Spring, dear readers, is nature's way of saying that you can begin again.
If it's true for trees and tulips, it's true for you and your well-being, because we're all organisms on this earth, made of the same essential stuff, all wanting to get our sap rising, our energy flowing, our legs strong enough to walk the stairs without cursing our knees.
At Healthy U (where Slowing Down to Smell the Flowers is a required course) we remind all our students that spring is high season for growth and renewal. There's more light and more warmth — every body loves that — and there is that bright pistachio greening of the trees to inspire you. It's the ideal time to notice and celebrate your inborn ability to cultivate new interests, play new sports and try new ways of doing things (like actually cooking your own meals).
The birds are chirping. The buds are bursting. The fresh spring air you breathe — you are remembering to breathe, aren't you? — is alive with possibility.
SPRING INTO ACTION. Ask yourself: What seed do you want to plant on your personal path to a healthier, happier lifestyle? It's entirely up to you. I can toss out some ideas (for sure, I will), but the secret to making a positive change that lasts a lifetime is to choose something that is meaningful to you, not me.
Maybe you're tired of the bloating and burping and want to quit processed food and eat real food instead.
Maybe you know you've been getting too little sleep. So set two alarms: one for the time you'll go to bed, and one for waking up. And be sure there are at least seven hours (preferably eight) between them.
Or maybe you're fed up with the low back pain you've been having and you want to try a therapeutic yoga class designed to protect you and your spine by getting it stronger, longer and juicier, too.
Whatever you decide, here are three spring tune-up tips to guide your efforts:
SET YOUR GOAL. So what'll it be? Do you want to run a 5k by June? Bike 35 miles? Shave 10 strokes off your short game? Write down your one spring goal (or two, if you are an overachiever by nature) and be as detailed as possible: "I want to run a 5k on June 5, 2017, to honor my brother who died of leukemia." (I'm adding a sober note to catch your attention.)
Then set weekly goals that move you toward completing your three-month goal. Those weekly goals need to be detailed, too. Not: "I'm going to exercise more next week." Instead: "I'm going to take a 30-minute walk Monday, Tuesday and Friday, from 6:30 a.m. to 7 a.m., and ride my bike for one hour on Saturday." Life happens in between, of course, but have a clear plan.
Goal-setting is one of the best ways to change behavior. The No. 1 rule I've been taught is to set SMART goals: an acronym for "Specific; measurable; action-oriented; realistic; and time-lined."
SPRING CLEAN YOUR FITNESS GEAR. Now's the time to clean and store your winter sports gear and get out the stuff you need for spring and beyond. Don't dread it. Think of it as burning calories with a purpose. Clean and lubricate your bike. Check the grip and tension on your tennis racket. Make sure your athletic shoes are ready for action. If they're worn out — tread gone, cushioning shot, support-free — buy another pair, because ill-fitting shoes bring misery to your feet, ankles and knees. If you're lucky enough to be buying new gear, remember that cheap, shoddy stuff is no bargain. Buy the best quality you can afford, and check out secondhand stores and Craigslist-type sites for great buys.
SPRING CLEAN YOUR MENTAL GEAR. Reflect on your current attitude toward your personal well-being. Are you frustrated because you've made lots of attempts to exercise more and eat smarter, and never stuck with them? That's OK. Change isn't linear. It's often two steps forward, one step back. (Or is that the cha-cha?)
As the seasons shift, so can you. Shift yourself mentally, and know that you have the ability to spring forward in a whole new way, step by little step, starting today, a slow, steady and sensual movement toward the light.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! DOING OR NOT DOING, SPRING INSPIRES CHANGE
"Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself." — Matsuo Basho
Marilynn Preston — healthy lifestyle expert, well being coach and Emmy-winning producer — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to [email protected] She also produces EnExTV, a digital reincarnation of her award-winning TV series about sports, fitness and adventure, for kids of all ages, at youtube.com/EnExTV and facebook.com/EnExTV. To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.