Sometimes trying to figure the best way of starting your journey towards a healthier lifestyle can feel like you’re learning to juggle. You’re throwing multiple objects into the air, suddenly feeling overwhelmed and only catching one or two–or none–of them, to find the exact path towards a healthier version of yourself. I am hoping to provide you with some guidance so that you can begin ‘making more ‘catches’ by directing your focus where it needs to go to attain your healthy you goals.
Many people make resolutions at the start of the year and getting healthier in one way or another is usually on the list. Whether that’s to eat a little better, to exercise a little more, or to waste less time on social media…
(Wait..what? How is less time on social media
trelated to getting healthier? I’ll get to that).
What I think a lot of people don’t know is that the four areas I am going to touch base on are all inter-connected in helping you become more healthy-however you have defined it on your resolution list.
In no particular order (really because you are going to determine for yourself which is in need of the most attention first.)
Sleep is so important for a healthy lifestyle. Sleep is when your body repairs and rebuilds itself and when your brain gets a good clean and reset for the next day.
Ideally, you want to shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
Trying to avoid and/or limit certain things as your bedtime approaches will be important to help with creating a sleep routine to help you begin ensuring that you are getting your 7-9 hours.
First, establish when your 8-hours of sleep bedtime should be based on when you need to get up. You can even set up a reminder on your iPhone. Ultimately, this bedtime should be about the same time on both your work days and on non-work days, but in the beginning start with your work days.
Once you know when that bedtime is, start to slowly work yourself towards that bedtime. Maybe 30 minutes earlier each day for a week and then keep adding 30 minutes every week or bi-weekly until you’re at 8 hours.
Having a bedtime routine is something you may want to create. It is a way to wind down and prepare the mind and body for sleep. This generally is the 30-60 minutes leading up to bed. This routine can include some of the items suggested below.
The key idea here is to avoid or limit
i stimulation during the several hours before bed. Consider:
- No caffeinated drinks within 6 hours prior to your bedtime.
- No blue light at least one hour before bed. This is that social media I was talking about, but really it’s any computer or mobile device before bed.
The blue light is very stimulating to your brain, so if you need to be on your computer or phone for some reason, install a blue light blocking app or purchase some blue light blocking glasses. If you can create a bedtime routine that doesn’t involve your devices even better, but just like with getting more sleep, make these adjustments slowly, maybe in 15 minute increments.
Stress depletes our energy. And it can affect our sleep causing us to be awake too long, waking us up while sleeping or leave us tossing and turning for poor sleep quality. Whether it’s lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep, we are less prepared to handle things that might pop up unexpectedly in our day, thus causing us to feel [even more] stressed.
It’s a cycle.
Now of course even if you are getting 8 hours a sleep there are still bound to be things in your life that create stress. Having another way to manage stress is important so that it doesn’t have you feeling frazzled and frayed at the edges.
Exercise can be a great way to manage stress (see further down for exercise). Just a quick note, you wouldn’t want to exercise too close to your bedtime because exercise is a stimulant and would be counter productive to your bedtime routine of winding down.
Adopting some sort of breathing routine can be really helpful to manage stress. You can use an app to guide you through breathing or meditation exercises. I use the Calm app daily and love it! Many of these kinds of apps have different breathing and meditation exercises to choose from; there are even ones that are specific for stress.
Sitting and breathing may not be your thing, but maybe listening to some soothing music and stretching or doing some gentle yoga is more your jam. There are books and videos that can guide you through some gentle stretching or yoga to help relax the body and mind.
What’s great about any of these actives is that not only do they help reduce stress, but they can also be a great part of your bedtime routine. All aimed at helping you unwind and prepare for a restful night’s sleep.
In all honesty, this is where many people fall short, even when they think they are doing well. There is just too much nutritional gibberish out there. What doesn’t help either is that so many food companies use statements that claim that they’re healthy when they are not.
When we’re not getting adequate nutrition where we’re taking in a wide variety of nutrients to fuel our bodies, we can feel tired and sluggish. With good overall nutritional intake we feel energized and that can carry over into our overall day and even into our exercise. We also need our nutrition to fuel are exercise goals.
It’s another cycle.
The three biggest things I would say to focus on is:
- Eating more veggies, 8-12 servings a day. What size is a serving size? Your fist. One fist if you are female and two fists if you are male. If we’re talking leafy green, squish the greens down. Try adding veggies at snack times and a salad or veggie medley to meals. Figure out home many servings a day you eat now and then slowly add a serving or two a week until you are in the 8-12 serving range.
- Eating a serving of lean protein at each meal and having protein with your snacks too. A serving size of lean protein is the size of your palm. One palm for females and two palms for males. For snacks, most people aren’t going to bust out a chicken breast or grilled tempeh, so your snack may tend to be a little less lean, like some nut butter or hummus with veggie sticks. Many people don’t get enough quality protein during their days to really support muscle maintenance and growth. This is really important if you are doing any kind of exercise. Again, if you see that your protein intake is low, begin by figuring out how much you are currently taking in and then slowly add one serving at a time or by adding protein to your snacks.
- Laying off the processed carbs. This encompasses a lot of food, many of which are ingrained in the North American (type) diet. Think meals in a box/bag, but also many snack foods too. It’s best to try to stick with foods as they naturally are. I know that may be tricky, but see where some of the foods you eat now might be able to be swapped out for real food options. Again start slow and build from there.
When we intake a good amount of carbs through veggies and adequate protein and limited our intake of processed foods that are too high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt, we’ll generally see a boost in our energy and a lifting of that fog that generally rolls in in the afternoon. When we’ve taken in whole foods with a good balance of carbs, protein and fats we can also feel more energized and prepared for our training sessions-and that’s a win!
I feel like most people know they should exercise (even if they don’t) as part of a healthy lifestyle and to counteract all of the sitting our modern lifestyle has us doing.
Exercise doesn’t have to be some movement you don’t like doing. Find movements that you enjoy. If you can’t think of any movements that would seem fun, join a group or find a qualified trainer that will be a good fit for you. Being part of a group or having a trainer hold you accountable is what many people need to ensure they are getting the recommended 30-60 minutes daily.
I also want to emphasize resistance training-that’s anything that challenging your major muscle groups. Strength training doesn’t get nearly as much chatter as traditional cardio workouts do, but resistance training is just as important, if not more important than getting on a treadmill and going for a jog. Resistance training is needed to keep challenging all our muscles so that we can stay strong as we get older, because as much as we may be denying it, it’s happening to us all. Wanna stay healthy to get up out of the chair or climb that flight or three of stairs? Then resistance training is key.
There are of course a bunch more reason strength training is good for you, like helping you get stronger accomplish more cool things in your life and your circus disciplines, but I am going to stop there. Stay strong to keep doing rad things-however you define ‘rad things’.
Now that you’ve read over the four main focuses of health, which area do you need to focus on first? This would be the area that seemed to have the most oh I am not doing that/those things. One you have picked your first focus, start slowly making changes to improve that part of you life. You may be surprised how changing one area begins to healthy and positive changes in other areas of your life.
I hope you feel empowered to begin the journey to a healthier you. And if you think you need someone to help you on your journey, be nutrition, fitness or overall wellness, I coach people online and in person make healthier lifestyle changes. Feel free to contact me via the form below.
CPT, PN1, 200 RYT, FMS II, CFSC, FRCms, FRAs, Kinstretch