5 Ways to Build & Sustain Healthy Habits in the New Year

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Guest blog post by Sally DeBoer,  Submarine Birthday 5k Team 

As the new year approaches, many of us are looking to add healthy habits to our routines. But let’s be real – the life of a submarine family is unique, and uniquely challenging – and the one-size-fits-all health and fitness tips floating around the internet may not be the right fit. Luckily, we have a wealth of expertise resident in our very own submarine community.

We sat down with fitness and nutrition professionals – who are also sub spouses – to get their best advice on how to build and sustain healthy habits that endure the ups and downs of submarine family life:

Start Small

When it comes to health and fitness, there’s no need to go to extremes. Across the board, our experts agreed that small changes and consistent habits can lead to major health payoffs. Erin Martinez, a lifelong athlete, fitness and nutrition coach, and owner of Lava Fit, advises: “Wake up and put on workout clothes. Start small- just four minutes! Find a Tabata song (Spotify has an entire playlist, 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest for four minutes), and do Tabata Squats or push-ups or lunges… just move! After four minutes you might just want to keep going when the next Tabata song begins!” Margaret Hawz, PA-C, agrees. “The best kind of medicine is preventative. One small decision towards healthy habits today can result in a lifetime of benefits.”

Put Yourself on the Schedule

Another consistent theme amongst our panel of sub spouse professionals was the need to dedicate time to health and fitness practices in the same way you would a family or command commitment. Andrea Robinson, who has 11 years of experience with Fit4Mom teaching a variety of classes and formats, explains: “it’s easy to get lost in the ever-changing schedules and demands of sub life. Schedule time to work out, just like you would schedule a [medical] appointment – and make sure to keep that appointment with yourself.” All our experts were keenly aware of the difficulty of finding time for yourself in this challenging lifestyle. “In this life of constant uncertainty and taking care of everything and everyone, it’s essential we take time for ourselves. Treat fitness like an appointment with yourself each day, schedule it on your calendar,” said Erin Martinez.

Stress Less

There are the obvious drains on our health and wellness, like poor diet or smoking, but others – like stress – are more subtle but similarly damaging. Amy Meek, an RDN with special training in Integrative and Functional nutrition, shared that her first question to patients in her care is “tell me about the stress in your life.” She goes on, “if you want to get to the root cause of your health issues, or if you’re looking to improve your health, start with stress management. As submarine spouses, we are no strangers to stress. Stress becomes a part of our daily life as sailors are often gone for lengthy time periods, long daily work hours, and we are living in new duty stations with very little support. Not to mention the uncertainty of our loved ones’ safety, lack of communication, and inability to plan for future events/holidays/family get togethers – just to name a few. It eventually takes a toll on your health and in the sneakiest of ways.” To combat this Meek suggests incorporating daily meditative movement, like yoga or easy walking, getting eight hours of rest, eating whole, nutrient dense foods, and taking time for yourself.

Give Yourself a Break

Who among us isn’t familiar with the feeling of being your own harshest critic? The at times overwhelming pace and demands of this lifestyle can lead to self-doubt and worse, self-blame. Registered Dietician (RDN/LDN) Stephanie McBurnett counsels “”Don’t beat yourself up. Sub life is hard enough. But remember your everyday habits matter most, make them healthy, easy to maintain, and consistent. Start the day off with healthy breakfast and always have a fistful of veggies with your meals, lower your processed foods, and up the whole foods!” Celebrating small wins toward health and fitness goals, while not dwelling on those days we miss the mark, is a recipe for success through moderation and self-care. Progress, not perfection, is the name of the game.

Get Social

As the adage goes, if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. There’s nothing like a great support group of like-minded, empathetic friends to boost your mood and support your commitment to health. Becky Doherty, owner of Fit4Mom Crestview hills, shared that her best advice is to find your village. “Join a gym, find a FIT4MOM, go to classes on base, find the people who will help support and motivate you!” Lava Fit owner Erin Martinez, who started her own fitness business coaching effective and focused workouts in her driveway, concurred. “With our transient life, making friends in each new station is sometimes a chore. Many years ago, I started doing CrossFit in Hawaii. We moved to VA for a short time, then to CT, then to TN… in each place I joined a CrossFit gym and had instant friends who, like me, were interested in living a healthy and active life.”

Training for an event with friends is a great way to combine socializing, support, and fitness. A virtual race, like the 2022 Submarine Birthday Virtual 5k, can bring together your submarine family from every homeport! Please consider joining the fun and supporting our mission of making submarine families’ educational dreams a reality.

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