It’s funny. The amount of articles you’ll discover as a beginner telling you what weights to lift, how often to run, what supplements to buy, or even what clothes to wear is absurd. What if you’ve never lifted a weight? What if you don’t realize your knee pain is from over-bearing run-time expectations? What if you feel unhealthy because you’ve replaced good sleep with increasing amounts of caffeine? Every article you’ve read telling you heavy lifting is the solution to your problems or that keto is a four-letter magic word are all missing the point: You are unique.
One. Only one person has ever existed in this universe (yes, all of time and space) with your exact circumstances, conditions, and habits. From the second you entered this world your body was uniquely your own. That article proclaiming everyone should do the same 5 movements as beginners is starting to make less and less sense, right?
Now with all that out of the way there is a baseline we all do share. Hypocrite much? Hold on, let me explain. The foundations of living a healthy life are shared between every human on this planet. Without getting a handle on these five healthy-lifestyle basics your weight lifting, running, yoga, and eating schedule won’t make an impactful, healthy difference in your life. Good sleep, the right food, plenty of water, moving your body, and a better mind-set are all places that need consistently good-habits to maintain. Here are some ways to gets started or improve in all of these areas:
Listening to your body starts while you’re sleeping. The quality of your sleep and how you feel waking up are two important indicators of how well you’re managing your health. So the first step in feeling better all day starts at night.
Here are a few strategies for starting to improve your sleep:
Consistent Bed Time: I’ve lived the changing work schedule life for a decade of my life. The effects of 12-hour differences in start times changing monthly took its toll on my health. If you’re living this lifestyle, this first point will be the hardest to implement- but don’t disregard it if you’re able to. For those of you with consistent work and life schedules, the best step you can do is go to bed at the same time every night- yes even on the weekends! The goal here is to train your body to wake and sleep on a normal schedule. Allowing your body to form a sleep-pattern will allow it to better manage many of its functions involved in rest, recovery, and growth.
Routine: Many productivity gurus have declared the morning routine the key to a successful day. An important key to success tomorrow is preparation today. Use your time before bed to prepare for the day ahead. Decide on your outfit, prepare your gym bag, get the kids lunches ready, check your makeup, even make sure you know where the dog’s leash is. Anything to help put your mind at ease and reduce the stress it has to internally carry. Run through a check-list that will help you destress, and your mind will be able to settle into a deeper, stronger sleep.
Lights out: We live in an age of screens, there’s no getting around that without living deep off the grid. Myself, I’ve been behind a computer for half my life. I’m still guilty of late nights behind the screen and watching YouTube in bed while I fall asleep. The devices, applications, and entertainment we seek through these screens are all designed to hold our attention. This demand increases responses in our body related to stress. So as you get ready for bed, lower the lights, turn off the tv, and try to leave your phone alone!
Eat With Your Brain
You know the thought: “I really shouldn’t eat this.”
Listen: Your body has evolved for millions of years and has a great set of instincts and responses that are worth listening to. Now, there are two thoughts that need to be separated here. “I shouldn’t eat this” is not the same as “I do not want to eat this.” The “I do not want to eat this” thought is the hardest habit to break when changing your diet. The other people that know our bodies have evolved to crave and require specific nutrients are those making and selling all the cheap, poor-quality food we think we want to eat! Luckily, with the health and fitness industries growing year over year, the food markets have started to respond. There are more healthy choices than ever before.
How and what to eat is one of the most personal choices you’ll make and can’t be summed up in a paragraph here. However, we should all learn how to trust our bodies with our food choices again. Take this first step and you’ll be moving in the right direction.
Drink your water: It’s that plain and simple. Swap out a soda with a mineral water or club soda and you’ll start to feel younger than the millennials powering these products’ fortunes. We buy them off the pallet at Costco. And, yes, I’m an elder millennial.
Shoes were made for walking: When you set out to find an article like this from a Personal Trainer, you’re most likely expecting to hear the secret to health is more push-ups, signing up for a 5k, and lifting heavy weights 3x a week. (Side-note: These are all great things, and if you can do them you should!) We all need to start somewhere though. Thor Bjornsson had a day he lifted his first weight. Cristiano Ronaldo kicked a ball for the first-time. Usain Bolt had to learn his best sprinting form.
A 10-minute walk is a great place to start. If you need to, find a park with benches so you can take a comfortable rest when it’s necessary. Want to build muscle but have never lifted a weight? Let’s talk assisted body-weight movements. The only things that matters are that you get moving and start small. Your body is meant to be moved. The more you simplify exercising down to its most basic form of movement, the easier it will be for you to start building momentum towards the goals that made you start.
Have you shown up for workouts consistently? Celebrate! Did you get in the gym after missing sessions for a bit too long? Celebrate! Did you do more today than you did yesterday? Celebrate!
I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere our culture has taught people that the only time to celebrate is when you’ve hit a goal others recognize as worthy. Think about that for a second- ridiculous, isn’t it? You need to celebrate along the way. Each moment you’re able to focus on your own well-being in the form of running, weight lifting, meditation, or eating well is a moment you’re choosing to celebrate the gift of life you’ve been given.
There’s an even more perplexing cultural norm that we need to talk about. Celebrate your failures! Yes, celebrate when things don’t go as planned. Recognizing you’ve performed below expectations, that you let yourself down, or that you’re off your plan is a trait to nurture and grow. Was your run harder today? Celebrate it. You showed up, put in the time, and can work to improve. Was the weight heavier today? Celebrate! You showed up, got under the iron, and can examine what made the weight more difficult to lift. Failure is an honest demonstration of where we have room for growth. Many times, it’s not the weight or the run that made you fail but something else in your life that needs to be examined. When you learn to give it an honest examination you’ll be able to get back on track!
I’ve presented the above in the order I would examine each foundational area. Each of these areas has plenty of overlap with the others with which you may need to examine differently for your own situation. For example: Cutting out soda may reduce your caffeine, improving your sleep. Learning to celebrate and learn from a failure may help you to reduce stress and personal-expectations allowing you to make better food choices throughout the day.
All of these are the basic foundations of starting down the pathway of a healthy-lifestyle. While working with new clients, these are the first areas I would like to know about because of the large impacts they’ll have across their health and the expectations they can set for the future. Establishing these foundations, forming healthy habits, and feeling positive results from only a few small changes will help to show you and my clients what’s possible with a small shift in focus and a small increase in effort.