Let's Get Practical!
The 10 Basic Ingredients of a Wellness Plan
Whether you’re getting ready to jump into a brand new plan to get fit or you're plugging away at maintaining a current routine, a few basics—some material and some not—will keep you going.
Why? They move some of the most common obstacles out of your way. And without mountains to scale, the journey smooths out. If you’re just starting a plan, “stock up” on the following 10 basics. Currently a diehard? Use this as a checklist to troubleshoot bumps you might be repeatedly hitting.
1. Good Shoes
You can go cheap on tops, pants, socks, even sometimes dumbbells, but if you invest in anything, buy some decent shoes! How supported and comfy your feet are will impact your workout—and more importantly, your quality of life. Our feet literally serve as our base, and when they’re challenged, so is practically every joint stacked above them. Also, replace shoes every few months, depending on how much wear & tear they’ve sustained and how your feet & other joints feel when you work out. (When my plantar fasciitis kicks in, I know I’ve pushed my shoes too far.)
2. Solid Info
Many, many wellness plans fail because they’re founded on fads or outdated beliefs. Fresh & well founded fitness research appears on the scene constantly, but it doesn’t always show up in the media we consume or in the plans/products we purchase. If you’ve never strength trained or have no idea what constitutes a solid wellness plan, you might consider investing in a few sessions with a reputable personal trainer. And if you’re leaping into exercise for the first time ever, consult with your doctor first. They can flag any concerns you should heed.
3. Like-Minded Friends
Staying fit proves, for most people, difficult to do in isolation. Support is a top predictor of successfully sticking to a wellness plan. Self-doubt can tempt you to keep your goals quiet. The question that drives such silence is, “What will people think if I struggle or...FAIL?” Surprise! If they genuinely support you, they’ll admit they fail sometimes, too. Not only does support eradicate isolation, it keeps you from quitting. Invaluably, it also gives the two of you a chance to compare & troubleshoot obstacles. Finally, a supportive fitness partner creates accountability, which spawns some very beneficial pressure to keep chugging forward!
4. Achievable Goals
Don’t “eat the elephant” in one bite. Divvy it up into digestible servings and resist the urge to “gorge.” (Sufficiently grossed out by the metaphor? Okay, okay, I’m dropping it!) In other words, while they first excite us and might supercharge our first week or two, huge goals eventually overwhelm us. Basically, the novelty wears off, and “real life” (aka stress) gets in the way of progress. When you set a goal, make sure you can reasonably fit it into your life. Also, if you lace goals with guilt, for example, thinking you “should be able to” jog every day when the most you’d realistically tackle is three runs a week, you set yourself up to fail. Zero in on just 1-2 goals at a time. Otherwise, you’ll end up spinning too many plates (of elephant... sorry, couldn’t resist).
5. A Tracking Strategy
Even people who are simply trying to hold steady fitness-wise benefit by tracking physical activity, recording meals, designing food plans, estimating nightly sleep, etc. You may not need to measure ALL aspects of wellness, but if one always seems to present challenges or if you’re trying to make additional change in a particular area, then tracking is essential. If you skip this practice, then it’s hard to figure out why you’re not making progress. If you’re maintaining fitness, then tracking a more troublesome habit keeps you firm in your routine.
6. Proper Equipment & Conditions
Along with shoes, other sound fitness equipment not only enhances the quality of workouts but ensures your safety. For example, a flimsy weight bench can cause you to tip mid-rep, worn resistance bands can snap and cause real injury, and jumping on hard surfaces can stress joints and trigger pain. Also, exercising outdoors in slippery or super-cold conditions can plunge you into a fall or even hypothermia (if you're not properly dressed); hot conditions obviously also carry risks, but it’ll be a while before we have to worry about those again!
7. Some Kind of Food Plan
This might fall under the category of tracking but deserves special attention. When we’re busy, most of us toss meals together on the fly or, worse, skip some altogether. You don’t necessarily need a commercial plan, though. Simply taking some time during the week to plan meals (and snacks!) for the next takes a ton of stress out of your days. You rest easy, knowing you can grab a go-to breakfast, have packed a healthy lunch, and will end the day with a nutritious dinner planned (and possibly even already cooked). A little effort at the outset lets you go on autopilot meal-wise... a truly delicious feeling!
8. And a Stocked Pantry
What’s the point of a food plan if you skip the shopping? NONE. As tedious as it might be, making a list that corresponds to your plan and ordering or venturing into the store for must-get items makes your plan REAL. As soon as you start trying to make substitutions, etc, the process gets stressful again and might fall apart. Stock up instead! It also helps to have non-perishable ingredients on hand for healthy backup meals should you need to toss one together. I always have one of my favorite meals—Barilla Plus Protein angel hair pasta, olive oil, garlic, basil (picked & frozen from my summer pots), and frozen spinach—ready to be thrown together in a pinch.
9. Effective Reminders
How many times have you missed a workout because a project or some other distraction waylaid you? Or because the morning alarm blared, you slapped it, and rolled back into sleep? If you miss workouts, skip meals, or stay up way too late, set alarms of some kind to remind you of your plan—multiple ones if necessary or even phone calls from a willing buddy. If the alarms don’t spur you to action, set reminders that INSPIRE you to recall WHY you’re doing these things in the first place. Maybe your morning alarm includes the voice of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson telling you to get up and kick butt (because you got into this to be STRONG...but only do this if you enjoy being jarred from sleep!). Maybe you keep a photo of your kids on your desk labeled, “Do it for them.” Visual reminders really work well. Simply tacking the week’s meal plan onto the fridge can mean success.
10. A Decent Mattress
At the end of a busy day packed with healthy habits, don’t you want to drop into some luxurious sleep? Of all the habits, sleep is the most passive (albeit toughest for many), but it can feel like a battle when your body aches because of an old mattress or one mismatched to your needs. Sleephelp.org recommends replacing a mattress every 8 years. (This site also offers some other excellent mattress tips.) It could be the best wellness investment you make.
So, can you run down the list and say, “Check, check, check?” Then Godspeed, baby! May you be well, safe, supported & successful.