You’re chugging the third soda of the day, just picked up fast food for the fourth time this week, and you can’t even remember the last place you put your tennis shoes. The last time you ran feels like it was months ago and forget about the last time you even entered a gym. If this sounds familiar, you’re sabotaging your physical health, fitness, and overall well being.
You don’t even have to imagine the result of keeping that pattern up for years. Hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, and an unhealthy weight are certain and are all prevalent in the western world.
That doesn’t even scratch the surface of how it affects people in terms of all of the mental stress that comes from living an unhealthy lifestyle. Hiding under baggy clothes, the anxiety that comes from trying new pants on in the dressing room, and the dread that summer brings because of the activities that require you to take off your shirt.
You don’t have to keep living like that. If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired—and you’ve reached your breaking point—stop self sabotaging your health and take control. You’ve got the power. You just need the motivation and the know how.
A healthy lifestyle is just the sum of all the small decisions you make a day. Here’s a few simple ways to make a lasting change:
Easy Nutrition Swaps
When you have an all-or-nothing approach to nutrition, your healthy lifestyle changes are sure to fail. Instead of torturing yourself and eliminating everything you enjoy, make healthy substitutions.
- Skip the soda. If you’re a soda fanatic, don’t cut it out cold turkey. Try a flavored soda water if you’re craving the bubbles. Stevia sweetened sodas are a great alternative, too, if you are trying to cut back on calories.
- Plan your meals ahead of time. Find balanced meals with plenty of protein and balanced carbs and fats. A great way to stay on track is to create your menu for the week before you buy your groceries. Post the menu on your fridge, so you know what you’re eating every day.
- Pressed for time? Try making larger batches of food. Double your dinner meals, so you can pack the leftovers for lunch. When you plan ahead and make enough to have leftovers, you avoid the stress of having to make healthy decisions in the middle of the day. Nutrition is the KEY. Before starting an exercise routine, make sure you have a solid nutrition plan. If you expect results, the work starts here. As a side note: Cutting out lunchtime traffic instead of rushing to grab something quick can work wonders for you mental health as well.
Remember, the goal of changing self-limiting habits is to form a new LIFEstyle. A slow, consistent improvement that is sustainable over a lifetime is better than an all-or-nothing approach to nutrition. The all-or-nothing approach people usually don’t even know they are sabotaging their overall health. Their diets crash as fast as they started.
Find Your Tennis Shoes and Start an Exercise Routine
If you don’t already have a membership, sign up for a gym. Now, more than ever, there are affordable options. Instead of seeing gym membership fees as money you’re spending, think of it as an investment in your health; especially if you want to change your body composition for the better.
Strength training is just as important as cardio. Some would even argue that weight training is slightly more important to overall health and wellness than traditional cardio is. As you gain strength and your muscles grow, the shape of your muscles appear to change. That’s when you start seeing the results you want. Stop sabotaging your overall health and well being. Make some changes today!
Here are some tips to begin with:
Establish a Strong Mind-Muscle Connection
Before you do anything, especially strength training exercise, your brain sends a signal to your muscles which causes them to contract and move the weight. That communication between your brain and muscles is the mind-muscle connection.
If you’ve been a couch potato most of your life, or it’s been a while since you’ve trained, your mind-muscle connection probably isn’t very strong. Strengthening that connection before lifting heavy weights helps to prevent injury.
Here’s a few ways to do that:
- Flex your muscles. Stand in front a mirror and see if you can flex the muscles you’re intending to target. If you can’t, you can work towards improving that connection.
- Study the anatomy of your body. When you know what the structure of your muscles are, you’re more likely to be able to visualize their movement and intentionally contract your muscles.
- Go slow and breathe. When you’re working on a specific area, make sure you have a strong mind-muscle connection. A slow, intentional tempo will build that connection, and you’ll be on your way to achieving your goals.
Leave Your Ego at the Door
Jerking around weights that are heavier than you can handle isn’t impressing anyone. Start with a weight that you can control. Be sure to maintain a strong mind-muscle connection as you go through the movement.
A strength training session is a time for you to work on yourself. Get your music in. Get in the zone. This is about YOU and your goals. Doesn’t matter what the dude next to you is doing. Pushing yourself beyond what you’re conditioned to do just to prove a point is a set up for injury, and will postpone you from reaching your goals.
6 Strength Training Moves to Start
There are so many movements that you can do to strengthen your muscles, but to keep it simple start with these:
- Chest: Kneeling Push-Ups
- Start in a plank position and drop your knees
- Make sure your core is engaged
- Lower your chest to the ground as you keep your elbows pulled in close to your body
- Extend your arms and return to the position your started
*If it’s too difficult for you to do this, return to the starting position, reset, and practice lowering to the ground until you gain more strength.*
- Shoulders: Bus Drivers and Horizontal Figure 8s
- Grab a light weight plate
- Hold it out in front of you with both hands like you’re holding a steering wheel
- Pretend to drive a bus, short, quick movements left and right
- When your shoulders start to burn intensely, go into a horizontal figure eight movement.
- Biceps: Curls
- Stand with a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length
- Keep your shoulders pulled back
- Curl the dumbbell using only your biceps
- SLOWLY return the weight to the starting position
- Tricep Pushdown
- Find a cable machine with a rope or bar attachment
- Stand upright and grab the end of the rope with your hands facing each other
- Using your triceps, bring the rope down to the side of your thighs
- Your upper arms shouldn’t move
- Slowly return back to the position you started in
- Back: Lat Pulldown
- Hook your fingers and have a shoulder width grip
- Lead with your elbows and pull them back and down with your chest up
- Bring the bar down to your chest
- Slowly return to the starting position
*Keep the load light enough to get the bar to reach your chest*
- Legs: Goblet Squats
- Start by standing with your feet hip distance apart
- Hold the dumbbell in front of your chest with both hands (vertically like a goblet) with your elbows pointed down
- Push your hips backward
- Bend your knees as you lower into a squat (about 90 degrees)
- Push back to into a standing position
How Often? What about Cardio? Do I Need to Stretch?
If you’re brand new to the gym, starting with full body workouts is important to create a strong foundation. This will help to evenly distribute soreness, while causing each muscle group to grow equally. Equal muscle growth is necessary for balance. Aim for 2-3 strength training sessions a week.
Here’s an example of how to structure your fitness routine:
- Warm up and stretch. Prepare your muscles by doing some dynamic stretching like jumping jacks, leg and arm swings, butt kicks, high knees, and walking lunges. This gets your heart rate up and primes your body for your training session.
- Begin your full body routine. Move through the six movements. Start with 1-2 sets of 8-10 repetitions per exercise. When you’re ready, go for 3 or 4 sets of 12 reps.
- Don’t forget to cool down and stretch. Try some static stretches. Make sure you include a good stretch for your calf, hamstring, arm, shoulder, groin, and glute groups. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds. It’s easy to skip this step, but it’s important for muscle recovery, flexibility, and minimizing soreness.
In order to see maximum results, make sure include cardio, too. Two 20-30 minute sessions of cardio a week are a good starting point. Pick a form of cardio that you enjoy like a HIIT cycle, running, cycling, dancing, or boxing. Cardio exercises muscles that purely weight lifting won’t touch as well, and increases functional fitness which is the ideal goal.
Be consistent. Breaking old patterns can be challenging, especially with the bodies tendencies towards laziness, but it’s not impossible with daily practice.
You’re not going to lose 10 pounds overnight, but you will see results over time as long as you stay consistent.
Those used to sabotaging to their health through a sedentary lifestyle can make huge strides towards a better quality of living by staying on top of small steps.
Start making simple swaps, start with an easy routine. Kick start your path to a sustainable, healthy LIFEstyle with a slow, balanced approach. You’re ready to make a change. Even if you’ve failed before, you can still move forward. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your children, your spouse, or your dog. Whatever it takes. We only get one body, and you have the strength within yourself to stop sabotaging your health.