Fitness and Health Activities You Should Start Yesterday

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A soldier gets an assist on the confidence course.
Sgt. Jvona Harrell, a 25-year-old wheeled vehicle mechanic and transportation movement coordinator, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 362nd Quartermaster Battalion, 207th Regional Support Group, prepares to assist a soldier from the 824th Quartermaster Company, who attempts to jump across a wooden obstacle on the confidence course on Fort Bragg, March 2, 2013. (Staff Sgt. Brent C. Powell/U.S. Army photo)

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 always can 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

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 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 steppingstone to bigger goals. Seek continuous, incremental improvement rather than the sprint mindset for quick, dramatic improvement. I think it is a 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.  

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 and especially pay attention to sugar. Eliminate soda, even diet soda. Replace with water, tea (unsweetened) 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 they are 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 machine or treadmill and measure how much effort it takes to burn 100 calories. The next time you look at that cookie, you will remember how much effort it takes to burn a hundred calories off 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 who always had a structured life.

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, overstressing and overtraining 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 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 flexibility and mobility. Flexibility training stretches 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. You should seek to understand using a foam roller, soft-tissue massage and other forms of self-myofascial release.

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.

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. Place fitness into a schedule because if it is not on the schedule, it does not exist.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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