When new healthy habits form and old detrimental ones fade away, progress happens. I’ve been adopting some new techniques and tweaking my routine here and there to build upon the foundation of healthy living I’ve built for myself. I’ve been a fitness buff and a health food fan for a long time, but there is always more I could be doing to get better every day. I do have some bad habits that need to be broken, some eating patterns that could be cleaned up, and some new goals I would like to achieve. Let’s explore some of the tiny techniques that I’ve been using that have made a huge difference toward health improvement:
1. Yoga Breathing Breaks: Throughout the morning, I’ve been known to sneak away for a few yoga breaks. I don’t do any full yoga routines, due to the logistics of working in an office. But I do sneak in some yoga breathing exercises. I usually perform the first part of a sun salutation over and over, breathing slowly through my nose, until I feel relaxed, usually about 5 minutes. I am not a very good seated meditator, but moving with my breath through a few stretching exercises feels amazing. I’m not only actively meditating, but I’m also limbering my body and practicing mindfulness without even thinking about it. The simple act of movement becomes a great distraction to bothersome thoughts, making quieting the mind a whole lot easier than when sitting. And the benefits of meditation any which way you do it are phenomenal. Besides that, the habit gets me up out of the seat I sit in 8 hours a day and gets my blood moving.
2. Trade in Diet Soda: Without really trying to, I have successfully cut out diet soda from my diet (apart from the highly occasional fast food run). I have long cut out regular soda and sugary juices from my diet, but I still always had a diet soda every day with my work lunch. To cut costs for a few weeks, I cut soda from the grocery list and didn’t miss it as bad as I thought I would. Now, we’re saving a bit of extra money every week and I’m not killing brain cells. Seriously. Aspartame + Caffeine = Dead Brain Cells. After watching Hungry for Change, I decided to maintain this healthy habit and keep my brain for awhile. Water it is!
3. Work out in the Morning: Now, I am not a fierce proponent of morning workouts. If the only time you have to work out is in the evenings, that’s quite alright as long as you follow through. However, I myself have made the successful transition to working out in the mornings (I will discuss how I did it in a future post). This way, I get to spend the entire evening with my family, and I’m not running off the gym after work (not that I think this is wrong, it just causes severe mommy guilt). I also get the bulk of my workout done before my day even starts. In addition, working out in the morning before breakfast actually creates up to a 20% increase in fat burn. I’m all for that!
4. Eat Clean, Eat Clean, Eat Clean: As I’ve stated before, eating clean is the only “diet” that intuitively makes sense to me for long-term lifestyle implementation. It makes sense to get your nutrients from “as-God-made-them” sources and to stay away from processed foods. That’s a scientifically sound idea. I’ve been eating so healthy lately that whenever I have a not-so-healthy meal, I don’t feel good afterwards. It feels sort of like a hangover with a lingering “bleh” feeling and sour stomach. Quite the incentive to continue eating healthier, right? I know that French fries are going to give me stomach pains, so I don’t eat them.
5. Don’t Cut out Stretching: When crunched for time during a workout, the easiest sacrifice to make is to skip the stretching, right? Bad move. By doing so, you are robbing yourself of the benefits of stretching, which include better posture, easier recovery, increased mobility, enhanced performance, enhanced exercise form, etc. I have recently started incorporating foam rolling (aka: self-myofascial release) into my stretching routine, based on the recommendations from my NASM studies. I just use a foam swimming noodle right now, which you can find at the dollar store, to massage out my knots. It feels sooooo good. I hear a lot of people saying that if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right. Either I don’t feel pain like most people or I’m a masochist, but I love the feeling (but I’m a lover of deep deep-tissue massage and have a super-high pain tolerance). And it really is working, making me feel less stiff, increasing my range of motion, and ironing out my exercise form.
6. Eat Breakfast a Little Later: I always eat breakfast. As you probably know, skipping breakfast is a cardinal sin of healthy eating. However, I’ve found that eating a little bit later in the morning helps me to eat fewer mindless snacks throughout the morning. I can make it to lunchtime without a problem if I eat at 9:30 instead of 7:00. Plus, I don’t actually start to feel that hungry until after 9, so it’s really not necessary to eat before leaving the house. Such a simple concept, but it really is making a huge difference! I’ve been good about planning my meals in advance so that I can prep them at work. Microwave scrambled eggs really are a miracle.
7. Try New Foods: I’ve discussed before the different foods that I’ve tried as part of the goals I set for myself last summer, and I’m setting intentions to continue this goal. This past week, my family was subjected to bulgar wheat for the first time. It was a success! Even meat-and-potatoes Hubster found it to be a good alternative to rice. He does like quinoa, and bulgar has a similar consistency. I tend to fall into really bad food ruts, so picking up new foods to try always helps me climb out. I will be adding bulgar to our regular rotation of whole grains. You can find it in the bulk section at your grocery store for super cheap. It’s really easy to make too much (see below), so freeze the leftovers for an easy grab-and-go option on rushed days. It’s always helpful to have a healthy mixture of food options to choose from, and adding more to the repertoire is great for giving your body a healthy variety of nutrients.
I hope these small tweaks that I’ve made in my own regimen inspire you to change a thing here or there in yours. Just try implementing one idea at a time and really pay attention to the difference it makes. If it doesn’t work, pitch it. If it does work, adopt it. Either way, keep moving onto the next step and see what happens. I’d love to hear back with your results. Good luck!