January is traditionally a month centered around goals and setting resolutions for yourself for the brand-new year. As we previously discussed, career and professional goals are a popular and important choice many people craft their goals around. Others might want to dedicate their New Year’s resolutions to their families and home life.
An even more traditional resolution category, however, is the area of health and fitness. Who doesn’t want to lose that recently added holiday weight, plus another 5-10 pounds? Who wouldn’t want to become a dedicated yogi with a streamlined figure and sleek new muscles to show for it? Who hasn’t dreamed of finally running that Color Run event with a large group of friends and taking those amazingly vibrant race finale photos?
For some people, setting healthy New Year’s resolutions is a no brainer. It doesn’t mean they will see those resolutions through to December 31, but they will add them to their lists without a second thought. But what about those who are already struggling to balance work and life? With a career pulling them one way and a personal life pulling them the other way, health and fitness are a lofty goal many never even entertain setting.
So how can professionals set health goals for themselves AND maintain their already crazy schedules? Is health even something they should worry about? As a professional woman who has made the conscious decision to live a healthier lifestyle, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for professionals to be healthy and how attainable that lifestyle can be with just a few tweaks to your routine.
Set yourself up for success.
Like any big life change, making your life healthier will require work. If I have an early morning flight, I will make sure to get up a little earlier than normal to get a workout in. I make sure that my kitchen is stocked with foods meant to support my conscious diet, not derail it. I’ve even invested in an elliptical with a work station so I can check my email and check off a workout simultaneously.
Studies have shown that it takes 21 days for a habit to develop. That’s three weeks. For three weeks, push yourself to be consistent with whatever health tweak(s) you’ve set for yourself. If you’ve decided to start walking daily, determine a time each day that will work with your schedule (both during the week AND on weekends) and set a reminder or two in your phone. If you want to focus more on healthy eating habits, use a couple of hours on the weekend to prep grab-and-go type meals for yourself to take to the office. Putting in the meal prep time before your week starts will save you time, money, and a few extra pounds.
No matter your goal, figure out what obstacles might pop up and attempt to keep you from succeeding, and devise a plan of action to keep yourself on track. Your December self will thank you!
Start small and work up to the big stuff.
Marathon runners didn’t wake up the morning of their first race and suddenly decide they wanted to run. They spend months preparing their bodies for the difficult but rewarding task of running those miles. Rather than immediately push themselves to complete 26.2 miles, runners will normally begin with 1 or 2 mile jaunts to build up their rhythm and endurance.
If diet is part of your resolution, start substituting portions of your daily food intake first. Swap your nightly ice cream with some frozen yogurt and fresh fruit. Go for almond milk instead of heavy cream with your morning coffee. Once you’ve mastered these “smaller” steps, start branching out more.
This same idea is true with fitness goals. Don’t show up to your first workout session and expect to be at the top of your class. Take the time (and dose of humility) to let your body prime itself for whatever workout you’ve chosen. While the rest of the class may feel like they’re way ahead of you, you’ll be keeping pace (and maybe even overtaking!) with them before you know it!
Remind yourself that this is what you should be doing for your body.
Our bodies are amazing creations we are blessed to have. Imagine you owned a priceless piece of jewelry or lived in a stunning mansion. Would you let dirt and grime cake up your stunning jewelry, or sit idly by while your exquisite home falls victim to wear and tear? No, of course not! You see the value in these things and therefore take special care to ensure they maintain their beauty.
Why should your body be any different? God carefully crafted our bodies into priceless masterpieces He then graciously bestowed upon us. His son sacrificed His own body for us. If you’re a believer, the Holy Spirit calls your body home. Remember this the next time you engage in gluttonous or self-destructive acts against your body. Give your body the respect and care it deserves, for no other reason than God has commanded it.
“I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1 (NIV)
Understand your limitations and work with them.
As professionals, we are automatically at a disadvantage when it comes to health and fitness. We don’t have hours to spare each week attending multiple fitness classes, or access throughout the day to full kitchens in which to prepare perfectly nutritious meals for breakfast, lunch, and possibly dinner. On average, we have precious few minutes in either the morning or evening to set aside for pursuing anything remotely healthy. And that’s OK!
Personally, I start each day with exercise. Caring about my body also makes me feel better, think better, and start the day on a positive note. If you’re a morning person, this approach might work for you, too! Go for a quick walk or run, pull out your yoga mat and follow along with a flow or two available online, or visit the gym in the morning on your way into the office. Whatever practice you decide on, make sure it’s something that will consistently work with your schedule, even if you have an unexpected meeting or project.
If nighttime is when your schedule opens up, find something that will not only help you get in shape but also wind down from the stress of your day. Evening walks, especially if you live in a warmer climate, are an amazing unwind and give you an opportunity to process your day and quiet your mind before bed. Many gyms offer night classes and hours convenient for professionals. Research some locations in your area and see if any offer classes or practices you’re interested in pursuing.
Eating healthy is a major pitfall for professionals. Convenience often outweighs nutrition, especially if we spend our days running from meeting to meeting. Bringing your own lunch to the office is a great way to ensure your diet resolution stays on track. If that isn’t always an option for you, be sure to choose lighter calorie options at lunch meetings or when you’re breezing through a restaurant on your way to your 1:00 appointment. Rather than gulping down a large soda, opt for a large ice water instead. Many restaurants today even have entire sections of their menus dedicated to healthier options. Ask your server the next time you go out to eat!
Living a healthier lifestyle in 2016 is an ambition you can and should heartily set for yourself. Even if your schedule is demanding and your options are limited, there is always a way to become more mindful of your body and how you care for it. Take the time to devise a plan and get ready for a truly amazing 12 months.