When your workout is over, do you immediately want to hit the showers? Take a beat before you rush back to the rest of your day. Use this simple checklist to kickstart your body’s recovery process — and get the most out of each workout.
Give yourself props for what you’ve accomplished with your training and how it contributes to your long-term vision. And not just for your physical well-being and athletic pursuits but how much your commitment fuels your success.
There’s no shortage of gadgets and smartphone apps to log training and measure progress. Or go old-school with a simple spreadsheet or even paper. The important thing is to track your workouts so you have a reference point for the following workout or to review months later.
Active-isolated stretching is most effective after a workout when the muscles are warm. This can range from a full routine to the three or four stretches that address any mobility issues you might have. You can also do some reflection while you stretch. What worked and what could you do better during the next training session? When you combine the stretching and the reflection, it allows you to re-enter your day-to-day responsibilities and shift gears.
To refuel after a workout, consume a mixture of carbohydrates and protein immediately afterward, preferably within 10 minutes of training. At this point, your cells are wide open and screaming for nutrients, and by drinking a shake or another balanced carb-protein-small meal, you expedite the recovery process and maximize lean muscle growth.
5. Cool down
If you have access to a 55-degree “cold plunge” tub, spending one to three minutes in it is a great way to decrease post-workout inflammation. Alternating between a cold plunge and a hot tub (three to five minutes) stimulates blood flow and muscle recovery with hardly an effort. If you don’t have access to a hot tub or a cold plunge, you can get the same effect in the shower by switching between hot and cold settings.
When you start to tally up all the holiday parties and dinners on your plate, it’s easy to see how you might be indulging more than normal this month. Add to that how difficult holiday schedules make it to fit in your usual gym time and you might wind up feeling a little discouraged. But, that said, squeezing in training sessions between parties or finding ways to be active while traveling to family events is a lot more accessible and easy than it may seem.
Just keep three things in mind:
- The best and most efficient types of workouts are short and intense. You don’t need an hour-long training session. Even just 20 minutes will do.
- Be creative and don’t think you need a gym or any type of equipment to make this work. An open space, backyard, playground, or basement will work just fine.
- This doesn’t have to be an everyday thing. Find three 20-minute time frames a week, and you’ll find yourself coasting through the holidays.
Sample holiday training schedule
Keep your workouts to 20 minutes, three times a week, by planning your exercises for each of the following five categories, and time each section. Pressure yourself to hustle the whole time to keep these workouts short and they’ll also be more beneficial in terms of increasing your metabolic rate.
Pillar strength (2 minutes)
- Sample exercise: reverse crunch Do three sets of 15 reps, resting 20 seconds between sets.
Lower body warmup (2 minutes)
- Sample exercise: backward lunge Perform three sets of 10 reps with each leg, resting 20 seconds between sets.
Upper body warmup (2 minutes)
- Sample exercise: pushup Do three sets of 15 reps, with 20 seconds of rest between sets.
Strength circuit (10 minutes)
- Sample circuit: Perform alternating lunges 10 reps with each leg) followed by pushups 15 reps) with no rest between exercises. Rest 30 seconds after you’ve completed both moves, then go again for the duration of 10 minutes.
Flexibility (4 minutes)
- Sample stretches: hip stretch, hamstring stretch, and shoulder stretch
Complicated recipes, overflowing grocery carts, and nightly cooking can be roadblocks to healthy eating. Simplifying your nutrition-related tasks can help improve your diet and ease your stress. Use the tips below to start eating healthier today.
1. Give your kitchen some TLC.
The next time you do some organizing, pay special attention to your kitchen. It’s the perfect time to get rid of unhealthy options and take inventory of what you have and what you’re missing. Toss processed foods and go shopping for whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits, and veggies.
2. Cook in bulk.
Plan your meals, shop for ingredients, and cook once or twice a week instead of every night to save time. Foods that are easy to make in large batches include chicken, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, tomato sauces, stir-fries, and hearty veggie casseroles.
3. Buy healthy convenience foods.
Make snacking easier by stocking up on prepared foods that give you the nutrients you need. Lara or EAS bars, individually-packed nuts, and cut fruit and veggies are a few good options. With these healthy options on hand, you’ll be less likely to give into unhealthy cravings.
4. Make healthier choices when eating out.
If you’re in a bind and need something on the go, opt for salads with tons of veggies and topped with protein, sandwiches on 100% whole wheat bread or tortillas, items with beans or brown rice, and naturally-brewed green teas.
5. Sign up for a meal-delivery service.
If you find yourself eating out a lot and you don’t have the time to spend in the kitchen, consider a meal delivery service. For a similar amount of money to what you spend eating out, you can have balanced, nutritious meals delivered right to your doorstep.
Most of us aren’t strangers to setbacks. But regardless of how small (or big) these roadblocks may be, it doesn’t mean you have to call it quits. Here are three ways setbacks can actually propel you forward.
1. Setbacks can provide purpose and shift your motivation.
Pay attention to how setbacks can peel back the layers and reveal what’s really important. As a result, commitments can become even stronger and goals more meaningful.
2. Setbacks test your grit.
We all get knocked down, but grit is the ability to persevere in the face of uncertain outcomes. When you keep at it, you can experience that exhilaration from overcoming the odds.
3. Setbacks allow you to guide others.
When you’re facing a setback, it’s great to have someone in your corner who’s been there before. And when you’ve overcome your obstacle, then you can be that person for someone else.
Get ready for your next setback.
When you hit a setback, or a setback hits you, try these steps:
1. Pause and assess all the implications. Look deeper into the meaning of the setback. What is it trying to teach you? What can you gain?
2. Reflect on where you were going. Was it aligned with your values? Was it taking you away from something more meaningful in your life?
3. Look to the future. What should be different next time? What do you need to change in your journey to your goal? What have you learned from the setback?
4. Evaluate your support system. Connect with people who have been where you are and engage in mutual motivation.
5. Decide to move forward. Even if you can’t do what you did before, what can you do? Make a list of the ways you can mentally and physically improve yourself.
6. Take action. Now put it into play. Once you accept the setback and understand that it’s here to help you grow, take the action that serves your highest intention and deepest values. This is your time to get back up and try again.
Start a new Thanksgiving tradition this year with a turkey trot. Whether you enjoy running or walking, or if you’re just looking to get active, completing a 5K on the most food-focused day of the year is a fun and easy way to burn some calories and get moving with friends and family before enjoying a delicious meal. Use the tips below to conquer your turkey day race.
- Pace yourself and have fun.
Turkey Trots are typically community-based events that benefit local charities, schools, or organizations. They’re more about having fun and getting some exercise than running for time. Round up your family and friends, and give it your best shot. Not a runner? No big deal. You can walk the race. What matters is that you finish and have a good time.
- Prepare for the race.
If you’re not working out regularly, start now. While a 5K may be a lower distance, it’s still an undertaking if you aren’t active. Give yourself the best chance of finishing by getting out a few times a week and walking around your neighborhood. Worried about the distance? Drive it with your car or ride your bike the 3.1 miles. It isn’t as bad as you think.
- Eat before the race.
Since you likely spent the night before the race prepping your Thanksgiving feast, tap into your stash to fuel your workout. Try layering a 100% whole wheat roll with peanut butter and homemade cranberry sauce for a Thanksgiving-style PB&J or eating a serving of stuffing, which has the carbs needed to fuel your workout. Down your snack with a 16-ounce glass of water, and you’re ready to go.
- Stay hydrated.
Even if it’s really cold outside, you need to keep your body hydrated for the entire race. It’s even more important that you pay attention to hydration in the cold because without the blistering heat and heavy sweating, you may forget to drink. Aim to drink 20 ounces of water or a low-calorite sports drink during the race.
- Enjoy a post-trot snack.
While the reality is that you may indulge later in the day, it’s still important to eat within 30 minutes of your race. Enjoy a pumpkin spice latte, agave nectar, gingerbread cookies with Greek yogurt, or a pumpkin pie shake. Don’t forget to wash down your snack with 16 ounces of water.
Everyone could use another tool in the toolbox when it comes to handling stress. So the next time you’re feeling stress or anxiety, center yourself with one of these breathing techniques. Most people feel improvements in as little as four to six breath cycles.
1. Resonance breathing
True resonance breathing is inhaling for six seconds and exhaling for six seconds. But if this is too hard, try inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds, or five seconds for both. And work up to the six-second mark. The main thing is to simply focus on exhaling longer than your inhale.
2. “Bee breath” or bhramari from pranayama yoga
For this technique, find a comfortable position and close your eyes and mouth and relax your lips, jaw, and base of your tongue. Then take a slow, controlled breath through your nose. Exhale through your nose while making a humming sound.
You can even try humming higher or lower pitches to see how that changes the effect. You don’t have to worry about a specific cadence or count. Just focus on slowing your breath and extending your exhales longer than your inhales.
3. Box breathing
Just think of a box with four sides. Start with a slow inhale through your nose for four seconds. Hold your breath for four seconds. Exhale slowly through your nose or mouth for four seconds. Then hold your breath for four seconds before inhaling and starting the pattern over again.
4. 6 – 4 – 10 breath
Remember to pause and notice your breath before you start. Then inhale for six seconds, hold for four seconds, and exhale for 10 seconds. Work on making that exhale nice and long.
Disclaimer: If your breathing rate is 20 times per minute or higher, consult a physician. People who have low blood pressure or are on medication to lower it, people with diabetes, and pregnant women need to exercise caution with breathing exercises. Slow, deep breathing exercises are not recommended for people with very low blood pressure or for anyone prone to fainting.
You don’t have to stop eating fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies when the weather gets cold. There are tons of fruits and veggies that you can find at your local farmer’s market (don’t forget many still open in the winter) or at a neighborhood grocery store.
A small citrus fruit originally from China, kumquats are similar to oranges in both taste and nutrition. This tangy fruit is low in calories and high in vitamin C and antioxidants. And the best part? The edible skin is loaded with essential oils.
Leeks are related to garlic and onions and offer many health benefits, including protecting blood vessels and decreasing inflammation. They’re also high in vitamin A and K. Leeks are great served as a baked side dish, diced up atop a salad, or cooked into soups and stews.
This root vegetable is loaded with vitamin C, E, B6, and folate. Parsnips are also high in soluble fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol, decrease inflammation, and keep blood sugar balanced. Cooking tip: Mash them as an alternative to mashed potatoes.
One of the healthiest veggies you can eat, kale is loaded with vitamin K, A, and heart-healthy omega-3s. High in fiber, kale has been linked to lower cholesterol and a decreased risk of cancer. Cooking tip: Steam kale to get the most nutrients.
This Japanese fruit is low in calories, packed with fiber, and contains 80 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. The phytonutrient blend found in persimmons helps decrease inflammation, fight free radicals, and promote eye health.
Butternut squash is one of the best sources of carotenoids, powerful antioxidants known for helping fight free radicals in the body. It’s also high in vitamins A and C, fiber, and omega-3s, which help to protect the heart and decrease inflammation.
This Japanese squash, often used in Thai cooking, is low in calories 40 per cup), low in carbs, and high in beta-carotene and fiber. Cooking tip: Cook and eat this veggie with the skin on for an increased boost of fiber.
Related to apples and pears, quince is a sweet fruit. It’s loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin C. The hard flesh is often tough to eat raw but often cooked down into jellies, preserves, and tarts.
This delicious veggie is packed with vitamin K and C. Plus, its high-fiber content is linked to lowering cholesterol and protecting DNA. Cooking tip: To get the most nutrient benefits, steam Brussels sprouts.
Zoning out in meetings. Reaching for your third cup of coffee. Doomscrolling your social feed. These are all signs you need an energy refresh. Your body has a limited energy budget. You can’t expect to spin your wheels all day without refilling the tank. The good news is that energy is a renewable resource. Here are some ways to maximize your energy budget.
1. Rise and (sun)shine
Get some sunlight within the first two hours of waking up. Natural sunlight is an important signal to your brain that it’s time to get your day going. Even just 5 minutes will help kickstart your natural cortisol hormones that drive alertness and energy in the morning.
2. Delay your caffeine drip.
We love coffee, too, but caffeine first thing in the morning messes with your biological wake-up routines. Use the first hour of your day to get up, get outside, and move your body. Then grab that java.
4. Say “cheers” to a well-hydrated body.
More than half of your body weight is water. Not muscle, not fat, not organs — straight up H2O. If you’re feeling thirsty you might already be in a state of dehydration, and that can negatively affect your memory, attention span, and energy levels. Make your day flow by refilling that water bottle to meet your hydration quota (1/2 to 1 ounce per pound of body weight).
5. Spread a little gratitude.
It’s not just a nice thing to do. Science has shown that expressing gratitude also delivers a powerful dose of feel-good brain chemicals that boost energy and increase motivation. We recommend starting a mindset practice that focuses on things you’re grateful for.
6. Get your brain some oxygen.
In addition to the blurry vision, too much screen time can cause something called email apnea, where your breathing pattern becomes more shallow. Try looking up at least once every 20 minutes and use one of those focused breaks to reset your visual focus and take some deep breaths.
7. Crank up the stress (strategically).
At its core, short-term stress tells your body you need to pay attention and be ready for action. You can use this to your advantage with focused breathing practices or splashing cold water in your face in a pinch.
8. Turn your afternoon upside down.
Take a break from your inbox and stand on a half-stability ball or get into a stability-challenging yoga pose to shake things up. Challenging your balance system prompts your brain to send out chemical signals for increased focus and motivation.
When daily responsibilities pile up and there’s hardly time to break for a meal, it’s natural to start living in reactive mode. You know, snacking on whatever’s around because you missed lunch, staying up past
midnight to finish work assignments, then having extra coffee the next day to make up for the loss of sleep. But that’s not necessarily sustainable or healthy.
If you’re living in that reactive mode, often foregoing your own basic needs to tend to others, then you’re building yourself up for a breakdown. Trying to fix everything all at once is overwhelming, so let’s start with three techniques for prioritizing self-care, even on the busiest days, and how each will help you feel more balanced.
1. Eat meals with carbs and fats.
Your brain will thank you. Why? It relies on healthy carbs and fats for fuel. And healthy carbohydrates like fruits, veggies, oats, and whole-grain bread support serotonin production, which will help you naturally feel calmer and happier. Start your day off with a healthy breakfast with carbs and protein. We like oatmeal with nuts and seeds. For lunch and dinner, fill half of your plate with colorful veggies, a quarter with an animal- or plant-based protein, and a quarter with healthy carbs like sweet potato, quinoa, or legumes.
2. Remember to hydrate.
We’ve said it 100 times, and we’ll say it again: Hydration matters. More than half of your body weight is water, making it vital to proper function. And hydration levels affect mood, energy levels, reaction time, and sleep. A dehydrated brain doesn’t function very well. Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning when you’re the most dehydrated. Carry a water bottle with you and continue to drink water throughout the day.
3. Get out of that chair
You don’t have to take on a heavy sweat session to find success. Getting up every two hours and increasing your heart rate for just two minutes can improve blood flow and have a positive effect on your mental focus and productivity. Try doing jumping jacks in place, working in your garden, or having a walking meeting. Do what feels good to you. The important thing is to take breaks that don’t involve more sitting and screen time.
No doubt it’s challenging to squeeze a workout into a schedule that’s full of appointments, meetings, and family obligations. So, first of all, cut yourself some slack! We all miss a workout every now and then. But don’t let an exception become a habit. Commit to taking care of yourself by building consistency with these tips.
- Set precise and vivid goals.
The single most effective way to stick to your workout is to identify your drive — also known as your why — for training. Be sure to make it specific and vivid. For instance, getting in shape is a good goal, but getting healthy and fit to be able to play with your kids is a better goal. Then break it into small goals for long-term success. Small wins keep you focused so you can reach your larger-scale goals that much sooner.
- Build in some accountability.
Start with something simple, like marking your workout on the calendar. It might feel a little strange making a proverbial appointment for yourself, but blocking this time for yourself and others will help you stick to it. Also, it can’t hurt to tell everyone what you’re doing. You won’t skip if you know someone is going to ask about it later. Convincing someone to be your workout buddy is even better.
- Build momentum.
An hour in the gym and 10 at a desk does not make an active lifestyle. Move more all day and you’ll find you have more energy for your training, which will give you extra energy to jam on important projects, and so on. It’s the kind of snowball effect you want to get rolling. So even starting with small stretch breaks can help if you’re not up to full workouts yet.
- Rest, recover, repeat.
One of the main reasons people skip their workout is because it hurts. If you’re terribly sore from doing anything, you probably won’t go back, right? That’s why it’s so important to reduce soreness from the start by including recovery in your training plan. Think of it as an investment in your next workout. Flexibility and regeneration work will help you feel fresh for your next session.
- Keep expectations reasonable.
Manage expectations — your own, that is. Understand that your body has grown to feel comfortable at your current activity level. And going too hard too fast will shock your body into thinking there’s a problem. So ease back if your body seems to be fighting back or is extra resistant to change. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.