When you write for a living like I do, it can be all too easy to let your fitness slide. A sedentary lifestyle seems to go hand-in-hand with a writing career. As more professions are migrating to a desk, it is becoming all the more important for people to develop healthy habits. But for me, it has become more than just something I should do.
My family history reads like a medical journal dedicated to heart problems. With a wife and two little girls at home who depend on me, my determination to keep myself healthy led me to explore fitness options available with the iPad. It’s important to recognize, however, that fitness is not simply a “find an app for that” kind of thing. It flows from a lifestyle. But can I really use my iPad to change my lifestyle?
Healthy Habits, Healthy Body
Before we launch right into the steps, let me just say that a healthy lifestyle is all about your habits. This probably isn’t news to anyone. Most of us, myself included, have great difficulty in starting and maintaining healthy habits. It’s also just as important to nix those unhealthy habits like sugary snacking. But how do we change patterns that have followed us our entire lives?
I don’t have all the answers to these questions yet. But if you want to better understand habits, and how they control your behavior, I really cannot recommend a better book than “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I’m a little over halfway through the book so far, and it has already helped me to enact real change in my life and help me take control. I plan on giving it a full review this coming Friday, so be on the look out!
Budget Your Time
Find a Doable Workout Program
Start a Food Journal
This is probably everyone’s least favorite part of the journey. In fact, my initial approach to exercise years ago was the idea that if I exercised a lot, I could eat whatever I wanted. However, exercising enough to burn 400 calories while your body consumes over 3000 in a day is like trying to dig a hole while four of your friends try to pile up dirt in the same spot. Keeping track of your consumption is part of fitness.
However, notice I didn’t say “start a food journal and then follow a certain diet.” There are a myriad of diets out there, and you should find what works for you. However, the act of just writing down what you eat has proven to cultivate healthier eating habits. When we have to own up to that donut or fast food lunch, it can help give us the willpower we need to pass by those unhealthy patterns when we confront them again. In short, most of us know what we should be eating. Writing down everything we eat helps us not only keep our goals in mind, but have the power to accomplish them.
I haven’t found a good dieting app just yet. When I do, I’ll include it in a follow-up. If anyone has recommendations, just leave it in the comments or send me an email: editor[at]iPad4Life.net
Join (or Start) a Community
Here’s a fun activity: take a day, or better yet, a week, and write down exactly what you did every minute of every day. If you spent two hours playing with your kids, write it down. If you laid on the couch for an hour watching Nova while eating potato chips, write it down. Try to do this during an average week, not during Spring Break or when you’re knee-deep in an unusually time-consuming project. This is your Time Expenditure.
Now, looking at how you spent your time and write out a plan for the coming week keeping your goals in mind for work and family. Leave gaps in this schedule intentionally if there’s nothing that needs to get done during those periods. Those are the times when you have the option to spend working out.
Great, you might think, now I know how to spend my time. Here’s the real kicker: hold yourself accountable by recording how you actually spent your time during the week you planned out. At the end of the week, compare the plan to the actual events, and write down where you need improvement. Then, make a plan for the next week.
Keeping a budget over your time can at least help you get a sense of where you can fit in a workout routine. Planning ahead can help you to actually spend that spare time exercising. Write your long-term goals (weight milestones, running goals, etc.) in the budget as well, and highlight days when you achieved those goals.
What I’m about to write will probably surprise you if you’ve never been able to stick to a workout routine. Your goal in finding an exercise program at first is not to lose weight or gain muscle – it’s to find a routine that you are capable of making into a regular habit. This may look like doing 25 jumping jacks at the top of every hour. It may mean riding your bicycle to work every day for two weeks.
When you muster the determination to begin exercising, you will be tempted to jump right in enthusiastically. This seems commendable, but it does nothing to develop healthy habits, which is our goal. Especially if you’re like me and have trouble sticking to an exercise routine, you need to start small and give yourselves what “The Power of Habit” calls small victories.
Give yourself a doable, healthy routine for a week, and write about how well you did in a Fitness Log. Then couple that habit with another healthy habit the next week, and write about how you handled both. This is the most successful way I’ve found to develop not only the willpower to exercise, but to cultivate a healthy lifestyle.
I started using Fitstar, Football Player and Personal Trainer Tony Gonzalez’s excercise App. Fitstar is a good choice for me because I don’t need to go to the gym to get my exercise in. After a 6 minute assessment, it tailors a workout meant to help me. At the end of every individual exercise, I give the app feedback on whether the exercise was too difficult, too easy, or just right. Then it takes what I’ve told it to continue customizing future workouts. It also has great social media components, so I can join with friends in getting in shape.
Community has tremendous power in habit formation and discipline. When you join with a group of friends dedicated to health, or even if you start such a group, you are a lot more likely to succeed. I have committed myself to posting every workout from Fitstar onto Facebook, partly to brag, yes, but also partly to receive encouragement from my friends.
Pinterest is a good place to look for healthy recipes, plus you can share some of your own. If you have a lot of Facebook friends who are health-nuts, you can ask them as well. I have found that if there’s one thing healthy people love, it’s sharing a recipe that’s both delicious and filled with fiber, nutrients, and vitamins.
If you really want to go hardcore, you could start a Facebook Group page. Just make sure you limit the membership to people who are active in the community you’re trying to create. Inactive members can be a discouragement to you and the others who are trying to adopt healthier habits. You need to surround yourself with active, serious people who are committed to good health.
Changing habits is hard. If you take steps toward a healthier lifestyle, the old temptations will still be there. You’ll have to find a way to say no to those chocolate chip cookies and m & m’s. The key is remaking your habit cycle, something that I will cover in greater detail this Friday. But if you start by taking these three steps, you’ll have a strong beginning to a life full of energy, personal discipline, and more opportunity.
I’ll be documenting my journey with Fitstar right here on iPad For Life, so check back often for updates, struggles, and hopefully victories. If you have any iPad-related health tips or hacks, tell me about them: editor[at]iPad4Life.net .