Putting Spring Back in Your Step
Spring is right around the corner. Many of us have been in “hibernation mode” over the winter months, and getting back in shape may seem a bit daunting… where to start?
- Assess your current health
If it’s been a long time since you’ve exercised, or if you have chronic medical issues, it’s a good idea to speak with your physician before embarking on a lifestyle-overhaul. Get his/her recommendations on what activities or nutritional plan would be best for your individual health needs.
- Set goals
It’s difficult to get to a destination if you don’t know where you’re going. Set yourself up for success by choosing clear goals that are specific, realistic, and that focus on your behaviors. For example, although stating your goal as “I want to lose 15 pounds before summer” is fine, the body is a complex machine and there are factors, some of which are beyond our control, such as genetics, hormones, etc., which will impact how quickly we lose weight, or how readily our body responds to different types of exercise. It is far more effective to focus on things we have direct control over, such as our behaviors (“I will start walking at least 10 minutes every day” or “I will substitute water for my sweet tea five days a week”). Set up a plan outlining how you will work towards your goal.
- Do some “spring cleaning”
Start with your pantry and fridge. Get rid of poor food choices. Toss out the obvious usual suspects such as chips, cookies, sodas, but also be aware of so-called “healthy” foods that may pose a threat to your good intentions. For example, a packaged food that labeled “low fat” will have less fat than the regular version, but may have replaced that fat with extra sugars and various artificial flavorings to make up for the change in taste/texture resulting from taking out the fat. Similarly, having a label proclaiming “Whole Grain” on a sugary breakfast cereal does not make that item “healthy”. Instead, stock the kitchen with fresh produce, lean proteins, and some healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, and almonds. But be mindful of calories – too much of any food, even ones that are otherwise healthy choices, will lead to excess weight gain, which is counterproductive to a healthy lifestyle.
- Enjoy the outdoors
Get some fresh air, physical activity, and have fun all at the same time. The gym is great, but reconnecting with nature helps rejuvenate your fitness routine and lift your mood. Swap the treadmill for trail running, or spin class for a scenic bike ride. Sign up for a sport, such as softball or tennis. Get the golf clubs out. Take the family on a weekend hike. The CSRA has many opportunities for active outdoor fun.
- Get support
If you’re having difficulty making lifestyle changes on your own, try enlisting the help of a buddy. There are also several online sites and apps that can help you track food and exercise, provide ideas to keep you focused, and allow you to interact with other individuals for mutual accountability and motivation. But, of course, always listen to your own body and see your health care provider if you have any concerns, or need additional guidance.