Yesterday I wrote an email about people who start side businesses or think about starting side businesses not really having a plan for success. The more I thought about it, I realized that most people don’t have a plan for their health and fitness.
Now, you may be among the small percentage that does. You have a regular work-out routine, you know what foods you might want to avoid and maybe you even have a food plan…awesome!
But most people don’t have a plan and, even if you do have a plan, there are ways to improve your personal plan and ways to help others in your family have a plan for their health, too! (it’s never too early to start ingraining good health habits!)
The #1 thing to do is to identify your health goals. I encourage you to think really broadly about this and list ALL of your health goals. Usually, people start with their physical appearance, specifically their weight. Let’s expand on physical appearance goals. Besides just thinking about the number on the scale, what about the tone of your muscles, the smoothness of your skin, your flexibility and balance?
All of these things are related to overall health: your hydration, nutrition, sleep habits and exercise routine.
Next, let’s think about the things many of us DON’T think about until it becomes such a big problem that our doctor makes us aware of it and probably prescribes medication to address it: blood sugar levels, blood pressure, other markers that indicate problems only identified by lab work.
So many people think that these issues are just inevitable as we age but our health habits hugely affect all of these conditions.
So, let’s talk about a good, basic health regimen. I often use a Hat analogy when I talk about overall health. “What?! A Hat? What has that got to do with health?” you might ask.
I like to refer to the brim as the most important part of the hat and your health! The brim represents sleep. You MUST have proper sleep to have all parts of your body function properly. Some people give up sleep to get other things done like work projects, house chores, even exercise. Without enough sleep, exercise is simply tearing your body down without a way for it to build itself back up. You really can’t see proper gains from an exercise program without getting proper sleep. You can read a blog post I wrote about this earlier here.
The main part of the hat I call what you’re putting into your body and what you’re NOT putting into your body, i.e., nutrition and hydration. What should you be eating? In Michael Pollan’s words “not too much, mostly plants”. When you use this adage, it’s easy to make decisions about what to eat. There are so many wacky ideas out there but seriously, we are on a planet made up of mostly plants and if you look at the longest living humans with the best health, their diets consist of very small amounts of animal foods. I wrote a blog on that, too!
When you’re eating lots of fruits and veggies, some experts think you don’t need to be quite as concerned about paying really close attention to hydration, but I know this is a blind spot for many, especially athletes. Most sources agree that we need at least half our body weight in ounces and a quart (or liter for our metric friends) for every hour you exercise or spend outdoors or traveling. That’s a lot of water! I have learned that if one finds the way they prefer to drink water: cold, room temperature, from a bottle, from a straw, etc., they will drink more water. I also recommend that you keep track of your water intake until it becomes a habit.
You may also want to consider what NOT to put into your body but that’s a topic for another post and if you focus on getting the right amount of plants and water into your body, there’s not as much room for the things we want to avoid.
The top of the hat is exercise! Many folks think if they have an exercise routine, they don’t need to worry as much about what they eat but the opposite is true. When we exercise our need for fruits and veggies actually increases! Think about a high-performance car…it needs higher octane fuel than a regular car, right? That’s our body when we are exercising: a high-performance machine! I love that analogy, especially as a maturing athlete. Ha, ha!
If you’re new to exercise or if you’re wondering if your routine needs some sprucing up, there are 3 basic things to focus on: cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility. Getting your heart rate elevated for at least 30 minutes most days of the week is really recommended. I know there are people out there that will tell you 3 times/week is adequate but first of all, do you really just want to be adequate and second of all, think about our ancestors. They had exercise built into their daily life. It’s really ironic, we evolved in a world where food was scarce and exercise plentiful, but we now live in a world where food is plentiful, and exercise is scarce. We have to combat this unbalance by having a plan!
There are lots of things to do for cardiovascular exercise. I believe it’s important to find one or more that you love and look forward to. I recently took up tennis and although I’m not great (yet!) I LOVE to play and always look forward to it. I also run, walk, do step aerobics (yes, I do!) and I recently bought a fitness trampoline which I’m learning to love. If you don’t know what you love, try some new things. There are lots of resources for this. (gosh! Another blog topic!)
As far as strength training goes, you want to hit your major muscle groups at least twice per week: back, chest, abs, glutes, hamstrings and quads. You should be able to put together a simple body weight routine to hit all 5 with the help of the internet or a fitness professional. Of course, there are lots of much more advanced techniques (and more frequency) for building strength if you’re looking to improve athletic performance or get a super sculpted look, etc. but 5 basic exercises will help you hit the major 6: push-ups, pull ups, lunges, squats and sit ups. I do recommend getting some help with proper form and possibly adding more to your repertoire if it interests you. I find that people will stick to a program that they truly enjoy.
Last is flexibility and I believe it’s something you should work on a bit every day. If you watch animals (especially cats), they are ALWAYS stretching! We should, too. Try taking a stretch break instead of a coffee break every hour or so…makes a real difference. I’ve started incorporating 15-20 minutes of yoga into my morning routine and I’m learning to love it!
Now, it’s your turn. How can you take these concepts and start a simple plan for sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise? I recommend that you start with something simple that you can stick to and add to it as it becomes habit. If you already have a plan, where can you make it better and how can you make your plan appealing to your family? Happy planning!