This time of year, everyone starts writing tips and lists online about how to lose weight and get in shape. While that goal is certainly respectable and important to some of us, there are others out there who are looking for a moderate approach to their overall fitness. Maybe this is because it can be helpful to take baby steps before pledging to overhaul your entire workout regimen and diet plan, flipping 180 degrees from how you’ve been living for the past few years. Perhaps you’ve taken a realistic look at your daily routine, work commitments and family life and realized that dramatic, sweeping changes to your exercise and meal plans don’t have the best chance for success because not everyone in your household has the same needs.
Or maybe you’re like me and you know that you’ve tried these kinds of changes before. But no matter how many times you make an effort and start out strong that will and desire will inevitably taper off and, before too long, “normal life” will creep back into your daily routine.
It’s OK. No matter where you are in your life there are always a few simple steps that you can take to trick yourself into being more active this winter and laying the foundation for improved health and fitness in the year to come. Since I’ve already mentioned that I prefer to address this change in my own life by taking small and increasingly larger steps to build a foundation, let’s start with some of those. You can modify, customize or add to this list in any way that suits your personal needs and goals, but just remember that you’re working to lay a foundation first and then as you keep building on it with each new block you’ll realize that you’ve moved past the foundation and you’re now working on building the walls, supports and fine details of your overall wellness structure. But that is all dependent on first building a strong foundation that will provide you with motivation and confidence and this foundation will also reinforces your ability to meet your personal needs in the future.
Let’s start easy.Every day we have opportunities for healthy changes built into our life, if we’re willing to look for them. There are semi-obvious choices like taking the stairs instead of the elevator.And that’s a really good tip. But take that same way of thinking and apply it to other scenarios in your daily life. Perhaps you can find a lunch spot that’s a few blocks further away from your office than you typically venture on foot. You’ll get to try some new things and get a few extra steps in as well. Maybe your city even has a bike sharing network like Pittsburgh’s Healthy Ride, Chicago’s Divvy, Houston’s BCycle or New Orleans’ Blue Bikes and you can take a spin a little further outside of your neighborhood at lunch.If your employer lets you keep one of your own bikes at the office then that’s even better.
Take a look at your schedule and see what creative options you have to be more active during these times when you’re typically focused on the daily grind of work or school. You don’t have to try to cram in a sweaty workout session, but try to be creative to add some physical activity into your daily routine where you typically wouldn’t have it.
A Little Bigger
For a lot of us, wintertime conjures thoughts of snow, icy wind and chilling rain.And that’s a bummer if you want to get outside for some exercise beyond the bits of increased activity we just discussed fitting into our daily routine. But don’t worry, if you’re not a fan of riding, walking or jogging in cold weather then you still have options. Do you know how Mother Nature occasionally blesses us with a few randomly mild and somewhat sunny days each winter? Don’t let those days go to waste. Treat them like the gift that they are and take advantage of those days when you can. You never know when the next one will be so keep an eye on the forecasts and try to plan an activity for a one- or two-hour block on those days, if possible. As an added bonus: If you start with this mindset early in the winter, you may be surprised at how much you’ve lowered your standards by the time January and February roll around! All of a sudden 45 degrees is paradise and you start looking forward to wearing one less layer when you head out.
And if things don’t work out in a particular week then don’t beat yourself up over missing a workout or only getting outside once a week. Just keep reminding yourself that you’re working to build something and that takes time and dedication. It won’t happen overnight so keep on track with your plan. And if you can’t make it outside for a few days in a row there are still good activities that can be done indoors to supplement your exercise without having to join a gym.
Use Exercise to Run Your Day
Once you get more used to an active daily lifestyle by following the steps above and adding your own personal touches to them, you can start planning for your day by incorporating physical activity into you daily routine. This doesn’t have to be every day, but try to pick a day or two each week that you’re comfortable with to start. For example, if you need to run a few small errands after work maybe you can hop on your bike to make a loop to a few different stores in your neighborhood instead of driving. If you don’t live in an area where this is safe, perhaps you can drive and park in one central location. Then, walk or jog to each store you need to go to and return to your car afterwards to drive home.
During the weekends this type of activity can be easier to accomplish but look at your specific schedule for ways to replace trips in a car with a brisk run or spin on your bicycle. While you may not be able to get a full shopping list at the grocery store on foot or by bike, you can always use these methods when you just need something small from your local pharmacy or a few key ingredients for dinner that evening.
Do What’s Best for You
No matter how you plan to approach the new year, be thoughtful about what your individual needs and goals are. There is no singular article, list or plan out there that will perfectly address all of your specific needs.It’s just not possible for a stranger to plan that out for you. However, if you arm yourself with a proper mindset you can start incorporating daily changes into your routine that will build a strong foundation now and pay dividends later on when you expand on those activities. Be creative in your approach and don’t worry about what others around you are doing to stay in shape. We’re all created differently and what works for someone else may not be the best fit for you. Stay positive as you tackle this winter and remind yourself that staying active in your daily life, in any capacity, is better than the alternative.