By Beth Shaw, CEO & Founder of YogaFit Training Systems Worldwide
Spring is in the air and it’s time for many of us to restart our fitness program. If you are anything like me, you relax your routine a little bit during the winter. It’s cold after all, making outdoor exercise harder and, of course, there are all those comfort foods. If you have been hibernating but realize that in a few short months you’ll be wearing shorts, it’s time to kick it up. Perhaps it’s time to find your “inner athlete”.
The benefits of looking at yourself as an athlete are many. We are all players in this game called life and we all actually need to be in the best possible condition to get through it. I always say that your body can either help you achieve your goals or it can get in the way of you achieving them. When you consider that working, caring for your children, being a good partner and friend, and taking care of your pets are all enhanced by you BEING YOUR BEST YOU – then you will want to live like an athlete. Look around you – notice that when someone looks fit they seem more successful? It’s because they have mastered their physical body and it shows. It’s not easy to do as life offers us distraction and temptations everywhere. Making your health your number one priority means YOU LOVE YOURSELF. People who have managed to make long-term lifestyle changes have all, in one way or another, found their “inner athlete”. Additionally, when you identify yourself as an athlete, it gives you more desire to stick with your exercise routine, make healthy lifestyle choices, eat well and get enough rest. Thinking of yourself as and finding your inner athlete, helps you move out of the unhealthy, unhappy and unfit version of yourself. When you live like an athlete you will have mastered the most difficult yet most malleable and rewarding thing in your life – your physical and mental self.
This doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon or be a power lifter, but you may start to get much more competitive with yourself. You may not want to push your body to the limit in the way many serious athletes do. What it means is that you start to truly care for the beautiful body that you have been gifted with. You start resting, fueling, exercising, meditating, setting goals, evaluating your diet and implementing strategies that are utilized by athletes.
Seven Steps to Find and Maintain Your Inner Athlete
- Set Goals and Visualize
Weight loss, muscle gain, reshaping. That marathon you always wanted to run, that figure contest, climbing Mt Kilamjaro, hiking in the Andes, walking the Great Trail, running a 5 K. Picture yourself daily achieving your goals and feeling great.
Athletes know that strength training helps maintain joint integrity, limit injury, improve athletic performance and increase muscle mass. Make a plan to do something every day. Take two workouts a week to really push yourself further. I like to go to the gym one to two days a week and lift as heavy as I can.
Athletes know that they have to eat intelligently because a well balanced diet can improve mood, performance, alertness and energy levels. Change your mind set around food. Don’t think of food as the enemy, think of food as fuel. Stay away from foods which have low nutritional value. Don’t starve yourself, or try to exist on low calorie, nutritionally vapid “low fat” foods like rice cakes or zero fat yogurt. Fill up on foods that will help stabilize your blood sugar and fill you with energy throughout the day. Eat foods that pack a nutritional punch! Think chicken, vegetables, whole grains and nuts and seeds.
- Rest and Recover
Athletes train hard, but they also recover well. They focus on proper post-workout nutrition, proper hydration, stretching, getting massages and sleeping. They have to recover because although working out is healthy, it stresses the body and causes tissue breakdown. Muscles repair and get stronger during recovery. Serious amateurs and professional athletes take between two weeks to two months off between their training seasons to recharge physically and emotionally. The off-season is not an excuse to sit on the sofa all day and become totally lazy. It is simply a period of less structured training. In my off-season, I don’t do pre-structured interval workouts. Instead, I run, bike and swim by feel and for fun. Don’t underestimate the importance of recovery. How you treat your body when you are not training is just as important as what you do to your body during training.
- Strategize and Plan
The benefits of exercise extend far beyond weight loss. The positive effects of exercise include improved sleep, energy, mood, long term health, mobility, strength and athletic achievements. Try to establish health, wellness and athletic goals based on these factors, not just aesthetic goals.
- Make it Fun
Find new groups on Meet Up, join a running team, get a workout buddy – vary your routine.
- Mix it up
Doing the same routine over and over can be draining physically and mentally. Switch up your gym routine regularly and give yourself a few weeks each year where your workouts are less structured.
Good weather is around the corner. It’s the perfect opportunity to find and refine our inner athlete – one step at a time.
Beth Shaw, ERYT 500 and C-IAYT, is the CEO and Founder of YogaFit Training Systems Worldwide. She is the author of three books: YogaFit, YogaLean and YogaFit for Athletes. Beth has spent time in India and Asia studying yoga, and in addition to a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Nutrition, she holds numerous certifications in mind-body disciplines.