As we head into the New Year, one of the main things on all our minds is doing something “new” like turning over a new leaf, out with the old in with the new or New Year, New Me. Whether that’s a new career, a change in scenery or finally sticking to health and fitness goals past the first week of January. A New Year brings an air of excitement and unlimited possibilities. Let’s look at three fitness journey jump starters (Physical-Mental-Nutritional) that will help you kick your health and wellness goals into high gear!
Get Physically Fit
Start with a sustainable routine.
“One of the biggest obstacles I see when people are starting a new routine to take control of their health is that they start out too aggressively.” This often looks like the goal of wanting to work out every single day. Sometimes working out five times a week is too aggressive. The reason for this is because life happens. Work, family, dips in motivation, etc., can easily derail you. And when you get derailed, it’s easy to just throw in the towel. Starting out with a smaller routine such as 2-3 days per week gives you wiggle room to move a workout to another day if you must miss.
Choose a motivating environment.
A big key in sustaining a workout routine is being honest with yourself. You must determine what works best for YOU. Do you prefer working out alone or with people? Do you give more effort working out in the comfort of your home or at a gym amongst a shared energy? Do you find yourself more motivated to work out in the morning, lunch or at night? The key is to not choose something so different from your norm, that forces you to change up so much of your schedule and mindset just to adhere.
Reward your small milestone victories.
Most people’s health goals are marathons, not sprints. These are often losing 10-20 pounds, adding 5-10 pounds of muscle, training to run a half marathon or even reducing their cholesterol and blood pressure. These are often not solved in a couple of weeks. These usually take months, up to a year. So, you will need some small goals or milestones to aim for along the way to keep your drive and motivation there. These can represent buying those cool new wireless headphones or those cute workout clothes. These can be progress pictures every month or so. It can be a tasty night out for dinner or mini-weekend vacation. Your reward selection is up to you. Only you will know what will truly motivate you to check those workout boxes each week.
Introduce variety with proven methods.
“After working with adults for years, one thing I have learned is variety can be a person’s best friend when it comes to continuing along a healthy lifestyle,”Gavin Barrilleaux, MS, CSCS, Athletic Performance Director at Athlete Training and Health in Allen.
This variety is typically in the form of exercise selection. However, choosing the right, science-backed exercises is crucial to your success. We recommend including foundational exercise methods to achieve this:
- Strength training is your best friend. Strength training helps to increase lean muscle mass to help with regulating your metabolism. It helps the body to burn fat mass more easily. It helps to build strength around achy and vulnerable joints. It is also typically low-impact due to not as much jumping and running.
- Another option is cardiovascular training. This is where you are going to get your heart health in check. This can include jogging, hiking, rowing, swimming, etc. This can be a great way to burn some calories, reduce mental stress and increase your work capacity.
- Lastly, adding some variety on the low-motivation days or the days where you are super sore, can be helpful. This option is achieved through corrective exercise and mobility work. Think of this as prehab. Working on range of motion through those stiff joints and flexibility through those tight muscles to help prevent your body leading to severe aches or injuries which would result in actual rehabilitation. Here is where you can slow things down, get some exercise in, but not have to spend all day at the gym.
Now, let’s get started with making physical fitness a priority! All the same obstacles to finally getting healthy will probably still be there, so lock in to keep fitness first and part of your daily regimen. Next, invest in yourself! Hire a personal trainer, join a group fitness class or small group personal training. Finally, get started today – it’s never too late to jump-start your fitness journey.
Next, let’s get your mind right! Gailbriel Jenkins, LMSW, tackles the tough questions on everyone’s mind when it comes to mentally preparing for a lifestyle change, including jumpstarting your fitness journey.
Get Mentally Fit
Set small obtainable goals while monitoring progress to stay motivated.
“Small steps allow growth and reflection and help us to see the progress we have made in a short period of time. These two factors together could possibly provide the motivation for obtaining the larger goals,” says Gailbriel Jenkins, Licensed Master Social Worker at Texas Health Behavioral Health. Know that it is okay to start small and to continue at your own pace. Most importantly, acknowledge where you are now and use your current progress to keep yourself motivated.
Partake in self-care and show up as your best self because “YOU” deserve it!
When we are our best selves, more than likely we are more productive. Sometimes that may appear as taking a step back, a mental health day, pampering yourself, family time, or even a healthy balanced diet.
Positive self-talk can make all the difference! Speak kindly to yourself and hunt the good despite the challenges! When you find yourself losing motivation or having a tough time, begin writing and referencing positive affirmations – this too is a part of positive self-talk.
Lean into a healthy support system when challenges appear! For example, not limiting yourself to only family and friends but, using and engaging with community resources can help keep you going when motivation is lagging.
Envision where you would like to be and persevere. As you prepare yourself to make a lifestyle change, using visualization can help the thought process! Ask yourself, “where do I see myself?”, “what do I need to change?” and “how will I benefit?” to set yourself up for success.
If a shortcoming occurs during the process, use it as a form of teaching and try again!
Remain flexible and optimistic along your journey and use grounding techniques that can assist you.
It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
Get Nutritionally Fit
Here’s how to set yourself up for a healthy lifestyle change in the kitchen.
Planning is key to beginning and maintaining healthy eating. It is so simple to fall off track with busy schedules and less healthful convenient food access. When you are prepared with healthy grocery staples and meal prep, you are much more likely to succeed. Try picking one day a week to review the week ahead and selecting day(s)/time(s) to grocery shop and meal prep.
Follow the 80/20 rule! 80% of the time aim for nutrient-dense whole foods and 20% allow yourself to enjoy the less healthful foods. All foods fit! Moderation is key! Do not eliminate any food or food groups unless medically necessary (ex: Celiac disease = eliminate gluten). Try new foods; your taste buds change throughout your life. Foods you might not have liked in the past you may like now. Make healthy swaps – ex: use Greek yogurt to replace mayonnaise in recipes or can be used as a dip for veggies.
Focus on getting in a minimum of 25g fiber from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and 1.2g/kg BW of protein in daily. Start by planning to have a minimum of three balanced, nutrient-dense meals every day. Try to include a minimum of one vegetable, one fruit, whole grains and lean proteins. When snacking, pair carbohydrates (fruit/vegetable/whole grain bread) and lean protein (baked/grilled animal proteins, edamame, low fat Greek Yogurt). Be sure to hydrate with a minimum of ½ body weight in fluid ounces of water.
Determine where you are at currently and what steps are required to reach your ultimate goals and make those steps “mini goals”. “If you are looking to enhance your overall health status by living a healthy lifestyle, think about lifestyle habits you have or lack currently and what can be done to improve and work on those goals one by one,” says Kaylee Jacks, sports dietitian at Texas Health Sports Medicine.
For example, one goal might be to drink more water – focus on that goal only first. Once that goal has become a behavior start working on your next goal. Other healthy lifestyle “mini-goals” you might consider are eating more vegetables, cutting out or limiting sugary sodas, cutting out or limiting alcohol, improving sleep, or eating breakfast.
As you move into the new year, remember that a holistic approach that includes physical fitness, mental preparation, and nutrition are the foundation for a successful fitness journey. Consult with your physician before starting any new fitness or nutrition routine.