When the clock struck 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, millions of people made their resolutions — and it’s a safe bet many of them were related to getting fitter and healthier in 2014. Yet for all the good intentions, few — only about 8 percent — will be realized. Here, local health experts offer tips to help you be your best self this year in three important areas — building lean muscle, keeping your blood pressure in check and eating healthier. Those are the goals; here’s their advice.
Building muscle is a balancing act. Under-training (fewer than three to five sessions per week) won’t produce results, but overtraining can sabotage your hard-fought efforts all the same.
“The actual lifting is just part of the muscle-building process,” said Sandy Wiedmeyer, personal training coordinator at the RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie. “That down time when the muscle fibers are repairing themselves is when muscle is built.”
Generally, muscles require 48 hours of rest between workouts, but that time can vary based on a person’s training status and fitness goals. Equally important is knowing when to change the routine.
Said Wiedmeyer, “Once you stop seeing changes in your body, that means your body is adapting and you need to mix it up.”
The goal: Keeping your blood pressure in check
What the expert says: Manage your stress
When we experience stress, the body produces a surge of hormones that temporarily increase blood pressure. Although the jury is still out as to whether high stress levels cause high blood pressure, short-term spikes can lead to other poor health habits, like overeating, excessive alcohol consumption and lack of sleep that also may be linked to high blood pressure.
Over time, all those accumulated short-term spikes and bad habits can put you at risk for developing chronic hypertension, said Dr. Kaye-Eileen Willard, medical director for chronic disease management at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-All Saints in Racine.
“We don’t live in a low-stress culture. We all have too much to do and too little time,” she said. “Women especially, who are often caregivers, tend to be worried about everyone else and not their own self care.”
Having an outlet for stress — meditation, yoga, exercise, or journaling — can prevent those everyday stressors from building up to unhealthy and unmanageable levels.
Additionally, prioritizing daily “to-do” lists and identifying choices that enhance the overall quality of life also may curb unnecessary stressors.
“It’s about making choices and eliminating those things that contribute to that frantic, overwhelmed feeling,” Willard said.
The goal: Eating healthier
What the expert says: Change your eating mindset
There’s an old saying that goes, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”
“We in the United States tend to have that backwards,” said pharmacist and certified nutritionist Sunday Muniz.
She said we also tend to eat mostly for pleasure or “because something tastes good.”
Muniz, who co-owns Nutritional Designs and Pharmacy in Racine with husband Jody, believes changing the way we think about food is the first step toward adopting healthier eating habits.
“The biggest thing we have to understand is why we eat,” she said. “And we eat to fuel our bodies.”
Through a variety of free workshops and cooking classes offered at Nutritional Designs, Muniz and her team not only teach people about the building blocks of good nutrition (balancing proteins, fats and complex carbs), how to make healthy snacks at home (Muniz is a fan of homemade trail mix) and the importance of portion control (tip: use individual snack-sized plastic bags), they also teach healthy foods can be tasty foods.
“For example, oatmeal isn’t very high in protein. But throw in a handful of chopped walnuts or a tablespoon of nut butter and you add flavor and a nice boost of protein,” she suggested. “If you don’t know what to do with a new fruit or vegetable, try adding it to a smoothie.”
Muniz’s other trick: Eliminate food labels.
“No one is going to arrest you for not eating ‘breakfast foods’ for breakfast. So what if your breakfast is leftovers from the night before? Maybe you made an awesome chopped salad with chicken and beans, which are both great sources of protein,” she said. “If you make good food and make eating it convenient for you, you’re more likely to stick with it.”