If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re onboard with treating this as the start of your new year and are ready to begin working towards a healthier you. The steps and strategies I’m sharing are my suggestions not those of a qualified health/fitness practitioner. My intention is to motivate you into action, not to lead you as a certified professional. Disclaimer: this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition.
Note: Any exercises and ideas I’m sharing are for beginners. For those with a more advanced fitness level the exercises/movements I discuss will likely not create enough resistance for you. However, I hope I may offer you new motivation to return to activity if you’ve taken time off, encourage you to push yourself to reach new fitness levels or maybe tweak something to help you improve your current regimen.
What a healthier lifestyle means to me?
- Incorporating regular activity into your life that both gets your heart rate pumping and increases your strength. Put simply, if you’re not sweating during the activity you need to do more.
- This is about YOU, not what anyone else is doing. Just because your friend or neighbour runs 5km a day, it doesn’t mean you must do the same. Begin with walking (your aim is to break a sweat…as tempting as it is to start exercising like a pro it’s not safe or necessary). Consistency over high-intensity can still provide meaningful results.
- The process of living a healthier life will continue to evolve. Just like a hobby – if you like gardening or woodworking, your 5th project will be better than your first simply because of practice and experience. There’s no secret to living healthy – it just requires experience, continual learning, and consistency.
- A healthier you requires adopting regular activity into your daily routine as well as maintaining good food choices.
Jump Start A Change
Change is easier to achieve when you understand the reasons why change is important. The video 23 and 1/2 hours offers insight into the value of exercise and some practical ways to get started – take a look!
(You’ll be motivated to start!)
Goal setting is important because it provides direction and a way to measure success. I’m suggesting you use the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting technique. Set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals that will motivate you. It’s important to write them down and leave them within sight.
An example of the incorrect way to set goals. “I’m going to train for a marathon, work out more and eat better so I can be healthier and lose 30 lbs so that I can fit into my high school jeans again.” Three problems with these goals:
- too vague with nothing specific to measure.
- the goal of running a marathon might be a bit ambitious if you haven’t run in the past (but always see your neighbour running so you figure you can too)
- a specific timeline is missing here.
A better way to set your goals is to use the “S.M.A.R.T.” approach, which looks like this: Starting on December 11th (chose a specific date) I’m going to start walking 4 times a week (Mon, Wed, Thu and Sat) first thing in the morning for 30 mins at a time so that I can improve my resting heart rate, strengthen my legs and drop two belt sizes. I’m also going to make better food choices by cutting out the evening snacks, choose to cook 5 nights a week instead of take-out, buy more vegetables and reduce my consumption of processed foods like frozen dinners. Note the way SPECIFIC STEPS are listing.
Eliminate Barriers to Get Started
You don’t need a gym membership, equipment or a ton of space to exercise. You can exercise right in the convenience of your home. The benefits speak for themselves:
- Eliminate the worry of others watching you if you are insecure about your fitness ability – exercise in privacy.
- You still need proper workout attire but you don’t have to worry about spending money on the most fashionable gear to make you look like you know what you’re doing – exercising at home allows you to wear old sweatpants and a ripped shirt if that works for you. Although, with the right attire – there can be added motivation because if you look and feel like an athlete you will likely perform better. Maybe add workout gear to your Christmas wish list.
- Not having to commute makes for an efficient workout – you can do a 30-minute workout in 30 mins as opposed to needing double that time when you include a commute, changing before and after and wait times for equipment at the gym.
So get started using just your body weight (Calisthenics), or go for a walk or run depending on your fitness level. If you really want equipment, you can find inexpensive options on Craig’s List, Kijiji or at garage sales.
Creating a Support System
Two elements that can help with reaching your goals are accountability and an exercise partner. Hold yourself accountable by telling someone your goals and ask them to check in with you on a regular basis to make sure you’re following your plan – a twice a week check-in is great because if you’re struggling to follow your routine you can get help before your week is over. And finding a workout buddy helps with consistency because if you don’t show up you’re letting down more than just yourself. A workout buddy can also help with motivation especially if their fitness level is a little higher than yours. You may also need to look at changing or adding a new friend (or two) to your network if none of your circle has similar healthy lifestyle interests.
Measuring Your Progress
As you begin your new way of living, it’s a good idea to pick some exercises and measure what you are able to do with each exercise so that weeks from now you can do those same exercises to measure and compare results. I’ve suggested a few exercises that you can use to get some baseline measurements. Make a note of the numbers for each test. This list of exercises is not a recognized standard for measuring fitness, it’s just my suggestion of how to create a reference point to measure progress.
Chair position Squat. How long can you maintain the squat (chair) position? Extend your arms in front of you and bend your legs lowering yourself as if you’re about to sit (or as low as you are able to go). When your legs are perpendicular, hold that position for as long as you can – count 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi until you tire. Modified: you can place a chair under you so that you hover over it (don’t sit) for added security.
Push-up. How many push-ups can you do? Place hands shoulder width apart and place a shoe on the ground under your chest. You’ve completed a push-up when you bend your arms until your chest touches the shoe (use a shoe, not a boot ;). Count the number of push-ups you can do in sequence before you tire. Modified: if you can’t manage a regular push-up, then with your knees on the ground bend your arms until your chest touches the shoe.
Bridge hold. How long can you hold a bridge? Using a yoga mat (or carpet) lie on your back and bend your knees while keeping your feet on the ground. Bring your heels towards your butt until they are almost underneath your knees. Keep your knees together (or as close as you can) and then push your pelvis up taking your back off the ground until your chest hips and knees are in alignment. Hold for as long as you can and count (1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, etc.). If you can easily reach 30 Mississippi then do a more advanced bridge (see diagram).
Resting heart rate. An easy and effective way to gauge your heart health is to measure your resting heart rate (number of heart beats per minute while you’re at rest). It provides key insight into how your heart muscle is performing. Rates vary based on multiple factors including gender, age and fitness level. For both men and women, a general range for a normal heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Workouts Easily Done at Home (without equipment)
15-Minute Beginner’s At-Home Cardio Workout | Class FitSugar
20-Minute Low-Impact Cardio Workout
15 Minute Anywhere Beginner Workout (Body Weight Only)
Final Thoughts For The Week
This journey is not a quick fix that after 30 or 60 days you go back to what you were doing before. The intention is to make permanent changes in your lifestyle that lead to a better, stronger and healthier you. During this transition process, skip the constant stepping on your scale. Instead of weight-loss, focus on building strength, increasing activity and eating healthier. If you cover those 3 things properly, a trimmer you will automatically follow.