Whether you’re working hard or playing hard, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You can make all the New Year’s Resolutions you like, but come spring, you’ll have found at least one excuse to let things slide.
But we’re not going to let you do that. We’re going to look at ways you can look after your wellbeing, whether you’re working 10 or 12 hour days or travelling the world.
And as it turns out, the tips are largely similar, which makes sense if you think about it. After all, they both take up a large amount of time, which disrupts your exercise routine and limits your access to healthy food. They can also distract you - whether through stress or excitement - and get you out of your good habits.
Here’s how to make sure you work those good habits into whatever routine you find yourself in.
Work out at weird times
It’s easy to let exercise fall onto the back burner, but if you don’t make it a priority, you won’t get the good effects, like improved digestion, mood and mobility. So start by sneaking in some workout time whenever you can.
Join a gym with extended hours or go for a run at the crack of dawn, do whatever you need to do to get your sweat on, whenever you can. Remember, though, that first thing is better than last thing. You’ll have more energy, and you’ll be less likely to skip the exercise and fall into bed. Plus, exercising right before bed can seriously disrupt sleep patterns.
Work smarter, not longer
The amazing thing about scientific research into human health is that it can help us identify exactly what our bodies need. In exercise terms, that means we now know how to work our bodies better, more efficiently. That means more effective workouts in less time. Try one of these methods:
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - This method involves bursts of high intensity activity, with short periods of rest in between the intervals of hard work. It burns tonnes of fat, and it keeps burning calories 24 hours after you worked out. It can be effective in as little as 10 minutes, three times a week, and you don’t need any equipment, so you can do it any time.
- Strength training - We all know that stronger muscles burn more fat and that strong muscles burn more calories even doing simple tasks like walking to the corner shops. So it makes sense that strength training provides a truly efficient workout. Plus, if you use your own body weight as the resistance, you won’t have to lug around any extra equipment.
- Metabolic training - This is sort of a best-of-both-worlds between HIIT and strength training. It uses the high-intensity intervals of HIIT, with the use of weights like you’d find in a strength training routine. You’ll get breathless and sweaty very fast with a metabolic training routine.
Walk the walk
If for whatever reason you don’t feel like getting into your gym clothes and doing press-ups in the middle of the office or airport, think about how you can incorporate more walking into your day. If you’re travelling, that’s easy. Just opt for a hike around the city or the countryside. You’ll really get to know the area you’re in, and you’ll spot things you’d otherwise zoom past in a vehicle.
If you’re at work, this might take a little more effort, but it is worth it. Try getting your employer to adopt walking meetings, where you have small, quick meetings as you walk around the building. Not only will this give your meetings more West Wing-style gravitas, it can also boost creativity. If you work from home, pop a treadmill by your desk, so you can hop onto it during conference calls.
Break it up
Yes, you’re supposed to get about 30 minutes of moderate activity in every day, but no one ever said it had to be all at once. If you have a routine you love, just break it up into manageable pieces that you can easily slip into during the day. You might not get the same amount of benefit as doing it all at once, but at least you’ll be getting some exercise. And let’s face it, grocery shopping isn’t the only time that every little helps.
Re-categorise your exercise time
If you’ve been thinking about exercise time as its own distinct time, you need to think again. While your body is busy running or lifting weights or doing lunges, your ears are just sitting there. Download some podcasts and get listening. (The Virgin Podcast is especially brilliant – Ed.) You’ll get news, analysis, stories, plays and more, from some of the most creative minds of our time. And most of them are cheap or free.
If you’d like more of a professional angle to your exercise time, download professional podcasts or webinars. That way, you can improve your skillset while you do another rep set.
Also, see if your company has any sports teams, and if it doesn’t, start one. Upper management usually love joining in these activities, and they are an easy way to combine some serious networking with your evening or weekend exercise. Plus, it builds bonds between management and employees, which is always a bonus.
Rethink your life(style)
We all know that exercise is just one part of the battle. Here’s simple ways you can make sure you’re eating right and staying healthy, even when your schedule is going haywire.
Drink your water
Staying hydrated is probably the simplest way to make sure you feel great. You know you should, so get up and get some water. Now. Go.
Take all the free bottles of water the flight crew offer you. Take a minute to fill up your bottle at the water cooler. Cut it with juice if straight water’s not your thing - and then slowly reduce the amount of juice you add until you get used to water. Just get yourself hydrated.
Plan to avoid the junk
If your New Year’s Resolution was to get healthy, you already know about this. But when you get busy or when you are stuck in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, it’s easy to grab a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar just to get you through the next hour.
But we all know that eating junk food is counterproductive, so try to be prepared. Make healthy meals or snacks to take along with you. Try cooking up large batches of soups, stews and other foods to take in for lunch. Grab some steam-in-bag veggies if you need to get more of your five-a-day in. If you are going to prepare healthy snacks, package them in snack-sized portions, so you’re not tempted to overeat (looking at you, tin of almonds).
When travelling, get the freshest possible food. If you’re in a country where you’re not sure about the safety of food, do some research. You might not be able to drink the tap water, but you’ll be able to find some scrummy fruits and vegetables. You might even discover foods you didn’t know existed!
Limit your caffeine intake
Caffeine, whether in tea or coffee form, is so lovely. It gently brings you to life first thing in the morning, and when times get stressful, it’s like a little hug and a kind whisper in the ear. But if you have more than 400g (or about 4 cups of instant coffee), you can start suffering from symptoms like increased blood pressure and heart rate.
If you do want to keep that little pick-me-up in your life, just choose sensible options. Limit the amount you drink over the course of a day. Understand that things like chocolate and decaf coffee have some caffeine. And whatever you do, don’t get those giant sugary drinks served by the high street cafes. You’re almost better off just pouring a bag of sugar right down your throat.
Get those ZZZs
The benefits of sleep are many and varied. But if your main goal is staying healthy, sleep is a vital part of your plan. People who get more sleep tend to live longer, have a healthier weight, have lower stress levels and are less likely to have depression. In short, people who are well-rested find it easier to function during the day, and they find it easier to meet the physical goals they set for themselves. After all, they have the energy to do it.
Get a buddy to join you in your healthy goals
Everything in life is easier when you’ve got someone to support you. Get a healthy travel or work buddy, so you’re not the lone voice calling for tom yum when everyone else wants meat-tastic pizza. You’ll also have someone to go on walks with, swap healthy recipes with, encourage and be encouraged by. Sometimes, turning your healthy lifestyle changes into social ones is the best way to make sure they stick, no matter what else is going on.
Give yourself a break
Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up every time you slip up. It’s okay to occasionally have a chocolate bar or pizza, and you should allow yourself to enjoy them as rare treats. After all, there’s no point in looking after your body at the expense of your mental wellbeing.
With that, you should have some great ideas on how to look after your wellbeing, whether you’re working late into the night or going on some great adventure. Some of the ideas are big and some are small, but they all will do their part in ensuring you stay healthy, no matter what.