The 7 Crucial Elements Of A Balanced Physical Training Regime

A Simple 7-Step Blueprint To Maximize Your Health, Fitness, and Quality Of Life By Pursuing Excellence In Your Physical Training Regime In A Systematic And Holistic Manner

male silhouette on mountaintopThere are many ways to skin a cat, and virtually unlimited ways to improve your health, fitness, and quality of life through some form of physical training, practice, or recreation. My journey through this realm has brought me many places and has had me try many different things in an effort to find what works best.

And so, today, I want to present you with a simple blueprint for optimizing your physical training regime in a systematic and holistic manner in an effort to help you maximize your health, fitness, quality of life, and the other various benefits you receive from training – using the best knowledge I currently possess.

It should be noted that this is most certainly not the easy way to go about these things. This isn’t something that can be done in a matter of weeks or in 20-30 minutes per day. Certainly not! But you can start there if you need to. Heck, start at one minute per day if you have to!

Also, an underlying principle in this method is gradual progression. It may very well take years to acclimate yourself to using the full gamut I’m about to present to you, and it’s a process that should not be rushed. That said, here are the key areas I would suggest you address in your training program. In my opinion, some ares are more important than others for most people, and this isn’t necessarily the order that would be best-suited for you – your needs, goals, and circumstances.

The 7 Crucial Elements Of An Optimized Physical Training Regime

1) Some form of gentle exercise to promote health, recovery, vitality, and improve range of motion at your joints – For this area, I use joint mobility training that I’ve learned from a variety of sources, but primarily from the various methods contained within the Circular Strength Training (ie CST) system (e.g. Intu-Flow, Ageless Mobility, etc.). But this doesn’t need to be a joint mobility program. You could practice any form of gentle exercise such as Tai-Chi, Qigong, or another gentle martial art – just to name a few. There are many options to choose from in this category. What’s important is that you do one and commit to mastering it over the long haul to reap as much benefit as possible from it. I like joint mobility training because it’s systematic, progressive, holistic, and is results-oriented moreso than tradition-oriented.

2) Some form of low-moderate intensity exercise to promote health, recovery, vitality, and improve the quality and function of your muscles and connective tissues – This may sound similar to the former category, but it’s distinctly different in that it should be focused on going a little deeper into movements and ranges of motion in order to improve the tissue quality of the myofascial matrix. It can and should involve slightly more exertion than your gentle exercise choice to get deeper and draw more benefits from it. Common examples of this include yoga, pilates, PNF stretching, etc. Personally, I primarily employ specially-crafted yoga for this area using methods I’ve learned from local classes, various books and DVD’s, and my experience with the CST system. It’s a practice that can and must get progressively more targeted at your own unique needs.

Note: as you gain experience and understanding of your chosen methods from the first two categories, they can often be integrated into one holistic active recovery practice that addresses your needs systematically, while saving you time and energy.

3) Some form of cardiovascular exercise – This can take many forms, and can even be integrated with some of the other categories, especially the following four categories. So, it doesn’t necessarily need to be in a category of its own. But traditionally-speaking, cardiovascular-focused exercise would involve things walking, running, hiking, spinning or cycling, skipping rope, dancing, and swimming just to name a few. Personally, I use all of these, but walking and running are my go-to choices that I use most often. The key here is performing some type of exercise that challenges your cardio-respiratory system and gets you breathing hard and often.

4) Some form of resistance training (ie strength training) – The sky is the limit with this category, and there are so many different ways you could go. You can go high-tech or low-tech, simple or sophisticated, but again, what’s more important than what you do, is that you actually do it. So, select an option that perks your interest and suits your needs, and get to work. This is one of the most under-rated forms of exercise that comes with a whole slew of benefits. Some good options include weightlifting, calisthenics or other bodyweight exercise methods, kettlebell training, clubbell training, sandbag training, resistance band training, among many others. Each one has unique advantages and disadvantages, and it’s up to you to decide which one would suit your lifestyle and goals the best.

5) Some form of natural movement practice and training (e.g. MovNat, parkour, freerunning, etc.) – The preceding categories are primarily health and fitness related, and this category is as well, but it’s also the most practical of all – and I consider it an essential component in any holistic exercise program. The development of health, fitness, and conditioning is certainly a practical goal to pursue in a literal sense, but these aspects are distinctly different from the development of movement skills for practical, real life applications.

Physical training and exercise should be practical, in that, we see direct improvements in our performance in a wide variety of circumstances and situations in which we find ourselves experiencing throughout life. So, it’s important that we learn and practice how to walk, run, jump, balance, crawl, climb, lift, carry, throw, catch, swim, and even defend ourselves. If we don’t have at least a basic level of competency in each of these areas, then there is a major gap in our fundamentally-human needs, abilities, and functions. Personally, I use MovNat because it’s what I’ve identified with the best, and also because it’s systematic, holistic, and progressive, among other things.

6) Some form of low-intensity, play-based movement and exercise practice – Some of our physical training is best when planned and structured into a program, and other aspects of physical training is best when it’s left to our imagination. Allowing a little bit of spontaneous exploration and play into our routines is time and energy well-spent. And while I would consider this an optional pursuit for optimal health and fitness seekers, it is highly encouraged that you find something you enjoy doing, that challenges you, and introduces a bit of fun into your physical practice. Also, this should be distinctly separate from conditioning, and instead can be more skill-focused.

For me, I try to infuse some fun into most of what I do, and particularly in categories 3, 5, and 7. But I also pursue some other practices mainly for this very reason such as various tumbling and ground-work drills (e.g. BodyFlow and TACGYM – aka “tactical gymnastics”), and various feats of strength (e.g. hand-balancing, odd object lifting, etc.). These are just things that I enjoy doing for their own sake, and having a specific time for doing them spreads joy into the rest of your regime.

Note: a little bit of fun should be a near-constant aspect in your whole physical training regime, which is why I like to leave these categories open to your preferences. One of the best things you can do for your health, fitness, and quality of life is to pursue those things that interest you, that you love doing, and that you would do just because. This is the most sure-fire way to enjoy and experience a lifetime of benefits from physical living because training is no longer something you need to do, but something you get to do.

7) Some other forms of physical recreation – Finally, I think a balanced, holistic physical training regime would not be complete without some pure, unadulterated recreation – whatever suits your fancy – be it hiking, surfing, ultimate frisbee, basketball, or dancing tango. And some people get by just fine by participating in just one or two of these activities and doing little else. Just keep in mind that if you want to maximize your results, don’t neglect the other important stuff, too. OK?

Note: this is a blueprint, not the blueprint. And it’s solely based on my finite experience in life. Capiesce?

Final Words

I’ve found these various elements to be the keys to experiencing optimal results in my physical training regime. Your mileage may vary. Suffice to say, there is immense value in pursuing a broad array of physical training methods. Each one comes with its own unique advantages and drawbacks, and they serve as a form of checks and balances for each other. So, if you want to pursue optimal results over a lifetime of study and practice, then my advice is to set a goal and start somewhere, incrementally working your way towards that holy grail of physical expression, yet not neglecting the process involved in seeking it.

It should also be noted that while this could be likened to an ideal template for a balanced physical training program, it may not be your ideal template if you can’t use it effectively. Just because there is a better method out there, doesn’t mean it will work better for you, especially if you have trouble adhering to it. So, take and adapt this blueprint to your own unique situation and circumstances. And again, progress through the various elements incrementally – baby steps – gradually adjusting your lifestyle habits according to your needs, goals, and abilities.

It won’t be easy. That much is certain. But it will be worth it. And you and I both know that if you want it badly enough, you can do it.

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CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach

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P.P.S. For more info, here’s a closer look at how I’ve integrated these elements into my own training program (posted last year): Behind-The-Doors Look At John Sifferman’s Complete Training Program.

P.P.P.S. Is that not an awesome photo? Photo credit goes to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dvids/

10 Responses

  1. What has helped me is swimming because if effects the whole of your body. I also find you need to exercise with intensity (i.e a sprint rather than a jog). Our bodies react in totally different ways if we use intensity in our routines. Its hard work and sometimes tough but is very powerful and great for fat loss

    I’m surprised eating habits/diets was not mentioned – eating 600 calories less is much more straight forward and easier than burning 600 calories

    Nice post though

    cheers

    Jim

    • Thanks for the comment, Jim. Obviously, eating habits are vitally important to health, fitness, strength and conditioning, and performance in all aspects of life – among other things – but it wasn’t the subject of this article. As an aside, physical culture is about a whole lot more than calorie expenditure – at least for me :-)

  2. Nice article. You make it clear that it is A blue print and it might be different for others. I was trying to compare my physical training program to you blue print. Looks like I have 3,4 and 7 covered. The Ageless Mobility package I got early this week provides the tools for 1 and 6. The AM package is where I’ll be concentrating on next. A few questions:

    I’m not sure where I would put my Tae Kwon Do training. Any thoughts?

    Also, I do a regular stretching program. Not sure whether it fits in your concept of #2. Any suggested reading on enhancing my understanding of the difference between numbers 1 & 2?

    • Jim,

      I’d consider Taekwondo to be a blend of 5, 6, and 7 on my list – depending on how you do it. Self defense training is a practical skill to develop (5), and it can be done both as recreation (7) and as skill-based play (6). Plus, some classes will incorporate fitness training into the mix. So, as noted, many activities can cover several areas, and for those with limited time for physical training, these types of things tend to deliver the best bang for your buck.

      For understanding the differences between 1 & 2, read the Free to Move book you got in the AM package (for number 1), and you can also read Sonnon’s book on Prasara Yoga for a better understanding of number 2.

  3. Where would you put barefoot running within these categories? It’s obviously some cardio, but can it be included in number 5…or is that what you mean by freerunning?

    • Alex,

      In my mind, barefoot running is really just running – period – and so it’s most definitely a three due to its cardio demands, and a part of category 5 since it’s also a natural and practical movement skill that merits practice. Plus, it could be a 6 or 7 for some people, too. It’s all relative.

      So, as I mentioned in my comment to Jim, some activities can span several categories and you can get immense benefit due to this integrated nature. Plus, this comes in handy when trying to maximize your results from a minimum time investment.

      P.S. Freerunning, as I understand it, is much like parkour, only more focused on efficient travel through an environment.

  4. Hey John,

    Thanks for such detailed advice about physical training. For me, I’ve been taken part in a Judo course and that seems to work really well. Maybe you can add some kung fu courses in the blueprint.
    Rgds,

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