We’ve all been at that stage in life where things other than ourselves have taken precedence. It is typical in certain stages of life such as exams, work pressure, moving to a different city or country, caring for an ill family member, becoming a parent and coping with day to day responsibilities that come with being an adult.
The reason why fitness or health gets missed out from the above list is that many of us simply don’t give ourselves the same importance that we give to our family and careers. It isn’t something that our parents put on the priority list for us, therefore, a lot of us give it a miss.
The only time many people get back to fitness is when they start facing health issues – especially in their late 20s to mid 30s. Problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes, PCOS, joint and back problems are issues that are increasingly being faced by this age group.
Also, traditionally, most of us think of healthcare as something to be done ‘reactively’. This is purely my opinion, but I feel that one of key reasons for this can be traced to our need for ‘bravado’ in not displaying ‘weakness’. Therefore unless we are screaming in pain or fainting, many of us do not utter a word about the discomfort we are facing.
This points to our culture that views self-care as vain and self-involved vis-a-vis the coveted qualities of living for others. While on the surface, a lot may seem to be changing in terms of values and coveted qualities, we must be aware of our intrinsic behaviour that creeps up in the most subconscious ways (i.e. the need to put others and everything else ahead of self-care).
Now why am I rambling on upon a behavioural trait rather than just getting on with the tips?! The reason is simple, it all starts in the mind. If we are aware of our weak areas, it helps us overcome those faster.
So now that i’ve set the tone, here are the tips on how to start a fitness routine:
- Get enough sleep – many people with busy jobs and hectic schedules get anywhere from 5-7 hours of sleep. A constant lack of sleep and also a bad to low quality sleep (caused by breathing problems such as snoring/sleep apnea), noisy or extremely bright surroundings can lead to poor concentration and also lead to weight gain. Also, poor sleep can lead you to crave more sugar and carbohydrates which also leads to weight gain. So fix all of your sleep issues and focus on improved sleep quality. Aim to get atleast 8 hours of your zzzs today.
- Wake up early – sleep earlier. Shift your sleep patterns slightly by going to bed 15 minutes early and waking up 15 minutes earlier. It should be gradual so it doesn’t shock your system and make you feel sleepy during the day. Waking up early gives you the time to start afresh and build your daily healthy routine.
- Drink more water – many of us working desk jobs or sitting long hours don’t feel thirsty. Therefore, typically such a person consumes 1-2.5 litres of water a day which puts your body in a state of dehydration. Dehydration makes your body retain more water and makes you look more plump. Drinking more water will regulate your digestion and will take care of the water retention issue. You can infuse water with cucumber pieces, mint leaves or slices of lemon for flavour.
- Remove sugar from your diet completely. This tip is a difficult one for many to follow especially since sugar is so intrinsically a part of our diet, it is added to all sorts of savoury foods too such as Ketchup and store bought dhokla (spongy rice cakes) for example. Read labels carefully and avoid sugar as much as possible. The reason for eliminating sugar from the diet is simple, our bodies don’t really need it. Most of the food that we consume gets converted to sugar. So when we consume sugar in its purest form i.e. glucose, it gets readily absorbed by our bloodstream, causing a spike in the blood sugar levels. A sudden spike is followed by a sudden crash in blood sugar levels leading to tiredness and more sugar cravings – which then starts off a vicious cycle in our systems. Start by eating natural sugars in low quantity such as half a teaspoon or organic honey or a small piece of gur (unprocessed sugar lump) – but work towards eliminating sugar from your diet in the long run. The idea is to find alternatives to processed sugar and to re-set your taste buds to enjoy the natural flavours of foods again.
- Limit your fruit intake to 2 fruits a day – most fruits today are injected with sweeteners and artificial dyes to make them look more appealing. Fruits used to be nutritionally dense and less sweet a century ago and therefore they were considered to be healthy. However, do not delude yourself into thinking that a ‘fruit diet’ consisting of mangoes and watermelons and apples will help you reduce weight. It will make you feel hungrier and less satiated as the day passes on. Exercise restraint when reaching for that piece of fruit. If this sounds extreme right now, then take smaller steps. Move from refined processed sugar to natural sugars first. Baby steps.
- Finally, exercise! If you’re someone who hasn’t worked out in a long time, then starting off with 30-minute outdoor walks or gentle yoga 3 times a week should be sufficient for the first 1 month. Once you start enjoying the routine and following it, you should then plan on joining classes of some sort that appeal to you. The idea is to never get bored and not have a plan. Each month you should aim to increase your activity level and be able to feel notable improvement in your stamina and overall health. You can expect results once your activity levels are high – we’re talking MMA or Crossfit levels here. Till then, you should focus on joint mobility and establishing a routine – which is the most fundamental and the most difficult thing for anyone to follow – no matter how advanced they may be.
- Incorporate rituals that help you stick to your routine. By rituals I mean little things that make you happy and look forward to your healthy routine. Such as spending 5 minutes before the start of your day affirming positive thoughts that get you feeling good, or getting a new pair of sneakers or a t-shirt that makes you excited about waking up early to go for a walk. A warm, fragrant cup of coffee or tea that gets you upbeat or a new playlist that inspires you to get out of bed. Find your ritual.
I hope these tips were helpful and that they get you going! Do let me know in the comments if you’d like me to focus on anything specific. Cheers!