Working out alone is great, but if you find yourself lacking motivation or getting bored, consider inviting a friend! Having someone that you’re meeting up with for a workout increases the likelihood that you’ll do it (you don’t want to cancel on your friend!). According to a research study of 1,000 women (summarized here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2263099/Looking-fitness-boost-Workout-friend–research-shows-women-train-harder-exercise-partner.html), women burn more calories, work out longer, and spend more time at the gym when accompanied by a friend. This varies by person, however; I found that I tend to work out longer and harder when I’m by myself, for example. Working out with a friend can also bring out your competitive side, which may improve your results. When you’re ready to give up, a quick glance over to your friend pounding away on the treadmill may be just the boost that you need. And let’s face it, it’s more fun to work out with someone! If you are hoping to catch up with someone anyway, consider going for a hike or a comfortable run or bike ride with them at a conversational pace.
One of the easiest ways for me to boost my mood is by working out. Need to blow off steam from a stressful day? Try breaking into a sweat for a bit. You might have heard it before, but your body releases endorphins, which diminish your perception of pain, while you engage in physical activity. If you’ve ever experienced “runner’s high,” you have felt the affects of endorphins triggering a positive feeling in your body. Exercise also improves self-esteem, decreases anxiety, improves sleep, increases energy levels, and lowers blood pressure, among many other benefits. Any type of exercise can help, so pick something that you enjoy most!
For information on how exercise can improve your mood and help to prevent depression, check out: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression
While you may spend a lot of time engaged in cardio workouts, you might want to incorporate strength straining for better results. You’ve probably heard it before, but more muscle helps your body to burn more calories at rest. While cardio is great for burning calories and improving cardiovascular health and endurance, strength training can take your training to the next level. If you’re a runner, weight training can strengthen your core and hip-stabilizing muscles and may prevent injury — try adding some lunges, squats, and planks to your workouts, for example.
If you find that you are in a fitness rut and not getting the results that you’d like, consider doing some weight training a few times a week!
Just like tracking your budget, tracking your meals and workouts can be an important step in improving your life. By tracking your meals, you’ll be more aware of what you’re putting into your body and how you can improve your diet. By tracking workouts, you may be more inclined to follow a workout plan and find ways to improve and vary your current plan. Just like budgeting your money, it is important to find your favorite method for tracking these things. For workouts, I like to keep an Excel document with a calendar and list of the workouts that I completed on each day (ex. “ran 5 miles outside” or “1-hour fitness class”). You can also just write these items onto your regular wall calendar if it doesn’t look too cluttered with your busy schedule. There are also free programs and smartphone apps that let you track your dietary consumption each day (some are pretty sophisticated and actually have a nutritional record of most grocery and restaurant items, including calories, fat, etc. along with a record of calories burned during common activities so that you can compare how many calories you’ve ingested with how many you’ve worked off). Again, a simple notebook, pen and your best estimates are all that is necessary for tracking these things. As a tip, do not obsess over calories. It is about maintaining your health and working toward your fitness goals. For example, if you eat a lot of “junk food,” perhaps tracking your daily meals can allow to visualize exactly how much of it you need to cut out or your diet (you can also work this into your budgeting method to see how much you would save if you removed unnecessary food items from your diet!). If you’re in a workout slump, entering your workouts may motivate you to try new fitness activities.
Hopefully you’ve already employed a budgeting method (as per yesterday’s post) – start tracking nutrition and fitness in your life today!