When you hear the term “spring cleaning,” you might think of finally tackling that overflowing junk drawer, purging the pantry of anything past its prime or spending some quality time with the neglected baseboards. But the season of renewal doesn’t have to be limited to conquering clutter and fighting filth. It’s also an opportune time to refresh any daily routines, habits or choices that might not be benefiting your physical, mental or emotional wellness.
Not sure where to start? Here are just some of the ways you might be able to purge stressful or toxic elements from your life for a healthier, happier and more productive spring.
- Streamline your subscriptions. In our automated world, it’s easy for subscriptions to pile up, often without us even knowing about it. Unsubscribe from any emails, physical catalogs, digital content or anything else that you no longer find relevant, useful or enjoyable.
- Clean your social media house. Take some time to go through your friends or followers on your social media accounts, and remove, hide or unfollow any that seem to foster negativity or that don’t inform, entertain or inspire you.
- Check your attitude barometer. A few times a day, check in with yourself—perhaps first thing in the morning, at the mid-day mark and in the evening—and evaluate the attitude you are embracing. If it’s drifting toward negativity, make a conscious choice to shift to a more positive outlook.
- De-clutter your digital life. It might not be visible like physical dirt and debris, but clutter on your computer, smartphone or other devices can still weigh you down. Lighten your virtual load by purging and reorganizing your hard drive or cloud storage.
- Set a new fitness challenge. Even if exercise is already part of your daily life, it’s a good idea to shake up your routine now and then to force yourself out of your comfort zone. Maybe that means registering for a race, pushing for a longer distance or faster speed, or enrolling in a class you’ve been wanting to try.
- Do a good, old-fashioned closet purge. Get rid of anything you haven’t worn in the past year—including any clothes you’ve been clinging to for way too long in hopes that you’ll be able to wear them again. Keep only those items that are comfortable and flattering.
- Fix it or forget it. You know those broken items you've been hanging onto with the best of repair intentions? From flat bicycle tires to busted lamps to wobbly tables, phsyical disrepair can trigger feelings of stress and anxiety. Take steps to restore the items or release them from your life so you can start fresh.
- Find your inner zen. While it’s not possible to remove all sources of stress, healthy coping mechanisms can make it easier to manage. Try introducing meditation, mindfulness, yoga, stretching, relaxing bubble baths or whatever practice brings more calm and serenity to your life.
- Embrace a new hobby. Whatever it is you’ve been wanting to try—pottery-making, aerial yoga, poetry writing, bouquet-making—take the first step toward giving it a go. You just might discover a new passion in life, which can also serve as a major de-stressor and source of motivation.
- Do a diet analysis. What are you eating that fuels and nourishes you? Conversely, what poor choices are having no benefit (or detracting from your health)? It might be a good idea to consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist who can evaluate your food intake and recommend a varied meal plan with the right mix of nutrients.
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Peanut butter versus almond butter. Yoga versus Pilates. Treadmill versus trail running. There are many debates in the world of health and fitness, but the question I'm asked more than most others is this: aerobic exercises or strength training? When first meeting with clients it is not uncommon to hear that they either only do cardiovascular workouts or only do strength training, typically believing that one is superior to the other. There is often a fear to venture into the unknown or a simple belief that it is unnecessary, and in this time-crunched world, who can fit both in anyway?
At one point in my life, I thought similarly. I am a longtime runner and, I hate to admit it, but there were a few years when running was my only form of exercise. I thought my miles logged week after week were all I needed to maintain or improve health. Through education, personal experience and peer-reviewed articles, I have come to find the fault in my prior thinking. The main takeaway? Cardio should not rule all. Yes, it is necessary and offers numerous health benefits, but alone, it is not the complete answer to lifelong health
Perhaps you've been working out on your own for a while, but your results have stalled
and you no longer feel like your fitness level is improving. Or you've become totally bored with your current routine and need to shake things up with some fresh ideas. Maybe you're brand-new to exercise and could use some direction to get started safely. No matter your reason, hiring a personal trainer can give you the guidance and instruction you need to help you reach your fitness goals more efficiently. It can be a costly investment, so it's important to do your homework before you just jump in with the first trainer you find at the gym. The reason?Not all personal trainers are created equal.
There are thousands of trainers out there who are well-educated and well-intentioned. They have the knowledge and experience to create workout plans for a wide variety of clients. But because there are no state or federal regulations on the term "personal trainer," anyone can call themselves one and charge you lots of money for a workout that is either ineffective or, worst case, dangerous.
How do you know what to look for when choosing a trainer? Should you go with the trainer who approaches you at the gym, hoping to sell his or her services? They're friendly and seem to be in great shape, so should that be enough?
The first thing to consider is that not every trainer is certified and if they are, not all certifications are equal. Some involve months of studying and comprehensive exams, while others are just a weekend class online. Some of the most widely-recognized certifications, known for their rigorous training and continuing education requirements include:
If your potential trainer has a certification you've not heard of, check out the organization's website and ask the trainer for details about what they had to do to become certified.
How to Find a Qualified Trainer
- Utilize Online Resources. There are databases available to search for currently-certified trainers in your area based on your goals or their qualifications. Some sites also list the trainer's hourly rate so you have an idea of your investment going in. A few of those sites include:
- Visit Local Gyms. Whether you're currently a member of a gym or looking for one to join, most trainers practice in a gym setting. Ask to speak with the fitness director about your training options. Based on your goals and personality, they should be able to direct you to trainers that would be a good match. Don't be afraid to interview a few of them before committing. It's not always qualifications alone that lead to a good training relationship. If their training style or personality doesn't match yours, the relationship will not be as successful and your sessions will not be as enjoyable.
Try to observe the trainers in action on the fitness floor to get a feel for their style. Do you need a drill sergeant to get you going or would you appreciate a more mild-mannered approach? Do you want lots of structure or moderate guidance? Do you want someone who chats a lot or gets right down to business?
Also, ask to speak with current clients to learn more about the trainer than you might be able to gather by watching them for a few minutes. Be prepared with a few questions, such as "What do you like best about your trainer?" and "How have they been able to meet your needs effectively?"
- Talk to Friends and Family. Word of mouth is often the best way to find a good trainer. Even if no one close to you uses a personal trainer, tap into your contacts on social media to ask for their recommendations. Often you'll find someone who knows someone else who has a friend that uses a great trainer and can put you in contact with them. Quality personal trainers know that reputation is everything, so they work hard to make sure that when word spreads about them, it's positive.
I've Found a Good Candidate. What's Next?
Once you've identified someone whose personality and style seem to work well with yours, it's still important to check into their certifications and work history a little more extensively.
- Ask for details of their certifications and work experience. How long have they been certified and through which organization? What kinds of places have they trained individuals?
- Follow-up with the certifying agency to verify their credentials are current.
- Learn about the kinds of clients they have worked with in the past and decide if that experience is in line with your goals. Some trainers are more specialized than others in working with seniors, those who are severely overweight, those with specific medical conditions or those training for specific goals such as running a marathon or participating in strength competitions, for example. Before you meet with a trainer, reflect on what you want to get out of the experience. Are you there for a motivation boost, accountability, to learn more about strength training, to increase your endurance or something else? Knowing what you want will help you decide if their experience and your goals align.
- Request references. Even if you know someone who's trained with this person in the past, it's not a bad idea to ask for names of other clients you can contact. A variety of opinions and experiences can help you make the most informed decision possible.
- Inquire about liability insurance. Every trainer should have it, but not every trainer does. If you get hurt during a training session, the trainer's liability insurance can help cover your medical expenses. If they don't have it, you might end up paying for your own treatment.
While it might sound like a lot of effort to find the right personal trainer
, taking the time to do your research could end up saving a lot of time and aggravation in the long run. You want to make the best use of your money, so do your research up front to maximize the value you get from the experience.
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While happiness means different things to different people, it’s probably safe to say that we all want more of it in our lives. For some, joy seems to come more easily, either due to natural optimism, an intentionally positive mindset or just a stroke of good luck. For others who might struggle with health issues, depression or personal challenges, happiness might seem more elusive.
There’s no such thing as a perfect life, and everyone has their own struggles and setbacks. It’s not possible--or even healthy--to pretend everything is hunky-dory or try to block out all negativity. But pursuing more moments of happiness throughout the day can help you lead a healthier, more productive life.
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The foundation for a successful workout is laid well before breaking a sweat. Half the battle is the prep, which is why fitness experts recommend setting out all your clothes and gear ahead of time. You’re much more likely to make it to an early spin class if you have everything set out the night before, and trading happy hour for power hour is much easier when your gym bag is already packed and waiting for you in the car after work.
Dr. James Levine
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is known for saying, “Sitting is the new smoking.” While you've probably heard this before, know that it’s more than just a catchy buzzphrase—his words hold some truth. According to studies
, spending six hours or more per day in a seated position can increase the risk of diabetes, depression, obesity, high blood pressure and some types of cancer.
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