Updated: Dec 22, 2020
You don’t have to wait until January to start taking care of your health and well being. In fact, I would say that the best time to take action to make a positive change before the new starts in your life is the present moment. Most people want to start working out or doing some sort of fitness activity, but few are able to maintain this new habit after the first few weeks of the new year. Not because they lack "motivation", but simply because they lack proper guidance. “How do I begin?” is one of the top fitness questions I often get asked, as a pro athlete and understandably so. Beginning any journey is intimidating, let alone one that is health and fitness related. But with the proper information and preparation it doesn’t have to be.
So instead of leaving you in the dark, I decided to put together a few tips that will help progress much faster and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Here are 7 steps that can help you start your fitness journey NOW and stay motivated throughout the new year!
1. Determine Your Goals
Understanding WHY you starting a new fitness routine is key in this new process. Your goal may be to lose weight, gain muscle, reduce stress, improve cardiovascular health—or some combination of all of those. Knowing what results you want and are looking for will help you determine which types of exercise you should participate in.
It’s important to be honest with yourself and not set extremely impossible goals. Have in mind your schedule, work and how everything is going to be running while you are planning on making dietary changes. It’s easy to write down goals on paper but very tough to keep up with them if your specific schedule doesn’t allow you to.
2. Don’t Wait For The Perfect Moment
Many of us feel like we are too busy to change old habits and start creating new, healthier ones. We can put off taking care of ourselves until we have more time, less pressure with work, or fewer commitments. However, you don’t have to wait for the perfect moment to start making healthy choices. There’s no need to jump into a gym and lift a ton of weight on Day 1. Actually, I’d advise that’s a good way to hurt yourself and get discouraged. Start by walking 15 to 30 minutes a day. Just START NOW. Get motivated by making one small change, and see what difference it makes!
3. Start Small
If you are looking to start a fitness journey it’s best to take simple steps. Like I said, It’s important to be honest with yourself and not set extremely impossible goals. Choose to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take stretch breaks throughout the day. By doing something small every day, you’re setting up an exercise habit. Over time, you can add more challenging exercises.
One of the most important pieces of advice I can give you is to set a short-term and a long-term goal. The short-term would be something you can follow up on a daily basis making sure you are working towards a bigger long-term goal. For example: “I’m currently able to finish a 1000 yards swimming workout. By the end of the year I want to be able to finish a 5000 yards swim workout. I can only swim 3x/week and I only have 2hr/day.” - Now, according to that specific schedule, how can you adjust and start small on a daily basis so that by the end of the year you are able to complete the entire 5000 yards all at once in a 2hr swimming session?
4. Make an “Exercise Appointment”
Add the exercise to your personal calendar like you would do for anything else like a dental appointment, your kid’s soccer game, or lunch with a friend. This will help make sure exercise becomes a priority in your day. If you just wake up thinking, “I’ll work out at some point today,” then it’s easy for other things to pop up and prevent you from exercising.
Make sure you’re aware of your small daily wins that will help you stay on track for your long-term goal. Rewarding yourself every other week or month will also help you still keep this process enjoyable. It’s all about enjoying the process and not beating yourself up to follow “rules”. I personally can track my progress by checking in with my personal doctor and my nutritionist every 2 weeks, but I suggest you have a journal or an app on your phone to help you with tracking a list of daily goals. Being aware of your progress is key.
5. Control What You Can Control
Like I said, making sure you set honest goals is a great part of it. In case something happens along the way, don’t panic nor lose control of the situation. One of the major things swimming has taught me is to control what I can control and not dwell on what I have zero power. If your flight is delayed and you need to break the diet by eating at the airport, or if you have an important lunch with a client at work and absolutely needs to break the diet for that, DON’T WORRY. Life has a way of throwing curveballs at you.
Maybe work gets busy, or family obligations crop up and you’re not able to exercise as much as you like. The important thing is to not quit. Just get back to your routine when you can. Or find small moments in the day to be more active. Never forget that some exercise is better than no exercise. Going on dates with your friends and family and eating at your favorite restaurant every once in a while won't kill you either. Control what you can control. Find the balance and try to stay on track as much as possible.
Either for physical activities performance or a healthy performance of everyday functions, make sure you are looking for products and adapting to a lifestyle where your body is always hydrated. This article will show you a little more about how to make sure your diet can help you to stay hydrated too. If you are making switches on your diet or schedule/lifestyle, look for products that will help you achieve your hydration goals too. Like I mentioned in this article, luckily there are already healthier options of foods and drinks on the market that can help people get their essential vitamins and minerals and keep your hydration levels at its peak without the extra calories.
Our body also needs fluids and electrolytes to function at its best. Staying hydrated is super important for our bodies overall health. It’s easy during the holiday season to forget about the water and switch it for a couple of glasses of wine or beer, but dehydration is dangerous for our bodies and can cause a whole range of issues including allergies, asthma, colitis, constipation, migraine headaches and rheumatoid arthritis, just to name a few. Keep your water bottle with you at all times.
As I always mention, keeping your body hydrated is the bare minimum you can do to optimise mental and physical well-being. As a professional swimmer, I always have to make sure my body is at its maximum level of hydration, so I can perform at my best during everyday workouts and swim meets. Walking around with a water bottle or sports drink bottle has become part of who I am. When I go to that morning run or workout I always make sure I have a bottle of Hydra-Guard with me. Staying hydrated not only helps me to stay on top of my physical performance, but also I make sure I am always at my best mentally. Products like Hydra-Guard Sports Drink also help me to make sure I have my proper amount of Vitamins and essential electrolytes. One bottle has 20% the equivalent Daily Value of Calcium we need alongside with only 5g of REAL Sugar and no artificial anything.
7 - Be Patient and Remember WHY You Started
Nothing will be achieved overnight. Specially a new diet plan or new fitness challenge. Being patient is the last item on this list but perhaps the most important one. Remembering WHY you started is also crucial in terms of your long-term goal. Maybe it won’t look like you're progressing from one week to another but when you look at things from a different perspective, from months to months for example, you will notice a massive difference.
Persistence is key. By following the steps about I guarantee you will be able to achieve any goal you set yourself to do throughout the year. I’d go a little further and suggest you have someone else, like a friend, sibling, parents, family members, anyone who has the same goal as you and willing to go through the same changes, to help each other by holding each other accountable. One of my favorite things about swimming is that even though it is an individual sport in terms of results, we train as a group, where everyone helps each other to get better everyday.
We should always remember that vitamin and minerals — particularly A, C and E, as well as zinc — play an important role in keeping the immune system strong and staying healthy during this time. It’s also important to look for products that support your goals.
As a professional swimmer, the majority of the products and food I consume are from a natural background with extremely low to zero sugar and I choose not to have any artificial products on them. Hydra-Guard Sports Drink has been helping me recover after my swim workouts by replenishing my electrolytes with the right quantity while keeping me away from sugar and artificial sweeteners or food dye.