Three weeks into the New Year and you’ve already wavered a bit on keeping up with your resolutions. Work has picked up, keeping you at the office late, and you’ve caught up with old friends over cocktails — plus, it’s football playoffs which means beer and wings galore. Studies show that only 46 percent of people who make resolutions end up sticking with them. But aren’t you tired of making excuses? Especially in January? We’ve made it simple to resume your healthy goals for the New Year. Just follow this step-by-step game plan to schedule your day — from when to exercise to the best time to nap — and get back on track.
Healthy Ways to Hit Reset
1. Take a Big Gulp
Make it a habit to drink a glass of water soon as you get up — even before your morning cup of coffee, says Nicole Boger, owner and head coach of Soul Sports Training in West Palm Beach, Florida. “You’ve spent the past six to 10 hours without water,” she says. “Your body’s been using that time to repair itself from everyday damage, but starting off the day even slightly dehydrated can make you feel sluggish.”
Continue sipping on water or a calorie-free sparkling water throughout the day; Boger suggests adding mint leaves or slices of lemon, lime, or watermelon to it for nutritious additional flavor. Unsweetened herbal iced teas, like hibiscus, are a healthy option, too.
2. Exercise in the A.M.
Trying to shed some pounds? Get sweaty as soon as you get out of bed. A pre-breakfast workout may help your body burn fat more efficiently, according to research published in the Journal of Physiology. Exercising in the morning can also help put you in a healthy mindset for the rest of the day. Strength training is another good way to start your day, especially if you’re planning to run later on: Lifting weight in the a.m. improved exercisers’ sprinting performance in the afternoon in a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
3. Have a High-Protein Breakfast
Studies have shown that bypassing a morning meal can lead to people eating more later and making less nutritious decisions. And those decisions can wreak havoc on your health: Forgoing breakfast led to a 27 percent higher risk of heart disease in research from Harvard University. Eating an early meal high in protein is a great choice, and not just because it keeps you full until lunch; a protein-packed breakfast can also help prevent cravings and encourage people to make healthy food choices for the rest of the day, according to a new study from the University of Missouri: Columbia.
4. Keep It Moving
By now, it’s fairly common knowledge how unhealthy sitting for prolonged periods can be: It leads to conditions like increased blood pressure and ups your risk of heart disease. Throughout the day, walk a lap or two around the office or get up and circle the block at lunch. To remind yourself to do so, set an alarm on your phone or watch to beep every hour; get moving every time you hear the buzz.
5. Make a Meal Plan
To avoid reaching toward the junk food cabinet or heading to the vending machine for a mid-day snack, instead, have meals and snacks prepped and on hand. “Spending an hour in the kitchen each Sunday — or another day that works best with your schedule — making lunches to go and portion-controlled snack bags will save you time during the week and make nutritious choices easier,” says Boger. She suggests packing them with veggies and hummus, nuts, lean meats, or hard boiled eggs.
6. Take a Cat Nap
When you feel that mid-afternoon energy slump, recharge your battery by squeezing in a brief snooze (if you can close your office door or sneak away from your desk during the week). A 10-minute nap in the afternoon is enough to improve alertness and cognitive ability, found in a study. While it might be hard to fall asleep quickly at first, with a little practice it will come easier and make all the difference.
7. Plan Tough Workouts After Work
Save your speed session for late afternoon or evening. Tunisian researchers found that soccer players improved their sprint performance when exercising at 5 p.m. rather than 7 a.m. Your muscles are more flexible and your lungs perform more efficiently later in the day, which can both help you power through tough intervals or sprint repeats. To ensure you have enough energy to power through a tough session, eat a snack of 125 to 250 calories an hour to 90 minutes beforehand, advises Boger. Then help your muscles repair themselves afterward with a snack or meal containing about a 3 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein.
8. Hit the Hay Early
Even if you already sleep for seven or eight hours a night, snoozing for longer could be beneficial. Getting more sleep than usual — as much as 10 hours a night — improved basketball players’ performance and lowered their levels of fatigue in research from Stanford University. Aim to get in bed five or 10 minutes earlier each night until you’re getting adequate Z’s — and prepare to wake up feeling fresh and ready to take on another healthy day.