What to do with the extra hour given back to us as daylight saving time ends is often a topic of debate that changes as we age. How do you spend this time each year, or does the extra hour even really matter?
If you think about it, there is not a better time to build a new morning fitness habit than right now with the end of daylight saving time.
The bonus of the time change is that, for the next few weeks, waking up at 5 a.m. feels like 6 a.m. That makes this a great time of the year to build a habit of getting some early morning exercise even as the winter months shorten the daylight period throughout the season.
Consider this time of year as a seasonal change that will cause many of us to gain a few extra pounds. That 4-5 pounds on average may not seem like much, but fast forward 5-10 years and you could be flirting with an extra 25-50 pounds to lose. Weight gain sneaks up on us all over time, and by making a few changes now during the Season of Weight Gain, you can be ahead of the curve with a few new habits as you begin a new year.
When we were younger, the extra hour was a sleep-in day after an extra hour on Saturday night. As we grew into more responsibilities, the extra hour was a source of recovery unless you had children of your own who did not understand the time change nor the gift of an extra hour of sleep.
But even then, one night of an hour of extra sleep is not a sustainable recovery process. Instead, let's focus on the time that we do have available to us each day, even though the hour shift highlights the shorter daylight we have throughout the fall and winter.
Make Some Goals
Here are some classics for starters:
- Walk more
- Stretch more
- Drink more water
- Eat less (aka, portion control)
These goals can be easy and not require anything but some rearranging of your schedule. Can you walk for an extra 10 minutes a day? Are you really hungry and need a snack between meals? Maybe you are just thirsty, and drinking water is the answer. Can you stop what you are doing a few times a day and stretch?
These are great ways to get moving again and win the battle against the sedentary season of parties, snacks, feasts and sports binge watching.
One thing I prefer to do with this extra hour is enjoy nature by taking pictures, walking a little more, drinking water while walking, stretching a little more and eating a little less. This has been a new habit I have added to my weekday and weekend for some time now.
I am not perfect with it, but I am making progress each day as it is becoming a habit to walk and lightly stretch after each meal. To take a mid-morning and mid-afternoon break for 10 minutes and walk and stretch has been life-changing. I've been more productive and attentive at work and feel better overall, even after sitting for a few hours at a time.
Set a Personal Goal that Works for You
My goal for this time between Halloween and New Year's Day (and through the Super Bowl) is to continue to either maintain or lose weight. Once the Super Bowl is over, people start to see spring right around the corner.
If you start now, you will be in a great place to take your fitness goals to new levels. While everybody is snacking on candy, having huge feasts, sitting and watching sports all weekend while eating and drinking too much, work on doing less of that and more walking and stretching for 10-minute segments spread throughout the day for as many days as possible.
Some days are better than others, but at the end of the week, look at your progress (pedometer or phone app) as a whole. Set a daily goal of 5,000-10,000 steps a day (or more) and stay focused on meeting that level, regardless of how you must accumulate those numbers.
The Extra Hour Is Great, but Mastering All 24 Hours Is Key
Now focus on the normal 24 hours of your day and figure out what's optimal for you. The goals above can be a supplement to your current workout routine, or a series of stand-alone training opportunities found in short sessions spread throughout the day.
Take advantage of early morning training options with this extra hour and start to build a daily habit of just moving more. Building habits is a process of small bite-sized chunks of time that you set aside for a particular activity. These habits will grow as you improve your ability to do more as you start to see and feel the results of your disciplined behavior.
The key to making any new habit work is to go through the process of being motivated to start, build habits during the motivation process and let that motivation evolve to discipline. When you start to perform your daily ritual even when you are not 100% driven to get it done, but you do it anyway, that is when you know you have added discipline to your life.
Think of this time change period as a useful event that can be the start of a new lifestyle for you. Take plenty of tests throughout the season to assess your goal achievement and new disciplined lifestyle. These types of challenges can be fun as they are full of micro-accomplishments every day. Enjoy and good luck..
-- Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to email@example.com.
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