Thursday, December 8, 2011

Back to Basics: Assessing your Fitness Plan During the Holiday Season

     It can be brutal on your fitness or weightloss plan this time of year with all the holiday social engagements, decadant treats being brought into the work place & placed right in front of your face, cold & flu season, and being limited on outdoor physical activities due to inclement weather.  During times like these losing weight or training for a race or becoming leaner may be far-reaching, but you can at least hold steady ground on your progress so far.  Do this by auditing your self & your daily lifestyle routine right now!  Revisit & re-establish some basic, sensible guidelines as a reality check today!
     Just think about what your common sense and intuition tell you about the ideal habits of a healthy lifestyle.  If you were to jot down some of these ideals, they might read something like this, (In no particular order):
     -        Don’t skip breakfast, and include oats often.
-        Instead of eating 2 to 3 big meals, eat 5 to 6 smaller meals/snacks throughout the day.  Don’t ever starve, and don’t ever be full.  Keep the metabolism stoked and revved-up all day.
-        Don’t eat any later than 2 hours before bed time.
-        Minimize sugar and simple, refined carbs, and strive for whole-grain, complex carbs, and vegetables.  Simultaneously you will minimize and manage insulin, by avoiding such high-glycemic foods.
-        If you must eat sugar, have it during your pre or post-workout meal, to burn it for energy, or for muscle recovery respectively.
-        Balance your meals, by including protein foods and healthy, unsaturated fats along with carbohydrate portions.
-        Eat at least 20 to 30 grams of fiber each day.  Eating fresh, whole fruit, and trail mix is a tasty way to accomplish this.
-        Eat cold-water fish, such as salmon and tuna a few times per week, and use olive oil in abundance to get plenty of Omega-3 fats.
-        Don’t drink soda, but if you must, it better be ‘diet’.
-        Drink abundant amounts of water.
-        Limit coffee to two servings a day, and replace the rest with Green Tea.  In fact, 3 servings of Green Tea a day for all of us will enhance health and fat-burning.
-        Limit alcohol on average, to one drink a day per woman, and 2 drinks a day per man, and make red wine your beverage of choice.
-        Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, 5 to 6 days each week.
-        Cardio/Aerobic exercise is most important for a healthy heart and calorie-burning, but at least one day per week include strength/resistance training, essential for maintaining muscle mass, bone density, and boosting resting metabolic rate.
-        Go to bed the same time each night, allowing ideally an 8 hour sleep window, (when not flying a redeye of course).  Don’t stay up watching stupid, useless TV, snacking on junk.  A good night’s sleep establishes your baseline of health and is vital to every aspect of good health for sure.
     Now imagine if you gave your best effort to incorporate these habits into your daily lifestyle.  (There are many more.)  Each tactic is simple and easy by itself, but yet combine together to yield a far greater synergistic effect that is ideal for both fat-loss and muscle-building, and optimal health in general.  Especially when traveling, you won’t be able to incorporate all of them everyday, but just making a reasonable attempt will make a difference over time.  Most of know this stuff by now and so it really comes down to self-discipline.  If you can’t even accomplish these basics then you’re not ready for performance-enhancing or diet supplements, and it should be no great mystery as to why you’re not getting any results.  You know you know this stuff, so trust your instincts and let your self-conscious act as your guide.  A personal trainer or celebrity can do a lot for our motivation, but most of the time we only have our self to rely on.
     We travel a lot and don’t always have the best options available to us, but we always have the power of choice:  “Grilled fish with brown rice, or a cheeseburger and fries?”  “Trail mix or a bag of chips?”  “Water or soda?”   “30 minutes on the treadmill first, or straight to the hotel bar?”  For the most part it doesn’t take a PHD in Health to decide which option is best.  No matter how limited our options seem to be in any given situation, there will always be a best one.  If you’re not sure, just take the extra moment to read the food label and you’ll figure it out.
So take a step back for a moment and assess your fitness plan if you have one.  Take a look at it from a big picture perspective and make sure that it serves its purpose and has not become so confusing and complicated that it yields no direction or progress at all.  Perhaps you don’t even have a fitness plan, but just take it day to day depending on your mood.  If you’re healthy and don’t have any real fitness goals then this no-plan approach is probably fine.  But if you have some real health issues to address, a lot of fat you would like to lose, or are training for a race or other event, then you’ll need a lot more forethought and a timeline with progress checks.  A training log or journal can really help keep track and plan ahead.  An optimal fitness plan does not necessarily need to be written, directed and tracked by an exercise physiologist or Personal Trainer, and certainly should not blindly follow some random celebrity or other fad diet.  However in depth you decide to go or not, just remember if all else seems to be failing and resources seem scare, know you can trust your instincts, stay disciplined and make the best choice in any given situation.
Every now and then I even have to audit myself and make sure I’m still following these basic, but essential traits of a healthy lifestyle, and I usually find that if I tighten back up and reign myself in, my health and physique improves immediately.  It happens to the best of us with the best intentions: We are living a clean and healthy lifestyle looking good and feeling good, and next thing you know we’re partying 3 nights a week, staying up late, dining out and pigging out, binging on sugary junk food, and skipping workouts, and it eventually takes a toll on appearance and our health.  Winter, the holidays, football season, and cold & flu season can really make for a tough combo for even the most fitness-obsessed to contend with.

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