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Making the right changes

14 Aug

dontexpect

When I started out on my journey to get healthy, I was the same as everyone else. For years I’d found it easier to keep making excuses than making a change in my life. I’d always been blessed to be a “skinny person” in spite of a fairly sedentary lifestyle for most of my teens and early 20’s. For years I thought I’d taken the “healthier” option of purchasing low-fat or light options of milks, margarine, and cheese, and thought that pre-packaged soups and frozen meals were as nutritional as the “real thing”. I looked at my figure and gathered I couldn’t be making too many “bad” mistakes with my life if I was still slim.

After a number of events in my life, I knew it was time to make the change to be healthy late last year. No more excuses this time. No more joining a gym to only go once in a blue moon, or hiding behind ignorance of what really goes into pre-packaged foods, or trying to do too much too soon. This was it.

My advice to anyone standing at that fork in the road at present is to make it easy on yourself. Yes – EASY. But please don’t mistake what I’m saying here – making a huge lifestyle change is a big deal, it will be a struggle, but one you will thank yourself for. What I mean is that you have to make the changes early on that you know you can stick to. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

I think a lot of people who don’t succeed in their attempts to “get healthy” try to conquer the world on their first attempt. Don’t try to go from couch potato to running 10km! You’ll hate it and probably injure yourself in the process! If you’ve got a weakness for a bowl of ice cream before bed every night, don’t try to go cold turkey on day one.

Here’s some of the little changes I started out with:

  • Find a form of exercise you enjoy: In my case, this was running. A few years ago I tried doing cardio and weights at the gym and hated it, and working out in front of a room full of strangers (ie. taking a class) seemed like my own personal nightmare! I found it impossible to form a habit of going to the gym because I hated being there. However, when I started out running I really liked it. I found freedom in hitting a track near a local creek – it gave me some “me” time to clear my head and enjoy being outdoors.
  • Don’t overdo it: Like I mentioned above, if you go from doing no exercise regularly to attempting to run 10kms you’re going to struggle, or hurt yourself. For me, a nice way to try to achieve this balance was to use the RunDouble Android app on my phone. It helped me to pace myself. If you’re more of a gym type, chat with a trainer to find a work-out plan that will be right for you. If you like group classes, make sure you start out in something that is aimed at beginners. There’s no shame in being new to fitness, particularly if you’re determined to make a change!
  • Don’t subscribe to the “fad” diets straight off the bat: By “fad diets” I mean the ones that involve a radical change. Perhaps one of these diets might suit you, but chances are if you attempt to go from your regular dietary habits to strictly “paleo” or “clean eating” (for example) you’ll find it a little too tough. I’ve seen far too many people I know cut something – or many things – completely out of what they eat in the name of improving their diet, only to then crave and binge on these foods. This is why, personally, I’ve taken the “everything in moderation” approach for my own healthy eating. I still eat cake, I still have dessert, I still drink milk and eat meat. I just am more sensible about which options I choose, the portion sizes, and how often I eat some of these things. I’ve found it much easier to still enjoy the things I love – I don’t feel like diet is a “punishment”, and I’m actually enjoying my healthier foods (like spinach!) more than I ever thought possible. Ease into the changes, don’t expect them on Day One.
  • Make being healthy a habit: They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, and even longer to break old ones. Try to find time every day to exercise if possible. For me, its not possible to run every day. I set aside 3-4 mornings a week where I have a good run, and on other days I try to make a conscious effort to move as much as possible – take the stairs, stand and walk around rather than sit at a desk all day. Since I got into this habit, it now feels strange not running on the days I usually would!

App review: RunDouble

7 Aug

RunDouble App

“RunDouble” is probably the sole reason I stuck with running when I started out. Let me introduce my pre-running self: I was a busy full-time professional who found it easy to make excuses to avoid fitness. If it wasn’t lack of time, it was that I had no where to run, or that I’d find it boring. Excuses, excuses, excuses…

I’d heard about the “C25K” (couch-to-5-k) programs previously. They sounded straight forward enough and I knew they’d worked for other people I knew, so I wanted to give it a try. But I knew I needed a method to make it easy to stick to the program, do the intervals correctly, and keep track of my progress to keep me moving forward.

That’s where “RunDouble” was great. I used the C25K timed interval plan and, for me, it was almost as good as having a personal trainer coaching me through each run. I’d tune in the radio on my smartphone for some music, and the voice prompts would guide me through the rest – when to start running, slow to a walk, and even a 5 minute warm up and cool down. I loved the GPS tracking with colour coding of the run and walk intervals, and seeing my distance and pace increase gradually with each run made me proud and want to keep working harder.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t complete the whole training program. But I did purchase the “Pro” version and believe that without “RunDouble” I never would have competed in my first 5km race early this year. This app helped my form good habits to become a regular runner, even when I was starting out with zero fitness level.

I think the hardest thing about getting into running is taking that first step – find something to motivate you – like this app – and get your butt off the couch! I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s easy. But I will promise that if you’re anything like me, just stick with it and running could become your favourite part of every day and a healthy lifestyle change you’ll thank yourself for making.