The Four Pillars of Health


As coaches, we strive for one thing: to make people’s lives better. The vehicle by which we do that is exercise. Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, came up with a popular pictograph that depicted wellness on a spectrum. The extreme ends of the spectrum trended from sickness/death to wellness/fitness. You could place yourself along the spectrum by measuring bio-markers like blood pressure, body fat, muscle mass, etc.

Wellness vs Sickness Chart

 

The nature of fitness vs. sickness and how we land on the spectrum is more complicated than a two dimensional pictograph. Falling on either end of that spectrum is a deliberate process and many lifestyle habits contribute to our wellness or lack thereof.  In keeping us well, our current our health care system does a great job dealing with acute injuries, like fixing a broken leg, but falls short with solving chronic health issues like heart disease, diabetes and cancers.

With chronic diseases we're often left with a shotgun approach to recovery that generally only treats the symptoms and doesn't solve the underlying problems.  While solutions to these problems are complicated, the best medicine is a healthy dose of prevention.

If your goal is to live a healthy, happy life, you should focus on the following four pillars of health.

 

Nutrition

 

Proper nutrition is so important.  It’s the reason we offer nutrition counseling, hold regular nutrition seminars and spend time and effort helping our athletes with the subject.  In both formal and informal conversations, nutrition has been the number one area of difficulty for athletes outside the gym.

 

Unfortunately, we cannot follow you around and slap pastries out of your hand and replace it with nuts and berries. Your nutrition is your responsibility. Our recommendation is to find a coach who can deliver an individualized plan that suits your goals. 

 

We understand not everyone has the time or bankroll to receive nutritional counseling .  We also know not all diets are created equal.  Whole 30, Paleo, Blue Zone, Keto, etc.  It’s hard to wade through the morass of diets.  The trick is to be deliberate about what you eat.  Plan your meals outs.  Track your food intake.  This will give you fantastic awareness around the foods you consume.  Once you have a firm grasp on what you're eating, you'll no longer need to track all the details and can rely more on intuition.  Remember, energy balance - calories in vs calories out - is still the most important aspect to understand when it comes to managing our waistlines.


Although what we can eat will vary based on our individual genetics and preferences, the overwhelming majority of us can drastically improve our diet by following the following maxims.

  • Eat whole foods
  • Make your plate varied and colorful
  • Eat until you're satisfied
  • Drink water mostly, coffee and alcohol in moderation and limit sugar drinks

 

Sleep

 

The bedroom should be reserved for two things: sex and sleep. How much sex you should be having is for another article, but you should be getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Get your t.v. out of the room, put your phone out of arm's reach, buy an alarm clock and set a bedtime that you hold yourself accountable to.

 

A recent study published by the Harvard Medical Center for Healthy Sleep showed a correlation between lack of sleep and obesity, diabetes, hypertension/heart disease, mood disorders, immune function and overall life expectancy.  And, if you're looking to add muscle mass, deep sleep is required for peak production of testosterone.  

The research is there. If you’re depriving yourself of sleep, you’re on the road to an early grave.

 

Movement

 

Have you ever ran a 5k early one morning, took a nap, and walked around the rest of the day just sorta grazing on food? It was awesome, right? It’s not black magic, that’s how we’re suppose to live.

 

If only life were that simple. Contrary to popular belief, you can't quit your job to run 5k’s and take walks on the beach for a living. In order to buy groceries, gas, pay rent or take care of kids, you need to have a day job. The trick is to set aside time each day to move around.

 

Our preferred method of movement is CrossFit. The constant variation and functional nature of CrossFit lends towards optimal human performance and is also pretty fun.  How you choose to break a sweat is up to you. Yoga, Spin, HIIT training, CrossFit, etc. are all excellent outlets for movement. The key is to set aside at least an hour each day. Make the time sacred. Pretend your life depends on it, because it probably does.

 

Community

 

Humans are not meant to be alone. We’re pack animals. The reason we survived as long as we have is because we formed tribes, settlements, cities, etc. We lean on each other for procreation, safety and companionship.

 

This concept is somewhat nebulous. How do I know if I’m part of a community? How do I make new friends? How many friends do I actually need? I don’t have hard and fast answers to any of those questions, but I know this much: you should get out a few times a week and laugh with friends. Play board games, worship whatever god you think is the chillest, and drink some drinks with your friends.  Wash, repeat.

 A study on cultures with the highest instances of centenarians (individuals that survive to be 100+) showed that all the culture’s citizens had tightly knit social groups they nurtured over the entirety of their lives. I can't help but think that’s not a coincidence.


centenarians playing games

 

As we grow older we become more and more aware of our own mortality. Our lives are fragile and ephemeral in nature. The time we have is precious. In order to safeguard that time and make the most of it, we have to be deliberate about HOW we live. I would submit that you can neglect one of these four pillars and still live long, but suffer from unhappiness. If you neglect two or more…you might find that you’re cutting yourself short, figuratively and literally.

 

Take stock in your own existence, athletes. Measure each of these pillars in your own life and build something that will last.

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