We all want to be our best, healthiest selves. Still, with so much advice floating around, it can be hard to choose which healthy lifestyle tips are worth trying.
To simplify your life we've rounded up some of our go-to diet and fitness strategies to help you achieve your goals.
Whether you're heading off to spin class, boot camp, or any other exercise class, it's always important to hydrate so you can stay energized and have your best workout. But you don't want to grab just anything for hydration purposes.
Electrolyte-loaded athletic drinks, for example, can be a source of unnecessary calories.1 So "drinking water is usually fine until you're exercising for more than one hour," Jackie Newgent, RD, author of "The Big Green Cookbook," told Health.
But if you are doing high-intensity exercise for a long period, feel free to go for regular sports drinks. They can give you a beneficial replenishment boost—especially since they typically include minerals, electrolytes, and sometimes vitamins.2
If you don't want the calories but want some flavor, there are lower-calorie sports drinks available, added Newgent, that you could find in the grocery store.
Find a Workout Buddy
A friend you can work out with is very helpful for staying motivated, but it's important to find someone who will inspire—not discourage. So make a list of all your exercise-loving friends, then see who fits this criterion, Andrew Kastor, an ASICS running coach, told Health:
- Can your pal meet to exercise on a regular basis?
- Are they supportive (not disparaging) of your goals?
- Will your bud be able to keep up with you or even push your limits in key workouts?
If you've got someone that fits all three, make the phone call to start getting fitness plans together. But if you don't have someone close to you who could be your workout buddy, you may be able to find other ways to exercise with others.
You could check out a local gym or recreation center for more information about group workout classes, personal training sessions, or exercise-focused groups. You could even ask your family members or friends if they know individuals who are also looking for a workout buddy.
Stock Your Fridge with Healthy Foods
Foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean meats can go a long way for your fitness journey.
There are even some delicious, healthy snack options to take advantage of, like hummus, grapes and walnuts, and apple slices with cheese.
Additionally, some key ingredients may make it a lot easier to meet your weight-loss goals. During your next grocery store run, you could also consider placing Newgent's top three diet-friendly items in your cart:
- Balsamic vinegar (it adds a pop of low-cal flavor to veggies and salads)
- In-shell nuts (their protein and fiber keep you satiated)
- Fat-free plain yogurt (a creamy, comforting source of protein)
"Plus, Greek yogurt also works wonders as a natural low-calorie base for dressings and dips—or as a tangier alternative to sour cream," said Newgent.
Relieve Those Achy Muscles
After a grueling workout, there's a good chance you will feel sore thighs and tight calves.
Fortunately, you might get relief from post-fitness aches by using cold water immersion in the form of ice baths. This involves submerging your lower body in a cold bath (50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit; you may have to throw in some ice cubes to get it cold enough) for 10 to 15 minutes.
"Many top athletes use this trick to help reduce soreness after training sessions," said Kastor. "An athlete training for an important race should consider getting one to two massages per month to help aid in training recovery."
Of note, when a person puts their body in cold water, doing so can lead to increased breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. The body can also lose heat faster in cold water than in air.
In other words, cold water can cause the body to work harder, which may not be good for certain health conditions. People should not use ice baths if they have, for example, the following conditions:
- Cryoglobulinemia (a condition where antibodies in the blood thicken in the cold)6
- Heart conditions
- Impaired circulation
- Open wounds
- Raynaud's disease (a condition where blood vessels get narrow due to cold or stress)7
- Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
Cold temperatures might also worsen dysesthesia symptoms (when normal stimuli, like touch, are painful or don't feel good)8 or lead to urticaria, or hives.9
To be sure ice baths are safe for you, talk with a healthcare provider if you are interested in trying this type of therapy.
Wear Comfortable Sneakers
You shouldn't buy shoes that hurt: "Your shoes should feel comfortable from the first step," said Kastor.
Your feet swell during the day and stop in the late afternoon, so if you need sneakers, you'll want to shop when your feet are biggest. Also, make sure the shoes are a little roomy—enough to wiggle your toes, but no more than that.
They should be comfy from the get-go, but they'll be even more so once you've walked or ran 20 to 40 miles in them, said Kastor.
Pick Your Perfect Tunes
Running with music is a great way to get in a good workout groove. To pick the ultimate playlist, think about what gets you going and that you find uplifting.
"I know several elite athletes that listen to what we'd consider 'relaxing' music, such as symphony music, while they do a hard workout," said Kastor.
The best part about music during a workout is that the right music can make you feel better emotionally, help you perform better, and improve how much oxygen you take in.
Plan Your Runs Ahead of Time
When you have a 5K or 10K (or just a regular run) on your calendar, it's important to plan out what you're going to eat the morning of—something that will keep you fueled and go down easy.
While everyone is different, "we [tend to] have good luck with a high-carbohydrate breakfast such as a small bowl of oatmeal with fruit or a couple of pieces of toast with peanut butter or cream cheese," said Kastor.
Also, eat around 200 to 250 (primarily carb) calories about 90 minutes before you warm up for your run, advised Kastor.
And don't worry about nixing your caffeine fix on race day. "Coffee is great for athletic performances," added Kastor, as it makes you sharper and may even give you extended energy.
Whenever you go for a run—on a track or trail or during a race—make sure you've packed these key staples:
- A watch or GPS tracker to log your total time
- A music player
- A cell phone, if you don't mind holding onto it
- A Road ID (a bracelet that includes all your vital info)
If it's a sunny day, wear sunglasses. "They reduce glare, which can decrease squinting, ultimately releasing the tension in your shoulders," said Kastor. And that's a performance bonus because relaxing them helps conserve energy on your runs.
A Quick Review
Whether you're just starting or trying to maintain your nutrition and fitness progress, you have many options to help you meet your goals. From changing how you eat to finding the right fitness wear for your exercise routine, you can personalize your journey to a healthier lifestyle using Health's tips and strategies.