You value your health, right? Whether I ask one person or an audience of several hundred people, the answer is the same, a resounding “Yes! Of course I do!”
This country is on a health kick and struggling with a spiraling-out-of-control obesity epidemic and healthcare crisis. As many as 400,000 people die each year from causes related to poor diet and physical inactivity, according to the American Medical Association. As of 2007, obesity cost the United States $130 billion in direct medical costs each year. In fact, healthcare costs have been rising faster than the rest of the U.S. economy for many years, as they continue to consume a larger share of our budgets.
How can we be both obsessed with health and increasingly unhealthy? This paradox has led me to conclude that health is a dangerous, debilitating mindset that is undermining our wellness, wealth and strength as a country.
What is health, really? Forget the usual buzzwords like fit, well or sound. Health is the “opposite of sick.” It’s my firm belief that for most of us health is subconsciously, if not consciously, defined as the “absence of disease.”
Given this common view of health, barring a sudden, tragic diagnosis like cancer, you’re “healthy.” As a result, we talk about health, eat a few veggies, slip in and out of diets and avoid the doctor—yet make no real change until it’s absolutely necessary.
Consider health in financial terms. You wouldn’t run a business to avoid bankruptcy (i.e. illness) nor aim to earn just enough to get by. That would be crazy. Yet this is precisely what you are doing when you accept “health” as your “good enough” standard for personal well-being.
For those who refuse to settle for “good enough” there exists a higher state of life. Some know it as “optimal health.” I call it strength.
While health is the absence of disease, strength is the presence of abundant energy and the capacity to be a force in your world. It’s being healthy and fl owing with energy, and possessing something extra: the mental, physical and emotional reserve for an extraordinary life. While “health” is like living paycheck to paycheck, strength is money in the bank—a reserve. Strength is true wealth.
Good to Great: 6 Tips for the Journey from Health to Strength
1. Choose Strength One thing you can be sure of is that life will challenge you, calling upon your strength in ways you cannot imagine. Don’t wait to react to the call—choose to live from strength now. To shift from blindly accepting health to confidently choosing strength is to go from waiting for it to rain to having an ever-present reservoir to draw upon.
Wherever you are along the path of life, you can create a new, higher trajectory to your life—a life of freedom, strength and abundant energy. A great place to reveal your full potential is through a structured, motivating 12-week “Transformation” challenge as in Strength for Life. By consciously forging your strong body from the inside out, you’ll gain energy, confi dence and all the glowing praise that accompanies an amazing body.
2. Reboot, Reset, Rejuvenate Our hectic lifestyle leaves most of us undernourished, energydepleted, short on sleep and in a compromised state known as “stress.” Add exercise to this and you’re adding stress to stress. Such was the case with Susan, a woman in her late 30s who was determined to will her way through a 12-week transformation. Problem was she was working hard, seeing very little if any positive impact on her body, feeling drained and bordering on depressed. She was stressed, exhausted and depleted on many levels. Adding an intense exercise program and diet to her already stressed state was pushing her into what’s called a “catabolic state.” Meaning her body was breaking down.
I persuaded her to take two weeks off to rest, recharge and revitalize her body. When she returned I barely recognized her. She was exuberant, positive, shining with energy like a different person. She’d added two pounds of lean muscle and produced a measurable drop in body fat percentage. In every way she was coming back to life.
Just as sleep is essential to your performance today, so is recovery critical to any fitness program that follows. I encourage anyone seeking to transform their fitness to first “reboot their body” with a 12-Day Total Reboot. Eating “lean, clean and green,” getting sleep, and balancing your body inside out will nourish your body, mind and soul, bringing you back to strength, in just 12 days.
3. Strengthen Your Body, Strengthen Your Mind Maximize your time by stacking the benefits of training your mind and body together. Most people who exercise get a fraction of the potential benefits because they check their minds at the door and go through the motions.
Find your true strength in your training: Engage your mind, not just your body. Some find this in yoga or martial arts, while others enjoy the benefi ts of Focus Intensity Training (FIT), the body-mind integrated strength training that focuses your mind while strengthening your body.
Here’s a quick illustration of how dramatically a single FIT technique can transform your training. Take your right arm, extend it out and then contract your biceps as if you’re performing a biceps curl. No big deal, right? Unfortunately, this is the same approach most people take in the gym. Now let’s do it again. This time, however, as you contract your biceps slowly touch your left index finger to the center of your right biceps. Concentrate on a single spot in the center of your biceps muscle, picturing a red-hot marble in this same spot. When you reach the fully contracted position, hold it for about 10 seconds then release.
Having guided thousands of people through this exercise, I’m familiar with the dramatic difference in the way your biceps feel—when all you’ve done is exchange the unfocused mind for one with focus and intensity.
4. Eat to Live The food you eat can energize, empower and set you up for success by fueling your strength, or it can cloud your mind and sap your energy. People who live to eat struggle with deprivation, dieting and cravings.
A more effective and enjoyable relationship with food is to eat to live. Rather than eating to stop the hunger and cravings, begin focusing on how your food leaves you feeling for the next one, two and three hours. You will quickly find yourself effortlessly choosing more of the foods that leave you feeling your best.
5. Set a Date with Your Best Each Year Getting fit is a challenge for sure—no rah-rah speeches here. But staying lean, strong and fit for life is, for most people, a fantasy. The timeless secret to enjoying your full strength for life is to be at your best, one day a year, year after year. Set an annual date with your best, strongest, most fit self—as you define it—and then document your peak condition with photos and statistics. Be sure your goals are specific, measurable and meaningful Then celebrate with a signifi cant self-reward.
6. Share Your Strength The most powerful gift is to share your strength—that which you give away, you gain. And ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. Building a reservoir of strength for you can get you going, but it’s not going to carry you the distance—nor to the heights that you will discover if you steadily give to and share your strength with others. Your true strength is your capacity to contribute to your friends, family, business and community.
Strength for the Best of Your Life Your body—the only one you will ever have—is the foundation of your life. It’s either an anchor limiting your freedom and potential or a source of radiant energy, vitality and joy, elevating your life and the lives of those around you. It’s your choice. Will yours be a source of strength, from which you will impact the world, or an obstacle, preventing you from your dreams and desires?
My advice to you is to aim high, to aim for strength.
Shawn Phillips is a fitness expert, author and founder and CEO of Phillips Performance Solutions. His books include ABSolution and Strength of Life: The Fitness Plan for the Rest of Your Life.