How to Get Fit, From A to Zzzs
It’s easy as ABC.
Getting fit doesn’t necessarily mean spending two hours in the gym every day. It requires effort in multiple areas of your life. If your nutrition is off, your workouts will suffer and vice versa. If either of those are lacking, it’s easy to lose motivation because you won’t see any physical progress.
Getting fit requires a positive mindset, a nutritious diet and an active lifestyle. But with so many moving parts, it can be hard to keep track of everything. Why not use the alphabet to help you get (and stay) fit? You can become a healthier and happier you by following these fitness tips — from A to Z.
A – Active Stretching
You can divide your approach to stretching into two categories: active and passive. Passive stretching relies on gravity. Active stretching, on the other hand, means that you’re squeezing the muscle opposite of the one being stretched.
For example, if you’re doing a hamstring stretch, you would actively engage the quads. Active stretching can be a valuable part of your warmup to help reduce the risk of injury and even boost your athletic performance.
B – Balance Training
Stabilization training helps prevent injuries while also strengthening your core. And it’s important to have a strong, stable core, as that’s where the majority of your day-to-day movements begin.
The stability and BOSU ball are some of the most common tools used for balance training. Some balance training movements are single-leg squats and stability-ball sit-ups.
C – Cross-Training
It’s important to prevent boredom and overuse injuries by mixing up your workouts. Cross-training involves incorporating both cardiovascular exercises and strength training.
So if you’re an avid runner, your cross-training workouts might take place in the weight room. Or if you absolutely love CrossFit, you may want to try a weekly yoga class.
D – Digital Detox
Social media is a great way to find motivation and support, but it also can distract you for countless hours and waste precious time. And since it can often portray only life’s highlights, it may lead to some unhealthy feelings of comparison. Put down the phone a little more often and experience the life that’s going on around you.
Swap out junk food for more real foods.
E – Empty Calories
Empty calories come from foods and drinks that are lacking in nutrients. These types of foods are processed and contain unhealthy fats and added sugar (think cookies, chips, soda and fruit drinks). Cut back on them or avoid them altogether.
F – Foam Rolling
Foam rolling (aka self-myofascial release) is used to target those pesky knots and relieve muscle tension. This can be done during your warmup and/or cooldown. For best results, apply pressure to the tight spot for at least 30 seconds to ensure the muscle begins to relax for a deeper release of tension.
G – Glutes
Your glutes (gluteal muscles) are the largest muscle group in the human body and include the gluteus minimus, medius and maximus. But they do more than give you a bodacious backside. They’re also responsible for stabilizing your pelvis and generating all hip movements.
Because people are often sitting on their glutes, they become desensitized and require a strong mind-body connection to stimulate. Whenever you’re doing glute exercises, always focus on squeezing them to activate the muscle to its full potential.
H – HIIT
Fit in an hour’s worth of exercising in just 30 minutes with HIIT. Short for high-intensity interval training, these workouts consist of brief bursts of all-out effort, followed by brief resting periods.
Tabata training is a great HIIT option, as it consists of eight exercise intervals of 20 seconds of max effort, each followed by 10 seconds of rest. Sounds easy, but just wait till you try it!
I – Ignite Your Fire
What motivates you? Maybe it’s a photo of you at your goal weight, a photo of your family, your medical chart (like blood pressure or cholesterol numbers) or a list of reasons you want to get fit. When you lack motivation, take a second to look at this valuable reminder of why you started.
Unleash your inner child!
J – Jump Rope
Tired of the treadmill? Jump your way to weight loss. Or grab a jump rope for some intense cardio while strengthening your shoulders, core and legs. Jump for just 10 minutes and burn a total of 100 calories (on average).
K – Kickboxing
Sculpt your body while you work up a sweat with kickboxing. This high-intensity, cardiovascular workout blasts tons of calories because it requires you to engage your entire body. Kick it with some friends and try a class at your local gym!
L – Leg Day
Friends don’t let friends skip leg day! Your legs are the foundation for the rest of your body and are an important part of your gym routine (not to mention your daily life). Leg day should include multijoint movements (see below for more on that) like squats and deadlifts as well as accessory lifts like single-leg deadlifts and leg extensions.
M – Multijoint Movements
Multijoint movements engage multiple muscle groups, as opposed to isolation exercises that use only one muscle. The more muscles engaged, the more energy required and, ultimately, the more calories burned. Some multijoint exercises include step-ups, squats, deadlifts, overhead press and push-ups.
N – Nutrients (Macro and Micro)
Macros, aka macronutrients, include protein, carbohydrates and fats, which your body needs in large quantities. Micronutrients include minerals, vitamins and amino acids and are required in smaller quantities. Tracking macros and micros is a valuable tool to ensure optimal nutrition is met. There are plenty of apps for your phone that can track your macros and micros in a snap.
O – Off Days
If you’re always working out, it’s imperative for your body to rest and recover from the demand being placed on it. It’s during those rest days that your muscles actually repair themselves and grow stronger. If you never take a break, you’ll stop seeing progress and run the risk of overtraining. So listen to your body and respect its limits.
But off days don’t necessarily mean you are forced to lie in bed 24/7. Instead, think of it as an active recovery day: Enjoy a walk in the park, take a scenic bike ride or go to a restorative yoga class.
Jump to it!
P – Plyometrics
Torch calories and strengthen your muscles and joints through explosive training. Plyometrics, also known as jump training, consists of generating fast movements followed by maximum force. Some plyometric exercises consist of jump squats, burpees and box jumps.
Q – Quiet Your Mind
Your mind is constantly running, but you need stillness sometimes. It’s essential to set aside some time each day to find peace within. Relaxing your mind through meditation is one great way to do this. A healthy body starts with a healthy mind.
R – Running
Running improves your cardiovascular and mental health as well as promoting weight loss (if that’s your goal). Not into steady-state cardio? Switch it up with walk-run intervals or sprinting.
S – Strength Training
Strength training increases lean muscle and provides a huge boost when it comes to burning fat. The more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate, which means you’re burning more calories throughout your day.
T – Track Your Progress
Take progress photos, body measurements and weight every four weeks. Remember, the number on the scale will fluctuate as you gain muscle or if you’re retaining water. Tracking your progress in other ways can help you hold yourself accountable and give you some confidence along the way without being tied to a single number.
Shift your focus to see big results!
U – Under-Tension Training
“Time under tension” refers to the amount of time a muscle is under pressure during a set. During this type of training, focus on quality and form rather than speed. Slow down the eccentric (lowering) portion and reduce the time you spend locked out. Tempo training and performing drop sets is also a valuable time-under-tension tool.
V – Variety
Switch up your normal workout routine by exploring group fitness classes. Even mix up your usual weight-training program by swapping out dumbbells for the cable machine. You’ll avoid boredom by trying new things and making alterations to your current workouts.
W – Water
Drink more water! Hydration is key to healthy living, especially when physical activity is increased. Water is vital for proper body function. Aim to drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
X – XOXO Yourself
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend going through a similar fitness journey. Be your best friend, not your own enemy.
Y – You Time
Make it a point to set aside some you time for yourself without distractions. You time can be your gym time, a calming walk outside or a day at the spa. You deserve your own peaceful time. It’s not selfish to make yourself a priority.
Z – Zzzs
As you begin to increase your level of activity, it’s important to allow your mind and body enough time to adapt, rest and recover. Try to get six to nine hours of sleep a night.
Brittany Shelton is a NASM certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and writer for Livestrong.com.