As a group fitness instructor and health coach, I am often asked the same questions: What do you do to stay fit? What do you eat? How often do you exercise and what do you do? If you are confused as to what's healthy, you are not alone. We are flooded with health information, and some of it is contradictory. Let me clear the confusion and make fitness easier to achieve with these six trainer habits you can follow too.
1. Follow a two-day rule. Never go more than two days without exercise, even if that means you have to run stairs in your office building or work out in your hotel room or hotel gym if you are traveling. Following this rule means you never have to say "I haven't worked out in months" again. To make it easier, try setting up your exercise like you do any other appointment on your calendar. Schedule it so each day when you wake up, you know precisely when you are going to exercise. Hint: Move more throughout your day on top of designated exercise. Any extra movement helps.
2. Drink more water. Every morning, before I eat or drink anything -- and that includes my cherished cup of coffee -- I reach for a big glass of lemon water and I drink it down. I squeeze about half a lemon into 16-20 ounces of room temperature water and sip. Lemon water has all sorts of benefits. Lemons flush out toxins and stimulate the natural enzymes in the liver, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola. Lemons help you boost your immunity, too, with their potassium and Vitamin C.
3. Have a food prep day. When Monday rolls around, you are likely on a mad dash to get as much done as possible. If you can carve out some time on Sunday to do some food prep, you can eat healthier and save some time throughout the week. Here are some ideas for your prep day: Make homemade granola bars, boil some eggs, cut up some chicken to have for salads, wash and prepare lots of fresh veggies for a quick snack, make some smoothies and put them in the freezer for grab and go, or whip up some homemade hummus for a healthy snack. It may take a little extra time on Sunday, but it saves you time during the week, and you can stay clear of the vending machine or drive-through window when you get hungry away from home.
4. Work out smarter, not longer. People tell me all the time they are short on time, so the thing that gets cut out of their day is their workout. Try revving up your workout with high intensity interval training (or HIIT workouts). Try HIIT workouts on DVD at home or look for a HIIT class at your local gym. The key to HIIT training that makes it different from basic intervals is that high intensity intervals involve maximum effort, not just a higher heart rate. To differentiate from plain old intervals, you have to push yourself to the max during the work portion followed by a period of recovery. According to the American Council on Exercise, the athletic challenge of HIIT workouts can enhance cardiovascular fitness and athletic capacity, increase lean muscle mass, boost metabolism and help you shed the pounds. There are many ways to create high intensity intervals by changing the timing of the work vs. rest. Pump up the intensity. Combine your strength training and cardio into an interval format and feel energized and stronger from just 30 minutes.
5. Throw your life out of balance. Don't go for perfection -- in any aspect of your life -- because it only leads to stress and frustration. And let's just get this out of the way: Life balance is a myth. Ahhh, doesn't that feel better? Chronic stress takes a toll on your health, so don't try and achieve the impossible. Your life ebbs and flows in different areas, and sometimes you have to move in the direction of where the light is shining on your life right now. Think of your life as beautifully out of balance, reflecting what you value most. Have a sense of the activities that recharge you and do those things, so your days energize you instead of depleting you. Make sure you get seven to eight hours of sleep most nights of the week. Sleep, next to nutrition and exercise, is the third biggie for your health. Without enough sleep, any weight loss effort will be an uphill battle.
6. Count nutrients, not calories. If I mention the word diet, it's only to say don't diet. I love food and delicious meals, and I am sure you do too. Just peruse Pinterest for a moment and all of the healthy recipes are a delight to the eyes. Embrace clean eating as a way of life. You know diets and deprivation don't work for your health or for weight loss long-term. You can be a foodie and enjoy preparing amazing meals with the rainbow of whole foods, fresh fruit and veggies. Skip the processed and packaged foods with long ingredient labels and those that come with lots of health claims. You don't have to tally up your calorie count when you are eating clean because your body loves plant-based foods. Your body loves healthy fats like nuts, olive oil and avocados. Make choices that help your digestive system to work efficiently, fuel your body with nutrition, and provide you with more energy.
Do you have a habit you follow regularly that supports your health? Share away. I'd love to hear from you.
Chris Freytag is a nationally recognized fitness expert, speaker, and contributing editor to Prevention magazine. Known for her fitness DVDs and books, you can connect with Chris at GetHealthyU, Facebook, Pinterest or email her at help@ChrisFreytag.com.