Strategies to improve your wellness in 2023 (and be Army Strong)
I figured that if it’s good enough for the US Army, it’s good enough for us regular folks, too!
If you’re looking to boost your mind, body, and spirit in the new year, here are 12 months of fitness, health and wellness tips to take you into and through 2023.
✔ You can do them all at once
✔ You can try one a month
✔ Or even just adopt one to try as a resolution or goal
Taken from the US Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness(1) system, I’ve adapted and applied them to us ordinary, everyday citizens. They are designed to provide a full-picture wellness by following five pillars of fitness:
✅ Rest and recovery
I’ve broken them down by months, but you should feel free to adapt and apply them in any order, at any time you want or need to.
Write Down Your Guiding Principles
You don’t have to be religious to practice spirituality. All of us have a spiritual compass. Whether you are someone who has a faith or not, there’s always a set of beliefs, human values, or principles that shapes who we are and brings our life meaning.
Get out a pen and paper (or use your smartphone) and write down your personal values as clearly as possible. The act of writing them out and seeing the words in front of you will help provide purpose to your daily activities.
Seek Balance at Every Meal
A nutrition plan that fuels a healthy, high-performance lifestyle requires consistency and balance. When you eat, make sure your plate has a protein source, some kind of non-starchy vegetable for a carbohydrate, and healthy fat. Make it a point to get each of the three macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) at every meal. And don’t forget an appropriate amount of water for adequate hydration (64oz to 100oz a day are our standard Rx).
Keeping stress levels in check is critical to achieving optimal health. One of the easiest and most effective ways to manage stress is by regulating your breathing. In the midst of your hectic, stressful day you may feel that everything is out of control. But your breathing is the ONE thing you can always control. No matter what.
Practice this technique:
Take a few minutes to practice deep breathing, inhaling through the nose for a count of 5 – 8 then exhale through the mouth for the same count. Try to feel the air fill your lungs all the way to your belly. You have to breathe anyway, you might as well make it intentional and work for you to reduce stress and improve your wellness.
Get Outside and Connect with Nature
Been a long, cold winter? The most immediate thing you can do to enhance your wellness is getting outdoors. It’s important to get connected to nature. Taking a walk and getting connected spiritually to who you are will provide resilience and a strength that can overcome life’s most difficult challenges.
Make it a point to spend at least some time outdoors daily walking, hiking, running, doing a strength workout, or even just sitting on your patio at home.
Warm Up with Dynamic Movements
Recent research demonstrates that dynamic, or movement-based, stretching prior to a training session is more effective for performance and injury prevention than static stretching. In one study conducted at the United States Military Academy, cadets who did a 10-minute dynamic stretching routine beforehand, compared to static stretching, saw more positive performance results. Appropriate dynamic movements to do in your warmup include leg swings, arm circles, dynamic toe touches, and high knees.
Include dynamic movement and stretching daily (or as often as possible) and always before your workouts.
Choose Exercises That Mimic Real Life
Focus on movements that have high carryover to everyday life and any other activities you participate in—for example, free-weight (barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells) and bodyweight variations of squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, and overhead presses, and strength and flexibility practices like yoga, can help you function more effectively in numerous areas. Functional movements are beneficial for sports including soccer, tennis, and basketball, and can even improve everyday life, like carrying groceries into the house or playing with your kids.
View Food in a Positive Light
At 614Fitness we loathe the word “diet”. We are constantly trying to take the value-laden adjectives out of our nutrition-speak. We try to get away from speaking about “bad” calories or “unhealthy” food. You should like the foods you’re eating. Food shouldn’t be judged as good or bad. What you eat depends on what goals you’re working toward—body composition, energy levels, performance, recovery, and so on. Food should be fun. It should work for you, not against you. Remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect diet. If you splurge on a meal, don’t obsess over it. Accept it for what it was—delicious!—and move on.
Take Notice of Your Surroundings
One of our gym members taught me an interesting technique. Sarah introduced me to the 20-20-20 rule.
Here’s how it works:
If you are engaged with a screen (like computer, tablet, phone), every 20 minutes you should try to look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds. This is the time to look around you and notice your surroundings. This spatial awareness helps us think outside ourselves and gives us a larger perspective.
The next time you feel you’ve spent too much time looking at a screen, step back and focus on a few minor details in the room, whether it be a piece of artwork on the wall or the look of your partner’s face.
Down-Regulate Before Bedtime
Time change can be a real downer for most of us, interrupting our sleep/wake patterns. This is a good time to reset your bedtime readiness habits. We all know that studies suggest 7-8 hours of sleep a night (on average). Proper rest and recovery are essential to proper fitness. If you’re not sleeping well, neither your muscles nor your brain is going to recover, and you’re definitely not going to make gains in the gym. Down-regulation in this context involves reducing brain activity, which you can achieve by staying off all electronic devices one or two hours before bedtime and doing relaxation techniques like meditation during this time.
Do Something Scary
Eleanor Roosevelt said,
“Do something that scares you every day”
Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is a critical aspect of fitness. Your muscles don’t grow and improve if you don’t push them. The same can be said for personal growth.
Doing something scary can:
- Open up new possibilities – when you embrace the unknown and take that step forward, you open yourself up to new opportunities for happiness and fulfillment. After all, the best way to avoid regretting the things you didn’t do is to actually do them.
- Help you become fearless – Instead of letting fear cripple you, make up your mind to try that new thing: apply for another job, start your own business, ask someone out, do stand-up at open mic night. Take a chance, because sometimes the best moments in life come from doing the things that scare us the most. True, you might stumble and fall, but your dreams and ambitions are worth trying for
- Help you grow – The only people who never fail are the ones who never try. Sticking to the safe and familiar only ensures you’ll continue to see the same results in your life. By stepping out of your comfort zone and facing your fears, you’ll get to places you’ve never been before. You’ll feel more confident, comfortable, and self-assured
- Create a new comfort zone – Every day is a new chance to move past your fears and achieve your goals. So everytime we do something scary, we start to live fearlessly and fewer things seem scary or out of reach.
Schedule a Late Evening Tea Time
One of our wonderful members at 614Fitness made this their 2023 New Year’s “One Thing” resolution. What a great one! Aside from using electronic devices, consuming alcohol, caffeine, and/or a large meal in the final hours before bedtime can negatively affect sleep quality. If you’re consistently doing one or more of these things, establish a new nightly routine by avoiding all of the above after a certain time (say, 8:00 pm) in favor of a cup of caffeine-free hot tea. Chamomile, magnolia, and nighttime varieties are all choices that can help you feel relaxed.
Create a Winning Environment
Achieving an advanced level of wellness can be influenced by your environment and the culture within it. If your current environment, including where and with whom you spend time, isn’t conducive to achieving your health and fitness goals, think about changing it. For example, join a new gym that has an inspiring community feel, or organize social meet-ups with people who share your goals and values. Yes, we are heavily influenced by our environment, but we also have the power to jump out of the frying pan (and hopefully not into the fire).
It might not always be easy, but try to avoid toxic influences in your world.
One easy step might be to go through your social media feed and eliminate those “friends” who’s posts distract you from the person you want to be.
I hope this gives you something to think about and work on to make this year your best one yet!