As we head into the final month of the year, it's easy to think you've lost the opportunity to make any major changes as you strive toward your fitness, health, or weight-loss goals. The temptation is to just get through party season and worry about things in January, when you can make resolutions for the new year and start "fresh". But we're not there yet. With over two months left in 2017, now is the perfect time to make small changes that could give you big results before 2018 even begins. Whether your goals are to increase stamina, drop pounds, or just feel better every day, here are five easy changes that'll give you a head start on your journey.
1. Wave Goodbye to a Vice or Habit
Identify a vice or habit that's not doing you any favors, and aim to kick it before the year is out. Party season might not be the easiest time to say "no", but if you can do it now, you can do it forever. You could choose to go big and quit smoking or drinking, or regularly having junk food, chocolate, sweets, or fizzy drinks (including diet ones). Or you could simply identify that one food or drink item that makes you lose your self-control, and strike it off the shopping list entirely.
Maybe you'd rather vow not to order takeaway for the rest of the year, or to stop buying premade meals and to cook from fresh instead? The habit doesn't have to be food- or drink-related, either. Maybe kicking your Instagram habit will do wonders for your mental health, or perhaps you're a night owl who needs to kick that one weird bedtime habit?
2. Make Positive Changes When It Comes to Activity
You know you should take the stairs, you know you should aim for 10,000 steps each day. But do you actually do it? Make a conscious decision from today to take every opportunity to move as much as you possibly can. Stop jumping in the car to go to the local shop when it would only take you 10 minutes to walk there. Resist the urge to choose the parking space right by the door and choose one further away that'll give you a few more steps. Ask for a standing desk if you work in an office, go for a walk at lunch, or watch TV while doing something useful; according to Calorie Lab, an hour of ironing burns about 80 more calories than an hour spent sat on the sofa. All these little things do add up!
3. Ditch the Weekend Lie-In
Sleeping in on the weekend might feel like a treat, but ultimately, it'll leave you feeling worse. It throws your sleep cycle out, and no doubt you'll wake up on Monday feeling even more exhausted than normal. Aside from keeping your circadian rhythm in check, there's another reason to stick to your weekday sleep schedule on weekends: it gives you more daylight hours to do stuff! Use those extra hours in the morning to exercise, prep healthy meals for the week, or spend time doing fun things with the people you love (because your mental health is just as important as your physical health).
4. Carve Out Time For Self-Care
In order to do well on your journey to health and fitness, you need to be in the right frame of mind — and self-care helps so much with this. It can be defined in many ways, but comes down to one thing: taking care of yourself and being kind to yourself. That means different things depending on your lifestyle. A good place to start is by finding an hour here or there to do something that feels good, like taking a long bath, going for a walk somewhere beautiful, or doing an at-home facial. Others use that time to meditate, write in a diary, read a book, or use an adult coloring book. Maybe you'd rather turn the music up loud, kick everyone out of the house, and have a private dance party in your bedroom!
Whatever you choose to do, set aside a minimum of one hour each week to do something that's 100 percent for you, that will hopefully make you feel positive, relaxed, uplifted, and happy. Once you're in this frame of mind, it'll be much easier to tackle all the other challenges.
5. Take on a Challenge That's Suited to Your Fitness Level
You'll be surprised how much you can improve fitness and stamina levels in just a month or two, but don't bite off more than you can chew. Set yourself a manageable fitness goal and begin today. That might just be challenging yourself to actually go to the gym two to three days a week. Perhaps you'd rather work out at home, in which case a 2-week video challenge could be perfect for you.
The important thing is to make sure you don't try and go from 0 to 100 in a day. If you don't know what a burpee is, that 50 burpees a day challenge might be out of your league right now. Start simple: most fitness plans and challenges (BBG, for example) have a beginners' version or introductory plan to get you on your feet if this is all brand new to you. Don't be scared to walk before you run!
Product Credit: Model on left: Nike top and leggings, APL sneakers. Model on right: PE Nation top and leggings, Adidas sneakers.