I am always surprised when at the end of July, back-to-school sales hit the stores and people actually buy fall clothes and school supplies in the middle of summer. As much as fall is really the best time of the year, I am still in a summer state of mind at that point, and not ready for back-to-school preparation.
Though, one of the best things about summer is one of the worst for our fitness. There is an unofficial break from everything routine when the last day of school releases kids to summer. People are traveling, camping, getting in the water somewhere and all that was routine gets put on hold. Routine is a good habit’s best friend, and getting fit means adopting some good habits such as exercising and meal planning and preparation.
As you begin looking at the calendar for back-to-school, and the weekly routine starts forming around the available time slots, this is the best time to reserve time for your workout. There is a difference between telling yourself you will get to one cardio class per week, and setting a recurring appointment on your calendar for Tuesday night at 6:30. Once it makes the calendar, if your spouse asks if Tuesday night is good for a Costco run, you will see that you already have a commitment. Without the appointment, Sunday will come and one more week of busy will go by without you coming any closer to your fitness goals, and likely sliding further away.
There are not only weekly timeslots, but daily timeslots to make use of as well. Adding a daily practice will typically succeed if added to the morning routine. An hour earlier on your alarm might be alarming, but a half hour earlier to rise might provide enough time for a yoga or pilates DVD or even a jog. The only way to make an add-on half hour work is to set out your workout gear the night before and have the DVD ready to hit play.
As with any new habit or most fitness activity, it can be a challenge at the start. If you hold fast when life starts trying to pull that time away, you will find it will get more engrained in your lifestyle and you will have more energy and a better mood when doing everything else.
Out of excitement or trepidation, as we approach fall many of us begin setting up our organization systems. One such system is meal planning – not only for dinner, but packed school and work lunches, quick breakfasts and snacks to go for after-school activities. This is a great time to add some tasty, lean meals to the rotation. Perhaps Friday night will continue to be pizza night, but this year it's thin crust and Canadian bacon instead of pepperoni. Perhaps breakfast will still be cereal, but its whole grain and low sugar, sweetened with vanilla almond milk. There are many online resources for lean meal ideas, and certainly my favorite resource is tuning in to Food Network, where I learned to prepare and cook good food.
A great habit to get into is setting a time to prepare food for the week. While Rachel Ray does all her washing and chopping when she gets it home from the store, for some of us, it’s all we can do to get the cold stuff put away, the kids down for a nap, and crash. In her book, Deceptively Delicious, Jessica Seinfeld uses Sunday night as her food prep night. Not a bad idea for a night that doesn’t often have ongoing commitments and precedes the start of the week. The key to diet success is making what you intend to eat convenient. The better prepared and ready to eat our intended foods are, the more likely we will grab them over a bag of chips or bowl of cereal.
With summer swimsuit and shorts season in its last weeks, what fitness goals are common as we approach fall? Many of us have a holiday party that will require a dress, and baggy is not always an option. Even if there is no party to dress-up for, perhaps we are preparing to indulge in pumpkin pie, Christmas cookies and bowl game eats in the coming months. Don’t forget that there are still outdoor activities to be fit for such as a Mud Bowl, Turkey Trot, or a crisp fall hike around Deep Lake. No matter how close we are to Crystal, you don’t want your first day on the slopes to be cut short because you can’t hang.
So, as some see the end of summer as the end of an active outdoor season and time to cover up and let go a little, there are so many reasons to renew your desire and intent to improve your fitness. Take advantage of the approaching season of routine to prioritize your fitness time slot and take advantage of sales and store trips to get some new workout gear. Set in motion the habits that will make this a fit fall.