As with the above, great questions. But the questions need to start with “Am I fueling?” Fueling is very different from simply eating. Eating satisfies the tongue (temporary). Fueling is purposeful – preparing the body for what lies ahead. Eventually it’s valuable to drill down to the details, but start by asking whether you’re fueling or eating before each meal and you’ll be well ahead of the game.
Making these three a consistent part of your life will (over time – even they aren’t “magical”) create significant momentum in your life. When pursued consistently, the combination over time will bring the initial 90%+ into motion. Once they’re in place, a focus on the (valuable) subtle components can pay significant dividends. We just need to be sure that before we look for the magic, we address those elements that set the “magic” up for successful outcomes.