When discussing the concept of well-being with my personal training clients, I always explain to them that there are no isolated problems just as there no isolated solutions. To maintain a state of well-being requires conditioning and balance in all areas of life, not just at the gym.
The Wellness Triangle is made up of three components: Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Stress Management. Every aspect of your self care regime falls under one of these headings and no one part is more or less important than the others. For instance, physical activity can become a source of excessive stress if it is not supported by a foundation of nutrition, periods of relaxation and perhaps most importantly, the ability to diffuse stress. Nutrition is critically important but the body is not able to make optimum use of it’s fuel if it is sedentary and stressed out. And finally, I don’t believe it is possible to have any kind of real stress management in the absence of physical activity and nutrition.
When all three legs of the triangle are being tended to equally and the body comes into balance an interesting thing known as synergy occurs. With synergy we are able to become more than just the sum total of our parts. We are able to excel at an astounding rate. We are stronger, faster, smarter, happier and more capable than we ever imagined.
So why then do so many of us only attain synergy in small amounts, and for limited durations? Why do we work so hard to get up only to crash back down and start over again? Have you ever noticed that when life is going well, you start to attract more activity around you and then BAM! you get really sick and everything falls apart?
There is only one underlying reason for this and that is failing to understand the importance of balance. Can an F-16 jet break the sound barrier if the engine is ill-maintained and the gas tank is full of Diet Coke and Big Macs? Um, no.
I recently observed this cycle in myself and for the first time actually identified it for what it was. I call it “Too Busy Syndrome”. I was, as I always am, working hard to better myself, to make change, to inspire and help other people to do the same. I was going to bed on time, eating well, exercising (of course), I was mediating twice a day, taking my vitamins and even doing my sinus rinse every evening. All of these things are a practice, a regime that takes discipline to perform on a daily basis.
Things were going well, and because I was operating at a heightened energy level, I was attracting more activity into my life. But then I got busy and something happened. I began to prioritize the busyness. I would say to myself, I don’t have time to eat a proper meal or I don’t have time to meditate this morning after also not having time to sleep properly the night before.
And guess what happened? Yep, I got sick. I was flying too high and too fast with no foundation to sustain that level of activity. I did not neglect my workouts but I did neglect nutrition and stress management which caused the physical activity to become more stress than my compromised state of well-being could support.
While I was sick, I naturally became very motivated to resume all of my practices and, as I felt my state of well-being return, that was when the realization of the cycle and the importance of balance really hit me. Although I have lived through this cycle many times, I was so busy being inside of it that I never saw the big picture. I never saw how my own actions opened the door to illness. I never realized that no matter how busy I may be, progress only occurs in the presence of sustainability.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE Fitness) defines balance as: The ability to maintain the body’s position over it’s base of support within stability limits, both statically and dynamically.
Neglecting any one part of the Wellness Triangle erodes the base of support and creates a structure that is out of balance and cannot stand.
Practices first. Busyness second. These are the priorities of progress.