Updated: Jun 4
I will start by offering my definition of what it means to be physically fit. For me, physically fit is the ability to run fast and far, jump high, being flexible and agile, and the ability to recover quickly while not experiencing a high level of fatigue. In other words, strength, endurance, resilience, and agility constitute what I believe to be the main features of a person who I would deem to be physically fit.
My education as well as my years of experience, has afforded me a wealth of knowledge in the field of health and fitness. To that end, I have developed my own philosophy on attaining and maintaining a physically fit body. This philosophy is based on three pillars, which I believe are wholly necessary. This is not rocket science, in that they would never have been heard of. However, placing them together and assigning an order of importance to them is something I have yet to see or read about anywhere. These pillars are exercise, nutrition, and recovery. If I had to assign a percentage to each of them based on importance I would say they are all equally important. Therefore the percentage would be 33% for each. However, this percentage would be very generalized. This is because we are all different. Some people need less sleep and recovery time then others. Some people seem to be able to gain muscle much easier than others. Some people seem to be able to eat whatever they want and still maintain a desirable and attractive figure. In this way we can see that the percentage of importance will change depending on the who the subject is. The important thing to note here is that the three pillars are foundational in importance to a person's endeavor to become and remain physically fit.
Let's explore each of the three.
Exercise - Most people would think that this pillar is the most important when it comes to becoming physically fit. So a lot of people blamelessly focus on this and this alone. We need to do resistance training in order to gain strength. We need to run or ride in order to gain endurance. We need to sprint in order to run faster. Ultimately, we need to do the work, the exercise, to see gains in our performance. There is no way around that. What a lot of people don't realize though, or neglect to acknowledge and practice, is that exercise alone will not get us to our peak physical capabilities.
Nutrition - If I had to say which of the three is the most important I would say that for most people it is nutrition. What, how much, and even when we eat can have massive impacts on what our ultimate goal is when it comes to becoming fit. For someone wanting to lose inches (I prefer to say inches instead of weight), they need to eat less than they normally do. For someone wanting to gain inches, in most cases muscle, they need to eat more than normal. How much more and how much less, really depends on the person in question. This is why I don't believe in any of the fad diets and generic nutrition plans. Everyone is different in body composition, lifestyle, and genetics, so how can a generic diet plan help everyone? As was previously stated, what and when we eat are also determining factors. A low caloric salad is obviously better for a person aiming to lose inches than a loaded hamburger, as would be eating just before bed. Whatever your goal is, do not underestimate the importance of proper nutrition.
Recovery - Of the three pillars, I mostly see rest and recovery being neglected the most. People, just don't realize how important it is to rest their body after working out. Lack of rest and recovery can have very detrimental effects on not only a person's body, but also their mind. Not getting enough rest (the best form of which is sleep) will lead to decreased performance, and can even lead to injury and long lasting plateaus (periods of time where little to no gain in performance and progress is achieved). We see this especially at the beginning of a new year. Gyms are packed with people all gung ho on maintaining their New Year's resolutions of getting into shape. They go extremely hard at the gym for a period of time and fizzle out after a few weeks. The gym becomes less and less packed. This is because they neglect the fact that their bodies and their minds need to rest and recover after exercising. The excitement and energy of the idea of getting into shape backfires. Never ever forget to rest and allow your body to recover. This recovery is where you will notice the little gains that will keep you motivated to continue.
In conclusion, my advice to anyone wishing to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle, becoming fit in the process, is to keep these three pillars in mind. They work together and will all allow you to maximize your gains while staying injury free and remaining highly motivated. How much exercise, sleep or food you need all depends on you. You can only discover your own percentages by trial, error, and experience. The journey to becoming a fit and healthy individual is one which is not only exciting and rewarding but also one that is educational. You will do well by educating yourself about yourself. It's fun to learn about ourselves. Keep at it, don't give up and when you feel like you're stuck, think about the three pillars. You might be neglecting one of them and thereby causing your own plateau. Good luck and also remember, I'm here as well if you need further guidance.