What does it mean to be “optimally” fit? Usually, only people who have undergone significant endurance training can be considered optimally fit. Optimal fitness is the top tier, several steps above “above average” fitness; it separates the typical athletes from the elite class at the gym/court, on the track/field, or in the ring/cage.
Oftentimes, you hear people talk about “natural talent” and “plateaus” - limiting factors that keep the average athlete from becoming “like mike.” While many will argue that some people are just “born with” natural talent, epigenetic research has shown that the genes responsible for an individual's traits are affected by external influences (i.e. - a person's environment, upbringing, diet, lifestyle, neighborhood, cultural background, etc.).
Unfortunately, most people aren't aware that they too can reach optimal fitness just by sustaining a few changes in diet, lifestyle, and training. However, before you start moving towards the positive, let's first address some of the main negative factors that could limiting your potential:
1. Lack of Quality Sleep
Advanced athletic training is very taxing on the entire body. Without enough REM sleep to facilitate healing and tissue recovery, you'll only be working away the calories you're consuming while deteriorating your joints and muscles. Sleep deficits are undoubtedly the biggest enemy of progress in any sport. The body needs adequate rest to build and rejuvenate itself. In today's modern society with indoor lighting, many of us no longer fall asleep when the sun goes down. Thus, switching back to our primal schedule of resting at night and exercising in the day should be the first lifestyle correction.
2. Insufficient Aerobic Activity
While weightlifting and strength training certainly can contribute to optimal fitness, if you're not getting enough aerobic/anaerobic exercise you could be hurting your own endurance significantly. For maximum stamina, greater flexibility, and more functional muscles, be sure to do twice as much aerobic exercise as strength training. A common mistake that some athletes make is to put in a lot of muscle mass through strength training without developing their aerobic abilities to match.
3. Back and Neck Conditions
Everything in your body is connected to or relies upon the spine in one way or another. Running from your lower back to the top of your neck, your backbone is like the central piece that holds you together. While initial treatment approaches to spinal disorders might include physical therapy and chiropractics, sometimes surgical intervention will be required to fully remedy the chronic pain or misalignment that is hindering your athletic performance. According to the New Jersey Neck and Back Institute (NJNBI), there are at least a dozen common back and neck problems that can be successfully treated with surgical procedures.
Continue Educating Yourself to Reach Your Goals Faster
Although becoming optimally fit requires a lot of physical effort, it all starts with a single idea; mental decision-making always precedes physical action. First you decide how you're going to train or what your diet is going to consist of, and then you follow through on those ideas. That's what IdeaFit is all about – sharing new ideas that will help people revolutionize their approach to fitness. Therefore, the best bonus tip we can give is: make sure you continue to soak up knowledge on your quest to reaching optimal fitness and you'll arrive at your intended destination much faster.