30 Days to a New You
Jumpstart your health and fitness goals in the New Year with these month-long challenges.
For a New Years fitness resolution that will last, the approach you choose needs to meet your goals from the start. Do you want to be healthier? Lose weight? Look better naked? There are no shortcuts or loopholes to getting results. The key is to choose a workout and diet that you enjoy enough to commit to for at least three weeks, which experts say is the bare minimum for making or breaking a habit. These 30-day fitness challenges will help you do just thatand with any luck, lead not only to a body change, but a lifestyle change, too.
See this article in its full glory in the print edition of ALIVE, January 2013.
BACK TO BASICS: TONE-UP
Improving your body composition sounds complicated, but the key is getting into a rhythm of cardio, flexibility, endurance and weight training. Beginners need to show up regularly and stick with the programfrom the rough initial stages all the way through to a maintenance level. Justin Thacker, personal trainer and founder of The Lab Gym, and Suzanne Doerries, registered dietitian for Complete Fitness Results, contributed how-to advice for the following 30-day regimen.
AVOID PROCESSED FOODS. Focus instead on foods with the most nutrients for the fewest calories like lean animal proteins, yams, nuts, seeds, quinoa and whole grains. This lets you eat less while meeting goals for healthier nutrition.
FOLLOW THE QQFT FORMULA. Pay attention to: quality food sources, quantity of calories coming in and going out, frequency of meals and timing of meals, especially pre- and post-workout carbohydrates.
JOIN A GROUP, CLASS OR GYM for camaraderie, peer pressure and commitment. Les Mills classes at Club Fitness are thorough and reasonably priced.
HIRE A TRAINER to make sure you engage all parts of your body. Look at the candidates track records and ask for references. Good trainers will follow up to see how your new routines are working. Find a trainer thats right for you at The Lab Gym (3684 Forest Park Ave., 314 256.1411) or Complete Fitness Results (2200 S. Brentwood Blvd., 314.402.2238)
YOU CAN’T OVEREAT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES. Theyre rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Plus, theyre low-cost and low in calories. Some, like avocados , are even considered superfoods.
QUIT COLD-TURKEY FOR ALL FOODS THAT ARE MENTAL TRAPS. Later on, you may want to add them back in moderationbut its likely you will find that you dont miss them after all.
SQUATS AND DEADLIFTING GIVE THE MOST BANG FOR YOUR FAT-LOSS BUCK. Its important to have instruction before starting to avoid injury.
ELONGATING MUSCLES IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS STRENGTHENING THEM. Try The Dailey Method. 1560 S. Lindbergh Blvd., 314.569.9073.
HIT THE GYM REGULARLYideally six days a week for an hour a dayso the pressure is off to hit a home run every single day. Youll be better attuned to your energy levels and your bodys needs, so you can legitimately take an easy day if needed.
OLYMPIC-STYLE WEIGHTLIFTING from Adidas have the ankle support beginners need for strength training. Available at Dicks Sporting Goods. 200 West County Center, 314.649.1400.
PRIORITIZE CARBOHYDRATES as an energy source for days with intense workouts. On other days, stick to plant-based foods and lean proteins.
AVOID LIQUID CALORIES FROM SODA, COFFEE, AND ALCOHOL. Sports drinks arent needed unless a workout lasts 90 minutes or more.
CHANGE UP YOUR ROUTINE. Avoid a workout rut by trying new things, like the cycling classes at CRUSH Cycle Studio , which give you the experience of an outdoor bike adventure inside. 120 Chesterfield Towne Centre, 636.536.6224.
AFTER AN INTENSE WORKOUT, your body is in breakdown mode. Having a snack (carbs and protein) within 45 minutes puts it into buildup mode.
IF YOU DONT EAT BREAKFAST, you will have less appetite control later in the day.
SHOP FOR HIGH-PROTEIN SNACKS WITH LOW CALORIES AND HEALTHY FATS. Nuts are best, especially when youre on the go. Individually packaged nut butters with fruit, single-serve cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are also good.
FOCUS ON ADDING HEALTHY FOODS, NOT RESTRICTING UNHEALTHY ONES. Balance your meals with a mental checklist of fruits, vegetables, proteins and some kind of fatmaybe from dressing or avocado on a salad or olive oil for sauteing.
*SIMPLE RECIPES ARE BEST, especially when youre on the go. If you buy convenience foods, use them in healthy ways. Grab a rotisserie chicken, remove the skin and flake it onto a salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing.
SLOW-FAST REPS strengthen different muscle fibers. When using dumbbells for arm and shoulder exercises, do a slow round of 30 reps with them and a fast round of 15 without.
UNDERSTAND THAT IT’S NORMAL TO FAIL AT SOME TRAINING GOALS. There is a success continuum, and if youre not getting the results you want, its a matter of effort, consistency or duration of training.
EVOLUTION REVOLUTION: PALEO
10,000 years ago, our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate meat, seafood, veggies, fruit, roots, shoots, seeds, nuts, fats and tubers (aka potatoes). The bulk of their calories were perishable, not processed. They hauled heavy stuff, ran fast and worked hard with their hands. The Paleo lifestyle is all about mimicking these primal habits with a modern approach. Alex Born, founder of ReBorn Health (offering six-week Paleo challenges) and Leeny Hoffmann, a CrossFit trainer (a known Paleo-supported regimen) share their tipsand pitfall preventionfor adopting this new lifestyle.
*EATING PALEO MEANS EATING PROTEIN AND PLANTS. Our bodies evolved for this lifestyle. Choose the highest quality meats, fruits, veggies, nuts, herbs and healthy fats. Local Harvest Grocery is a great place to start. 3108 Morgan Ford Road, 314.865.5260.
GO PALEO FOR A MEAL A DAY. Bigger dietary changes can be harder to make and maintain. Gradually work up to three Paleo meals a day.
MOVE ALL DAY BUT DON’T MOVE TOO MUCH AT ONCE. Avoid intense workouts at the gym followed by sitting still the rest of the day. To our ancestors, a burst of cardio meant they were running from dangerit evoked pure stress.
PRACTICE MOVEMENTS THAT COME NATURALLY TO THE HUMAN BODY like presses, lifts, lunges, squats, jumps and curls. Give yourself space to throw, jump, pull, balance, dash and swim.
READ UPstarting with titles like “It Starts With Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf and “Practical Paleo”  by Diane Sanfilippo. If you really want to geek out, check out “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It” by Gary Taubes and “Protein Power Lifeplan” by Michael and Mary Dan Eades.
AVOID FARMED CROPS. Eat few or no legumes, dairy, grains, starches, alcohol, refined seed oils (canola, corn, soybean) or processed foods. Our bodies dont get long-lasting energy from them, and they can contribute to inflammation.
GOODBYE STARCHES, HELLO VEGGIES. Sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, salads and other greens have more nutritive value and a lower glycemic index (meaning they wont raise blood glucose after theyre digested).
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE 10-MINUTE WORKOUT. In a pinch, do as many cycles as possible of 10 air squats, five push-ups and three burpees (moving quickly from squat to pushup position to squat and ending with a leap).
INVEST IN A CROCKPOT AND CAST IRON SKILLET. Slow-cooked meals help avoid the dreaded witching hour when every morsel of food looks divine. Cooking in cast-iron skillets can raise the amount of iron in your diet and, if your skillet is well seasoned, cut down on the amount of fat you need for cooking.
BE A TOURIST IN YOUR OWN GROCERY STORE. Get tips on budgeting, convenience and healthier choices with the help of a guide from Re-Born Health, and find out why “the cereal aisle is basically a glorified candy aisle.” rebornsuccess.com.
BREAK AWAY FROM THE IDEA THAT BREAKFAST IS A BAGEL, ORANGE JUICE AND A BANANA. (Holy insulin spike, Batman!) Try sausage, eggs and spinach scrambled together. The latter offers a much bigger nutritional punch and will keep you full between meals.
*BODYWEIGHT MOVES  done in sequence, are useful when theres no gear available. Set a timer and start off the first minute with one sit up, one push up and one air squat. Rest for the remainder of the minute. On minute two, do two sit-ups, two push-ups and two air squats, then rest until minute three.
GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP AND REDUCING YOUR STRESS are arguably as important as diet and fitness combined. Avoid TV, iPads and computers at bedtime. Get your work and psychological hang-ups squared away so when you hit the pillow, you can rest deeply.
SOMETIMES LESS IS MORE. Barefoot or “five-finger” shoes are the minimalist’s answer to going barefoot. Vibram SeeYa LS shoes  available at REI. 1703 S. Brentwood Blvd., 314.918.1004.
AFTER 30 DAYS OF STRICT PALEO DIET, REINTRODUCE SOME OF THE “GOOD STUFF” like sugar, dairy, grains, legumes and alcoholbut only in moderation. This helps ward off feelings of deprivation and can also be used to identify any foods that were causing autoimmune or gluten issues.
*PLAY! It keeps things fun. Besides, many sporting games use a variety of activities without undue repetition or stress. Play tag. Swing on the monkey bars. Toss a ball around. Do hopscotch. Join the kids for a game of hide and seek.
DUMBBELLS  are versatile for strengthening the shoulders, upper back, triceps, core and rotator cuffs. Start with 3 to 5 pounds for beginners, or use 10 pounds if youre already in shape. Also consider kettlebells and medicine balls, available at Dicks Sporting Goods. 200 West County Center, 314.649.1400.
POWER TO THE PLANTS: VEGAN/RAW
During the journey to a vegan or raw lifestyle, your tastes may change. The craving for processed sugars usually fades away. Events that used to trigger you to eat might now trigger you to exercise for stress relief. Your mind and body will go from passing acquaintance to intimate friendship. Just take the word of our experts, Terry Stiers, a raw vegan lifestyle teacher and coach, aka “The Raw Vegan Lady,” and Dianna Lucas, a yoga teacher, retreat facilitator and lifestyle coach who offers classes at Indigo Massage and Wellness, Naturally Fit Studio and, during the warmer months, Grand Basin in Forest Park.
START A FOOD JOURNAL. Write down what, when and where you eat. Note emotions and cravings. Congratulate yourself for cutting out all red meat, white flour and white sugar.
MAKE ONE DAY DURING YOUR FIRST WEEK A TOTAL VEGETARIAN DAY (no meat or fish) and plan one raw meal (nothing cooked over 118 degrees) throughout the week.
*HATHA YOGA, an ancient Indian practice of self-development, can be very intimidating, but its called a yoga “practice” for a reasonthe more you do it, the easier it becomes. Try an intro class at Yoga Source. 1500 Big Bend Blvd.,314.645.9642.
START THE DAY WITH TWO OR THREE HATHA YOGA HALF SUN SALUTATIONS and a few minutes of corpse pose to stimulate your body, breathing, blood flow and immune systemplus, calm your nervous system.
FOR YOGA ON THE GO, TRY SOUTHTOWN YOGA‘S NEW YOGAHOUR. An hour of play and power, the rockin’ flow class with music and expert instruction is open to all skill levels. 1905 Park Ave., Lafayette Square, 314.353.1004.
EAT AS MUCH ORGANIC AS YOU CAN. Some foodsespecially the Dirty Dozen (fruits and veggies with edible exteriors)are more contaminated by pesticides and chemical residue than others.
LIMIT COOKD FOODS to avoid losing valuable nutrients and enzymes, and eat lots of plants and dairy products that were never heated above 118 degrees. Make three days this week total vegetarian days and three meals raw food.
CUT OUT ALL SATURATED FATS, including butter, starting this week. Use olive oilthat is, uncooked organic cold-pressed virgin olive oilor flaxseed oil.
HOT YOGA AND BIKRAM YOGA (a series of 26 postures done in a heated room) encourage blood circulation, help eliminate toxins and allow a greater range of motion. Studios like Yoga Six (5724 Oakland Ave., 314.802.7447) and Bikram Yoga St. Louis (6630 Clayton Road, 314.644.2226) work with beginners to ensure safety during their demanding 90-minute classes.
MANY STUDIOS OFFER BEGINNERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO BORROW ALL THE GEAR THEY’LL NEED but for a mat of your very own, consider prAnas E.C.O. and warrior lines, constructed for excellent grip and free of PVCs, toxins, rubber and latex. Available at REI. 1703 S. Brentwood Blvd., 314.918.1004.
*A DEHYDRATOR heats foods below the threshold for raw, which allows you to add more textural diversity to your meals. Try the Excalibur  or stop by Whole Foods Market and purchase raw foods already prepared with one.
CUT OUT DAIRY PRODUCTS. If youve been relying on them for protein, look to vegetables like legumes, seed pates and nut butters.
HAVE A GREEN SMOOTHIE FOR BREAKFAST . Use raw, leafy veggies (spinach, kale, chard) for a third of the ingredients, plus sweet fruits and water or ice for the rest. Add smoothie infusion powder, if desired, then blend the heck out of that baby until its really smooth.
EMITTING QI, or energy, is the goal of the ancient Chinese health care system of quigong. Learn more at stlouisqigong.com.
JOIN THE RAW VEGAN COMMUNITY OR ARCH VEGANS ON MEETUP.COM.There are studios in nearly every communitygyms, community centers, YMCAs, churches, public parks, etc. For an optimal experience, find an instructor who cues the students well.
CONDIMENTS MATTER. Perk up salad dressings with Braggs raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar  and Ohsawa organic nama shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce).
ELIMINATE ANY REMAINING ANIMAL PRODUCTS AND PROCESSED FOODS. All meals should now meet your vegetarian, vegan or raw goal.
GROWING YOUR OWN FRUITS, VEGGIES AND HERBS OFFERS A PSYCHOLOGICAL REWARDwho doesnt love a fresh-picked pepper? Its also an affirmation of your commitment to plant-based nutrition.
PILATES’ METHOD OF BODY CONDITIONING TRAINS THE MIND AND BODY TO WORK TOGETHER TO ACHIEVE PHYSICAL FITNESS. All Pilates exercises are initiated from the powerhouse, which is made up of the abdominals, the lower back, the inner thighs and the buttocks. As your powerhouse becomes stronger and more stable, your posture is improved and your limbs can move with greater ease. Try a class at Pilates of West County. 124 Chesterfield Commons East Drive, 636.536.2400.
REMEMBER THAT FOOD IS ONLY ONE PIECE OF THE PUZZLE. Sleep, play and relaxation are all-important, too.
AFTER YOU’VE SPENT 21-PLUS DAYS ESTABLISHING A NEW HEALTH AND FITNESS HABIT, GIVE YOURSELF A PRESENT. Enroll in a new class, buy a flower, pick up a fun kitchen gadget or indulge in a Nux Quantum zip-up jacket whatever seems joyful to you.
Bragg’s Applie Cider Vinegar
Cycling Classes at CRUSH Cylce Studio
Tour your grocery store
Vibram SeeYa LS shoes
Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo
Nux Quantum zip up jacket
Photo credit: Photos by Christopher Gibbons, Illustrations by Samantha Winkler