If you’ve ever flown on a plane usually you get a look into the cockpit. Have you ever taken a moment to really look at it?
There’s a bewildering number of dials switches and other things. My thought was, “how the heck do they keep track of all that?”
One time I was waiting for a flight and a pilot happened to come sit down next to me. I struck up a conversation with him about his career and later brought up the quesiton above.
“How the heck do you keep track of all those dials?”
He smiled and said, “its not as hard as you think. There’s really only about five that I pay attention to. Those five are the ones that keep the plane flying and get us to our destination safely and on time. The others, I only use if I see a problem on one of the five main dials. If I do see an issue I then know to look at the others to get more information about the issue and how to address it.”
That was an a-ha moment for me.
Why is this important and what does it have to do with health and fitness?
Well, think about the pilot for a second. If the pilot had to pay attention to ALL the dials he wouldn’t be able to focus on the most important task – Flying the plane.
So, let’s translate that to fitness. Think about it for a second.
These days we seem to be on fitness overload. We wear fitness tracking devices that give us a wide variety of statistics. We’re on social media where we are bombarded with information on what do to/eat/think to be healthier. The never ending stream of infomercials on TV pitching the latest and greatest new product that’s going to help us lose weight and get in shape and so on.
It leads to chaos and confusion for most of us and it’s something I work on with my clients every day.
So, going back to my story about the pilot instead of trying to monitor hundreds of dials of information to measure our fitness lets strip it down to just five.
These are the same five I use myself to track how I’m doing health wise and ones I use with many of my clients.
My Five “Dials” are:
1. Weight & Body Composition a.k.a. Body Fat
2. Resting Heart Rate
3. Average Hours of Sleep per Night
4. Steps per Week
5. Strength measurements (e.g., how many squats I can do at x weight or how many pushups I can do in a minute)
Why do I use these? Because A) These have been shown to be a good guide to having a healthier life and when you see changes in them it indicates that there may be something askew that you need to look into further.
For example if you see sudden increases or decreases in weight, or perhaps your Resting Heart Rate suddenly goes up, you may want to try and figure out why or perhaps speak to your doctor.
With sleep and steps these are good indications of how much your moving and well sleeping.
As for the strength of these numbers, they give me an idea of how well I’m progressing with my workouts and how effective they are.
These are the basics that work for me and it should be noted that your dials may look a little different based on your goals and current health.
If, for example, you are a diabetic or pre-diabetic, you many need to monitor your blood sugar. Or you might want/need to monitor blood pressure, or any number of metric. What to measure and in what way is something you should speak with your medical professional about,
The point is to have five dials that you’re regularly looking at that give you the information you need to to get your “destination.”
Oh, and of course, the question of having more than five dials tends to come up..
Basically, through trial and error, five seems to be the sweet spot of what you can focus on and what should give you the big picture that you need to make the right decisions to achieve your goals.
Any more than that can leave to information overload and often paralysis by analysis.
Plus, at least in my experience, most people aren’t regularly monitoring any dials, five is plenty.
So take a few minutes and figure out what your five dials are and as we move into the new year strive to focus on those five and get them in the green. I’d bet if you do you’ll see improvements in your health.
Dan Romand is co-owner and operator of Full Circle Fitness-NY in Albany and Saratoga Springs, where he is also a certified personal trainer. Romand’s Health & Fitness article appears regularly in both TheSpot518 and in our monthly magazine, Senior Spotlight.