I have a love-hate relationship with fitness. I love the way I feel when I’m active and fit, but hate how easy it is to lose momentum and fall back into bad, unhealthy habits. Like many of you, I overindulged through the holiday season, and just kept on indulging straight through winter right on into spring. And now that the days are longer, the weather warmer, and bathing suit season imminent, I’m on a mission to shed my winter coat and get back to my healthy self. If you’re looking to do the same, here are some tips that have worked for me in the past that will help you get more active and stay that way.
Understand that it takes work
Sadly, there is no magic pill or secret elixir you can take that will instantly make you fit. Similarly, you can’t just watch an exercise DVD or read a fitness magazine and then wake up one day with abs. Trust me, I have a stack of fitness magazines on my coffee table, but my muffin top has remained firmly attached. It takes work. Hard work. And in my experience, you need to get to that point mentally where you are ready to put in the effort and commit in order to see results.
One thing that works for me when I’m trying to get back into shape is scheduling exercising into my calendar. I might block a Wednesday evening for a hike, or a Thursday morning for a cardio class at my gym, but when I see it as a scheduled event in my calendar, I find that I’m much more likely to follow through with the “appointment.” Try it! It works. Then, when you start to relish the endorphins that come being active, you’ll find less need to schedule time to break a sweat.
Make your goals realistic
If you’ve been somewhat inactive for a while, don’t be overzealous and assume you can just leap off the couch and run 5km in 25 minutes like you did last year, or two years ago, or when you were in high school. Or, if weight loss is your goal, don’t assume that you can shed 50 pounds in two months because you saw them do it on that reality TV show. You want to set yourself up for success, not burnout or injury, which is why it is important to set realistic goals.
If your goal requires six workouts a week, but you can only get away from the office over lunch three days a week, then you need to scale back your goal. Be realistic about the amount of time you really have available and the amount of time required to get to where you want to be. Plus, by making your goals realistic, when you start to see results, you’ll be more apt to sustain those healthy habits.
Remember that small victories count! For example, I love my evening glass (or two) of wine. To say that I’m going to give up wine entirely until my abs decide to make an appearance, well, that’s just laughable. That said, I can certainly commit to only enjoying wine on the weekends. Doable, and I don’t feel hard done by = Realistic goal and a win.
Prep, prep, prep
Maintaining an active lifestyle goes hand in hand with maintaining a healthy diet. Your body needs certain vitamins and minerals to perform at its best, but does this sound familiar? You had every intention of making a healthy breakfast, complete with a delicious, freshly squeezed nutrient dense juice, but you didn’t give yourself enough time in the morning to chop the veggies for that egg white omelet, or the ingredients for your juice, so you just swing by your local Starbucks on the way to work for a bagel and a coffee. I get it. That’s me almost every day. You’d think by now I’d know how long it takes me to get ready in the morning, but I digress.
To ensure that doesn’t happen, prep all your food when you bring it home from the grocery store. Slice those strawberries, wash that spinach, chop those vegetables, and portion those chicken breasts (or tofu chunks). Then, in the evening, you’ll quickly be able to throw together a healthy lunch for the next day, and then in the morning, you’ll have everything you need ready to go to make a delicious breakfast to get you started on the right foot.
Have the right equipment
It goes without saying that you need a certain amount of equipment to support your active lifestyle: decent sneakers, a water bottle, perhaps a yoga mat, or even a kettlebell if you plan on working out from home. To me though, perhaps the most important piece of equipment is a decent set of headphones. Unless I’m taking a cardio class where I’m being yelled at by an instructor, I always have music pumping while I’m working my behind off. Inspired by basketball player LeBron James, the Beats Powerbeats 2 wireless in-ear headphones are an awesome option if you’re looking for a set of headphones that will stand the test of time and keep you motivated. They are wireless, water-resistant (aka sweat), lightweight, comfortable, and deliver Beats signature sound. The best part though is that they can connect to a Bluetooth device that is up to 30-feet away, so you can keep your smartphone in a safe place.
You also need the right equipment in your kitchen. If your plan is to prepare delicious, freshly squeezed nutrient juice in the morning to go along with that egg white omelet, you need to invest in a decent juicer. I once received a juicer as a gift, but it left about half the juice on the counter, and took forever to clean. The Breville Juice Fountain makes juicing an easy addition to your daily routine. You just toss your fruits and veggies through the food chute, peel and all, and you’ve got juice in seconds. Oh, and clean up is a breeze! Seriously though, that’s important. If it takes you an hour to make juice and clean up, are you really going to do it? I thought not.
Another great piece of equipment to have around the kitchen is a food scale like this one from OXO. I know, I know, you might think that’s going too far, but it really isn’t–especially if you are prepping your food as you buy groceries. The reason a kitchen scale is so useful for achieving fitness goals is that it’s accurate. You might think you know what 100 grams of turkey looks like, but you think is 100 grams might actually be 200 or more, which is a big deal if you are tracking your calories.
Track your progress
Speaking of tracking your calories, tracking your progress when embarking on a fitness regime can be tough, but motivating at the same time. There are a number of activity trackers out there that help you see how much you’re moving and sweating, but I’m a fan of trackers that are super easy to use. With some, I find I spend more time fiddling with buttons than I do concentrating on my workout, and with others, I’m thrown by the fact that I don’t really know how hard I’m working until I log into my smartphone after my workout. That’s why I’m a fan of the Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS Watch. First, it’s a watch, so you don’t need to dig out your phone to see what time it is during a workout. Second, it’s GPS enabled so you don’t need to use a third party app to see how far or fast you worked out. Third, it has a built in heart rate monitor and alerts you when you’re above or below your target. Lastly, it computes how many calories you’ve burned based on your heart rate during your workout. Think of it as a personal trainer strapped to your wrist!
Activity trackers are great to give you a sense of where you’re at and how hard you’re working, but there’s something about a good old fashioned weigh in that helps motivate you to break a sweat as well. The key with weighing yourself to track your progress is to not do it too often. Your weight can fluctuate several pounds from day to day depending on water retention, when you last ate, and what you last ate, among other factors. So choose one day a week, and weigh yourself at the same time wearing the same thing every week. And weigh yourself on a decent scale! That beast from the 1990’s is likely not as accurate as one like the iHealth Wireless Body Analysis Scale. Accuracy aside, what makes this scale so unbelievably cool is that it lets you know all about your body composition, including weight, body fat percentage, lean mass, and body water. Then that information can be uploaded to the MyVitals app where you can compare different points in time and set goals. I want one.
Breaking a sweat doesn’t mean you have to confine yourself to the walls of a gym. Now is the perfect time of year to get outside and get moving! Go for a long walk, check out that new hiking trail you read about, ride your bike to the grocery store instead of taking your car. There is so much available to do right outside your door, so go get sweaty and soak it all in!