Of course there is no such thing as good shape or bad shape. But I am very convinced, that everybody feels comfy or not that comfy in their bodies depending on the diet, the training (or other factors such as stress, climate etc…). Besides the external circumstances, that we can not change, there are some factors, we all can work on in order to feel fit, pain-free and mobile. Let me share my personal top five with you!
That‘s the single most important piece of information, any personal trainer will give you. Good nutrition and a balanced diet consisting out of unprocessed food are the key elements for good health and a good shape. It does not matter, how many hours you spend working out – without a change in eating habits you won‘t see any great changes! Especially if you do weights or work on your overall strength, you might even appear heavier than before starting to work out, if you don‘t pay attention to what you eat!
Different kinds of diets are a question of personal taste. In my case I eat vegan, mostly unprocessed foods, a big amount of carbs and don‘t cut down on my fat intake. What I do though, is eating with a certain pattern, that is called intermittent fasting. I eat two meals per day – one around noon and the other during the evening. I avoid snacks and try to have very complete meals every time I eat. By complete meals I mean carbs, plant-based proteins, greens and a dessert, that includes fresh fruit, oats, raisins and nuts.
If you want to practice IF and want to stay healthy, forget about vegan pizza from the convenient store, ice-cream with sugar and palm-oil or the other usual suspects! Just don‘t buy it!
The other day I read a satirical piece about a woman, who donates 30 bucks per month to her local gym and checks the facilities once per year (usually in the beginning of the year). THAT is the opposite of persistence. If you want to achieve any movement or body goal – or get off pain medication for your back – you need to do something every single day! (And not only in March, when bikini adds start to freak you out!) No excuses! Everybody got those ten minute per day for doing some exercises (in the living room, the office or even on the playground!).
In terms of food: No matter where you come from, what you earn or don‘t earn – a plant-based and seasonal diet is affordable! Maybe you won‘t eat mangos, avocados or coconuts everyday…so what? It is not good for the climate to eat imported fruits anyways. Better stick to the stuff, that grows in your country and region. And even, if you live close to the north pole – there are some fruits and veggies! At least apples, berries, nuts, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and beans grow in most cold regions of the world!
There is no single animal, that signs up for a gym membership. We think, that we need to go to the gym in order to stay fit though.
Of course this is not the case. Our grandparents, who did not spend the whole day seated in front a screen did not go to the gym. They were less likely to be overweight though. Besides that, 50 years ago a bigger percentage of the (European and American) population was able to perform basic exercises such as pull-ups and push-ups. Back in the days moving was a normal part of everyday life.
Also today there are strategies to make movement a part of every single day. My contribution to more activity is my bicycle. I use it every day and cycle to work, to the shops or to my friends houses. Maybe this is not possible for people with small children or for everyone, who lives in the mountains. If you live in a flat region or in a metropolitan area, it is very easy to cycle though. And even if cycling is not your cup of tea: Just walk! Daily walks are relaxing, efficient cardio, provide you great stress relief and offer the perfect opportunity to think or to listen to an interesting podcast.
Besides that, use every moment to explore your surroundings. Climb trees, sprint just for fun, go skate, play football, dance – do every movement, that fulfills you with joy!
If you think, you need to hit the treadmill for two hours or lift weights all the afternoon, you are certainly doing something wrong! It might be fun to run long distances or explore new possibilities in the gym – if you just want to be healthy and in good shape, you can shorten things up!
If possible, I really like to practice ashtanga (takes around one hour) or work on bars (45 minutes in total). Sometimes I just got 15 or 20 minutes though. I have a couple of routines for days, when my schedule is that tight.
For those occasions I usually go HIIT (high intensity interval training). One routine I really like, are uphill sprints. They are quite simple: I sprint up the hill (cool, because the impact for the joints is quite low) and walk down. Depending on the hill I do 5 to 10 repetitions.
Another variety of HIIT is stair running. Sometimes I combine my stair runs with jumping up the stairs and walking down in a very low squad position.
Nice for rainy days: Skip your rope! This is a really inexpensive and versatile work-out, that offers you a great variety. Plus: 10 to 15 minutes per day are really enough!
Another work-out idea: Do animal walks! There are so many great flows on youtube or vimeo, that do not require any weights or machines. You can do them inside or outside and work on your strength, flexibility and mobility at the same time!
For a long time I only did daily runs. The result was, that I became quiet good at running. My ham-strings were sore all the time and I had zero upper body strength though. For another period of my life I spent every single day skating. I became a good skater but I lost other abilities.
During the last years of training I learnt, how crucial diversity is for success. If you want to give your body and brain as many impulses as possible, you need to do as many alternations as you can. You don‘ t need to become an expert in one field, if your goal is just overall fitness (opposed to becoming an expert like an olympic sprinter or weight-lifter). Go for a run once per week. Lift weights once per week. Do intense stretches and mobility work-outs two or three times per week. A change in routines is gonna have a big impact on your training and shape. And – the exercise you hate the most is the one, you need the most! You might not be a natural born sprinter or climber but occasional short sessions will boost you performance and your well-being!
I am Julia, vegan by heart, traveler and minimalist based in beautiful Portugal. I love simple but delicious food, ashtanga, skating, surfing and having a nice conversation over snacks and a glass of wine. I am blogging about vegan food, my minimalist journey, life hacks and my experiences as a traveler.