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Health & Wellness
summer 2023

Move It!

8 Keys for Improving Your Health—and Energizing Your Life
Written by: Jay Wallace

AS A PERSONAL TRAINER who has helped countless clients achieve their better-health goals over the past 20-plus years, I have discovered eight keys to fitness. Here’s what I share with people when I start working with them:

Know your goal. It’s important to have a clear target for your fitness journey, because that will dictate how you get there and also provide some benchmarks along the way to chart your progress. Do you want to run a half-marathon or a 5k in six months’ time? Or maybe drop down a couple of pant or dress sizes, or lose 15 pounds? Clarify your aim and stick to it.

Make a commitment. Recognize that things aren’t going to change overnight. Keep in mind that it takes two to three weeks to form a new habit, by which time you should start noticing some improvement—you will probably have more energy and maybe be sleeping better. However, significant change will take longer. Embrace the journey; you’ll not only change physically but mentally.

Clock in regularly. Consistency is the key. I usually recommend some sort of exercise four to five days a week. If your schedule allows it, work out in the morning—you’ll find doing so gives you more energy and drive for the rest of the day, and you’ll position yourself to burn higher caloric amounts throughout your day.
Don’t overdo it. While regular workouts are important, they don’t need to be too intense. Unless you have a big event or goal in mind, you don’t need to be training for much more than 30 to 40 minutes (as long as you are making the most of that time and not stopping every few minutes to look at your cell phone). Use your time efficiently.

Watch your diet. You can have the greatest workout routine in the world and follow it diligently, but if you don’t monitor what you put into your body, it isn’t going to make the difference you are looking for. You can’t fuel real change on soda and pizza. I’m not saying you have to be totally hardcore—you can allow yourself some favorite foods on occasion. Be true to yourself and remember, you are what you eat.

Keep yourself hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is important and not only for its direct benefits for your body and your energy level. You will also find that you eat less; often, when we think we are hungry, we’re actually dehydrated. My recommendation is at least 8-12 ounces of water per hour (depending on your height and weight).

Get your rest. As well as pushing your body, you need to give it time to relax. Adequate sleep is an essential part of that: most of us need seven to eight hours a night to function at our best. If sleep is difficult, try meditation or something else that will help slow your mind down. Reading a good book will distract you from your to-do list or whatever else you find hard to stop thinking about.

Use your body. If you don’t have access to a gym, you can still work out, using your own body weight. I’ll often start newcomers out with a plank for 10-20 seconds. Follow that on hands and knees, lifting the opposite leg and arm and holding for 20 seconds. Next, do some body squats, with your hands laced behind your head, or sit with legs bent and your back against the wall. Start another plank, do 10-15 sit-ups. That’s one set; repeat once or twice.

Ray Wallace is a personal trainer based in New York City (