Take it to the next level: Your guide to an active lifestyle in Charlotte

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Presented by Atrium Health

Because it has never been easier to be lazy, the struggle to stay active is real. While you may have the desire to be more active, it’s hard to fight the urge to binge watch Netflix and order in food.

Luckily, we live in a city with tons of opportunities to add more activity and healthy fun to our daily lives.

Whether you’re a total couch potato or you’re just looking to mix things up, it’s easier than you think to get motivated, get active – and take things to the next level.

One of the keys to being healthy is to have fun. So, to help you get started, we teamed up with Atrium Health to create a guide filled with ideas and expert tips that will keep you moving throughout the Queen City and, hopefully, take your fitness routine to the next level.

Find motivation to take the first step

So you want to get active? Finding the motivation to get started can often be the hardest part. Erin Haynes, DO, a primary care doctor at Atrium Health’s Charlotte Medical Clinic in Mint Hill, shared some tips to help you discover that motivation:

Know why being active is so important
Dr. Haynes notes there are several health benefits tied to an active lifestyle. Here are just a few:

  • Weight loss
  • Improved mood
  • Less stress
  • Better sleep patterns
  • More energy
  • Reduced risk of heart disease or stroke (leading causes of death in the U.S.)

Bring a friend (or a pet) to hold yourself accountable
Accountability is really important while you’re trying to become more active. Dr. Haynes recommends working out regularly with a friend, or bringing your dog to make exercise more enjoyable.

Investigate how much time you waste
If you take a hard look at your daily routine, how much time are you wasting? Seeing the wasted time in your schedule will make it easier for you to carve out 30-60 minutes for exercise.

Discover something new
Becoming more active means you can try out new things and potentially find something you love doing, a new hobby. What’s more motivating than that?

It’s not all or nothing
Any exercise is better than no exercise.  The curse of the perfectionist is thinking you need to have a fully formed plan and can perform the recommended number of minutes of exercise as a beginner. Just get out there!  Dr. Haynes assured us, 5 minutes is better than no minutes. We’ll take it.

Focus on beginner-friendly workouts

If you’re just entering the realm of fitness, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There are tons of different studios and fitness trends out there but you’ll want to ease your way in. Here are some non-intimidating places to start:

Join the Y
The Greater Charlotte YMCA offers a huge variety of classes, all at different fitness levels. You can try out some different style classes to see what you like best. Once you find a workout you like, you can build your way up to more intermediate levels. Memberships are reasonably priced and there are locations all over Charlotte. Find membership info here.

Try out ClassPass
ClassPass is a monthly membership that allows you to try out different fitness studios in Charlotte. The ClassPass app lets you look up class schedules and reserve your spot. If you reserve and don’t show up, you lose that class so it’s good at keeping you accountable. Memberships start as low as $30/month. Check it out here.

Go to a STAX Bootcamp
Every Monday and Wednesday, STAX offers a free bootcamp at 6:30 pm. The workout itself can be altered to your fitness level and you can bring as many friends as you want. It’s a very motivating environment to help jumpstart your new active lifestyle. Find more info here.

Try out some pop-up yoga
NC Yoga Bar offers classes throughout the week at Charlotte hot spots like McGill Rose Garden and the Mint Museum Uptown. The Whitewater Center also offers yoga throughout the week for free. It’s a great way to give yoga a try without the commitment of a pricey studio membership.

Make simple lifestyle changes

Beyond starting a new workout regime, there are lots of small ways you can step up your active lifestyle game. Here are some ideas:

Take the stairs
Whether you’re at work or at the mall, opt for the stairs whenever possible instead of the escalator or elevator. It might seem small but it still counts for something.

Change up your commute
Depending on where you live, see how you can create a more active commute. Maybe it’s taking the light rail and walking or riding your bike. Or maybe it’s parking further away from your work building. Try it out once a week at first.

Have a walking meeting
Need to schedule a meeting with someone? Suggest a walking meeting instead of sitting down at a table. You can grab some iced coffee and stroll around the block. Oxygen and ideas flow better when walking, especially outdoors.

Try out a standing desk
They say sitting is the new smoking and a standing desk is a great way to break up the 8 hours or more of sitting you might be doing every day. There are many standing desk options that can be purchased online or try a DIY option.

Mix up your workout routine

Tired of your normal workout? Charlotte offers a wide variety of activities to help you mix things up. It’s time to think outside of the box.

Go rock climbing at Inner Peaks
Address: South End, 2220 S. Tryon St. or Crown Point, 9535 Monroe Rd. Ste. 170
Cost: $18 for a day pass
If you love it: You can get a membership for $69/month

Try stand-up paddle boarding
Address: U.S. National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Cost: $25 for a single activity or $59 for a day pass; you can also purchase a season pass for $199
If you love it: Take it to the next level and try a stand-up paddle board yoga class on Lake Norman.

Rent a B-Cycle bike and explore the city
Address: A map of the B-Cycle Stations locations can be found here
Cost: $8 for 24 hours
If you love it: Buy your own bike at the Recyclery in NoDa, and don’t forget a helmet!

Get off the ground at Aerial CLT
Address: Uptown, 801 N. Tryon St. or Downtown Pineville, 311 S. Polk St.
Cost: $25 for one class
If you love it: Take an 8-week intro course for $120

Sting like a bee at TITLE Boxing Club
Address: 2016 Ayrsley Town Blvd, Suite E
Cost: Free for the first class
If you love it: Sign up for an unlimited membership

How to safely increase the intensity of your workouts

Once you get into a workout routine, you’ll start to get stronger and build up your endurance over time. Eventually you’ll want to increase the intensity of your workouts and when you do, you want to make sure you’re doing it safely.

Why? Because if you don’t you’ll risk injuring yourself, which would be a major setback for your newfound active lifestyle and could have lifelong consequences.

Here are some tips from Erin Haynes, DO at Charlotte Medical Clinic – Mint Hill at Atrium Health:

Ask your doctor
It’s no surprise Dr. Haynes recommends checking with your primary care doctor before you start kicking up the intensity of your workouts. Why? She says, your doctor knows your wellness journey and he or she can help give you advice on how to keep your body healthy throughout. It’s a smart thing to do to avoid injuries.

Don’t already have a doctor? No worries. Click here to find the right one for you.

Start low and slow
This goes for any workout routine, whether you’re a beginner or moving up to a higher intensity level. Dr. Haynes warns, pushing yourself too hard or too fast can wind up causing injuries. Set goals along the way and work your way up to them.

Have the proper equipment
Are you moving from walking to running? Going from riding your bike on the greenway to trail riding at the Whitewater Center? You’ll want to make sure you have the right equipment so you don’t wind up getting hurt. You might have to invest in new shoes or rent a different bike but it’ll be worth it. And don’t forget a helmet!

Fuel your body right
If you are picking up your workout intensity, you’ll need to fuel your body accordingly. Dr. Haynes recommends talking to your doctor about what you should be eating in order to give your body the energy it needs. And as always, she says to drink lots of water.

Photo via Facebook

Staying motivated is crucial to keeping up with your active lifestyle and one way to do that is to gain a competitive edge. Joining a local sports league, club or signing up for a race are all great ways to stay in the game.

Here are some ways you can plug in to the community, get competitive and stay active.

Intramural Sports

Sports Link
Sports offered: Softball, Basketball, Football, Kickball, Soccer, Volleyball
When: Year-round
Where: Teams meet around the city
Cost: $55-95 per player

Go Kickball Charlotte
Sports offered: Kickball
When: Spring, Summer, Fall
Where: Uptown, South Charlotte, Lake Norman
Cost: $65 per player

YMCA of Greater Charlotte
Sports offered: Basketball, Flag Football, Kickball, Martial Arts, Pickleball, Racquetball, Roller Hockey, Volleyball, Soccer and more
When: Year-round
Where: Offered at a variety of Y locations
Cost: $68/month for a Y membership

Sports Connection
Sports offered: Basketball, Soccer, Flag Football, Volleyball
When: Year-round
Where: Granite Street & Northlake locations
Cost: Varies by sport

Running Clubs

NoDa Brewing Run Club
Where: 2921 N. Tryon St.
When: Wednesdays @ 6:30 pm
Distance: 1, 3 & 5 mile routes

Sycamore Brewing Run Club
Where: 2161 Hawkins St.
When: Wednesdays @ 6:30 pm
Distance: 1, 3 & 5 mile routes

Triple C Run Club
Where: 2900 Griffith St.
When: Thursdays @ 6:30 pm
Distance: 3, 4 & 5 mile routes

River Jam Run
Where: U.S. National Whitewater Center
When: Thursdays @ 6:30 pm
Distance: 1.5, 3 & 6 mile routes


Charlotte Marathon
When: November 11, 2017
Distance: 5k, half marathon, full marathon
Cost: $20 entry for the 5k

OrthoCarolina 10k Classic
When: August 19, 2017
Distance: 5k & 10k
Cost: $30 entry for the 5k

No matter what fitness level you’re at, your body needs the proper fuel to get you through your workouts. Alicia Fogarty, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a dietician and nutrition expert with Atrium Health, gave us some tips to help us stay fueled and healthy, and to make sure we’re not slacking.

Start the day off right
You should be eating breakfast every day. Plain and simple. “This provides the foundation for fuel all day whether you’re exercising, working, at class, or taking care of kids,” says Fogarty.

She recommends eating within 30 minutes of getting up and ideally 30 minutes prior to any exercise. A post-workout smoothie is a good way to refuel afterwards.

Don’t skimp and don’t skip
Fogarty recommends eating 5-6 meals spread evenly throughout your day. Opt for smaller portions and shoot for fruits and veggies. Also, foods with protein, carbohydrates and healthy fat are key for rebuilding your muscles and keeping up your energy.

Stay hydrated
According to Fogarty, being just 2% dehydrated can negatively affect your performance during exercise. 2 hours before working out you should have 16-24 oz. of water in your system. Then, Fogarty says to drink 2-3 mouthfuls every 10-20 minutes during your workout.

Snack when needed
If you haven’t eaten within 3 hours of your planned workout, have a pre-workout snack. This will help you get the most out of your exercise. Fogarty also recommends snacking after a particularly intense workout to help your body recover. Go for something like a banana or Greek yogurt.

Stick to the basics
There are a lot of crazy diets out there but Fogarty advises just sticking with the basics. “Try to choose the least processed forms of food,” she says. “Include fruits, veggies, whole grains, and high-fiber carbohydrates.” She also recommends lean proteins and lots of color.

As you take steps to improve your active lifestyle, be sure to rely on your doctor for tips and trusted advice.

And if you don’t have one, Atrium Health makes it easy to find a primary care doctor close to home.

(This content was co-created with Atrium Health.)

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