We all know that one superstar who’s always in shape. That one person with smooth, almost effortless physicality, who makes even the toughest challenges look easy.
Growing up, I was in awe of a friend who could easily kick a soccer ball seventy-five yards, then sprint after it faster than anyone else. She played three varsity sports. She was the placekicker for the high school football team. And she looked like she belonged in a fitness magazine.
A bonafide superstar.
Some of us are born predisposed to elite levels of fitness. This can’t be ignored. However, my friend will be the first to tell you she worked her ass off to achieve success, both on and off the field.
Here are 5 ways she and others like her stay at the top of their game.
1. They set goals
“A dream without a plan is just a wish.”
Highly fit people are always in pursuit of a goal.
Goals are essential because they set the standard(s) for success. It’s impossible to know if you’ve achieved something without understanding what it is you’re trying to achieve.
If I head out the door for a run this afternoon, but have no distance, time or pace in mind, how will I know if I’m better today than I was yesterday? How will I stay motivated to run again tomorrow?
Highly fit people also set specific goals.
It’s one thing to say “my goal is to lose weight.” It’s another thing to say “my goal is to lose 20 pounds in 3 months at a rate of about 1.5 pounds per week.”
The former is an ethereal, fleeting ambition you’ll likely forget about minutes later. The latter is a developed, defined objective with clear direction and success indicators.
Goals provide a benchmark for us to work towards. And from that benchmark we derive passion, commitment and motivation. Traits you need in spades to be healthy and fit in the long-term.
2. They’re consistent
Practice makes perfect, as they say.
Highly fit people practice fitness a lot.
They rarely miss a workout. If they do, it’s likely due to something outside their control. Or it’s a scheduled rest day. And highly fit people understand the important role rest plays in a workout regimen.
They understand the need for consistency outside the gym as well. The need for staying on top of their nutrition, their sleep, their active recovery, their social and mental health. Highly fit people know they must practice these habits day in and day out to achieve and maintain success.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “if you don’t use it you lose it”. Highly fit people “use” their fitness often so they don’t lose it.
3. They binge drink…
…water, that is.
Mayoclinic recommends men drink at least 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water per day, and women drink at least 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) to fuel activity. That’s nearly 1 gallon of water per day for men and nearly 3/4 of a gallon for women. That’s a lot of water.
Highly fit people routinely go above and beyond these amounts.
Personally, when I’m logging mega miles on the trails during the warm summer months, I drink 1.5–2 gallons of water per day, and sometimes even that’s not enough.
The benefits of adequate water intake are virtually endless, but I’ll list some of the most important ones here:
regulates body temperature
removes bodily wastes through sweat and urine
lubricates and cushions joints
improves cognitive functioning
facilitates cellular growth and repair
I’m serious, the list is endless.
Now go fill up your water bottle.
4. They follow the 85/15 rule
There’s a myth going around that highly fit people eat nothing but chicken, broccoli and rice and drink nothing but water and protein shakes. And maybe some beet juice.
It’s a myth for good reason.
Truth is, highly fit people don’t just stick to ultra healthy, ultra lean foods and drinks. It’s not simply not sustainable. And definitely not enjoyable.
“One thing I’ve found that separates successful fitness people from the rest is embracing moderation in their nutrition,” says fitness guru Nick Tumminello, owner of Performance University.
“If 85% of the time you emphasize fruits, vegetables and high-quality meats, eggs and fish while limiting processed food and alcohol, then 15 percent of time you can eat whatever you want.”
Said another way, eat nutritious, whole foods 85% of the time and then go ham (literally) the other 15%.
5. They make fitness a lifestyle
This is the most important habit on this list.
Highly fit people don’t have to try to be fit. They’re fit because it’s a natural extension of their lifestyle. They move, they take action, they socialize and they exercise.
They don’t diet for 8 weeks to look good on vacation. They don’t juice cleanse for the perfect Instagram selfie. They don’t go tanning for their 20-year high school reunion. They prioritize and promote healthy living in the long-term.
They look good on vacation and in their photos and at their school reunions because they’re always taking care of their bodies. It’s just what they do.
“The most successful fit people make training and nutritious eating a way of life,” says Bret Contreras, CSCS. “Sure, they slip up from time to time just like everyone, but rest assured that they’ll be training at least a couple of days per week, 52 weeks out of the year.”
Scott Mayer is a runner, thinker, curious observer and certified personal trainer. Visit the In Fitness And In Health website for ebooks, training plans, consulting options and additional content.