Happy January! You know what that means: overfilled gyms, juice bars making more money than they will in the rest of the months combined, crash diets, Chiropractic visits due to overexertion; the list goes on and on.
What happens after these first thirty-one days pass?
Not much-and that’s what everyone is trying to, pledging to, resolving to prevent. Despite warnings from various websites, medical journals, and the like, most people tend to go gung-ho this inaugural month, get exhausted halfway through, and realize that they can’t keep going at the same pace the rest of the year. Which I don’t blame anyone for doing. That’s ridiculous, man. Don’t torture yourself.
There are a few tricks I’ve got up my sleeve that keep me at least mildly committed throughout the year, which is something I used to never be-my train of thought normally consisted of, “Hey, those are athletic shoes. I could use those sometime. I wonder what that would be like.”
The only time I actually got really into consistent exercise was when I realized it would improve my mental, as well as physical, health. Once that was all fine and dandy, I took it down a notch, and here I am.
How I got to this point, however, was a lot of trial and error over quite a few unhealthy years-not only in my sedentary days/weeks/months, but in my active life as well. In an attempt to save you from a similar ordeal, I have placed some helpful hints here.
Take the Middle Path
Thank you Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad-y’all were on point. Nothing can ever get done with either extreme. When exercising, if you do nothing, you’re doing exactly that. If you’re doing too much (and you should know what this is for you), you’re doing exactly that. Ease into your practice-whether you’re doing beginner yoga when you think you’re intermediate, walking a 5k when you think you can handle jogging the whole way through, lifting 3 sets of 10 with 10-pound free weights instead of 15-pound just to make sure you don’t mistakenly push anything out of alignment-and get a taste of what you can handle before you bite off more than you can chew.
In a similar vein, literally don’t bite off more than you can chew. DO NOT CRASH DIET. This may lead to binge-eating and yo-yo dieting, and, in more severe cases, eating disorders. You are trying to make yourself stronger. That -er is an additive, my friend. Don’t get disillusioned into thinking that you aren’t strong in the first place-it takes strength to get started, which is something you will definitely be tested on no matter how methodically and analytically you go about this process. Don’t cold turkey this thing. If you’re drinking three sodas, beers, something or other (juice, yes, juice is not that good for you, surprise), a day, don’t cut back on anything the first week. Just start to figure out your comfort level while exercising, and the following week see if you can go every other day with one less drink than you normally grant yourself. The first week alternate between two and three, two and one, one and none, then none, if you so dare. This can be done with habit foods as well, such as candies and whatnot. This is not to say that you should cut these foods and drinks entirely out of your diet-ideals do not exist. Don’t have a ‘treat yo’self’ mentality, have one that is determined yet flexible. You know your body. If you know that you are craving sweets or some overly salted edible, go for it. Just pay attention to the serving size. That will be a good indicator of if you’ve been denying yourself of sugars or salts in other food groups. If you’ve had a serving size and still are craving that food or others like them, you may want to reconsider your input and output. Try not to count calories unless specified by a medical professional, as this could spiral into crash dieting and similar pitfalls.
Find Your Niche
Exercise can be applied to the old adage about work: if you enjoy what you do, you never do so a day in your life. My niche has become yoga, with occasional bouts of jogging and various strength-building exercises. Find something you like doing, whether that is swimming, paddle boarding, skateboarding, karate, running, wrestling, gymnastics, anything. The internet exists for a reason. Search that s***. The possibilities are endless (although they may be severely restricted based on your location and funds).
Don’t Take Yourself Seriously
Like I said, ideals cannot be upheld. You’re going to want to go and go and go and go and you’re going to keep yourself accountable… but you aren’t the energizer bunny. You’re human. Your muscles, cardiovascular and respiratory systems are not going to be used to this sort of rigor. You’re going to have to put your foot down and keep it there once in awhile. That ache you begin to feel when running that isn’t there after a day or two of rest? That means you need a day or two of rest-I don’t care what your plan was for that day or the next day or the next. If you can handle switching up your schedule to a different part of your body, do so if you so desire, but a day off isn’t going to kill you. In fact, it will do just the opposite. Guilt and overexertion go hand in hand.
Take a Break
Just to echo the above statement, take a break a few times a week. Put it into your schedule, if you have one. Make room, or listen to your body when it’s telling you it’s had enough. Do both. Instead of looking at your plan and asking yourself which days you want to take off, look at your schedule and ask yourself which days you want to work on recovering. If you perceive the rest as a way to recuperate and improve your health, you will feel undeniably better about recovery.
Yay! This is the fun part. Rewarding yourself, however, does not have to involve destroying everything you’ve worked hard for. Maybe this is a day you have your serving of habit food, but along with that you give yourself the real reward: binge-watching Netflix, watching two hours of Youtube videos, buying yourself a new record, some books, going to a concert of a sporting event… Perspective is powerful.
One last thing to add before I let you go on your journey.
Water is so important. Drink it when you wake up, drink it throughout the day, drink it during meals, drink it before you go to bed (but not too much before bed, because-well, you know). Drink. Water. You’ll feel so much less fatigue in your body and in your brain if you’ve hydrated well.
Go forth and be free!