How to Improve Your Overall Health and Fitness Level
Trying to become more healthy and active is often a challenge that is easier said than done. Every year right around New Year's, loads of people make promises to themselves that they are going to get in shape and stay in shape but very few of them are able to maintain this change. Unfortunately, I have been in this same situation and it takes more than just making a resolution to become more healthy. It takes small changes that lead to lasting lifestyle change.
This article will focus on some tips that should help you to become a more healthy and active individual. Of course they are just suggestions, and nothing can replace good old fashioned internal motivation. If you can think of some tips that have helped you in the past, I encourage you to leave them in the comments at the end of the page. It's possible that other readers could also benefit from your experiences.
Make Adjustments to Your Current Diet
One of the easiest things that you can do that will have one of the largest impacts on your health is making changes to your diet. The things that we eat not only have a direct impact on our weight, but also affect the amount of energy that we have throughout the day.If we are feeling lethargic throughout the day, then the chances of us exercising or doing something productive later are pretty small.
I've noticed that a ton of people fall victim to whatever the latest fad diets are in hopes that they can become more healthy and lose weight. The problem is that these are often hard to maintain, and people end up putting the weight back on after the diet is over. In my personal experience, I've found that it is easier to start small when it comes to changing the things that we eat on a daily basis.
My advice would be to pick one meal out of the day and make it as healthy as possible. Try to eliminate any fried foods and excess sugars, and concentrate on eating fruits and vegetables and lean meats. You can also start out with the snacks that you eat in between meals. If you switch over from eating candy bars to eating almonds or some other healthy snack, you can slowly get yourself used to eating more healthy. Over time, you can focus on changing two meals a day and continue until your whole day is comprised of healthy meals.
Take a Cooking Class
Another thing that stopped me from eating healthier was just not knowing what to cook. It seemed like I had a ton of recipes for things that were not healthy, but very few that were actually good for me.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, I would advise you to do one of two things. If you have friends that eat healthier than you do, ask them to suggest a few basic dishes that you can prepare on your own time. They can probably introduce you to a range of foods that you can begin to try on a daily basis.
If that doesn't work, another suggestion would be to attend a cooking class at one of your local restaurants or community colleges. There are often classes that can teach you how to cook healthier meals and expose you to healthier foods to keep in your refrigerator. By doing this, you can improve your cooking skills while also learning affordable ways to eat healthy.
Make Your Goals Realistic
One mistake that people make when trying to get in shape is only making one long term goal. The problem with this is that when people don't feel as if they are making progress towards that goal, they start to give up completely. In reality, it could take a while to start noticing large results but this doesn't mean that smaller success stories aren't happening.
My suggestion would be for people to come up with a clearly defined long term goal followed by a series of smaller goals leading up to it. This way even if it is taking a while to achieve the ultimate goal, you can still measure yourself by how many smaller goals you have accomplished. And no matter what size the goal is, everyone has to agree that being able to cross something off a checklist is a motivating feeling.
Keep Your Body in Motion Every Day
I won't lie, I've fallen victim to the excuse that I don't have enough time to exercise. The truth is that we have opportunities throughout the day that give us a chance to get in shape. These moments may not allow us to get in a full body workout, but we can at least stretch or do things to get blood moving throughout our bodies.
It doesn't mean that we have to set aside hours at a time to do these activities either. I started out by doing little things like parking my car at the farthest corner of the parking lot on the way into work each morning. At least I knew that if all else failed, I was going to get in a good walk on the way to and from work. Another thing that I have started doing recently is blocking off 15 minute breaks in the morning and afternoon to get up from my desk and go for a walk. I've found that the fresh air and exercise has improved my mood, enabled me to talk with my friends more, and improved my fitness.
Cross Training Ideas
In order to keep things fresh, try adding the following activities to your workout routine:
- Stair Climbing
- Jump Roping
Think of Things You Enjoy (or Used to Enjoy)
I've found that one of the things that happens first when you stop being active is that you also start to forget the things that used to keep you active in the first place. At my job I had a few icebreakers that required me to tell about myself, and I found that it was real hard to describe exactly what I enjoyed doing. It wasn't because I considered myself a boring person, but rather because my inactivity had wiped out a large part of my life. If people asked me what I enjoyed doing, all I could do was name stuff that I hadn't done in years.
With that being said, I think one of the best things that you can do is sit down and brainstorm a list of activities that you truly enjoy doing or that you used to enjoy doing. Think of things that will keep you engaged and active. They don't have to last for hours. They could actually be things that last a few minutes at a time. The point is just to remember what they are so you can slowly find ways to start doing them.
Once you have your list, find a way to start incorporating a few of those activities into your weekly routine.It takes a while for new activities to become a habit, but over time you may find yourself being more active and adding new things to your list.
Sign Up for a Race/Event
Once you start exercising, you may start to worry about drifting back into your old habits. One way to stay motivated with your new fitness regimen is to sign up for a major fitness event in the near future. This can be something as large as a marathon or triathlon, or as small as a local 5k fun run. The goal is just to have something big to look forward to that will keep you motivated to continue training. Once you accomplish this goal, set your calendar ahead for another event. Not only do the events keep you on track, but they also enable you to meet other like-minded people that can increase your support system.
The second half to this is for people who are frugal-minded. I know that if I take the time to spend my money on something, I am way more likely to stay committed to it in the future. For example, if I signed up for a race that required me to pay a $25 entry fee, chances are I am going to stay committed to running in that race because I wouldn't want to waste my money. Now if the race were free, there would be a much higher chance that I may end up bailing out on it.
Join a Local Club or Social Group
Trying to get in shape on your own is not easy. There are always those people that are able to motivate themselves to get healthy and somehow manage to stay motivated for the long haul. However, there are also a ton of people that just cannot get started without having a support system. I tend to operate a little better when I have someone else that can give me a kick in the butt also.
In cases like this, it may be helpful to search your local newspaper or go online to find clubs or social groups in your area. Sometimes there will be running clubs or hiking groups that meet up on the weekends or during the week before work hours. Most of these groups are open to beginners and people with advanced skills.
If you don't have any clubs in your area, you can also find support groups online. These groups will allow you to enter your workout log and receive messages from other people that are also trying to get in shape. After a while you build up your own support system and make new friendships along the way.
Do you workout better on your own or with a partner?
Get a Partner with Similar Goals
This tip falls in line with the previous bit of advice of finding support in numbers. The only difference is that if you do decide on getting an exercise partner, I suggest that you find someone that is either in the same fitness level as yourself or that has similar goals. The reason I say this is because you don't want to become discouraged if your partner accomplishes goals much faster than you do. It can also be discouraging if your partner has no interest in your goals and does not push you to achieve them. A good fitness partner should be someone that can motivate you and not enable you to continue destructive patterns.
With that being said, you should also work on becoming a strong fitness partner for someone else. There will be easy days when you can both enjoy the journey you have been on. There will be hard days where you both may want to give up. The important thing is to remain committed to the goals you have established, and be there for any support that your partner may need. In the long run, it will help you appreciate your own healthy journey that much more.
Take Progress Photos
OK, I know that this one may be a hard sell for a lot of people. However, I truly believe that sometimes you have to see photos over a large span of time to get a full understanding of what progress you have made. If you look in the mirror every day, you are probably not going to notice the difference right away because it will be so gradual, but if you take a picture every day or every few days and then review them afterwards you will definitely see your progress.
The photos will also help you to see areas that you would like to target more in the future. Just think of it as a photo journal. If you are proud of your progress you can also start a blog and publish them. Who knows, you may end up motivating someone else to make a positive change in their life! Of course, if you don't feel comfortable doing that, just save the pictures for yourself and use them for personal motivation.
Are you comfortable with the way you look right now?
Keep a Journal (Written or Online)
Possibly the biggest piece of advice I can give is to start a journal so that you can record your journey to getting in better shape. Your diary can be a simple piece of notebook paper, a BodyMinder workout journal, or posts in your own fitness blog. As long as you take a moment to record what types of activities you did and how you felt while you were doing them. You can even take it a step further and record what types of food you ate each day or how much water you drank during the course of the day.
Of course, just writing it down isn't enough. Take a moment at the end of each week or month the review how well you did. Find out if there are any negative patterns that you need to address. Are certain exercises harder for you to complete? Is your diet lacking variety? Are you drinking enough water? Are certain days harder for you to exercise?
Ultimately, your journal will not only motivate you to stay in shape, but it will also serve as a resource for you to see what worked well and what needed to be changed.