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Fitness and Health Activities You Should Start YESTERDAY

military man working out

When you are neglecting your overall health, you know it. You will tend to feel bad, have low motivation and energy, gain weight, and have poor health stats (blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar, etc).  There are many actions you should be doing YESTERDAY, but can always get started TODAY!

As a Chinese proverb states:  "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now."

There are many things you can do to improve your health, wellness, and performance. The list below is by no means comprehensive, but if you can focus on even a few of these points, you will start moving in the right direction on your journey to improvement.

Just do it!

I think the biggest tip is: if you wait until you feel ready, you'll never do it. Whatever it is, get to work today, not tomorrow, next week, or next year. Do not put off getting your situation assessed. See a doctor for a physical to see what is going on the inside of your body.  Get a Functional Movement Screening (FMS) to see where the weaknesses are in your body position and movement.  I personally do these screenings a few times a year to check back posture, shoulder mobility, balance, and hip flexibility.  I find when I need to focus more on recovery, I score lower on the FMS.

Ready for the Long Haul

Get into a marathon mindset by making sub-goals for yourself as a stepping stone to bigger goals. Seek continuous incremental improvement rather than the sprint mindset for quick dramatic improvement. I think it is lifelong-cycle process rather than a periodic process.  Make what you need to do a habit, but don't expect that habit to come instantly.

You have to work to make it part of your life. If it was already a part of your list of good habits, you wouldn't be struggling to make the change.  Remember, fitness and health is a journey, not a destination. 

Keep moving, keep growing!

Fix Your Diet

Eat more fruits and vegetables.  Drink more water. Read food labels.  Learn what is really in your food. Especially pay attention to sugar.  Eliminate soda, even diet soda – replace with water, tea (unsweet), or seltzer water if you need the fizz.  Eat like you are a diabetic – at least six small meals with fewer carbs and more protein. Stop eating processed anything or severely limit them.  Throw out all junk food. Consider weaning yourself from the sugars as it is as addictive as drugs. 

Calories IN and Calories OUT

Eat 100 calories of [insert favorite food], then go to the gym and get on a bike, elliptical, treadmill and measure how much effort it actually takes to burn 100 calories. The next time you look at that cookie, you will remember how much effort it takes to burn a 100 calories off of you.  It's important to get a proper understanding of calories burned and eaten on an average day, and during basic non-exercise physical activity. It is a great habit for people that always had a structured life such as veterans as athletes who’ve been taken out by injury or retirement.

Actively Pursue Recovery

Recovery has many applications. We need to learn how to recover from several challenging workouts in a week, but also how to recover from many stressful days in a row.  Hormonally, over-stressing and over-training are the same and wreak havoc on your nervous system.  Just as the body needs strengthening and resting, so does the mind. Find time to relax, take a nap, breathe deeply, and meditate, but most importantly, get good sleep each day.

Get Enough Sleep

Do whatever it takes to get enough sleep on a day-to-day basis. Most Americans are sleep-deprived and lack of sleep impairs the immune system (meaning you're more susceptible to getting sick) and cognitive function (meaning you think, perceive and react slower and less effectively). It also makes you just feel crummy and act cranky.  The number one recovery tool is sleep.

If you are missing out on sleeping 6-8 hours each day, it does not matter how perfect your diet, exercise program, or home and​ work life are, you can still see the chronic side of stress very quickly. So get some sleep!

Stretch and Foam Roll

Work on both flexibility and mobility. Flexibility training is stretching of the muscles and can be done daily.  Mobility is the movement of your joints through the full range of motion. Both are related to each other and greatly affect your overall stability and movement of your body as a whole. Using a foam roller, soft tissue massage, and other forms of self-myofascial release (SMFR) are skills you should seek to understand.

Mindset

Being positive about yourself and the task in front of you is critical. You need to find your unbreakable why.  Some motivational reasons will go a long way to your success.  Stop telling yourself that you are not a certain type of person, or that you cannot do certain kinds of things (this ranges all the way from "I'm not a math person" to "I'm not that kind of athlete").

You are the sole architect of your current and future self. If you keep being negative with your thoughts and statements, they will come true and you will never change. Stay Positive!

Think about what you enjoy doing and find exercises that help you become better at that. Then do it—several days a week. Additionally, place fitness into a schedule because if it is not on the schedule, it does not exist.

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Fitness Stew Smith

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Contributor

Stew Smith works as a presenter and editorial board member with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He has also written hundreds of articles on Military.com's Fitness Center that focus on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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