I'm all about letting small, easy things pile up into huge health benefits. Going to the gym is awesome for your health, obviously (and I love it! I have my own squat rack!), but it can also be a challenge to find the time/motivation/[insert reason here] to do it regularly.
In my case, my chronic illness often gets in the way and sometimes I can barely take the dogs for a walk. This doesn't mean that I can't do good things for my body, though!
This is a list of twenty small and easy life hacks that will help you feel better, have more energy, and get closer to where you want to be on your fitness journey.
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1. Always have a bottle of water when you're driving
This is especially true during the Virginia summer (that seems to span from February to October), but even during the winter it's important to stay hydrated. Make it a habit to bring a bottle of water with you so you can sip during the drive.
2. Don't "waste" showers
I dye my hair purple, so I'm very careful with how often I wash it to make it last as long as possible. This actually worked out great for my health, because whenever I am going to take a shower I do 1-3 sets of this body weight workout routine so I don't "waste" it on a non-sweaty body. This is great because it only takes five minutes to do one set, and I bet you usually have five minutes to spare, right?
3. Use a massage roller while watching TV
Everyone knows how beneficial massages are, but the problem is usually that they are quite expensive or that you don't have anyone that you can trade massages with. (If you do, check out my tutorial for how to do a Swedish back massage!) Instead of paying $70 for an hour's massage, you can give yourself unlimited leg massages for just $10. I got one a year and a half ago and I'm telling you, rolling your calves, quads, and hamstrings is just amazing. Plus it gives you a reason to watch another episode of that show you're binge-watching! ;)
4. Make healthy banana ice cream
Guys, if you haven't tried to make your own banana ice cream, GO BUY BANANAS.
Peel them, wrap them in plastic wrap, and put them in the freezer for at least twelve hours. Chop a banana into chunks and mix it in a blender with 1 tsp - 1 tbsp cocoa powder. Done.
It is so good and super healthy! You can eat it for breakfast! You can also go fancy and add some almond milk for extra creaminess, honey for extra sweetness, coconut flakes as garnish. . . .
I actually love it so much that I got a Yonana machine -- my favorite is to mix bananas and frozen raspberries into a delicious sorbet. Excuse me while I go and create a new batch. . . .
5. Sip on hot water during the day
This is a tip I got from Maria Menounos's book The EveryGirl's Guide to Diet and Fitness (a book I really recommend; she has such a healthy, grounded approach to fitness!).
I've been doing this for a few months now, and it's made such a big difference for me! I'm not tempted to snack just out of boredom anymore since I'm continuously taking a sip, so my calorie intake has gone down, I'm staying hydrated, and I get up from my computer way more often than I would otherwise to refill my mug which really helps with my productivity and creativity.
Such a simple trick, with such a big pay-off.
6. Do squats and push-ups during lulls in the kitchen
Instead of checking your Instagram feed while the water is boiling or you're waiting to flip the chicken breasts, do some squats, counter push-ups, or lunges. If you do these enough during the day they add up to a whole workout!
7. Make popcorn your go-to instead of chips
Even when I ate an otherwise 100 percent Paleo diet, I never gave up popcorn. To me, this is the best snack there is -- if you do it right.
Buy a bag of popcorn kernels (they cost around $2 at Walmart). The healthiest way is to pop them using an air popper ($15-$30), but if you don't have one just pour a light layer of oil in a pot on the stove. Cover the bottom in a single layer of popcorn, put the lid on, and put it on medium heat. When it is 2-3 seconds between pops, take it off the heat and enjoy with some salt.
This is soo much healthier and low-calorie than what you buy in a bag, no matter how "guilt-free" they claim to be! Plus it is such a money saver -- a bag lasts forever.
8. Listen to motivating podcasts
Yet another thing you can do in the car or while cooking -- listen to podcasts that will motivate you to live a healthy lifestyle. It's also a great thing to do while lying down for a while, resting your eyes.
9. Get some houseplants
Along with reducing carbon dioxide levels, houseplants also increases your well-being and productivity. It's such an easy way to improve your surroundings and decrease stress levels (yes, they do that too!). And working with dirt satisfies a deep need for humans to be in nature, so that's another plus!
10. Read in the morning instead of checking your phone
Checking emails and social media first thing in the morning increases your stress levels. Spend the first ten minutes of your day cozied up in bed reading a book instead, or listen to a podcast!
Stretching is really important, especially if you have a desk job. Make sure you regularly stretch your neck to avoid headaches and your forearms to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
I also enjoy doing a full-body stretch when my chronic illness prevents me from working out, so I at least get to do something positive with my body. This is a very good guided ten-minute yoga stretch routine, and this is a great guided fifteen-minute beginner flexibility routine. Don't feel the need to do everything -- I picked my favorite stretches years ago that are good for me and my body and created my own routine. But it's good to try different things and see where you need to focus your energy.
12. Sleep with the windows open
This depends of course on the temperature outside. But the best room temperature for optimal sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees, so if it's cool outside -- open up your windows and embrace deeper, better sleep as a result of the fresh air.
13. Do breathing exercises at stop lights
While you're driving, do a breathing exercise when you're waiting at stop lights. This will help you deal with driving anxiety and to stay calm when people cut you off or seem incapable to use their blinkers. (I'm not the only one annoyed by this, right?)
Of course meditation is on this list. Just one minute of meditation gives you mental and physical benefits, and it's as easy as sitting on a chair doing nothing.
I have used the free app Calm for years and really recommend it. It has a tracker to give you an extra incentive to do it every day, along with timed and guided meditations to fit whatever you need that day.
15. Prepare fruit and veggie snacks
Often we reach for things because it's easy and you're too hungry to bother chopping or peeling. Prepare snacks to grab when you're heading out the door so you never have to make the choice between easy and healthy!
Some of my favorite snacks are cherry tomatoes, carrot and cucumber sticks, nuts, and fresh berries. Instead of wasting Ziploc bags on every snack, pack them in little jars or reusable snack bags. I have the BlenderBottle GoStak Twist n' Lock set and it's perfect for a day's worth of snacks.
16. Use smaller plates and bowls
You probably know this, but it blows my mind that you statistically eat 20 percent more if you have a big plate! This is definitely worth looking into, especially for dessert bowls.
17. Get a standing desk
This one can be a bit rough in the beginning (it was for me), but it's so worth it! At the time I was working in a call center, and the difference was amazing! I was more energetic and productive, I was happier, and of course my body felt so much better not sitting all scrunched up all day anymore (yes, I had terrible posture).
If you're used to a sedentary lifestyle it can definitely be worth it getting an adjustable desk so you can get used to it, and a standing desk mat can also be a good investment.
18. Don't keep junk in the house
If you don't keep junk food in the house, you need to actually drive to the store to get it. Chances are pretty high that you won't do that. So the only time you have to have self-control is when you do your grocery shopping! Just make sure that you have eaten before going so you don't feel tempted to buy things that aren't on your list.
You might have heard about the trick to smile when you're sad -- and it's true. Smiling releases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins into your bloodstream, so go look at some funny memes!
20. Wake up five minutes earlier
I always struggle with getting out the door in time. I have the best intentions, but there are so many last-minute things that pop up I have a sad habit of leaving five-ten minutes later than I intended to and I spend the whole drive super stressed about being late.
A solution to this can be to simply wake up five minutes earlier and so being ready to leave in time. If you don't have the same issues I do -- great! Use that time to listen to music, read, or simply breathe and enjoy lying in your comfy bed.
Hi, I'm Erika!
I know what it's like living with anxiety and depression, but living and living are very different things. I believe in practical tips and methods, and I will use them to help you be the brave, daring, darling individual you are.
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