10 Ways to Be Happier and More Fit in Your 30s
As I near my 30’s I’ve noticed a shift that has taken place. I’m concerned less with being competitive (not that it’s a bad thing), I’m ok with taking a day off from the gym, and I’m more conscious of my diet. Simply put our bodies change and we need to do something about it. Preventative health will not only help you keep on muscle you built in your 20’s but it will help you improve things that start to decline in your 30’s and continue to decline like flexibility, coordination, balance, and aerobic capacity. I’ve put together my top 10 things I strive for on a daily basis that can help anyone on their journey towards a happier, healthier lifestyle.
1. Becoming Better- Not everyone has goals of running an obstacle race, marathon, or lifting a heavy weight. Having a goal to work towards is certainly helpful in sticking to a plan but I think it’s important to seek progress in anything on a daily basis. Find something you want to be better at and give it some thought on a daily basis. How will you get there and what will it take for you to be successful?
2. Having a Positive Experience With Movement- Working out doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in a gym next the guy who’s interested in growing his biceps. Finding a recreational activity or boutique studio class that allows you to connect with others can offer way more to your happiness and stress levels than misguided direction in a gym. Some things I’ve learned to like doing are passing frisbee, playing volleyball, and finding interesting objects to do handstands on. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but if you’re having fun, sometimes it doesn’t even feel like exercise.
3. Learning to Enjoy Eating Healthy- Growing up I couldn’t stomach brussel sprouts, mostly because they were thrown in the microwave without even a thought of adding some flavory goodness. Since then I’ve revisited them using recipes that include simple ingredients. Now I eat them once a week without making a yuck face. There are plenty of simple, delicious recipes out there that help you bridge the gap between eating healthy and resorting to Drinkers tacos. I usually try to find ones that require 5 ingredients or less because any more than that and the kitchen becomes a war zone. Check out this article from Greatist for simple recipe ideas.
4. Moving Outdoors- Being outdoors gives me a huge sense of relief and openness (when it’s 60 degrees or above). Being exposed to nature brings a sense of calmness and will even make you more eager to return to a future workout than being in the gym. It is a place to discover yourself and the landscape around you. Studies have shown that it enhances brain function, creativity, and happiness. Even the idea that something is good for us inherently helps our mood and our willingness to explore.
5. Surrounding Yourself With Like-Minded People- Quite often we become like the people we are around. Years ago I found myself hanging with a group of people who were unhappy with their jobs and constantly negative about most situations. So I changed it. Finding a support system that will help you grow and challenge you through all of your successes and failures will give you a stronger sense of your identity and better mental health. This may require you to leave behind someone in your circle who is a debbie downer but why let them drain your energy!
6. Listening to Music for Motivation- Pretty straight forward. Jam out to whatever you are in the mood for! There is nothing worse than walking into the place you workout and hearing silence or the same radio station that’s been on loop. Selecting your genre of music based on the mode of exercise or activity you are doing can give you a whole new experience and connection with movement. I enjoy listening to chillwave like Bonobo when I am stretching or working on a specific skill while Nas or Wu Tang Clan might be pushing me through a set of sprints or strength training. Find your sound and it will give you a better mind/body connection to fuel your workout.
7. Treating Yourself- I know the “eat that extra bit of ice cream because you worked out” behavior shift all too well and every once and awhile it’s ok. Especially if you are just starting out. Treating yourself to a smoothie or an episode of Game of Thrones is important. An extrinsic reward helps your motivation initially until your brain realizes that the real rewards are the endorphins that are released as a result of working out. Just don’t go eating a pint of “Half-Baked” Ben and Jerry’s every time. The end goal is that you’ll want to fuel your body with healthy foods to help you not only recover but prepare for your next workout.
8. Finding Your Fitness Motivation- I’m not talking about the next pretty face here. Comparing oneself to others is an emotionally dangerous trap that is not only time consuming but ineffective for personal growth. Finding people that share the same values and goals as you can be difficult and certainly takes time. Focus your energy on the best version of yourself and if you find someone on Instagram or Facebook who shares your same values and interests then seek them out. The great thing about the fitness community (models and chronic selfies aside) is that everyone is here to support each other. If you don’t find that in the space you workout in then I recommend relocating even if the convenience factor goes down.
9. Planning for Prevention- Your job requires more of your time in your 30’s and so does your family life. Your once 5 day/week fitness routine has dwindled down to two if you are lucky. While your responsibilities increase in your 30’s, your metabolism takes a hit. Stick to interval training that incorporates dynamic mobility to help you warm up and improve flexibility, moderate to heavy strength training to preserve muscle, and full body movements that challenge your coordination.
10. Avoiding Excess- I’ve recently read a book about how to declutter your home to influence a calm, motivated mindset called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Since going through a few moves recently, this was not only helpful in downsizing but it made me reflect on the people and possessions that matter most to me. What I’ve found is that excess destroys balance and joy in our lives (Even those excess Oreos that bring temporary happiness). Once you start to eliminate things that don’t bring you joy, you will instantly become happier, less stressed, and look forward to your life.