It’s summer. You have time off work. Now is the perfect time to reignite your fitness goals. Here are 10 helpful tips to get started and fend off the Christmas bulge.
Join us in tracking Danny's progress with Fitbit's mobile dashboard and online tools. Mapped routes, steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes and more.
A few weeks ago I set myself the challenge to shape up a little for Summer. Nothing crazy, just positive changes in a healthy direction. The below tips are some of the basic principles I’ve used as direction. The silly season has lots of sweet and delectable distractions, but once Fitbit sent me over a Charge to track my results and share them with you, I knew I had to stay the course dammit. It’s actually been quite fun.
1. Just Get Started
Sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done. Firstly, don’t over think it. It can be easy to get caught up in the ‘all or nothing’ mindset. Don’t give up on your exercise goals for the entire week just because work or family commitments meant you couldn’t make the gym for two days in a row. Find something you enjoy doing. Tap into what motivates you. Form a routine, but also cut yourself some slack so you don’t burn out. Healthy living is a skill you improve at over time.
2. Go For A Walk
Get started one step at a time, no matter what your fitness level. Sitting all day at work is bad for health: experts suggest walking about 8km over the course of the day, the equivalent of around 10,000 steps. I personally find this quite hard. I’ve been taking longer walks on my lunch break. I’ve been walking home from a train station before the one closest to my house. I've taken the dog for extra walks.
I now look forward to the Fitbit Charge vibrating and doing its little screen dance when I hit 10K. Like beating the boss at the end of a video game on the way home each day. I can also adjust the daily goal for steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned or floors climbed.
Yeah, yeah, I totally left my Charge behind on the charger when I left the house on Tuesday. The irony!
3. Make A Kick Arse Playlist
Music is motivation. It affects our mood. Sports psychologists have studied its benefit to physical performance. But you don’t want to be fussing about with track selection in the middle of exercise. Organise an upbeat playlist of your favourite tracks. Whatever does it for you. Services like Spotify also tend to collate the most popular workout songs for you. My tip: The playlist has to be personal. It has to move you.
4. Cheers! On Alcohol And Festive Drinks
From backyard BBQs to the office Christmas party -- it can be hard to avoid a social drink or two. And that’s OK! As is not drinking in general. Overall, moderation is key. Try to substitute non-alcoholic drinks where possible, avoiding soft-drinks if you can. So far (fingers crossed), I’m doing better than expected in this area. I’ve also taken a liking to vodka and soda thanks to Gizmodo’s story on The Nine ‘Healthiest’ Alcoholic Drinks.
5. Grab A Friend
Exercise can get a little tedious (see my first point about finding something you love). So you might try roping in a like-minded friend or colleague to join you on a regular walk or run, an affordable boot camp class or to spot you at the gym. Consider joining a work or social sport team. Even if its lunch time touch footy. Organisations like cantoo.org.au will even help you train for runs, swims and triathlons while raising funds for Cancer research. And for its part, the Fitbit dashboard lets you get competitive with friends and view each other's weekly progress.
6. Eat Healthy, But Be Merry
You better believe I’ll be feasting on my Christmas ham like a scene from the Walking Dead, but I’ve gotten my kitchen cupboard organised to surround myself with guilt-free snacks. I am working to slim down a bit, so I’m also avoiding carbs if I can. Think bread, bread, pasta, cereal, and so on. Not completely though: Carbohydrates are ideal after a workout and help fuel your brain and recover focus when you’re back at the desk.
7. Get Some Sleep!
Slowness. Weight gain. Lower immune system. Less energy. These are some of the 25 Horrible Things That Happen If You Don't Get Enough Sleep. And while you burn more calories when you’re awake, that’s not enough to offset the decreased ability to fend off feel-good impulses. Like burgers. Oh, sweet, sweet Grill’d. Sleep and I have never been great friends (working at Gizmodo will do that to you), but I’ve unsurprisingly found that the more I exercise, the less restless I am when it’s time to get horizontal.
I’ve been using the automatic sleep tracking on the Fitbit Charge along with its silent vibrating alarm in the morning. But reviewing my sleep cycles on my dashboard tells me I’ve still got some work to do in fully committing to around 8 hours rest each night. And some mornings I definitely feel that.
8. Exercise Efficiently
You want to get bang for your exercise buck, especially if you’re short on time. According to Lifehacker, Australian scientists have found three 20-minute stints on an exercise bike per week to be optimal for fat burn. Effectively that’s interval training, of which Tabata is one method I’ve been looking into myself lately (my gym has a class).
Like I said, I’ve been using the Fitbit Charge on this Summer fitness soirée. It’s got a new exercise mode that I’ve used to track workouts so I don’t have to always manually log activities. That’s given me real-time stats on the band and detailed summaries on my dashboard. That said, I still log the odd activity manually using the app on my phone.
By the way: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) aside, free weights use multiple muscle groups for effective fat burn, and the elliptical machine at your gym is another solid option. Have any tips of your own?
9. Weave In Your Social Life
This great tip was suggested to me by a work colleague. And it’s dead simple. Instead of meeting my mates at the bar, I’ve suggested going to the beach. Instead of organising some backyard beers, I threw out a random idea of going kayaking (we’re booked in for this Sunday). Changing your environment works.
10. Track Your Progress!
This is Gizmodo, so I’ll throw out a tech start-up mantra: “You cannot improve what you cannot measure.” That continues to ring true for me. Here's where I'm at below. More updates to come!