This is the 2nd in a 3-article series with the purpose to cover the most essential elements of personal well-being in context of CrossFit and everyday performance. If you haven’t already read the 1st article, I suggest you start with that, since the continuity bases its foundation on the very fundamentals and systematically advances to new aspects of this subject.
Link to 1st article – Understanding CrossFit: The hierarchical pyramid of development
Here, we will move a bit away from CrossFit itself, to examine how your daily routines outside the gym reflect on your physical health. Studies have shown that evert fourth human today does not get enough physical exercise, mostly due to a sedentary lifestyle. While the solutions are simple, it can actually be quite demanding to carry out the small exercise tasks during the day if you are not committed enough.
2nd article: Sedentary Behaviour and physical inactivity
I want begin by asking you a simple, yet quite an important question: Do you regularly have in mind the impact your everyday routines have on your performance in the gym, and if even a slight optimization could benefit your development as a CrossFit athlete? If not, then think it through before you continue reading (Hint: check out the CrossFit pyramid in the 1st article to get on track what this is about)
Common thoughts that may pop into your mind at this stage is nutrition and sleep, but how about incidental activity (hyötyliikunta)? Incidental activity is proposed as a preventive factor for health conditions associated with sedentary behaviour (istuminen ja fyysinen passiivisuus), e.g. cardiovascular disease (sydän- ja verisuonitauti), type 2 diabetes, hypertension (kohonnut verenpaine) and high cholesterol. In this context, these health risks are not the essential parts and are therefore excluded. I don’t believe that those who perform CrossFit on a regularly basis is in the primary risk group for such illnesses. However, even the regular CrossFit athlete can become victim of other kinds of harms that are related to sedentary behaviour (sitting or lying) and physical inactivity (not being active).
Harmful effects from a sedentary lifestyle
The impairment from a sedentary lifestyle can sometimes be quite indistinguishable, and thus not easy to notice. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the damage it causes, in order to more easily identify the signs which, enable you to make a change. A sedentary lifestyle can cause the following harmful effects to your body:
- Lower metabolism, which means fewer calories burned and is a result from your body basically shutting down while being sedentary. The risk here, is that your energy balance is becoming unstable that often is from irregular nutrition, and since your appetite does not decrease proportionally to your metabolism, it can additionally cause weight gain.
- Loss of flexibility, which is due to decreased blood flow to your muscles. Your hip flexors and lower back will take immediate damage from sitting for long periods and your muscles will probably need an extended time to recover because of physical passiveness.
- Loss of muscle strength, as well as Aerobic Capacity is due to inactivity. The development and recovery of your muscles occur during sleep, but if they remain too passive throughout the day, the progress can stop and start reversing to the worse.
Have you ever wondered why the workouts are not going the way you expected, or why you are not getting better at CrossFit?Well, do you really expect that you can hit 100 % in the gym straight after being passive for 8 hours? Do you think that is fair to your body?
You are not Drake; you can’t go from 0 to 100 that quick.
How should you then improve your habits, and where are you supposed to start? As a simple start, try at least to stand up from your desk and walk/stretch for 1-2 minutes once an hour. Other things you can do, is to create some extra time for yourself, by optimizing your daily schedule. E.g. prepare your breakfast the night before and wake up a little bit earlier than usually. By doing this, you have time to go for a walk in the morning before starting your workday. At lunch time, if you usually order your lunch from a food delivery service, do yourself a favor and go get your lunch yourself instead of having it delivered to your door. During your workday, if you are having lots of Teams/Skype-meetings, try to schedule a walk or other type of exercise during meetings that don’t require a computer or screen. In the evening, you can energetically attend the CrossFit class and finally achieve the satisfactory amount of daily activity.
My experiences from sedentary behaviour
For the last years, I have been working a desk job that involves sitting for long periods most of the days. Even though I have a height adjusting table at the office, I rarely use it and consider the chair more comfortable. Well, what goes around comes around. I can only blame myself for complaining about precisely lower back and hip flexor issues every now and then. The situation did not get better as the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, that forced me as well as many other people, to switch their regular workplaces into their living rooms. As I found it challenging to adapt to the new environment/situation, my routines turned even more sedentary than before. The closing of all the gyms didn’t improve the circumstances either. I guess some of you recognize yourselves being in the same situation. I agree, sometimes it really sucks.
How you react to changes in your personal life is individual and is dependent many different factors. While some people, that are working from home strive to utilize the existing situation into becoming innovative, others won’t change a thing and may even see this as an opportunity to get more work done. There is a high probability that the time that usually is spent on commuting to and from work, is put on doing more work instead of taking a morning/afternoon walk. This further increase the risk of suffering from harms caused by sedentary behaviour.
I recently finished the book The Core (Voittamisen Anatomia), that I strongly advice to anyone interested in a winner’s mindsettogether with physical and mental performance. The book provided enlightening insights as well as inspiration into writing these articles.
A golden quote I found in the book concerns Physical activity and reads as follows:
“In the light of the most recent studies, there is evidence suggesting that a sales clerk who never works out but is on his or her feet all day, walking about the store, is living more healthily than someone who sits in an office all day but works out for an hour five times a week. In other words, even if you work out regularly, daily basic exercise and your general level of activity is a more important factor in influencing your health.”
So, apparently training CrossFit 5 times a week is not enough activity to cover for the sedentary harms caused by our desk job, without additional incidental activity. These are things that should be obvious to me and you, but sometimes we forget the most fundamental things and just need a reminder or a push in order to make a change for the better.
Dr. Aki Hintsa (The Core) further suggests that 8 000-10 000 steps/day is enough to achieve significant health benefits, even though you never break a sweat. Although, studies have shown that Europeans move only about 4 000-7 000 steps/day.
Let me ask you another question: How many steps do you get each day?
I have been very sedentary throughout my workdays and somedays I had only moved 500 steps when the workday was over. 500 EFFING STEPS!!! Let me clarify this, so I had used 60 % of the awaken time of my day and only managed to get 6 % of the required daily activity.
Way to go Ludde, you’re doing great….
It didn’t take long, after I forced myself to walk our dog in the morning, that I could experience improvements from the increased incidental activity. I felt more energized and the stiffness in hip-flexors and lower back was gone. I’m quite sure it also has improved my sleep quality.
Now on to The Challenge. I would want you to look over your daily activity patterns in terms of either activity duration, number of steps, or just the amount of pause breaks/walks/mobility exercises during the day.
You should then create a schedule that includes the appropriate amount of pause/mobility exercises, daily walks, and CrossFit. Your aim is to follow your schedule for at least three (3) weeks.
Daily activity examples:
- Aim for a daily minimum of 6 000 steps / 45 min walk (that’s at least something…)
- Schedule walks during your Teams/Skype meetings, whenever possible
- Schedule activities even during rest days
- Don’t have your lunch delivered to your doorstep, go get it yourself
Optimum Health Solutions – Why Is Incidental Physical Activity Important?
Fitness 19 – The harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle
Oskari Saari, Aki Hintsa – The Core (Voittamisen Anatomia)
Thank you for reading, and feel free to reach out to me at the gym or through social media.