(By Daniela DeFeo) Revive your fitness goals with an actionable plan that will help you conquer your mission.
With the start of a new year, comes a fresh clean slate; one with goals and personal challenges to get you revved up for the year ahead. And when it comes to setting health and fitness resolutions, your strength of purpose will either jump-start you into action or put the brakes on your healthful intentions.
Prioritizing your health with realistic, attainable goals is the key to initiating a program that is sustainable, not short-lived. In order to achieve a healthy lifestyle, it takes unwavering commitment, patience and the right game plan.
Below are five central areas of focus for a holistic fitness strategy.
Cardiovascular exercise is all about movement. It’s a fundamental component to include in your fitness regimen, as it’s beneficial for heart health, boosting metabolic rate and improving workout recovery.
As your heart rate increases, so does the supply of oxygen flowing through the circulatory system, thereby strengthening the heart and blood vessels. As the oxygen-rich blood transports vital nutrients throughout the body, it also removes carbon dioxide which helps to expel waste components. This is particularly important during a workout session, as it repairs and rebuilds muscle tissues, reducing the onset of muscle soreness.
Whether endeavouring to achieve a toned physique and/or lose weight, participating in an aerobic activity like running, walking or cycling, will assist in cranking up your metabolism to help burn off unwanted pounds or build lean muscle mass. However, too much of a good thing may negatively impact your desired results. Long and excessive cardio sessions may cause muscle loss, especially if you’re limiting your calorie intake. The key is to keep your heart-thumping workouts short and intense, i.e. interval training, to preserve your muscularity.
- Participate in a blood-pumping cardio activity, with consistency.
- Too much cardio can burn muscle, not fat. Keep sessions short.
Flex your muscles to improve strength and endurance. Weight training is a key element for a holistic approach to fitness, as it reinforces functional everyday movements, builds muscles, prevents muscle loss and burns fat.
Load-bearing exercises with free weights, machines and/or bodyweight actively stimulates the muscles to work harder. When pressure is applied, it forces muscles to adapt and grow stronger, developing muscle mass, stimulating bone growth and supporting ligaments and tendons. With a strong skeletal and muscular system, it may help to ease pain associated with ailments like arthritis, decrease the risk of injury and improve motor performance.
Along with building a strong, agile body, having lean muscle mass can transform your body into a revved-up, calorie-burning machine. If you’re looking to shed some pounds or even maintain your current weight, muscle is indeed what you want sticking to your bones. It does burn calories, as the body works harder to maintain one pound of muscle, then a pound of fat. According to some studies, one pound of muscle may burn up to 50 calories a day – and that’s just at rest. So, the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate.
- Strength training is essential for muscle growth, strong bones, and injury prevention.
- Muscle burns calories.
Simply put – nutrition is key to achieving a healthy, toned physique. Scrap the junk food, refined carbs, over-processed foods, alcohol and high-sugar drinks. You need to fuel your muscles for growth with nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and lean protein sources. Water should also be your beverage of choice, as it adequately hydrates the body, aids in digestion, lubricates joints and regulates body temperature.
Rounding out your meals with wholesome foods also means eating on a regular basis, several times a day. Not eating enough can be detrimental to your sculpting goals. Whether drastically limiting calories to lose and/or maintain your weight, or simply failing to be consistent with your healthy eating habits, under-eating is not a plausible method, any way you slice it. In fact, your body will start to burn muscle if on a strict low-calorie diet, which is the opposite of achieving a strong, toned body. A healthy diet burns fat, not muscle.
- Eat wholesome foods to fuel your desired physique; hydrate with six to eight cups of water a day.
- Under-eating can impede your fitness objectives.
- Moderation is key; limit your indulgences.
Limber up the muscles and joints with regular stretching to improve your physical performance. Working out, sitting behind a desk all day or doing repetitive movements can tighten and strain muscles and tendons. Stretch them out. There are many benefits such as increased flexibility, range of motion and injury prevention when your muscles are in a relaxed state. Especially if done before and after a workout, stretching will help to lengthen tight muscles and provide flexibility to joints, thus lessening the likelihood of injuries. When tension is relieved, an increase of blood flow supplies nutrients to the muscles and reduces soreness.
Try incorporating dynamic and static stretches into your fitness program. Dynamic stretching is an active movement that gets the body in motion, but not held in position, i.e. walking lunges. These are usually performed before a workout. Static stretching holds a stretch in position between 10 to 30 seconds, which is ideally done after a workout, and likewise, can be done daily to relieve tension and strain on muscles and joints.
- Implement stretching into your workout routine and daily life to alleviate musculoskeletal pain and improve athletic performance.
- Form is key – take it slow and easy.
A little R & R is essential to a successful health and fitness regimen. Rest days are important to allow the body to repair itself, so it can come back stronger and better than ever. When your muscles are put under stress from physical exercise, it causes microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. During recuperation, the body actively goes to work mending these tissues, allowing them to heal and grow, resulting in stronger muscles. Although rest days can mean putting your feet up, it doesn’t necessarily suggest taking your foot off the gas pedal. There are several ways on the road to muscle rejuvenation.
Active recovery is generally a low-impact form of exercise to encourage blood circulation, without further stressing the body, i.e. walking or yoga. Likewise, myofascial release is usually performed through massage therapy and/or foam rolling, which can help ease delayed onset of muscle soreness. Sleep is also fundamental in the recovery equation. Snoozing at night will allow the body to produce hormones to aid in muscular repair. Getting seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night is highly recommended.
- Incorporate various recovery strategies to help muscles heal and become stronger.
- Rest days allow your body to adequately repair, resulting in improved health and fitness.
Embark on a holistic fitness journey that will fuel, move and ease your body. Achieve your wellness objectives with action behind your intentions, and a game plan that will see you through till the healthy end.
Bio: Daniela is a published author, health/fitness coach, and wellness influencer. Her contributions have been featured in top health/fitness publications and she works with reputable brands to promote holistic health through content creation and promotions. In her coaching practice, she provides personalized nutrition and fitness programs. Connect with her at: