Meditate, Stretch, Eat, and Train Your Way To Better Health

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My Health In January 28th, 2012

I weighed in at 222 lbs and was undisciplined in training, flexibility, diet, and in conscious reflection of life. That day a mental switch occurred, and I began my journey into better health with the easiest way I thought I knew how: working out like crazy.

Now: June 9th, 2017

I’ve identified four dimensions to health since I began in 2012, this is The Health Pyramid:

Building Blocks

The pyramid mainly shows how foundational an aspect of health is. For example, if you only exercise but have none of the other things in practice, your health is far from good. On the other hand, if you don’t stretch, have bad posture and diet, but you are stress-free, and your mind is clear and focused – you are better off than just exercising.

The latter example is hard to attain since poor diet, posture, and lack of physical activity can negatively affect your joy. However, if you can be happy without the other pieces, it is better than if you were just exercising all the time but were stressed and lost in life.

4 – Physical Fitness Training

Fitness training has 3 main pillars: Intention, Iteration, and Intensity.

Intention:

What will the purpose of your training be? Better health, losing weight, and getting ripped are valid goals. However, these are all too vague and will not direct you to any particular training method. A more actionable purpose would be “To strengthen the hamstrings to balance the quads and better align the hips.” Your goal does not need to be that sophisticated or specific, but get as accurate as you can. This will do 2 things:

  1. Intention makes it clear what you will be doing in the gym or place of training.
  2. Intention allows you to better measure the success of your training program.

If you have a particular purpose in training, you will get through training quicker and not wander around contemplating what to train next, and you will be able to test and measure the effectiveness of the methods you use to get to your set goal.

Iteration:

Your training needs to be progressive. You cannot jump into complex and rigorous movement if you are just beginning. Reduce the complexity, in other words, simplify your movement as much as possible. This helps to identify exactly what muscles or muscle groups are becoming involved in the movement.

Next, reduce the difficulty until you can do the movement with intensity. If weight load or level of difficulty is too high, you might not complete the movement safely. You can be intensive with a simple, natural movement, but if the movement is too challenging, then you will not perform it correctly and without intensity.

Next is to iterate, meaning to add on complexity and difficulty. This will ensure active learning, as the movement will always be complex enough for you to be able to perform.

Intensity: 

After you’ve set a purpose and have understood the value of simplifying in order to iterate, you have to add in the fuel. In fact, the intensity is not something you do actively, it is a side effect of having the other 2 pillars. Once your mind is set on what to accomplish, and your body is prepared to handle what you have set to accomplish, you can flip the switch and be as powerful as possible in your movements. The other 2 pillars don’t guarantee intensity, yet the allow for it. You still have to make that mental switch to go after your goal purposefully and safely.

Risk to Reward Ratios

An important thing to consider in your training is how safe a movement is, and what is the reward of the movement. All movements are inherently risky, and they have varying degrees of reward.

Here’s an explosive pushup:

An explosive pushup is not something I would train, it is just a cool move. Why? There is far too much risk for the reward. Here are the risk factors: A rapid pulling of the chest when landing, wrist injury, shoulder injury, and other factors. The reward? Maybe a stronger chest, but the risk is too much. A simple pushup, bench press, or cable pull can be much better alternatives in training.

3 – Tensegrity & Posture

Tensegrity, or tensional integrity, is a structural principle that can closely model how the human body is held up in space by bones and soft tissue. Understanding the tensegrity model is key to learning what to stretch and strengthen for good posture.

Here is the tensegrity model applied to the human body:

The summary: Every muscle has an effect on the way your bones are held up. One local imbalance can cause a chain reaction, where a hip muscle might be tight and will throw off the alignment of your shoulder.

Flexibility and posture are more foundational than just training because it’s necessary to have integrity through proper tension to ensures safe training. Things like nerve impingement, soft tissue damage, and even broken bones could be avoided if you train with good alignment and overall integrity in structure.

How Effective is Stretching? I trained my hamstrings for a week straight, and I couldn’t touch my toes. Just 10 minutes of stretching brought me back to normal flexibility:

2 – Diet & Nutrition

Posture and flexibility will ensure safe training, but diet & nutrition will ensure effective training. You cannot out work a terrible diet. Your fuel plays a big role in where you’ll go with your training.

Fat burning and fat storage:

It’s not just about calories, the most valuable player in what happens with the food you intake is insulin, the hormone in charge of fat storage. There are 2 things to consider when understanding insulin: the simple level of insulin, and your insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is how “tolerant” you are to insulin. Both insulin and insulin resistance must be rid of for effective weight loss.

When it comes to hormones and fat burning, no other YouTube channel explains it better than Dr. Berg’s YouTube Channel.

Your meals need to be low in sugar and low in carbohydrates, which quickly turn into sugar. Carbs from vegetables are great since they come loaded with fiber which slows down the breakdown of carbs and helps in digestion.

Other Hormones:

Other hormones play roles in fat storage/burning – like estrogen, cortisol, and epinephrine – yet they are all dwarfed by insulin when it comes to making a change in fat storage.

1 – Freedom From Stress & Mental Clarity

Freedom From Stress & Mental Clarity is the most foundational part of achieving good health, and the most difficult to achieve.

One Method: Meditation: This is the most commonly used method to relieve stress and achieve mental clarity. There must be a distinction made between relieving stress and being free from it. If we use meditation or even exercise as a method to reduce stress, we are not treating the cause, only the effect. Using meditation in this sense makes meditation a medication to treat the side effects of a disease. Dis-ease is just that when you are not at ease. A cluttered mind and stressed body often come together, and no matter how physically fit you look, if you as a whole are not at ease, your body will turn against you.

My direction in health was first physical training, I was able to achieve a thin, semi-athletic body, yet I was constantly stressed and not at ease. Exercise became a pill to induce “happy” hormones, something often talked about. Not soon after, I began a resistance to these hormones, and more exercise was needed for more endorphins to reach the same “happy” state.

No amount of drugs, alcohol, nor hormone-inducing activities will give you freedom from stress, alleviate maybe, but not free you from it.

Physical Yoga can be great, but if used as a medication for stress, the root cause is never taken care of.

We must be immediate with any issue or quarrel we have about reality. We must investigate personally, and accept no outside knowledge without experimentation.

Putting It All Together

Physical training is the easiest to master and least foundational. Freedom from stress is the most difficult to master and the most foundational. So where should you start? It does not make sense to start from the bottom, because you might never move up the pyramid, so start everywhere. Start in all directions and all dimensions of health. The key is to begin honest efforts in all the building blocks, naturally balancing the time and effort spent on each according to what you feel like you need to improve the most.

Look into each and give them their own time, they will come together naturally. We can investigate further into each dimension, but this is all for now.

Sincerely,
Hovhannes Mkhitaryan from The LA Trainer

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