This article was excerpted from The Entrepreneur Diet. Buy it today from EntrepreneurPress.com.
Taking the first steps in something new can be daunting. But almost any action--no matter how small--puts momentum on your side.
While each entrepreneur has a different path to success, everyone starts with that first step forward; you must take action, even without being entirely sure of the outcome. Those who hesitate to take that step, to turn idea into deed, are forever stuck with the status quo--not risking failure but also not finding fortune.
This article is about the first step, about taking action right now, for your health and fitness. This three-prong QuickStart Action Plan targets your muscles, your heart and your nutrition. The plan is based on the same guiding principle that can build a solid company.
"Start with limited capital so you don't stress the heck out of yourself," says 1800GOTJUNK? founder and CEO Brian Scudamore. "I started with a thousand bucks, and if I lost my thousand dollars, it wasn't the end of the world.. Start small, and build the business up over time, and have patience."
That's exactly the secret to eating well and getting fit--start small and build on your successes. So now is the moment to institute healthy habits into your daily routine, easily and in a way that's time efficient. It just takes starting.
At its most basic level, exercise is nothing more than your muscles, bones, and heart working as they were designed so well to do--to move. And even with a crowded schedule, you can work physical activity into your life just about anywhere and with minimal equipment.
If you're at the office, take a 15-minute break in the morning or afternoon to complete this session--and you'll have your first workout under your belt before you go home. If you're at home, take 15 minutes before lunch or dinner to knock out the routine. The movements are unobtrusive--you can think of them as "stealth" exercises.
This first step will serve as a springboard to more fitness and dietary changes in your life. And once you learn these movements, the more challenging habit changes will be easier. But even when you become more advanced, or if you are right now, these simple exercises provide a refreshing break during the day. They can also serve as a fast workout for those inevitable times when your schedule is too hectic for longer workouts.
Still, if you do nothing with this book other than take away these exercises and this chapter's action plan, you'll be doing something powerful for your body and mind.
A note on terminology: A "repetition" or "rep" is one complete movement of a given exercise. A "set" is a given number repetitions done in sequence. Start by doing one set for each exercise--if you feel good, you can add a second set. Do two sessions this week.
CHAIR LEG EXTENSION
Muscles strengthened: Quadriceps (thighs)
Press your tailbone firmly against the back of the chair. If the chair is adjustable, move the height so your thighs are parallel to the ground. Lightly grasp the armrests or the edges of the seat pad. Keeping your back straight and looking straight ahead, slowly extend your right leg with your foot flexed toward your shin. At the top of the movement, your leg should be fully extended, but don't forcefully lock out your knee. Slowly return to the starting position. Do 10 repetitions, then repeat with your left leg (this is one set).
ISOMETRIC HAND PRESS
Muscles strengthened: Biceps, triceps, chest
Sitting upright in your chair, grasp your hands together in front of your chest, and firmly press them together. Make sure you continue to breathe throughout the exercise. Hold for 10 seconds and then relax for 10 seconds, then repeat four more times.
Muscles strengthened: Chest, triceps, shoulders
Stand about three feet from a wall, and place your hands flush against the wall, about shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower your body toward the wall by flexing your elbows. When your elbows are aligned with your torso, push back up. Do 10 repetitions. Make this exercise more challenging by using your desk: Stand several feet away and position your hands on the edge of the desk, shoulder-width apart. Then repeat the raising and lowering of your body by flexing your elbows.
Muscles strengthened: Shoulders
Sitting upright in your chair, flex your elbows so that your left hand is in front of your left shoulder, and your right hand is in front of your right shoulder. Your elbows should be slightly flared out to the sides, just below shoulder-level. Lightly clench your fists with palms facing forward. Next, fully extend your elbows without locking them out, with your hands moving toward the center over your head. Slowly return to the starting position. Complete 10 reps. To make the exercise more difficult, use a book to press overhead.
Muscles strengthened: Mid-section
Sit upright on the edge of your chair, grasping the arm rests or the edges of the seat pad. You can also stand with your hands on your hips, feet shoulder-width apart. Next, pull your stomach up and in as far as possible--think of pulling your belly button toward your spine. Hold that position for the count of five to ten, then release. Do 5 to 8 repetitions.
Muscles stretched: Back and sides
Sit at the edge of your chair with your back straight, and interlace your fingers with your palms facing away from you. Reach your arms straight above your head, then lean to the left from the waist and hold. Next lean to the right and hold.
Muscles stretched: Upper back
Sit upright and bring your right arm across your upper body at about shoulder level. Your elbow should be slightly flexed. With your left hand, grasp under your right arm just above the elbow. Gently pull your right arm across your chest, toward the left, and hold. Don't shrug your shoulders--keep them relaxed. Repeat with your left arm across your upper body.
Muscles stretched: Neck
Sit or stand with your head upright. Slowly turn your head to the right as far as comfortably possible and hold, then turn slowly to the left and hold. Next, let your head fall gently toward your chest and hold. Avoid tilting your head backward--it weighs about 10 pounds, so this can put too much stress on your upper spine.
When doing these exercises and stretches, keep these tips in mind:
- Don't hold your breath. Keep breathing normally during each exercise; holding your breath can spike your blood pressure.
- Keep your spine in its "neutral position." To find this position, lie on your back and arch your lower back (this is called extension). Then round the lower back (flexion). The neutral position is midway between these extremes.
- Move in a slow and controlled manner. This will help avoid injury and maintain good tension in your muscles.
- Hold stretches for 15 to 30 seconds. This will allow your muscles to adjust to the increased range of motion.
- Don't bounce. This could cause a muscle to spontaneously tighten because its defense mechanism is trying to protect it from overstretching. Not only does this defeat the purpose of stretching, but it could cause a strain.
Chair leg extension
10 each side
Isometric hand press
Quick-Start Cardio: The 10-Minute Energy Walk
An energy walk is a faster-paced walk done with an exaggerated arm swing. You'll eventually go for longer walks--and possibly jogs--but for now the aim is to get moving, and there's no better way to do that than going for a walk. Why walk? Because walking raises your heart rate, which burns calories, makes your cardiovascular system stronger, and tones your leg muscles. It's also a wonderful stress reliever. "I still walk to and from work once or twice a week," says entrepreneur Brian Scudamore. "It's a great unwinding mechanism."
Plus, there's no learning curve, and it's low-impact, so there is minimal stress to your joints. You can walk alone to enjoy the solitude of your own thoughts or go with business partners, employees, and friends for some social time or to brainstorm issues at work. Or maybe invite along a client--exercise can be a great bonding experience. Walking also doesn't require much special equipment or clothing--although you should wear shoes with thick flexible soles to provide a cushion for your feet (consider investing in a comfortable pair of walking or running shoes, for around $70).
Aim to walk three times this week. Before you head out the door, keep these tips in mind:
- Use the first two or three minutes to warm up at a slow pace, then increase your speed to a pace that feels brisk--but you should still be able to carry on a conversation.
- To maintain good posture, look straight ahead and keep your back straight.
- Your hands should be in a relaxed, cupped position, and your elbows constantly flexed to about 90 degrees.
- Allow your hands to swing up to about chest level, but don't let your arms flare out from the sides of your body.
- Keep a slight flex in your knees--locking out can cause injury.
- Strike the ground with heels first, toes pointed straight ahead.
- Wear sunscreen.
- If you make an appointment to walk with someone else, you'll be much more likely to make the scheduled time.
To get a quick start on eating healthier, two simple adjustments to your daily routine are all that's required right now. You can find a more comprehensive dietary plan in The Entrepreneur Diet, but these changes will immediately make a difference in your nutrition.
Drink Ice Water with Meals and When Thirsty During the Day
Your body will warm the water, and this will require a caloric expenditure. In fact, when compared with drinking water at room temperature, consuming eight ounces of ice water can expend about 9 extra calories. Doesn't sound like much? If you do that three times a day, it adds up to nearly 10,000 calories in a year--that's almost three pounds with virtually no effort.
Beyond the calorie-burning benefits, making water a habit makes sense. Water helps foods break down to their basic elements; provides a cushion for your body's organs, including the brain; and regulates your temperature through perspiration. Water makes up between 45 to 70 percent of body weight, and is the most plentiful chemical material in your body. For purposes of controlling or losing weight, some research indicates that water can promote a feeling of fullness when it's consumed with a meal or incorporated into food.
For Jennifer Melton, co-founder of Cloud Star natural pet products, water is an integral part of her workday. "I always keep a glass of water at my desk," she says. "It gives me energy and sustains my energy throughout the day. When I start dragging, sometimes the easiest thing to do is drink a glass of water."
Save Five Bites
Portion sizes in recent decades have greatly expanded. Offerings in fast-food restaurants, for example, can be between two and five times the original size. In the 1950s, a Burger King hamburger weighed 3.9 ounces, but now you can order a Double Whopper at a hefty 12.6 ounces. Restaurants use bigger plates, and pizza is made in larger pans. Even frozen diet meals from Lean Cuisine and Weight Watchers have touted larger package sizes. These larger portions pack more calories and prompt you to eat too much. A small size of McDonald's french fries sports 210 calories, while the supersize version contains 610 calories. Given that Americans spend nearly 50 percent of their food dollars outside the home, it makes sense that by the mid-1990s people were eating 200 more calories per day compared with the late 1970s.
One reason behind the trend is that price competition has caused manufacturers to offer larger items. Also, restaurant owners say it comes down to value--customers want more food for their dollar. Whatever the reason, it's clear that we're getting more food placed in front of us than we used to, and that leads to excessive eating.
Here's what to do: to help control your portions, at one meal during the day, simply save five bites of your food. You can mentally account for the bites, or you can actually partition them off to the side. Do this whether it's a restaurant, fast-food, or home-cooked meal. If you think this sounds trivial, consider this: If the average meal has 350 calories and you usually take 20 bites per meal, you'll save about 90 calories per day or 32,000 calories per year--which equates to more than nine pounds a year.
If you're in a restaurant and it's convenient, ask for a doggy bag before you begin your meal--set the five bites aside. You can snack on them later in the day (make sure to refrigerate, if necessary). The point is to reduce the portion size of the food that's in front of you, right now.
As you get comfortable with these changes in lifestyle--adding movement to your day with exercises and walking, and starting to gain control over your eating habits--you'll enjoy the powerful feeling that positive change can bring to your life and your business.
Download our Quick-Start Nutrition Checklist for a quick and handy way to chart your progress every week.
To read the entire on-the-go go plan for fitness, weight loss and healthy living for entrepreneurs, buy The Entrepreneur Diet today from EntrepreneurPress.com.