The Life of the Fit:
Whether your goal is to become insanely fit, where complete strangers stop and take notice or just fit enough for your clothes to feel better, you may be wondering where to start. Fit people live a certain way and they’ll gladly share those tips with you if you ask. It all starts with the moto: “fitness is a lifestyle,” which means they have specific habits that keep them healthy and trim every day of the year. Their habits can be categorized into three parts: exercise, diet and self-assessment. Follow these tips and you too can join the fit and fabulous.
Move Your Body
Obviously, fit people work out, but it’s the way they do it that separates them from the crowd of gym-goers. Exercise is a priority and part of their everyday activities, like brushing their teeth or putting on clothes.
- Five days a week of work: A one hour workout five days a week is typically enough to achieve great results, unless you’re training for a marathon, triathlon or some other type of competition which requires sport-specific time investment. You can break the exercise sessions up to suit your schedule (e.g.: 30 minutes at lunch and 30 minutes at night).
Note: Make sure to put in two days of recovery. If you’re so sore that you can’t get up from a chair or walk, trying to exercise is pointless. Not only will your form suffer, but you are also putting yourself at risk for more serious injuries. Rest is crucial for muscles to repair. Listen to your body.
- Mix up exercise routines: Don’t do the same thing every day. Cross train. This is especially helpful in avoiding overuse injuries. For example, if you’re a cyclist, experiment with barre classes to open up the abdomen, hips and shoulders. Varying your exercise routines prevents plateauing, as well as challenges your mind and body to continue to develop new connections.
- Lift weights: Whether it’s body weight, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells or cable machines, weight training increases muscle strength. It also challenges balance and ensures a well-proportioned physique. Strength training develops muscles that support joints and it prevents bone loss, so you can have great posture and avoid breaking bones in your golden years.
- Do cardio exercise: Three times a week, focus on your heart and lungs. Cardiovascular exercise increases endurance so you can exercise longer (the more you do, the more you can do); it gives you more energy, and boosts metabolism. It doesn’t matter if you skate, jog, climb stairs, bike or walk. Vary the intensity with intervals or work at a continuous rate. For best results, stay within your aerobic threshold using the Karvonen formula.
- Keep records: A training log is essential for tracking pounds lifted, as well as number of reps and sets completed. This comes into play when setting goals and it helps to stay organized. You can log mileage/times for cardio workouts. This is handy for speed and endurance training. A food diary is perfect for counting calories and tracking types of food you eat, especially during training or if you’re trying to lose weight. Explore using technology to track activity and diet. This can range from a simple pedometer, to apps such as MyFitnessPal, Strava and Digifit iCardio, to wearable fitness trackers such as Fitbit. You can even create a free blog where you post progress logs and pictures on sites such as Wordpress or Google’s Blogger.
Food as Fuel
Food should be viewed as fuel, not as a guilty pleasure or as a reward. It’s not about dieting or deprivation. It’s about providing the body with useful nutrition for muscle health and optimal energy. Once you see a meal as the foundation of health, it’s easier to make the following into habits.
- Don’t snack on unhealthy foods: Avoid packaged food because it’s usually high in sugar, fat and salt. Taking the time to make it yourself means fewer poor-quality calories. Grabbing an apple is just as easy as grabbing a granola bar and it has fewer calories.
- Eat regularly: Don’t skip meals. Eat three meals a day. Depending on meal size and activity level, you may incorporate snacks. The more active you are, the more often you should be eating. But keep meals lean and green, with fats mostly coming from plants. A nutritionist can assist you with finding the right calorie content, or you can use apps that will do this for you. Some people make a menu for the week and prepare the meals/snacks ahead of time (like on Sunday afternoon), then pack everything up for easy grab ‘n go or heat-and-eat.
- Drink water: Stay hydrated both during exercise and when you aren’t exercising. Water keeps the joints lubricated, the intestines moving, the muscles and skin supple. Don’t drink empty calories in the form of sports drinks, sodas or fruit juice. Caffeine has its place as a metabolic booster, but beware of unnecessary chemical additives. Electrolyte-enhanced drinks are only required if you are sweating profusely. Alcohol should be an occasional indulgence (never binge); it dehydrates the body, taxes the liver, impairs balance and judgement, disrupts sleep and makes it hard to get up for a morning workout.
- Don’t smoke and never do drugs (recreational or performance-enhancing): There’s no room for these activities in the lives of the insanely fit.
Pay attention to your mood. A positive attitude increases the likelihood that you will continue with a particular behavior– in this case, having a fit lifestyle.
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night: Seven hours of sleep is the average that we need to function our best. Hormones controlling appetite, stress and many other functions are regulated during sleep.
- Be social: Work out with groups/friends for motivation and company.
- Hire a personal trainer: Coaching one-on-one with a trainer is a good investment for all physically active people. They will improve your performance by helping you learn new techniques and give you ideas for overcoming physical roadblocks. They are trained to motivate and guide you to better fitness.