On Track and In Shape

By now the gym is a little less crowded than it was this time last month.  Most of those New Year’s resolutions have been broken and a few people are even sinking into the winter blues.  You on the other hand are equipped to to stay on track and in shape.

The Winter 2011 American College of Sports Medicine Fit Society Pages reiterate what we all have heard so many times, “Exercise provides an effective natural boost to both mood and health.”  Exercise, mood and your overall fitness level provide you with a win-win-win situation.  Exercising releases feel good hormones to keep your spirits lifted and your energy high.  It is also increases your metabolism, thus increasing the amount of calories burned during and after a workout, helping you manage your weight, get stronger and stay healthier.

While you may not be a winter warrior willing to brave icy streets and sub-zero wind chills for a good workout, there are plenty of options to keep you on track and in shape.

  1. Break up workouts
    Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise each day, but instead of doing it all at once break it up into 10 minutes bouts performed 3 times in the day.  Do your first 10 minutes when you wake up in the morning to jump start your day.  Peform your next 10 minutes of exercise after lunch to prevent the mid-afternoon lag and keep you sharp for the second half of your work day.  Finish your last 10 minutes of exercise between the time you get out of work and have dinner. 
    • Jump rope
    • Climb stairs (at home or in the office)
    • Lunge up and down a long hallway
    • Shadow box
    • Dance vigorously to your favorite songs 
  2. Vary your activities
    Elevating your heart rate is key to a good workout.  You can burn just as many calories performing effective resistance training activities as you can burn performing cardiovascular activities like walking or biking.  Consider alternating resistance training workouts with cardiovascular workouts every other day.  This will prevent your body from adapting to your workouts as quickly, which prevents you from reaching the dreaded plateau.  Varying your activities will also help you stay engaged and keep you from getting bored.
  3. Buy a workout DVD, download a workout video or stream your favorite meditation
    Using guides such as your favorite celebrity’s butt blasting exercises or participating in the latest fitness craze in the comfort of your own home is a good way to ensure that you are getting an effective workout.  It takes the guessing out of what to do next since each exercise, set and repetition are provided to you in an easy to follow format.  All you have to do is pay attention and move with it.
  4. Grab a partner
    Finding a workout buddy is one of the best strategies to keep you on track.  Your buddy will hold you accountable for showing up to your workouts and will motivate you on the days when you are feeling down.
  5. Make the time
    The only way to stay on track and in shape is to make time.  You might be the busiest parent on earth, juggling a job, the kids, your spouse and running an almost perfect house with a white picket fence and the friendliest family pet, but remember that you cannot be the best person to care for everyone and everything depending on you if you do not even take care of yourself.  Bottom line…make the time…
    • Block time in your calendar just like you would for a business meeting or doctor’s appointment.
    • Multi task.  If you the only time you have to workout is during the 30 minutes you take to watch the news, then perform some kind of cardiovascular activity during the broadcast (jump rope, jumping jacks, marching in place etc) and perform resistance excercises during the commercials (push ups, squats, lunges etc).

A Journey Not a Battle

The personal trainer and budding dietitian in me has learned a lot on this journey.  Most importantly I have learned that weight loss is not a battle, but rather becoming our own definition of health is an ongoing journey.  Our bodies are to be respected not defeated.  They help us fulfill a purpose and provide us with the experiences that allow us to grow, live, laugh and love.

It would be socially and professionally acceptable to continue with this post by saying that in order to lose weight we need to move more and eat less, but I do not want to just be socially and professionally responsible.  Living a positive lifestyle and making healthy behavioral changes is not about the latest workout or diet craze.  It is not all about the magic numbers that make up your BMI (body mass index), cholesterol, blood pressure or even the weight on the scale.  It is about motivating, inspiring and finding the support that sustains positive lifestyle and behavioral changes.

Instead of focusing on weight loss, magic numbers, weights and waist lines, let us focus on living better, experiencing more energy and empowering ourselves to make healthier decisions.  Making positive lifestyle and behavioral changes generally do not occur over night.  Just like learning how to ride a bike or becoming competent at your job, it takes practice, patience and perseverance.  Consider the following every time you reach an impasse on your journey.

  1. Relax
    Managing stress and resting are essentials to a healthier life.  When we are relaxed we are more open to trying new experiences.  You will need to discover your own stress management techniques, and remember that a key to resting, relaxing and rejuvenating is a good night’s sleep.
  2. Take your time
    Since making positive lifestyle and behavioral changes does not occur overnight, then give yourself permission to try, succeed and fail.  There is no time frame on becoming healthy because it is a way of life not a goal. 
  3. Learn how to lead
    Becoming captain of your own lifestyle team means that you can create the support system that will sustain you.  This can include people, places and things.  You might choose family and friends who are willing to try new experiences with you.  You might choose a health care professional who can provide you guidance.  You might seek a counselor or a coach to help you manage your emotions and provide you with relaxation techniques.  You  might invest in new workout clothes, exercise equipment a gym membership or a season pass to national park where you like to hiking, climbing, swimming, running, biking…the lists can go on and on and on.  Since it is your team and your life, you get to choose.
  4. Find what you love to do
    Once you find what you love to do you will discover that staying active is a fun activity, not just another task on your to do list.  The only way to discover what you love to do is to try new things.  I can guarantee that in this process you will also discover that you are stronger and capable of doing a lot more than you give yourself credit for.
  5. Make choices that are uplifting and energizing
    To do this you must listen to your mind and your body.  Choices that are uplifting will make you feel excited, motivated and inspired.  Choices that are energizing will make you feel lighter, relaxed and pain-free.  Choices that make you feel doomed, tense or tired should be avoided.  Learning how to relax will help you listen and make the best choices.