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The Four Pillars of Health & Wellness

If you had asked me 10 years ago, I would’ve told you everything can be solved in the gym. No matter the situation, big or small, lift big weights, and you’ll be sweet.

But through my own experiences of injury (3 ACL reconstructions at a young age), and that of my clients, I began to see that health & wellness is a complex interplay between various factors. Now that I’m a little older, a little wiser (you don’t know what you don’t know!) I’m a firm believer in a holistic approach – a pillar approach, if you will. Movement, mindset, nutrition, and recovery. Each pillar is as important as the last and sustains the next. But if one falls, they all fall – like a domino effect. So without further adieu, here is your guide to elevated health & wellness, the pillared way.

1. Movement: Move often, move well!

All too often, exercise is thought of as needing to be hard n’ fast like Crossfit, or ridiculously heavy like bodybuilders – and If you’re not pulling funny faces and making grunting noises, you’re doing it wrong! Well, in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth (In fact, these two groups of people end up on my assessment table more often than anyone else).

The body was designed to move (think hunter-gatherer). Still, by today’s standards, most of society doesn’t tick the box of regular activity (30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week). They also don’t train them in functional capacities, which increases the risk of injury. Think about it, if you never practice lifting heavy things with good form (deadlift), how will you go when you need to move house next? Or if you never learn how to land well in a jump, how’s that knee going on your next 5k fun run adventure?

The full list of Fundamental Movement Patterns:

  • Hinge
  • Squat
  • Single Leg
  • Horizontal Push & Pull
  • Vertical Push & Pull
  • Loaded Carry
  • Core
  • Locomotive
  • Jump

Not only is it important to get the right exercises into your program, but it must be done with the correct form. Exercises with poor technique result in injury, and time on the treatment table. But exercises done well feel powerful, look good, and actually fit the intention of the movement pattern in the first place. Ever looked at an olympic athlete and thought, “Wow, they look so graceful doing that.” It’s because they practised with intent and purpose.

Key Actionables:
  • Get at least 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week (150min/week minimum)
  • Incorporate both strength training and cardio
  • Find the minimal effective dose, to begin with
  • Tick off the fundamental movement patterns in the gym

2. Mindset: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right!

Having a strong mindset is what gears us towards success in life – And a successful life starts with healthy little habits, done repeatedly. All too often, stress, anxiety, and the very primal monkey brain full of wild thoughts can take over, Pulling the conscious mind out of control. Will I ever get better? Can I get through this rehab process? We start to question our very capacity to achieve goals. But the beautiful thing about the human body is, for the most part – it’s designed to heal itself. This wonderful machine we have is a problem solver and has often limitless capacities.

Mindfulness is the tool we can use to help us overcome this obstacle. Think about it as mental reps for the brain. Every time the conscious brain falls off a task, if you bring it back to the present (what’s real), you develop a stronger mentality et stronger in your head. And a strong head can achieve anything.

Key Actionables:
  • Meditate/Breathwork for 10min every morning
  • Practice being present and mindful throughout the day
  • Journal your day
  • Make a gratitude list
  • Practice visualisation

3. Nutrition: Eat with purpose!

If you put special unleaded petrol with 10% ethanol into your Ferrari, you’re not going to go very far! The same goes for our bodies – what we put in is fuel for what we want to do! When it comes to nutrition for a goal – such as weight loss, muscle growth, or injury recovery we want to make sure we aren’t in a nutritional debt that might be slowing us down from achieving our goals.

In terms of guidelines, try to eat foods that aren’t highly processed (eg. grains and cereals), inflammatory ( eg. junk foods – especially when looking to recover from injury!), and come as close to the natural source as possible. Remember, if it doesn’t fly, crawl, run, swim, fall from a tree or grow in the ground – think twice before eating it!

Key Actionables:
  • Get food as close to the natural source as possible
  • Eat the rainbow (different coloured fruit and veg)
  • Drink 2-3L of filtered water per day
  • Consume a good source of protein with every meal

4. Recovery: Recharge the Batteries

One of the coolest superheroes growing up for me was Wolverine. Not only did he have super strength, cat-like claws, and a badass attitude, but he could also regenerate and heal his body super fast!

That is what recovery is all about – returning the body to a balanced state, ready to fight another day. It’s about shifting away from the sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ system to the parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ system. But don’t be fooled – recovery in an active form can include things like yoga, pilates, light walking, hot/cold immersion, trigger point release, massage, and breathwork.

Nutrition, alongside sleep, is also a large player in the recovery process. Sleep, in particular, consider like the night shift of the body – regenerating cells, releasing hormones, and healing the body. Yet sleep is the number one performance enhancing tool most people aren’t doing!

Key Actionables:

  • Sleep 7-9 hours every night
  • Try 2 min of recovery breathwork following your next session
  • Get active recovery into your schedule at least twice a week
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that supports recovery
 
 
 
Yours in health & wellness, 

Danegerous

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By Dane Larsen

Hi there! My name’s Dane, I'm a Strength & Rehab Specialist, and University Accredited Exercise Physiologist. I help people move better, get pain-free, and bio-hack the system. I’m passionate about empowering others to achieve their goals through a holistic approach to health and wellness.