Seven Ways to Get Healthier

As we creep into fall, it’s tempting to tell yourself it’s time to get lazy again.

Fall is actually a wonderful time to hike, and it’s a busy time to race. The cooler weather inspires many big runs to happen this time of year, including a lot of ultramarathons—I’ll be doing three by Halloween—and the changing leaves and cooler weather are good inspirations for getting on the trail (as I showed you last month). Instead of using the colder months as an excuse to hibernate, pick a couple goals and work on making yourself healthier, which will help you become a better athlete, a better racer and a better person because you’ll feel, well, better.

1. Ditch the diets.

Look into ways to eat healthy without dieting. This is challenging. I struggle with it myself. Now I try to use concepts from ideas such as intuitive eating and trust my hunger to help me eat satisfying balanced meals. I lean on my running to burn a bunch of calories. I don’t treat food as my enemy.

I have struggled with my weight the last few years, but this is relative, as my doctor says my BMI is fine—if you want to use that yardstick—and I feel OK about it despite some body issues. I hope you can get to this point as well.

Make diet changes that you’ll incorporate into your lifestyle instead of following some fad plan. Diets don’t work: More than 90 percent of those who lose a lot of weight gain it back. If you want to lose weight, good for you, but try to do it organically.

2. Move more.

Even small amounts of moderate activity throughout the day can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, according to The American Cancer Society. Take the stairs. Walk more a few times a day. Take your dog or cat out twice a day. Play with your kids.

I think many of us don’t work out because exercise can seem overwhelming, but if you make an effort to be active throughout the day, it all counts.

3. Pay more attention to your mental health.

One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness, says the National Alliance of Mental Illness. This includes me, as I have anxiety and take a low dose of meds and run to help me deal with it. It can come suddenly, or you can become more aware of it (both of these happened to me). Don’t be ashamed of it. We are just now discovering how widespread it is, thanks to the pandemic giving us “permission” to talk about it, and it’s far more widespread because of the pandemic. Be kind to yourself.

4. Sleep more.

Sleep helps us feel refreshed, repair our bodies and gives us ideas for that novel we’ve always wanted to write. Don’t take it for granted and remind yourself that sleep time is time for yourself. WebMD says most of us don’t get enough sleep, and the amount we need can vary person to person, so you may need more than you think.

5. Get a pet.

I would say get a dog, but cats are actually kind of cool too. Pepper runs with us, snuggles with us and sleeps with us. She even loves my kids as much as I do. The health benefits include reduced blood pressure, cholesterol levels and stress, and people with pets tend to be more active and get outside more. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control, not the marketing campaign from an animal shelter (although adopting is a wonderful option), so the medical benefits are real. You’ll also feel less lonely: I can’t imagine going through the pandemic without Pepper.

6. Drink more water.

During a workout, we can lose as much as 10 percent of our water weight through sweat. This causes reduced motivation and increased fatigue, according to I have felt that during long races, but I’ve also felt it sitting at home and writing stories. I seem to get sleepier if I’m not drinking enough water. It also prevents headaches, as anyone in Colorado will tell you, and will keep you, um, regular. I realize that staying hydrated in Colorado feels like a part-time job, but at least the water, which comes from the mountains, tastes good here.

7. Find a healthy hobby.

I am lucky in that I have found ways to stay fit and exercise when it doesn’t feel like exercise. I enjoy running and mountain climbing and hiking. Not only do the activities keep me in shape, but they motivate me to stay fit. It’s a good deal. If you can find the same kind of hobby, you won’t have to push yourself to do it (at least not as much). I know people who enjoy CrossFit, Spartan races, spin classes, softball or other league rec sports, workout classes, dancing, walking their dog or Pokémon Go. Find something fun, and all the other things I tell you to do up above won’t feel like chores (at least not as much).