WHAT IS FITNESS?
Before you begin reading this post, I want to make sure you are interpreting things correctly. In fact, I just want to clarify one thing in particular. Every time you read the word “fitness,” I want you to expand your definition beyond lifting weights, doing push-ups, or going for a jog. There are so many programs on the market today that focus on such a specific niche you have to put the pieces together yourself. My goal is to do the puzzle for you and get you on a clear path toward a habit of success.
Just like everything beautiful in this world, fitness is a complex, interdependent system. I want you to understand that fitness is a dedicated practice in mindfulness, nutrition, flexibility, balance, strength, and endurance. I like to call these elements the Six Pillars of Fitness in Five.
On the surface, this looks ridiculously intimidating and impossible to pursue given the sheer amount of time it must take to practice all these elements.
But hang on. I, Paul Haluszczak, promise that if you want to improve your fitness and get to a level you have never imagined yourself reaching, you will succeed, regardless of the "busyness" of your life.
When it comes to healthcare, we're a reactionary society. That mentality needs to be extinguished in order for us to see significant change. Every day is a new opportunity to embark on a more holistic journey in the way we treat our bodies.
Yet, the impossible physical standards shoved in our face through every medium of entertainment leaves us complacent and unmotivated to change our behaviors.
So, before you read any further, I want you to take a moment to clear your mind. Remove every photo-shopped, unachievable image you’ve been told to emulate and refocus on yourself.
Fitness is one of the few things in this world where you need to be unapologetically selfish and say, “I’m doing this for me. My soul deserves the most well maintained vessel I can provide and no one is going to tell me otherwise.”
Whether we choose to fight or flight when presented with life’s challenges, there is one thing we can never escape: ourselves. No matter how often we choose to ignore subtle signs of a weakening body, we cannot live prosperously if our bodies are slowing us down.
This isn’t grammar class; there is no exception to the rule.
Every second between our first and last breath is an opportunity to make one of two decisions. We can either choose to treat ourselves carelessly, or we can choose to reconnect the lost power between our mind and body, ensuring they work together as one.
This is the most important relationship we’ll ever have. Let's not ruin it.
When we’re on the front end of life’s journey, our bodies are more or less forgiving. A little tweak here, some overconsumption there, and our bodies will reset rather quickly. However, if we fail to change our habits, the path we’re currently walking down will disappear. We’ll look over our shoulders and wonder where it all went wrong. Where did we miss the opportunity to change ourselves for the better?
We could argue the opportunity never presented itself, which is more than a possibility. However, I take issue with the words we have chosen. If we wait for the opportunity to present itself, our stagnation will be our undoing.
This stagnation builds off the simple fact that exercise has become a luxury rather than a necessity.
In the not so distant past, the majority of people involved themselves in physical labor. There weren’t any leg days, cardio days, or rest days. There were only work days and Sundays. A person’s physical abilities were their livelihoods.
Fast forward to today and as a good friend of mine likes to put it we live our lives in nothing but boxes:
"We wake up in a box. Then we get inside another box with four wheels and travel to a huge box owned by some bigwig CEO. Then we work all day in a tiny box, typing away, staring into yet another box. Five o'clock slowly sneaks up on us and we crawl back into our box with four wheels. We go home to our box the bank owns, crash on the couch and watch our flat box, then go to sleep and do it all again the next day."
This is scarily accurate and is the main reason we fail to rise above the mundane constants of our lives. So, what is it that will propel you forward to the utopian destination you always dreamed about?
For me, it’s rather simple. I want to spend every day of my life with the ability to move freely.
In today’s world, longevity is no longer a fleeting hope. All things considered, it’s an unappreciated expectation. The modernization of medicine and technology allows us to live longer lives. Whether we’ve earned such a reward is debatable (to put it kindly). We can treat our bodies as haphazardly as we wish, pop a pill, and pretend everything is kosher.
We require little effort to achieve the basic goal of staying alive, but of course, this doesn’t equate to actually living. We need to quit the unfulfilling, easy road and look for something better.
This reality has inspired me to take a long, hard look at how we can achieve complete body optimization. As with any good dose of reality checking, I started by checking myself first.
BE THE EXCEPTION
My relationship with my mind and body has gone through many peaks and valleys. So much so, I’m not sure where I am sometimes. Where I’ve elevated my fitness in one aspect (muscular strength), I’ve failed to acknowledge its needs in many others (flexibility, mental health, and nutrition).
My desire to explore fitness on a multi-dimensional level has given me unique knowledge about body optimization. But it hasn’t made me an all-encompassing expert. What it does provide me is an ability to call a spade a spade. I’m able to ignore all the commercialized, quick-fix solutions and focus on the key, universal foundations of cultivating a healthy body.
Unfortunately, I’m just as susceptible as the next person to ignore the right decision in favor of the easy one. I often longed for obtainable results but was unwilling to remold my habits to achieve my goals.
Distractions and cultural acceptance allowed me to put fitness on the back burner. I would focus on my health if I had the time. This syndrome is prevalent across the country and I will no longer be riddled by this disease.
With that being said, I’ve decided I want to be the exception. Rather, I will be the exception. I’m going to bust out my plasma torch, cut through the steel walls before me, and never look back. And I want you to join me.
As motivating as it is to commit to radical change, it is even more invigorating to know others are itching for the same opportunity.
Autonomy is empowering, but what is success if we can’t share it with others? Community allows us to clear the debris blocking our path and travel the road we are meant to go down.
TRY AND TRY AGAIN
I have attempted at least nine different training modalities in just about as many years. Some have resided in the same realm (e.g. weightlifting), but the philosophies were so different, I was always trying something new.
With every experiment I conducted, I kept detailed training logs to track my improvement over time. With this information building on itself over the years, I have a clear history of my successes and failures.
I look back at some of my ideas and they are downright laughable. Others bring back great memories of busting through plateaus and coming to each training session ready to nourish my body. Even so, my incessant need to try new things left me with a strong desire to find something better, something more complete.
My burning passion to find the ultimate training method turned into a humbling learning lesson.
I never took interest in researching the importance of warm-ups, cool downs, and rest day stretching programs. These are all well-known components of the “complete breakfast” of exercise. But as I increased my knowledge in skill acquisition, I chose to stay deep inside my cozy rabbit hole and ignore the less "sexy" components of fitness.
Naturally, my ignorance got the best of me. I suffered a significant hamstring injury my freshman year of college, and it took me an entire year before my legs felt rebalanced.
Leading up to my injury, I had bested myself week after week on squats and deadlifts, and I was itching with excitement to see where I would be in the next few months. All that work was for not, and made me think long and hard about how I wanted to define my fitness philosophy.
I can’t explain it, but I have always had this gut feeling of what fitness should be versus what I was actually practicing. I had finally come to the point where I was going to trust my instinct and detach myself from what was familiar.
Over the next four years, I continued my usual experiments. I eventually came to the conclusion that I was going to learn about the most amazing fitness machine of all: myself.
Bodyweight workouts were going to be the new "end all, be all" of my approach to fitness. Nothing was going to get in my way. But of course, there was a caveat. I had a startling lack of experience designing a program based on only using my body for resistance. With that, my failed attempts began piling up.
This hurdle became much harder to overcome than expected. I continued to fall short of my poorly planned goals. I wanted to escape my comfort zone of lifting weights and involving myself in the macho man culture that surrounds the industry, but I was wandering aimlessly trying to find the solution.
I don’t remember where or when it happened, but somewhere along my search I found an idea that instantly connected with me.
The wonderful folks over at Gold Medal Bodies (GMB) had a set of principles I could get on board with. One of the first things you’ll find is a simple idea that almost perfectly mirrors something I said earlier: “Fitness means teaching your body to handle the activities that are important to you.”
Remember how I said I wanted to move freely? Well, you can imagine the excitement I felt when reading about a program that looked to reconnect the mind and body at the most fundamental level.
This was the starting block I was looking for, and my ideological wheels started churning. Ten misdirected years of an enthusiasm toward everything fitness and I finally connected the dots. I finally found the missing piece to my fitness philosophy. Now it was time to write it all down.
FITNESS IN FIVE
Before we talk about what Fitness in Five is, let’s go over what Fitness in Five is not.
- Fitness in Five is not for the faint of heart.
- No matter how much I would like to create a program that is loved by everyone, the reality of committing yourself to a lifelong pursuit can feel constraining and non-spontaneous.
- Fitness in Five is a commitment unlike anything you have undertaken before. If you decide to commit, I promise mediocrity will be the last thing that comes to mind.
- Fitness in Five is not for the prideful.
- The beginning of this program will be one of the most humbling experiences of your life. Especially if you are already above average in terms of athletic ability. I’ve built these ideas with the intention of showing people how the fitness gods and goddesses among us all started from humble beginnings. This is exactly where you and I are going to start and where we finish will be euphoric.
- Fitness in Five is not for the shortsighted.
- The “Five” represents a timescale seldom approached by other fitness philosophies out there. If you are hoping it lands in the ballpark of hours, minutes, or seconds, I have some bad news for you.
- Fitness in Five is intricately designed around five years of unadulterated commitment. No matter where life takes you, Fitness in Five will be with you every step of the way.
Now, enough of the negativity, let’s talk about what Fitness in Five is and how it will change your world for the better.
At its core, Fitness in Five is founded on the principle of what I like to call “ring cycling.” Each ring connects to the next with necessary overlaps in order to build a stronger and stronger mental and physical foundation. A small dose of repetition is worth the big results we will experience.
This approach is based off of personal experience in using a hybrid of Hypertrophy Specific Training and 5-3-1 Training. In both training methods, you are forced to repeat weights and repetitions you have already conquered in order to raise your base level of strength. So, what does a “base level” look like?
My base level of fitness allows me to take months off from running and at the drop of a hat run three miles in 25 minutes. I can ignore developing my muscular strength, hop up on a pull up bar and knock out ten pull-ups with ease. Of course this is nothing too extraordinary to some folks, but for others it’s mythological.
Why can I do these things? Because over the years I have reached certain foundational milestones in body functionality and they are embedded in my DNA. When I failed to take care of my body, I experienced atrophy. I saw negative physical changes in my physique, but I didn’t hit rock bottom with nothing to show for my past effort.
You also have a base level of fitness. It might look different from what I just described, but given your current habits, you have a level of ability you can always rely on. Regardless of how far you stray from your practice, there is always some skill you will retain.
You may have noticed that I only described two of the Fitness in Five Pillars. Pull-ups and running only fall under the categories of strength and endurance. Where do I stand in the other areas?
This is an important question. Not only for me, but for yourself as well. Where do you stand in each area of fitness?
To answer that, I want you to picture the beautiful architecture of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. This landmark has been standing strong for 2,500 years. Each pillar plays an equal role in supporting the structure and would crumble to the ground if this weren’t the case.
Fitness in Five is all about building your own Parthenon with pillars of equal height and strength. Most of the time, we rely on one pillar to carry our entire structure. We hope it will hold out long enough to carry us through life, but this doesn’t bring us any sort of comfort. It’s like playing the lottery; our odds are low, but our hopes are high.
So, let’s get rid of the wishful thinking and start taking the necessary steps to ensure a brighter future. With Fitness in Five, you and I are going to focus on our unique bodies. We will take advantage of our natural abilities and embrace our weaknesses.
Once we have achieved equilibrium, we will focus on building our pillars in unison. As I said before, our pillars must be built simultaneously to support our structure through every phase.
Spanning the likes of mindfulness, nutrition, flexibility, balance, strength, and endurance, you will reach a level of ability that no one could have ever predicted. The time is now for you to let life in and level up!