Living the big city lifestyle should burn calories. From the moment the alarm goes off (4:30 am in my case), we begin the rat race. While I take the first hour of my day slowly, once the clock hits 5:30 am I start working. From then on, the city slowly wakes up around me. The sound of buses, ambulance sirens, and people bumping each other on public transport paint the background for another exhausting day. While I am all about the dreamers, go-getters, and goal-oriented people that form a city crowd…I am not a fan of the fast-paced life.
Last year I struggled to get in shape. As a teacher, I was not only working Monday-Friday, but weekends too. Soon enough, I stopped taking care of my body. I was eating street food almost daily, and I could not remember the last time I did an hour of cardio. Living the sedentary rat race made me feel increasingly tired, I craved more and more sugar and fried food, I experienced hair loss from stress, I depended on TV shows to decompress, and my self-esteem went downhill.
I began to incorporate exercise into my city life. These 5 techniques helped me build up my workout routine, and get myself back to a physically and mentally healthier version of myself.
1. Find a green area where others are working out.
Not only was I finding beautiful green spaces in the city, I was looking at every day people running and doing yoga together. They looked healthy, they looked relaxed, and they looked happy. According to a 2016 study published by The Obesity Society, a desire to lose weight and spending time with fit people is correlated to actual weight loss. I was not only inspired to be healthy again, but to tone my body and gain muscle strength. I wanted to run like them and not gasp for air after 30 seconds. It was not only the inspiration I got from seeing people work out, it was the breath of fresh air from all the trees. I felt amazing after each walk at the park. Even if I was not running or spending tons of time there, I was getting inspired to care for my fitness and wellbeing.
2.Get off the metro or bus a few stops before your destination.
Doing this on my way to work and on my way home added at least 40 minutes of walking time. Because I broke it up into two parts of the day (morning and afternoon), it did not feel like I was taking that much time out of my day. No need to get off the bus right in front of your building or work. Another plus to this is that you will get even more familiar with your area, and even discover new coffee shops or places you had not noticed before.
3. Pick up your walking pace.
Try not to stroll so much but speed walk. I found that walking and texting slowed down my pace too much. Focus on the little bit of walking, and try to do it fast. This should not look that out of places in big cities like New York, Mexico, or Tokyo.
4. Take the stairs.
No, but really. Notice how many stairs there are around you. Some metro stops are very deep underground and have like 3 or 4 levels of stairs you can go up and down. The city can begin to look like a free gym once you start to notice how many stairs you have ignored all along. Take the stairs in your apartment building, your work place, your school, the metro, the main square, doctor’s office, and library. If you want to take this to the next level, try going up the stairs as fast as you can, but please don’t trip! Keep it challenging. If you go up a specific set of stairs frequently, it will be encouraging to notice how it gets easier with time.
5. Do not leave the house hungry or semi-hungry.
This was probably the most important step I took to gain back my health. In the rush of every day life, leaving the house without eating breakfast or 3 and half hours after your last meal can be a set-up for failure. I found it extremely difficult not to stop for street food, or even to snack on chips full of MSG when I left the house without eating first. Of course, the more I stopped for chips, the more I wanted chips. I was having a small bag of chips every day. Plus a fast food meal a day. This habit only got worse with time. The only thing that helped me break this pattern was to ensure I filled my kitchen with healthy snacks like fruits. Grabbing an apple or banana on my way out the door, and buying coconut water rather than a bag of chips helped me get back to eating habits I felt proud of again.
Once these 5 techniques became effortless in my day to day, I was able to increase the frequency of my workouts, whether it was a 30 minute yoga video on YouTube or a 1 hour walk in the park. A year later, I have worked up the motivation to sign up for boxing lessons at an outdoor gym here in Mexico City! At the end of the day, it is not about having a magazine model body, or depriving yourself of a guilty-pleasure. It is about balance, and it is about nurturing the self-love that will help you make choices to live life as your best self!