The final five percent is a poor foundation for fitness

Mark Sisson has a great post up today called The Cost of “Perfection” that’s a must read for everyone concerned about optimizing physical fitness.  Here’s a prime (primal?) excerpt that captures the essence of the piece:

There’s no point in making yourself miserable just to lose weight or pump out a few more reps, when following a few simple fitness rules, eating right, and tinkering with some easy lifestyle hacks will get you most of the way there. To break it down further:

  • 80 percent of your genetic potential for body composition is determined by what you eat. You’ve probably heard me say this in the past. Eat Primal and you’re almost there.
  • Five more percent of your body composition can be further influenced by how much sleep and leisure time you get and how you moderate your stress levels. Lifestyle stuff.
  • 10 more percent of your genetic potential for body composition will come from smart exercise: Lifting Heavy Things, Sprinting, and Moving Frequently at a Slow Pace
  • The final five percent of your potential body composition/physical performance is achieved with more advanced training and highly specialized athletic goals. We’re getting into hours-long gym session, pain and punishment territory. [ed. – emphasis mine]

Can we really call our conventional ideas of physical perfection perfect if they come with so many downsides for so many people? What good is “elite” if maintaining that level of performance means you’re not available to enjoy the rest of your life? Is that last five percent really necessary?

Bottom line – heavy endurance training occupies that final 5%. And the problem is that many people try to make that final 5% the foundation of their health and fitness.

So if you want to dabble in this arena, make sure you’re effectively following the other 95% by eating the right foods, getting the right physical exercise (NOT heavy cardio), and allowing for proper recovery through adequate sleep and “down time.”

Remember, endurance training is an enhanced level of physical activity that operates best off of a pre-existing foundation of excellent fitness.  And your seasonal triathlon or marathon training (5%) will not make up for neglecting this foundation (95%) the rest of the year.

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