How to build a balanced and holistic training programme
How many times have you been tempted to join the ultimate 5 days plank challenge or "tone your body in 10 minutes" programme? May be you did get started with lots of excitement, even spent money on the new shiny thing and then abandoned it after a couple of weeks as it was either boring or unrealistic or simply didn't feel right anymore.
Quick exercise fixes could be a good starting point for someone, but they rarely provide long-lasting changes and true sustainability, which to me comes down to offering support through our life changes and opportunities to take care of our health with a 360 degrees approach.
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Designing a sustainable movement practice is something we can learn step by step.
To get started, here are 3 fundamental elements you want to make sure you cover:
1️⃣ Variety. If you are a curious person with a plenitude of interests, a dull training programme might be the last thing your brain want to focus on. Good news, you can leave the "squat, push, lift & repeat" template to those, who actually enjoy always-the-same workouts, and instead embrace practices that while maintaining consistency in the language and principles, offer you a variety of movements, choreographies and themes.
One of the biggest mistakes we make when starting a movement programme, is to do too much of something, and neglect other important components, so we quickly end up cramped, bored or exhausted by over- and underuse.
Right from the start, the most effective strategy for sustainability is to embrace a balanced routine that cultivates different movement qualities and energies, so you get better muscular recovery, higher level of all-around conditioning and less joint stress.
In a nutshell, this means targeting all components of fitness: including something that strengthens and lengthens your body, that lifts your heart rate up or calms you down, that works different muscle groups to help you create a balanced and efficient posture, etc..
3️⃣ Adaptability. Tailor your practice to meet yourself where you are at, mentally, physically and emotionally. This means: know your variations that allow you to achieve the same or very similar results changing small elements of poses/exercises/movements. One of the most common examples is swapping a full plank (on your hands) with a low plank (on your forearms) if your wrists feel sensitive or with a plank at the wall if your back feels tired.
Adaptability also means having a choice in terms of practices: if your knee is playing funny, instead of lunges and warriors, you can focus on mobility drills and core work on the mat, which don't put strain on that area. If you are feeling restless, instead of long held stretches, you can spend a couple of practices sweating all your excess tension out.
The key is to be able to listen to your body and choose what to do and how to do it based on your current situation, instead of stopping moving completely because of a rigid "all or nothing" plan that doesn't cater for the natural ebb and flows of energy, motivation and health.
Also, remember that is is perfectly ok to take a day or however long you need off, or to focus on more gentle forms of movement or something spontaneous, like a walk or a silly dance in the kitchen. More structured forms of movement will be right there waiting for you whenever you are ready to return.
By the way, have you read my latest piece on Health & Wellbeing about holistic movement for longevity? It comes with a sequence combining Yoga, Pilates and Barre to strengthen and stretch every single muscle and improve balance and agility!