We all want to be our best, healthiest selves, but with so much information available, it may be difficult to determine which healthy living suggestions are genuinely worth adopting.
To make your life a little simpler, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite healthy tactics to help you meet your objectives.
Whether you’re going to spin class, boot camp, or another kind of exercise, staying hydrated is essential for staying motivated and getting the most out of your workout. But you don’t want to simply grab anything for hydration.
Electrolyte-loaded sports beverages, for example, may be high in calories, so “drinking water is typically acceptable until you’re exercising for more than one hour,” says Jackie Newgent, RD, author of The Big Green Cookbook.
However, if you are working out harder and for longer periods of time, feel free to consume ordinary Gatorade-type beverages (and their calories), which may provide a healthy replenishment boost. But don’t worry if you prefer a little spice with your workout: Lower-calorie sports drinks are now available, according to Newgent, so keep an eye out for these in the supermarket aisles.
Find a workout partner.
Working out with a buddy might help you stay motivated, but it’s crucial to pick someone who will encourage you rather than discourage you. So, according to Andrew Kastor, an ASICS running coach, build a list of all your exercise-loving buddies and check who fulfills these criteria: Can you and your companion meet on a regular basis to exercise? Is she supportive (rather than dismissive) of your goals? Finally, would your buddy be able to keep up with you or perhaps push you to your limits during critical workouts? Make that phone call if you have someone who matches all three criteria.
Stock your refrigerator with nutritious foods.
While there are many healthy meals available, several crucial elements make it much simpler to reach your weight-loss objectives.
Keep Newgent’s top three diet-friendly goods in your shopping cart the next time you go: balsamic vinegar (it gives a burst of low-cal taste to greens and salads), in-shell almonds (their protein and fiber keep you full), and fat-free plain yogurt (a creamy, comforting source of protein). “Plus, Greek yogurt works well as a natural low-calorie basis for sauces and dips—or as a tangier substitute to sour cream,” Newgent adds.
Relax those aching muscles.
There’s a strong probability you’ll be hurting after a strenuous exercise (sore thighs, tight calves, you know the drill).
Fortunately, you may reduce post-workout pains by immersing your lower body for 10 to 15 minutes in a cold bath (50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit; you may need to add some ice cubes to make it cold enough).
“Many elite athletes utilize this approach to help lessen discomfort following training sessions,” Health’s Andrew Kastor explains. “An athlete preparing for a big event should have one to two massages a month to assist with training recuperation,” he says.
Limit your sugar intake.
Do you have a late-night sugar desire that won’t go away? “Think ‘fruit first’ to fulfill your sweet taste without pushing yourself over the calorie limit, even late at night,” Newgent suggests. So, instead of chocolate cake, try a sliced apple with a spoonful of nut butter (such as peanut or almond) or fresh fig halves smeared with ricotta.
Purchase comfortable sneakers.
Bottom line: don’t purchase painful kicks. “From the first stride, your shoes should feel comfy,” adds Kastor. So shop in the evening—your feet expand over the day and then stop, so you want to shop while they’re at their largest. Also, check sure the sneakers have enough area for you to flex your toes, but not too much. They should be comfortable right away, but Kastor claims they’ll be much more so after 20 to 40 kilometers.
Choose your favorite songs.
Running to music is a terrific way to get into a rhythm (but make sure it’s not too loud, otherwise you won’t be able to hear the vehicles!).
Consider what gets you moving while creating the best iPod playlist. “I know some professional athletes who listen to’relaxing’ music, such as symphonic music, while working out hard,” Kastor explains. So don’t feel obligated to download Lady Gaga because her songs are intended to encourage you; instead, choose any music that you find uplifting.
Understand when (and how often)
It’s natural to desire to weigh oneself shortly after beginning a new diet or workout regimen. “It’s ideal to get on the scale in the morning before eating or drinking—and before starting your day,” adds Newgent. Check your poundage at a regular time—possibly once a week—for the most trustworthy amount, and don’t be disheartened by inconsistent results (remember: weight fluctuations are totally normal).
Maintain a healthy serving size.
Is your steak covering more than half of your plate? Consider decreasing your meat portion in half. That’s because, according to Newgent, it’s recommended to attempt to fill half your plate with vegetables or a combination of vegetables and fresh fruit in order to receive a balanced mix of proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates.
If you know you’ll be drinking more than one drink, Newgent recommends ordering a glass of water between drinks. You won’t consume more calories than you intended. But your water doesn’t have to be boring. “Make it festive by ordering the sparkling type with plenty of fruit, such as a lime, lemon, and orange slice in a martini or highball glass,” Newgent says.
Plan your runs in advance.
When you have a 5- or 10-kilometer race on the horizon, it’s critical to figure out what you’ll eat the morning of the event—something that will keep you energized but also go down easily.
While everyone is different, “we always have good luck with a high-carbohydrate breakfast such as a small bowl of oatmeal with fruit or a couple of pieces of toast with peanut butter or cream cheese,” says Kastor, who also recommends eating 200 to 250 (primarily carb) calories about 90 minutes before your run. Don’t worry about missing out on your coffee dose on race day. “Coffee is fantastic for athletic performances,” Kastor continues, since it sharpens you and may even give you more energy.
Don’t be concerned about a cheat day.
Feeling bad about that massive ice cream sundae you ate at your niece’s birthday party? Don’t do that; gaining a pound of body fat requires a lot of calories—3,500. “Really, one bad day doesn’t generally result in big weight gain,” adds Newgent. It’s what you do the following day and the day after that matters—so don’t go off course, but also don’t go crazy. Remember that fasting and excessive activity are not healthy options.
Prepare to run
Before you hit the road, make sure you have the following essentials: a watch to track your total time (or a fancy GPS to track your mileage), an iPod with great upbeat music, a cell phone if you don’t mind carrying it, and a RoadID (a bracelet that includes all your vital information, $20; roadid.com). Wear sunglasses on a sunny day. “They lessen glare, which may reduce squinting, reducing stress in your shoulders,” adds Kastor. And relaxing them helps you save energy on your runs, which is a performance benefit.
Spice up your cooking.
Even if you fill up on delectable fruits and vegetables, it’s easy to get into a diet rut. What is the solution? Have lots of spices, fresh herbs, and lemons on hand for cooking. “It’s remarkable what a dash of spice, a sprinkle of herbs, a bit of lemon zest, or a spray of lime juice can do to liven up a dish—and your diet,” Newgent adds.
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Understand when to step it up a notch.
How do you know when to boost your physical activity? “The usual rule of thumb for races half-marathon and longer is to increase the number of miles ran by 5 to 10% each week,” Kastor explains.
Have a fruity ice cream sundae
Don’t worry about missing out on the excitement the next time your family or friends decide to go ice cream shopping! Order a fresh (and really delicious) ice cream sundae topped with sliced kiwi, pineapple, and strawberries. You’ll receive a plate of delicious fruit as well as fulfill a need.
Change your shoes
While we’ve all heard that running shoes wear out after a certain number of miles (300 to 350), you may still be using your favorite pair. That, however, is not a good idea. “Under UV light, glue, as well as the other components that make up the shoe, have a propensity to break down,” Kastor adds. Even if your sneakers have just 150 miles on them but are more than two years old, recycle them (try oneworldrunning.com or recycledrunners.com), since they’ve most likely begun to deteriorate. And, as a general guideline, keep track of how many miles you’ve recorded on them—it’ll be tiresome, but you’ll be proud of how far you’ve come.