1.) Drink water. No, I did not say "drink fluids" because diet soda and fruit juice do not count as water. Drink water. I have a horrible habit of not drinking enough water and I pay for it every time. I have made a new rule for myself to drink a whole glass of water before anything else in the morning and to carry around a bottle of water to refill throughout the day. If you have access to water at all times, you are more likely to actually drink it. Staying hydrated helps you recover faster from your workouts and not fatigue as rapidly during them. It also benefits your skin in keeping it clear, fresh, and young longer. Hydration protects your kidneys from rhabdomyolysis (that scary thing you hear about on the news that happens when people work out too hard). The signs of it are back pain and dark urine and it is a sign that your kidneys are shutting down from hypoperfusion. So, HYDRATE.
2.) Compete for you. Many of us have intangible goals for our fitness such as "I just want to be healthier" or "stronger" or "lose 20 pounds" ( I consider this intangible because in getting fit your body composition changes so you may be gaining muscle and losing fat, but staying the same weight). Try something new with your goals and set up a competition for yourself. If you are planning to run a marathon you HAVE to train for it, and it is the same for most fitness competitions. If you like to run, sign up for a 5k or half marathon. If you like to lift, sign up for a spartan race or a lifting competition. If you are a dancer, sign up for a dance competition in your local area. There are so many ways to motivate yourself that make you really strive for your goals. While the goal of looking good for Spring break seems reasonable, it is really hard to grasp what you really mean and to show yourself that you are accomplishing your goals. Set a tangible goal and work hard for it.
3.) Be accountable. Either get a workout buddy that will make sure you show up to your workout each day or assign a friend to ask you about your workout each evening via text or phone call. Guilt goes a long way in helping you keep your promises to yourself. Eventually, fitness will become a part of your routine. Until then, have other people help you stay on track. I even have an alarm called "Get up or you will lose all your muscle!". I know it is cheesy, but it reminds me that that extra few minutes of sleep is not really as awesome as training.
4.) Keep track of your progress. NOT ON THE SCALE. So many people are focused on the weight on the scale that they do not notice the real, healthy changes their bodies are going through in the process of getting fit. When you start training properly, you often gain muscle and lose fat, sometimes in equal amounts. Here is the thing, 1 lb of muscle up and 1 lb of muscle down does not change the numbers on the scale but does change how your clothes fit and your body fat percentage. Instead of weighing yourself hyper-religiously while you are training, keep progress photos of yourself over time. That way you can see in real time the progress you have made. The tiny day-to-day changes are not always apparent to us until we look back on where we started.
5.) Eat protein post-workout. Real science time: Human Growth Hormone and Insulin directly compete with each other in your body. So when insulin is high, HGH levels go down. HGH is secreted when you workout to help build muscle and burn fat. HGH is highest for the 2 hours after exercise and continues to be secreted for 24 hours. Sugars, carbs, and even fructose (fruit sugars) make your insulin levels go up which make your HGH secretion halt. Instead of grabbing carbs, a power bar, or even fruit after training, eat eggs or as pure of proteins as you can get. If you are able to wait out those 2 hours without passing out and sustain with just protein, you will be giving your body a better chance to take advantage of your exercise.
6.) Plan fit activities. Date nights and girl's nights are a great time to relax and stop worrying about work and school, but why not make these fun times serve two purposes. Forgo the dinner and movie plans and opt for an activity that gets your heart racing. Try going rock climbing, bowling, or to laser tag. You can even take dance classes in a group or take a self-defense class with friends. You may even want to sign up for a 5k for charity with your friends!
7.) Put your clothes out the night before. When I do laundry on Sundays, I plan out my workout clothes for the week and have them sitting out each night. This gives me a real-time reminder that I need to work out and also removes any excuses of "I forgot my gym clothes" from my list. Giving yourself a head start on your workout by simply having your outfits ready to go gets you excited and ready for the workouts of the week. Try it out.
8.) Have reasonable rewards. We all do it. We tell ourselves that we can eat the whole cake because we worked out today. We compromise with ourselves that we can have whatever we want if we moved enough that day. And that totally worked in high school. But it is time to get serious about health. Working out is not just for short term results or the event next week, it is for our complete health and wellness. So, while that huge froyo seems like a perfect reward for your hard workout, give yourself a more productive prize. Find something moderately healthy that you love and can reward yourself with ( I love Justin's almond butters and use those to treat myself). Even better, pick an item that you have been eyeing for a while, like a pair of shoes, and once you hit a certain number of completed workouts or even hit a fitness goal, treat yourself to those awesome shoes. That's a win-win if I have ever heard of one.
I hope this list helped focus your fitness plans. I know life gets busy quickly, but prioritizing your health and wellness is necessary to better your quality of life now and in the future. The more you know, the more effective your time training can be. Enjoy your wellness :)