Fitness is the kind of thing that people usually take a pretty “direct” and “dogmatic” approach towards. So, for example, you’ll hear certain boxing diehards arguing with great passion that the only way to develop good cardiovascular fitness is to do plenty of “roadwork” by jogging for hours at a stretch.
Then, there are the bodybuilders and powerlifters who will tend to have very adamant opinions about just what it takes to make it. (Spoiler: the answer given is usually “lift until you’re about to die, then lift some more like you really want it.”)
Whether you are a personal trainer and use The 20 Best Personal Trainer Apps to connect with your clients, or are a fitness enthusiast yourself, it’s worth being mindful of the fact that there really are some unconventional tips for supporting and boosting fitness that appear to have a good degree of anecdotal and research evidence behind them.
So, if you’d like to come at things from a more nuanced angle, here are a few strategies you can try outside of the conventional “Calories in, Calories out, Heavy Compound Lifts, Sprints and Jogging” doctrine.
Focus on breath training
Have you ever heard of Wim Hof? If not, do a quick web search on him, and you’re likely to be pretty impressed.
To cut a long story short, he’s a half-insane Dutchman, who has broken all kinds of wacky and dangerous records that should, by all accounts, be impossible. For example, he’s gone up Everest wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and hiking boots.
The interesting thing about Wim Hof is that he’s been put through rigorous tests in scientific lab settings, and it turns out that he really is able to do some pretty amazing things to his body, and overall endurance levels, largely through a set of breathing exercises he does.
Wim Hof isn’t the only guy who touts the benefits of breathing exercises, either. The MMA heavyweight legend, Bas Rutten, has developed his own breath training device called the “O2 Trainer” that works by forcing the trainee to breathe against resistance.
He credits the device with boosting his stamina to the next level, and effectively curing him of his lifelong asthma.
There are plenty of different types of breathing exercises out there. The key message is that you shouldn’t assume that the only way to develop cardiovascular fitness is by doing “cardio” exercise. Doing specific breathing exercises may have a major impact on your athleticism and health.
Go for more intense, less frequent workout sessions, and count time under tension rather than reps
The legendary, old school bodybuilder Mike Mentzer was famous for his innovation of “High Intensity Training” methods in the realm of weightlifting.
Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, who has advocated the training twice a day, Mike Mentzer reportedly only trained once a week.
Recently, some fitness and medical professionals, inspired by Mike Mentzer, have been promoting the idea of once-per-week weight training sessions, with only one working set per exercise, and with reps done super slow. Not only that, but the emphasis is on counting time under tension, not reps.
This is the basis of the book “Body by Science,” for example.
If you listen to the authors of the book – and they quote plenty of studies – doing this kind of once-a-week training may actually be enough stimulus to help you get in the best shape of your life, while reducing your risk of injury, and freeing up plenty of time to spend on other things.
Emphasise the importance of sleep
Everyone more or less knows that getting enough rest is important for making proper progress in the gym. What people don’t always appreciate, however, is just how fundamental getting enough sleep is for your overall fitness, and your overall health, too.
The book “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker, explains that getting insufficient sleep ruins the immune system, damages the organs, dramatically increases the risk of death from all causes, and more.
If you – or a client – aren’t sleeping enough, but are killing it at the gym, and at the dinner table, progress is simply going to be held back dramatically all the same.
In a case like this, just making the effort to get a bit more sleep every night could have a completely stunning impact on your overall fitness levels, not to mention your energy levels, your health, and your emotional well-being.
Start to move things in this direction by turning off the digital devices several hours before the time you want to go to sleep, cooling off your bedroom, and unwinding with a good book