Sports have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up playing soccer and softball, and attended East Carolina University on a softball scholarship. Before enrolling at ECU, however, I attended the U.S. Naval Academy, where I powered through the famous “Plebe Summer” – when new students (called “plebeians”) suffer through some of the most physically and mentally demanding tests and challenges. That experience not only taught me how to push through fear to accomplish any goal, but it also instilled in me a deep understanding of the importance of physical fitness. Since then, I’ve completed triathlons, marathons, and all manner of races – always something to feed my need for movement, competition, and a healthy lifestyle.
But life has gotten busy in the last few years, between running a thriving business, shooting a TV show, and juggling the demands of balancing my personal and professional lives. Staying in shape doesn’t always fit into my hectic schedule, but it’s always a top priority. So to stay motivated when life gets crazy, I’ve had to get creative with how I get my healthy on. Here are some of my favorite ways to keep my physical well-being on track during the summer – and all year long – even when life seems bent on holding me back.
The stunning backdrop of my morning runs – Bethany Beach.
1. Head Outside
Rather than paying a pricey gym membership, then having to pack a gym bag, drive to the gym, suffer through a boring treadmill workout, and then trek home again, why not just lace up your shoes and head outdoors? My daily routine almost always begins with a morning run on the beach, as well as a swim in the ocean or pool. It’s so invigorating and refreshing to start my day in the fresh air, and the scenery beats anything you’ll see at the gym. Find someplace near you – a park, hiking trails, dirt roads, city streets, anywhere – and take in the summer sun while it lasts. Bonus: You’ll easily get your daily dose of vitamin D!
That’s me surfing in Costa Rica last year!
2. Develop a Healthy Hobby
Find an active hobby that you love, and your exercise will feel like play instead of work. For me, that hobby is surfing. Surfing is an amazing full body strength and stability workout and all that paddling scores serious cardio points. Plus, what could be more fun than splashing around in the water? When I’m looking for something a little more relaxing, I go paddle boarding. It mimics the feel of surfing, and uses many of the same muscle groups, but gives me time to relax and zen out. If you don’t live near the beach, capitalize on the activities available in your neck of the woods – kayaking, cycling, hiking, indoor or outdoor mountain climbing, dance, tennis – as long as your body is moving, it counts!
My niece, Lia, scaling the side of my parents’ house. Kids know how to fit activity into every spare moment!
3. Break It Up
As a busy entrepreneur, I try to live my days according to a certain routine that usually begins with a run or swim. But early meetings, late nights, and just plain old life (and the occasional laziness!) sometimes get in the way. Just because you don’t have a full, uninterrupted hour to exercise doesn’t mean you should scrap your workout entirely. Anything is better than nothing! Instead of 60 straight minutes, break it up into short bursts of activity throughout the day – a 15-minute walk here, 10 minutes of plyometrics there (here’s a great 9-minute plyometric workout). Before you know it, you’ll be racking up impressive time totals.
I never stop moving when I’m on job sites – it passes the time and benefits my health!
4. Keep It Moving
When I’m at work, I rarely sit still. I’m constantly checking in on job sites, walking properties, meeting with clients, and more. But some days are dedicated to office work – emails, calls, and all the less-than-glamorous stuff that comes with running a business. It’s those days that my body craves movement the most. However, being stuck in an office doesn’t mean you have to be glued to your chair. On a long, boring conference call? Briskly walk the hallways or pace around your office to get your blood flowing. Waiting for your midday coffee to brew? Squeeze in some air squats, push-ups, or jumping jacks. Need to visit a coworker a few floors up? Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Even a quick walk with coworkers after lunch is great for your health (and catching up on the latest office gossip).
5. Track Your Steps
If you, like me, thrive off of competition and perform your best when you have a goal (or deadline), you might feel like your solo workouts are kind of a drag. Find creative ways to motivate yourself outside of a team setting by implementing personal goals and holding yourself accountable. A great way to do this is to track your steps with an inexpensive pedometer. Set a goal each day or week and then do your best to meet and exceed it (and treat yourself when you do!). You’d be surprised by how much a silly number can motivate you to move.
6. Go Graze-y
All the exercise in the world means nothing if you blow it with a poor diet. I don’t subscribe to the idea that eating healthy means boring or restrictive. Instead, I make smart choices that leave me feeling full and satisfied – never deprived – so I can power through my day. And for me, grazing is the best way to do so. I’ve never been great with self-control when it comes to delicious food. And I’ve found that if I wait until I’m famished to eat, the choices I make won’t be good ones. To stave off overeating, I eat healthy snacks and small meals throughout the day. A handful of almonds, a small bowl of berries, yogurt with fruit and granola, carrots with hummus, or even a small peanut butter sandwich (I still eat one every day!) are all you need to satisfy a midday snack attack. Craving sugar? Do what I do and add a little whipped cream to your fruit for a healthy dessert.
7. Go Green
I’m a firm believer in going green in the homes I build, and I feel the same way about my body. Getting more of the green stuff into your diet will make you healthier, help you feel fuller, and give you the energy and brainpower you need to be your best in all aspects of your day. I love a hefty salad with a rainbow of vegetables or a simple pile of sautéed greens, but if that’s not your thing, try sneaking leafy greens into your diet in creative ways. Try a green smoothie or kale chips for a green snack. Toss spinach or swiss chard into soups, stir fries, and omelettes. Or add a handful of your favorite greens to your lunchtime sandwich. Adding just a few more servings of greens per week into your diet is a small change with major benefits.
My surf trip to Costa Rica was even better because of the friends I made there!
8. Make It Social
I often enjoy a solo workout first thing in the morning or after a long day of work. It clears my head and it’s during those times that I typically get my most creative ideas. But sometimes you need the motivation of a companion to get you moving. Make working out a social affair! Go for a swim or hike with your significant other. Invite your friends for a walk-and-talk session. Or join a local co-ed softball team. You’ll have so much fun spending time with friends and loved ones that you’ll forget you’re exercising.
9. Bring Four Extra Legs
The studies are numerous and the verdict is in – pets improve the quality of your life. And one of the biggest ways they do so? They get you moving! Get your four-legged friend the exercise they crave and give your own health a boost in the process by bringing them with you for a jog, a long walk, or even just to play in the backyard. The time spent together is not only a fun way to get physical, but it also strengthens the bond between you and your best fur friend. Don’t have your own dog? Call a friend or neighbor and offer to walk theirs (bonus: you’ll also score major brownie points in the neighborhood!). Your canine companion – and your health – will thank you for it!
10. Have a Mediterranean Mindset
For me, diet is a way of life, not a fad. It’s about making healthy choices as often as possible, without cutting out entire food groups completely and forever (moderation is key!). My eating habits most closely mimic the Mediterranean diet – lots of veggies, seafood, and other whole foods. I rarely eat red meat or poultry, and instead get my protein through fish and seafood, such as my favorites: salmon and sushi (TIP: Opt for brown rice or quinoa sushi for a healthy alternative to white rice). Another benefit of cutting down your red meat and poultry consumption? It’s healthy for the planet, too!
There’s no better place to unwind and sooth sore muscles than my soaking tub.
11. Indulge & Relax
Perhaps the most important tip for getting and staying fit is to remember: everything in moderation! Go easy on yourself – no one is perfect and a missed workout or the occasional day of overeating is no reason to beat yourself up. In fact, I’ve found that the best way to stay on track with my health regimen is to schedule in times of indulgence and relaxation. Take at least one day a week off from exercising (or keep it low-key, like a walk around the neighborhood). Give yourself permission to eat a second helping of your favorite mashed potatoes or a slice of that heavenly chocolate cake. Too much deprivation makes healthy living feel like a punishment, even for the most disciplined among us. And I don’t know about you, but a life without chocolate cake is certainly not one I want to live!
Here’s to a happy, healthy summer!
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