Happy New Year!! It’s the beginning of the year, which is filled with wonderful resolutions and goals to better yourself and your life. One of the most common resolutions is to up your gym going or to start exercising again. Unfortunately exercise is not a proven method for weight loss, 90% of weight loss ultimately stems from diet and the remaining 10% from exercise. If you are trying to lose weight and are incorporating exercise into your plan (which I highly recommend), start by focusing strictly on your diet for the first two weeks and then hit the gym. Focusing on your diet for the first couple of weeks instead of rushing to the gym will allow time for your body to naturally lose that lingering holiday bloat, amp up your energy levels, and give you deeper sleeps for a more energized morning workout. It’s best to set realistic goals about both your diet and exercise plans- trying to wake up at an insane hour and go to the gym everyday when you didn’t have a gym membership in 2009, does not pave the road to success; if you don’t stick exactly in line with your plan, don’t jump ship either and backtrack on your diet.
Even before you are standing at the gym anxiously awaiting the next open treadmill start thinking about ways to improve your diet. Some easy suggestions for bettering your diet are to record what you eat, ditch those white, refined and processed sugars (muffins, scones, pastas, pizza, sweets, bagels etc) and reach for whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables and drink at least 8 cups of water a day (shoot for 1 liter of water by lunch).
However, exercise has a multitude of health benefits, and 30-45 minutes of moderate to vigorous daily physical activity is recommended 5 times a week. I know this may seem like a ridiculous amount, especially if your goal is just to start going to the gym again, but you can build up to it.
“Diet and Exercise” is a phrase everyone has heard in regards to weight loss and weight maintenance. They seem to go together like scrambled eggs and toast. While no one seems to be questioning it’s effectiveness anymore, why is this dynamic duo such dynamite? Caloric restriction (diet) is the only proven method for weight loss, but exercise is integral in maintaining your weight and keeping off those shed pounds. However, not all exercise is created equal. Research shows that it is not just the duration of your exercise but also the intensity of your workout (think about investing in a heart rate monitor). It is important to try to target your heart rate at 65% for as long as you can and to maximize your heart rate with an aerobic push at 85% at least once (it is impossible to maintain this heart rate for a long time, it usually lasts for about 30 seconds - use the formulas below to calculate yours). Hitting these target heart rates is considered vigorous physical activity. Physical activity’s literal definition is any planned or structured movement by the body that uses energy. So, this can be walking, running, pushing a baby stroller, rock climbing, dancing at a party, playing basketball and even climbing up stairs!
65% intensity= (220 − (age)) × 0.65
85% intensity= (220 − (age)) × 0.85
Exercise is a key player in leading a healthier, longer and happier life. It relieves stress, aids in maintaining a healthy weight, lowers your risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes, helps control blood pressure, and improves self-esteem by reducing feelings of depression and anxiety. And if these benefits haven’t convinced you, it will also increase your fitness level, build and maintain bones, muscles and joints, develop endurance and strength and enhance flexibility and posture.
Now, lets be realistic. Breaking a sweat is easier said than done. Motivation is key and setting realistic micro-goals along the way to lead you to your ultimate goal is the most effective way to cross the finish line, and then keep going. I know how difficult it is to incorporate exercise into your daily routine; between work and family it seems like a low priority. Why are there only 24 hours in a day?! But once you get into a routine it becomes habit like brushing your teeth, you can’t go a day without doing it! I’ve compiled a list of tricks, tips and to dos in order to maximize your work out and how to sneak it in your busy lifestyle just when you think there aren’t enough hours in a day.
10 Tips, Tricks and To Dos:
No time for the gym? Consider killing two birds with one stone by switching up your commute. I’ve gotten in the habit of running to or from work. Biking and waking up a bit early for a brisk walk to work can also do the trick. Regardless, aim for about 30 minutes of a moderate to vigorous cardio workout.
Keep yourself entertained during the workout. This can be anything from creating a energizing playlist on your iPod/mp3 player, watching your favorite TV show, using Wii Fit, or downloading a personal training track to your iPod. If you are one of those people who hate repetition or gets bored on the tredmill, take a dance class! Keeping yourself engaged will make the workout pass quicker and more enjoyable.
When you didn’t go the gym that day… do not stress, there are a multitude of activities you can do right in the comfort of your own home. Dips while watching TV, abs on your child’s bedroom floor while he/she falls asleep, walking lunges around your living room or running up/down your flight of stairs. For bursts of energy, if you are ever faced with the choice of an elevator or stairs- always opt for the stairs!
Intervals are key! Interval training is a proven method for reaching your maximum heart rate. Most cardio machines now have an interval option but there are also gym classes that incorporate this type of training. You can also do intervals yourself: sprint for 30 seconds, walk/jog for 1 minute and repeat for up to thirty minutes.
Mix it up! When you have no motivation, take a spin class (Soul Cycle, Fly Wheels), a weight training class (Whipped!), a dance class (Zumba!), yoga or pilates- these teachers are trained to keep you engaged and to motivate you. Yoga is also a great way to tighten your abs and strengthen your back muscles, which are hardest to strengthen and often get overlooked.
Don’t forget about weight training. You should aim to do weights 2-3 times a week to build and strengthen your muscles. I target my biceps, triceps and shoulders since those are used least in cardio workouts. And don’t be afraid to use the machines, or grab a body bar- they are there for you!
Change the channel… to the exercise channel on your TV. There are great exercising tips and new exercises that will keep your work out fresh.
Dress the part. It may seem silly, but wearing tighter clothes to exercise in will improve your workout. Baggy clothes weigh you down and can get in the way.
Sip don’t gulp. Make sure you hydrate 30 minutes prior to your workout but only sip your water during it. Also, don’t eat within 30 minutes of beginning exercise because your body will not have digested yet. Post workout, it is important to refuel on electrolytes, protein and some carbohydrates to compensate for essential nutrients that have been lost through sweat during exercise. An apple with peanut butter or a nutritious smoothie fits the bill.
Stretch!! I know you want to just race out of the gym but you need to cool down your muscles. Be sure to take 5 minutes at the end of your workout to stretch. This will also improve your flexibility!
After reading these 10 tips and tricks, I hope you’re ready to put your best foot forward to reach your goals!