July 12, 2010

The ABCs of Summer Success: Part One

Welcome back to  bene-fit, healthy people!  We hope you had a safe and happy Independence Day.

Despite the scorching heat on the East coast and unseasonable coolness on the West, the reality is that summer has only just begun - and we've got a few months left to revel in sunshine, that undeniable sense of relaxation, and the weekend-after-weekend festivals, parties, and BBQs that make summer, well, summery.

I don't know about you, but as much as I love this season, it can also be somewhat overwhelming - and destructive - for my regular fitness routine.  Little by little, an evening yoga class here is replaced with a patio happy hour there, or a regular Sunday training run is foregone for a lovely late-morning brunch, and suddenly I'm feeling less summery and more sluggish than I did just a few weeks ago in the cool comfort of late spring.

As I was reflecting on my so-called summer woes, something struck me: it doesn't have to be so stressful!  There has to be an easier, faster, more summer-spirited way to maintain my health and have some fun while enjoying the many gifts of the season.  Thus, I present the bene-fit "ABCs" of Summer Success - a three-part blog series giving you easy ways to keep up - or kick-start - your fitness journey in these steamy summer months.

Today, I give you A-I:

We tend to see a lot more of our bodies in the summer, when heat dictates a sparser wardrobe and a lot more bathing-suit time.  To combat negativity when you look in the mirror, try pasting a Post-It note with a daily affirmation on your bathroom mirror or on the inside of your front door to remind yourself how great it feels to be you.  Try something simple like, "Today I choose happiness," or "I am everything I need to be."

You  had to know we'd choose this as our "B" feature!  Our mission is for you to find your bene-fit - on your own terms, and toward your own passion.  Finding your bene-fit means pursuing the goals that will make you a happier, healthier, more successful version of yourself - in a way that is good to your body, mind, and spirit.  Seek the positive in even the smallest action, reminding yourself of the bene-fit of a good workout, healthy meal, or full night's sleep.

Almost any fitness guru will tell you that it's what you do 90% of the time that determine your results - and allowing yourself 10% "wiggle room" is a great way to stay on track without feeling deprived.  Make sure to be honest with yourself about what 10% is, however: an ice cream cone once a week is great; once a day might not be so realistic.

Why eat food that doesn't bring you joy?  Why revert to frozen meals when you have the abundance of fresh summer produce around you?  Try to bring taste, freshness, intention, and thought to your meals this summer.  Try cooking in a new way, like grilling fruit or making pizza from scratch.  Don't let your diet turn to drudgery when there are so many healthy, light options this season.

Many folks fall away from their fitness routines because they don't know to to start or continue one.  Take the time to educate yourself on health - even if it means something as simple as following @findyourbenefit on Twitter for daily tips or making sure to read the Health section of your local newspaper.  Education can be empowering and set you on a straight, informed path toward your health goals.

No one has to forge a new path on their own - and your family is often the first line of support when the going gets tough.  Use the late summer light hours to establish a new family tradition - like taking walks after dinner - even if the only "family" you can rely on to keep up with you is your dog!  Ask your family for help and support when you are trying to make healthy - and sometimes hard - changes in your life.

Tracking your progress - whether it's logging your calorie intake, mapping your run distances, or counting your workouts per week - is a great way to monitor growth and make sure you are moving forward in your journey.  Take some time to think about your central health goal and find a way to measure your steps toward reaching it, then stay honest about what you are doing each day to get there.  It's a no-brainer to stay motivated - and accountable.

Hard Work
Nothing desirable in life is easily attained - and health and fitness goals are no different.  Prepare yourself for the difficulty of making significant change, whether that is reducing your sugar intake or trying to walk 15 miles per week - and make up your mind to power through it no matter what obstacles arise.  Give yourself credit for the strong person  you are and don't let the levity of the task stop you in your tracks.

Finally, find someone, something, or some place that inspires you to keep going on your journey.  Some people find it helpful to create an "inspiration board" - a collection of clippings, quotes, and photos that remind them why they're doing what they're doing.  Be conscious of your motivations for making the change you are trying to make, and focus on the positive people, choices, and actions that will get you there.

That's it for our first installment - make sure to check back next Monday for more bene-fit ABCs!

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