When scrolling through social media, it’s hard to decipher the difference between participating in fitness for general health and well-being or participating to be competitive. And truthfully, you can’t have both.
There are components of a competitive athlete’s training and lifestyle that are implemented not to improve one’s overall health (stress, blood markers, hormone levels), but to gain an athletic advantage. For example, high-level athletes should be consuming a sugary carbohydrate mixture around their workouts in order to optimize their training session. This isn’t necessary for someone who wants to improve his or her overall health and lifestyle.
So, a question I like to ask myself when I am debating if someone is in the gym to be an athlete or a participant is by simply asking him or her “why” he or she walked into the gym in the first place. If the answers lean toward making lifestyle changes or supporting hobbies, then most likely they are in the gym to improve their longevity through sustainable exercise habits. Now, if someone comes in looking to become “as strong/fast/good” as possible, most likely they will fit into the mold of an athlete and we will have to discuss the pros and cons of the sacrifices that come with that type of goal.
There is no right or wrong answer here; it comes down to your priorities and reason you stepped into the gym in the first place. So what do I recommend to those who are looking to just improve on their health (note: optimizing health doesn’t mean going from 10% Body Fat to 6% Body Fat)?
Make sure you do a minimum of 60-minutes of movement everyday. During 3-4 sessions per week, make sure you are breaking sweat and engaging in intense activity including weight-bearing exercises. In those other sessions, go for a long walk or hike. Practice yoga, dance or participate in some other type of movement.
This is why I believe CrossFit is a fantastic program for long-term health and wellness, when done correctly. It gets you moving in many different ways and practicing many different patterns. You avoid becoming susceptible to overuse injuries because you are not practicing the same movement patterns over and over again. The more patterns that you are practicing on a day-to-day basis the better your overall health, wellness and fitness will be. So move. Move your body for sixty minutes per day. Put it in your calendar right now and stick to it like it’s your religious practice and watch your world change.