We're just a little over halfway through February. We know it's status quo to wake up January 1 (or depending on your hangover, January 2) guns blazing with a brand-new pair of sneakers, a fridge stocked with Technicolor food choices, and lofty wellness goals like daily meditation, eight hours of sleep, 10,000 steps, less drinking, more loving—you get the idea. But we also know (from firsthand experience) that sometimes those ambitious goals aren't necessarily realistic, and sometimes we might even feel so blah or off-kilter post-holiday, vacation, major life event, etc., we forgo a plan altogether.
If we've learned anything over the years, it's that different seasons of life often call for different seasons of wellness. And that's perfectly okay and normal. We shouldn't put pressure on ourselves to conform to the goals and wellness trends and achievements society often prescribes with pressure. Rather, we should assess how we're feeling emotionally and physically, and then determine if we're making lifestyle choices that are helping us to feel our best. Sometimes this may actually mean easing up on an aggressive fitness routine or too-strict diet, and other times it may mean amping up our commitment to our gym membership or the outer rim of our local grocer.
Personally, I came out of 2018 feeling like a foreign version of myself. I'd let my fitness routine slide, was a little erratic with my diet (although switching to a mostly plant-based diet toward the end of the year significantly helped my symptoms), and just felt blah overall. Of course, social media and specifically Instagram like to make us feel as if it's totally easy to snap back into a fitness routine, but realistically, it can feel anything but. I was lucky enough to already have a gym membership in place (Equinox, I love you) and ClassPass à la carte, so by putting in a little extra time to map out a plan each week, I've been able to get back into the habit of an almost-daily workout routine. And right now, that feels really good.
That said, there have been times in my life where the transition hasn't been as easy, and I frequently am asked for advice on what to do if someone doesn't have a gym, any previous experience working out regularly, or the resources commonly associated with cultivating a new workout routine. Since I'm in no way an expert, I thought I'd reach out to two of our favorite health and wellness gurus over here at The/Thirty, Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn from Tone It Up—a community of women (as their awesome website explains) that inspire and support one another to live a fit, happy, and healthy life. Ahead, read the duo's best tips and tricks for easing back into a fitness routine.
Tip 1: Join a Challenge
Whether you're jumping back into the swing of a regular fitness regimen or starting your relationship with fitness from scratch, accountability and motivation might just be your most strategic tools of success and consistency. Especially around this time of year (aka the beginning), many gyms, apps, meal delivery services, etc., have exciting incentives in place (and offer a feeling of community). Fact: It's so much easier to stick to something if you don't feel alone in the challenge!
"If you're just starting on your wellness journey (or picking it back up), now's the perfect time to commit to yourself and your goals," Scott encourages. "Our biggest tip would be to join a challenge for support and accountability! For instance, at Tone It Up, we're kicking off the second half of our Love Your Body series. We have four amazing weeks of sculpting and metabolism-boosting workouts in the Tone It Up fitness app, delicious superfood recipes, mindful meditations, and self-care to show your beautiful body love." (Psst! If this sounds intriguing, you can join, here!)
Tip 2: Strive for a Mix of Both Cardio and Strengthening
You've likely heard this before, and while it can depend on your specific goals and health status, a weekly exercise plan featuring a strategic balance of cardio and strength training is probably your best option regardless of your goals. For instance, if you're only doing cardio, you might stress out your adrenals and experience physical burnout, which doesn't bode well for actually sticking to your routine.
"We're asked all the time how to create a weekly exercise routine that's balanced and well-rounded, which is why we create weekly schedules for you in the Tone It Up fitness app!" explains Dawn. Essentially, the app is like having your own personal trainer to curate a personalized plan that'll work every part of your body over the course of your week, with a unique and strategic mix of workouts.
"When we're creating the weekly workout schedule in the Tone It Up app, we design a mix of cardio and strength-training workouts," Dawn continues. "This combo improves your overall fitness while boosting your metabolism, forming lean muscle, making you feel stronger and more powerful, and increasing your stamina and endurance!" And don't forget about recovery—Dawn reminds us that including rest days within your regimen is just as important as your actual workouts. These days allow your muscles to recover from the hard work you put into your exercise routines.
For strength training, Dawn and Scott recommend bodyweight exercise for beginners and then embellishing your workouts with simple accessories like dumbbells or resistance bands. For cardio, high-intensity interval training is a great way to improve your fitness level and rev your metabolism, in addition to going or a jog or bike ride. "For recovery days, that doesn't necessarily mean Netflix on the couch, though we all need that sometimes!" laughs Dawn. "A gentle yoga flow, foam rolling, or a casual stroll is a great way to get in some active recovery that helps the body rest and recharge. The key is to keep your effort level light."
Tip 3: Keep Balanced By Paying Attention to Different Parts of Your Body
"Your core (aka your abs!) are the foundation of every movement, and planks are an amazing way to wake up these important muscles," Scott tells us. "Think of planks as the top of a push-up. Maintain this position for as long as you can, aiming to work your way up to a 60-second hold. If holding a full plank is difficult, drop your knees to the ground for a modified plank— just make sure to tuck the pelvis slightly forward while keeping your hips down so your core is still working."
"Squats and lunges are great bodyweight exercises to practice if you're easing back into exercise," Katrina continues. "For a squat, keep feet hip-width apart, weight in the heels, and send your hips down and back. Then drive through the heels to stand back up. Keep your core engaged the whole time. For lunges, start standing with feet about hip-width apart, and step one foot back, bending both knees to 90 degrees. The back knee should hover just off the floor. Step back up to standing, and then repeat on the other side. Start with 10 reps and then work your way up to 20. If you're feeling good, add some weight by holding on to a pair of dumbbells at your sides."
"For your upper body, work on push-ups with knees on the mat to start, and aim for five to 10 reps," recommends Scott. Once you feel confident with that, you can take it up a notch. "Superwomen are also great for waking up the back of the body, which is especially important for those who sit at a desk most of the day," Scott warns. "Lying on your stomach, reach your arms and legs straight out. Lift your head, arms, chest, and legs off the floor; then pull your elbows back to your sides. Then straighten your arms back out and lower your entire body down to the floor. Start with five to 10 reps."
Tip 4: Mind Your Nutrition
Don't shoot the messenger, but no matter how amazing your exercise commitment is, if you're not minding your diet and nutrition, you won't reap the same level of benefits, and you might have trouble reaching your goals altogether. (Many fitness experts and nutritionists we've talked to over the years say what you're eating is more important than how you're working out.)
"Protein is KEY to complement a workout routine!" Scott reminds us. "We always recommend refueling with protein within 30 minutes of a workout. Protein will help your muscles recover, plus it helps form lean muscle and boosts your metabolism. We love a post-workout smoothie made with clean, gluten-free, non-GMO Tone It Up protein. To keep it balanced, make sure to complement your protein intake with a small serving of healthy, slow-burning carbs and essential healthy fats! And, of course, the less processed and sugar-laden your diet is, the better you'll likely feel, both emotionally and physically.
Adequate hydration is also important, with both Dawn and Scott reminding us that keeping up with your water intake during the day and throughout a workout keeps energy levels up, metabolism revved, and skin supremely radiant. The duo suggests drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day and to keep a water bottle by your side at all times as a physical reminder!
Tip 5: Anticipate (and Plan For) Obstacles
Because yes, obstacles (which easily bend into excuses—been there) will happen. But as always, Scott and Dawn have a solve for you and your busy schedule with the intention of keeping you on track. "The biggest 'obstacle' is that we're all busy— between work, school, family, and other commitments, it can seem tough to squeeze in a workout some days," Dawn openly admits. That being said, and with a bit of planning, you can still make your commitment to fitness a constant. Their expert suggestion? Plan your workouts and schedule them like you would a work meeting or a date with a friend or S.O. (Who'd want to skip that?!)
"Every Sunday, we schedule all our classes for the week using the app," Dawn tells us. "You can also invite friends to join you in class to help hold you accountable! We also like to schedule our workouts in the morning whenever possible so we get a good sweat sesh in before the day gets busy. But do what works best for you, whether that's working out first thing, on your lunch break, in the evening, or during nap time for your kids." The key? Remembering that your routine can be flexible. So if you happen to miss that morning spin class, it's not a black-and-white, do-or-die situation. Tell yourself you'll get some movement in later! However it will best fit inside your lifestyle. And hey—push-ups, crunches, planks, squats, and lunges over The Bachelor's commercial breaks 100% count.