Healthy Habits outside the Health Club
Gym membership? Check! Trainer? Check! New Running Shoes? Check! FitBit? Check! Latest Weight Loss Food Plan & Cookbook? Check! Trendy Workout Clothes? Check! Pre-Workout Energy Drink and Post-Workout Protein Shake? Check!
All right, let’s do this!
Sound familiar? Whether this is your first or 1000th time embarking on the journey to better health, chances are you’ve taken a few of these steps at the onset. Get the shoes, get the clothes, get the cookbook, get the shake mixes, etc.
If you’ve been here before, at this precipice of beginning anew on yet another journey to health and wellness, why didn’t you achieve that end goal on prior attempts?
What caused you to lose that drive and desire to get fit? Chances are it wasn’t the FitBit, or the Lululemon outfit, or the expensive supplements (or lack thereof) that let you down. Being decked out with all the latest, greatest gear and going to the latest, greatest fitness facility are no failsafe when it comes to achieving our get-healthy goals.
So what are we to do? What’s the missing piece? What is it keeping diligent gym-goers with good intentions from losing the weight, getting stronger and seeing results?
What if the inability to turn that corner has nothing to do with the gym at all?
Let’s crunch some numbers here for a moment. Conventional wisdom about fitness says you should get at least 30 minutes of exercise, five times per week. That’s a total of 2.5 hours per week. Even if you bump that up to 30 minutes of exercise every day, that’s still only 3.5 hours a week. When you phrase it that way, it doesn’t seem like very much.
First thing’s first – make that commitment to yourself and get in a good, sweaty workout at least three times per week. Then, examine your habits outside the gym, as it’s not enough to just show up and expect results. Ultimate health and wellness is the result of a mindset you maintain all the time, not just the 2-4 hours per week you exercise.
Here are my top tips for success outside the gym:
- Make your non-gym time count
Seize any opportunity you have to sneak in some extra movement. Take the stairs more often. Park further away. If you work at a desk, stand up once every 30 minutes and go for a brisk walk. Every time you visit the restroom, do ten squats. Instead of sitting in the waiting room or the break room, take a walk outside. Do stretches at your desk. During the commercials, do jumping jacks. Talk on the phone standing up. If you can, trade your desk chair for a stability ball, or even better a standing desk. Have a planking contest with your kids/partner/coworker. BE CREATIVE AND MOVE MORE.
- Plan ahead – set yourself up for success
Convenience foods are not your friend. This includes not just fast food, but commercially available processed foods that are quick and snappy to prepare when you have exactly 30 seconds to make dinner. Processed and fast foods are not only devoid of nutrients but are packed with sodium, preservatives, unhealthy fats and simple carbohydrates and sugars. Set aside some time to prepare foods yourself that you can eat throughout the week. Hardboiled eggs and quinoa, a protein-rich slow burning grain, are two of my favorite foods to make a big batch of on a Sunday and eat throughout the week. Other good options are to wash, slice, and portion out fresh veggies and fruits with hummus, nuts such as almonds and cashews, brown rice, cooked chicken, etc. Make Sunday afternoon your meal-prep time. Bottom line – if it’s ready to grab, heat and eat, you’re more likely to choose it when time is tight.
- Watch your “rewards”
When you begin an exercise plan, you will be increasing your body’s needs for caloric energy. These extra calories should still be coming from the types of nutritious, whole foods described above. “Rewarding” yourself with treats for exercising is a slippery slope. You’ve worked hard to sweat it out at the gym, in one tenth of the time it took you to workout you can negate it all and then some. I would never tell anyone they can never ever have a cookie again, but don’t have one every day, after every workout. You may find the less often you reward yourself with a treat, the better that treat tastes when you do!
- Stay the course, and don’t give up!
Realize that weight loss is not a linear journey. There will be good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks, good months and bad months. Bodies are complex machines that don’t always follow conventional rules of weight loss. It’s important to maintain your activity if you are to turn weight-neutral weeks into weight-loss weeks. Stay the course! Don’t give up!
- Stay positive and focus on the end goal
It’s very important to practice self-love on a weightless journey. We have a tendency to be our own worst critics, and thus our own worst enemies. If didn’t lose weight this week, don’t get down on yourself. If you broke rank with your perfect eating plan and had a cookie, don’t beat yourself up. When process has got you down, pause think about your goal and why it’s important to you. Close your eyes, meditate on those thoughts for a few moments. Take a deep breath, and refocus your energy to the future, to the things you can do right now to make your goal a reality. Our lifestyle is the result of a series of choices we make. What happened before is in the past, and it doesn’t matter. What really matters, is what you do next.