By Katie Lange,
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
So the holidays are over, and it’s back to your regular diet and exercise routine. Or for some, it’s back to the old resolution of starting one. It’s not always easy, but it is possible!
Air Force Lt. Col. Anthony Beutler runs a sports medicine training program for the military. He’s got some tips to keep even a novice on track.
To get used to eating well, you have to remember that moderation is key, so be reasonable with what you’re expecting of yourself.
“You want to make sure you’re not trying to just stop eating everything. Focus on healthy things that you can eat,” Beutler said, like packing more veggies into your meals. They’re healthy and filling, and they’re a good choice when you just want to munch. Also, instead of cutting foods out, change the order in which you eat them in – start with veggies or lean protein first.
“You start off eating your French fries and your meats and your starches, and then you sort of power your salad down at the end. What you’ve really done is filled up on the bad stuff,” he said. “Switch that around. Eat your vegetables and that stuff first, then take a little break and say, ‘How hungry am I?’”
Exercise: Work Your Way Up
For those of you who haven’t really worked out since before Thanksgiving, getting back into a routine might be tough, so start slow. Do 20-30 minutes of a low-impact workout, like the bike or elliptical, to give your muscles a chance to readapt. Later, work in some resistance training for weight management – it builds muscle and lean body mass.
“Whether you’re sitting at a desk or sleeping, muscle is always metabolically active and is always burning calories, so resistance training is really important,” Beutler said.
Start with 8-10 exercises that are a mix of upper and lower body and core. Do one to two sets of 8-12 reps on top of your cardio workout. You can work up to a higher intensity of both from there.
If You Have Kids
They’re not an excuse to skip exercising. Instead, work them into your routine. If you work out at home, challenge them to join you. The interaction is great, and they could use the workout, too. If you have small children, do some calisthenics while they’re in the room. If your kids play sports, work out while they do.
“If you’re at a soccer field, run around the edge. You can still watch your kid practice,” Beutler said. “Take that time for yourself. There’s only so much family time for exercise, so if your child’s exercising, you should probably be, too.”
Motivation, Sleep Are Keys to Success
Staying motivated can be one of the toughest parts of working out, so try these tips:
- Find a partner you like to exercise with. Having a support group is important. They’ll help keep you motivated and honest.
- Pick an exercise you actually like to do. If you’ve never enjoyed running, chances are that’s not going to change. Try yoga, martial arts, spinning, or anything you might actually enjoy.
- Do something you like while you’re exercising. Exercise machines can get boring, so you have to make it worth your time. If you’re a sports fan, watch the first half of the game while on your bike. If you like to zone out to music, make sure your playlist is up to date with all your favorite upbeat tunes.
Also, keep in mind that exercise is not all about losing weight.
“It’s really just our most important factor for staying alive,” Beutler said. “There’s nothing more important you can do than exercise.”
Sleep is also critical for motivation, so make sure you get six to eight hours a night. If it’s hard for you to wake up, try lighting your house with full-spectrum light bulbs, which have a blue hue and resemble sunlight. They even make full-spectrum alarm clocks that mimic the sun rising.
The Inevitable Struggle
If it’s getting harder to stay on track, go back to the basics. Maybe you need a new playlist or TV series to watch, or you need to switch your routine.
“Change it up, but don’t stop. Remember that a change is as good as a break often for our mental health and much better for our physical health,” Beutler said.
He said the same goes for diet “cheat days.”
“Do the very best you can, but feel good about telling yourself, ‘This is going to be a celebration day, and that’s OK. I’m going to get right back on my healthy, regular choices,’” he said.
At the end of the day, it’s all about staying active.
“When we exercise, we release a bunch of natural endorphins and chemicals that are very powerful,” Beutler said. “Those natural chemicals of exercise are one of the best things we have to make us feel good this time of the year.”
You can also check out several of DoD News’ Fit for Duty workouts that can help get you in shape:
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