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Diana Fulton, a regional director of personal training with the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, shares 11 tips for healthy living in spirit, mind and body. 

What does it mean to be “fit?” At the YMCA, this is the time of year when we hear, “I want to be fit” quite often. As we reflect and desire change, it’s important to think of fitness in terms of both mental and physical health. No matter what your goals are, it’s important to make sure they are attainable for you.

At the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, our mission is to provide programs that develop a healthy spirit, mind and body. We believe the mind, body and spirit are all connected, and working on each of these areas will help you attain not only physical goals but mental health goals as well.

As you consider your healthy living goals for the year, and possibly helping others reach their goals as well, here are a few tips to help in aligning spirit, mind and body in 2022.

Spirit

Be still. My favorite part of yoga class is Savasana, the final resting pose at the end of almost every yoga practice when you lay down and allow your mind and body to be still. Being still means exactly that. Stop moving and allow your mind and body to take a pause. Meditation has been shown to reduce anxiety by 60%, improve insomnia by 50% and lower blood pressure by 80%. This year, carve out a place in your busy day to be still.

Gratitude. Researchers have been looking at gratitude for years. Multiple studies have found that participants who practice gratitude journaling have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, higher levels of positive emotions, more joy and are more forgiving. By focusing on blessings, it blocks out toxic, negative emotions, like envy, resentment and regret – emotions that can destroy our happiness.

To get started, grab a piece of paper and start listing all of the things you are grateful for, like food, shelter, car, job, family, etc. Another great way to practice gratitude is to give back. If you’re looking for an opportunity to serve others in your community, read more about the YMCA’s Catalyst Initiative. Members are able to volunteer as we distribute food, organize blood drives, and so much more.

Give grace. Grace is courteous goodwill. I want to encourage you to give yourself grace in 2022. We have had a rough two years. We stopped good habits and started bad ones. This year I want to challenge you to do something brave. Be fearless. Fail at it. Give yourself grace and start again.

Mind

Failure is part of the process. We learn the most about ourselves and our resilience by failing. In order to win, we first have to accept that failure is part of the process. We believe this to be true in education, work, and other facets of our existence, but when it comes to fitness we see failure as a stopping place. This year, when you fail at your goal – miss a day at the gym, get off your eating plan during a vacation, or another hurdle – I challenge you to stand back up, brush off your fear and doubt, and start again.

Show up. If you were going to learn to play guitar or piano, you would show up for lessons. You would hire someone to help you learn the chords and sheet music and then practice what you are learning outside of your lessons. Fitness is the same. If you need accountability or have a goal but are not sure where to start, hire a personal trainer. Then show up to practice what you are learning outside of your sessions.

Set reachable and attainable goals to get started. One of the biggest mistakes we make in starting our New Year’s resolutions is that we go too BIG. This in of itself is not a bad thing, but it is not for everyone. Most of us need to find success and achievement by setting small and attainable goals.

For example, if your goal is to work out five days a week, start by working out two days a week for three weeks. Then three days a week. Work yourself up to your end goal of five days a week. It’s also easier to stick to your plan for the week when you find something you love. Enjoy it and allow yourself to feel successful in your journey to change.

Understand your emotional triggers for eating and drinking. Our success and failures land in this space. Taking a deep dive into our nutritional choices is a humbling one. It’s a space where we need to be completely honest with ourselves. Once we understand why we are making these choices, it’s easier to find an alternative option.

The biggest thing to remember here is not that you can’t have birthday cake with your kids or have pizza on family night. It is what we do 99% of the time that counts. If you are going into an environment that will trigger emotional eating or drinking, have a plan. If you fail the first time, that’s ok. Just keep trying to overcome your triggers and you will. For members who are not sure what the right nutritional choices are, the Y offers classes like Fit For Health or YMCA Diabetes Prevention programs. They help individuals and families learn how to eat, grocery shop, and prepare food in a way that is nutritious.

Body

Love your body! There are three basic body types but 15 subtypes. This means we are made to look unique. The first step in becoming your best “fit” is accepting your shape, whatever it is. We cannot change our DNA. Finding beauty in yourself starts the healing process of body shape dysmorphia. Think of your body as a blank slate. Now paint your story. Find the beauty in your differences from those around you.

Eat the rainbow. If I gave you an Aston Martin Vulcan you would put the best gasoline in it so it would run at its best. This is true for our bodies as well. What we feed our “machines” makes a difference in how we feel physically and mentally. When you plan your meals, try to pick fruits and vegetables that are in all shades of the rainbow. Each color has a unique vitamin or mineral to keep you in optimal health.

For example, beta carotene in carrots helps reduce the risk of cancer, Vitamin K in spinach or kale helps promote bone density, betalains in beets help reduce inflammation, and phytochemicals in foods like broccoli, berries and turnips help protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer. To help guide members on their healthy eating journey, the YMCA offers nutritional coaching.

Allow time for recovery. Recovery is key to feeling better and getting back to workouts faster. Muscle fibers are smooth like a piece of new rope. After workouts, our muscles look like a rope that has been worn. Though this is the normal process for building muscles, we often do not take time to help them recover fully before we work them out again. Recovery tools like foam rolling, stretching, percussion therapy, vibration therapy and massage help bring blood back to muscle fibers and help repair the myofascial tissue surrounding the muscle fibers.

Hydrate. Drink water, and lots of it. There is not a scientific number for how much water you should drink because it varies on so many different factors. The general recommendation is 84 ounces per day. Drinking water is scientifically proven to help you lose weight. It’s true – you eat less food in each meal, snack less between meals, and drinking water lubricates the intestines to help food move through the body.

Let 2022 be the year to find your “fit.” Whether that is being mindful, showing gratitude or starting a new exercise program, healthy living is attainable.

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Diana Fulton

Diana Fulton is a regional director of personal training with the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. She has a master’s in Exercise Physiology and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Diana is passionate about helping people reach their personal fitness goals. Her education and training enable her to use a wide variety of scientifically sound strength and fitness models to keep workouts interesting and challenging.

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