Vail Daily column: What about the other 165 hours in a week? |

Vail Daily column: What about the other 165 hours in a week?

The challenges facing individuals who wish to increase fitness and avoid the complications associated with the alternative aren’t solved in the gym. Real changes happen when people perform a self-inventory on what isn’t working in their life that hinders wellness; total fitness is achieved when the other hours spent outside of the gym are addressed.

Assume the average gym-goer exercises three hours per week. There is 165 hours per week left to potentially wreak havoc on the body. If the other variables aren’t paid the respect they deserve, fitness results will suffer greatly.


Important factors to consider are diet, stress management, sleep, spiritual wellbeing, life balance and mental toughness.

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Diet: Diet is ultimately the No. 1 limiting factor for the vast majority of individuals who wish to obtain peak fitness. The average fitness enthusiast already knows this. You are not going to outwork a bad diet; I don’t care how hard you work or how tough you think you are.

I have worked with countless people who are relatively fit but are otherwise overweight. I firmly believe that 90 percent of all body composition changes, and more specifically fat loss attempts, are achieved through eating less.

Make dietary changes for life. Figure out what works for you and do it! There are great nuggets to learn from most popular nutrition programs. The Paleo diet, eating six small healthy meals a day, Atkins diet, intermittent fasting, counting calories and vegetarian plant-based diets all work. The caveat is that you must follow the diet!

Lastly, a lot of people will make excuses related to hormonal changes, age and other uncontrollable changes. I fully understand that these realities are unavoidable and sometimes tough to handle. However, don’t pull out the menopause card as you leave the gym and stop at the convenience store on the way home and purchase a king-size pack of M&M’s and a liter of Diet Coke. Champions don’t drink Diet Coke.

Stress: Stress is another fitness killer. Even though life stress is unavoidable, we must strive to reduce stress as much as we can.

Most painful life circumstances are unavoidable, so quit wasting time worrying about things that are out of your control and focus on what things you can control. Furthermore, most of the big things we fear in life don’t come to pass anyway. Stay in the present and don’t fret about tomorrow, because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

Sleep: Fitness acquisition happens when (good) stress we place on our bodies from exercise is balanced with proper diet and sleep. Sub-optimal sleep habits are associated with obesity, decreased cognition, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure and other nasty problems.

Relating to weight management, there are peptides that help control appetite that are adversely affected by poor sleeping habits. Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite. Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin.

Spiritual well-being: Jesus of Nazareth said “In this world you will have trouble.” That is an impressive summary of life, and I will challenge you to realize that fitness is easier achieved being at peace with yourself and the chaos around us.

Family values, relationships, integrity, moral character and a belief system is important for self-worth and realization of your full fitness potential.

Life balance: I know several people who are lean, strong and very capable of impressive physical feats yet are still unwell.

Too much time at the office can lead to a host of problems. Even though we must work hard, building strong relationships with people, powder days, vacations and other time away reduces burnout. Besides, when was the last time you went to the gym after working a 16 hour day at the office?

Mental toughness: Guess what? Displaying high levels of fitness and adopting a healthy lifestyle is extremely hard work that requires discipline. It requires attention to all of these qualities mentioned in this article and more. You will have to sweat. You will develop calluses on your hands. You will go to bed hungry at times. You might have to give up drinking alcohol for a period of time, eat foods you don’t like and give up the foods you do like.

Get used to this because these changes are sometimes necessary to achieve healthy living. Besides, is eating donuts, potato chips and drinking so much that you can barely function the next day really living?

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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