Jump-start your diet and your life with these tips on managing your health.

As the crisp bite of winter approaches La Verne, many people, including Maritza Galabiz, a senior at the University of La Verne, can still be seen wearing down these beautiful sidewalks while attempting to stay in shape. / photo by Lindsey Gooding

As the crisp bite of winter approaches La Verne, many people, including Maritza Galabiz, a senior at the University of La Verne, can still be seen wearing down these beautiful sidewalks while attempting to stay in shape. / photo by Lindsey Gooding

Rock-hard abs, bulging biceps and healthy diets – these are all things that are on the to-do list for life, but somehow they have a way of escaping our grasp. Motivation plays a large role in this escape act, and so does money. Gym memberships are expensive, and visiting a nutritionist can give your wallet something to worry about, but this doesn’t have to be the case. With a little creativity, just about anyone can keep her mind and body looking and feeling fabulous.

The first thing to do is find an activity that interests you. If you’re someone who enjoys speed and accuracy, you may want to consider cycling. This activity will have your hair blowing in the wind, your mind free to dream while your body looks like a Michelangelo sculpture. Running, on the other hand, gives you complete freedom and a rush that will have you reeling for hours afterwards.

Another option is swimming. If you envy the life of a fish, then this may be the sport for you. Although La Verne is quite a ways from the beach, the refreshing feel of the sea mist on your face may be enough to have you leaping toward the shore.

After you’ve chosen an activity that entices you, find somewhere to practice this labor of love – for your body, that is. In terms of cycling, you may want to find a path that involves a good balance between flat and steep surfaces. One path that I would suggest would be to cycle down Bonita Avenue. This would be a good place to start if you’re a beginner. Start at the corner of Third Street and Bonita Avenue and go east to Claremont. Once in Claremont, take a leisurely stroll along the downtown area and recoup before you head back. Once this ride has you antsy for more of a challenge, try biking into the mountains that shadow the back of our beautiful city.

For those of you who would prefer a mind-bending run as opposed to a freewheeling bike ride, there are many do-able runs nearby. Measure the distance of your route in your car so that you can keep track of how many miles you are running. Start on Third Street going east toward White Avenue. Cross White and go up to First Street. Take a left onto First and run all the way up to Grove Street where you will take a left. Then take another left onto White. Run down White until you get back to Bonita, where you will take another left. Follow Bonita all the way down to D Street and end at D Street and Third. Now go get yourself a wheat grass shot. That was a great workout.

If this sounds a little dry for your taste, then a luscious dive into the ocean may be more up your stream. If you want to have a workout that involves an aquatic feel, then swimming is right for you. Take a short drive down the 605 freeway or the 57 and find a beach. One suggestion is Manhattan Beach because it’s really clean and not too crowded. Huntington Beach is also an option. Try swimming out past some of the more major breaks so that you can get to an area that is not too choppy – conditions may vary. Whether you feel the need to jet around the waves and do somersaults near the ocean floor, or want to just whomp your way through a few sets, this workout will definitely incorporate muscle toning along with a good time.

These adventures may sound easy on paper, but finding the motivation to get out there and pursue them is a difficult task in itself. In order to motivate yourself, you must first decide why exactly you want to sharpen your figure. If it’s because you saw a bikini in the new Cosmopolitan that you would die to fit into, then pin that picture on your door so when your alarm rings at 6 a.m. you can remember why you are waking up from your dream about Justin Timberlake to brave the great outdoors. It’s important to find a motivational tool that keeps your mind and body focused on why you want to stay healthy. Once you find it, half the work is done. All you have to do next is push your body into overdrive and let your workout do the rest.

The last thing to remember when attempting to sculpt your body into shape is your diet. It’s true that the local Denny’s and other restaurants have almost irresistible munchies to entice your hungry tummy, but remember that all that greasy food is just giving your body a reason to become a permanent couch potato. This food may be appealing at first, but it has a negative long-term effect on your daily energy level as well as your body. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, food that is eaten away from home accounts for almost one-third of a person’s daily calories. This is bad because these meals are known to contain more saturated fat and less calcium and iron than meals prepared at home. Meals at restaurants have also been growing in size. The average portion has grown in the last three years and, with the trend toward “super-sizing,” it’s no surprise that these meals have more calories. Having a busy life doesn’t allow many home-cooked meals, so there are ways around this dilemma.

First, just because restaurants are full of a variety of food options doesn’t mean that you should be adventurous and try all of them. Try sticking to three main options. Salad can be eaten for both lunch and dinner. This takes care of your vegetable intake and is a good vitamin booster. For breads, choose whole wheat – if you must eat bread, at least eat bread that is healthy. Lastly, for the main dish, stay away from anything that’s been fried. Fried food equals a fried body, and this will not get you a thumbs-up in the health department. If you eat meat, then chicken or beef may be the way to go. If you are a vegetarian, veer toward the fish or the lasagna, but watch your carb intake. This is something that can easily get out of control if not supervised.

Finally, remember portion size. A good way to judge if you’ve put too much on your plate is if you need more than one plate, or if the serving is larger than your fist. Don’t starve yourself, but if you have an urge to eat more than this, drown that craving with fruit and vegetables, not breads or desserts. Stick to three meals per day. Snacking can be a major source contributing to those extra pounds, so if you cut out snacks you can also cut away at that extra flab. Being aware of what is good and bad for your body is important; once you realize what is bad for you, it may be easier to stay away from it. Remember the rule of three: Simple techniques like running three times a week or eating only three meals a day can make a huge difference on your body and your life.

Staying healthy also means staying happy. Knowing that you are taking care of your body is just a way of feeling better about yourself. Life can sometimes feel as though it’s swinging out of control, but taking the time to control this one aspect of yourself may reduce stress in your overall being. So take this list of life goals and tape it on your door next to that poster of Justin Timberlake, and when the alarm rings at 6 a.m., jump out of bed refreshed and excited, knowing that you are taking your health and your life into your own hands, and changing yourself for the better.