How to be Fit, Healthy, and Whole: Tips from a Regular Woman
DISCLAIMER: Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program. Not all plans are right for everyone... this is just one example from a regular, everyday woman.
Is it bad that I'm eating a tub of chocolate candy while outlining ways to embrace healthy living?
Of course not. I had baked tilapia and carrots for supper.
That, my friends, is balance.
And balance is the key to being fit, healthy, and whole.
Before you ask, no, I am not a doctor. Nor do I have a degree in dietetics. I am no nutritionist. I have never bought a meal plan or owned a gym membership. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Just kidding. Those commercials crack me up.
Seriously, if there is one thing I've learned about life, it's balance. I'd like to share with you how at forty something I am feeling better than ever, and you can too!
Be Fit... on a budget
The most valuable literature to speak on physical wellness is the Bible. It is packed with evidence for why we need endurance, stamina, and strength. Consider Romans 5:3.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
Commit to exercise at least three days a week for at least thirty minutes each day
This can be stretching, walking, running, strengthening, or a combination.
Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday could be run days.Tuesday and Thursday could be stretching and strengthening days.
Friday and Sunday are your rest days.
Figure out what you want or need to exercise three times a week
comfortable, non-restricting shorts
t-shirts or tank tops
a sturdy walking shoe, a durable running shoe
a yoga mat--you can borrow this from a co-worker (I did)
5 pound or 10 pound dumbbells--I borrowed mine from a friend
basic weight bench--check garage sales, pawn shops, and Craig's List
fitness app--Sworkit is free and includes yoga, Pilates, timing features, and a video trainer
fitness tracker--I received a Fitbit for Christmas two years ago and LOVE IT
Padded handle push-up bars--these provide stability when doing push-ups; mine were passed on from a dear friend.
Take advantage of freebies and promotions at the local gym or fitness center
I got passes from friends to try a spin class, flow class, pump class, and weight class. So fun and so worth it!
A local health center offered hot yoga for five bucks while the building was being constructed. Score!
A woman in my community hosts a fitness group where any and all are invited to show up at designated locations while she and her colleagues lead us in various exercises. Great way to meet folks!
These offer great learning experiences--from proper technique to timing and breathing, I've learned to exercise with my mind, not just my body.
Here is a peek at my fitness week. It may be something you can copy or modify.
Monday--run 3 miles
Tuesday--stretch, abdominal exercises, weights
Wednesday--run 3 miles
Thursday--stretch, abdominal exercises, weights
Saturday--longer run, anywhere from 5-10 miles
One stretch I highly recommend is reaching for the ceiling--or Woody's "reach for the sky" from Toy Story. This elongates the body, opens up your lungs and torso, and prepares you mentally for physical activity.
From this stretch, go straight into forward fold and ragdoll.
Others you might enjoy include downward dog, pigeon, and hip flexors. These are good for your back and hips. I learned these stretches at hot yoga and from YouTube videos.
Abdominal exercises that have proven effective are standard crunches, bicycle crunches, and leg lifts. I suggest starting with a set of 10 for each then slowly increase to a set of 15 then 20 then 30.
Strengthening exercises you should consider are planks and weights. Again, start slow then work your way up as your confidence builds. Trust me, planking and lifting weights will make you feel like a beast! It's challenging but oh so rewarding.
You can plank with arms fully extended or bent at the elbow. Time yourself for 15 seconds, then 20 seconds, then 30 seconds, and so on. Before you know it, you will be strong enough to plank for a full minute.
Lifting weights may seem intimidating, but it's really not. I promise. Like the other workouts, start low and slow--low number of repetitions and slowly increase over time. Be patient.
Three routines you might try are dumbbell shoulder press, bench press with dumbbells, and standing dumbbell curls. Begin with 5 pounds and a set of 10. Do not rush weight lifting. Add weights and/or reps as your confidence builds.
If running is something you'd like to try, here are some basics from my blog 6 Tips for First-Time Runners.
The most useful tip of all is probably the most important---BREATHE. It can make or break any good intentions to be physically fit.
Be Healthy... not hungry
What you put into your body will affect the effort and energy you have for physical activity and wellness. In fact, there is scriptural evidence to support this theory in Daniel 1:12-15.
Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water. At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king's food. At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men eating the food assigned by the king.
Foods to Avoid:
fast-food value meals
breads, biscuits, and crescent rolls
These tend to leave you feeling bloated, heavy, like a stuffed sausage link--no good when you're planking and running.
Foods to Include:
cheddar cheese sticks
hummus and carrots
almonds and pistachios
Cliff bars and Luna bars
Notice this list includes your veggies, meat, fruit, and snacks. I'm not saying this is all you eat, but I am suggesting smarter options.
These foods have become a mainstay in my house. Yes, I do still eat Chinese food, tacos, spaghetti, roast, and stews; I have a 17-year old to feed! But they are far and few between or a night out on the town.
Here is a sample week-day menu I enjoy:
breakfast--1 or 2 boiled eggs or a banana
morning snack--Cliff bar or Luna bar
lunch--turkey and cheese roll, steamed veggies, or veggie and chicken stir fry
afternoon snack--hummus with carrots, cheddar cheese stick with a few pretzels, or edamame
supper--grilled chicken breast with sweet potato, avocado, or asparagus
As I stated earlier, embracing a healthy lifestyle is really about balance. Eat foods that will give you the energy to be active. Plan meals that will satisfy you, not leave you hungry.
Think of it as Goldilocks and the Three bears--not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
Be Whole... enjoy the moment
A few years ago a friend reminded me of a quote we heard at a workshop--
Wherever you are, be there.
I decided then that I would forever be mindful of this sentiment, and it has done wonders for my attitude, my posture, and my demeanor.
It's like Paul in Philippians when he writes,
"I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation..."
I want every moment of my life to count--the curfew lectures to my son, the Sunday lunches with my parents, the curriculum meeting that seems to drag on forever!
Speaking of moments, morning coffee is my favorite part of any day. It thrills my soul to know that every night when I go to bed I get to wake up to a cup of coffee.
Yes, it brings me tons of joy. The smell of coffee brewing. The sound when it pours into the mug. Community coffee, Starbucks coffee, PJ's, CC's, Keurig--all heaven in a cup.
And the bonus moment? Sipping coffee on the couch with Jules, my five pounds of loving Chihuahua, reading my devotional. The curtains open, the sun shining through spending time with Jesus.
You see, it really is the simple things in life that bring such happiness.
What moments in your life bring you tons of joy? Don't miss them. Bask in them.