10 SIMPLE WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR FITNESS
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So it’s the start of another New Year and Congratulations are in order for making it through the grueling past 12 months.
Now that everything from the past year is in your rear mirror, it’s all about to start over again and if you’re like most people, you want to push the trauma of the previous year to the background and welcome the promise of a new year with open arms and preferably tighter gut.
Presumably you’re doing that thing where you introduce a -new you, new experiences, new adventures and new everything else, convinced that if you reject the negativity and embrace a positive attitude, and with just a little bit of luck – nothing! Absolutely nothing! can hold you back.
Well, except of course that little problem of the reflection in the mirror which tends to highlight the gaping disconnect between “how you feel” versus “what you actually see”.
On the inside, you’re an emotionally centered, buoyant, spirited, dainty, sprinting, jumping, lively, healthy person that can’t wait to get out there and embrace life; but on the outside, quite a different story with the podgy, blotchy and slouchy “old you” staring back in dismay.
You will be the first to acknowledge that your thoughts and perception about your are probably exaggerated, but you still long for the day when your positive thoughts dominate the negative whispers that hold you back, but the that you’re not quite there is a little disheartening.
The new you wants to be out there, seeing and experiencing things, but every time you catch a glimpse of your reflection, all that euphoria evaporates quickly, bringing your enthusiasm to a grinding halt.
You don’t even know how much you weigh, because you swear your bathroom scale needs an exorcism to get your weight right.
“Being out there” enjoying life means being in front of people, and inevitably photos, which could end up anywhere – especially social media, where no amount of twisting or sucking your gut in or good lighting will save you.
Social media criticism can be pretty honest and harsh, or even worse silent – which is harsher.
So in order to avoid all that anxiety, you’re just going to have to suck it up and tackle your weight loss like a champ.
You’re going to be focused, committed, disciplined and definitely stay away from the miracle working Adderall, which works wonders at first and then attempts to murder you afterwards; been there, had the panic attack – no thank you!
You will experiment with everything from keto and Intermittent fasting to water fasting, while getting into the habit of health and fitness improvement.
You know that in addition to losing weight, you are going to need the mental focus and emotional balance required to see things through to the end, because you’ve been there, repeatedly trying to shed pounds and failing; Throwing everything into the first few couple of months only to give up for the rest of the year.
So what will be different this 2020 ?
How will you get into the habit of being the healthy person that you’ve always wanted to be?
How will you ever be able to take a picture and strike a daring pose instead of recoiling into the background?
How will you choose summer outfits and swimsuits that do not double as an evening party floral dress?
How ? how? how? Will this transformation happen?
Well, fear not because the following ten tips have been collated specifically for you.
We aren’t promising a “fittest person on the planet” award, but it should at least point you towards good habits and tactics to improve your fitness and get started on a healthy regimen that you can sustain.
Are you ready? No? Well I’m going to tell you anyway, so here goes …
1. Use the data from technology
First offs, in today’s data driven society, there is no reason to guess anymore.
The technology is out there and it can help track your food, water intake, measure your activities like heart rate, calorie burn, with even some going as far as measuring and recording blood pressure and sugar.
The data can store a history of all health activities to help you make timeline comparisons and adjust future activities accordingly, using the metrics as reference
2. Ditch the gym
Most gyms have fine-tuned their subscription models to ensure you keep paying them whether you attend or not.
They know it’s a hassle to keep those appointments and that you’ll be quitting after a weeks of dedication.
That’s why the contract you sign with them is an ironclad 12 months, ready to be renewed after you return from a ten month hiatus.
There are hundreds of online workout programs that could help to improve your health and fitness, especially social media platforms like YouTube where trainers and programs are a dime a dozen.
Try searching keywords like “fitness trainers on youtube ” or through the parent company Google, and avail yourself to a plethora of fitness literature – all from the comfort of your living room.
Say goodbye to the time wasting commute, missing gym clothes, waiting in line for machines and all the other gym fails.
Instead swap it with the ease of rolling out of bed, bleary eyed and disheveled but with time to get into a push-up or squat, or my favourite “burpees” or any workout that tickles your fancy; all done before even leaving your room. How good is that?
This doesn’t suit everybody, and you should still use the gym if that’s your preference, but with a 9-5 job and if you happen to have family, your time management better be super efficient and then some, otherwise, you’d be keeping the Gym CEO in the black, like every other mug out there.
3. Change your mindset
Most of the things you do in your life tend to revolve around your mindset.
The human mind subconsciously plays out scenarios ahead of time in a bid to prepare us for what is to come.
For most people, the mind will anticipate an event or experience by repeatedly replaying imagined scenarios borne out of our intentions and expectations.
Ordinarily, this is an ideal situation where we can react to pre-empted scenarios by exhibiting some abstract, pre-determined role-play behaviour we already conjured up in our subconscious.
An instance of this would be like the 1500m sprinter who decides that the bell which the race officials usually ring to signal the last lap of the race, is the signal to expend the most energy in order to win the race.
By anticipating the bell, they program their minds to initiate the action of going “all out” to win the race. Subconsciously, they would have played out this scenario numerous times in their mind, seamlessly pairing the subconscious with the conscious.
In contrast, an athlete that perceives the bell as a signal for negative pressure to win a race might whittle and lose motivation instead.
In both scenarios, and assuming both athletes are of similar performance levels, the mindset becomes the dominant factor, as it can trigger our best or worst instincts.
When associated to physical fitness, our triggers could be ‘dreading the early morning alarm, the frustration of food preparation and cutting out junk food, the reluctance to commit to two or three days of physical exercise or even the avoidance of an early night in order to be refreshed in the morning.
All the components mentioned above are necessary in order to achieve health and fitness goals; and yet, mindset, among other variables, will interject to boos enthusiasm or diminish it over the course of time.
Our anticipations are things that “have not occurred yet”, but we use them in prepping the mindset to adjust to what is to come.
When it comes to health and fitness or anything else in life for that matter, you must reinforce the positive mindset and adopt a “I am going to do it” attitude.
This will help you overcome the negative conversations that tend to occur in the mind.
It is crucial to retain this attitude at all times, and especially when the task results in failure, so you can develop the habit of a strong, impenetrable, and resilient mindset which you will need to overcome challenges and prime yourself for success in achieving your goals.
4. Develop a schedule
Think about it – everything in life is scheduled to start and end at a specific time. It doesn’t matter if it’s work or play, even nature rules the sun to rise and set at a particular time, so it’s an inevitable fact
of life that without scheduling, everything goes awry.
So similarly, you must setup a schedule and mold that into a routine for work, play and relaxation and try not to let one interfere with the other.
This way you can completely focus on one task at a time, without associating any guilt about neglecting one priority for another.
This is to say that when you schedule time to workout, your entire focus should be harnessed into getting the best intensity you can, without distraction. Everything else can wait till after the allocated time, and this attitude should apply to your life in general, gradually building it into a routine that you can depend on moving forward.
5. Learn how to single task
You may want to indulge in serial single tasking, and learn how to start and finish one task before moving on the next; a practise that essentially reduces the occurrence of mistakes.
The general consensus is that today is that multitasking is the best way to get ahead in the world. In other words, cramming as many things as you can together and attempting to tackle them all simultaneously; but as you may have noticed, this has also increased rate of mistakes and errors generally.
We appear to have gone full circle though, gradually relishing the benefits of single tasking in producing more quality over quantity, which is a more desirable result compared to a chaotic amassment of compromised multitasking results.
Likewise, you must approach your health and fitness with the same attitude. Exercise, nutrition, sleep, and meditation are all components of fitness that positively reinforce our health objectives, but tackling all at the same time is the reason most people derail simply because there is too much going on at the same time.
Focusing on one and mastering it before advancing to the next one, may be a better approach that helps us achieve the results we desire.
Organize your goals with a long-term strategy that can be achieved with a steady pace instead of a crash course that invites additional pressure to an already stressful situation.
6. Sleep more
During sleep, the body pauses most activities and begins a recuperative process by determining what needs to be retained, jettisoned, or repaired before we wake.
Therefore, along with all other activities involved in fitness, we must also adopt and play close attention to the area of sleep.
Sleep should come naturally to an active lifestyle and can be enhanced further if incorporated with a meditative mindset, which is ideal for deep sleep – which is crucial to full recovery from an active lifestyle.
The opposite is bad sleep, which is the kind you get from recklessly snoozing off while binge watching TV, in a contorted body position and awkward neck angle.
That kind of sleep – you really want to avoid!
Instead, practice a routine (that word again) where you prep for bed at least five to ten minutes ahead of time, ensuring you have implemented the optimal relaxation and ambiance that will compliment a goodnight’s sleep.
You can review your day and plan activities for the morning, which can help free your mind from worry and anxiety that can interfere with sleep.
If you have a snoring partner, that disturbs your sleep cycle, that will need to be addressed too by taking drastic actoun like – sleeping in the gusts room while you resolve the snoring issue.
Yes! it’s that serious.
7. Get rid of distractions
A distraction is anything that prevents focus and affects optimal performance; ergo, distraction can be bad for the most part!
Sometimes, a little distraction is necessary to counter serious work or concentration, but we want to focus on the disruptive type that impacts productivity and effectiveness.
Over the past few years, it has become difficult to identify what constitutes a distraction especially with the influx of the Internet and social media, which has been ingrained and nurtured into regular everyday life, and in some instances encouraged as a desirable trait.
The fallout is that we’re now expected to perform tasks in unison with distraction, heralding it as a feat of human productivity, without considering the consequences.
To analyse this further, especially in reference to fitness, I would use the simple act of walking as an example; a low impact, natural means of mobility, and practised by millions. So, if ever there was an exercise that could tolerate distraction with minimal impact, walking would qualify as one.
Yet, if you consider that walking requires that we manoeuvre our body in a specific way, such as engaging our core, straighten our shoulders, with an upward angled neck, and solid contact with the soles of our feet, then most of us would have already failed miserably in executing this simplest of tasks due to poor posture – and this is rampant today.
You only have to observe the way we sit and constantly stare at digital gadgets to comprehend the strain on our necks and spine.
We have extended the use of these gadgets into our exercises as well, impacting our natural posture and further aggravating the problem.
So when it comes to physical exercise, the advice is to ditch the TV, phone, iPad or whatever else might be the enticement and focus on what you’re
There are forty-five minutes to an hour to focus entirely on yourself, and if your workout is so boring that you need to watch something to distract you – then you’re doing it wrong.
8. Invest in body exercises
I have always maintained that when it comes to exercise and fitness, you really need to be able to lift your own body weight before anything else.
Machines and free weights can be beneficial, but the true test of performance is the use of your own body weight to execute manoeuvres.
Let me tell you what happens when you depend solely on machines or free weights;
the targeted body part will respond marvelously and you may even look fabulous, assuming you apply the correct form and execution.
If you happen to catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, you may very well be
pleased with the results you see.
Now, all of this is true as long as you continue working out, because as soon as you stop, your body gradually returns to its original state with little or nothing to show for all your hard work, and the reason for this is simple;
“if your body can’t support its own weight, it obviously cannot support weights that are heavier”
And if you’re querying how a 5lbs dumbbell in a bicep curl could possibly be heavier than the strength of your arm for instance, then you really need to start question what part of your body you actually lift a 5lb dumbbell with;
Are you using only bicep power or are you compensating with your entire arm, a bit of your torso and legs.
This might explain why some people are able to curl up to 35lbs and still have twig looking arms.
This kind of approach to exercise is the reason why people fail to see any progress in fitness despite their commitment and effort, leading to frustration which if forced can create a worse case scenarios – injury!
Trust me, I’ve been there and I’ve bought the tourniquet .
When it comes to exercising, there is one critical lesson to learn; body weight exercises like push-ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, squats, jump squats, pullups, bear crawls, leg raises and their numerous variations, will mostly deliver better results over equipment and machines.
Machines will generally accentuate what you’ve already achieved with your body weight.
A Google search for body weight exercises will reveal everything from the basics to advanced hardcore programs that will surpass any intensity you’ve experienced with machines and free weights.
There is always a middle ground between pushing your own body weight and using weights to enhance results – that middle ground is where you want to be.
9. Develop a support system
You need an individual or a group to keep you accountable.
This shouldn’t really stop you from benefiting and progressing from your fitness regime, but sometimes just having another party that keeps you in check goes a long way.
When the body is subjected to pressure, the mind may struggle to cope and demoralization might set in and be rest assured that everyone, including the professionals and experts, experiences these same challenges, so you should expect similar experiences at some point in your training program.
Most times, it will come in the guise of mental fatigue as the enthusiasm for exercising wanes, and sometime for no apparent reason, which is usually a sign that your body needs rest or something else.
Some people can deal with this personally while others opt to seek out a second party for assistance. You should determine which category your all into, and if it’s the latter, be preemptive and seek assistance ahead of time, so you know who to approach when you hit a wall and create the opportunity to develop some kind of relationship.
Ideally, you want to find someone who is better than you or at least performs at your level because they will suit your fitness goals and style better. Generally you’re more likely to benefit from a master and novice situation, where you can be corrected by someone with extensive experience.
If for whatever reason, you do not have any of this, and you find yourself alone in your fitness program, then the least you could do is rid yourself of distractions and remove any toxicity in friendship or relationship that can be detrimental to your progress. If that is too drastic for you, then at least start the plan to do so.
The reason for this is simple; the energy required to focus and attain your fitness goals depends on mental and emotional stability as mentioned earlier. At certain moments in your training, you will need all your positivity to get through the tough periods and then last thing you need is bad energy.
Protect your mind at all costs!
There will be numerous challenges ahead once you start pushing yourself and situations where you will doubt yourself and harbor negative thoughts, so keep some emotional energy in reserve and eradicate any external factors that generate negativity around you.
You have enough to deal with!
10. Simplify your meals
There are three major categories of food, namely Carbs, Fats and proteins and most of your major food sources will fall within these parameters.
Your source of energy comes from Carbs and Fats and the protein is a repair component that carters to growth and maintenance of the muscle, tissue, bone, cartilage, skin, cells.
So if it’s energy you’re looking for, Carbs or Fats are your best options, while your protein intake is a more of a muscle repair component among other things, with the appearance of your hair, nails and skin, serving as loose indicator of your protein sufficiency. Of course protein synthesis goes a lot deeper than that, but we’ll keep it simple for the purpose of this blog.
The amount of protein you need has been a debated topic for years, but ultimately starting at 1gm of protein per body weight is a good start, and then you can eat more or less depending on the results you get.
The symptoms of excessive or deficient protein intake are well documented and easily sourced material especially on the Internet, but you should always consult a physician before embarking on any nutritional change to be sure.
To obtain the health benefits from all your food sources, a meal plan is an ideal practice to engage in, but if the thought of numerous Tupperware littered with brown rice and broccoli is the first image that pops into you mind – don’t fret! It doesn’t have to be too complicated if you do the following;
- pick a meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Repeat the same meal for a week.
- At the end of each week, you have the option to prepare a new set of meals for the coming week.
I followed a similar pattern and simplified my meal plans by identifying the foods I eat for breakfast lunch and dinner and stuck to them indefinitely.
For variety, I would dabble in other meals by swapping one meal with something else, see if it agreed with me and then decide whether to stick with it or revert to my old meals.
This may seem drastic at first, but with consistency, you would be amazed at the simplicity, quickness and efficiency this brings to your food choices and even pertinent is the fact that this practice encompasses more food variety than you would anticipate.
11. Bonus Tip
if all fails, choose one thing from the 10 that you can be consistent with
In my opinion, there are four vital areas you must invest in to achieve optimal health namely; Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep and Meditation.
If everyone had the time to plan their lives the way they preferred, most would be experts in these four aspects and live healthier, fitter lifestyles with minimal effort.
Unfortunately, whatever time we used to have to ourselves a few years ago has completely vanished in the current “always switched on” world we have now.
The pace of life has become hectic and unrelenting, which means we have to find a methodology to develop better lifestyles and wellness despite the time crunch.
First, we must start with the acceptance that the challenges we face – be it poor health or excess weight, did not suddenly materialize out of thin air, but rather a result of poor cumulative choices that put us in our present predicament.
The acknowledgment that we were at least partly implicit in causing the problem should serve as encouragement to pace ourselves and try to walk back the mistakes by developing better life decisions and habits for the future.
There is a theory that suggests that it takes about the same amount of time to undo the harm we inflict on our minds or bodies, making it necessary to adopt the mindset of a marathon runner, rather than the sprinter when we are trying to rediscover our health and fitness.
Accept that it will take time and abandon the expectation of a quick remedy.
A good way to practise this is to pick one area from the areas mentioned earlier – Nutrition, Meditation, Sleep and Exercise – and focus on mastering it, preferably over a 3-month period, which is the length of time purported to convert behaviour into habit and assist you in prioritizing your efforts more efficiently.
When you have mastered one area, you can then add another, devoting
another three months to it and continue with the pattern until you have practiced all four areas, by which time, you twelve months would have elapsed.
A whole year to get healthier and fit?
Some people can do so in shorter time and if that is the case, then kudos
to you, but remember the time crunch and try not to add more pressure on an already strenuous situation. The reason you are doing all of this in the first place is to alleviate pressure and stress, so you will need to swap haste for longevity, while maintaining your urgency.
“Don’t do too much too soon, but when it’s time to do it, do it hard and
Overdoing it is a recipe for failure, which is why a slower but steady pace of one task at a time provides a better learning structure to succeed. It will teach you what to do for progress, as well as what to do to in failure, as the encounter the inevitable challenges and obstacles during your fitness journey.
Nature never rushes anything; the sunrise and sunset appear consistently every day, like clockwork always within a range of time that everyone is accustomed to, and likewise, as products of nature, we should learn to adopt this same process, realizing that rushing through anything usually ends up with detrimental consequences.
So there you have it!
This is by no means an exhaustive of recommendations, but it is a start to launch into the year with ample time to assimilate the information, research and compare alternative ideas, and modify the suggestions stipulated here if need be.
Ultimately, the approach towards fitness differs between people and tailoring your regimen and program to your individual needs is key to achieving your goals.
The more research you can conduct, the better informed you are to assist you with developing a customized strategy that will work for you.
Not all the suggestions on here will work for everyone, and for some it may the Holy Grail, but the common trend is that eventually, as the body acclimatizes, it will need new stimuli to improve.
This process is the journey of fitness that never ends as the challenges constantly keep changing with age, environment, emotionality, circumstances, and a whole list of variables.
Once you hit a certain level of fitness you are satisfied with, there will always be another level to attain, and while the choice to pursue or reside in a maintenance mode is entirely up to you, the chances are that there is more to learn to achieve.
It never really stops – hence the term “Lifestyle”; it is how you live your day to day, and not one magnificent moment of effort that matters.
It never stops; and neither should you!