For many of us, the New Year represents an opportunity to reinvent our lifestyle and do away with some of our bad habits. At least, for a month or so. In order to avoid biting off more than you’re willing to chew come February, consider making a resolution that’s not only beneficial to your physique, but also perfectly achievable. For instance…
Train for a Marathon
Even if you never actually compete in a big race, training for a marathon will do your body a world of good — provided you take your time and don’t put too much strain on your body. The trick, most experts say, is a balanced regimen of short and long runs spread out over a period that lasts at least three to five months. Begin with three to five short-distance runs every week that establish ‘base mileage’; build the distance on these runs until they total 50 miles per week. After one month, start supplementing the short runs with a long-distance jaunt every 7-10 days that covers at least 10 miles and builds by one mile every week for a three-week period; reducing the mileage every fourth week will give your body some much-needed rest and decrease the risk of physical injury. Between the short- and long-distance runs, you’ll eventually be covering a distance of roughly 60-70 miles per week; as the distance builds, you can start improving your speedwork by alternating between fast-paced runs and casual jogging. Then, in the weeks leading up to the marathon, it’s very important to scale back your weekly distances; this process, known as ‘tapering’, will allow your body to prepare for the big race without being over-strained.
Study Krav Maga
Some martial arts disciplines condition your body, while others build your self-defense. Krav Maga, invented as a military-training exercise in 1930s Europe, accomplishes both of these goals. Krav Maga students learn four basic steps of self-defense: identifying the danger, defending themselves, issuing a counter-attack and, ultimately, fleeing to safety. Combative maneuvers — which include punches, kicks and elbow/knee strikes — cover different attack scenarios; some are used against enemies that are out of bodily reach, while others defend the victim from assailants who have a physical advantage. Mastering Krav Maga represents a long-term New Year’s resolution; most students require 10 months of training (two to three times per week) before advancing to the third level (orange belt), and completion of the fifth level (black belt) usually takes more than two years. Since Krav Maga maneuvers incorporate the entire body, students greatly build on their coordination, cardio and overall strength. So it’s no surprise that more than 400 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. utilize Krav Maga to train new recruits.
Purchase a Bicycle
Between holiday gifts and forthcoming taxes, a new bicycle — which typically cost hundreds of dollars — may not represent the soundest New Year’s investment. But, as health experts have argued for years, this is one investment with guaranteed returns. The benefits of cycling include a steadier heart rate, thinner waistline, muscular definition and improved coordination, and long-term cycling has been linked to reduced risk of cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. No surprises there. But did you also know that riding a bicycle also boosts your mental health? The physical exercise (coupled with high levels of enjoyment) has been proven to combat against mental conditions like depression and anxiety. Meanwhile, driving a car wreaks havoc on your emotional state. Throw in the environmental upsides of cycling, and the investment doesn’t seem so sizable. And thanks to nationwide emphasis on road-sharing, it’s getting easier for Americans to commute to work on two wheels.
By Brad Nehring