The ONE Thing You Need to Know About Your Fitness

Lately, I’ve seen articles, headlines, and advertising that all have one theme in common…

  • The one thing you need to do to lose weight
  • The one secret that nobody is telling you for how to build massive muscles
  • The one trick to jump-start your metabolism
  • The one supplement everybody needs, but nobody knows about
  • The one strategy celebrities use to build movie-muscles in just weeks

You’ve probably seen titles like this, too. Each one is boasting not just a solution to a modern problem, but THE solution. It’s like they’re saying, if you know this one thing, it’ll change your life for the better. Maybe true, but I think there’s a little more to this than meets the eye…

Now, let me get one thing straight before we begin. I am NOT against offering tips and solutions that provide tangible benefits to people who need help. You’ll find that I do this all the time on Physical Living. Good information is not the problem – it’s the misrepresentation or misapplication of good information.

Let me show you an example of how this “one thing” marketing technique can be abused…

The one thing you need to do to lose weight… is start the new ABC exercise program.

This may not be untrue, but it can be incredibly misleading. You see, this statement implies that if you only do one thing, you’ll lose weight. It sounds too good to be true, and often it is. What that statement does NOT indicate is that weight loss is a little more complicated than that. It’s not very complicated – in fact, it’s very simple – but not so simple that one minor change will produce the desired results every time. That statement doesn’t explain that almost everyone who starts a new exercise program also increases their daily calorie intake somewhat subconsciously. It’s the body’s natural way of finding homeostasis. If you start burning more energy, your appetite will increase to compensate for the immediate loss of energy in the form of calories burned. Unless you actively prevent an increase in daily calorie consumption in addition to your new exercise program, you have a very poor chance of losing weight. I bet you didn’t discern that from the ad, though.

The truth is that there are quite many things missing from one simple promise like that. Problems, and especially health and fitness problems, are very rarely solved by making just one change to our lifestyle, but from a combination of things.

If I were asked what is the one thing people need to know about their health and fitness, here’s how I would like to respond…

Well, whoever wants to know the “one thing” that they need to do to skyrocket their health and fitness levels should probably accept the fact that they will be forever unsatisfied with their body, unless their mindset changes, of course. If they’re sick, they’ll keep getting sick. If they’re overweight, that’s not going to change either. If they can’t climb a mountain or even a flight of stairs for that matter, then one thing isn’t going to solve that problem either. If you’re looking for just one thing to solve your problems, then you’ll be searching until the day you die.

You see, it’s all good advice to go barefoot, do joint mobility, adopt a daily physical practice, set goals, eat whole foods, and get enough quality sleep. Those are all great tips, and could easily be positioned into the exclusive number 1 position for a variety of arguments. But that’s not going to help anyone nearly as much as internalizing the idea that although health and fitness is “cause and effect” results-based, experiencing exceptional results is not as simple as changing one habit once. It’s an integration of many things that leads to exceptional health and fitness (or even average health).

Look at people who have achieved phenomenal success in any pursuit and you’ll find that it wasn’t “one secret” that ensured their success. Olympic athletes don’t have exclusive access to liquid or powdered gold that supercharges their performance. They don’t use secret training strategies that some underground, Russian sports-scientist has just discovered and hasn’t told anyone else besides Michael Phelps. No, in practically every single case of major success, there is a combination of common factors involved that concurrently led to significant, measurable results.

It’s not just the balanced and periodized training program that got those guys into great shape. It’s also the natural foods they eat, the low stress lifestyle they enjoy, the quality sleep they get most nights, the abundance of water that they drink (and the lack of garbage they don’t drink), the lack of toxins in their body (from alcohol, nicotine, cleaning chemicals, etc.), and the physically active hobbies they enjoy outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air – among many other things. It’s this synergy or integration of various elements that leads to exceptional physical results. Maybe you noticed that these are just the basics, too.

And I’m not just talking about Olympic athletes here. Anyone who enjoys abundant health and crowd-awing fitness levels almost always have these lifestyle basics in order. If not, then they strongly specialize in a few areas that ultimately outweigh their unhealthier habits.

It’s good to focus on a few or even just one habit at a time when you’re trying to positively change your lifestyle. It’s much simpler to make one daily habit change than several. However, I must ask myself: have we degraded so much in our culture that we will only settle for the best possible solution to anything? Are we really getting so lazy that we aren’t willing to know the top 3, 5, or 10 best things to achieve better health (and I don’t even like top 10 lists!)? I would think that people would want to know everything they can do to improve their health and fitness levels and reach their specific goals.

What I want to impress upon you is that health doesn’t come in a bottle. You can’t pay for good health unless the currency is time, commitment, discipline, hard work, consistency, and some money here and there. Although, in the end, I’d rather have someone learn and apply one thing very well, than misapply many things poorly. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there are certainly many ways to achieve most fitness goals. Plus, there are a lot of good fitness methods out there, but exponentially more terrible ones.

So next time you read about the “one thing you need…” put it into context. Ask yourself, is this really the only thing I need to reach my goals? Being more aware of this puts the hard reality of goal achievement into perspective. It gives us an appreciation for the work involved for achieving physically challenging goals, and it reminds us of our responsibility for our own success.

To your health and success,

Fitness Professional

4 Responses

  1. Bob Tracey

    John, your advice of using a tool box filled good habits and practices stands the test of time and is probably the easiest, most enjoyable, and most cost effective.
    The one-thing idea seems to permeate our society even among health professionals. Over the years I have been exposed to chiropractors, yoga instructors, colonists, and herbal practitioners, just to name a few, who relentlessly tout their place in the health world as the one-thing and all of the rest are guilty of misinformation. Of course, they also almost always have something to sell me.
    Thanks for your commentary.

  2. John,
    Your column is full of good advice.
    Really, the ONE thing you need to know about your fitness is that it is YOUR fitness and if you don’t commit to it, nobody else will.
    Also, it needs to be integral to your daily life. You can’t dedicate a few moments or hours per day to being fit. Being fit is being alive to your fullest potential.
    Unfortunately, I don’t live up to this ideal myself. I settle for average fitness, an average life. I know with a few tweeks, I could actually reach a radically abundant life. If only ……….

    Thanks for shareing all your great ideas, John.


    • You’re absolutely right, Michael. We are creatures of integration – we thrive on it!

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