How to Look After your Body Outside of the Gym
Your body is pretty complicated. You've got bones, muscle, fat, organs, a nervous system, an endocrine system, water, and so many other pieces that all have to work together in perfect harmony- it's quite amazing. It's a near perfect system that keeps you alive and functioning every single day. So let's give back a little and help our bodies to run a little smoother. Little steps that you can carry out each day, though small, will accumulate to an overall internal makeover. I'm going to run through which practices I go through most days (and some that I wish I had the self discipline to do) and perhaps you'll try something new that you could really enjoy!
Drinking more water
You've probably heard this advice over and over, but that's because it is extremely important and underrated. Your brain is composed of about 75% water, your heart- roughly 80%, and your muscles- 76%. Being dehydrated means that all of your organs and tissue are deprived of the most essential fluid. If you have ever been sick or hungover or woke up immediately feeling terrible, it is highly likely that you need to drink more water. You can feel it throughout your entire body when you're lacking water: you're more sore and stiff, you have a headache, and you may be feeling a lot weaker. Drinking about 2-3 litres of water every day will bring you remarkable benefits in day-to-day movement. If you find this volume a little difficult, that's perfectly okay, try flavouring your water or installing a water-tracking app on your phone.
Low impact, slow paced exercise is perfect for anyone looking to increase their activity levels
without putting strain on their body. Walking is easier on the joints, better for your spine, and more comfortable than conventional exercises like running or skipping. It is also easy and free to do, unlike swimming or cardio machines at the gym. As long as you live in a safe neighbourhood, or have access to a safe park, walking can be a calm, relaxed way to keep your body healthy. A good solid number to aim for would be 10,000 steps per day- but even 4,000 steps is a great start. For me, 10,000 steps is walking to college, walking around campus in between classes, and walking home, which I estimate to be an hour and 20 minutes.
This is one of those activities that I wish I could carry out regularly, but I never make time for it. Meditation is a highly valuable activity that can improve both your emotional and physical health. It gives you the chance to refocus and re-balance your mind, clearing your head. I would recommend trying out meditation with a guide at first, as doing it on your own can leave you feeling a little lost and confused. I would recommend the app Headspace (it's free!) to get started. You can choose how long you want the session to last, what you want to be feeling, and what the guide focuses on. This kind of activity reduces your levels of cortisol, the 'stress hormone', improving your mood and cognitive processes.
Regular, controlled stretching is a fantastic way to keep your muscles flexible, reduce
stiffness, and improve recovery from weightlifting. Currently, I am aiming to complete 5 sessions per week of stretching in the evening before I go to bed. This lessens the soreness in my muscles, helps with any aching joints, and increases blood flow, giving me a better sleep. My sessions typically last 20 minutes; I begin by stretching my back, then my hips, hamstrings and quads, and then target areas like my neck and shoulders. I would recommend watching some beginner yoga tutorials on Youtube to learn some basic positions. I find it best to stretch for 30 seconds per position, while breathing deeply and rhythmically, and make sure you feel challenged but comfortable. These steps should improve your abilities every week.