Now that we are a few weeks into the new year, many of the intentions and resolutions we set for ourselves have come and gone. Don’t feel bad though because my hope and goal of this post is to re-excite and hopefully get you on a new track to better health and fitness.
Pretty often I have parents or students say how lucky I am to have a career that keeps me in shape. And yes, I believe I am lucky to do what I do for a career, but instead of using teaching classes as a way to stay in shape, I workout and train regularly so I can teach classes. When we look at our fitness level as something more than losing weight, but as a way to live BETTER, there is a different level of motivation and inspiration in your routine. For more than a decade I’ve worked out and trained at 6 a.m., six days a week with different performance goals from lifting 3x my bodyweight, to running a marathon without running long distances, and now to make sure protect myself from injury and live my best life.
Below is a fun, and hopefully very practical list of “nuggets” from some of my experiences to re-jump start your commitment to longevity and higher quality of health. Remember - the more you can turn your intentions of better health from losing weight for aesthetic purposes to the deeper intrinsic concept of being able to be there and add value for the loved ones in your life, the more success you’re going to have in your pursuit for better health. Good luck, and if I can help you, reach out!
10 TIPS TO BETTER HEALTH FROM MASTER SCARSELLA
3 TIPS FOR FITNESS
1. Do Something Physical Everyday - Organized or Not Getting and staying in shape is a feedback loop, meaning the more active you are then the more active you will want to be. The less active you are, the less likely you’ll want to be active. Two days a week of going to the gym is a good start, but for real results you must be physically active EVERYDAY. That doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym or take a fitness class everyday but that might mean you go for a short run one day, play tag with your children for 20 minutes, or do a yoga YouTube video one night. Below is a short list of ways to be active everyday:
• Play with your kids
• Golf, tennis or other individual sport • Take the stairs instead of the elevator • Short run in the neighborhood
• Go to the gym
• Take a class (like Tae Kwon Do 😉 )
• Do body weight exercise like push-ups, sit-ups or squats
• Stretch or do a yoga class (YouTube has some great options)
2. Use Your Fitness Years ago I was learning, studying and getting certified in becoming a coach in a variety of fitness endeavors. I went to seminars and took tests, physical and knowledge-based for certifications on running mechanics, endurance training, gymnastic movements, recovery and mobility, and strength training. After successfully training athletes for races and marathons, CrossFit competitions, and Tae Kwon Do tournaments, at some point I had the realization that I have this knowledge and expertise and I’m imparting it on others but I should experience it for myself. I decided I would run a marathon. Now, it’s important to understand at that point in my life - I STRONGLY DISLIKED RUNNING, especially long-distance running. I was more of a sprinter, like 100m, fast and done athlete. But if I was going to train and coach people, I knew I needed to “walk the talk”. I set out to run a marathon, with zero long-distance training and using the opposite of the normal protocols. Instead of working up my miles and distance, I would train efficient running mechanics through intervals and developing my muscular strength so that my mechanics wouldn’t fail partway through the race. The longest I ever ran up to that point in my life was a 5k (3.1 miles). During the training leading up to the race, I did run two 10k distances (6.2 miles). But that was my longest distance leading up to the 26.2 mile race. On the day of the Mercedes Marathon, my friend and training partner and I set out to complete a distance that was more than 4 times the length I’ve ever run. Honestly at the halfway mark, 13.1 miles, I felt great. I really thought my training was solid and prepared me. At around hour three of running, I was experiencing feelings, physically, mentally and emotionally like I’ve never experienced before. Anyone who has run a marathon will tell you about the “20-mile wall” and how painful it is. And I will concur that it hurt! But I had something to prove to myself and my knowledge. Four hours and 28 minutes later, I ran (using the term loosely at this point) across the finish line. The flood of positive emotions was something that I’ll never forget. To be honest, looking back at it, I’m glad I completed it, but for some reason if I didn’t, I still would be proud of trying and testing my own abilities. Besides “doing” something each day, 1 or 2 times a week, try and go out and “use” your fitness. What I mean by that is to plan activities that aren’t for you to get in shape but for fun. Go out and hike at the local park. Find a bike club. Organize a fun pick-up touch football game with your family or friends. Do some outside landscaping or renovations yourself. Enter a trail run or 5k race. Train with a friend for an obstacle course race. Enjoy the experiences and opportunities that a solid fitness level can provide.
3. Progress Over Perfection There will be days that you don’t want to work out. There will be days you don’t feel strong or can’t lift at much as last week. It’s important to understand that you don’t need to continually be better than you were yesterday. Your body is different every single day. Everything effects your performance - sleep, hydration, emotions, nutrition, time of the day, time of the year, weather, etc. When we don’t feel at our peak, it’s easy to not do anything, but it’s a must to just do something anyway - even if it’s not your best. Know that there are peaks and valleys in all you do and embrace the great performances alongside the barely making it ones. It’s funny because when you look back one day, you might be more proud of the days that weren’t the best but you grinded anyway. I’ve done a few strength training programs based on a linear progression, meaning you add weight every workout for the entire program. I remember how many times I would beat myself up about not being able to hit the weight I was scheduled to, but only to come back the following week and hit the numbers. It’s just a reminder that everyday is different and it’s okay to forgive yourself when it’s not perfect!
3 TIPS FOR NUTRITION
4. Gamify Your Meals For this blog post I’m not going to dive super deep into macro and micro nutrients or ratios of protein-to-carb-to fat for your ideal physical output, but know that at one point in my life, I weighed and measured every ounce (literally) of food that I ate. I ate a specific number of almonds to balance the fat ratios, according to my protein intake and current body weight, fat percentage and activity level. For me at that point in my life, I enjoyed that experience and growth of knowledge. Where I am now, I’m refuse to count my almonds and will enjoy pretty much anything I want to enjoy but also keep in in check with certain parameters. I call it “gamifying” your meals. Make it a rule that you must eat 5 healthy meals in a row (not at once 😉) if you indulge. Having a cheat meal isn’t the end of the world unless it’s every meal. Enjoy the cheat meal, but once you eat 7 slices of pizza, 10 wings, soft drinks and chocolate cake, make sure you eat healthy for the next 5 meals. Eating healthy 5 out of 6 meals is eating healthy 83% of the time.
5. Write Down How You Feel 20 Minutes After You Eat I’ve taught dozens of nutrition seminars and hosted nutrition and weight-loss challenges. One of the keys to success is documentation. In the challenges I hosted, the participants would have to record their stats, food, and how they feel after the meal. Documenting in a group is great for accountability. When you document about how you feel after a meal, it is a great reminder because your body will tell you all the wrong things. It will always go to the instant gratification but reading your own writing about how bad you feel 20 minutes after the chocolate cake can negate those tricky impulses we all have. Food is generally great going down but if you can write down how you feel after a meal, you can start to rewire how you look at food. Instead of thinking about how it tastes, you get to see how it fuels you. Do you feel bloated after a certain food? Or tired? How about inflamed? Find out how certain food affect your body, mood and sleep. Learn to know your body and not just your taste buds.
6. Drink A Glass Of Water Before Each Meal Nutrition isn’t just about quality but also quantity. Every time you get ready for a meal, drink a full glass of water ahead of time. It will prevent you from overeating, plus, in general, most of us can use more water in our diets.
3 TIPS FOR PHYSICAL WELLNESS
7. Don’t Get Stuck On Measuring Your Health Success On The Scale When someone is on the road to better health and fitness one of the main, and sometimes only measure of success, is the number that shows up on the scale. I believe that is a mistake, and not a recipe for long-term success. The number on the scale can fluctuate by the day and hour. It can be so demotivating to not see your number drop that it completely knocks you off your diet. Better measures of success for short and long term will be how your clothes fit, how you look in the mirror, your mood, sleep quality, patience level, energy throughout the day, and hunger levels. Just remember, lower weight isn’t always a healthier weight. A fun little story of mine is that I was generally pretty skinny growing up, and even though I was decently athletic, I had a hard time putting on muscle and lifting max weights. At the time I was about 6% body fat but only 150#. I had this concept in my head that I didn’t want to gain weight but also knew if I did, I could get stronger. After a push to gain weight for better performance from a nationally-known strength coach, Mark Rippetoe, I went on a 2 month “GOMAD” (gallon of whole milk a day) in addition to my regular diet. Seriously, a GALLON of whole milk a day! I gained 45 pounds in 8 weeks and increased all of my lifts by huge margins. I don’t recommend going out and drinking 1,400 calories of milk a day, of course unless you want to gain 45 pounds!
8. Go To Sleep Earlier I forget who said it or what book I read it in, but it makes sense to me - “Your sleep quality depends on how many hours you sleep before midnight.” Your body and mind will thank you for going to sleep earlier. I recommend decreasing phone use at night and using a weighted blanket. For a great read and more information on sleep quality and understanding the long-term effect of bad sleep read “Lights Out” by T.S. Wiley.
9. Work On Your Weaknesses We all love doing the things we are good at. If we are strong, we like lifting. If we can run a 10k every day, we like running. If we are flexible, we like yoga. But we might get the most improvement in our physical health if we focus on the aspects that need the most improvement. When you work on the things that you need to improve, you can also progress more. Generally the things you like and are good at, you will only have incremental improvement. But the things you need work on can result in bigger jumps in progress. This concept is the reason I decided to run a marathon, because of my dislike of running or more like weakness of my endurance! Here are some ideas and concepts of fitness and physical health to be well-rounded. Find what you might be lacking and have fun getting better!
• Strength - try weight lifting or resistance bands
• Flexibility - take a yoga class or look up stretching videos
• Endurance - run, cycle, jump rope, or swim (my current weakness is swimming)
• Balance & coordination - take a skill-oriented class like Tae Kwon Do or a fitness bootcamp
• Gross motor skills - play a sport with friends or your children
10. Learn Something New With A Great Community Even though I didn’t dive deeply into other aspects of health like mental and emotional wellness, it’s important to keep in mind that they are all tied together. When you physically feel great, it’s easier to keep a positive attitude. When you have great relationships in your life, it’s more fun to be active, and so on. One of the best ways to get into and stay in shape is do something you enjoy with like-minded people. As a Tae Kwon Do instructor, one of the most rewarding aspects of my position is to see relationships develop, support systems grow and camaraderie become so strong that you stick to your commitments through the hardest times! If you are looking for that “something” in your life, I’m going to encourage you to try Tae Kwon Do! Or if Tae Kwon Do isn’t for you, then find a different group, class or club that has the right people doing the right things for you to progress in your life!
P.S. Shhh…It’s still a secret, but for the last 6 months, I’ve been designing a fitness class with the combination of cardio-style kickboxing, calisthenics and resistance band strength development for a program called FGHTR Fitness. You can track your workouts with specialized scoring to see your improvement. Plus, we will focus on developing strength, mobility, healthy body mechanics and, of course, an awesome community! I’m planning on opening up access to a test group in February. If you’re interested in a class like this, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Master Scarsella