Article by LaTricia Morris, Author, Illustrator and Integrative Wellness Counselor, as originally featured at EdenLifeMinistries.com
Whether you’re just getting started and don’t even know where to begin, have struggled to stick with it or have been sticking with it but feel like you’re getting nowhere, there is hope!
These fitness basics will have you progressing in leaps and bounds with implementing a sustainable fitness plan and finally taking hold of some real life change.
The simple truth is, if you hate it, you’ll dread it. Being fit and able to jump, jive and wail is a blessing, not a curse. Yet, to often we drag ourselves into a work out as though we are punishing ourselves.
In order to be sustainable, it should also be enjoyable. You’ve got to find your soulmate workout. For me, this is TurboFire which mixes cardio and kickboxing into routines that feel more like dancing. The HIIT workouts are short but max you out but it all comes together in a fun way (and, no, I am not a BeachBody rep. I just really love Chalene Johnson’s workouts).
For you, Pilates may be your thing as it allows you to unplug from a stressful day, or you might grab some gloves and hop into the ring to burn off some steam. Whatever it is, keep searching ‘til you find it. Once you do, something will just click and your workouts won’t seem quite so much like work; more like playtime as an adult.
On this note, be mindful of your social needs too. Do you like group settings to enjoy a little sweat & mingle or do you like to hit the pavement alone? Do you get more of a thrill watching time run out on intense cardio classes, on lifting more than you did yesterday or hiking farther than you did last week?
Pin pointing what gets you going is the best way to keep you moving.
Mix It Up
While we just talked about the importance of finding your “soulmate” workout, be sure you don’t limit yourself to just one program, routine or class. As you continually do the same thing over and over again, results tender to taper or plateau as your body gets used to the same old movements and has learned how to do them most efficiently.
To overcome this, confuse the muscles by adding in different workouts and routines to break things up. This will promote a higher level of fitness as the body strives to prepare and respond to whatever comes it’s way.
There’s little quite like setting a goal and totally crushing it. I find that setting goals and exceeding them gives me another way to measure success when results would otherwise be intangible or hard to see.
Too often our goals are weight or size-oriented but I want to challenge you to set some different goals. If you’re running, aim to complete the run faster or take it longer the next time. If you’re lifting, look for an increase in strength.
There are any number of factors you can measure as a means of setting and conquering goals. Reaching toward these goals keeps you steadily reaching for progress and helps to overcome the sense of redundancy that makes it all to easy to drop a fitness plan like a hot spud.
There’s ALWAYS room for improvement. Determine what you’d like to see improved and go for it. When you’re measuring waistlines or staring down a scale, you may or may not see the results you’re looking for. Some days we carry water weight more than others and some days, the scale goes up even as the inches go down. Because of this, scales and tape measures can be very faulty indicators indicators in terms of your overall physical condition. It’s just too easy for them to produce false negatives and false positives. Weight may be a factor in health but it’s a very poor indicator of it.
So long as you’re bringing the effort, you WILL see progress. Tracking this is a good way to keep you motivated and on track, especially when the struggle gets really real.
Plan to Succeed
Health & Fitness are not accidental ends. They are the end product of multiple consecutive decisions made over a long period of time. If you’re just waiting to get around to it, you never will.
You have to be intentional about your efforts. Schedule workouts and make that time non-negotiable. Plan meals that fit into the plan. Even if you’re not one to plan a week’s worth of meals at a time, be sure you’re not sabotaging yourself by buying foods that, let’s face it, have no business in your mouth or in your house.
A little forethought goes a long way. Plan pockets of time to get your heart rate up or stretch yourself out. Even a few minutes here and there over the course of the day can add up to big differences in your health.
Work Your Way Up
Resist the inclination to go too much too fast. If you’ve been “off track” for a while, it can be easy to jump right in and overdo it, especially when you get in that mindset of “I’m sick of where I’m at…I want results and I want them now!”
The problem is, you’re body can only handle so much at any given time and when you make too hard of a shift in too short a time, it becomes VERY difficult to stick to it. Many processes have to occur to facilitate change. Your brain literally has to craft out new neural pathways or revive old ones as part of a process that helps you go from a plan to a habit or from a program to a lifestyle.
It’s better to start with good form and good habits than to emphasize intensity or duration over them.
As you get more comfortable with doing the moves correctly, it will be easier to shift the focus onto longer times, more reps or increased speed and agility. As you make it a point to recognize fitness as a key component of your daily life, it will be easier to increase the time and energy you dedicate to it. For a long time, I found it to be of great help to “Commit to 10.” This means even on days when you really don’t have it in you or your schedule to carve out an hour for a workout, you can at least commit to 10 minutes of intentional movement to reinforce your commitment. You’ll feel better about having made if even a small effort toward your fitness goals and, chances are, you’ll find the motivation to keep going.
Remember, it’s about progress, not perfection!
Eat Like an Athlete
No, I’m not saying you should be plating your breakfast like you’re feeding Phelps but I am saying that in order to get the most out of your workouts and your day to day life, you have to learn how to give your body what it needs to actually do so. This means adopting a mindset of eating for purpose over pleasure. (Of course, you learn a lot of recipes along the way that totally teeter on both sides.)
You can’t eat like a slouch or a grouch and run like a champ. This isn’t to be mean. This is simple biology and physiology. The body has certain needs to perform certain functions. When those needs are not met, those functions can go anywhere from impaired to impossible.
This is often the problem that comes with crash dieting. While systemic undereating can be of great benefit, drastic undereating will only stall progress and make it harder to stick to a fitness regimen. Food is a lot things but first of all, it is fuel. There’s only so far you can go on an empty tank. You wouldn’t hit the highway on E, expecting to cruise 70mph for the next 100 miles. You can’t expect it from your body.
Severe caloric restriction decreases metabolism and with it, your energy. The body goes into starvation mode and thinks it must conserve as much energy as possible to keep you from dying. If you’re looking to lose weight, you’re better off maintaining a slight calorie-deficit of about 100-300 calories per day. I know this totally goes against typical crash diet recommendations but remember, the slower the change, the more real and lasting it will be.
Be sure to add in your “superfoods” like goji and cacao and look for nutrient-density over caloric-density.
Get Your Greens On
This has got to be what I would consider THE MOST IMPORTANT food group yet happens to be the least emphasized in any dietary plan or protocol. Need I remind you that greens were the only food specifically pointed out by God in Genesis to be food for His creation? Hmmm?
While greens may not offer as much in terms of fuel (calories), they are chock full of essentials to vibrant living. They’re loaded with protein (yes, protein in the form of amino acids which are the building blocks of protein), vitamins, minerals, omega’s, enzymes, antioxidants and so much more! Greens provide your body with the tools it needs to rebuild and recover and to function at it’s best in day to day living.
Greens are the powerhouses of a healthy diet. In gardening, it’s actually said that greens are your neutrals. I believe the same should be said on our plates. The Standard American Diet centers around whites (white bread, rice, pasta, milk, cheese, etc.). Yet, I believe entire households would see drastic improvements in their health just by changing up the plate to always center around something vibrantly green. While I think the strongest emphasis should be placed on leafy greens and maybe some sprouts, feel free to mix it up with peas, green beans, and asparagus.
Hydrate or Die
Okay, so that may seem a little harsh but it gets the point across, right? You’re body absolutely needs water to function properly. Water aids the body in nutrient absorption and utilization, detoxification & elimination, cushioning the joints and vertebrae, and thermal regulation. It’s also a critical factor in your energy levels.
Yet, it’s said that over 90% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. To make matters worse, in place of water, most people drink A LOT of sugary, caffeinated drinks that act as diuretics, meaning they cause your body to release more fluid. On top of this, we tend to eat very little in terms of raw foods (which happens to be very water-rich) and a whole lot in terms of dry foods that demand that our bodies use more of its fluids for digestion, assimilation and elimination.
This leads to a slew of problems and absolutely interferes with your fitness efforts. Drink plenty of pure water. Try to eliminate or minimize sodas. Tea and coffee can be good but keep it in moderation.
Catch Your Z’s
In order to be your best, you need your rest!
As adults in a very fast-paced, high-demand culture, we seem to be getting less and less sleep. We try to balance this out with energy drinks but can we agree that this just doesn’t cut it? Energy drinks ultimately just tax the adrenals and can quickly lead to adrenal fatigue, only making matters worse. Besides, there is much work that the body does in your sleep, such as cleansing and repairing the body and reorganizing the brain for better function. This cannot be facilitated by substituting sleep with natural or synthetic substances.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re body simply won’t be able to bring it’s best effort to your fitness efforts or most any other activity. If you have to get up early, go to be early enough to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Adults should be getting at least 6-8 hours a night. Make needed adjustments to make sure you’re giving your body adequate rest.
If nothing’s being challenged, nothing’s being changed. You can’t expect to see improvements by simply repeating a skill you’ve already mastered. If you want to see results, you’ve got to up the anti! Achieve greater results by digging deeper. If you’re walking or jogging, try adding ankle weights or try grabbing a couple free weights to hold onto while you work your core. Instead of walking the flat lands, hit the hills. All of these will increase the intensity of your workout, yielding bigger results in a shorter period of time. There’s most always a way to step up the challenge. Don’t be afraid to look for ways to make your routine harder.
The top factors dividing those who achieve great things from those that don’t are persistence and consistency. Sporadic fitness can create a yo-yo effect on the body and make it really difficult to see any progress. The fact that this sends the metabolism up and down, adjusting between an active and an inactive lifestyle only seems to make the struggle all the more frustrating.
If you want to see the fruits of your labor, you’ve got to stick with it, even when you don’t want to, even when it’s not convenient, even when it’s hard, and yes, even when it seems pointless. You will reap a harvest if you do not give up!
When the going gets tough, the tough don’t “get” going, they keep going.
Run faster, climb higher, stretch further, live better.