Try these simple tips as part of your routine
Remember that when starting a new diet and exercise program it’s important to make small changes at first rather than going all out in the beginning. The going-all-out attitude is the main reason that people fall off the exercise wagon. They get burned out too fast and don’t recover until Jan. 1 of the next year. Here are some tips to make sure that our healthy habits stick over the long haul.
Each week, try adding one of these mini-tweaks to your daily routine. Within a month you’ll have adopted several good-for-you habits that will stick!
1. Climb two steps at a time.
Whether on the stair climber at the gym or scaling the floors at your office or home, taking steps two at a time will provide greater muscular benefits in your hamstrings, glutes, and calves and a greater overall caloric burn. If you find it difficult keeping your balance while stepping two stairs at a time, gently place one hand on the rail for support but do not use it as a crutch. You want your legs to really work.
If you currently are using the elevator at work, start using the stairs! Take advantage of the extra caloric burn throughout your day and the quiet time to yourself.
2. Plan your meals.
Start planning your meals over the weekend and even prepare items that can be frozen or refrigerated. Your week can be quickly become hectic with work, driving the kids to activities, and working out. We’re all tempted by the drive-thru, but knowing that you have taken the time to prepare your meal and that it can easily be thrown into the oven or microwave will keep those temptations at bay. In preparing your meal, also keep in mind that your meal should include fruits/vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats—and remember to keep your portion sizes small.
3. Add five minutes to your time.
If you generally go for 30 minutes during your cardio workout, try boosting your time to 35, tacking on another five minutes every second workout until you reach 45 minutes. Increasing your workout time gradually will make the jump from a half hour to three-quarters of an hour seem like a breeze!
Even though you are exercising longer, don’t think you can let your intensity drop. Keep your speed, incline, and other settings at the same rates you would have during your shorter, original workout length. Remember your body gets used to the same workout over and over again so adding an additional five minutes and increasing intensity will make our body work harder, helping you avoid plateaus.
4. Try new food each week.
Trying new healthy foods each week will keep your taste buds on their toes and will help relieve the mediocrity of dieting. There are many options for meals that are healthy and filling out there that are visually appealing and don’t taste like cardboard! A number of my clients have turned to “clean eating” and have seen tremendous results without feeling like they were eating the same thing every day. Check out your favorite search engine and research clean eating. You’ll be surprised how many easy, healthy recipes there are out there. Your taste buds and waistline will thank you.
5. Switch up your favorite exercise
There are two phases to every exercise; eccentric and concentric. Think of concentric as the lifting of the weight or shortening of the muscle and eccentric as the release of the weight or lengthening of the muscle. We typically focus on the concentric since that’s really where we think we’re working the most but our muscles are actually able to move more weight during the eccentric portion of the lift- up to 40 percent more. So maximizing the eccentric portion allows our muscles to work even harder, maximizing results.
For example, as you are doing a biceps curl, slowly return the weight to the starting position, fighting gravity, instead of letting your arms swing to the bottom. Try doing your reps at a two-counts-up, four-counts-down pace to keep the emphasis on your eccentric contract.
Marci D'Alessio is an ACE certified personal trainer and AOPA staff.
March 10, 2011