I’ve been asked for tons of fitness advice over the years so I thought I’d put it all together in a column and let you guys cull for gems. Some ideas will seem obvious. Some will be a bit of a surprise. Hopefully some you can apply immediately to live a better life.
Fitness is irrelevant; what you really want is wellness. We talk about skinny jeans and sculpted arms, but what we really want is to feel good. To be well. Fitness is one component of that, but being healthy overall and happy with your life is wellness and that’s even more important.
Train yourself to eat less. We literally have to put on blinders to our American culture of over-consumption. When you’re eating out, evaluate your plate before you dig in and separate a smaller portion to eat, the rest to take home for other meals.
Stop taking shortcuts. They’re aren’t any. Pills and contraptions won’t make us feel better. In fact, they might make us feel worse. Don’t expect some hard marketing push to solve a physical problem you have. If you feel a “yeah, that might work” when you’re evaluating a product, there’s a good shot you’re just drinking their Kool-Aid. Walk away.
Do cardio. Yup, you gotta do it; not to stay thin, although that’s a pretty good reason, but to keep your heart healthy. You won’t care what dress size you are if you’re too exhausted to walk up the stairs because your ticker isn’t working properly. Hearts “rust out” from disuse not wear out from over use. The more cardio you can do the better. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week.
Pick whatever cardio you like. From brisk walking to ultra marathons. From stationary bikes to cross-country skiing. Whatever elevates your heart rate that feels fun to you is what you should do. I’ll keep offering suggestions for what to try but you and your body know what feels best. Go where your heart takes you.
Meditate. Several of the main causes of death in our society are rooted in low-level continual stress. Meditation has been proven time and time again to alleviate stress. It keeps you feeling even-tempered and you’ll find you resolve problems before they become “high-stress.” Wouldn’t it be nice to not freak out over something because it never became an issue in the first place?
Do resistance training at least twice a week. You could even do three or four times if you’d like. Some people get very elaborate with weight training six days per week focusing on different body parts on different days. That’s great if you want to do it but you don’t need it. Twice a week will keep you strong and healthy and able to do just about anything.
Do whatever resistance training you’d like. Yoga and Pilates count, so do free weights, circuit training, and just simple movements like crunches, pushups, and squats. Feel free to do whatever you’d like but make sure you’re working all the muscle groups.
Eat well. Mostly plants. Not too much. This is from Michael Pollan and I just love everything he does. He urges everyone to focus on fruits and vegetables, keep portions in check, and choose the best food you can, organic and free range if possible.
Keep exploring. Try different exercises, both cardio and resistance training. Mix in classes, work out with friends, hire a trainer here or there. Keep trying different ways to be healthy. You could find a whole new movement that inspires you and makes you happy. From lacrosse to square dancing, you’ll never know until you try.
Rest. Get enough sleep. Take days off and just laze around. Make sure you get breaks during the day. You, darling, need to rest. Your body needs it to function optimally and without enough, those stress triggers start and health problems can crop up.
Play. Go out with your friends and laugh your head off. Have a glass of wine and watch the sun set with your honey. Go to the park and play with your kids. Whatever play means to you, do it. Regularly. Play inspires us, recharges us, makes us think in new ways. What could be better than that?
So that’s my best advice. Do I follow my own advice? Mostly but not always and when I don’t, I feel it. I’ll come down with a cold or my back will get cranky. Or worse, I’ll start getting cranky with my family.
What advice do you give your friends and family? If you’re in the wellness industry, what advice do you give your clients or patients? Please share.