Recently, an old friend asked me for advice on staying fit and maintaining a healthy weight. She mentioned that she finds me “inspiring” in that regard, which really surprised me. I don’t think of myself as someone that others would find inspiring, because…well, I’m not exactly Jared the Subway Guy. I don’t have a crazy weight loss story, nor have I had a wild fitness transformation. But I do have years of consistently working out and eating (relatively) well (much of the time) under my belt. My weight has not changed drastically, and although my body composition has, it’s certainly not to a degree that would be headliner news by anyone’s standards.
The biggest transformation in my case has been mental. My perspective about exercise, food, and body image has undergone incredible changes over the years. Perhaps that will warrant its own post someday. In the meantime, I wanted to share with yall what I shared with my friend – just a few practical things that have helped me to stay fit while enjoying life.
5 Ways Stay Fit and Stay Sane
At the end of the day, a healthy body is not the result of some secret workout routine or special diet. It’s the product of small choices that are made consistently for days and weeks and months on end, until they become habits that are seamlessly integrated into a lifestyle. Healthy habits create a healthy body, not the other way around. Remember when I talked about fear, and how we can act like we’re not afraid, and after awhile, we won’t be afraid? It’s the same concept. Act like you are fit- adopt those habits that comprise a healthy lifestyle- and after awhile, you’ll be fit.
Many of those habits that make up a healthy lifestyle require planning ahead. It looks different for everyone. Some people plan out their workouts two weeks in advance, and spend hours on the weekend cooking most (or even all) of their meals for the week. For other folks, they have to schedule times to meet friends at the gym, because that’s the only way they will feel motivated to work out. Maybe your work has you travelling frequently, so it means looking up hotels that have fitness facilities and are close to restaurants that have healthy foods. Life is bound to present obstacles that stand between you and those healthy habits you are cultivating. You just have to figure out how to work around them. For me, this means a few things: always making sure I have at least one clean sports bra, putting a bit of thought into my grocery list each week, and keeping some kind of healthy grab-and-go foods ready in my fridge as often as possible. It also means prepping my iced coffee every night, to be inhaled the next morning…because that’s just necessary.
Mix It Up
Once you get into a routine, it can be all too easy to stay there. I’m especially prone to this, but that’s because I thrive on consistent routines. Most people get bored with the same thing day in and day out, whether it’s a workout or a meal or even a schedule. You can launch a preemptive strike against that boredom by looking for new healthy meals to make, different workouts to try (whether it’s an entirely new style of training or somethings as simple as substituting front squats for your usual back squats), new places to workout (a new trail/park/gym) or new people to workout/cook with, etc. When things feel stale, it’s easy to get burned out (or stop giving a f…) and start resenting those healthy habits that you’ve worked so hard to create. But this whole “healthy living” thing should be enjoyable, so keep things as exciting and varied as you need!
Give Yourself a Break
Rest is just as important as any other component of fitness. If you’re not resting long enough or well enough, you’re not only shortchanging your efforts but setting yourself up for burnout and failure (and even overtraining) down the road. Be just as consistent in your sleep patterns and rest days as you are with your workouts. For more on the importance of recovery, see THIS post. By the same token, if you have to skip a workout (or find that you’ve eaten a bit too much dessert, etc.), don’t beat yourself up for it or consider all your efforts wasted in light of that deviation. Health is the product of habits- just like one fantastic workout won’t cure hypertension or make you look like an Adonis, a missed workout or an extra dessert here and there is not going to throw you off your game.
Keep Your Priorities Straight
I’ll be the first to agree that health is important. Staying healthy enables you to live longer, enjoy a greater quality of life, and be a better steward of the opportunities and resources you’ve been given. But that does not mean that the pursuit of health and fitness is the most important priority in your life. In fact, it shouldn’t be. There are more important things in life than getting in your workouts and eating free-range chicken and foam rolling every single muscle…and those more important things need to take precedence when necessary. There will be times when you have to sacrifice some time and energy from your health-focused habits in order to maintain health in other areas of life – career, education, relationships, etc. It’s really a matter of learning how to make health one of your priorities without making it your only priority. Like any kind of balancing act, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but you’ll find your sweet spot.
I hope that’s helpful for yall! Let me know if there are any specifics that you’d like to hear about more. And tell me: What tricks do you use to stay fit and stay sane?