Are You Actually Healthy? 4 Markers To Keep You on Track

As with many July’s of years past, my inbox begins to fill with emails from cyclists, runners, and triathletes who have seen their seasons come to a stall, or crashing halt, due to “lack of motivation” or “lack of energy to do my workout”…..Although they are emailing me because they cant muster up the energy or motivation to get out the door, more often than not, they mention “but my weight is (X)” or, “but my watts per kg is (x)”.

But there are a large variety of factors that effect our health that we tend to write off, and instead go based on a number on a scale, or your Watts Per Kilogram.

I’ve seen this with a wide variety of people- from promising professional/semi professional athletes, to those working to get their weight down via surgical or non-surgical interventions, as well as brides to be, and the everyday individuals whom I train and coach.

The scale, and watts per KG, while they can be a decent indicator of your mass or overall abilities, it does not tell you what that mass is made up of, nor how well your body is functioning. In short, the scale lies, your watts per kg are just a number. Yup, you read that right. The scale lies and your W/kg don’t mean didly when it comes to determining your overall health and wellbeing.

So if the scale and watts per kilo don’t tell us all we need, how do we assess if we are living a truly healthy lifestyle, and are healthy?

For the sake of brevity, here are a few better indicators of your actual health, that will allow you help determine how healthy you are, and where you can improve.

1. Time for self

While this may not seem like much of a health indicator, one of the biggest things that we see is stress from having so many activities, or so much to do.

Now, this does NOT mean grabbing some popcorn and watching a few episodes of your favourite show. It DOES mean taking a 10-15 minute walk (no music or phone!), sitting on a park bench, watching a sunset/sunrise, or heading out around the block with the dog (again, NO music, no phone!). 

Time for self allows us to think things through, get a firmer grasp on whats going on in our life, and start to make much more focused and thought out decisions. 

This time for self gives us the ability to see things with a bit more mental clarity, think things through without distraction, and helps us stay true to our own North Star.

GOAL: 15-60 minutes a day

2. Sleep

Sleep is where the body solidifies things learned in our day, and sorts and stores the information that we’ve taken in. Specifically REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is integral to allowing us to recover, and improve. While we get restful sleep, it allows the body to repair itself, and hit the reset button.

To help you get the most out of your sleep, aim for 6-8 hours, in whatever amount allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to attack the day. Avoid Coffee and other stimulants such as alcohol after 5pm if at all possible, and aim for a regular bedtime (+/- 15 minutes) each night. Oh, and no screentime (phone, computer, TV) for 30 minutes before bed. The blue light from the screen wakes your brain up, taking longer for you to hit your REM cycle (deep sleep).

GOAL: 6-8 Hours a night of uninterrupted sleep, waking up feeling energized and refreshed

3.Nutrition 

This is one of the simplest things for us to do, but yet it is just so damn hard!

I’ve been involved in fitness for over 20 years, and am going to tell you the truth- nearly every diet will work for you, if you follow it STRICTLY with no cheating……for about 6 weeks. After the 6 week period, it will depend on how much the diet actually goes with your lifestyle. 

What we eat becomes a part of YOUR body, and effects how it works- for better or worse.

Want to get off the revolving door that is fad diets, and diets in general? Here’s what you need to do:

Eat veggies.

Eat Fresh fruits (no added sugar), but not too much.

Eat healthy fats, but in proper proportions.

Eat protein- now days no matter if you’re an omnivore or Vegan, you have many options

Limit highly processed food – breads, pastas, bagels, etc (although endurance athletes on days that you are training more than 120 min, or days which you’re doing high intensity for ~75-90 min you WILL need some more)

Keep processed sugars out of your daily meal plan- they are like poison….EXCEPT if you are in your prime riding/ racing season, and burning through 4000+ calories a day, in which case SOME of these, sprinkled in, can actually help bolster your on-bike/ in-sport abilities.

GOAL:

Non endurance workout days: Zero processed sugars, 2-3 servings fresh fruit, 6-8 servings of healthy proteins, some healthy fats, 8-12 servings of fresh veggies (mostly dark, leafy greens), and minimal processed grains each day.

Endurance workout days: Very few (1-3) processed sugars, 2-3 servings fresh fruit, 6-8 servings of healthy proteins, some healthy fats, 8-12 servings of fresh veggies (mostly dark, leafy greens), and 2-5 servings of processed grains each day.

For best results, find a qualified and certified Registered Dietician/License Dietitian to work with you 1 on 1.

4. Exercise

There are TONS of ways to exercise. What you choose is up to you- Just make sure you choose things that you enjoy, and look forward to….or if you’re struggling to get going, choose something you and your friend(s) will enjoy doing together. 

Women: While Strength training for women is incredibly important to help maintain healthy Body Composition, and keep you moving without pain, what’s most important is that you truly look forward to your exercise sessions (most of the time)… And strength training to increase your strength is often the lynchpin for a boon in endurance sports results.

Since the 1970’s the US has been obsessed with Cardio, and women have embraced it much more than men. However, as more research is being done on women, we are finding that strength training done properly, is just as important for women as it is for men (Duhhhhhhh).

And no, unless you have the genetics of an Olympic Track and field athlete, the chances are low that you will bulk up and look like China from WWF. I’ve worked with a number of women and women’s gyms from around the world, and the best ones understand how important strength training is for women, and incorporate it into their workouts. From TRX to Kettle bells, Strength training- when done properly- will help you not only build a healthy balanced physique, but will also serve as a huge confidence booster as you unlock potential from within yourself!

Men: Strength training is absolutely paramount to your prolonged health, joint balance, and performance in your sport. Your Watts per Kilo may be great now, but as your body changes to mimic your riding position OFF the bike due to the large demands you place on it on the bike, strength training become more and more important to keep your joints in good alignment to perform at you best.

Read one of my many posts here on the HVT blog, or for Pez Cycling, Training Peaks, or Tony Gentilcore for more ideas.

GOAL:

If you’re starting out, aim for 2 session of structured strength training per week, along with your 3-4 days of structured bike/run/swims.

Always take 1 day off a week, to allow your body a chance to heal, and for your friends and family to have a day with you, or for you to just chill out!

Follow these basic guidelines, and you’ll start to see your health begin to move into good standing, your energy begin to increase, and you’ll start moving from being good,to great!

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