Time for the third and final installment of the 10-Step Checklist To Build A Lean, Strong, High-Performance Body!
Building a lean, strong body doesn’t just happen in the gym and the kitchen. Today we’re going to tackle some of the “out of the gym” parts of the masterpiece-building equation. This is the often-neglected stuff that can make or break your success!
If you happened to miss Part 1, check it out here.
If you missed Part 2, check it out here.
8. Take care of your soft tissue with foam rolling and lacrosse balls. Better yet, get frequent massages.
Your body is a dynamic structure. As such, different activities that you perform (whether intentional or not) will cause it to react in different ways. Your muscles, fascia, tendons, and ligaments are always moving, tightening, loosening, and adapting to your positions and activities in an attempt to set you up for the greatest success.
However, in today’s modern world we often don’t have the balanced movement that our more evolutionary lives contained. Compared to the bulk of our evolutionary upbringing and shaping, we sit more, have repetitive-movement based jobs, wear thick-soled or elevated heel shoes, and when we do exercise it is often with repetitive movement of a relatively heavy load. This can lead to some muscles becoming overworked and feeling like they need to stay in a state of tightness to help maintain balance in your body. Sometimes this is a good thing, but often it ends up impairing our mobility and leading to chronic pain or injury down the road. As we age, it usually gets worse, as I’m sure a quick look around will show you.
When your muscles are unnecessarily tight waste products can’t get efficiently get flushed out and fresh nutrients have a hard time getting in. This means that they don’t recover as quickly as they could under more optimal conditions and don’t perform at peak levels as the mechanical action of clenching and releasing is somewhat hindered. Utilizing a certain type of self-massage called “self-myofascial release”, or SMR can go a long way to help you increase mobility, reduce soreness, and speed up your recovery between training sessions.
The great thing about doing SMR is that it’s free (minus a fairly inexpensive lacrosse ball and/or foam roller) and you can do it anywhere you have the space. I personally travel with a lacrosse ball so that I can work my hips and upper back once I reach my destination to clean up some of the cobwebs and stiffness that comes from sitting in a car or a plane for a long time. Detailed SMR technique is outside the scope of this article, but if you want to focus on a few key areas I would look at the hips, glutes, upper back, and calves.
An even better option, but less convenient and certainly more pricey, is to get regular sports massages. A skilled massage therapist will be able to pinpoint areas that you didn’t even know where under tension and help relax them way beyond what you’ll be able to do yourself with some basic tools.
9. Sleep more and better.
If I had to make a blanket recommendation for how I could improve that would increase your performance, improve your recovery, reduce body fat, and increase health… it would be to improve the quantity AND the quality of your sleep.
That’s right, basic sleep. Most people need to sleep between 7-9 hours per night in order to hit their peak efficiency. I can’t think of a single active person who hits that every night. Life always seems to get in the way and keep us from hitting the rack even when we know that we should.
Lack of sleep can have some pretty profound effects on your hormonal system which will result in poor blood sugar control (there have been some studies that show that missing a few hours of sleep can basically turn people for the day), increased fat gain, reduced cognitive performance, and an increase in carbohydrate cravings. All that adds up to shitty health and even worse performance. Oh, and this type of reaction isn’t from some of those crazy studies where they keep people up for like a week, either. This stuff happens from chronically under-sleeping by just a couple of hours. The bottom line is that a lifestyle of low sleep means that you will not perform at your peak, period.
It’s not just about quantity, though. Quality of sleep definitely comes into play for your results. Lots of shitty sleep is not nearly as good as a bit less deep, high-quality sleep. Here’s some quick tips to improve the quality of your sleep:
1. Get a good mattress. If you’re uncomfortable, you won’t sleep well.
2. Keep your bedroom cool. Even a few degrees below the rest of your house will help put you into “sleep mode”. Your body, evolutionary-wise, is used to the air cooling down when the sun goes down and a slightly cooler temperature is a strong sleep signal.
3. Get the room DARK. Banish electric light, use blackout curtains if you need to, or put on an eye mask. Your skin reacts to light even if you can’t see it and thinks it’s time to get up.
4. Create a nightly “wind down” ritual. Put away the electronics, do some light mobility work, dim the lights, and quiet/chill out the music. Creating a consistent environment of relaxation lets your body know it’s time to go to bed.
10. Value your friends and express gratitude for what is going well in your life.
Ok, this one is a little corny sounding, but there’s some substance here.
Human beings are social animals. Even if you are on the loner side, chances are that you still seek some sort of social interaction. This is why solitary confinement in prisons is such a punishment; we’re wired to need contact and support from other people and taking that away is extremely painful.
Also, your feelings and your activities tend to be influenced heavily by your thoughts. When you’re thinking positive and engaging thoughts, you’ll have a cascade of positive-influencing hormones which means you’ll feel better and be more likely to act in a productive, healthy way. The opposite is true as well. That’s why people have a tendency to spiral upward or downward once they get headed in a certain direction.
So if you want to start feeling at your peak then I recommend hitting it at a couple of angles:
1. Start with some exercise. Exercise, even just three bouts of 20 minutes per week, according to some studies, has been proven to have a similar effect to chemical anti-depressants. So get moving to improve your mood and your focus. Look at the first article in this series for advice there.
2. Keep your mind on the good things in your life and how those things make your life better. You’ve only got room in your mind for one real thought at once, so by focusing on the positive you’ll be able to push out a lot of the negative.
Combining these two activities will have you in an improved mindset, improved hormone profile, and thus set the stage for an improved progression of life and fitness.
Whew, that’s quite a list! However, I think you’ll see that by making a few basic tweaks in your training, nutrition, habits, and mindset that you can address everything outlined above and level up. In the Relentless Faction, we believe in the principle of Kaizen, which basically means to make one small improvement every day and to allow those small improvements to stack up to big changes over time. That’s how I’d recommend handling this list. Don’t worry about the whole thing, just pick one or two simple, forward-moving actions at a time and build on them. Leveling up your life and building the powerful, healthy, and eye-catching physique is going to come from tackling this list and focusing on one little improvement every day.
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