The New Year is the perfect time to reset priorities and refocus on implementing healthier habits. I believe this accessible and actionable list will be beneficial to fuel a healthy and prosperous 2023!
1) Master the Morning Routine – A positive and energizing morning routine sets the stage for a successful day. Try these tips: instead of a direct line to your coffee maker, first, try a glass of water, fresh lemon, turmeric, and a dash of sea salt. Turmeric adds anti-inflammatory compounds, while sea salt provides trace minerals potassium, chloride, and magnesium. Next, focus on “intention” rather than “reaction.” Place “intentional” emphasis on your breathing, before responding to texts, emails, and social media. Try Dr. Andrew Weil’s breathing sequence: Four seconds to inhale, followed by a 7-second hold, and then finish with 8-seconds to exhale; repeat 4-5 times.
There are several ways to re-set your physiology: a dose of exercise, a pool swim, or a quick cold shower. I like to expose my skin to sunlight and do a round of Yoga, especially in the winter. I’ll perform the downward dog, plank, to upward dog, for five sessions, followed by a walk with my dog, as my physiologic re-set. Exposure to real sunlight in the morning, rather than artificial light, decreases stress hormone production, and cold exposure fires you up!
2) Integrate Anti-Inflammatory Habits – Anti-inflammatory diets are essential, as long-term exposure to inflammatory compounds is linked to several chronic disease states. My anti-inflammatory lifestyle focuses on four decisions: a) increase anti-inflammatory foods and spices; b) reduce inflammatory foods; c) reduce inflammatory inputs; and d) integrate recovery methods.
- The first component of my program is to add anti-inflammatory foods and spices to your diet. It is easier for people to add healthy items, than to eliminate unhealthy options. High quality anti-inflammatory items to add include: dark green leafy vegetables, red peppers, carrots, brussles sprouts, broccoli, oranges, berries, raw seeds and nuts, free range eggs, wild salmon, avocados, whole unprocessed grains like bulgar and oats. Add beneficial spices like turmeric, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon to hot detox tea with raw honey and lemon.
- The second component is to reduce inflammatory foods. Aim to sharply curtail items laden with trans fats, sugars, fried foods, refined flours, high glycemic index foods, such as cookies and sugary cereals, MSG, and cured or charred meats.
- The third step is to reduce inflammatory inputs. Excessive exposure to negative inputs comes from a variety of sources: abrasive TV in the background, an argument with someone, erratically checking apps, in a fashion that Judith Orloff calls “techno-despair.” Aim to reduce these.
- My final component is to weave recovery techniques into your week. Include deep cleansing breathes, with a hold, and then longer exhalations, repeated ten times, to rid the body of CO2. My favorite technique is to use a foam roller on sore quads, iliotibial bands, upper back, and I love the cold ocean plunges or cold tubs a few minutes per week.
3) Utilize Dynamic Movements after Excessive Sitting – Many of us sit too much: at work, in the car, or hunched over devices. I have developed a targeted stretch/strength program, directed at lengthening tight areas and strengthening weak muscle groups. Excessive sitting can cause spinal compression; tight anterior hips and hamstrings; weakened glutes; tightened erector spinae group; as well as shoulder and cervical spine issues. I emphasize movement patterns such as stair climbs, bear crawls, squats, lateral lunges, planks, and unilateral carries. I also instruct body-weight strength and balance builders to target the hip complex and shoulder girdle, using lunge variations, TRX rows, chops, and Yoga.
4) Build Ground-Based Functional Strength – Ground-based strength connects us to our primitive movement patterns, enhances core and glute strength, promotes balance, and adds bone density. My top functional strength-builders include farmer’s carries, chopping motions, hill climbs, and goblet squats. My favorite is the “Low to High Chop,” using a cable cross-over, dumbbell, stretchband, or a gallon of water as your added resistance. At the Sports Medicine Institute-L.A., this was one preferred movement for our athletes returning to sport.
5) Eat with Mindfulness – Be intentional with food choices. A big component of this is slowing down the process and adding fresh veggies and spices to all dishes. Chopping fresh parsley, oregano, thyme, and being aware of their smells and textures, tends to slow down the prep and eating process. Another mindfulness tactic is to tune in to your cravings. Are you craving salts? (you could be dehydrated and simply need some coconut water or electrolytes); or eating out of boredom? (instead of crunching on chips, try hummus with carrot and celery). If you happen to consume heavy fats and sugars, consider reducing acidity with high alkaline foods. Add fresh arugula, chopped green apples, avocado, walnuts, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil, to trigger digestion.
6) Reduce Friction – Use “Low Friction” activities to propel you with your daily planning decisions. One technique that has worked for my clients is to cook four servings of healthy meals on Sunday, so you have nourishing meals waiting in to-go containers. Sliced vegetables, lean protein, and sweet potatoes is my top Sunday prep-meal. Reducing friction also means scheduling time to meet a professional trainer, or a friend three times a week for a workout. Packing road trip foods in your car is another technique. Keeping nutrient-dense snacks available reduces the “friction points” of fast food options that lurk on every corner. In my car, I store ample healthy options: trail mixes (figs, mixed nuts, low sugar granola, 80% dark chocolate); cans of sardines and tuna (high protein and essential fats for both me and my dog); seasonal fruits; protein bars; and extra water.
Eric Minkwitz ’96 has 25 years of expertise in the fields of human performance, implementing best practices for sports performance, medical device sales, and small business operations. In his physical training business, Eric has conditioned hundreds of clients, teams, and professionals to attain mobility, strength, better nutrition, and mind-body techniques. Eric directed the return to sport program for pro athletes at Sports Medicine Institute-L.A., and works with clients 1-on-1, virtually, and at workplace wellness events. Eric wrote The Forever an Athlete Program to empower people to build physical and mental resiliency. He has been published in numerous outdoor and fitness magazines. You can follow Eric on his website, LinkedIn, Instagram and podcast.