March 29, 2010

Break It Up; Make It Work

As I awoke to another rainy D.C. morning, I realized I was going to be holed up in the gym yet again.  As an avid outdoor runner, this type of captivity is almost cruel - I am not a fan of running on a treadmill like a hamster, reliant on buttons to vary my terrain and wilting under the dampness of (mostly) stationary exercise.

Knowing I had to get in a good bit of cardio and weights today; however, I decided to break it up.  Instead of dragging myself through 45 minutes on the treadmill and 30 minutes in the weight room, I broke my exercise up into a series of "threes" - three 15-minute cardio segments (treadmill, elliptical, and rowing machine) and three 10-minute weight lifting intervals (arms, legs, and core).

By the end of the workout, I'd completed 75 whole minutes, but the time flew by and I was never bored or thinking about how badly I wanted to be outside.  Even better, I was able to give a little bit more effort to each segment as different muscle groups were alternatively stimulated without fatiguing any of them at once.

Indeed, the mind is a funny thing when it comes to fitness.  Often we must play little "tricks" on our brains in order to get our bodies in motion.  For those of you who exercise in the morning, there is the constant battle between the bed and the gym.  The hardest part is convincing yourself to get up and go from the former to the latter - but once you're there, you can usually make it through a good workout.  For post-work fitness buffs, the fight is the same - home to the couch after a long day, or heading off for a nice long sweat.  Making sure your gym bag is stocked and ready in the backseat of your car or under your desk can be the single biggest difference in adhering to an exercise program versus skipping out on it.

Even if you convince yourself that you don't have time to pay attention to your health in a given workday, think of all the little changes you can make without interfering with the flow of your daily routine.  You can take the stairs up to your office or apartment instead of relying on elevators.  You can  take 1/2 a lunch hour for eating lunch and use the other 1/2 hour to walk outdoors or do a few push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks in your office.  You can hold a plank pose during the commercial breaks of your favorite TV program, or set up two stationary bikes in front of the DVD player to burn calories while you "ride" through a cartoon or movie with your child.  Set weekly "challenges," like bringing a homemade lunch twice or more per week instead of eating out or eating a cup of leafy greens before each meal, to break up the monotony of transitioning to a healthier diet.

The mission of bene-fit is to help each client integrate health and wellness into their real lives, not to impose unrealistic expectations or promote overzealous weight loss strategies.  By breaking up a workout into smaller, more manageable parts or setting weekly dietary goals that are achievable and fun, you can begin to make intentional change in your health lifestyle that will stick with you for years to come.

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