We all know that the world of health & fitness is full of misinformation, deception, and straight up outlandish claims. Still, all the crash diets, cleanses, and secret fruits from exotic islands can muddy the water and lead even the most experienced astray. This makes it even harder to know where to start. Getting away from the basics will doom any workout regimen, so don’t start out on the wrong foot. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know how to get or stay healthy. Especially for beginners, it’s easy to make small changes here and there, in order to see big results.
Here are 5 small things you can do to maximize your workouts:
1. GET A FITNESS TRACKER
Nowadays we have so many electronics that distract us from doing real activities, so why not use one to our advantage. You may think a “stand up” reminder flashing on your wearable isn’t a big deal, but you’ll be surprised how many times that notification sneaks up on you throughout the day. It’s so easy to forget how long we’re sitting when our face is buried in your phone, TV, or VR.
Benefits Of Fitness Trackers For Beginners:
- Track steps, flights of stairs, and other activities. This allows people of all fitness levels to easily spot downtrends and other areas of opportunity.
- Heart rate & other biometric data. Another data-collecting feature that should be high on your list of needs, not only for you but also your doctor. This type of data is already being used to predict, track, and treat diabetes and other health issues.
- Sleep tracking. Sleep is the most important part of recovery from workouts. Wear your tracker to bed and you’ll start to receive suggestions on how to get more restful sleep.
- Easier access during activities. Start/stop/pause workouts and check activity status with a flick of the wrist, while your phone stays safely in your arm pouch or gym locker.
- Use activity data to compete in local or international challenges. Compete against your family or friends by creating custom challenges. Also, Fitbit, Samsung Health, and other fitness apps have global challenges that you and your groups can compete in individually. Many of them let you send motivating messages (or “smack talk”) to your group members. This can be the biggest difference in helping you stay motivated through the beginning, and more importantly through plateaus in your progress.
If you really want to be able to talk and text through your fitness tracker then your choices are limited. You should get an Apple Watch if you have iPhone, a Gear S Series watch if you have a Samsung, and so on. These traditional smartwatches from the phone-makers give you the best performance with calling, texting, and the hundreds of other apps available to download to improve your watch’s functionality.
No tracker is perfect for everybody, but whatever style you settle on, it should have these features:
Essential Features For An Ideal Tracker
- Heart Rate Monitor. Preferably one that can monitor automatically throughout the day so you can get a steady graph of data and better recommendations from apps like Cardiogram.
- Steps/Stokes/Reps. If you’re going to do some lap swimming, then make sure it tracks swim strokes and is pool ready. If you want to get into Triathlons or if you live by the Ocean and enjoy catching a wave or two, you should look into a fitness tracker that tracks open water swimming for better accuracy on swim and stroke data.
- GPS (Built-in). Nothing feels better than going out for a run with nothing but your Bluetooth headphones and your trusty smartwatch.
Wearable Styles With These 3 Features:
Dedicated to the complete wearable experience. These timepieces traditionally include features that allow you to call and text directly from the watch. Cellular smartwatch models allow for completely phone-free activities and adventures while staying completely connected.
- Best overall experience, if you want full integration with your phone including calling, texting, and other apps.
- More than adequate activity tracking. Especially for beginners. Not everyone needs the advanced running metrics that you get from traditional GPS running watches.
- Bluetooth connectivity for wireless headphones and other devices like chest-strap heart rate monitors for extra accuracy during heavy workouts.
- GPS built-in for phone-free activities or workouts.
- Storage space for phone-free music, via Bluetooth headphones or speakers connected directly to your watch.
- Cellular connectivity (in some models)
- Shortest battery-life. Depending on usage, most smartwatches will get you 1 day of use. There are many tips and tricks to turn things of so you might be able to stretch another day of use out of it, but what’s the point of having a smartwatch with all the bells and whistles if you’re just going to turn them all off.
- Bulky. People who don’t like large watches and/or have smaller wrist have a limited number of choices when picking a smartwatch. This is also one of the main things you need to think about if you’re getting the smartwatch for fitness purposes. Many of these smartwatch companies are making sport or fitness style smartwatches that address many of the issues people have when using traditional smartwatches to track activities. For instance, one thing we really like about the Apple Watch is the ability to go into the settings and flip the orientation of the face, so you can position the buttons on the left side when you wear the watch on your left wrist. This allows for complete range of motion in your left hand without the accidental pressing of the buttons during activities. Others like the Samsung Gear Sport, have control buttons that are at the 2 and 4 o’clock positions. This allows the frame at the 3 o’clock position to be the first point of contact when your bending your wrist.
Traditional Fitness Trackers
Dedicated to people who are mainly interested in just tracking basic activity and biometric data. These wearables main benefit is their battery life. Measured in weeks rather than hours, traditional fitness trackers normally last longer than a week on a single charge. This allows you to gather 24 hours of activity, sleep, and heart rate data for a better perspective of your overall health, than when just wearing one during the day.
- Less bulky. Many fitness trackers are small and can be modified with replacement bands to fit most styles.
- Long battery life. With most wearables having there own unique charging adapter or cradle, it’s nice to not have to charge it every night. This comes in handy for campers and hikers who spend days away from traditional power sources.
- Versatility. Easier to wear during activites.
- Durability. There’s usually no display to worry about damaging and most are swim ready.
- Little or no screen. Less information available on the watch so all the data must be viewed on a paired smartphone or computer. Smartwatches also rely on phone apps for support, access to settings, and other functions, but having the access to the data and controls directly on your wrist is one of the main reason people choose the other 2 styles over traditional fitness trackers.
- Not many additional apps to add functionality. A symptom of the same problem from above, most fitness tracker makers have started to develope smartwatch style models in hopes of staying relevant. They used to be the best way to track activity when smartwatches where just getting going and didn’t have all of the fitness abilities many of them do now.
GPS Running Watches
These style of trackers are nice because you get the best of both worlds, but not without sacrifices. Sure you won’t get the cell phone style displays like the traditional smartwatches, but most still have plenty of watchfaces and stat displays to choose from.
- Smartwatch-size displays to control workouts, music, view notifications, and more. Most GPS Running watches, like the Garmin Forerunner 935 shown here, have transflective displays. These displays don’t have the color and brightness of OLED and LCD displays, but the transflective display technology allows for easier viewing in sunlight and is also better on battery life.
- Longer battery life than traditional smartwatches with similar features. For instance, the Garmin Forerunner 935 has a battery life of 2 weeks in “Smartwatch” mode.
- Better GPS functionality. Do everything from mapping a hike to downloading your golf course map for information like green position and shot distance. The longer battery life should make this style the best choice if your planning on using the GPS for mapping hiking, biking, marathons, triathlons, or other long-distance activities.
- Better sensor functionality. You get advanced running metrics like Vertical Oscillation, VO2 Max, and Heart Rate Zones, to name a few. For beginners, heart rate zone and heart rate max are the most important to keep an eye on, but this style of tracker offers the best opportunity to grow with you if you want to advance to higher fitness levels.
- Durability. Built specifically for fitness and outdoor enthusiasts, they traditionally have a tougher chassis and a raised bezel to protect their display.
- Compatibility. Call, text, and notification features can be limited because of the third-party software. This is the biggest disadvantage these wearables face. Until one of the big cell phone makers comes out with a true running watch, we’re all stuck sacrificing either fitness features or smartwatch features.
- Poor App selection. The bigger running watch companies like Polar and Garmin have a nice selection of additional apps, but nothing near as expansive as Wear OS and iOS watches. One nice thing about that is your battery life is improved because it’s not bogged down by excessive app notifications.
There are other types of heart rate monitors like chest straps and earbuds. They can’t be worn all day and definitely can’t be worn to bed for sleep tracking, but don’t get us wrong, the chest strap heart rate monitors are the most accurate ways to measure while working out.
2. GET HIGH QUALITY PROTEIN
First of all, if you’re eating a proper diet, the average person should NEVER need protein powder. Protein powder is great for athletes trying to bulk up or dieters replacing a meal with a healthy fruit smoothie, but too much protein can be just bad as not enough protein. Here are just some of the side effects caused by consuming too much protein:
- Constipation. Drink plenty of water and also get plenty of fiber to keep everything “moving.”
- Kidney stones or other kidney damage. When you consume too much protein, you’re body will have a surplus of nitrogen. Your kidney is the main organ that has to work harder to flush the excess nitrogen from your blood.
- Weight gain. Simple. If you consume more protein than your body needs it turns it into energy, and if that energy isn’t spent, it’s turned into fat and stored for later. All those crunches are for nothing if your taking in extra protein.
- Heart disease. Get plenty of good fats like avocado, fish, and nuts (like hemp seeds) and you’ll have all the protein you need.
Also, with powders, you have to deal with fillers and additives that would otherwise be unneeded. It’s nice that they’re required to label whats in their products, but Labdoor’s analysis of 81 of the most popular protein powder products revealed some surprising results. You don’t have to agree with their ranking system, but their testing is top-notch. Some of the biggest names in the health industry have the worst label accuracy. This is the main reason why protein powder shouldn’t be used unless absolutely necessary.
One of the best ways to round out your protein intake is with nuts like hemp seed. Whatever diet or lifestyle you subscribe too, hemp seed can play a big role in your overall health.
Here are just a few of the evidence-based benefits of hemp seed:
- High in protein per serving. All 9 Essential Amino Acids; 15 in Total
- 3:1 Ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
- High fiber
- Contains valuable amounts of vitamins and minerals like Zinc, Magnesium, and Phosphorus.
3. GIVE YOURSELF A CHEAT DAY
The infamous “cheat day” is good practice for all levels of health and fitness, because it’s not about hitting the local buffet once a week and seeing how long it takes before they kick you out. It’s about taking a “step” back from where ever you’re at, in order to reward yourself for the diligence you’ve had to get to the point you’re at.
Once your cheat day is over this app will help you stay on track with your diet and a whole huge variety of other issues:
If you haven’t heard of Buycott, then give it a try by downloading the free app on your iPhone, Android, or Chrome Browser. This app is priceless because it all but eliminates the guessing when you’re trying to make the best choice at the grocery store. The simplest way to put it is that it’s a digital product labeling app.
All you have to do is scan the barcode of an item you’re thinking about purchasing and the app will show you if the product contains any unwanted ingredients. What foods and other products you end up eliminating are completely up to you. There are campaigns ranging from identifying products with dangerous ingredients to identifying companies who are human rights violators or environmentally unfriendly. Some of the campaigns are even more localized, so you never know what you might be missing in your own neighborhood.
The best part about the app is that it doesn’t leave you in the dark. When a product is identified as an offender by one of your chosen campaigns, it’ll usually show the best alternatives to the product you’re about to avoid. With so much junk food and “fake health food,” it’s hard to keep from cheating between cheat days. Buycott works especially well on those “fake health foods” (gourmet junk food) with deceptive labels, so scan away. You’ll find out a lot more than whats on the label.
4. DRINK WATER!!!
More like what not to drink. One of biggest offenders of sneaky calories are all the things we drink besides water. Spending so much time worrying about healthy eating choices we forget how big of an impact the fluids we consume can have on our overall health. One latte-a-day can reek havoc on your sugar levels, and make you feel like your running in place toward any weight loss goals.
We can go back and forth all day about which artificial sweeteners are harmful or not, but the simple fact is that they serve absolutely no nutritional value, so you have nothing to lose in avoiding them. In fact, in research published in July 2017 by the CMAJ Group shows that over a 10 year period, the average nonnutritive sweetener [artifictial; no nutritional value] user actually GAINED in the 3 categories that those sweeteners are marketed to help them lose in:
- Body Weight
- Waist Circumference
Here’s part of the official publication on their findings:
“Evidence from small RCTs with short follow-up (median 6 mo) suggests that consumption of nonnutritive sweeteners is NOT consistently associated with decreases in body weight, BMI or waist circumference. However, in larger prospective cohort studies with longer follow-up periods (median 10 yr), intake of nonnutritive sweeteners is significantly associated with modest long-term increases in each of these measures. Cohort studies further suggest that consumption of nonnutritive sweeteners is associated with higher risks of obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease events…”
5. WEAR HIGH QUALITY SHOES
Nothing is worse than getting shin splints or turning an ankle from wearing improper footwear. While many injuries can be prevented by proper stretching and technique, nothing you wear is more important to your health than your shoes.
Foot support not only effects your feet but also your overall body from your knees to your hips to your back.
“Believe it or not, your feet influence your organ health as well. The millions of touch receptors in your feet send messages to your brain. If they are not functioning at an optimal level, your brain will begin to overcompensate. This will ultimately affect the main structures of your body, including those that hold your organs in place.” – Arrowhead Clinic
While you might get a certain pair of workout shoes because they look cute, there’s nothing cute about laying up on the couch with ice bags on your chins and/or feet.
Our 2 general rules for proper fitness footwear are:
- Your workout shoes should be the most comfortable pair of shoes you own.
- Make sure they fit your activity. (For instance, don’t play basketball with running shoes and vice versa)
We’ll be the first to admit that these 5 objectives aren’t the only things you need to be aware of, but staying focused on a few simple things can help build good habits. Even though most of us aren’t world class athletes, maximizing our workouts AND diet will only help with any type of lifestyle you lead. Whether you have teammates or coworkers depending on you to show up and do your job, you’re best ability is always availability.