Now Reading
Coaches Corner With Carl Hardwick: Basic Lifestyle Guidelines – The Foundation

Coaches Corner With Carl Hardwick: Basic Lifestyle Guidelines – The Foundation

basic lifestyle guidelines
You can’t build sustainable change on a shaky foundation. These 8 lifestyle habits are an essential base that will set you up for a lifetime of health and fitness

At OPEX, we’ve taught our coaches for years that we can’t build upon a shaky foundation and that a solid foundation consists of doing the simple things first. When it comes to fitness and wellness, many people focus on finding the perfect program or diet to achieve their goals. But before jumping into a complicated regimen, it’s essential to first establish a strong foundation of healthy habits. That’s where Basic Lifestyle Guidelines (BLGs) come in. BLGs are simple, natural, holistic, intuitive, biologically sound, impactful, foundational and revealing guidelines that form the basis of a healthy lifestyle. They are like tempo in exercise—you don’t have to track them, but if you ignore them, you risk building a shaky foundation.

BLGs are the essential building blocks of success, consistency and fitness. You cannot build anything sustainable without the basics taken care of, and that’s where BLGs come in. In order of impact, the BLGs are alignment, movement, energy, sleep, hydration, food (hygiene and quality), sunshine and poop.


Alignment is sometimes called goals, aim or intentions, but the term alignment represents your client’s personal alignment and their alignment with you, their coach. Alignment is fluid, as goals, intentions and motivations may shift over time, but we must keep a finger on the pulse and continually reassess. Finding alignment is often the biggest challenge in a coach-client relationship. Why are we doing this? What are we moving towards? Do we agree on the path to get there? Are we, as coaches, aligned?

Did You Know…
Having a sense of purpose and alignment in life can improve your overall health? Studies have shown that people with a clear sense of purpose tend to have lower levels of inflammation and a lower risk of chronic diseases.


From a biological standpoint, being synced with our natural rhythms is vital and has downstream effects across all BLGs. Wake/sleep cycles are in our DNA. We are wired to sleep with the moon and rise with the sun. There are many other BLGs that can disrupt this, such as consistency in daily activities, including when you eat, poop, sleep, move and more.

Did You Know…
Cortisol plays a key role in regulating energy levels and the circadian rhythm? Cortisol levels are typically highest in the morning, helping to wake us up and get us going for the day, and gradually decrease as the day goes on. Disruptions to this pattern, such as irregular sleep schedules or night-time light exposure, can throw off the circadian rhythm and lead to disruption.


Food quality and hygiene are crucial for health and well-being. In OPEX CCP, we break down food profiles into distinct groups, ranging from inadequate to highest order. It’s essential to consider the nutritional awareness and density of your food choices. Additionally, practicing good food hygiene is crucial, such as considering where you eat your food, with whom, how much time it takes to eat your food, how many chews per bite on average and whether you can move with energy post-meal. Food quality and hygiene should be addressed prior to moving to more complex nutrition prescriptions such as fasting, specialty diets and macronutrient prescriptions.

Did You Know…
Eating slowly and mindfully can improve your digestion and help you feel more satisfied with your meals? Chewing your food thoroughly and taking the time to savor your meals can also help you make more mindful food choices.


Hydration is another vital BLG. Aim to drink at least 50% of your body weight in ounces of water per day. Hydration is crucial for energy and physical performance, cognitive function and digestion.

Did You Know…
Thirst is not always a reliable indicator of dehydration, especially in older adults? It’s important to drink water regularly throughout the day as dehydration can affect your mood, digestion, energy, cognitive function and overall health.


Movement is crucial for overall health and well-being. Whether it’s exercising in the gym, walking, hiking,or biking, incorporating movement into your daily routine is a must.

Did You Know…
Walking can improve cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke? It can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Regular walking can aid in weight management, improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can also boost cognitive function and memory.

Basic lifestyle guidelines


Sunshine is an essential component of our overall health. The more sun exposure we can get, the better we produce melatonin while we sleep and absorb vitamin D.

Did You Know…
Exposure to sunlight can help regulate your circadian rhythm and improve your sleep quality? Sunlight exposure can also boost your mood and improve your vitamin D levels.


See Also

Getting quality sleep is crucial for overall health and well-being. Aim for at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, and pay attention to the quality of your sleep. Establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a bedtime routine that helps you wind down before bed. Avoid electronics before bed, and make sure your sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to sleep.

Did You Know…
Getting enough deep sleep is important for memory consolidation and cognitive function? Deep sleep is also essential for your body’s recovery and repair processes.


Poop is also an important BLG, as it’s an indicator of your digestive health. Aim to have at least one bowel movement per day, and pay attention to the quality of your poop. The Bristol Stool Chart is a helpful tool for assessing the quality of your bowel movements. Ideally, your poop should be a type 4 on the chart, which is like a sausage or a snake, smooth and soft. If you’re experiencing irregularity, consider increasing your fiber intake, staying hydrated and incorporating movement into your daily routine.

Did You Know…
Having a daily bowel movement that falls within the type 4 range on the Bristol Stool Chart has numerous health benefits? These include improved digestive health, reduced risk of colon cancer, improved nutrient absorption, increased energy levels and better overall health.

Putting it all together

When it comes to assessing and Rx’ing BLGs, it’s essential to start with an intake form and initial consultation. The intake form and consultation allow for an understanding of the client’s goals, energy levels and daily routine. From there, it’s essential to identify where there are deficiencies and prioritize which BLGs to focus on first. Building habits takes time, so starting with the lowest-hanging fruit and prescribing achievable habits is key.

It’s ok to live in the BLGs and never move to more complex nutrition protocols; in fact, you probably should, with most clients. BLGs are foundational and will have the most significant impact for the longest period of time.

Before jumping into a complicated program or diet, establish a strong foundation of healthy habits with Basic Lifestyle Guidelines (BLGs). Align your goals, sync your natural rhythms, prioritize food quality and hygiene, stay hydrated, incorporate movement into your daily routine, get plenty of sunshine and prioritize sleep and healthy bowel movements. By focusing on these BLGs, you’ll set yourself and your clients up for success, consistency, and a healthy lifestyle that can be sustained for the long haul. Remember, you can’t build anything sustainable on a shaky foundation, so prioritize the BLGs first and don’t get caught up in the hype of an advanced nutrition prescription.

Next week’s column: The Best Way To Increase Aerobic Capacity

Carl Hardwick, CEO of OPEX Fitness and CoachRx, is a strong advocate for bringing honor to the coaching profession and raising the value of all fitness coaches. He lectures frequently about program design, business systems and building a sustainable coaching career. Follow him on Instagram @hardwickcarl and OPEX Fitness on YouTube.

Scroll To Top