As the night crept through my office windows, I began visualizing a sweat laden workout. The sun began setting at the early 3 o’clock hour making it seem like I should have been home hours ago. My outdoor runs came to a slow halt with the crisp, dark evenings filled with wood and coal smoke. I decided to myself that the next hour would be spent with brief mental breaks from the reality of office work to an anticipated event filled with heart pumping activities indoors when a co-worker walked into my room with her head tilted downward. The click of my office door closing behind her was enough to garner my full attention.
“Can I talk to you about something private?” She asked under hushed breath.
“Of course you can!” I exclaimed in confidence with a splash of curiosity.
“Well,” she hesitated, “I have been so unhappy in my skin, but I don’t know where to start.” Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she went on to explain how her addiction to food was overcoming her.
“It’s awful because I can’t hide it. My bad habit is open for examination with every person I meet.” she said sorrowfully. Within moments we changed gears, I could sense a lift in her energy as health driven conversation splashed the white walls of my office with juicy colors. She could easily change the way she looked and felt. It wasn’t only feasible in my eyes, it was inevitable! It wasn’t like she was asking me to help her find a kidney. She needed me to support her weight loss journey. She needed someone to offer her tips and motivation.
Motivation is needed more than ever for many residents across the United States, especially us Alaskans as winter comes in harsh, cold waves! Here are some helpful tips to help kick your STRIDE into gear!
Sugar out! Focus on veggies and protein for every meal.
Do me a favor when you go home tonight. Eradicate anything in your cupboard with sugar. Candy, junk food, treats, baked goods, cakes, pies, ice cream and anything else with sugar in it. Put them all into a bag and give them to a friend or place them into your trashcan tonight. Make a vow to eradicate this substance from your life for two months. Focus on making every meal centered around 2/3 vegetables or salads and 1/3 protein. By doing this, you are also cutting out simple carbohydrates which quickly turn to sugars in our bodies.
Task yourself now to prepare for tomorrow’s exercise plans.
Tonight when you go home, choose a workout outfit. Get everything together. Get your running shoes, your socks, your undergarments, shirt, and pants. Fold them into a pile and have them sitting next to your treadmill or in your gym bag with your ear buds and water bottle. If you bathe at the gym then remember your towel and flip flops. Make sure they are all in one pile together and are ready to go before you go to bed. Then, set your alarm for one hour or two before your usual wake up time with the intent to go for a walk or workout in the morning. Try to soften the battle for motivation by making everything as easy and pain free as possible.
By preparing ahead of time, the only thing you’ll need motivation for is driving to the spot you’ll be exercising. Once you start your workout there’s no more fighting it! Before you know it, you’ll be five minutes into your workout. You’ll notice exercise routines grow into habit so much easier with this little trick. I live 30 minutes from the gym. Before I leave for work every morning, I make sure my bag has a gym outfit, fresh towel, shampoo, conditioner, ear buds, and running shoes in it. I toss it in my car every morning before I head off to work. Sometimes I even put it in my car the night before. Even when I don’t think I’ll get to the gym that day! Sometimes motivation for exercise will creep up on you in the most unexpected ways. Make sure you are always prepared to answer that call!!
Read a book.
Are you interested in becoming a runner? Run to your local bookstore and get something on the exercise topic of your choice. You’ll notice your levels of motivation spike as the chapters wear on. It is phenomenal to read an athlete’s expertise and/or experience while you are in middle of your own course. I read a book written by a runner that made me realize I could push myself harder than I was.
He was running a minimum of 60 minutes every single day. By surrendering to a read that revolved around exercise, I was pushed to further limits. I started to look forward to my runs, improved as an athlete, and progressed mentally from having doubt in my abilities to believing in myself because I knew other people were far surpassing goals I had for myself. An athlete’s account of their journey will not only offer self-motivation, but will also raise the bar.
Invite a friend.
In journeying on your way to a weight loss goal, be sure to disclose the mission with a close friend or family member. Knowing you’ll be giving an exercise report to someone will help drive you to the gym. It might also encourage you to do a longer or more intense workout. My sister and I have a long distance relationship, but we’ve found a way to encourage one another from a distance when we both needed to get back on track with our health. We challenged ourselves to keep up with one another’s cardio sessions. Anytime one of us made it to the gym before 6pm, a text or phone call would alert the other person to exercise for an equal amount of time. It turned out to be very successful in getting us both back in the swing of working out after going through a dry spell. You can also set dates with your friend or family member to hit the gym. You’ll find that it’s easier to stay committed when you have obligated yourself to meet up with a friend.
Discipline three to five heavy, sweaty, cardio workouts into your routine every week.
I talked about this in, “Healthy Habits Begin With A First Step.” The first step is to pencil in three cardio workouts every single week between thirty minutes to an hour. Or you can aim to do two hundred minutes of cardio a week. Count your workouts from Monday through Sunday. It is easy to start with Monday because you will recall very easily whether or not you made it on the toughest day of the week. Then your count from there will add up through Sunday. If Saturday comes along and you only made two workouts for the week then you know you have to make it up during the weekend.
Think of Saturday and Sunday as make-up days. This method has proven successful for me, but there’s no wrong way to exercise. Just make sure you do it! The more, the better!
“Over the past 4 decades, numerous scientific reports have examined the relationships between physical activity, physical fitness, and cardiovascular health. Expert panels, convened by organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the American Heart Association (AHA), along with the 1996 US Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, reinforced scientific evidence linking regular physical activity to various measures of cardiovascular health. The prevailing view in these reports is that more active or fit individuals tend to develop less coronary heart disease (CHD) than their sedentary counterparts. If CHD develops in active or fit individuals, it occurs at a later age and tends to be less severe.
“As many as 250,000 deaths per year in the United States are attributable to a lack of regular physical activity.”
“Even midlife increases in physical activity, through change in occupation or recreational activities, are associated with a decrease in mortality. Despite this evidence, however, the vast majority of adults in the United States remains effectively sedentary; less than one-third of Americans meets the minimal recommendations for activity as outlined by the CDC, ACSM, and AHA expert panels.”
It doesn’t matter when you start your regimen. Even if you are getting into gear in your sixties, seventies, or eighties, the health benefits will be noticeable. With less than one-third of Americans meeting the minimal recommendations for activity, it may seem normal not to exercise. If two out of every three of your friends choose to be complete couch potatoes, you might think your one walk a week is enough. Well, it’s not. Here is an exercise pyramid provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that you can use to help guide your exercise regimen:
Aim to get three to five cardio workouts in every week that average 50 minutes or aim to do two hundred minutes of cardio exercise every week. Be more than average. Discipline yourself now to live a strong, active, healthy, and happy life. Think of today’s 50 minutes of misery as welcoming endorphins, eradicating stress, strengthening your immune system, and bringing you energy. It might hurt for 50 minutes, but then it’s over and the health benefits far outlast the pain. As your discipline increases, don’t forget to drink plenty of water!
Explore new activities.
Our bodies are meant to wiggle, walk, and move. It doesn’t matter how you wiggle it. Why not ask your friend to try out a new class with you? You get to choose the exercise class of your choice this week and your buddy gets to choose the class next week. There are countless classes that surround your community. Do a google search and see what you can find. There are many gyms that offer cycling, kickboxing, yoga, Pilates, and strength training classes. Or you can switch up your routine with racquetball, basketball, and rock climbing. Making exercise fun is the key to making your weight loss goals a success.
These are some handy tools that have helped me along my lifelong path of having good health and adding pep to my step. You can print these tips off or remember STRIDE when you need some tips to keep you from falling off track. There’s no better time to start then right… this… very… second.
Stride towards lifelong energy and cheers to you for making that commitment!