If you have decided that you really are ready to make some changes in your life, here are my top eleven tips for living well:
1. Everything in moderation. Too much of anything is bad. Being aware of what we eat and what we do is the key for living well. Too much sugar, too much processed food, too much alcohol, too much of one type of exercise; you name it; too much of anything is not good for you.
2. Do something every day. This is a big one. You should make an effort to do some sort of exercise every single day, whether it’s taking a 15 minute walk, dancing to some music, doing a full workout or just running around with your kids outside. Moving is the best thing you can do for your body, mind and soul, and you need to without question do it every single day.
3. Change up your exercise routine. Do you always do the same kind of exercise? Go for that 4 mile run at the same pace three or four times a week? There’s a few reasons why you should differ your exercise routine: your muscles get used to doing the same thing and you don’t get the same physiological benefits out of your workout that you used to. It can also cause certain muscle groups to become weak, leaving you prone to injury. Try adding intervals to that daily run, building in some core exercises and trying out a new workout class.
4. This next tip is a follow-up to the last one: Work out hard. Working out at a high intensity at least a couple of times a week does great things for your heart, your muscles, your bones, your brain and your mental state (see last month’s column for more information on those last two). Up the ante in your strength workouts by doing the exercises in a circuit fashion with little rest between sets. Add some short bursts of cardio done at your all-out max level of energy sandwiched between recovery periods of lower-level exercise. Try one of my HIIT classes to really ramp up the intensity!
5. Work your butt off. Your glute muscles are the largest group of muscles in the body and they work to stabilize the hips and extend the leg in certain movements. All the sitting we do now as a society tends to tighten the hip flexors and effectively “shut off” the glute muscles. Bridges, band sidesteps, birddogs and squats are just some of the exercises we can do daily to activate and strengthen the glute muscles and restore functionality to the hips.
6. Prepare your own meals as much as possible. Eat food that is as close to its natural state. Processed food has too much bad stuff in it, and you eliminate most of that when you cook homemade.
7. Eat fat. Good fats help you absorb essential vitamins and minerals, and are important for the function of our nervous system. Some good fats are olive oil, olives, nuts and nut butters, seeds and avocados, and salmon and other types of fish.
8. Eat less sugar. Processed sugars like fructose can overload the liver and turn fructose into fat in our body, wreaking havoc on our metabolism and causing tooth decay. It also doesn’t give us long- lasting energy, and causes us to crave more sugar.
9. Live in the moment. Being aware of your choices and not just repeating mindless habits gives you the power to choose your path and be the person you want to be. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
10. Go easy on yourself. Don’t beat yourself up when you slip back into old habits or make a bad choice. Life is a journey and we are constantly learning from our environment. Some of our best successes in life come from our mistakes.
I just couldn’t limit my list to ten because this last one is just too important to leave out:
11. There is no magic pill to be healthy, no one thing that will make you skinny, give you energy, or get you strong. No shakes, pills, gadgets or prescriptions are going to give you what plain old hard work will get you. So there you have it, my top 11 tips on living well. Now get started! It’s never too late to make some positive changes in your life!