Health Spring Cleaning: Taking Inventory, Making Goals
Updated: Apr 13, 2021
Moving out of winter and into spring is a natural time to assess the landscape of life, including your health and wellness. This change of seasons, take some time to see where you’re at and make plans for where you want to go.
Where to Begin
Taking inventory of your health may sound like a nebulous, daunting task. One surefire way to tackle any unwieldy undertaking is to get specific and break it down. To start, then, let’s get specific by identifying the big levers of health and wellness to pay attention to: where you’ll get the most return on your effort investment.
Sleep is your master control for good health. Yes, diet and exercise are really important, but if you aren’t getting good sleep, it will be that much more difficult to do literally everything else in your life. There’s a lot of science as well as massive amounts of lived experience that bares this out: if there’s one place to start concentrating your wellness efforts, this is it.
You are what you eat isn’t just a cliché, it’s true. What you eat impacts your health in the moment as well as in the future, all the way down to your bones (women, especially, I’m looking at you). It’s been a stressful time and that can manifest in developing some bad nutritional habits. Let’s do some home spring cleaning, and by home, I mean where you really live: your body.
You knew this was coming; this is a blog post for a gym after all! It’s our passion to get you moving in healthy, fun ways. Movement is what the body was made to do, and motion is lotion: moving freely makes us feel good and it helps us stay healthy. It is a primary pillar of wellness, no question.
What You Can Do
Alright, this looks manageable: three key areas to focus on. Our breakdown is complete, check!
Now, let’s get down to some action items. Like with any changes in life, consistent, small steps are the way to go. Start where you are, set a goal, focus on an action you can work into your daily or weekly routine that will move you toward that goal, and begin.
Every marathon begins with a single step. And as every marathoner or endurance athlete knows, you never, ever think about the finish line at the start, or anywhere else along the way, for that matter. Stay in the moment, take the next step, repeat. Appreciate the process; celebrate the small victories along the way.
OK, let’s get to it.
This is an easy/not so easy situation to tackle because getting to sleep, staying asleep, and carving out enough time to sleep are big issues for a lot of people. But the goal is very simple: get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep every night. OK, when you stop laughing (because most Americans don’t get nearly that kind of rest), here are some ideas to try:
Limit screen time, especially the hour or so before bed; if that’s a stretch, at least set your screen to “night mode.”
Make sure your room is 100% dark: that means no lights, at all: no clock, watch, nightlight. Nada. Get yourself some blackout curtains or facemask. Again, make it dark.
Create a routine: having a bedtime process helps you wind down and indicate to your body and mind that it’s time to get ready for lights out. Going to bed at a similar time each night is a great place to start. Couple that with putting on your sleeping clothes, nightly hygiene, turning off the TV, having a cup of tea—any actions that contribute to calm in the hour or so before you want to be asleep.
Use your bed for sleep: as in, don’t hang out in bed when you aren’t planning to sleep. This helps your body and mind associate bed with being asleep.
Try a sleep podcast, audio book, or meditation app. Many people find that listening to something soothing is very helpful. A few popular podcasts include Sleep with Me, Sleepy, and Nothing Much Happens.
When it comes to setting a goal of “eating healthier,” it’s easy to get really overwhelmed really fast. So here, let’s keep it simple beginning with a few don’ts—to address immediate impulses many of us have.
Don’t follow a nutrition plan that isn’t specifically tailored to you. As in, please don’t follow the newest, latest, “greatest” diet plan. There is no such thing as a way of eating that works for everyone. Not one. With diets that claim to have a lot of research behind them, it’s very, very important to understand who that research was done on because, again, everyone is different. Also, it’s been proven over and over that “dieting” doesn’t work as a sustainable, long-term health practice.
Don’t change everything all at once. Look, food is a lot more than what we put in our mouths. It’s social. It’s emotional. Food ties into so many aspects of our lives. Be nice to yourself and focus on changes that you can realistically sustain. Once you’ve changed one thing, move on to the next.
OK, that’s really it with the don’ts. Now on with some Do’s.
Do make a food journal for a week or two so you can get an honest picture of what you’re eating and drinking. Notice where you might be overindulging (see next point) or ways you may be out of balance in your nutritional consumption.
Do pay attention to the obvious big culprits in your habitual eating and drinking routine, and address them first. There are some common items that we can safely say are best left out of your body or consumed only occasionally: highly processed foods (if it comes in a package and has a lot of ingredients that aren’t whole foods, it’s highly processed), fast food , soda, alcohol, candy or other high-sugar/low-to-no-nutritional-value foods.
Do consider that food is your fuel: it’s nutrition. This sounds so obvious but it’s something I think we start to forget: at its most basic level, putting food in your mouth is how you nourish your body. This is one way of framing your eating and drinking choices that can really help cut out a lot of the other noise that tends to get added to this process.
Do educate yourself. Find a good nutritionist to work with or read up on nutrition. A big word of caution: be sure that the research you’re looking to has included people who are as similar to you as possible: age, sex, ethnicity, level of activity, and so on. As in, for instance, research done on men may not be applicable to women.
Do have some fun with it! Improving eating habits can generally sound like drudgery and cutting out a lot of your favorites. It doesn’t have to be that way! Focus on finding some nutritious foods you enjoy that you can add to your regular line-up. Try out a new recipe. Check out the new, seasonal produce that’s coming with the changing of the seasons. (And of course, here you’re playing a bit of a trick on yourself: by focusing more on what you can have, it’s easier to stop focusing on what you’re trying to cut out.)
Do focus on whole foods and cooking at home. Eating food that is as close as possible to its source is always a good way to go. And cooking at home allows you to decide exactly what you’re putting in your body. It’s also a way to develop a relationship to your eating. And, you may be surprised at how simple it is to create delicious and nutritious food.
Notice here that this is titled “movement” and not “exercise.” That’s very intentional because the aim here is to emphasize that all movement matters. Now of course, different movements have different sorts of benefits, and, yes, we’re big proponents of incorporating strength work and cardiovascular work into your life. But we’re also just big proponents of you finding ways to move your body that work for you. Now on with some ways to make that happen.
Set a goal. Moving and exercising for the sheer fun of it is awesome, but many of us get extra motivated when there’s a goal. It adds more purpose to the process. So, find an event or set your sights on a fun challenge, and start taking the steps you need to take to meet the goal.
Team up with a friend, class, or personal trainer. Creating a situation where you are accountable to others is a recipe for success for most of us. Signing up for a class or working with a personal trainer has the added benefit of removing the guesswork or planning. All you need to do is arrive. And, these are great ways to be social and strengthen your community ties!
Do something you enjoy or think you might enjoy. If you can find ways to move that are fun, you will do them more. It’s pretty simple, but a lot of us end up doing what we think we should do instead of things we want to do. And give yourself freedom to try something new. Ever wonder what a Pilates class was like? Try it! TRX? Why not? Incorporating a variety of movement routines into your repertoire has the added bonus of providing more whole body fitness.
Enjoy the Journey
A new season, a refreshed start point. Small, intentional steps for a vibrant and healthy today and tomorrow. Hello, spring!