Summer is right around the corner. Kids are getting out of school. You’ve probably made plans for a vacation, a getaway, or which camps and events will be attended. Whatever your schedule is for the next 3 months, you’re likely to be outside more, have more to do, and possibly less time to do it all. You may feel tired already from thinking about what you’ll have to do and where you’ll have to be. Well, have no fear, because this week’s topic is all about how to be your fittest this summer and beyond.

You may be wondering how physical fitness has anything to do with leadership. Well, when you’re physically unfit, it can make you unfit in other areas of life like mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You may not realize it, but I will challenge you to participate in the commitments I’ve lined out in the 3 areas that will make you more fit and see if you don’t feel improvements in other areas of your life.

So, while I am not a fitness expert, I have been actively involved in sports, fitness, sports nutrition for almost 22 years and continue to educate myself so that I can get the very most from my body and be at my very best for those around me. You will have to develop your own reason for being your fittest — your why (read my post on the importance of Why).

Mine is a combination of wanting to feel good, look good for my wife, be able to perform tasks at work and home without tons of assistance, being able to help others. However, the most important reasons are increasing the length of my life so that I can watch my kids grow up and be able to play with them instead of just watching them play and, because of my faith, honoring God by being intentional with how I treat my body.

Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19 (MSG)

Regardless of your reason to be more fit, whether to look better, feel better, or have more energy, these 3 things will have you in tip-top shape and ready to tackle a summer of fun!

1. Exercise
I know. I know. You’ve been told over and over that you need to exercise, but the honest fact is that YOU DO! I could go and find study after study that proves this point, but I don’t usually like my readers to sleep while reading my posts. I can, however, ask you to think about the people that you know exercise regularly and then those who don’t.

Which group seems to have more energy for activities? Able to accomplish more in their day? Seems happier? While I know that exercise isn’t a cure-all, it is a vital component to a healthy life and as a leader, your team can only be a healthy (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) as you are. So, set the pace!

Here are a few things to get you started:

1. An easy (and cheap) place to start is just running regularly. Start with something small like a 1/2 mile or 1 mile jog or walk and do that 2-3 times per week. Obviously, you can increase the distance if you’re already at a moderate level of fitness.

2. Swimming is also a great workout if you regular access to a pool and can do laps for 25-50 meters.

3. My exercise of choice is CrossFit and I absolutely love it! It challenges my strength, endurance, and mental toughness. I have been able to accomplish things that I never thought were possible with CrossFit! I have discovered that I am capable of much more and am stronger than I thought! One of the great things about CrossFit is that it is scalable to any fitness level and almost any age. It can be costly to join a CrossFit gym (it’s well worth it though), but if you’re looking for the benefits with minimal cost then check out this list of workouts that do not require any equipment. Find something that works for YOU!

Commit… to exercising for at least 20 minutes 2-3 times per week through the end of August.

Helpful Apps: PocketWod (App Store), RunKeeper (App Store) / (Google Play), MyFitnessPal (App Store) / (Google Play),

2. Diet
Just like with exercise, you’ve probably heard that you need to “eat right”. It’s kind of like being sick AND tired or having trials AND tribulations. You rarely hear one without the other. I want to reset your definition of a “diet” first.

It has come to mean a particular set of restrictions that you follow for a period of time (i.e. Atkins, South Beach, etc…). Your diet actually means whatever you eat. So, stop thinking that you need to change what you eat to be this certain thing for the summer or for the holidays. You need a lifestyle change!

Now, there are some “lifestyle diets” that I like such as the Paleo diet or its cousin the Primal diet. There is a lot of research behind these two that support its benefits to your health. Personally, I do my best to limit my fried foods and sugar and increase how much animal protein (sorry vegetarians!) and vegetables I’m eating.

I do not believe in counting calories, but I do think there is a time and a place to do that. Mostly for educating yourself on how much you’re taking in. If you don’t know how many calories something is, find out! You have a choice on what you put in your body!

Here are some things you can do immediately:

1. cut out all sodas (yes, even diet ones),

2. find out how many calories your favorite foods are and if you can modify them to be healthier (see the HealthyOut app below),

3. Add a salad 3-4 times per week (no cheese),

4. Drink water! (hydration can have a multitude of benefits). On the drink water item, get a liter bottle of water from a grocery or convenience store and use that as your measuring stick and try to drink all of it each day, twice if you’re feeling bold.

Commit… to changing your lifestyle diet using the 3 suggestions above through the end of August.

Helpful Apps: HealthyOut (App Store), MyFitnessPal (App Store) / (Google Play),

3. Sleep
Say what?! I know you probably don’t think sleep plays an important role in your overall fitness, but I’m here to tell you that it is vital. Sleep is how your body recovers and not just physically. The human body is amazing and is designed to repair itself – if we’ll let it. Most people need 6-8 hours of sleep each night in order to be fully functional the next day. Obviously, there are people who need less or more than that, but they are not the majority. There are also mental or cognitive benefits to getting the proper amount of sleep regularly. It can even improve your mood. Isn’t that such and easy way to be in a better mood?! Your friends and family will thank you!

So, you can start to improve your fitness by:

1. Figure out how many hours you think you’ll need and what time you need to wake up each morning and work backwards to find what time you should be going to sleep each night,

2. Do your best to go to sleep and wake up at the same time consistently,

3. Try to track your sleep to measure your progress.

Commit… to get 6-8 hours on a regular schedule through the end of August.

Helpful Apps: Sleep Cycle (App Store)

I hope you find these 3 things helpful and useful! Be the fittest leader you can be!

Lead Your Home! Lead Your Work! Lead Your Life!

Resources:

Websites that accompany the suggested apps:
PocketWod (CrossFit app that includes workouts, videos, and logging)
RunKeeper (Running app that includes gps tracking, pre-made plans, and social integration)
MyFitnessPal (Fitness app that includes weight goal setting, calorie tracking, exercise log, and social functions)
SleepCycle (Sleep tracking app that logs cycles and historical data)

Visit CrossFit.com to find out more about this great exercise lifestyle.

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