Here is a fact you might not want to know: The fitness goals you set for yourself in January are in dire threat of becoming obsolete. That’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it? But sadly, if we believe the research, it is true: a high percentage of “Resolutioners” – those who vowed to eat healthier and get in shape on New Year’s Day – will give up on their goals by mid-March (Do you really want to know the statistic? Only 8 percent of people stick to their resolutions!)
So how do we recommit, or more importantly how do we get ourselves into the swing of things for spring? As a fitness trainer, motivation is my forte but on those cold days where the body craves hearty food more than healthy salads and the idea of running outside is not appealing, even I need a kick in the proverbial pants. Here are five tips to help you get back on track, stick to your fitness goals, and train smart heading into spring.
1. Set a realistic schedule and stick to it
I teach a Monday morning spin class with devoted regulars. One of them recently told me, “I love starting my week here because how I start the week is how I am going to try to keep it going.” If you resolved in January you were going to hit the gym five days a week, and you are barely making it once a week (or maybe not at all), it might be time to set a more realistic goal. Find a class you love and book it an appointment; commit to at least one day of cardio and one day of strength training invest in a few at-home workouts and set the alarm early, because chances are you won’t want to exercise when you get home, have to get dinner on the stove, help with homework and do laundry! Remember: exercise is time for YOU and it will provide you with more energy for the rest of your day. Many studios offer class pass packages – treat yourself monthly, check out the latest workout crazes (FYI: barre really is that tough!), mix it up, and keep it interesting.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
The importance of hydration, as we head into warmer weather, cannot be understated: hydration helps us perform athletically. Here’s how: our body is largely made up of water – including our muscles. They work better when they are hydrated. If you are at all parched or lightheaded when you are working out, chances are you are in a state of dehydration. The American Council of Exercise recommends 500 ml of water two hours before you exercise, and then staying consistently hydrated throughout your workout – harder intensity requires more hydration, and longer intervals (i.e distance running) may mean replacing electrolytes. But most of the time good old H2O does the job.
One tip I recommend: invest in a couple of water bottles you love – keep one at work or in your bag for regular use, and have one specifically for the gym. You have probably seen the S’Well bottles – the beautiful drinking containers that are designed to keep your cold beverages cold for hours, and hot beverages hot. This means, you could have your Matcha in one bottle and ice water in another, keeping you hydrated and energized. As you can tell, I’m a huge fan, but I also love Klean Kanteens (I have one of those, too). The takeaway? You can’t have too many water bottles.
3. Sign up for an event
When my son was four months old, I signed up for my first half-marathon. With two kids under the age of three, I needed something that was just for me, and training for a half was my “me” time. I could have run for the sake of running, but knowing I had committed to a race gave those long Saturday morning runs purpose. Running may not be your thing, but there are tons of races you can sign up for all across the country. Step outside your comfort zone – try a mini triathlon, get down in the mud with a Tough Mudder, or think about putting a team together for a cycling event like the Ride for the Cure. Better yet, make it a family affair and sign everyone up for a 5 or 10 K! There are so many options for racing come spring and trust me: when they put the medal around your neck, you will feel a huge sense of accomplishment.
Don’t forget: walking is the new running! Many of the major races have a “walk” option, too. There are groups across the country of marathon walkers, and you will train for it in the same way you would train for a run – tracking your distance, adding mileage every week (this would be a good time to invest in a pedometer!).
4. Stretch after your workout
File this under “I” for Important: Those “static” stretches you remember from your PE days – where you held your leg out in front of you and counted to ten – are so 1990. In fact, static stretching can actually make you weaker: one study showed that static stretching decreased muscle strength by 5.5 percent. And, most importantly, stretching before exercise is a no-no: all the research shows that static stretching before you workout will actually weaken your muscles and your performance. Warm-ups that use movements to get the big muscles in the legs, back and upper body warm, are the way to go.
Lengthening and releasing tension in your muscles after you workout is still important through dynamic stretching and deep tissue release. This is why trainers love foam rollers:they work by using the body’s natural response to pressure, sort of like giving yourself a massage and get into the fascia – the deep, deep tissue. Massage balls are also great post exercise. And here’s a tip if you want to sleep better: invest in a nice yoga mat, light some candles, and go through a series of slow yoga poses right before bed (lying prone, with your feet up against a wall, is one of the greatest pre-sleep stretches you can do).
5. Eat clean and rebuild your muscles.
You can’t undo a bad diet. I encourage my clients to eat the 80/20 way – eating “clean and healthy” (tons of fresh produce, healthy grain, pulses and seeds, lean meats and fish and healthy fats) 80 percent of the time, and allow for treats and indulgences the other 20 percent. This tends to work well for keeping weight in check. But unfortunately that 20 percent can become 30 percent, 40 percent….you get the picture. Try to keep healthy snacks on hand, like nuts, protein bars and energy mixes so you don’t reach for that 3pm cookie. And remember: green smoothies aren’t simply for breakfast anymore! An awesome post-workout smoothie (with protein powder to rebuild your muscles) will keep you energized and feeling full – meaning you are less likely to overeat later on that night! A great tip: make extra smoothie in the morning, and put it a carrying bottle.
Spring is the time to for rebirth and renewal. Remember: fitness is a journey that starts with a few small steps! Take one in the right direction today.
Erin Phelan, MA, is a certified fitness and health practitioner with over 20 years in the fitness and health industry. Erin teaches for Equinox Fitness, and is a proud work-at-home mom to Lily, 11 and Teague, 8.