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9 Awesome Health & Fitness Tips for the New Year

Written by Scott Sargent and posted by Wendy McGrath Jan 11, 2014

I tend to lose my mind when delicious holiday baked treats show up in the office or in the mail (thanks mom).

Rum n’ eggnog? Seasonal flavored latte? Yes please!

If we fall off of the delicious, chocolate-covered, candy-coated wagon once in a while, it’s not the end of the world, however. Arm yourself with knowledge and personal motivation to get back on the healthy train to battle that belly. “If strength training is new to you, hire a personal trainer and he/she will certainly introduce you to some new exercises (or ‘methods of torture’ some of my clients refer to it!) and help you get fit in a hurry.” says Mark Barrett, CEP, CSCS, MKin and the Director/CEO of Strong Cowboy in Calgary.

Recently, Mark helped us put together some excellent tips both on diet and fitness to get you back on track in 2014.

1. Drink Water. Then Drink Some More.

Drink more than you think you should. “Drinking water is like putting oil in your vehicle’s engine – it runs a lot better when it’s got the proper amount.” says Barrett.

If you’ve ever noticed your energy level differs throughout the day as I have, your first instinct should be to ask ‘What and how much have I had to drink today?’ If you enjoy a morning coffee like I do, be cognizant that you’re losing more water. “Adults get into the perpetual cycle of dehydration by drinking coffee in the morning/day and an alcoholic drink or two at night and don’t replace it with enough fluids to regain normal hydration. To top it off, we lose more body water at night be just by exhaling.” states Barrett. Juices, and other non-caffeinated beverages are okay, just be aware that you’re also taking in calories when drinking these.

2. Get a Map

From personal experience, having a goal gives you a reason to do those extra reps or run that extra Kilometer. Barrett emphasizes mapping out a strategy, either with expert advice of a fitness professional, or your own research. “If you are unsure about how to start exercising, what to do, what you want to achieve, how you want to achieve it – get yourself a map. Much like if you’re visiting a new city or country, you need a map to know where you’re going. Don’t get lost!”

3. Slow and Steady Loses the LBS

“If weight loss is your primary goal, try doing some cardiovascular exercise (cardio) first thing in the morning before you eat. Any exercise is fine (walking, jogging, rowing, cycling, elliptical) as long as the intensity is low-moderate. By doing this first thing in the morning, you are targeting fat as your fuel source. In the morning, there is very little carbohydrate available for you to burn (you’ve been burning them all night), so your body turns to fat as its main fuel source – as long as the intensity is low enough. Exercise too hard and you’ll feel terrible and won’t get too far.” As Barrett also mentions, “You can drink water before or during and then eat your normal breakfast following the exercise. Do this for 20-40mins 2-3 times/week and you could lose 4-8lbs a month!”

4. Eating right is 80% of the solution.

Before I managed what I put into ‘the engine’ I had no idea how important this was to overall fitness. A few years ago I tried a meal plan from a nutritional consultant for an entire summer. After I got over my initial sugar craving the first week (damn you chocolate!), the first thing I noticed was how much better and less lethargic I felt. As for cravings, I always follow the somewhat nerdy ‘One Ring’ or ‘Baggins’ rule: ‘If it’s not in my home, it’s not going to tempt me’ (my precious).

You can only affect weight loss 20% by exercise.” maintains Barrett. “Exercise plus a healthy diet and you’ll lose that ten pounds easily, but you can’t expect that exercise alone is going to lose the weight as quickly. Portion control, eating 5 smaller meals, reducing high calorie foods, reducing alcohol intake, changing your restaurant selections can all help in reducing the weekly calorie intake and allow you to lose the weight you want to.”

5. Pump Some Iron!

My first real experience with weight training came from my high school track & field coach. With his expert guidance, I noticed an almost immediate improvement in strength, speed and size. I’m not a big guy, but I love to get into the gym for a good weight training session. Just make sure you learn proper form first under the guidance of a trainer.

“Strength training will not only help with improving your strength, balance, bone density, joint stability,” says Barrett, “But it will also help you burn more calories on a day-to-day basis.” More muscle equals a bigger engine to burn more fuel. “This can mean burning hundreds of extra calories/week resulting in more pounds of fat loss you weren’t expecting!”

6. Carbohydrates Are NOT The Enemy

“You need carbohydrates to function properly.” asserts Barrett. “Your brain, your heart, and your muscles all need carbohydrates so don’t excessively restrict the amount of carbohydrates you consume. Of course there are ‘bad’ carbs – sugary foods, sugary drinks, etc. If you exercise intensely, a large portion of your fuel source comes from carbohydrates.” Barrett also suggests eating natural sources (vegetables, whole grains) when you can and the fibre in these foods will help to give you energy over a longer period of time, keep you full for longer, and help keep you regular. And, let’s be honest, unless you’re really into reading on ‘the throne’, who wouldn’t want that?

7. Think ‘Outside’ Your Box

Feel like you’re in a bit of a rut or tired of the same old gym routine? Find a new sport to take up! This is Calgary people. I can literally find a club for just about any activity I’d like on websites such as MeetUp, but there are plenty of sport/social clubs in the city. As someone who has been active for his entire life, Barrett, who loves the outdoors, agrees that exercise can be easier when you’re sharing the experience with others. And hey, you may even meet new people with the same interests! Alternatively, there are hiking, trekking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing groups that you can join to do something out in the mountains.

8. Not Just Any ‘Joe’

If you are going to hire a personal trainer, do your research. Don’t just seek advice from someone because ‘they go to the gym a lot’. Make sure he or she has a background in exercise science (Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, Human Kinetics, etc.). Having an undergraduate degree in these disciplines is preferred along with other certifications such as AFLCA, CSEP – CPT, CSEP-CEP, CSCS (NSCA). Qualifications such as these show that these people have a good understanding of the human body and how exercise should be prescribed. Letters behind a name won’t guarantee a perfect fit for your training needs, so ask around. Experience, gender of the trainer, and personality are also very important so you can build a relationship of trust. You might be spending 2hrs/week with this person, after all..

9. Schedule Regular Maintenance

This one is big for me. I trust a good physio or massage therapist more than most. A few years ago I tore my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). I was devastated, but it’s never been my style to just quit because things got tough. After surgery, was jogging within a few months and then worked my way back on the football field after a year. Another year later and I had the best season of my entire life. Without doing exactly what my physiotherapists and trainers asked of me from day one, I could not have done it. I feakin’ love physiotherapists.

Mark also echoes the idea of maintenance.
“Book massages, physiotherapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc. appointments if you need them.” Don’t hesitate because that injury or nagging back …and especially because it “could get worse and may cause more problems down the road. It’s very much like maintenance on your car (oil changes, air filters, etc.), looking after your body will make sure that your ‘vehicle’ is running smoothly.”

Next year this editor hits the big 4-0 in, so for me it’s almost ‘go time’ again…but maybe after one more gingerbread cookie.

Share your thoughts, leave a comment!

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