Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I became well acquainted with the popular phrase, “No Pain, No Gain!” Songs were written about it, tank tops displayed it, and corporate executives used it to motivate their team.

While I believe this motto is extremely useful, I also believe in the principles that Stephen R. Covey defines as timeless, universal, and self-evident. Specifically, I believe that we must work hard to sculpt muscle, refine our lifestyle, or make a relationship work. But I also believe in the principle that we in the West call “balance.” In the East, this same principle is referred as yin and yang. These complementary symbols hold that true health is only achieved when the yang is balanced with yin.

In Chinese philosophy, yang is the masculine energy, and yin is the feminine energy. This relationship is not only the center of optimal human functioning, but it is also seen throughout nature and the universe. Yang is the energy that gets you up, goes to work, completes the project, paints the house and gives the energy for exercise. Yin, on the other hand, is the energy of cultivation and culmination that yang springs from. For example, how can you workout (yang) if you have not recharged or restored your energy from your last workout? The rebuilding and recharging of energy comes from yin.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that worships and praises yang, and rejects yin. For example, have you ever asked somebody about his or her day, and they ramble off something like, “Man, I am just so busy, I don’t even know what day it is!” Underneath their superficial disgust, they flaunt their “busy card” as a badge of honor. Executives praise employees who work voluntary overtime and “burn the candle at both ends.” As a culture, we have created the false belief that there is never any gain or profit without a tremendous amount of pain and work.

I, myself, have been the victim of this, and I still have to keep myself in check daily. The reality is that we all need a good amount of yin in our lives to allow our nervous, immune, and other critical bodily systems to work at their optimum level, and, sadly, we often turn our backs to this truth. Here are a few simple suggestions to help you achieve greater health and fitness by doing LESS!

-When you feel exhausted, take a day off from the gym and do something less strenuous, like yoga, Tai Chi, or mediation.   These activities will allow your nervous system to recover and give you greater energy for your next intense workout!

-Get at least 8 hours of sleep! Stop trying to convince yourself that you are so busy that you can’t even get enough sleep! Few things will hamper your health and fitness efforts faster than this.

-Take “light” or “medium” days at the gym or on the trail. Instead of always going hard and intense, lighten up! A good example would be with circuit training. If your workout calls for 5 circuits normally, but your body is telling you to take it easy, then take a circuit or two off of your workout! Remember, you are actually gaining more by doing less!

These are just a few of the many methods that you can employ that will help your body recover and get the needed rest that it needs to perform optimally. Never turn your back on the fact that your body needs yang, but it certainly needs and DESERVES a little more yin.

This is Griff Neilson reminding you to:

“Never Excuse Away Your Inner Greatness!”

And always remember . . .

Life is Good!

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