That’s it! You’ve had it! You’re ready to make the change to a healthy lifestyle. You have had enough of the fast food lunches and the couch potato evenings in front of the television. You’re tired of looking in the mirror in disgust as you try to squeeze into the jeans that fit perfectly just last year. Well, now that you have REALLY decided to make the change to a healthy lifestyle, where do you begin? It can be a bit overwhelming however; the following ten steps will give you the answers you need to change your life!
1. Set Goals - You must set goals to be successful. A goal must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and have a timetable. For example, a good weight loss goal would state that you want to lose six pounds in four weeks. This goal is specific; you want to lose six pounds. You can measure your results using a scale. For most people, losing six pounds in four weeks is both attainable and realistic, and you have attached a timetable to it of four weeks.
2. Change Your Mental Picture - In all of us, we have a mental picture or idea of who we are. In order to find success living the healthy lifestyle, your internal mental image must become that of a person already living the healthy lifestyle. In other words, change your thoughts and the actions will follow. You must reinforce this new mental picture constantly until your actions and thoughts become one. It becomes easier over time as old destructive thoughts and habits are replaced with thoughts of a happy, healthy new you!
3. Strength Train - Muscle in the body is metabolically active. That means that the body expends energy maintaining, growing and repairing muscle tissue. Incorporating strength training into your exercise program is important because it allows you to take advantage of what Mother Nature has given all of us - a built in fat burning furnace! When choosing strength training exercises, pick those that target multiple muscle groups. Exercises like the push up, squat, pull up, bench press and shoulder press target several different muscles at once, allowing for faster and more efficient workouts.
4. Cardio Exercise - Jogging, jumping rope and bicycling are just a few examples of cardio exercise. Even brisk walking can be considered cardio exercise if your heart rate is elevated enough. Twenty to forty minutes per day on most days of the week are optimal to achieve the health benefits from cardio exercise. In order to target muscles while they’re fresh, strength training workouts should be completed prior to doing cardio exercise.
5. Heart Rate Monitor - Using a heart rate monitor can be a useful tool for monitoring exercise intensity. It can tell you if you are exercising too hard, or not hard enough. Staying in your target zone ensures that each and every workout is as beneficial as the last. Heart rate monitors have come down in price in recent years, with quality monitors now priced under $100.
6. Exercise Journal - Filling out an exercise journal is a great way to track your progress as you try to reach new goals. The only way to really change your body through exercise is to get out of your comfort zone. That means striving to do more repetitions or more weight than previous workouts, or maybe jogging 3 minutes longer on the treadmill than before. The best way to remember past workouts is to write them in a journal. It’s also fun to look back over time and see the progress you’ve made.
7. Read Food Labels - This sounds like a no brainer, but many people attempting toand improve their health fail to read food labels. Probably the most important information on a food label is the serving size. You may think that the 20 ounce bottle of soda in your hand is one serving, but guess what; it’s actually two and a half servings. The information on the label is for just one serving though. So it’s up to you, the consumer to know how many calories you’re putting into your body.
8. Good Fat - Don’t be afraid to include some fat in your diet. A basic rule of thumb to follow is if a fat is firm at room temperature, it is high in saturated fats. Saturated fats are bad for the heart and have been shown to clog our arteries. Try to include in your diet more coldwater fish such as salmon, sardines, albacore tuna and herring. Also, use olive oil in place of butter when cooking and eat more nuts and seeds as well.
9. Nutrient Dense Foods - When making food choices, pick foods that are nutrient dense. That means foods that are minimally processed, high in vitamins and minerals, low in fat and high in fiber. Fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates found in whole grain breads and cereals, and lean meats and fish should be staples of your diet.
10. Drink Water - Drinking water helps keep our complexion clear, gives us more energy, removes toxins from the body, helps with digestion and improves athletic performance. Some folks also believe it can help shed unwanted pounds by giving us the feeling of fullness, which may help suppress the appetite. One thing is clear; water provides many wonderful benefits to anyone living the healthy lifestyle.
By Lee Daugherty
Lee Daugherty is a personal trainer and fitness consultant based in Boonsboro, Maryland. For nearly ten years Lee has helped his clients succeed at reaching their fitness and weight loss goals. He has finished 6 marathons including the JFK 50 miler, an extreme test of endurance beginning in Boonsboro, MD. Lee is also host of Fitness In A Few, a podcast devoted to educating people on the benefits of living the fitness lifestyle. To learn more about Lee, please visit his website at http://www.leedfitness.com
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