We are well into the first month of the year, and many of us have begun our journey to better health. While the downside to the ‘New Year-New Me’ fitness craze is that gyms worldwide seem about 200% busier than normal, those of us who have been going to the gym faithfully year-round will get used to the increased gym traffic in time and those of us who are familiarizing ourselves with the gym for the first time will get our sea-legs soon enough and navigating the maze of machines will become second nature.
Over the last week or two, I have heard some of my gym acquaintances muttering about looking forward to the Resolution drop-off that will start in February. While I am tempted to agree with them when I have to change my workout plan on the fly because each dumbbell from 10-25 pounds is in use, the squat racks and Smith machines are all occupied, and every treadmill is whizzing away underneath a pair of sneakers, I am actually glad to see so many people committed to their health and I hope everyone is able to stick with their resolutions.
If you have resolved to be healthier and more fit, bravo for you! As you continue on your journey, remember that starting is the HARDEST part. The first day is awful, the first week is brutal, the first time you run a mile is excruciating, and the first time you try a new type of exercise is difficult. You wouldn’t want to have to start all over again, so stick with your resolution and don’t give up; if you can take that first step and walk a mile or do ten push-ups without your arms giving out on you, you can keep up with your workouts for an entire week. If you can make it to the gym for a whole week, you can surely do it for a month, and if you make it a month, you can do it the following month, and the one after that….until it is January 2015 and you need to find another resolution to make because you stuck with this year’s!
While I generally abide by a ‘less is more’ life philosophy, I find it extremely helpful to have things that keep track of my exercise and hold me accountable as I try to become healthier. There are probably a million gadgets and gizmos out there to help you become more fit; I wish I had the time and money to try each and every one of them, but I do not. The following is an overview of some things that I find useful and are worth it for you to consider trying. Some of these things I have mentioned previously, but I think they deserve to be mentioned again.
Go, go gadget…
FitBit: This company has something for everyone when it comes to pedometers. I call them pedometers because that is basically what they are, but they are pedometers on steroids, they are the Incredible Hulk of pedometers. I have had my FitBit One for about a year and LOVE it. With it, I can track my daily steps, flights of stairs climbed, distance travelled, calories burned and activity level. Online or in your smartphone, you can log the food you eat and activities the FitBit can’t track (like swimming) and you can seek out friends who also have FitBits to see how many steps they have. Aside from the One, FitBit offers another pedometer called the Zip and two that you can wear around your wrist, the Flex and the Force. Their products range in price from $60-$130 which seems pretty steep for a pedometer, but I sent mine through the washing machine this summer and it still works, so sometimes paying a little more has its benefits. What I like most about the FitBit is that it is an activity tracker and food log all in one and I like the social media aspect of it. A little friendly competition encourages me to be more active; currently, my Dad is leading my friends in steps. He is even beating a guy who ran a full marathon last weekend!
Bodybuilding.com: This website is great for people who are just starting to focus on strength training. Here you can find many programs (including the LiveFit Trainer, hint hint, nudge, nudge) designed for different needs, you can learn how to do various exercises by watching helpful videos, get nutrition advice and recipes, buy supplements, learn how to properly stretch, and even read informative articles like this one about stepping into the gym for the first time (coincidentally by my fav gym guru, Jamie Eason). Everything except for the supplements is free. That’s right, FREE gym advice, FREE workout templates, FREE nutritional programs, FREE demonstration videos. It doesn’t get much better than that, right?
Bodyspace App: This free app is another facet of bodybuilding.com. You can access the app online through their site or you can download it for your smartphone. The app can help you find workouts and exercises specific to whichever muscle groups you want to focus on and you can track the workouts that you have done so that you can see your progress. You can search for specific workouts to track, for example, if you are thinking of starting the Live Fit trainer (do it! do it!) you can type ‘Jamie Eason’ under Find a Program and track your workouts as you go. I could do without the social media aspect of this app because I find the interface very cluttered especially when compared to FitBit’s, but otherwise the app is a convenient way to keep tabs on yourself. If you don’t have a smartphone or don’t feel like using fancy apps to track your workouts, invest in a notebook so that you can track your progress.
Map My Run, Map My Walk, Map My Ride: A few more free apps that help keep you moving. As their names depict, each app can help you track your running/walking/biking route and the distance and speed at which you travelled. Favorite routes can be saved and routes can be suggested for you. You can use these apps on your computer or smartphone, the only downfall is that the gps tracking really zaps your phone’s battery so it is not ideal for long bike rides.
Workout clothing: It is extremely important to have clothes that fit you well and that you feel comfortable in for exercising; you want to be able to move freely and not fidget with a too-short shirt or pants that are heading south. If you feel self-conscious about starting a workout program, it will only be intensified if you are uncomfortable in your clothing. Material is the second most important factor; pick material that is sweat wicking and lightweight so that you aren’t burning up while you are feeling the burn. If you want to get fancy-schmancy, some companies are now making things with antimicrobial materials to guarantee you won’t get swamp ass, but I’m not convinced this is necessary. At this point, my favorite workout clothes are the Under Armour Perfect Pant and the GapFit Breathe Ts and tank tops. I also like the Under Armour running shirts, but the GapFit Breathe material is super lightweight and super soft. I received a couple for Christmas, so we will see how they hold up compared to the Under Armour shirts.
Sneakers: With all of the innovative technology that goes into modern footwear, you really can’t go wrong choosing sneakers; basically they are all lightweight, breathable and balanced and it is really up to your personal preference as to which type and brand to buy. When shopping, be sure to try on a variety of pairs and take your time so that you end up with the best sneaker for you and ask for help from a sale associate who knows something about something.
I hope some of this information is helpful, and I double hope that you are still hanging in there with your fitness resolutions. Remember to take things slowly at first so that you don’t rush off and injure yourself, and keep in mind that, at first, you may not see results when you look in the mirror. One of the easiest ways to get discouraged is to expect to see dramatic changes super fast. Instead of standing in front of the mirror every morning and hoping to see your face on Mary J. Blige’s body (she is super fit!), think about how you feel. Are you sleeping better at night because those workouts are zapping that anxious energy that usually keeps your mind ticking away? Do you feel more energized because you are filling up on fruits, veggies and nuts instead of coffee cake and Twizzlers? Are you getting less winded when you go for a walk or run because your body is getting stronger? These are the changes you’ll see right away and they are signs that your commitment to health is off to a good start. Keep going to those workouts and keep eating the right stuff! Next time, I’m hoping to piece together some of my favorite healthy recipes to share with you… expect to see some kale!