Every day the American Pygmy shrew eats three times its own weight in food. To make this happen, the shrew must snack constantly without sleep. An hour without food will result in death. No doubt their short, one-year lifespan can be attributed to consumption-related exhaustion.
Looking to tame your inner shrew? Before making your annual New Year’s donation to a fitness centre near you, consider these simple tips. They may just save your life.
Don’t: Don’t go from eating a daily diet of highly processed, sugary foods to an existence of leafy greens and vegetables.
Do: Make minor but consistent changes to your diet, allowing your body to adjust over time. Switching from doughnuts and breakfast cereal to steel cut oats makes for a short journey. Unless you have an iron will, your body will crave the missing sugar and find it. Try transitioning to healthier instant oatmeal (which still has its fair share of sugar). After a couple of weeks, mix in some healthier oatmeal, followed by a full breakfast of steel cut oats with fruit and a bit of brown sugar. Apply this strategy to other meals by introducing fresh options while reducing processed food.
Don’t: Don’t join a gym.
Do: For beginners, gyms are intimidating places. Start walking three or four times a week to establish a pattern and gain some confidence. Most people need about a month of consistent exercise to lock in a new behaviour. Now join a gym.
Don’t: Don’t continue with your existing workout routine.
Do: …at least not without asking yourself whether you are achieving your desired results. Most people stop seeing results once they fall into a regular routine. Repetition is great for beginners but regular exercisers need to change things up every few months to keep their bodies guessing.
Don’t: Don’t run on the treadmill for long sustained distances if your goal is weight loss.
Do: The other day a long-distance runner asked me how to lose belly fat, fully recognizing that a long haul on the treadmill isn’t the best option. Interval training (hard-easy-hard) has become the cardio option of choice for those looking to improve performance and lose fat. After a five-minute warm-up, you can start with three 30-60 second ‘spikes’ with rests in between. Increase the number of spikes when you are ready.
Don’t: Don’t sign up for the complimentary fitness orientation in a big box gym.
Do: …at least not if you want to learn anything. Group orientations are convenient for the club but confusing for beginners. Today I see very few clients who were happy with their gym ‘on-boarding’ experience. That’s why they’ve moved to a more intimate boutique environment. Large gyms deal with large numbers. It’s easy to get lost as a beginner.
Don’t: Don’t hire just any personal trainer.
Do: Hire a personal trainer with credentials and a proven track record. A good trainer can save you a lot of time and will produce results. A few sessions can set you on the right track. Multiple sessions, two or three times a week, will educate, motivate and produce results. Be prepared to spend $60-$90 an hour on average, depending on the package. Ask yourself what you are prepared to spend for a stronger, fitter, healthier body.
Don’t: Don’t dabble in weight training if you are over 55.
Do: Jump in with both feet! New studies are proving that muscle loss isn’t inevitable for seniors. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that athletes over the age of 70 had as much thigh muscle mass as athletes in their 40s. The key, according to research, is consistency.
Don’t: Don’t ‘wing it’.
Do: Never travel without a road map. Create simple one-month plans to cement your New Year’s resolutions. Use a wall calendar to chart your exercise days and diet choices. Write notes to yourself using a white board marker on your bathroom mirror. Focus on the wins and use your ‘cheats’ as learning opportunities.