I know how it goes. You're in a routine, taking regular walks, and then it hits. The busy season. Your exercise slows way down or comes to a screeching halt. If this has happened to you, don't worry, you're not alone — especially when your longer-than-normal to-do list makes for pretty good excuses to reschedule. But that can do a number on your body, affecting your weight, mood, sleep, and heart health. Plus, pressing the stop button on your activity means you'll have to start again from square one, and that can be daunting.
But what if there was a way to stay motivated so you could continue to feel great? I promise that with just a few tweaks to your daily routine, you can make this a new kind of year. I've come up with some ideas to keep you on track, utilizing the tricks that help me stay on course. So let these suggestions challenge and inspire you, and you'll avoid weight gain and tone up. This season just got a whole lot healthier!
1. Makeover your to-do list.
In life, most of us work from two lists: the "I will do" list and the "I should do" list. The "I will" list may include getting up early in the morning … fitting in a trip to the supermarket … folding laundry … filling the gas tank. Then there's the other list: I should work out … get in my steps … order a salad … just stick with water. The trouble is, we typically do the things on the first list, which won't really help us live longer, healthier, happier lives — but we forgo most of the stuff on the second list, which actually will.
My suggestion: Write down your "I will" and "I should" lists. Then move two items off the "I should" list and onto the "I will" list. Start simply with your new "I will do's." For example, I will take the stairs, not the elevator, when I'm going up three or fewer flights and I will have a salad for at least one meal every day. Once you get those two habits down, incorporate two more.
2. Set a new walking goal.
You hear all the time that it's important to get in 10,000 steps a day, but I'm going to offer a different take: Aim for 8,000 steps a day instead. It's simple, easy to fit in, and light on your joints. Eight thousand steps a day is about 3.5 miles, which is nothing to sneeze at. Start first thing in the morning to set yourself up for success, then add a few more walks later in the day. I suggest buying an inexpensive pedometer — you'll start looking forward to seeing that number go up.
3. Don't abandon that H2O.
Hydrating in the summer when it's hot and sticky out is a no-brainer, but when the weather turns cooler we tend to forget. I recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of H2O a day. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, drink 75 oz of water. Why so much? Water will keep you energized (so you have enough get-up-and-go to exercise) and feeling full, not to mention that extra bathroom trips can add to your daily step total! If it seems too hard to sip that much, I advise adding half a lemon or some frozen fruit to your glass. Keep a tally at first of total ounces consumed (a typical cup is 8 oz) so you'll know where you stand.
4. Get out of your groove.
It's easy to do workouts you're already good at or stick to a routine, but sometimes you fall into a rut. When you do the same activity every day, your muscles get used to the moves, and eventually, the exercise is less effective. However, when you make your muscles do something they aren't used to, they're forced to work harder, and that translates into more calories burned. To shock your muscles and step out of your comfort zone (a place you may often find yourself this time of year!), I recommend trying at least one new fitness class a month. No need to join an expensive gym or a boutique studio: You can find workouts at your community center or on YouTube — a boot camp class, yoga, whatever!
5. Start a push-up challenge.
They may seem like an old-school gym class activity, but you get so much from classic push-ups. The exercise works almost every muscle in your body, helping strengthen your chest, arms, and core at the same time. So here's your goal: Complete 10 to 15 full push-ups a day by the end of winter. Never fear, you can ease into it. Most women don't have the upper body strength to go right to a full-body push-up, so these quick and simple variations will help you work your way up at your own pace to let you meet that final goal.
A. Wall push-off
Start a few feet away from a wall. Let yourself fall forward into the wall, with your hands shoulder-width apart, then push off until you’re standing straight again. That's 1 rep. Aim for 15 to 20 reps.
B. Counter push-up
Lean against a countertop with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart and lower your chest close to the counter. Push back up again. That's 1 rep. Aim for 15 to 20 reps.
C. Assisted push-up
Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the floor and let your knees rest on the ground. Lower your chest until you are close to the floor, keeping your abs tight. Push back up again. That's 1 rep. Aim for 10 to 15 reps.
D. Full-body push-up
Start in a straight-arm plank position with your hands slightly wider than your chest. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Bend your elbows and lower your body as far as you can. Keeping your core tight, push back to the starting position. That's 1 rep. Aim for 10 to 15 reps.
6. Try a chair sit.
Stand with your feet just wider than your hips. With your core tight, sit down in a chair without making a sound. Control your body on the way down. As soon as you touch the chair, stand up without moving your feet. Work up to 30 chairs sits per day.
7. Or a classic plank.
Place your forearms on the ground, elbows under shoulders, your body forming a straight line from your head to your feet. Squeeze your glutes to engage your core, and hold the position. Work up to a 60-second plank per day.