Illustrated by Jihyang Lim

8 Tiny Hacks To Meet Your Health Goals This Year

And health ones

by Molly Hurford

January 1 has come and gone, so you’re probably pretty sick of making big, sweeping resolutions. Maybe you’re well on your way to fitness greatness, or—like most of us—your resolutions are far from resolved. Whether you’re slaying your daily hot yoga class at the gym or finding reasons you should skip it in favor of catching up on Netflix (or falling somewhere in the middle of that spectrum), there are a few easy ways to add just a bit of wellness to your day that won’t be as painful as that hour-long CrossFit class you keep meaning to go to.

Start the day with a 10-minute walk

Right when you wake up, kick-start your day and your body with a mini-version of fasted state training, a style of training being picked up by pro endurance athletes around the world. Basically, by training in a semi-fasted state (i.e before breakfast), your body learns to use fat stores more efficiently, rather than relying on sugar-burning for energy. You don’t need to do sprints to get the benefits, either: just a quick walk around the block (listening to a Wake Up and Crush playlist, of course) will rev you up for the day ahead.

Before coffee, water

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! It’s an obvious one, but especially in these chilly winter months, you might find yourself drinking less water and more caffeinated beverages in an attempt to stay cozy. If you can’t stomach the traditional eight recommended glasses of water in a day, opt for non-caffeinated herbal teas instead, but make sure you’re drinking enough throughout the day, not slamming six cups before bed. Your skin, internal organs, digestive tract, and sweat glands say thanks.

Add leafy greens to (at least) one meal

There really isn’t an end to the benefits associated with any dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens. Studies have shown that the vitamin K in this type of vegetable helps boost your cognitive abilities, while the fiber in them works as a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in your gut. Eating more leafy greens can also decrease your risk of diabetes, and even prevent exercise-induced damage to muscle tissue. In this case, the term superfood is pretty darn accurate. And a serving isn’t as hard to sneak in as you would think. Drop a handful of frozen or fresh spinach in with eggs in the morning (adding a protein boost that will help improve your energy throughout the morning at the same time), and opt for a big salad with a grain (like barley or quinoa), protein (chicken, chickpeas or tuna), and a bunch of veggies with a tasty dressing for lunch, then add steamed kale (or kale chips, yum!) to the dinner table.

Meditate regularly

Meditation is in fashion right now, as is the idea of mindfulness. But before you book yourself on a silent yoga meditation wind chimes barefoot retreat, consider adding just two or three minutes of quiet to your day, whenever you need it. If you wake up already anxious (like so many of us do), try to spend the first couple minutes in bed focusing on your breath. Easier said than done, but Pedram Shojai explains a great, simple breathing exercise in his book, The Urban Monk. In simplified terms, take several slow, calming breaths covering one nostril for the inhale, and the other for the exhale. Repeat a few times, then switch sides. As you do this, focus on the breathing, and whenever you find other thoughts creeping in, acknowledge them, but then let them float away. If you need more guidance, apps like Headspace can be super helpful. 

Add a 10-minute yoga or core routine

There are thousands of free YouTube videos for quick yoga and core routines available, and adding one of them to your morning routine will leave you feeling ready to crush whatever is coming your way. A personal favorite is Strala yoga creator Tara Stiles’ series of free videos that span yoga for your core or for exercise, to an eight-minute quick flow routine called Yoga for Productivity. (For some reason, just doing a routine that references being productive seems to give me the push I need to dive into work every day.) Pick one and add it to your daily routine, or mix it up and make a list of favorites, but try to sneak in that 10 minutes. Think about it: 10 minutes, seven days a week, is over an hour of working out per week!

Pick one treat

I admit, until recently, I was a wine-and-chocolate at night kind of gal. But recently, I switched up my indulgences so that I pick one. If I have a glass of wine (or three) with dinner, I skip the chocolate. If I’m in a sweet-craving mood, I stick to water with dinner and indulge in a few chocolates (and not the health-foodie dark chocolate options, either). Take stock of your diet: is there a place you can drop one treat or indulgence from your day without feeling deprived? Maybe that doughnut at the office while on the phone with your boss isn’t as tasty or satisfying as the cocktail with friends at happy hour. Wherever you can clean up your eating habits without feeling like you’re missing out, that’s a freebie.

Walk more

There’s a reason that this tip has been in circulation since the dawn of fitness literature—personally, I remember reading it in my mom’s old Women’s Day magazines back in 1991!—but despite that, it seems like most of us refuse to take it seriously. Thanks to apps and fitness trackers now, it’s easier than ever to make sure we’re walking enough, and most of the trackers even help game-ify the process by buzzing if you sit too long, or giving you a happy noise when you hit your goal. Movement expert Katy Bowman, author of Movement Matters, has made it her life’s work to get more people walking, and says it’s a lifestyle overhaul that the human race can’t afford to skip. You know how to do this: take the stairs, park farther from the store, take a lunch walk instead of hunching over your desk, or just take a walk around the block with your partner or a friend to digest the day’s events. It doesn’t take much to see huge increases in stamina and energy.

Perfect your sleep hygiene

Last, but certainly not least, the best way to improve your overall health really does happen overnight. Dr. Amy Bender says that sleep is one of the best ways any athlete can improve recovery and make faster gains in sport, while staying healthy. It’s also been shown to be a major key in lasting weight loss. So if you recently adopted a new wellness regimen, it’s time to make sure your sleep is as good as it can be as well. Start with the basics: a cool, dark room and a comfortable mattress, pillow you love, and great blankets. Then, work on cutting down screen time before bed (maybe by reading a print magazine like NYLON!), or at least installing an app like Flux, which helps cut down blue light emanating from your computer, phone or iPad. There are plenty of free sleep tracker apps available, so if you’re not sure how well you’re sleeping, install one and track your sleep for a couple weeks to see if there are any patterns. You might notice that your sleep gets more disturbed or restless on nights you drink wine too close to bed, or that you’re sleeping great on the nights you hit yoga class after work, and you can shift your habits to try for better sleep most nights. (That might just mean hitting happy hour earlier, not abandoning it altogether!)