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Today’s article is a follow-up to the one I wrote last week – The best workout you can do this winter.
I want to share some practical tips that you can implement to help you achieve your fitness goals. No more skipping workouts. No more snoozing the alarm. No more excuses.
1. Have a healthy evening routine to help you wind-down
A good day starts with a good night’s sleep, and a good night’s sleep starts in the morning. Hear me out. An early dose of sunlight directly into the retina of the eye stimulates a healthy circadian rhythm which regulates a normal sleep-wake cycle. Get outdoors first thing in the morning and let the natural sunlight do its thing. If you work an office job, try get out into the sun during your lunch break, roll up your sleeves and soak up sun vitamin-D-producing rays.
When it comes to sleep, another very important window of time is the hour or two before you get into bed. If you can, try going tech-free in the hours before bed. Blue light-emitting devices such as household lights, phones, laptops, TV’s etc trick your brain into thinking that its daytime which stimulates daytime hormones to keep you awake. Darkness, on the other hand, triggers sleep hormones to help you rest at night. Blue light is a potent disruptor of a healthy circadian rhythm.
Turn off as many household lights as possible. Only keep on the ones you actually need and use dimmers where possible. You can also swap your lights for amber globes, or ditch the electrical lights altogether and light some candles for extra ambience. Turn off devices and read a book instead or have a conversation with your partner or housemates. These days there are apps that block blue light on the iPhone and computer, but if you’re as dorky as me, you can wear blue-light-blocking goggles (just don’t go out in public in them).
Go to bed at an hour that will give you an 8-9 hour sleeping window and ensure that you sleep in a dark, cool, quiet room. If your sleep quality and quantity is optimal you’ll wake up feeling energised and refreshed, making you more likely to crush a great workout. Aim to eat your last meal approximately three hours before your scheduled bed time. For proper sleep quality, avoid going to bed on a very full stomach. You don’t want to waste your body’s resources digesting your meal while you’re asleep. Rather, you want to allow your body to repair damaged tissue, recover and regenerate. There is even evidence to suggest that back-loading your carbs (i.e saving your carbs for later in the day) has been shown to improve melatonin and tryptophan production which creates higher sleep state but this really comes down to personal preference.
2. Lay out your workout gear the night before
I know it sounds simple but it is surprisingly effective. Lay out your shoes, socks, activewear, yoga mat, foam roller, sweat towel, water bottle, whatever it is that you’ll need for your workout. It’s not only a trigger in the morning but is symbolic of what you’ve committed to. By making the decision the night before about what outfit you’ll wear and what equipment you’ll need, you’ll have one less hurdle to face in the morning. Set yourself up for success each step of the way.
3. Find a committed workout partner
This is all about accountability. Sure, some people have a strong sense of self-accountability but for those who don’t, this is a great way to follow through with commitments. When you’ve committed to somebody else you’re far less likely to pull the plug at the last minute. Choose a workout partner who you have a good relationship with based on mutual respect, integrity and reliability. Plan your workout with a partner the night before and name a time/place to meet up. Once you’ve locked in the logistics there’s no backing out. Don’t be the one who sends a text first thing in the morning saying you can’t make it. Nobody likes a quitter.
4. Set your alarm on the other side of the room
This will force you to get out of bed and walk across the room to turn it off. Once your feet hit the ground, there’s no going back. Whatever you do, don’t snooze and get back into bed. If you’re snoozing in the bedroom, you’re snoozing in life. It’s a bad habit and one that does more harm than good. You can even place your alarm next to or on top of your workout gear. That way, you’ll see your workout gear and it will remind you of the purpose of the early wake up. I prefer an alarm that gives me a feel-good awakening, not a fright, but some people do better with a sound that’s so alarming and awful it makes them want to turn it off immediately. Again it comes down to personal preference. If you’re like most of us and use your phone as an alarm, make sure you leave your phone face down on flight mode or ‘do not disturb’ mode so it doesn’t disturb your sleep and keep you up during the night.
5. Don’t just know your ‘why’ – physically read it
Your ‘why’ is a deep and meaningful reason that motivates you to do the things in life that you don’t particularly want to do. Your reason or purpose for waking up before the sun and working out has to be significantly more appealing than your warm, cosy bed and your love of sleep. It needs to be something that you value more than anything in the world.
Next, attach a positive emotion to it, pick an emotion that aligns with the joy of being alive and happy, rather than fear of sickness or death. For example: “I want to live a long, healthy life because it will make me happy and fulfilled to see my grandkids grow up” rather than “I’m afraid of not being around to see my grandkids grow up”. Joy is a more effective and sustainable motivator than fear. Seek joy in life.
Once you’ve defined your own personal ‘why’ repeat it over and over and over until it becomes your mantra. I recommend going a step further and physically writing it down on a post-it note and stick it to your bathroom mirror or lay it on top of your workout gear. Read it before you go to bed and first thing in the morning. Read it and repeat it to yourself with conviction. Do whatever it takes to imprint it in your mind.
The take-home message
Hopefully these tips help you stay on track with your fitness goals. Executing these tips requires mindfulness. Mindfulness really is the bridge between knowledge and action. We all know that working out is good for us but actually doing the workout is another story. If you’re mindful from the time you wake up to the time you start winding down, you’ll have a much better chance of never skipping a workout again.
Drew Harrisberg is an exercise physiologist and diabetes educator. Want more expert advice on how to get healthy over winter? Look no further than bodyandsoul.com.au’s Hit Refresh 2019 Winter Edition, which runs for the whole of July. You’ll find smart tips and action plans for refreshing your nutrition, fitness, mindset and beauty… and much more!