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Sometimes I’m surprised when clients or acquaintances make comments about the way trainers eat . I might here the occasional we “never eat chips” or “don’t have dessert.” By and large we are considered very disciplined with our eating, maybe even extreme.
If I hear these comments, I typically chuckle a little and try to set the record straight that yes, indeed, I eat chips sometimes. And the occasional brownie or piece of cake. I confess I have goldfish snacks in my pantry (with four children how could I not?!) and order pizza for the family. And while I hope to be a good role model for other moms and families, I am certainly no extremist when it comes to what’s a yes and what’s a no on the allowed food list. I just like food too much. Must be my southern upbringing.
But, just like a muscle builds over time, the same is true for our healthy habits. And it is those habits, not extreme measures, or extreme diets or binge exercise, which ultimately take us to where we want to be: fit.
In my own experience, seeing progress in the area of health comes in spurts and bounds. We must take some risk and try a few things with inevitable failure before arriving at the place where success is found. That could look like a new workout routine or a new way of eating. If you attempt exercising 4 days a week at 6am since it looks really good on your schedule, only to find out it ruins the rest of your day because you’re cranky and tired, it probably isn’t feasible. Or maybe you try eating low carb and found yourself clawing at your pantry door every hour. Yeah, probably not a good fit for you either.
However, if you stay the course and are willing to try and tweak, and be inconvenienced some, you will find what you’re looking for: success that’s reasonable to attain.
And so, to jumpstart the mental juices flowing, I am offering you four numbers you can dial in or fine tune to help improve your fitness. As a starting point, I suggest what works for me. Figure out what works for you and as long as you make the effort to keep these numbers balanced, you will find your fitness maintains. If you can tweak them for the better, in turn your fitness will improve. Look them over and ask: What are my numbers?
1- Hours of sleep. 8 1/2 hours is ideal for me. That’s enough rest that I feel good and can dig into my day. Below 5 hours and I’m pretty much toast. Better for me to skip the workout and get some sleep because whatever I do will pretty much be meaningless. What’s your sleep range? How much sleep do you need in order to feel rested? What’s too little? Fight the pressing demands of life to get the rest you need and you will see a big difference in your mood, how you fulfill your roles AND how you perform in your workouts. Professional athletes take A LOT of rest because they understand high athletic demands require a lot of recovery. Even if you aren’t playing for the New England Patriots, your body needs rest too.
2- Ounces of water. For me, the magic number is three water bottles. Drink three and I’m good. I start first thing in the morning, before anything else, and try to get the last one finished by dinner. But it’s not just that. It’s also what you don’t drink- Or what you keep in check. With coffee, tea, and diet soda, daily consumption in moderation is fine. Juices, sugary drinks or calorie dense drinks (think cappuccinos and lattes with cream and sugar) are better as rare treats. If our body can only last a couple of days without water, it must be important. Of course oxygen and a heartbeat are important too. But who’s counting?
3- Number of workouts a week– 5-6 is my goal. I’ll settle for 4. But two is a BAD week- all around. As in bad wife, bad mom, loses temper, short on patience, and my staff asks, “Are you OK today?”. They notice. Even if you try to disguise it. So, what about you? How often do you need to blow off some steam, decompress and find your focus again? Use exercise as a healthy coping mechanism and overcome the obstacles to make it happen each week. Those around you will be grateful for it.
4- Number of meals/snacks per day– Currently I consume five, with the bulk of my calories around lunch. If I want something sweet, I typically eat it at lunchtime so my body can work off the calories during the second half of the day. It also dampens any mid-afternoon cravings we are so prone to have. Typically eating needs to work with the flow of your day. But for some of you who go long stretches (think 6 hours or more) without eating, you might have to force yourself to take a 10 min break to eat something, or go for a quick walk. In the end, it’s worth the sacrifice to form a different habit. Soon your co-workers (or family) will accept your new routine of stopping to refuel.
Pick ONE number to focus on this week. First, take an assessment of where you are. You may already know where you should be. In that case it’s just about making adjustments in your schedule to get there. If you don’t know what success looks like, try a few things. Break up your eating. Sneak in a workout that otherwise is absent. Take a water bottle with you as you go about your day. Start small and see what happens. As you gain momentum, tackle the next number until you know where you should be each day or week. You’ll be surprised how a few small decisions will greatly effect your fitness and overall mood.
Priscilla Jones is a mother of four and co-owner with her husband of Blue Wave Fit: Home to CrossFit 1088 a family-friendly CrossFit training and personal training facility in Ocala, FL.
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