Sheila Olson of fitsheila.com
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle tends to be easier said than done — all too often, there feels like there are just too many roadblocks standing in the way. Exercise, for example, is often viewed as a chore that requires long hours at the gym to gain any results.
Those who seek to avoid the gym and still lose weight often try some new diet fad, only to find out that it is a scam. Knowing these blockades exist cause a lot of people to bypass the act of even trying. After all, sitting on the couch is more comfortable than sitting in a squat.
People are creatures of habit, good or bad.
The present routine you have grown accustomed to took a while to develop, and altering it will take time and effort. Fortunately, there are ways to streamline the process and make new healthy habits last.
A great starting point is to focus on your present mindset. Really think about how you view fitness and lifestyle change.
Do you have a scarcity or abundance mindset?
For example, do you see incorporating a healthy lifestyle to be something you don't think you have enough time or energy for (scarcity)? Or something that will give you more productive energy and time in your day (abundance)?
Once you start progressing toward your new healthy life, you may find going all in on day one to be difficult. This is normal. To avoid the shock of such a sudden shift, try to introduce small changes periodically.
By going at a slower pace, progress will be steady and lasting. Work with yourself to find a habit you are comfortable keeping. Each small change you make to your daily routine will add up in the long run.
Finding an exercise that works
A healthy lifestyle includes some form of exercise, be it walking or push-ups. If you despise going to the gym, try going walking in your neighborhood, setting up a workout space in your own home, or bring some fun tools like resistance bands to a local park. You can find numerous free workouts under "Training" to help meet your needs!
Depending on your budget, your home gym can have equipment as simple as balance balls, free weights and resistance bands or as complex as a treadmill or elliptical machine.
The important elements that make exercising worthwhile lie in the actual act of physical movement. This does not mean that you have to be drenched in sweat to make progress.
When exercising, the goal is to be active enough to get your heart rate up. The amazing benefits of elevating your heart rate at least thirty minutes a day may be felt instantly, and can become very habit-forming.
Walking is a great habit to include in your new healthy lifestyle, but in general terms of "calories in, calories out", it is vitally important to remember exercise that doesn’t elevate your heart rate will make progress sluggish, as calorie burn overtime is far lower than that at an elevated heart rate.
If you are going to go this route, remember that it will take almost as long to shed those excess pounds as it did to put them on. Regardless, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised to find improvement in the way you feel and how soundly you begin to sleep at night.
Be Patient with yourself
Keeping a healthy lifestyle is not something you can simply do overnight. It takes practice, repetition and patience. Keep in mind, without consistency there cannot be long-lasting change.
One day, those seemingly-small alterations will transform into the long-term lifestyle change. Imagine it like a few drops of water filling a bucket overtime. If you don't put the work in, there will be very little water, and that water may even evaporate. But, consistently add to the bucket and before you know it, it's full.
There will be bumps in the road that knock things off course-- vacations, illness, holidays, etc. It may be quite tempting to dive into binging on holiday treats or sharing a cigarette with a loved one.
Yet, when faced with such adversity, focus on the progress you have made and shift focus to your goals. View the temptation as something that stalls your progress or pollutes your lake!
The perception of a bad habit preventing you from doing what you want, rather than something you cannot have, will help you desire it less. Repeatedly saying no to the temptation will improve your ability to resist it in the future.
As your mental fortitude grows stronger, the healthier, more confident version of yourself will start to emerge.
Before you know it, all of the roadblocks will be more like speed-bumps or roundabouts, still cropping up now and again, but completely navigable.
Since the beginning of our lives, the human body has loved routine. Ask any parent and they will tell you babies tend to be much better natured when on a schedule, or any professional athlete and why they stick to meticulous sleeping and eating patterns.
Our bodies are incredible machines. Paying attention to how we feel is important, but also knowing why we should do certain things within our normal day is equally important to finding and keeping your daily awesomeness on high day after day.
I know we’ve all been there, “I don’t feel like hitting the gym today”, “I’m not feeling energized enough for this workout”, “Why have I been sore for 3 days?”, and so on.
Well, there are a lot of things we can do to actually stop asking these questions and start seeing results.
Actually, I don't like results. Said no one ever.
Step One: know your chronotype
Take the following mini quiz written by Amy Ashmore of the American Council on Exercise. This will help you recognize your chronotype, or natural sleep-wake cycle and how knowing this can help you to establish an effective routine that maximizes your training.
Hitting snooze like this is actually destroying your productivity. Here's why.
Add your scores together to get your total and compare your score with the table below to identify your chronotype. Your chronotype suggests your best time of day to train where overall fitness and pleasure are your primary goals.
This may have just affirmed something you already knew or suspected about yourself, as in yeah this is for sure why I need that morning cup of coffee, or why you get a boost of energy in the evening time that makes you feel like you could take on the world.
On to the next step!
STEP TWO: routinize strategically
With your chronotype in mind establish a set time for working out especially if you are training for performance or simply want to maximize your time and how you feel in the gym.
Here's why. With repetition our muscles can actually start to anticipate an upcoming workout based on the time of day. Within each of your 600 muscles, there is a little biological clock, each of which are paying close attention to your eating and sleeping patterns.
When your muscles get accustomed to a time of day for training, they will start to make little molecular adjustments in anticipation for training, kind of like your own little muscular NASCAR crew, thereby enhancing your performance during the workout.¹
Step Three: Take action
Knowing what we do about this little science based fact, in order to feel better consistently, we must establish routine. Therefore, find what works for you.
Don’t force a workout in the morning if it doesn't fit your chronotype. Try changing it up and working out in the evening instead.
The same holds true for the opposite, maybe your optimal time is in the morning and it’s time to stop hitting snooze until it’s time to get ready for work. All changes will require some sort of sacrifice, hence the next step.
Now the big kicker, in order for this work, you actually have to do it. Weird, right?
Step Four: Make it automatic
Now it's time to think in terms of taking ownership in yourself and reprogram your mindset. Make small changes to your day to enact the big ones. Find the routine that works for you and stick to it!
Stay on the grind by writing your goals (check out this free goal setting calendar, the Synergy Scheduler), sprinkling small notes around, enlisting the accountability of someone else, little rewards.
For example, my dad has a banana with peanut butter after every workout because he loves it and looks forward to it.
"Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions, your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values, your values become your destiny." - Gandhi
Until your routine becomes automatic and has naturally evolved into a natural, healthy habit, keep actively checking in with yourself or your accountability buddy on how it's going.
Remember the goal is not to just make this change for a month, it is to make it for a lifetime so that your goals will become who you are, and that is pretty dang awesome.
1 Schroder, E. A., & Esser, K. A. (2013, October). Circadian Rhythms, skeletal muscle molecular clocks and exercise. Retrieved July 23, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3866019/