How to apply 7 principles of fitness to transform your life
Updated: Jun 7
20 years old, 3 times a week for 10 weeks. A 45 minute low intensity jog, a 30 minute moderate intensity one, and a 15 minute high intensity fast run.
The program was simple yet transformative. My cardiovascular fitness improved dramatically, I lost fat, I felt better and most significantly (although I didn’t realise it at the time) it taught me what it takes to transform. A lesson which I still apply to my life today.
The lessons learnt from that experience I apply to the process of studying I’m currently doing. I’ve used the same principles to learn and improve singing and meditating, among other things.
Here are 7 of the principles of fitness you can use to transform just about anything in life:-
1. The power of simply turning up
Woody Allen said “80% of success is Turning Up”. We all know of people who reach a decent level with their career not through brilliance but through largely having turned up. It’s not exciting, sophisticated or sexy but it matters above all else. The greatest gym, trainer or program is no substitute for turning up. Whether it’s a dance class, counselling or formal education turning up and putting in an even mediocre effort can be the gateway for building a long term habit, great skill and even passion or mastery. Turning up for merely for the sake of it when beginning a new pursuit or goal as a way of ingraining habit, can be as powerful as it is underrated.
2. Small chunks
This is an antidote for overwhelm and a means of creating a sustainable habit. If you were an occasional recreational runner who took a close look at the training required to run a marathon in 6 months, you’d likely either decide it was a stupid idea or feel compelled to run like crazy immediately.
A good fitness program breaks things down into small workouts and it’s the cumulative effects of these over the months and years that makes the difference. This chunking down of what may appear a mountainous task, is a an essential way of taking overwhelm out of the equation, as in truth you can be most effective by simply taking 1 step at a time.
Whether the idea that mastery requires 10 000 hours is accurate or not doesn’t detract from the truth that just about any significant achievement or change takes time. When you break it down though it’s likely done through many small steps. It can also be really useful to acknowledge and give yourself credit as you complete the steps or chunks. This small chunk idea is also really useful when struggling for motivation to get started on something. Try just committing to 5 or 10 minutes, you're state of mind may well shift once you start and real productive could spawn.
Effective fitness programs all feature gradual progression. If you were to do 3 sets of 10 push ups 3 times per week and increase by 1 repetition each week. After 6 weeks you'd be doing 3 sets of 15, an increase from 30 total push ups per workout to 45. That's a whopping 50% improvement, not only terrific progress in 6 weeks but realistic and achievable. This simple but undeniably effective approach could be used to extend your weekly practice session of a skill or hobby by 2 minutes each week, or trying a more advanced variation or level for 5 minutes. Naturally how you're able to add some progression will be relevant to the particular thing your striving to improve upon. What is important though is having the progression planned, that's how a good exercise program works. That's because you're much more likely to have that steady rate of progression if it's mapped out rather than just leaving it to when the mood strikes you.
Of course you need to be consistent but you need to keep it interesting as well. This can take the form of different technique, exercises, locations, intensities. You need to keep the mind stimulated.
I’ve been recently doing daily rehabilitation for shoulder and knee injuries, there’s no denying it can be mundane and difficult to to get excited about each session. It requires great consistency and repetition to change the way the body functions, there is no way around that BUT that makes it even more important to change the exercises and the order I do them every 2-3 weeks to freshen things up a bit. You could do that with something you have to rote learn as well- by using different colour text or pens, you could also alternate between reading, writing, saying or listening to whatever you need to learn.
Not too many pursuits are purely solo. Olympians in individual events all have coaches and training partners. Whether it’s the direct support of a coach, trainer or teacher or the joy of the shared experience with training partners, team mates or class mates it’s known that because human beings are essentially social creatures, who do better and are more inclined to stick with things when there’s a social or collective aspect to it. Besides which, it usually makes it more fun. We also glean the benefit of others knowledge- either theoretical or practical.
6. Adaptation and volume
With fitness the adaptation or change primarily happens between the workouts, your ability to improve is limited by your capacity to get enough rest and decent nutrition to re-build.
If it’s all effort without recovery you’ll get rundown and find yourself actually going backwards. Similarly we now know that beyond a certain period of effort cognitive performance and effectiveness actually declines. There is also the likelihood that if you do too much of something you’ll simply get sick of it! No great science with that one!
It's not all simply about volume- consistency not obsession is key.
A cornerstone of fitness programming is specificity. Put simply this means that you get better at what you focus on. Lift very heavy weights for a small number of repetitions and you get better at that, run for long distances and you obviously reap the benefit specific to that. It requires some thought and effort to target exactly what you want or need to improve upon. If you want to get rich it could be saving money or understanding the intricacies of share trading or how best to invest in real estate. Most things involve a degree of complexity, and if you want to make significant change you’ll need to be specific in what you address. This can in part involve working on weaknesses or gaps in development that can impede overall progress. Transformation may evoke a sense of some magical change or key, which when applied is cause for an overnight metamorphosis, but in truth the diligent application of some fundamental principles can go a long way to creating the significant change sought. The largely simple but proven ways of changing the physical body can be used with many pursuits in life. How could you apply some of these to achieve what you want? Get in touch if you'd like to know how training or coaching could help make the change you want or need.