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5 Healthy Habits I Adopted in my 30s

10/17/2014 09:07 EDT | Updated 12/17/2014 05:59 EST

I'm 30 and couldn't be more excited that my 20s are behind me. Up until now I thought I knew it all. But now in my wise, old(er) age, I realize I'm still learning, changing and evolving. I've always touted myself as a health conscious person with a passion for fitness, but it is only in the recent years that I realize I've been doing things and thinking about things all wrong. Here are a few of the good health habits I've adopted in my 30s.

1. Stretch Out

A word to sum up fitness in my 20s: hardcore. If there weren't literal blood, sweat and tears involved in all aspects of my workouts, I wasn't interested. (Seriously, my boxing name was "Killa Caleigh!" #yikes) Naturally, this meant that zen stretch sessions were out of the question. "Why would I waste time attempting to touch my toes when I can be doing more pushups?!" It wasn't until I took the Personal Training Certification Course that I learned the error of my (obnoxious) ways. Canfit actually names flexibility itself as one of the major components of testing fitness levels. Essentially it made me realize if I could do 50 push-ups in a row but I couldn't touch my toes, I was not as fit as I thought I was.

So as the eager person I am, I started stretching on the regular, only to realize some incredible things. One, a good stretch sesh takes under 10 minutes. Secondly, while I may never be able to put my legs behind my head (sorry, honey) it didn't take long to limber up, a lot. What's more, turns out flexibility only adds fuel to the fire of an intense workout. I can run longer, punch harder, lift heavier and recover faster than ever before. All that and I'm in less pain all the time, and hardly ever injured anymore. OK, I'll stop the sales pitch now so you can all go stretch.

2. Don't be "The Best"

As we've already established previously I was known to be slightly competitive in my younger years. Even if there wasn't a game or challenge to win, the pressure to be the best always existed in the back of my mind. Especially when it came to fitness. There are great things about being driven in this way but there are also major drawbacks; one of the biggest being that I only pursued activities I thought I was great at. I now realize this is a terribly flawed mentality that held me back from pursuing some amazing hobbies.

Here's what I've learned. No one cares if you're the best but you. It's self-made, totally avoidable pressure that really serves no purpose except to stroke the ego. You might think people care if you fall out of that yoga pose, or hook that golf shot into the woods, but the truth is, they don't. They're probably not even paying attention. Being the best at something also doesn't mean you reap more benefits from it. For example, you don't burn less calories if you dance slightly off rhythm. And besides, the only way to get better at something is to try; if you don't try because you're afraid of failure, well, you'll never improve. So do it all, and embarrass yourself in the process. It's healthy, productive and helps you take life and fitness a little less seriously.

3. Treat Yourself Too

You know that old saying: "Treat others the way you want to be treated"? That's all fine and good but somewhere along the way we forgot to look out for ourselves. Number one! Yours truly! Looking back now, I realize that for so much of my life I had a double standard for others than I did for myself, especially when it came to exercise and body image. When a friend told me they "felt fat" I would roll my eyes and genuinely feel like they must be out of their minds. Then I would turn on my heels, call myself the same names (probably with a few extra curses), deprive myself of food and think it was perfectly appropriate and deserved. Similarly, if my mom told me she was skipping her treadmill session because she wasn't feeling well I would encourage her to take her time, rest up and not push it. But, if I skipped a workout because I had an off day, I would punish myself for a week. Now, in my 30s, I have a little more perspective, balance and self-love. I realize that it is important to give ourselves the same kindness and understanding that we give others. Rest on the days you need rest and compliment yourself on the days when you feel like crap. Basically, give yourself a goddamn break. You deserve it, too.

4. More. Water.

As a general life guideline, I try my best not to be a nagging girlfriend, especially when it comes to health habits. After all, my partner is a grown man who can make his own decisions. Plus, he already has a mom! So, there's that. But when it comes to water intake, all bets are off...I am a nagging nightmare! (Again, sorry honey!) But, it hasn't always been this way. For all intents and purposes I'm a relatively new "water convert." In fact, I distinctly remember the drive out to my first half-marathon, I watched my friends eagerly hydrate themselves before the big run and thought to myself that people seriously exaggerate this whole "need for water thing." (Oh to be 25 again.) Turns out I was wrong in a big way. Water is like, the most important thing, and drinking more of it has been a major game changer in my life. Shiny hair. Glowing skin. Sound sleep. Muscle stamina. Mental clarity. Weight management. And the best, bowel regularity!! 'Nuff said. Speaking of which, isn't it time for another glass? Cheers!

5. Eat Everything!

I'm sure many of you can relate -- much of my 20's, and teens for that matter, were dominated by the quest to find the best diet. Atkins. Paleo. High fat. Low fat. Cabbage Soup. Master Cleanse. You name it, I tried it. My assessment -- none of them work; at least, not as a sustainable lifestyle. The fact is, if you cut any one food group out of your life or deprive yourself of having any indulgences whatsoever, you're just going to end up wanting it more and probably eating more of it, eventually. I call it the "F-ck It!" moment -- when you give in to your cravings, and swap out your snack of 12 almonds for a bag of Doritos and chase it down with a container of Hagen Daaz. "F-ck It!" Inevitably you end up gaining more than you lost, and the vicious cycle starts all over again. But, what if you had a small scoop of that Hagen Daaz the odd time after dinner? Or treated yourself to a piece of dark chocolate some nights, have a piece of bacon at brunch next week and a small bag of popcorn at the movies every now and then? None of these things will cause you to gain weight. It is the exclusion of things that will end up coming back to haunt you, that will.

My advice: eat everything...just don't eat all of everything. I always say all the "bad things" on a menu should come in bite sizes. Like Timbits...how amazing of an invention are Timbits? You can have a bite of a doughnut without being tempted to have the whole doughnut. Brilliant. French fries? They should come in orders of 10 fries. Tell me you wouldn't order that! I try my best to make healthy choices but when I crave something sweet or something "naughty," I allow myself to have it, just a small serving. This way you're satisfying your craving in a moderate, responsible way. You get to treat yourself without the guilt and in the end avoid the backlash of deprivation.

Thankfully for me, I have some very generous friends and family. (I really am so sorry, honey!) At dinner, I order my own meal and I also order a side plate so that I can have a taste of everyone else's dinner. So instead of going out and getting a new diet book, get friends that will share their delicious dinners with you and eat some of everything.

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