“This year, I’m going to start exercising.” “This year, I’m going to lose all my extra weight.” “This year, I’m going to take better care of myself.” For many people, exercise and nutrition are common “new year’s resolution” topics. As a personal trainer, this is something I see every January. Full of good intentions, people flood into the gym to get started on new, healthier lifestyles. I give these people all the credit in the world; developing a healthy lifestyle positively influences almost every aspect of your life. It is something important to work toward. Some of these “resolutioners” are successful and form new habits. However, many people lose sight of their good intentions and fall back into old, unhealthy patterns. If a healthier 2010 is what you want, keep that desire strong throughout the year. New habits are not born overnight; you have to keep working at them. These are my top tips for a healthy new year.
- Do what you like. There is a principle in exercise science called FITTE. It is an acronym for frequency, intensity, time, type, and enjoyment. I find the ‘E’ to often be the most important variable.If you look forward to (or at least do not actively hate) a particular physical activity, do it. If you like tennis, find an indoor court. If you like dancing, look into dance-based workouts like Zumba. Do whatever will make you move. Just because you know things like running and jumping are great cardio does not mean they have to be your thing. If you like what you are doing, you will do it continually. If you do not like what you are doing, you won’t do it. If you are not sure what you would enjoy, try a variety of activities until you find one that sticks.
- Formulate achievable goals and milestones. Instead of formulating your ultimate goal as what you are working toward, break your goal down into achievable milestones. If you want to lose 30 pounds, think of it as a goal of losing five pounds a month for six months. If you want to add muscle mass, you can aim for putting on a pound of muscle a month. If you want to run a 5K, try intervals of walking and jogging to get to the first mile, then the second, then the third. Keep in mind that your goals may shift as you work toward them.
- Share your goals with the people in your life. Share what you are doing with the people around you. Having the support of others can both inspire you and hold you accountable. You will not want to report to your mother, child, or coworkers that you have given up on your goals. You will want to report that you are working hard to get what you want. You never know who will inspire you during this process. You may even inspire others to join you on your journey.
- Something is always better than nothing. I hear the question all the time, “if I can only get to the gym for half an hour, is it worth it?” My answer is always a resounding, “Yes! It is worth it!” You can get a lot done in half an hour and it keeps you in the habit of exercising.
- It’s okay to be nervous, but don’t let it stop you. People are often afraid to try something new. This is completely normal. Nerves can often be beaten with some extra preparation.
- If there is a group exercise class you have been curious about, but haven’t gone because you are nervous about it, ask someone for more information. By finding out more about a teacher’s style and the format of the class, you will feel more mentally prepared and in control.
- I often talk with people who are intimidated by Spinning classes. If you would like to try Spinning, ask someone at the gym the proper way to set up the bike and how to use the brake. That way, you will know what to do when you get into the class.
- Take small steps. Your body has all sorts of built-in alarm systems. Mine go off during yoga class whenever I try to do a headstand. My body is convinced that if I take the weight out of my legs, I’ll break my neck. Logically, I know this is not necessarily the case, but my body thinks otherwise. To overcome my body’s alarms, I try to push myself a little further each time I try a headstand.
- Ask for help. Many types of exercise are not intuitive. While your body knows how to walk without you having to think about it, it does not automatically know how to properly lift weights or use kettlebells. If you are a member of a gym, ask a personal trainer to show you some moves. If you are not a member of a gym, look up videos of different exercises on the Internet.
- Combine lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and good fats when you eat. Separately, these are food groups that your body needs. Together, these food groups are powerhouses. Research shows that when eaten together, they will help you feel fuller for longer periods of time. The sum of these three factors is greater than its parts. Try eating an apple and some almonds as a snack and see how it makes you feel.
- Keep a food journal. Before you can figure out how to amend your food intake patterns, you have to assess where you are starting from. By writing down everything you eat and how much you eat of it, you can start to look for patterns in your consumption. Maybe you get overly hungry, then end up eating too much. Maybe you are a mindless snacker. Write down everything you eat for a week and review the information. Look up the caloric value of the foods you have been eating. The numbers may surprise you.Once you assess your food choices, there are small changes you can make that will add up to a big difference. Sugar-free pudding, sugar-free fudge pops, pickles, and wasabi peas are sweet, salty, and spicy foods you can eat without guilt. The sugar-free pudding and frozen fudge pops will satisfy your cravings for sweets; pickles will calm the salty cravings; and wasabi peas will give you some spicy bite. Wasabi peas are around 140 calories per serving, but you will find that one serving is plenty.
- Think before you eat – why are you eating? Are you really hungry or are you eating because it is “dinner time” or you are bored?