I like to think of myself as an athlete, but when I waded into the fresh lake water for my first triathlon, I realized I was the newbie amongst veteran swimmers, bikers and runners. It was the perfect combination of feeling humbled and proud.
Training for a triathlon is a pretty intense undertaking and takes a lot of energy. So, maybe you are not a hardcore (tri)athlete (BTW - neither am I), but I can suggest 10 simple steps you can use to heighten your energy level, help provide long term health and revitalize your mind. Tricking yourself into healthier habits can literally add years to your life without taking up hours of your day.
Here is a compilation of tips I've found useful...
1) Take the stairs. Going up? Say no thanks to the man in the elevator. Depending on how many flights, taking the stairs can provide aerobic benefits and get your blood flowing to help you focus during the day. I work on the 6th floor and most days walk up the stairs twice a day 5 flights - about 5 minutes which equates to an easy 70 calories burned for me. At first it can seem daunting, but overtime it gets easier and becomes habitual.
Check out this online calorie calculator to learn how many you burn in everyday activities, like walking your dog, gardening and even kissing!
2) Don't write off your day. This morning I was guilty of eating 3 Hershey's chocolates before 10am. Many times, I will write off the whole day after an indulgence, saying I will be good tomorrow. Instead, I had to force myself to agree no more snacks today. It would be easy to say the day is already ruined, but avoiding any unnecessary caloric intake makes a huge difference - so Carpe Diem!
3) Choose your poison. Sometimes it is okay to treat yourself like I did this morning. But don't let is become an excuse to overeat. Let's face it - if you don't treat yourself every once in a while you will crack. It's the best way to build these small habits into a lifestyle instead of an impossible diet that is destined to fail. So make deals with yourself - if you are going to eat ice cream after dinner, don't have potato chips at lunch or visa versa.
4) Don't eat in front of your screen! Eating in front of your TV or PC can dramatically increase your portions and speed of eating, because you are distracted. Use this time to catch up with your family. If you live alone, eating in front of the TV is inevitable, so be sure to portion out your meals and snacks. Some ideas for other activities to do while watching instead of eating are skimming through magazines, knitting, puzzles or just relaxing.
5) Get outside. After a long day at work, you may not want to be anywhere but on your favorite chair. But even if you only have a few minutes of sunlight, get outside and enjoy it. It's easy to sit on the couch or get working on your household to-do list, but you won't regret the stress relief and fresh air of the outdoors. Create a nice space in the yard to sit with family or eat dinner outside to make it easier. My boyfriend and I grill our dinners 2-3 times a week weather permitting to appreciate the sunshine while it lasts. (You never know in New England!)
6) Park far away on purpose. Looking for the best parking spot? May not be the closest one to the entrance. Unless you have a physical limitation or have a lot to carry, try parking in a spot far away from the entrance and taking a few minutes to walk. Not only will you burn a few extra calories, but you spend less time stressing to find a spot and are less likely to get your car dinged by another harried driver on the road!
Side note: Don't park right next to the carriage corral. You are far more likely to get a scrape on your car caused by wind or distracted patron.
7) Bust a move. The age-old art of dance has been a proven stress reliever and calorie burner. Whether you put on the tunes at home or head out to a club with friends, it's a great activity for all ages and sizes. So next time you are bored, get moving on the dance floor or create your own. If anything it will give you something to laugh at while you get your heart pumping. That's one of the perks of a busy wedding season!
8) Better to waste than to waist. I don't suggest you be frivolous with your leftovers, but reconsider when you go for a second helping that you probably don't need it. If you wait a few minutes, your brain will let you know when you are full. If you can't reuse the leftovers, toss them. There are definitely hungry people out there, but that food won't help them. If it's a concern for you - you can always donate money or time to appropriate charities. Try going to the Free Rice website - where each correct answer to a trivia question provides 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme.
As far as your waist size is concerned, according to the American Diabetes Association, a healthy waist size is 35 inches for women and 40 for men. Naturally, there are cases where it varies, especially for pregnant women, but this is a general rule of thumb (or belly!). You can also calculate a healthy BMI for your size at this site. Having a larger waist size puts you at much higher risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
9) Squeeze it in. Someone once told me, if you want to know how long you should brush your teeth, you should be able to do 100 squats. Instead of realizing that I don't brush my teeth long enough, I first thought "what a silly way to get in a little more exercise when I am feeling ambitious". So try this one out for size when you are up for it and you may learn 1) you don't brush long enough either or 2) you can't finish 100 squats (like I found). Don't worry, you'll get there. It's just another simple way to squeeze in exercise without taking up extra time.
10) Take a timeout. Try to read your bodies signals when you are hungry. Sometimes at work I get flooded with emails and suddenly I find myself in the snack drawer and have no idea how the heck I got there! Stress will literally trick your body into feeling hungry - especially for sweets. So, before you put the food in your mouth, consider why you are choosing between Milky Way or 3Musketeers in the first place. If you are really starving, you probably should go for fruit or grains (boring I know, but best for energy). There really isn't a good excuse to gorge on sweets, trust me I've tried to find one for ice cream.
Also, after a 9 hour workday followed by a 1 hour+ commute I find myself feeling ravenous and I head straight to the kitchen. I quickly learned this hunger is only half real, because days when I exercise immediately after work I am rarely hungry after. I simply burnt the stress instead of indulging on snacks. So take a minute to consider what your body is really seeking.
You will find that a lot of these steps are simply a mental commitment, similar to a triathlon. (I suggest all of you try something that challenges and interests you physically and mentally at least once a year. It is an extremely accomplishing feeling.) Although these steps may not provide the instant gratification of completing a race, they will help you feel good and proud everyday. What more can you ask for?
Disclaimer: I definitely can't claim that I habitually take these steps everyday. I constantly have to remember them in my weak moments. I hope you can find them useful when you are facing life's everyday challenges.
This particular MSN article inspired me to compile these 10 steps and the columnist mentions a few of them. It reminded me of a persuasive speech I gave on this topic in college, which motivated me to share the suggestions with you.
Check out other motivating articles on MSN Health and iVillage.