’Tis the season for overindulgence! It’s easy to fall into the habit of eating more and exercising less during the holidays.
During the six-week stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, it’s hard to resist gorging on sugary foods and baked goods, especially when you’re surrounded by sweet treats that are a staple of the holiday season.
But if we’re not careful with our food intake and our activity output this season, we may find ourselves “bursting at the seams” with holiday cheer.
One of the best ways to stay healthy over the holidays is to stay physically active. Exercising on a regular basis not only burns off the extra calories from those gingerbread cookies and boosts our energy levels, it also reduces the stress, anxiety or depression that can sometimes sneak up on us during the holidays.
Here are seven creative ideas for staying fit during the holiday festivities.
Seek out opportunities to move.
Ditch the fancy footwear and opt for walking shoes so you can get moving whenever there’s an opportunity. Classic examples include parking farther away and walking to your destination or taking a few laps around the mall before you actually start shopping.
Plus, there’s always the option of taking the stairs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in one minute, a 150-pound person burns approximately 10 calories walking upstairs and only 1.5 calories riding an elevator.
If you’re flying during the holidays, use the time in between flights and layovers to fit in some physical activity. Avoid taking the automated people mover whenever possible. Instead of waiting at the gate in boredom, try exploring other terminals at the airport if time permits. You might even find some cool last-minute gifts.
Once you reach your destination, you can instantly burn calories (and earn brownie points) by volunteering to help with the cooking, house chores and yardwork.
Clean the heck out of your house.
Speaking of house chores and yardwork, if you’re expecting company this year, you’ll probably have to clean anyway, so why not set aside several hours one day and really clean your house?
Bending and squatting to put away dishes or clean hard-to-get spots, walking up and down the stairs repeatedly, folding and putting away laundry – all of these activities burn calories. Visitors with pet, mold or dust allergies would appreciate the effort – and so would your midsection.
In addition, you can use all that time prepping holiday meals in the kitchen to throw in some squats, calf raises or even dancing. Pop a casserole in the oven and head out the door for a walk or jog while it’s baking. That homemade macaroni and cheese will taste so much better after you’ve earned it!
Plan workout sessions ahead of your trip.
By taking the time to plan ahead, you are making a commitment to yourself to be more active. Plus, setting workout goals in advance increases your chances of following through with them.
Prior to heading out of town, research where the local gyms are. If you work out at a franchise, chances are you’ll find a branch in your destination city. If not, most gyms offer reasonable day pass rates for non-members and guests.
If you’re traveling to a warmer place, look up local trails and parks and other routes for walking or running in your destination city. This way, you’re not only fitting in a daily workout – you’re giving yourself a chance to take in some free sightseeing.
Shorten the length of workouts but increase the frequency.
It’s not like we don’t want to exercise – we’re just too busy during the holidays to fit in our usual 30 to 60-minute gym session, right? Instead of skipping the workout altogether, consider the 10- to 20-minute rule. Running, jogging and walking are always good exercises to do in short bouts, as are body weight circuits for strength training.
If you want the most bang for your buck, consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT). By alternating between periods of maximum effort and short recovery, these condensed but intense workouts get your heart rate and metabolism revving to burn calories and fat. Plus, HIIT workouts can be done just about anywhere and without any equipment.
Take advantage of the season.
The holiday season is full of community races and “fun runs” that benefit local causes or charities. These are the 5K runs (3.1 miles) or 1-milers that aren’t super competitive and include walkers of all ages. There is usually a small fee involved, and they’re open to everyone from avid runners to folks who enjoy meandering along the trail with friends.
Bonus: You might get a souvenir t-shirt out of the deal that will bring back fond memories of that time you went on a fun run with friends and family. If your city/town does not have an organized fun run, consider arranging your own informal one with neighbors, family and friends to raise money or awareness for a charity of your choice.
Build activity into family visits and outings.
You can still enjoy activities as a family while getting some exercise. Encourage visitors to bring workout clothes suitable for walking on nature trails or perhaps for doing activities at a local health club like yoga classes or racquetball.
If you are spending time with children, organize a game of dodgeball, freeze-tag, hide-and-seek. Why not go outside and build a snowman or have a snowball fight? Even playing with a toddler or chasing them around the house can get your heart rate and metabolism going.
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Busy holiday schedules filled with shopping, planning, traveling, parties, and an endless supply of tempting baked goods can easily throw a wrench in our normal eating and workout routines.
While the holidays may be the hardest time of year to maintain your fitness goals and stick with a workout plan, it’s not the best time to start making aggressive weight loss goals.
But there’s no reason you can’t enjoy yourself armed with a few strategies to get you through the season to keep you healthy and fit.
Holiday Fitness Tips
Here are some tricks and tips that can help you stay fit, active, and healthy through the holidays!
1. Focus on Maintaining Instead of Losing Weight
Reigning in our bad eating habits early can put us in a much better position to get started on those healthy New Year’s resolutions.
Instead of eating like every meal is your last, aim to maintain your weight by choosing more protein and veggies while still enjoying holiday treats in moderation so you don’t feel deprived.
If weight loss is one of your goals, get back to a stricter eating plan after the New Year.
2. Eat Before You Leave The House For Parties
Most holiday parties, as wonderful as they are, don’t always serve healthier food options.
Try eating whole foods like lean protein at home before you leave the house. Even a protein bar can curb cravings and make you feel fuller which can keep you from overindulging.
3. Don’t Skip Meals Or Try To Bank Calories
Skipping meals earlier so you can eat more cheesecake at your next holiday party might look good on paper. But “banking” your calories often makes us more hungry and can cause us to us binge later on. This means you may end up consuming even more calories.
It can also cause blood sugar crashes that can leave us feeling sluggish and anxious. For some of us, it can even trigger headaches and migraines.
Skipping meals, in the long run, can trigger the body to lower its metabolism to conserve the energy it needs to function. This can lead to weight gain even if we’re eating the same amount of food.
To keep your blood sugar balanced, eat higher protein meals and snacks regularly throughout the day. You can also aim to limit your sugar and carb consumption. Then, when you want to indulge in grandma’s sugar cookies, later on, you won’t be tempted to eat the entire tray.
And If you know you’re going to be out holiday shopping for a while, bring along some healthy snacks to keep you fueled.
4. Keep Track Of What You Eat So You Don’t Overindulge
Guesstimating the nutritional value of your holiday favorite indulges is a recipe for failure. And ignorance is bliss until your pants don’t fit.
Getting a general idea of the nutritional info of your favorite meals and snacks can empower you to make better food choices and control your portions.
A simple and effective way to do this is by downloading a nutrition app. They allow you to keep a running total of the nutritional info of what you’re eating each day. They can also help you monitor your choices based on if you want to maintain or lose weight. What’s most useful is that they can show you how quickly unhealthy food choices can add up.
For example, pecan pie is about 500 calories per slice, while a slice of cheesecake will run you a minimum of 400 calories. They’re some of the holiday favorites that I’m definitely not going to pass up, but knowing their nutritional value encourages me to keep my portions under control. Instead of taking a big slice, a sliver can satisfy me. Sometimes just a few bites are all you need.
5. Drink Alcohol In Moderation
The holidays are a time to drink and be merry. But aside from the usual glass of wine or pint of beer, all those extra fancy and dazzling holiday cocktails are usually full of sugar and really pack some serious calories while causing bloat and weight gain. For example, if you love your eggnog, 1 cup of non-alcoholic eggnog will set you back about 343 calories, 19 g of fat per cup, and 23 g of sugar. Take it up a notch and add a shot of brandy or rum and you’re over 400 calories for just one drink. The holidays only come once a year, so you should enjoy yourself. But be mindful of how much you’re drinking.
6. Don’t Forget To Stay Hydrated
Health experts recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day. And a 2010 study in the Journal of Obesity found that drinking water before eating can be an effective tool to help you maintain and even lose weight. And this time of year we can use all the help we can get.
Plus, if you’re drinking alcohol, it’s important to match it with a glass of water for every cocktail to stay hydrated and prevent hangover symptoms.
7. Set Workout Goals, Make A Schedule, And Stick To The Plan
There’s no point in waiting until the new year to start crushing your fitness goals. Even if staying away from all the holiday treats might prove difficult, sticking with your fitness routine can help you burn extra calories while you build strength and endurance. It can also help relieve some stress. But traveling and added obligations can make it easy to blow off exercising if we don’t commit to a schedule. And the reduced hours of daylight don’t make it easy either.
Research has shown that the cognitive process of writing goals down effectively sears them into your brain. What starts out as little ideas then gets perceived as priorities by the brain. This means you’ll be more determined to stick to your workouts and achieve your fitness goals once you write them down.
8. Try Fun Seasonal Activities Like Ice-Skating
Staying active, even in the winter, doesn’t always mean hitting the gym.
From large cities to small towns, there are plenty of opportunities to help you stay active in the celebration of the holidays. To put you in the season’s spirit, try ice-skating, which can burn up to 500 calories per hour. One of the most iconic ice-skating rinks is New York’s own Rockefeller Center, where you can skate while enjoying the splendor of their stunning Christmas tree and surrounding lights. Similarly, you can skate in Philadelphia’s Dilworth Park with their stunning decked-out City Hall as a backdrop. Check your local city’s listings to find a rink near you.
9. Switch Up The Time Of Day You Work Out
Additional obligations and chores around the holidays can cut into our normal routine, making it harder to get that exercise in. If you work out later in the day, try switching your exercise routine to mornings so you get it done and out of the way first.
You may have to wake up a bit earlier, but you might discover that you prefer it instead. Having your exercise clothes and sneakers prepped next to the bed can help put you in an exercise frame of mind for the morning.
10. Take A Walk Outside And Enjoy The Holiday Splendor
A 2017 study revealed that to keep the weight off, getting 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) a day can be just as effective as completing five 30-minute workouts each week.
Plus, colder weather can help us burn more calories than the same walk we take in the spring.
Walking can also:
As you can see, all that holiday shopping and running around can really pay off! To get extra steps in, to be sure to skip those elevators and escalators and always take the stairs. When it’s safe, you can also park a bit further from the entrance of the stores. And if you’re traveling for the holidays, exploring your destination can be a great way to have fun and get your steps in.
You can score a simple pedometer on Amazon for as little as $10 or try installing a step-tracking app on your phone.
11. Wear A Fitness Tracker
Wearing a fitness tracker can help motivate you to get moving and learn how much activity you’re actually getting each day. By tracking things like calories, steps, heart-rate, sleep, and more, fitness trackers are a wonderful tool to help you reach your fitness goals. The “smart” ones can also sync with other health and activity tracking apps on your smartphone with Bluetooth.
12. Take Part In A Holiday-Themed Run Or Walk
Signing up for a running event like a 5k can keep you motivated to keep training while also doing good for charity. If you’re not in shape enough to do a race by the holidays, consider starting with a Couch To 5k Training plan. This can help keep your body active while setting you up for fitness success in the new year. If you’re not into running, there are many holiday walk events as well.
1) Eat a high protein breakfast on Thanksgiving Day.
You may be tempted to skip breakfast to ‘save up’ for the big meal, but research shows that a high protein breakfast helps reduce post-meal blood sugar levels throughout the entire day. Whip up a smoothie made with an unsweetened plant protein powder blended with a handful of leafy greens, a cup of fruit, a dollop of nut butter, water, and a slice of fresh ginger root.
2) Make your own dish.
If you're attending Thanksgiving as a guest, take a dish to share, but choose something that will help balance out heavier holiday cuisine. One of my favorites is a roasted veggie platter (like extra virgin olive oil roasted bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, baby Brussels sprouts, and asparagus) served with a healthy dip or sauce to drizzle, like olive tapenade, vegan (nut-based) pesto, or herbed tahini.
3) Put more plants on your plate.
Research shows that eating more whole plant-based foods can improve health outcomes and extend longevity. Consider making fully plant-based versions of Thanksgiving side dishes this year, like extra virgin olive oil sauteed green beans with sliced almonds in place of creamy green bean casserole, mashed potatoes made with vegetable broth, extra virgin olive oil, and herbs instead of butter and cream, oven roasted Brussels sprouts with sliced mushrooms in place of bacon, and garden salad garnished with diced avocado and chickpeas instead of cheese and egg.
You can even skip the turkey in favor of hearty lentil soup. Fully plant-based dishes can be just as delicious and satisfying as their traditional counterparts and can leave you feeling more energized.
4) Be strategic about the order of the foods you eat.
Research shows that consuming foods in the following order results in lower post-meal blood sugar levels: non-starchy vegetables first (like salad and broccoli), then high-protein foods, then oils/fats, then unprocessed complex carbohydrates (like sweet potatoes), and finally simpler sugars (dessert).
Starting the meal with a generous portion of non-starchy veggies ups your overall nutrient and fiber intakes and has been shown to boost satiety, reduce overall calorie intake, and help regulate post-meal blood sugar levels.
5) Practice mindful eating.
Try to put your fork down between bites, slow your eating pace, and tune into your body's cues. I also recommend spending at least five minutes a day practicing mindfulness meditation, via a guided app or YouTube video. Being mindful can help you better tune in to your body's hunger and fullness signals, eat with more awareness, eat slower, and feel more satiated.
6) Drink water.
Sweetened drinks like soda, sweet tea, lemonade, and punch, which are often served at holiday gatherings, aren’t filling. That means you won’t compensate by eating less, so you’re just adding excess calories to your meal. To keep it festive with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners stick with water or sparkling water garnished with a bit of fresh in-season fruit or sprigs of fresh mint.
Compared to soda, you’ll save about nine teaspoons of added sugar per 12 ounces. In addition, good hydration has been shown to benefit blood sugar regulation and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
7) Eat before you drink alcohol.
Alcohol is absorbed quickly on an empty stomach, so eat first to slow the rise in your blood alcohol level. Drinking tends to lower inhibitions and stimulate appetite, so you may eat more, or eat foods you wouldn't reach for when sober. Also, too much alcohol can disrupt sleep, and poor sleep has been shown to increase appetite, particularly for high-calorie foods.
8) Savor and enjoy what really satisfies you.
Healthy eating isn't about deprivation, but it makes sense to differentiate can't-live-without holiday favorites from foods that are so-so on the satisfaction scale. Over the years numerous clients have told me that thinking this through before building their plates has helped them make more mindful choices and feel fully satisfied without overeating.
At the beginning of each new year, millions of people optimistically set fitness goals for themselves. Unfortunately, usually within a matter of weeks, obligations and busy-ness typically increase while motivation and enthusiasm decrease at an equally fast rate. Feeling that life is too busy while also lacking motivation is a combination that has proven to derail even the best of intentions.
A key barrier to being physically active is an all-or-nothing mindset. Unless there is time for a full workout, why bother to start it at all? What is the point of eating carrots for dinner if I ate two cupcakes at work today? It’s Friday and I didn’t get one workout in this week—why bother doing one now? I have forgotten to drink water all day—well, I might as well have another soda. This type of thinking subconsciously drives disengagement in positive behaviors.
Although it doesn’t work with everything, the idea of “something is better than nothing” nicely applies to healthy behaviors. In other words, it is better to do something good—however small or seemingly insignificant—for your health and well-being than nothing at all.
Not convinced? Consider, for example, that a five-minute exercise interval performed once an hour may improve glucose and insulin levels in obese individuals better than one single longer session. Another study found that people who rode 10 minutes on a stationary bike had a sharper cognitive response to specific tests compared to individuals who read a magazine for the same amount of time. And immune function may be significantly enhanced with a 20-minute bout of exercise. As you can see from this small sample, the research confirming that something (in this case, a small amount of exercise) is better than nothing is encouraging.
Specifically, some movement is better than none. Standing is better than sitting. Walking or moving around is better than standing still. The same is true for other health behaviors that often feel challenging for some people. For example, drinking some water each day is better than drinking none. Eating some fruits and vegetables is better than eating none. Getting some sleep is better than getting none.
Here are some practical ideas for adding small doses of physical activity and movement into your daily life:
Adopting a few small healthy habits has the potential to progress into more healthy patterns over time and gives you the opportunity to experience what reaching your goal might feel like. Doing something rather than nothing also provides a sense of accomplishment, which initiates positive self-talk and self-empowerment.
Several “somethings” performed throughout the day will start to become “a lot” of things over time—and you may not even feel as though these things are taking much extra time. In fact, if you start integrating healthy behavioral patterns into your daily life, lack of time will likely cease to be an issue altogether.
Why 30 days?
Many of us have heard that it takes a minimum of 21 days of consistency to form a new habit. While this theory has been largely debunked, what is true is that making a habit requires willpower and continual effort. We use the 30-day challenge template as a challenging but achievable goal to help you get motivated to reach your health goals. The 30-day timeframe allows you to focus on small, week-by-week changes, ensuring you have time to build the habit. The best time to start a clean eating diet? Right now.
What can I expect to happen in 30 days?
The short answer is: A lot! Many who give clean eating a try for 30 days will see a change in their weight, however the benefits of clean eating far surpass the number on the scale. For example you might experience:
Challenge: 30 Days of Clean Eating
This 30-day clean eating challenge helps you incorporate more real food into your everyday diet. Clean eating allows you to keep the foods you love through exploring healthier ways to enjoy them. When you follow a clean eating meal plan, you can still enjoy your favorites like ice cream and red wine, as long as they’re enjoyed in moderation and made from natural ingredients. The bottom line about clean eating is this: It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is all about enjoying food in its most natural forms.
If all this talk of whole foods and lifestyle changes has you feeling overwhelmed, take a breath and relax. At its core, the clean-eating lifestyle is a basic method of eating. Over time, and with practice, eating clean will be second nature to you. Follow these guidelines for the next 30 days, and remember that the best way to form a habit is to take it day by day.
The principles of clean eating
Making healthy food choices can transform your body from the inside out. Give it a try for 30 days, sticking to the following guidelines:
There’s no denying that some injuries just need time to heal. Whether it’s lifting less weight or simply backing off altogether for a few days, giving your body the time it needs to recover can be beneficial in more ways than one.
So once you’re ready to take up your favorite workout again, here are 10 modifications that you can use to prevent further injury while maintaining strength in other areas.
1. Limit total workout volume.
Unless you’re an exercise science guru, exercise volume may be a new concept. We’ll go over the basics and then show you how to apply it to your workout routine. Exercise calculations, like volume, can be used as a method to measure workout intensity. Generally, volume is calculated using this equation:
Workout Volume = (the amount of weight that you're lifting) x (number of sets) x (repetitions)
For example, if you lift 20 lbs (9 kg) on the overhead shoulder press for 3 sets of 10 repetitions, then your workout volume would be (20 lbs) x (3 sets) x (10 reps) = 600 lbs (272 kg) for that particular exercise.
When you’re injured, your workout volume should always be less than your pre-injury volume. To calculate this, modify one (or all) of the variables in the above equation. Some examples of ways in which you can change your training volume include:
The good news is that you can work out and maintain fitness levels even if you need to temporarily lower your workout volume. By doing so, you’re significantly decreasing your risk for greater injury and reduce the possibility of weakness from inactivity.
2. Modify your positioning or lifting technique.
Depending on the type of injury you sustained, you may need to modify your body position or lifting technique. For example, deep squats should be avoided for people with hip, knee, ankle, or low back injuries. Instead, take a wide stance and practice mini-squats or wall slides. People who are recovering from shoulder and neck injuries should avoid overhead motions and prioritize shoulder stabilization exercises or upper back strengthening.
3. Give yourself more time to recover between sets.
Consider taking more time to rest between reps, sets, and workout days. Rest periods are an underutilized factor when it comes to modifying an exercise routine, especially while recovering from an injury. Many people use shorter rest periods to increase the intensity of the workout; however, increasing the length of the rest periods can have the opposite effect (i.e., allowing for lower intensity).
4. Focus on unilateral movements to strengthen the weakened areas.
Unilateral movements is a common term used to describe motions that involve one side of the body. Incorporating them into a workout is an effective way to address weakness and instability in the body. Oftentimes, unilateral movements target important accessory muscles that work to stabilize your body when doing larger movements. Examples of unilateral movements include:
The key to unilateral movements is to focus on control and stability of your entire body.
5. Consider doing different forms of exercise while you recover.
Look on the bright side: sometimes the "best" part of an injury is discovering a new activity that you otherwise would have never attempted. And one of the most effective ways to maintain fitness levels when you’re injured is through something called cross training.
Cross training involves participating in similar types of exercise to develop a specific component of fitness. You may have heard this term referenced by marathon runners or triathlon participants, since it’s a widely-used method to improve cardiovascular health and endurance. While these athletes use cross training as a way to rest their bodies from repetitive motions, you can use it as a way to stay physically active during recovery.
For example, those who are unable to run or jog may prefer to swim or row, since the latter is less jarring to the joints in the lower body. Similarly, people who suffer from wrist and hand injuries may not be able to tolerate cycling and, instead, should jog or go for a brisk walk.
6. Work through a pain-free range of motion.
This goes without saying, but let’s take a second to discuss why this is important. Pain with movement is a sign that something isn’t right. Along with that, any strong, sharp, or persistent pain that develops during exercise should be considered as a red flag and cause for concern.
If you notice pain or discomfort with movement, especially as you’re recovering from an injury, either stop what you’re doing or modify your movement.
Suggestions on how to modify the movement include changing the activity, decreasing your range of motion, or limiting your reps/sets.
7. Cautiously reintroduce new exercises.
Our bodies tend to gravitate towards certain patterns of movement. Over time, the body becomes adept at those particular movement patterns, which increases our vulnerability to injury when doing something new. Therefore, when introducing new exercises after an injury, you should move cautiously and with purpose.
The concept of movement patterns is not new, and physical therapists frequently use this principle to help people recover from injury. You can also take advantage of this by strengthening weakened areas of the body using multiple forms of the same exercise. One example of this would be to perform side and reverse lunges in addition to forward lunges.
8. Substituting pain-free exercises for painful ones is okay.
Like cross training, substituting pain-free exercises for painful ones is another way to maintain your fitness levels as you recover from an injury. Unable to lie flat for bench press? Strengthen the chest muscles by doing an incline press or weighted push-ups instead. Sore wrists during planks? Drop down to your elbows or make a fist.
9. Don’t be afraid to take some time off.
Admittedly, there are times when the modifications on this list aren’t enough. If that’s the case, then it’s best to take some time off from exercising or see a specialist. In the meantime, focus on your body’s strengths and exercises that you can perform without pain or limitation. Yoga, walking, and gentle pool exercises are often great alternatives to strength or HIIT workouts.
10. Ease back into exercise after recovery.
Once you are ready to start exercising again, it’s best to ease back into it. Avoid the temptation to load the same amount of weight that you used before the injury, and fight the urge to do your usual reps/sets scheme. Gradually reintroducing movement and strengthening exercises is the best way to prevent reinjury. Use low reps and sets so you can focus on form, control, and stability. As always, prioritize core stabilization exercises to ensure that your foundation remains strong and healthy.
Final thoughts. Recovering from an injury can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to signal the end of your workout days. Find ways to exercise in a pain-free manner that doesn’t place you at further risk for harm.
Exercise is fun and (hopefully) brings you joy, but in addition to the fun side of working out, you may be anxious to see results – get fitter, stronger, faster. We all have different fitness goals but what bugs most of us equally – whether we’re CrossFitters, bodybuilders or runners – is not seeing results from working out without being able to pinpoint why.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s impossible for anyone to endlessly keep up that upward curve you may have had when you first started – it’s only normal that your progress will slow down over time. But, if instead of making slow progress, you’re not seeing any results from working out or find yourself regressing, you’re most likely not doing the right things – or not doing them right.
Even though we all have our personal goals and measure success differently, there are some common reasons why people find themselves in a rut, not seeing results from working out.
1. YOUR GOAL IS TOO VAGUE
If you’ve hit that workout plateau but not sure why, the first step in getting to the bottom of it is to take a closer look at your goals.
Apart from not having a goal at all, the most common mistake athletes and exercisers make – despite their sport – is that the goal they set for themselves is either set too far (which usually leads to lack of motivation) or the goal is too vague.
An example of a target that isn’t specific enough could be: “My goal is to become stronger.” How would you measure that? How do you define what exactly is stronger? Is being able to do two more push-ups enough or does ‘stronger’ mean doubling the amount you lift?
A clearly defined, attainable and measurable goal could be something like:
“1.5x or double bodyweight full range of motion back squat (depending on your level of fitness) in 18 weeks.”
2. YOUR GOAL IS UNREALISTIC
Many times we don’t believe enough in ourselves, but some of us take it to the other extreme and set the bar way too high for anyone to reach. As a result, they end up getting knocked down by a massive disappointment – all because of unrealistic expectations.
So, before you throw in the towel altogether, be aware of what is attainable with your current fitness level. For example, if you don’t have a strong running background (let alone if you have no running experience at all) setting a goal of running your first marathon in sub 3 hours means setting yourself up for failure.
A more realistic starting point could be to aim to run a 5K or a 10K first. If you go for the 42K, your first marathon should be about gaining the experience and crossing the finish line, never mind the time.
3. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO MONITOR PROGRESS
Setting attainable goals that you can measure is key, but the next step is to understand how to monitor progress.
If you set a big goal for yourself and six months from now see if you got there, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself nowhere near where you wanted to be because you’ve been doing things that haven’t been working for you.
The key is to set and measure smaller milestones along the way and adjust your plan as you go. There are various ways to do this but to name a few, here’s what I suggest:
It’s good to have at least 3 months to see proper physical change no matter what your goal may be. Ideally, if your main goal is, say, 3 months away, I would set smaller goals, milestones, for every two weeks and make sure they are realistic enough so you’ll be able to hit them and get a sense of achievement and a nice motivation boost.
When tracking my conditioning I use different time domains and HR monitoring plays a big role. If my goals are strength/power or stamina related I monitor weights (kg) and repetitions.
4. YOU’RE NOT VARYING YOUR WORKOUTS
Plain routine is the enemy blocking your way to better fitness results. Repeating the same exercise routines will lead to plateau in workout performance and results – not to mention you’ll get bored and lose motivation. You’re body needs new stimuli and progressive training if you want to see results.
A more developed cardiovascular system will also increase your ability to recover faster.
Both HIIT and steady-state cardio are essential even if your main goal is to build muscle and strength. To optimize muscle growth and there-on strength, you need a solid cardiovascular base to feed your muscles with nutrients etc.
The best way to vary your workouts is to do functional fitness due to its complexity. If you do constantly varied functional movements the hormonal responses in your body will be greater because your body won’t be able to adapt as fast and will need to work harder to keep up with the new stimulus.
There are numerous ways to spice up your workouts by varying intensity, weights, duration or working on entirely new muscle groups or trying completely new activities.
Think outside the box – vary your workouts and the results will speak for themselves.
5. YOU DON’T WARM UP
You’re pumped and can’t wait to get to your actual workout? When you’re feeling super psyched, it’s tempting to skip warming up and just get right to the point. But, if you don’t warm up, you’ll get less out of your workout as your body won’t be ready to give it your 110%.
The purpose of a warm-up is to gently activate and prepare your muscles for the workout and get your heart pumping more blood into the muscles with every beat. How to best prepare for your body for exercise depends (naturally) on the workout your about to do but there are some common principles that apply to warming up in general.
A good warm-up should always include three steps:
6. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR WORKOUTS
It’s awesome to be excited about working out but if you’ve been trying to hit your goals faster by doing more and more of the same, you may be feeling like running a treadmill – putting in a lot of effort without moving forward.
The ideal amount of high intensity training per week depends on your level of fitness and on your total training load for that week. I usually do two shorter (5-10 min) HIIT type workouts and one longer HIIT session (20+ min) per week.
Mobility should be at the least a part of your every day warm-up routine before your actual workout to make sure your body is ready to go and to get the best results. If you’re not able to perform the movements correctly because you lack in mobility, the results of the workout will also be poor.
A really important rule in increasing any kind of fitness is Mechanics -> Consistency -> Intensity. Now, if you lack in mechanics due to not reaching full range of motion in a certain movement, you won’t be able to move on to consistency and your progress will come to a halt. This rule, if followed correctly, will always guarantee you an increased fitness level overall.
7. YOU DON’T RECOVER
Like the age-olds saying goes: “No rest, no gain!” That means seeing fitness results requires recovery.
When it comes to rest days, I believe in the 3 ON-1 OFF style. This will work for most people, keeping in mind the total load for a week.
Of course, your level of fitness will affect the time you need to recover. A rule of thumb would be three days of training per week for beginners and up to five for the more advanced athletes.
In addition to post-workout recovery routines, rest days and active recovery, sleep is one of the key factors in recovery. During your sleep the hormonal production is at its peak so the amount and quality of your sleep will clearly affect your results.
A good way to measure your recovery status is to perform an orthostatic test in the morning three times a week. Experienced athletes will also find themselves comparing previous results and assessing their current status by how they feel.
8. YOUR DIET IS OFF
With all the conflicting nutrition advice out there, figuring out what and when to eat is easier said than done. For many athletes optimal meal timing is individual so the only way to truly know what works for you is to try, monitor and adjust.
Because our bodies are unique, it’s challenging to give out generic nutrition advice applicable to everyone, in all situations, but if you aim to eat unprocessed whole foods, high-quality proteins and essential fats (e.g. from avocados and nuts) as often as possible, you’re off to a great start.
If I could give only one nutrition tip, it would be:
Prepare your own meals, this way you know what you’re putting in your mouth.
Most of us know that strength training (with free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands) can help build and maintain muscle mass and strength. What many of us don't know is that strong muscles lead to strong bones. And strong bones can help minimize the risk of fracture due to osteoporosis.
A combination of age-related changes, inactivity, and inadequate nutrition conspire to gradually steal bone mass, at the rate of 1% per year after age 40. As bones grow more fragile and susceptible to fracture, they are more likely to break after even a minor fall or a far less obvious stress, such as bending over to tie a shoelace.
Osteoporosis should be a concern for all of us. An estimated eight million women and two million men in the United States have osteoporosis. It is now responsible for more than two million fractures each year, and experts expect that number will rise. Hip fractures are usually the most serious. Six out of 10 people who break a hip never fully regain their former level of independence. Even walking across a room without help may become impossible.
Numerous studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and several show it can even build bone. This is tremendously useful to help offset age-related declines in bone mass. Activities that put stress on bones can nudge bone-forming cells into action. That stress comes from the tugging and pushing on bone that occur during strength training (as well as weight-bearing aerobic exercises like walking or running). The result is stronger, denser bones.
And strength training, in particular, has bone benefits beyond those offered by aerobic weight-bearing exercise. It targets bones of the hips, spine, and wrists, which are the sites most likely to fracture. What's more, resistance workouts — particularly those that include moves emphasizing power and balance — enhance strength and stability. That can boost confidence, encourage you to stay active, and reduce fractures another way — by cutting down on falls.
Tell me if this looks like your typical day:
6 am-7:30 am: Make breakfast, get kids ready for school, get ready for work.
7:30 am-8 am: Take kids to school, and head into work.
8 am-4:30 pm: Work (maybe more than 8 hours).
4:30 pm-5:30 pm: Pick kids up from school and take them to extracurricular activities.
5:30 pm-6:30 pm: Make dinner and organize the house.
6:30 pm-7:30 pm: Pick kids up from activities and eat dinner.
7:30 pm-8:30 pm. Clean up dinner, help kids with homework, get them ready for bed.
8:30 pm-10 pm: Finish whatever work you have for the day and prepare for tomorrow, then bed.
The day I just described is utter chaos, and unfortunately, this is the typical day for most of the clients I work with at the gym. When juggling the stresses of a career, a family, and everything else in your life, it is hard to find time to put your own health first.
Although it is very hard to consider your own health, when you have everything else to worry about, it is absolutely essential to focus on staying healthy.
It is more than ok to put yourself first sometimes. Putting your own health first might seem selfish to you, but it definitely is less selfish than you might believe. When you put your own health first you are setting the rest of your life in order. Being a healthy person will allow all of the following:
Some of you might be saying, “I know it is important to put my own health first, but I literally don’t have the time to be healthy.” To that, I say, “Make time for it!”
I am not trying to downplay how busy you all are, and I feel for you 100%. However, think of it this way, we all have the same amount of time in the day, so how do other busy people find time to be healthy?
Our priorities in life will guide the actions we take through the day. Making your health a top priority will make a positive change in your life and will allow you to have time you thought you never had.
Typically, I believe this is what most people’s priorities are like:
For a person who values their health highly, typically this is what I think their priorities are:
There is no magic pill or hidden secret for health, the key is people that want to be healthy make it a priority in their life, just like their work or their family. The key is to plan time in your day to do what you need to, in order to stay healthy. Staying healthy might consist of the following:
It might seem selfish to have all of these checks in your life every day, but it is essential to have the best quality of life you can. When considering the quality of life, you must maintain balance.
So, how can you be more selfish and make more time for yourself? Many of the clients I work with have a very hard time saying NO to people. When you refuse to say no, and volunteer yourself for everything you can think of, you end up stretching yourself, and if you stretch yourself too far you end up breaking. There is power in saying no, it gives you the power to take control of your life, and more importantly your health.
Another way to find more time in your day is to follow a strict schedule or find a routine. I recommend that everyone has a schedule that they make weekly and check every day.
Everything should be scheduled from the second you wake up, to when you eat, when you work, and when you plan to exercise. When you lay everything out in front of you, you begin to realize how much time you really have, and you begin to see what things you can start cutting to make more time for yourself.
Taking control of your health comes down to you. You have the choice to be healthy or to sabotage yourself. Will you put everyone else before yourself, or will you sacrifice some things in your life to put health at the top of the list? Will you use time as an excuse, or find the time in the day, no matter what, to put your health first?
Remember: it comes down to you. You push yourself so hard in other areas of your life, such as work and family, so why can’t it be the same for your health? You control your life, your time, your stress, and your health. If you don’t like where you are at currently, change it! Make the time, learn to say no, be more selfish, and put your health first.
Besides offering essentially no vital nutrients, sugar-sweetened drinks, including soda, can lead to health complications like weight gain, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and diabetes.
When consumed in excess, added sugar can adversely affect your health.
However, some sources of sugar are worse than others — and sugary drinks are by far the worst.
This primarily applies to sugary soda but also to fruit juices, highly sweetened coffees, and other sources of liquid sugar.
Here are 13 reasons that sugary soda is bad for your health.
1. Sugary Drinks Do Not Make You Feel Full and Are Strongly Linked to Weight Gain
You tend to consume more total calories if you drink soda, as liquid sugar doesn’t make you feel full. Sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with weight gain.
2. Large Amounts of Sugar Are Turned into Fat in Your Liver
Sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are about 50% fructose, which can only be metabolized by your liver. Excessive amounts may contribute to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
3. Sugar Drastically Increases Belly Fat Accumulation
High consumption of fructose makes you accumulate belly fat, a dangerous type of fat linked to metabolic disease.
4. Sugary Soda May Cause Insulin Resistance — a Key Feature of Metabolic Syndrome
Excess fructose intake may lead to insulin resistance, the main abnormality in metabolic syndrome.
5. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages May Be the Leading Dietary Cause of Type 2 Diabetes
A large body of evidence links added sugar consumption — particularly from sugar-sweetened beverages — to type 2 diabetes.
6. Sugary Soda Contains No Essential Nutrients — Just Sugar
Sugary sodas contain little to no essential nutrients, only providing sugar and calories.
7. Sugar May Cause Leptin Resistance
Animal trials suggest that a high-fructose diet can drive leptin resistance. Eliminating fructose may reverse the problem.
8. Sugary Soda May Be Addictive
Sugary drinks have powerful effects on your brain’s reward system, which may lead to addiction.
9. Sugary Beverages May Increase Heart Disease Risk
Multiple studies have determined a strong link between sugary beverages and heart disease risk.
10. Soda Drinkers Have a Higher Risk of Cancer
Observational studies suggest that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to an increased risk of cancer.
11. The Sugar and Acids in Soda Are a Disaster for Dental Health
The acids in soda create an acidic environment in your mouth, while the sugar feeds the harmful bacteria that reside there. This can have severe adverse effects on dental health.
12. Soda Drinkers Have a Drastically Increased Risk of Gout
People who frequently down sugary drinks appear to have an increased risk of gout.
13. Sugar Consumption Is Linked to an Increased Risk of Dementia
Some studies indicate that high blood sugar levels raise your risk of dementia.
The Bottom Line
Drinking high amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages — such as soda — can have various adverse impacts on your health.
These range from increased chances of tooth decay to a higher risk of heart disease and metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes.
Regular consumption of sugary soda also appears to be a consistent risk factor for weight gain and obesity.
If you want to lose weight, avoid chronic disease, and live longer, consider limiting your intake of sugary drinks.