I have to be honest with you, even though I’m a health and wellbeing coach, I do struggle to find enough time to maintain my ideal exercise regime and keep up a certain standard of healthy eating! Particularly over the past year or two whilst I’ve been building my business and taking on more clients and corporate work.
Time is the main issue for me, and I’m guessing that’s probably the most common reason for not keeping up with your health and fitness related goals. Whether you have your own business, work long hours, juggle work and kids or you’re busy being a full time Mum – we’re all short on time these days and it does take a little extra effort to keep on top of healthy eating and regular exercise.
When I started thinking about what I wanted to write about for this article, I came up with a few specific topics but then I thought what I’d really like to do, and what I think would be the most worthwhile, is to just give you my top tips to set you up for a healthier and happier 2015…
These are my own personal methods that I’ve found work through trial/error and lots of research – They’ve helped me stay fit and healthy when my time is limited and they are the methods/concepts I recommend to my clients and friends to improve or maintain good health, well-being and balance…
1. Work out the smart way
I really don’t believe in slogging long and hard in the gym and my brand’s underlying principle is ‘intelligent fitness’ – if you work out the smart way you don’t need to put lots of hours in at the gym or run tens of miles each week. In fact, without wanting to cause controversy here, I think working out too much a.k.a ‘chronic cardio’ is in fact bad for you and can make your body hold on to weight, and worse still that it can lead to a compromised immune system, inflammation and injuries (but that’s a whole other blog’s worth of info so we’ll carry on with what you should be doing!).
So, by intelligent fitness I mean – Whole Body Movements – where you’re using all the body’s muscles in one move and using your own body weight for resistance – These moves are far more effective and efficient time-wise, plus when using your own body-weight as the resistance you’re going to create a proportionate body shape – you won’t overly bulk-up.
Therefore, I highly recommend building the following WBA moves into your work-out routines: Squats, Planks, Push ups, Pull ups (- if you are in the gym and have an assisted pull up machine, otherwise use a low bar at hip-height for a horizontal pull-up), and lastly Tricep Dips.
Practically every single BODY EDIT move works all the muscles in the body even when we’re isolating a muscle for maximum effect – for example your glutes – So whilst working the glutes we’re still holding our body posture and position in such way that every muscle needs to work to achieve the correct posture and to get the right movement.
If you can manage to do a short routine of WBA exercises for at least 20 minutes 3 times a week – pushing yourself to fatigue in each move – over time you’ll see great results!
2. Get outside in nature
Whenever I’m feeling a bit low or like I need to boost my energy levels, I go and walk around my local park. I also love music and find it incredibly motivating, so I make sure I take my phone/iPod with me and I put on my current favorite tracks that really boost my mood and energy levels.
If I feel like I have lots of energy I’ll walk pretty fast, but if not I won’t – I don’t put the pressure on myself to ‘burn calories’. I just breathe deeply, take in the beauty of my surroundings and immediately start to feel better. I wear sports kit as I usually combine this walk with short bursts of sprints.
There is quite a lot of info in the fitness world at the moment on the negative effects of ‘chronic cardio’ the basic principle being, we’re not meant to run/cycle for long periods of time at a high intensity – If you’re interested in reading more on this subject I highly recommend Mark Sisson’s book – Primal Blueprint – and you can also find lots of info on his blog/website – Marks daily Apple.
Without going into too much detail here (again another blog) too much cardio at a high intensity and for a long duration has a negative effect on our overall system. The new research suggests humans are built to run, but in short bursts or sprints, otherwise steady paced walking is how we’re meant to move over a longer duration – Using the body in this way results in certain healthy hormone responses and does not tax our bodies too much.
So make time to get outside, get some fresh air, find somewhere green, somewhere pretty, listen to some up lifting music (if that’s what you like) or just listen to nature… But walk, breathe deeply to get all the stale air out of your lungs – and try and throw in a few all out sprints once a week (Try 3 x 10-20 second all-out sprints with a 5minute walk break between each one).
3. Sleep well
I try my best to get 8 hours a night, and I try to maintain regular sleeping hours. Easier said than done I know – but I find that when I do manage this I feel well and I look well! In a nutshell sleep helps us loose weight and our body uses this time to detoxify, repair, and regenerate.
If you’ve lost out on some sleep for whatever reason – it happened, but try and make up for it as soon as you can. Take a nap, don’t over exert yourself, skip the gym session that day and get an early night.
When we’re over-tired it can cause us to crave stimulants – sugar, coffee, high carb foods and it makes you feel more hungry – therefore falling off the healthy eating wagon. Stress and anxiety will be enhanced and your immune system will be compromised. In essence, being overly tired will most likely knock you off your fitness and healthy eating plans!
4. Cut down on sugar:
Really I want to say eliminate sugar entirely, but if I can’t quite manage that yet myself I’d be a bit of a hypocrite to suggest you should!
But in saying that I really do believe sugar is pretty much a poison and if I could, I would cut it out entirely. On the whole I’m pretty good – I really only consume sugar when I eat good quality dark chocolate now, and I sometimes treat myself to a desert when I eat out.
However, I know from personal experience, the more you get used to not having sugar the less you crave it and then when you then do eat something sweet it’s not even very enjoyable! So if you can go without sugar and hold off on those cravings for a couple of days you’ll start to notice your taste buds change…
I also know that I reach for sugar when I’m anxious about something, so in those cases I always go for a strong good quality dark chocolate because 1. It is more nutritious and 2. I’m satisfied with a smaller amount that milk or white chocolate – so essentially I consume less sugar, 3. the higher the chocolate percentage the less sugar. (I’m currently in love with Pana Chocolate Raw Cacao bars found in most health food shops – you’re getting great nutrients here as well as a sweet treat!)
Another way I deal with sugar cravings is that I just don’t keep much sweet food in my house because odds are if it’s there, I’ll eat it! I’ve recently started making an amazing desert that’s completely natural and definitely satisfies my sugar/pudding cravings – Literally take a ripe banana (the riper the better) and a ripe avocado and blitz in a blender – simple as that ( I personally also add a dash of nutmeg which seems to enhance the flavor)! If you’re really craving chocolate add some good quality cocoa powder – just tastes like an amazing chocolate mouse!
There have been many articles in the press this past year or so about how toxic sugar actually is and I predict you’ll be seeing more on this in the future with government initiatives to raise awareness on cutting your sugar intake. To push this point a little further I’ll leave you on a serious note; that when someone has been diagnosed with cancer, one of the first things they’re advised to do is cut sugar out of their diet…say no more!
5. Eat the best quality/most nutritious foods you can afford:
We’ve all heard it before – ‘You are what you eat’, but I really believe in this. Quite literally what you consume are the building blocks for your cells…think about that!
Therefore it makes sense to buy the best quality (i.e organic, grass fed, wild etc) meats, fish, dairy products and vegetables you can afford. Cut out processed foods where at all possible – If I can impress one thing here, it’s that margarine is BAD for you – regular full fat butter is far better for you – yes it’s true! If you don’t want to consume animal produce use a good quality olive oil, but another prediction of mine is that we will see a re-write of the government-backed dietary guidelines in the future, the ‘Eat-well’ plate is set to change and in a big way!
I want to make it clear that saturated fat is not bad for us – ironically more and more reseach is proving that most grains and sugar are bad for us because they cause an inflammatory response in the body and play havoc with our insulin levels.
…. The more you eat of the former (with lots of veg) and the less you will crave of the latter – the better your health – simple as that.
I’m slim and have a low body fat percentage within the healthy range but I eat ALOT of fat on purpose, both saturated and unsaturated! – I eat the most clean, good quality foods my budget allows.
I personally try and buy only organic veg, meat and fish. The price I pay for organic fruit and veg is either the same or a tiny bit more expensive than non-organic foods from the supermarket!
Basically the message here is to eat well – eat wholesome, natural, unprocessed food. You’re not only limiting your intake of toxins from pesticides, antibiotics, and meat that is inflamed (if the animals are unhappy they’re bodies will be inflamed) – you’re also supporting local organic farmers, giving animals a better quality of life and helping to make/keep our soils clean…
…Think about the kind of food your Grandparents ate… and you’re on the right track!
There is so much to say on each of these subjects that I could write separate articles on each, so I hope I’ve provided enough information here to make you think about how you exercise and what kind of foods you’re putting into your body…
I promise that if you take each of these tips on board and try them out you will benefit from them all – I certainly have and I know my clients have too.
I’m going to leave you with a great quote by Tom Hopkins that I think exemplifies the message I’m trying to get across here…
“You are your greatest asset. Put your time, effort and money into training, grooming, and encouraging your greatest asset.”