Well, I guess I should start this entry off like every email or message over the past 10 months…these are challenging and confusing times. I’m sure we’ve all heard that in different contexts ad nauseum. Whether it’s genuine from friends and family or someone trying to sell you the latest and greatest air fryer to outfit your kitchen…challenging and confusing times. But for real, 2020 has been WILD, and no matter how many times we’ve heard the terms “challenging and confusing” — it’s true. For gym owners, coaches, and athletes, I am pretty darn sure that we’ve been challenged and confused. So, from the bottom of my heart, I hope you all are doing well in these challenging and confusing times.

Know what else can be challenging and confusing? Fitness. But does it have to be? Or are we complicit in overcomplicating it for ourselves and for our athletes. Let’s chill for a little on making things so complicated, and let’s just simplify things. Because no matter who you are or what you do, I believe there are some simple rules that can guide your fitness journey. And it doesn’t need to be complicated. It might make us feel smart to make it complicated but that’s just our ego. There, I said it…fitness does not need to be part of the challenging and confusing matrix.

Simple may not be sexy, but you better believe it can be powerful and effective.

I came up with these “rules” in an effort to more easily answer the age-old athlete question…well, what do I need to do? I’m not impressed when someone starts rattling off jargon and buzzwords like ATP production, Kreb’s cycle, aerobic threshold, or heart rate variability. Not to say that stuff isn’t important but it’s not always relevant to the athlete. Coaches should have knowledge of these systems and processes but more importantly you should have an absolute command of the inputs in the equation (workouts, programming, effort, athlete mindset, etc) and the outputs (results, balancing work/rest, change over time, the journey). What happens in the middle is important insofar that it happens; however when you can see the inputs and you can see the outputs AND your athletes are happy…isn’t that all that really matters?

So…what’s it all mean? I think it means we need to become experts in helping clients understand how to navigate the journey. We need to know how to talk to athletes in terms they understand and with rules they can actually apply. We should feel confident in guiding athletes toward simple rules to follow and not necessarily opt for the big words. Get real with your athletes and help them understand that there is a way to think about fitness in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming. And be honest…simple doesn’t mean easy, your success is dependent upon your consistency and commitment. So, what should I do coach? Well, let’s discuss 10 simple rules to help you out…

1. Move Often, Move Well
There’s no greater guiding principle than to move often and move well. We believe this to be the foundation of everyone’s fitness journey — high-quality human movement. We recommend that you move for at least 15-30 minutes per day, and a few times a week go for a little more. No matter if you’re moving fast v. slow, with heavy loads v. light load, or simple v. complex movements you should always strive for high quality, crisp movement.

2. Have Fun!
Whatever you do, do it with a smile on your face! Your fitness should always have an element of fun to it…even when the going gets tough. Of course, some workouts will be harder than others but we should learn to embrace and appreciate the struggle in those moments. Train your body and mind to welcome the adversity with open arms and look at each bump in the road as a fun, new challenge. Smile!

3. Work Hard
Hard work is the best way to guarantee the results you want. No matter if you want to get leaner, bigger, faster, or stronger…working hard is the best way to ensure your success. We recommend that between 3-5 times per week you are really challenging yourself with the effort you are putting into your workouts. We want you working at a pace that’s challenging for you but also within your physical and psychological limits — don’t overdo it!

4. Rest When You Need
Everyone’s needs for rest are a little different. We recommend that you rest when you feel you need it…whether physically or psychologically. Some days you just need to chill and that’s okay. Other days you might need some “active recovery” like a hike, brisk walk, yoga, or a swim…we love that too. The bottom line is that you should listen to your body and take appropriate rest or active recovery when you need it.

5. You Do You
Your fitness journey is your fitness journey. It’s not anyone else’s, and it’s not a competition with anyone else. The only person you need to worry about is you. Your workouts, your mindset, your results…you do you!

6. Warm Up Properly
Before getting started with a workout (in particular an intense workout) you should get yourself warm. Move around for at least 5 minutes and get sweaty. Try to replicate the movements you will do in the workout without any weight and feel out the range of motion that you will put your body through. At the end of the warm-up, your body should feel ready for the day’s work.

7. Recover Properly
After your workout wraps up, it’s important to take some time, again roughly 5 minutes or more, to cool down and recover. Recovery can take different forms — a slow walk, breathing intentionally, or some flow yoga. The ultimate goal of recovery is to down-regulate and return to homeostasis. Get yourself back to a normal state where your heart rate and breathing are under control.

8. Get Outside
Your fitness journey should include some time spent interacting with nature. We encourage you to be an active participant in this amazing world. Enhance your fitness by taking yourselves outdoors and experiencing the elements. Sunny days are great to move things outside but don’t forget to play in the rain or snow now and then!

9. Add in Some Play
Speaking of play…it’s not just for little kids! Add in some play to keep your fitness routine fun and ever challenging. Play adds an element of levity to fitness…it takes the stress out of it. You should get out there to play and learn some new sports or skills. It’s okay to take a “workout” off to hit the field and throw or kick around a ball.

10. Don’t Go Overboard!
Perhaps the rule to rule them all. Take your fitness seriously and work hard; however, don’t become too wrapped up in it. Don’t let it rule your life. Fitness can and should be a major part of your life but create a boundary for yourself. There’s a difference between commitment and lifestyle vs. obsession and compulsion. Be on the lifestyle side of the equation. Fitness is one expression of who you are…it doesn’t define every aspect of your life.