There are three aspects to a healthy life – physical fitness, metabolism, and mind. Going by the above dictionary meaning, the ‘whole’ is healthy life. But the ‘whole’ could also be physical fitness alone because there are multiple components that are intimately connected responsible for our complete physical fitness. Similarly there are multiple factors that drive our metabolism & mental health. This applies to any common man who is striving for longevity or to sportsmen who are striving to give their best.
Therefore, the first requirement in holistic approach is to understand each subject intimately. After this comes applying the fundamentals of human anatomy/physiology in finding solutions. Once we start connecting the dots, we inadvertently start appreciating the role and value of all components. This pretty much explains my foray into yoga, yoga anatomy, human movement science, strength & conditioning, sports science, metabolism, nutrition, spirituality, and mind.
Gaining holisticness refers to working independently on all components of physical fitness, metabolism, and mental health. This holisticness brings longevity whether with regard to life or sporting career.
- Holisticness in ‘physical fitness’ would mean fitness starts coming to you naturally. You know whether your body requires a stretch, training, or relaxation. And this practice of following your body’s demands makes you into a fitter & healthier being.
- Holisticness in ‘metabolism’ would mean whatever you eat not only suits your metabolism and body requirement but also, suits your taste buds. This brings metabolic flexibility in you which in turn makes you enjoy all kinds of food while providing your body with what it requires.
- Holisticness in ‘mind training’ is more important than it is understood to be. We generally think of meditation when it comes to mind training. However there are multiple components in the mind can effect your game/decisions. It could be a thought process! Just like physical body or metabolism, our mind also has a mechanism to pause resistance or make the process more fluid. The latter helps an athlete shed their fears, stay focused, and become calmer. You will often see this quality in many greats of the sports world, and they’re notwnot necessarily practisingt meditation.
If you think of intermittent fasting as ‘no food’, you will instigate your mind to feel hungry and your body to get lazy. Whereas, think of fasting as a tool for autophagy or a process to burn stored fat, will make you treat it as part of training and reap benefits from it. Similarly, thinking of stretching or relaxation to be an integral part of your fitness, instead of thinking it as a muscle opener, will make you reap maximum benefits from it. Give what your body wants!
Ques: Where does holisticness come in this?
a) To gauge the appropriateness of the food depends on lot of factors and it is not as simple as looking into a diet and adapting it. The requirements vary for every individual.
b) To measure the effect of training in your sporting movements. If you are not improving your movements then you are less likely to improve your game. There is no concept of ‘maintenance’ in young age. One needs to build up first.
c) To understand a players body requirement on the basis of their condition in context of their game.
Ques: Why is this thinking is required?
Because what works for someone doesn’t necessarily work for others. Help athletes to become their best version is the broader aim of this type of thinking.
What is Holistic Fitness?
Lets look at a few more reasons/explanations/situations to drive home my final point:
- Physical fitness is generally attended via different training methodologies and interestingly no one type of exercising or training program is complete for sportspersons. Where athletes need strength to generate power in their sport; they also need fluidity in their movement to use their strength optimally. And how does one achieve fluidity in movement is where all the rest of the training components fall – including strength, flexibility, balance, etc.
- Persistent stress on specific muscles/joints creates an imbalance in the body, This imbalance hinders the sporting movements which further means that an athlete may fall short of their best performance. Not to mention injuries which may also be one of the outcomes of this imbalance. This could be addressed by combining balancing, stretching, and relaxation on the basis of individual needs. Do we consider this training? NO….
- Following proper biomechanics allows your body to straighten out (muscles working properly) in training and stay injury free. This liberates an athlete to improve consistently instead of just maintaining their fitness level/speed/pace. Training therefore should incorporate the aspects of biomechanics wherever possible. Example: How and how much force you put into the ground is one of the preliminary factors to determine how fast you take off. All the rest comes later. Ironically we only train ‘all the rest’ most of the times.
- Strength – a subject that has not been understood very well by sportspersons. How much strength is enough? Do you lack in strength? Do you lose strength if you are playing regularly in a season? How much is enough considering your sport? What kind of strength is needed considering your profile? Strength is a very important component in sports fitness, however we need to tread a little more carefully here and presently the sports world isn’t really doing that. Gym is just not for lifting. You can train at the gym for all aspects of fitness. But do we?
Power = Fluid movement + Existing strength
Only if existing strength (with regard to your sport) is not enough that we should think of gaining strength. Else we should only focus on bringing fluidity in the movement which in turn will bring more power.
Physical fitness is a highly complex concoction of several elements and it cannot be achieved by following just one type of training. One doesn’t need to conduct a research to affirm this….injuries in sports today tell you all. You can find several articles with case studies and science explanations covering all the above and here are a few that I thought cover the importance of bringing holisticness in training:
- Have we gone all wrong about stretching?
- Biomechanics – the key connection
- Why upper back health?
- What brings speed in you?
- Do we lose strength in a season?
- How do we get imbalanced
B) Holisticness in Metabolism?
- Genes (along with other metabolic factors) play a very important role in what your body can ingest. However it is also (or majorly) possible that the food you are eating is no longer suiting your body, even though there are no genetic or cultural changes. Therefore, sticking to a stipulated food diet may require scrutiny to check if one is getting the proper nutrition from the food and whether the food is suiting their metabolic machinery. Nutrition is the back bone of a stronger self.
- Our body requires ‘X’ amount of energy at a given time. What if we are consuming ‘X+Y’? What happens to the ‘Y’? Having said that, it is almost impossible to eat the exact quantity and type of food as per our body requirement! Therefore it is important to evaluate not just the quantum of food we are eating, but also the type of food we should ingest given our energy requirement and our metabolic machinery to ensure the ‘Y’ doesn’t trouble us.
- When we look at food from energy or health perspective, we call it nutrition. Even though we have to deal with just two substrates – fat & carbs; it is still enough to confuse the whole world. Whether one needs more fat or more carbs is more dependent on the individual (metabolic machinery) in most cases and less on the sport they play.
- Lastly, there is protein. How much of it? When? Do we need it even though protein is available in most foods we eat? I don’t think we understand the role of protein properly. I have covered this subject in depth in my below mentioned article. And all those people who are promoting protein as a substrate to lose weight…kindly bring your science forward. Because I couldn’t find a single physiological explanation that explains weight loss via protein unless you are swapping the calories.
Below mentioned are a few articles on the subject of nutrition giving you enough reasons to think about this subject:
C) Mental health?
I am not an expert on the subject but I know how to bring calmness in otherwise charismatic & enthusiastic characters.
- Any movement is a result of hundreds/thousands of cells interacting at different levels. With ‘Central Nervous System’ at the helm, mind is our body’s ignition.
- Human mind has a typical trait of rejecting anything that looks daunting. Mind training is nothing but a persistent effort to keep changing this trait to accept the challenge. It is not always the physical capability alone!
- Where internal communication (from CNS to muscles) via neurotransmitters can be strengthened via training and gut/organ health via proper nutrition, individually; training the mental aspect helps us integrate all together. Imagine flawless circuits going back and forth working unitedly….
Conclusion: This might sound all too much but in simple words it only means: ‘eat what suits your body’ and ‘train as per your body requirement’. And this is only possible when you have a mind that understands this.
Holistic = Physical training + Metabolic health + Mind training
And this doesn’t necessarily mean one needs mind training separately. Mind is an integral part of the whole process.
How holistic training can have implications on calmness, fluidity, & power can be seen in this video: Holistic approach to skill set
Interesting fact: When you look at the world’s top sportspersons, you find they are of two kinds: those who are always concerned about their training, food, or practice and those who never talk about these aspects and continue to show their greatness with calm head. Either way they have it all covered. In my opinion the holistic approach can help an athlete bring calmness in their enthusiasm.