Posted on Aug 23
Fitness Tips For Women In Their Twenties
By: Holly Perkins, New Balance Fitness Ambassador
How you can optimize your health in your twenties
Every stage of life brings unique opportunities, challenges and lessons. The decade after college for most women is monumentally important. These are the years when you navigate the exciting labyrinth of your career, social life, spiritual perspective, relationship needs, and overall worldview. These are the years when most women define themselves. These are also years filled with non stop busy-ness in respect to social and work life. Life moves fast in your twenties and its valuable to pause for a moment to assess a few things regarding your health and ensure that your actions are in line with your goals.
There are several things to consider when taking stock of your health, wellness and fitness during these years. "Health" is defined as a lack of disease. But who wants to simply be living disease-free? Most of us want to thrive, to live optimally, and to feel unrestricted in energy and life force. In your twenties, most women can achieve "health" quite naturally. But in order to really optimize your well-being, body and spirit, it is important to address a few areas of your life. Here are some key ways that you can take stock of your health and create real "wellness".
Diet Most experts now agree that it's possible to achieve moderate health by eating "right" and exercising. But to really move into optimal health, it is absolutely essential to be strategic and calculated in what you put into your body. Because of the biochemical intricacies of your body's machinery, you truly are what you eat.
Rule #1: There is no single diet system that is right for everyone. While it's critical to understand the interplay of the foods that you eat, it is even more important to find a diet system that works for your body. This is a great time to begin observing how your body reacts to different foods and diet systems. Some people will thrive on a vegan/plant-based diet, while others may become quite sick. A vegan diet is not ideal for every body. It is also possible that your energy, mental clarity and digestion improve by reducing or eliminating animal proteins. Many people will feel healthier on a gluten free diet while others may eat bagels to their hearts content. '
The only truth is that your body will run best when you find the diet structure that is right for you. For many women, it is in their twenties when food sensitivities and allergies begin to appear. Listen to your body and observe how you feel after eating different foods. Do you feel mentally foggy after a meal of pasta? Do you get restless and fidgety after eating yogurt for breakfast? Does your abdomen expand and bloat 1-2 hours after eating a particular meal? Are your afternoons rife with sugar cravings? Are you constantly hungry? These are all symptoms that your body isn't processing its fuel optimally.
Try out different diet systems like The Zone, gluten-free, Mediterranean, lacto ovo vegetarianism, veganism, or the Blood Type diet. With some trial and error you can find the ideal diet for you. When you find the foods that work well inside of your body, you will be free of energy slumps, moodiness and cravings. Food is fuel and should provide you with a sense of vital life force. This is the decade when most women start pregnancy planning. Even if you are planning for your first child in your thirties, now is a great time to correct any nutritional deficiencies so that you have a sound foundation for pregnancy.
Establish good eating habits now so that when it's time to consider getting pregnant, you've already laid the nutritional groundwork and your body will be nutritionally ready to support a healthy pregnancy. Some vitamin and mineral deficiencies take months to correct through nutritional strategies. You want to make sure that you are eating optimally now, so that you're ready for pregnancy at any time.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
How many servings of dark green vegetables do you eat each day? Nutritional powerhouses are spinach, kale, broccoli, collard greens, Swiss chard, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, and basil. Aim to eat 2 servings of fresh or gently cooked green vegetables every day.
How much alcohol do you drink on a weekly basis? Take a moment and honestly add up how many drinks you had on a typical week. Unfortunately, there is conflicting information regarding alcohol; some experts feel strongly that wine is a healthy option. Other research shows that alcohol – in any form- contributes to certain cancers. We do know for certain that alcohol is a hepatotoxin, a substance that is toxic to the liver. Most people will be optimally healthy when they choose to avoid alcohol completely. But doesn't alcohol contain antioxidants?
Probably. But kale has multiple times more antioxidants! While it's possible to be optimally healthy and enjoy an occasional glass of wine — alcohol does provide a few specific health benefits — now is the time to consider what you want for your body. If pregnancy is in your future, it is wise to be strategic in your use of alcohol.
Do you love sugar? If you answered by screaming "YES" at your computer, please read on. Sugar is a sneaky little devil. An interesting fact about nutrition: sugar is the only food substance that provides no benefit to your body. It is nutritionally empty yet full of addictive calories. Think about that. Even salt has a very vital role in your health. There are health benefits to caffeine, fat, protein, and even alcohol. Sugar is the one food source that does absolutely nothing for us. Your body needs carbohydrate for fuel, muscle and brain function, and there is a big difference between the carbohydrate in a sweet potato and the sugar that is in a breakfast bar. Research has shown that sugar is highly addictive to the brain causing your body to want more quantities of it. Now is a good time to reexamine your reliance on sugar. If you have regular sugar cravings, take action to reduce your intake. An optimally healthy body is one that is free of sugar cravings.
To reduce your sugar attachment, try this: -Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking. Include a combination of protein, fat and healthy carbohydrates. -Eat a meal or snack every 4-5 hours if you are inactive. If you exercise regularly, eat a meal or snack every 3.5-4 hours. Be sure that each meal or snack includes protein paired with a healthy carbohydrate. -Find a system of eating that prevents you from getting hungry. Eat preemptively so that your blood sugar stays stable.
Fitness Photo uploaded to Flickr by Rennett Stowe. Some rights reserved.
Now is a great time to actively decide what components of fitness you want for yourself. Do you want to feel strong? Are you interested in developing long, lean muscles? Would you prefer to be super-flexible and agile? Do you get excited at the idea of competing in a race? It's valuable to understand that there are many components to fitness including muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness. Running (cardiovascular fitness) is very different from cycling (cardiovascular and muscular endurance) and yoga (flexibility and muscular strength). Ask yourself what kind of "fit" you'd like to be and then build a fitness program around your goals. It's important to incorporate two or three different components to inspire optimal wellness. For example, if you love running you will feel even better if you incorporate some strength training into your fitness week. If you take a yoga class twice every week, try adding in some fitness walking or boot camp classes (muscular strength and endurance). You will feel best and be more fit if you ensure many different kinds of activities each week. You know you've designed a great program when you look forward to workouts, wake up in the morning feeling energetic and strong, and are free of aches and pains.
Here is a sample week for general fitness goals and wellness: Monday: Here is a sample week for general fitness goals and wellness Tuesday: Yoga Wednesday: Off Thursday: Strength training or group exercise class like boot camp or body sculpting Friday: Off Saturday: Long walk outdoors with a friend for 60 minutes Sunday: Off to rest and recharge
In contrast, here is a very different program that would focus in on muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness: Monday: Strength training for lower body Tuesday: 3-5 mile run Wednesday: Off Thursday: Strength training for upper body and core Friday: 3-5 mile run Saturday: Yoga Sunday: Off Health In addition to assessing your diet and fitness, take a look at the big picture regarding your overall health. Humans are designed to thrive and have the capacity to experience boundless energy. It is possible to skip and bounce through your day and greet the evening feeling fantastic. If you don't describe your days like this, let's troubleshoot. Ask yourself these questions:
Are you sleeping enough? Are you sleeping well? There is a great deal of emphasis on the number of hours you sleep, but what's more important is the quality of your sleep. You should wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to go. If you are waking up sluggish and chronically tired, it's time to troubleshoot.
Are you energetic all day long? There is a big difference between end-of-day fatigue and complete exhaustion. If you fall into bed exhausted every night, you may need to makes changes to your daily habits.
Photo uploaded to Flickr by Rennett Stowe. Some rights reserved.
Do you rely on caffeine to get you through the day? It's perfectly acceptable to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in the morning. It's a different situation when you need two or three cups to get you inspired for your day. Caffeine is addictive and therefore has the tendency to cause dependency. This means that you'll eventually need more to keep you stimulated throughout the day. Ideally, you will allow your body to find it's own energy supply.
How many meals per week do you cook for yourself? Home cooked meals are healthier, cleaner and less expensive. It may feel like a challenge if you are cooking for one, but experiment with recipes that allow leftovers. You will be more in control of your health and energy if you are in charge of your meals.
Is your menstrual cycle consistent? While every woman has an incredibly unique hormonal profile, it is possible to influence a balance. Stress, food, caffeine, cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength all contribute to your hormonal profile, and you do have some influence. Many women think that hormones are out of their control. The truth is you have a great amount of ability to balance your hormones.
A few key actions to take to balance hormones: -Limit caffeine -Reduce sugar intake -Strength train -Practice yoga twice per week -Ensure high quality deep sleep Mental With the excitement of life, unrelenting social engagements, and career passions, it's easy to be preoccupied and neglect messages that your body may be sending. These are the years to cultivate your ability to listen and hear what your body is saying. No doctor or expert knows your body better than you…if you listen. Your body is equipped with the most advanced system of intuition in order to protect you and ensure the survival of the species. You have an incredible ability to discern what works for your body and what limits you. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine said: "Sleep and watchfulness, both of them, when immoderate, constitute disease." Take the time to develop true mindfulness and you will be able to heal your body of many ailments, and support it's own path to health.
Things to pay attention to: -What makes you feel great? -Pause to reflect whenever you feel angry, irritable or down -Observe how you feel after spending time with different friends -Make a note whenever you feel deeply tired
Now is the time to start to examine the ways that you are unsupportive of yourself. Instead, learn to be self-supportive and nurture your body. Stop and take the time to really assess your life and the direction that you are going. Ask yourself: do you want to get married? Do you want children, and when? What is the long-range track of your occupation? Life happens fast and it's easy to be so busy that you never stop to make sure you're moving in the direction that you intend. Develop a mindfulness that is always operating in the background, navigating you on your path. You are laying the foundation of your career and life opportunities now. By choosing your direction, and therefore your opportunities, you will be more likely to feel fulfilled.
True wellness is the intersection of mind, body and spirit. There are many roads that lead to this intersection. Take the time now to inspect your vehicle, your body, and give it the attention that it needs. Take one or two small steps today in your twenties so that you can welcome your thirties with vibrant health.