With sunny warm weather finally upon us this week, many Calgarians are looking forward to an active summer after a winter of COVID-19 uncertainty and burnout.

Being inactive over the winter may worry some who have gained weight or are not in shape for summer festivities. But experts say living healthy should be a lifestyle choice, not just for a summer beach body. 

Ryan Wright, a personal trainer at Mount Royal University Recreation Centre, works with various people who have specific goals for their bodies. 

“People should take a second to consider the kind of holistic benefits of physical activity and physical exercise rather than just the aesthetic ones,” Wright said. “There’s so much benefit to physical exercise and a healthy diet beyond the aesthetic.”

Ready, set, goals

Experts say there are a few things you should ask yourself before trying to drastically change your life, as understanding what you want to achieve and how you’ll get there is not an easy task. 

Sonya Flessati — a psychologist at MRU Student Counselling Services who specializes in topics like stress management — works with university students navigating through post-secondary goals. 

A common suggestion she and her colleagues offer is creating SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Wright sees clients disappointed because they set unrealistic expectations in a short period of time.

“You only get the results for the work that you put in, and it takes a lot of time,” Wright said. 

Bodybuilder Todd Payette says healthy eating is important to a balanced lifestyle. PHOTO SUPPLIED BY: TODD PAYETTE

Common mistakes

Bodybuilder and author Todd Payette was inspired at a young age by Arnold Schwarzenegger not just by his physique, but also his attitude, focus and ability to overcome obstacles.

Payette —who trains others to be in their best shape for bodybuilding competitions or just to live a healthy lifestyle — often sees beginners mistake quantity for quality. 

“I’ll just see people training too much,” Payette said. “It’s like having a plant and pouring water on it constantly. You need rest for the muscle to recover and to develop.”

Wright agrees it’s not about big steps all at once but small steps over time. 

“Make the changes on the margins and you’ll start to notice slower improvements,” Wright said.  “If you go into it with really unrealistic expectations of really fast results, it’s easy to get discouraged.”

Whether your goal is to lose weight or bulk up, Payette recommends doing things in moderation and focusing on what you’re eating. 

“The food is a huge part of it,” Payette said. “People don’t realize that to maintain that low level of body fat for the muscles to show properly, you really need to be on your food every day.”

Payette adds it is important to have discipline, as it can be difficult to find motivation sometimes. 

“Some days you wake up, and you don’t really want to go train [and] you want to sit on the couch and eat Doritos and relax.” 

Diet and eating healthier may seem like a lot of hard work but Wright believes anyone can do it. 

“I would say looking at nutrition resources is a great place to start and doing things like taking a food log or some kind of tracking.”

Plus size model Brittnee Blair promotes body positivity on her Instagram account.

Comparisons and stereotypes

Brittnee Blair, a TV personality and plus size model, finds there are many untrue stereotypes about her body size in the industry. 

“We’re still working out, we still have measurements that we have to need, we still grind it out. We work just as hard as a straight size model,” Blair said. “At the end of the day, our body is our job.”

Payette also deals with judgment and criticism on a daily basis. 

“People often either really love muscle and they admire it and they think it’s great. Or they really hate it,” Payette said. 

Both Blair and Payette say it is best to ignore the opinions of others–owning your body and appreciating your little achievements is part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. 

Balancing mental and physical health

Flessati acknowledges whether you’re a student or someone who’s had to adjust to remote working, the mental health of Calgarians has been affected during the pandemic.  

“In the midst of  feeling burnout, it’s still important to pay attention to all kinds of parts of our wellness,” Flessati said.

Flessati adds goals planned prematurely or unrealistically may seem unattainable but knowing how to readjust and rebound is key. 

“Sometimes it is good for us to let go of a goal if it is not going the way we want, but first I would encourage reflection and if needed, adjustments to make it something that can be worked on.”

Blair believes self-love and self-compassion are things people should practice daily to appreciate the different shapes and sizes we all come in. 

“I think a lot of times we don’t even realize how often we do negative self-talk,” Blair said. “You’re the only person that can give people permission to make you feel a certain way.”

“Live however you want to live unapologetically. And don’t compare yourself to other people or what this expectation of a summer body is.”

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