The hardest part of pursuing any fitness, diet or wellness goal is getting started. A lot of people use the new year as a jumping-off point to start shaping up, but regardless of the time of year or your level of fitness, the best time to get moving toward obtaining optimal health is now.
What brought you joy as a kid? Find a way to re-create that sense of play in your life.
Dr. Diane Downing, Scottsdale, Arizona-based board certified family physician
Get Your Head Straight
When you're changing a habit it's also important to change your mindset and avoid negative thought patterns, according to chiropractor and professional applied kinesiologist Carl Amodio.
"[Self-limiting thoughts] hold us back from doing what we want to do, with losing weight being the most common example," said Amodio, whose practice -- Whole Body Health -- is in Roswell, Georgia. “People reach a comfortable weight, and the body sets the thermostat at that weight.”
Dedication and effort are critical to success.
Choose Exercise and Activities That You Enjoy
Another factor to consider when starting a workout program is to identify what you enjoy doing, according to Scottsdale, Arizona-based board-certified family physician Dr. Diane Downing
"What brought you joy as a kid? Find a way to re-create that sense of play in your life,” said Downing, medical director for Well and Being, an integrative wellness center at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. “Exercise doesn’t mean going to the gym every day. Take a brisk walk and get out in nature. Practice yoga to help with balance, muscle tone, mindfulness and breathing."
Set Small Attainable Goals
Rheumatoid arthritis ended the professional tennis career of Cindy Lane Ross at age 19, but she continued to work as a fitness trainer. Several years later, as she cared for her dying mother, the 5-foot 5-inch Ross became depressed and her weight ballooned to 220 pounds. That was in 2006.
Within a year of her mother's death, however, Ross lost more than 100 pounds and started Bodies by Cindy in Mobile, Alabama.
“I understand what it’s like to be heavy because I’ve been there, and exercise is what keeps me well,” said Ross, 35, who now employs 12 trainers and has more than 400 clients. “How you take care of yourself really matters.”
Whenever a new client comes to her, Ross does a health and fitness assessment. First, she recommends clients set attainable goals. “If someone says she wants to lose 80 pounds, initially we concentrate on a pound a week, which is a reasonable goal,” she said.
Before starting any exercise regimen, it's important to check with your doctor -- especially if you have a medical condition.
The Secret to Achieving Peak Performance
Steve Heller is exercise physiologist and fitness director at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, where many of his clients are professional golfers. Heller and golf instructor Mike LaBauve are the co-creators of FORE-MAX Golf Training Systems. Over the years, word about the program has spread both among pro athletes, weekend warriors and resort guests looking to improve their games.
If you have only 20 minutes to work out, the most important thing you can do is use that time to stretch thoroughly, Heller asserts.
“Flexibility is the base for everything," he said. "That’s the No. 1 thing we focus on.”
Heller emphasizes hip, back and shoulder flexibility, improvement of range of motion and strengthening of the core. He likes yoga and Pilates because you don’t need a lot of equipment to do either.
“I want my clients to be able to do their workouts just using their body weight and without needing a gym,” he said.
Once a client is devoted to stretching, Heller incorporates cardio, but he does it using interval training.
“The old school of thought was putting people on the treadmill for an hour and having them stay in a zone based on their age and weight,” Heller said. “What’s more effective for weight loss is having the person get his or her heart rate up really high for two minutes and then moving to weight training for a few minutes. The weight drops off.”
He suggests 30 minutes of stretching, 30 minutes of core exercises and 30 minutes of interval/strength training, but if you're strapped for time, go for 20 minutes of stretching and 10 minutes of core work.
U.S. Marine Corps veteran Amodio, who trained with the Navy SEALs, recommends interval training consisting of a 30-second sprint followed by a slowdown for 90 seconds, with eight repetitions.
"Do that three times a week," he said, "and you’ll reach your ideal weight a lot quicker. The body responds real well to interval training, because it balances all your hormones, metabolism and cardiovascular system.”
Again, check with your doctor before beginning either of these exercise plans.
What You Eat Is Important
Your diet accounts for about 60 percent of how your body looks. For that reason, Heller asks his pro athletes to keep an “honest” journal for a week. He targets desserts, alcohol, coffee and processed foods.
“Don’t eat anything out of a box or a wrapper,” he said. “That’s a game-changer.” Heller is a fan of “The Maker’s Diet,” which emphasizes vegetables and fruits with deep colors, as well as nuts and seeds. “We’ve got all these chronic diseases, because people are addicted to processed foods,” Heller said.
Downing believes in taking the proactive step of throwing out anything in your pantry that’s processed and contains hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup.
Also, make sure you are getting plenty of good fats in your diet, Amodio says, so that your body won’t be in an inflammatory state. Take fish oil and use olive oil in your cooking. Eat avocados. Don’t be afraid of eating the whole egg, he says, because the nutrients are in the egg yolk. And drink half of your body weight in terms of ounces of water per day.
“Most people walk around dehydrated,” Amodio said.
Amodio recommends a diet of 20 percent to 30 percent "good fats"; 20 percent to 40 percent complex carbohydrates (mostly fresh vegetables and fruits, with minimal starches); and 30 percent to 40 percent protein.