Getting fit and healthy is something we all want, but it's often hard to know the best ways to reach your fitness and weight loss goals. It can be a difficult road to get to where we want to be. You CAN get healthier if you set your mind to it. With it being the New Year, many people set unrealistic goals to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time. Setting a goal to lose 10 lbs this week is not a realistic goal, and you will likely fail. You also won’t keep the weight off if you set unrealistic goals. The best thing to do is to focus on eating healthy and getting in healthy movement that feels good. Why? Because it is good for your body and it allows you to continue to move forward without injuries. Succeeding in doing a 10 minute gentle workout daily is better than jumping into a 45 minute intense workout, failing and getting injured and then quitting altogether.
TIP #1: Start slowly and make exercise a habit.
If you are brand new to fitness, or returning to fitness after not exercising for a long time, START SLOWLY. Aim to do 10 minutes of exercise. It might mean a 10 minute gentle seated or standing workout. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do it. Make a plan to continue to come back daily to exercise for 10 minutes (or whatever amount of time you decide on). The goal is to make exercise a habit and to be consistent. Find any movement or exercise that you enjoy. It might mean a gentle walk outside, or following a workout online. Find something that you can stick with. Continue to stick with 10 minutes of exercise until you feel ready to move forward. That might mean 2-3 weeks down the road, or 2 months down the road. It really depends on YOU. When you feel ready, add on 5-10 minutes each day. You can do 10 minutes of exercise in the morning, and add on 5-10 minutes of exercise in the evening, or do all 15-20 minutes together. Over time, the goal is to get in 30 minutes of total cardiovascular exercise a day.
If you've been consistently exercising for months or years, at some point the same routines are going to get easy. Change is up, increase the pace or increase the amount of time you workout in order to continue to see changes. If you don't, you'll hit a plateau since our bodies adapt quickly. Doing the same walk everyday will not allow your body to see change or results (plus, it gets pretty darn boring, too!).
TIP #2: Drink lots of water throughout the day.
Too many people are dehydrated and don’t get in enough water throughout the day. Get rid of sodas and juice (which have TONS of calories), and only drink water. When you get up in the morning, drink a glass of water and keep a water bottle with you at your desk or on your counter at home. This will allow you to see how much you’re drinking (or how little you’re drinking). Before you eat a snack or meal, have another glass of water. Often we think we’re hungry, but we’re actually thirsty.
TIP #3: Be mindful of what you are eating.
When you’re eating, truly focus on your snack or meal. Don’t eat while watching TV or reading on your tablet or computer. Take some time out of your busy day to really focus on what you are putting into your body and appreciate the taste of the food you are eating. Try to get in lots of lean protein (eggs, chicken, fish) with lunch and dinner and have salad or veggies with most meals. Eating a healthy snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon with either fruit or veggies, and a small protein snack (boiled egg, nuts or yogurt) will help you to eat less at meal times.
TIP #4: Do strength training!
If you are over 40, you should absolutely be doing strength training. Strength training builds stronger bones and muscles, speeds up your metabolism, has your body burning more calories after a workout is finished, and makes you look more lean and toned. As we get older, strength training allows us to walk longer, prevents falls, and keeps us living independent longer. Who doesn’t want that? If you’re not using weights and not doing strength training, it’s definitely time to start.
I’ve made it easy. There are 6 levels of strength training workout calendars on this website for you. Find the level that suits you, and get started today! Ideally, you want to do a full body workout (upper and lower body) 2-3 times a week, or split the workouts up so you’re doing upper body one day, and lower body the next day. There are many different ways to put together strength workouts throughout a week.
TIP #5: Add in interval training 1-2 times a week
Interval training can be labeled as Tabata, Hiit (high intensity interval training), 30/20/10 or 10/20/30, Fartlek training or simply interval training. They are all forms of interval training. Throughout an IT workout, you start with a warm-up, pick up the pace, slow it down, pick it up and so on. The goal is to get you to push yourself harder during the fast paced intervals. If you are new to fitness, it might mean just picking up your walking pace a little bit during the fast intervals, but if you’ve been working out for a longer period of time and are fit, it means going faster. During interval training, it’s very important to be aware of your heart rate, and to monitor how hard you can or should be working out. If you are pushing yourself, be sure to get approval from your family doctor to ensure it’s safe for you, and monitor your heart rate throughout the workout. Anytime you feel it’s too much, slow the pace down.
TIP #6: Eat lots of veggies!
So many of us don’t eat enough vegetables during the day. Cut up veggies for the week, or buy a veggie tray to make it easier, and snack on veggies while preparing meals, or have them first for your mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. You'll eat less of the other food if you've eaten veggies first.
TIP #7: Don’t eat after 7 pm
By not eating close to bedtime, your body will have time to digest the food before bedtime. Also, people tend to snack on unhealthy food in the evenings, or just eat out of habit. One way to stop eating is to brush and floss your teeth shortly after dinner and set a time that works for you. If you go to bed early around 9 or 10, not eating after 7 is a good habit to get into.
TIP #8: If you don’t feel like exercising, set a goal for 10 minutes of exercise
For most of us, we become more lethargic as the day goes on, procrastinate exercising, and then lose all energy and motivation to exercise. If you’re retired and have time, exercise in the morning. It doesn’t mean exercising first thing when you wake up, but plan to exercise an hour or two after breakfast. Get your body moving and you will definitely be energized and feel better mentally as well. On the bad days, promise yourself that you will exercise for 10 minutes and then you can stop if you really can’t do more. But, my guess is the 10 minutes will energize you so that you will WANT to do more. If you’re depressed, it will help you to cope better, and will help you to think more positively.
TIP #9: Follow the 2 minute movement challenge
Many people get in their 30 minutes of exercise, but then sit for the majority of the day outside of their workout time. As much as you can, move at other times during the day. Go for a walk, add in some sit-to-stands or squats during the day, or follow the 2 minute movement challenge. Set times (for example, every 30 or 60 minutes) when you'll move your body for a designated time such as 2 minutes. Walk or jog on the spot, or move in whatever way you feel like moving for 2 full minutes. Every little bit helps and the extra movement will also help to energize you. To read more, click here.
In conclusion, there will often be setbacks, but the main thing is not to let a setback stop you from starting over again. When you miss a day of exercising due to life getting in the way, just restart again. If you eat too much one day, that is life and it happens…it doesn’t mean you failed. It means you are human, and you can look forward to a better day tomorrow.
Last tip, #10: Write out a list of why you want to exercise (or if you don’t want to exercise, why you should exercise)
I’m not going to write out the list for you, since this is YOUR list and your reasons to exercise. Think of all of the benefits of exercise, and what it means to you to be healthy. Check out NSV’s online (non-scale victories) to get ideas. Post your list somewhere where you will see it often as a reminder to yourself of why you want to become healthier and more fit this year.
Being healthy is not about how you look, but about how you feel about yourself. It’s about being healthy enough to enjoy life because we all deserve to be happy and healthy.
You are in charge of changing your future to be the best you can be. If you want an exercise calendar to follow, you can find various workout calendars created for you under the 'Workout Calendar' tab on the top of the website.