Do you pack the same boring salad every day? Jog every week with no improvement? During the year it’s natural to fall into a rut. This year, swap old, unhelpful habits for new, sustainable habits. Here’s how.
Old habit: Only doing the tasks that nag the loudest
You always find time to meet client deadlines and feed and clothe the kids. But you often run out of time to shop for healthy food for yourself and show up to the gym. Because your exercise routine just doesn’t nag at you like everything else, it’s easy to drop when things get hectic. The irony is that your productivity suffers when you don’t have time for your health.
New habit 1: Plan health into your each week
Before others’ priorities consume your week, plan what you’ll eat and when you’ll exercise. “What happens in your week is sometimes out of your control, but balancing things IS within your control,” says Vicki Black, personal trainer and women’s fitness expert. To pursue this balance, Black swears by planning each week in advance.
“Planning your week is the best way to overcome the boring exercise routine and the same boring meals that you have each week.” With a rough meal plan, you’ll always be able to make something delicious and healthy, and an exercise plan makes sure fun work outs actually happen. No more getting caught up in work and missing the 5.30pm yoga class.
Old habit: Wasting your time with slow and boring workouts
Doing any exercise is great. But if all you do is take a gentle stroll, or cycle so slowly at the gym you can read a magazine, it’s not an effective use of your time. Black says: “Low intensity cardio is a really slow and boring way of working towards your goals.”
New habit 2: Increase your ROI with fun, playful workouts
To make the best use of your time, work harder. “You will certainly get more bang for your buck if you up the intensity and get huffy puffy and a bit sweaty!” says Black. While the Australian guidelines say we all need at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate intensity activity, we can swap that for a minimum of just 1.25 hours intense activity.
Look for challenging activities that feel more like play than a chore. Try hiking up your nearest mountain, running stairs in your building, racing your kids around the oval, or skipping in your backyard. In the gym, alternative intervals of high and low intensity, say 20 seconds of sprinting and 10 seconds walking. (Of course, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regime.)
Old habit: Overlooking lunch
Your meeting ran late and you missed lunch, so you’re relying on coffee to get you through the day. Without good nutrition your brain isn’t at its sharpest. If this sounds like you, accredited practising dietitian Kara Landau says you have the same problem as millions of other busy women.
New habit 3: Stock your desk
Lunch breaks are not always possible, so Landau says the best solution is to store healthy snacks in your desk. “Nutritious and filling snacks include mixed nuts and seeds or a natural nut butter with an apple to dip into them,” says Landau. These low GI foods will keep your energy levels stable and your appetite under control.
Old habit: Still believing that weights bulk you up
Strengthening your muscles is vital, especially if your goal is fat loss. Any time you lose weight, you’re losing both muscle and fat, but weight training helps preserve your precious muscles. Weights also help build bone density and prevent osteoporosis. One thing they won’t do is make you look too bulky. “Don’t panic about getting too big. Increase your weights and be prepared to feel stronger and more empowered!” encourages Black.
New habit 4: Lift heavy for health
Australian guidelines prescribe at least two days of muscle strengthening activities each week. This doesn’t only mean lifting weights but can include body weight exercises like push-ups and lunges. Black suggests having a personal trainer design a program for you.
Old habit: Starving during the day and overeating at night
Landau sees many women who are too busy to eat a proper breakfast or lunch, and then eat dinner late after getting the kids off to bed. She says that when dinner finally comes: “Busy women often overeat because they have become hungrier than they realised.”
New habit 5: Have healthy after-work nibbles on hand
While preparing your dinner or helping the kids with theirs, nibble on pre-cut veggies. Landau suggests keeping them in a tub of water in the fridge so they remain crunchy and appetising, and dipping them in hummus. “The extra fibre and water weight will help with satiety and prevent overeating when you sit down for your meal. It also means you sneak in an extra couple of serves of vegetables!” she says.