Active Lifestyles

This weekend we went snowshoeing. Last weekend we went sledding. The weekend before that, a hike.

Having an “active lifestyle” is something we are all supposed to aspire to. We look for ways to be more active, to attempt to make activity habitual so it becomes part of our lifestyle and we do it for varying reasons - for health, for appearance, for longevity.

Unfortunately the current American lifestyle which often revolves around work, eating fast or other restaurant food, and more work can make it difficult to maintain our vision of an active lifestyle. Through the years I’ve had many conversations with friends and colleagues who have asked me how it is possible that I maintain my activity level despite the pressures and time demands of my professional life.

I’ve realized that it boils down to two concepts - being physically active, and taking care of myself. And those two things can be broken into these five rules:

1. Do what you love. Play. Find something physical that you enjoy doing, and do it. As often as you can. Whether that is walking, dancing, biking, lifting weights, gardening, going shopping, or attending a fitness class. Run. Find something that you love to do so you are motivated to do it. Take a class and learn to SCUBA dive, dance or ski. Set goals - participate in a race or a walk. Schedule the time on your Outlook calendar if you have to, just make sure you stick to it. For us it is getting out onto a trail. Doesn’t matter how - biking, hiking, snowshoeing or diving (underwater trails!). As long as we’re moving in nature we’re happy. My general formula is to work out at the gym during the week so that I have the fitness to do whatever random outdoor activity we have planned for the weekend.

2. Drink water. Just water. Our bodies run on water and you can’t be consistently active if you are not giving your body what it needs. Especially here in the mountains, I can feel it in short time if I am dehydrated. Carry around a water bottle and keep it full so you never have an excuse not to be drinking. Try not to add flavors or sugars. All those additives are just empty calories. I very rarely drink soda (HFCS makes my mouth feel funny). If I need a sweet caffeinated drink, I’ll have some tea with a bit of sugar rather than a soda. Fewer calories, I think it tastes better, and the added bonus of good antioxidants, so long as you don’t add milk.

3. Eat real food. Simple food. Protein, veggies, fruits, dairy and whole grains. Decrease your sugar intake. Know what is in your food - if there is something on the label that is un-pronouncable, do you really want it in your body? We make most of our meals from scratch. That way we know what is in it. If you can’t or don’t know how, start simple. Invest in a slow cooker and freeze leftovers. Or make and freeze breakfast burritos. Learn how to make good salads. If you are eating in a dining hall, just keep it simple and try to avoid daily eating of the items that look fried (same goes for those trays of delicious looking cookies).
I don’t count calories. I figure that as long as what I’m putting in my body is good for me, and as long as I stop eating when I get the message that I’m satiated, I’m good to go. Yes, I know. You might say, ‘but you’re active! You don’t need to count calories!’ and to an extent that is true. But I truly believe that if we are giving our bodies what they need, they will tell us when we’re done. That might mean we need to be careful about portion control while learning how to listen, but eventually your body will tell you.

4. Take care of your body. Sleep. People have made fun of me for having to get my full 8 hours at night, but I know that if I get less than that for too many days in a row I will get sick, so I do it and rarely get ill. Wear sunscreen. Listen to your body. If something hurts, let it rest. Give it ice or heat and allow your cells to repair themselves. Don’t let yourself get hungry. Pack a lunch and eat it throughout the entire day. Your body and your ability to focus will love you for it. Get a massage, a facial, a manicure.. Whatever it is that makes you feel well taken care of. Looking and feeling good reminds me why I love my body :) 

5. It’s the little things. Find ways to work low-impact exercise into every day: bike or walk across campus, take the stairs, do chores, walk the dog. I know it’s cliche but park farther from the door to the store. Even better - if you have few enough groceries that you can carry them yourself, ditch the cart and carry your groceries out to the car. Some days my job requires me to run around and be on my feet all day, and those days I don’t go to the gym because I don’t want to push it and hurt myself.

These are NOT weight loss tips and I’m not saying you must do all of these things in order to have a healthy, active lifestyle. They are just the things that I have found to work for me. Hopefully someone will find this to be helpful. What works for you?

(Also it should be noted that I am not a fitness expert and this is not valid medical advice, so don't try to sue me if you try something and have a bad effect.)