How to start a fitness routine

We’ve all been at that stage in life where things other than ourselves have taken precedence. It is typical in certain stages of life such as exams, work pressure, moving to a different city or country, caring for an ill family member, becoming a parent and coping with day to day responsibilities that come with being an adult.

The reason why fitness or health gets missed out from the above list is that many of us simply don’t give ourselves the same importance that we give to our family and careers. It isn’t something that our parents put on the priority list for us, therefore, a lot of us give it a miss.

The only time many people get back to fitness is when they start facing health issues – especially in their late 20s to mid 30s. Problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes, PCOS, joint and back problems are issues that are increasingly being faced by this age group.

Also, traditionally, most of us think of healthcare as something to be done ‘reactively’. This is purely my opinion, but I feel that one of key reasons for this can be traced to our need for ‘bravado’ in not displaying ‘weakness’. Therefore unless we are screaming in pain or fainting, many of us do not utter a word about the discomfort we are facing.

This points to our culture that views self-care as vain and self-involved vis-a-vis the coveted qualities of living for others. While on the surface, a lot may seem to be changing in terms of values and coveted qualities, we must be aware of our intrinsic behaviour that creeps up in the most subconscious ways (i.e. the need to put others and everything else ahead of self-care).

Now why am I rambling on upon a behavioural trait rather than just getting on with the tips?! The reason is simple, it all starts in the mind. If we are aware of our weak areas, it helps us overcome those faster.

So now that i’ve set the tone, here are the tips on how to start a fitness routine:

  1. Get enough sleep – many people with busy jobs and hectic schedules get anywhere from 5-7 hours of sleep. A constant lack of sleep and also a bad to low quality sleep (caused by breathing problems such as snoring/sleep apnea), noisy or extremely bright surroundings can lead to poor concentration and also lead to weight gain. Also, poor sleep can lead you to crave more sugar and carbohydrates which also leads to weight gain. So fix all of your sleep issues and focus on improved sleep quality. Aim to get atleast 8 hours of your zzzs today.
  2. Wake up early – sleep earlier. Shift your sleep patterns slightly by going to bed 15 minutes early and waking up 15 minutes earlier. It should be gradual so it doesn’t shock your system and make you feel sleepy during the day. Waking up early gives you the time to start afresh and build your daily healthy routine.
  3. Drink more water – many of us working desk jobs or sitting long hours don’t feel thirsty. Therefore, typically such a person consumes 1-2.5 litres of water a day which puts your body in a state of dehydration. Dehydration makes your body retain more water and makes you look more plump. Drinking more water will regulate your digestion and will take care of the water retention issue. You can infuse water with cucumber pieces, mint leaves or slices of lemon for flavour.
  4. Remove sugar from your diet completely. This tip is a difficult one for many to follow especially since sugar is so intrinsically a part of our diet, it is added to all sorts of savoury foods too such as Ketchup and store bought dhokla (spongy rice cakes) for example. Read labels carefully and avoid sugar as much as possible. The reason for eliminating sugar from the diet is simple, our bodies don’t really need it. Most of the food that we consume gets converted to sugar. So when we consume sugar in its purest form i.e. glucose, it gets readily absorbed by our bloodstream, causing a spike in the blood sugar levels. A sudden spike is followed by a sudden crash in blood sugar levels leading to tiredness and more sugar cravings – which then starts off a vicious cycle in our systems. Start by eating natural sugars in low quantity such as half a teaspoon or organic honey or a small piece of gur (unprocessed sugar lump) – but work towards eliminating sugar from your diet in the long run. The idea is to find alternatives to processed sugar and to re-set your taste buds to enjoy the natural flavours of foods again.
  5. Limit your fruit intake to 2 fruits a day – most fruits today are injected with sweeteners and artificial dyes to make them look more appealing. Fruits used to be nutritionally dense and less sweet a century ago and therefore they were considered to be healthy. However, do not delude yourself into thinking that a ‘fruit diet’ consisting of mangoes and watermelons and apples will help you reduce weight. It will make you feel hungrier and less satiated as the day passes on. Exercise restraint when reaching for that piece of fruit. If this sounds extreme right now, then take smaller steps. Move from refined processed sugar to natural sugars first. Baby steps.
  6. Finally, exercise! If you’re someone who hasn’t worked out in a long time, then starting off with 30-minute outdoor walks or gentle yoga 3 times a week should be sufficient for the first 1 month. Once you start enjoying the routine and following it, you should then plan on joining classes of some sort that appeal to you. The idea is to never get bored and not have a plan. Each month you should aim to increase your activity level and be able to feel notable improvement in your stamina and overall health. You can expect results once your activity levels are high – we’re talking MMA or Crossfit levels here. Till then, you should focus on joint mobility and establishing a routine – which is the most fundamental and the most difficult thing for anyone to follow – no matter how advanced they may be.
  7. Incorporate rituals that help you stick to your routine. By rituals I mean little things that make you happy and look forward to your healthy routine. Such as spending 5 minutes before the start of your day affirming positive thoughts that get you feeling good, or getting a new pair of sneakers or a t-shirt that makes you excited about waking up early to go for a walk. A warm, fragrant cup of coffee or tea that gets you upbeat or a new playlist that inspires you to get out of bed. Find your ritual.

I hope these tips were helpful and that they get you going! Do let me know in the comments if you’d like me to focus on anything specific. Cheers!

Trek Essentials – What to Pack

Essentials to pack for an overnight trek by someone who simply cannot travel light!

Last week I went on my first ever ‘real’ trek to Triund – Himachal Pradesh. It was a good experience, fun but tiring with a total trek distance of 19 km (give or take). We also camped overnight and I wanted to share my experience from the perspective of what to pack and what things can be avoided. Hope this is useful to first time trekkers!

  1. Shoes – The right shoes are critical for your hike/trek. I learnt from experience during a downhill hike using regular sports shoes where it was all damp as to how slippery and dangerous it can good. Therefore you must select a good pair of shoes with the right tread that will give you a good grip. Additionally the upper material of the shoes must be waterproof. A lot of shoes at Decathlon came with ankle support – something that looked restrictive and uncomfortable. However many people told me that it will ensure that your ankle doesn’t twist in case you slip. I however, opted for Redmond Hiking Shoes from Columbia. These were really good and I didn’t have any issues with them until the 10th of the trek when they started chafing slightly during a difficult downhill section of the trek.
  2. Good quality backpack – you will need to shell out for a decent bag that won’t break and end up being a liability. You get good options in different sizes at your nearest decathlon. You can also try Amazon for some decent trekking bags – mine in the picture is from a generic brand on Amazon and I was quite happy with it. It didn’t have a lot of separators but it is really roomy and has a lot of pockets outside for easy access. You should select the size of the bag basis the amount of things you’ll need to pack.
  3. Retractable walking stick – if you’re young and reasonably fit – this may seem like something for the elderly (no disrespect) – you don’t have to purchase it. However, in my opinion it was a lifesaver! It helped me navigate stony steep steps with ease. It was equally useful for uphill and downhill descent – wherein many a times you might feel like you could lose your balance and slip! I picked up mine at decathlon for INR 899 which is their mid-range. Make sure when purchasing the stick that you get the right ‘tip’ attachments along with it. There are separate ones for snow and for rocky/dry terrain. Ask the staff.
  4. Waterproof jacket with mesh lining – depending on the season you trek in, you could go heavier or lighter on the jacket for added warmth. Ofcourse it gets warm since you are sweating throughout the trek – however if it rains, then combined with the sweat it can get chilly fast. Get a good moisture wicking, rainproof material with a hoodie. It can temporarily double up as a raincoat for light/brief showers.
  5. Moisture wicking clothing – top and trousers. Ensure that the fabric of your clothing is fast drying for the reason mentioned above – sweat coupled with cold weather is not a good thing. Having an additional change of clothes for an overnight stay is important. As soon as you reach your campsite, it is a good idea to change clothes right away to prevent yourself from freezing in the evening and falling ill.
  6. Essentials: The usual suspects – you’ll need high SPF Sunscreen which is not too oily. I would recommend Neutrogena Ultrasheer Dry Touch Sunblock. Hand sanitizer, soap strips, lip balm (lips can get chapped fast and hurt), small bottle of moisturiser, toothpaste & toothbrush, tissues wet & dry. Since the weight of these items can add up quickly – it would be a good idea to pool these items with your fellow trekkers and share at the campsite.
  7. Pain relievers – apart from your first aid kid, you might want to carry to pain reliving oils, volini gel and pain relief patches such as Nu Patch which comes in packs of 2 and 4 which I found quite helpful when resting overnight as it relieved all aches and pains and I was fresh for the next day’s trek with minimal discomfort.
  8. Sunglasses with UV-A & UV-B protection. Make sure you carry a light and comfortable pair – even your eyes can suffer from excess sun.
  9. Cap is a must to shield the face from sun damage even though I did get a massive tan inspite of taking all of the above precautions!
  10. Power bank, USB port plugs (in case your power bank runs out). If you’re a phone/instagram addict like me, you will need these things to stay connected to civilisation. Network connectivity throughout the trek was pretty decent and I was able to post pictures and videos on instagram on the 3G network.

I think this concludes my list! If i think of more things I will add on here. In case you’d like to see pictures of my trek and generally see what i’m up to, follow me on instagram: @prit_fitstyle Please share your thoughts in the comments!