Archive for the ‘Setting Successful Goals’ Category

Knowing How to Choose & Safely Progress with Fitness

 

 

 

Everyone in the groups have been making their own choices as to what type of aerobic activities they are doing to get exercise the past six weeks, and each week they are reaching most if not all of their goals.  I have guided them to set goals they know they can reach, to pay attention to how their bodies’ feel with the level of activity they are doing, and to avoid overdoing it or trying to add too much more too fast.  I’ve told them to stretch the goal no more than 5-10% after reaching the previous week’s goal, and if they feel they want to stay at their current goals to go with that. 

Starting Off Slow with Enjoyable Activities
Several people were so motivated by their initial successes, they got extremely ambitious and exercised for much longer periods of time, exercised every day, or both.  When I saw that, I encouraged each one of them to be careful and to scale back considerably.  While this is not the advice you would expect from a fitness expert (or personal trainer as I am), it is good advice.  Here’s why.  When you overdo it, you set yourself up for an overuse injury, stressing your immune system or feeling overwhelmed at having to keep it up, and any of these can lead to getting derailed and losing your motivation to get going again.  I’ve seen this happen too many times with my clients, and I have learned that it is better to build up slowly and safely to maintain enthusiasm and consistency. 

A number of other people were picking activities they felt they should do, and while they have been motivated by the group accountability to stick with them it isn’t enjoyable for them.  Doing exercise you don’t like won’t keep you motivated for long, so it is important to find activities you do enjoy.  Sometimes it is hard to know what that might be, especially if you are so out of shape you can’t do much.  One gal finds exercise boring and uninspiring, but she loves sports like tennis.  So she is looking into getting Wii Sport to renew her tennis passion and get moving in a way that is safe for her current fitness levels.

Learning How to Pace Progression
At this point the groups need more guidance as they become more active, so that was the theme for this week’s sessions.

I showed them a way to know how much exertion they were doing, so they could safely and effectively increase their fitness levels and progress from moderate paces to the point they can increase their aerobic capacity.  I introduced the chart below, which shows a commonly used scale for determining Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).  This is subjective based on a talk test, yet it works really well when you don’t have or don’t feel motivated to get a heart rate monitor. 

As you can see, when you are below an 8 on the RPE scale, which corresponds to 85% of your maximum heart rate (on the blue band), you are in the moderate zone.  And between 60-85% of your max heart rate (or between 3-8 RPE) you are in the fat-burning zone.  At the moderate and moderately easy levels, this is considered heart healthy, and this is where you want to start when first exercising.  It is also the exertion levels where you get some of the greatest improvements in cholesterol, blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.  Whereas, as you move up to difficult and very difficult intensities you get the greatest fat loss benefit.  When you get into the anaerobic zone, above 85% of your maximum heart rate, you begin to overload your heart and increase your aerobic capacity.  This is a good thing, but only when it is done in bursts of very short intervals followed by longer recoveries back in the aerobic zone.  These bursts are called intervals, and they are very effective at increasing fitness levels and accelerating fat-burning. 

But, as I cautioned the groups, the goal isn’t to just do interval training and higher fat-burning.  The goal is to build up to that point and then mix up the cardio with both days of moderate and longer periods of exercise and days of more difficult interval-based exercise.  You benefit from both and it allows for a mix of activities that are both intense and more moderate.  Furthermore, the body will adapt to whatever you do repeatedly, so it is best to mix it up with different intensity levels, types of activities and lengths of time. 

Everyone in the groups will now add their RPE levels each time they are active in their fitness journals, so they can see where they are and pace themselves to do a bit more every couple of weeks until they are able to sustain more difficult levels.  They can even start doing some periodic intervals in their current routines that will move them up a level or two in RPE, by adding short bursts (either by increasing their speed or their incline – like a hill) whenever it feels right to do so.

Balancing Core Elements of Fitness
There are four primary areas of fitness: cardiovascular, strengthening, flexibility and balance.  While there are different schools of thought as to which is most important and which you should start doing first, I explained to the groups that our primary goal is to establish a lifelong cardio foundation as the basis of a healthy lifestyle.  The health benefits of maintaining aerobic exercise are too numerous to list here, yet they aren’t limited to just reducing the risks of diabetes and heart disease.  Moderate levels of aerobic exercise improve arthritis, depression, energy, stamina, sleep, osteoporosis, mental focus, stress, digestion and more. 

It is too easy to take on too much too fast, when you try to do cardio, strengthening, stretching and balance all at once, and very often it gets too overwhelming or too time intensive to maintain.  That doesn’t mean that at some point, they won’t be doing all of this – as I now do in my weekly routine.  But first I want them to develop a consistent aerobic practice they will stick with before adding in much more.  The only exception is stretching, which is important for them to begin adding in now if they haven’t already done so. 

In time, they will also add in core strengthening (which often goes hand in hand with greater balance) and full body strengthening.  Some are doing a bit of this now, which is fine if it doesn’t get in the way of having enough time for being aerobic.  I know many personal trainers would disagree with this approach, suggesting strengthening should come first or along with cardio, but I am a realist and focused on making sure everyone has long-term success at maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle.  I am less focused on having them build muscle now or achieve rapid changes. 

Those changes will come in due time and it won’t hurt them to wait until they can successfully and incrementally add new things into their routine they can sustain.  I know from my own experience this works, even in my 40s.  I started off with cardio my first year until I had it down, and then I added strengthening the second year, and the third year I added Pilates.  Years later, I am doing all of them regularly, have maintained my lean body mass and continue to stay fit.  Sure I could have built up my muscles and gotten leaner faster, but I didn’t lose anything by waiting a year.  Instead I found a way to incorporate strengthening into my routine because I didn’t get too overwhelmed, and I’ve stuck with it into my 50s.  Not many can say that.

Preventing Injury Before it Happens
One other thing I addressed was injury prevention, which becomes a greater concern the older you are and the more out of shape you’ve become.  There is nothing worse than being derailed for months once you feel you are finally on track and making progress.

Again I had to learn this first hand by having an exercise-related injury from strength training, and I’m not alone in getting hurt exercising.  The problem is muscle imbalances, where some of your muscles are very tight and short and others are weak and long, creating imbalances around joints and across the body.  Some of the weakest areas are in the upper back and core.

When you have imbalances, which often occur from poor posture, prior injuries or being sedentary, you are prone to tearing muscles, ligaments and tendons when you become active.  This is most common with weekend warriors, but it also happens doing any new activity that pushes you more than your body is prepared to do. 

I am hoping to find a physical therapist in private practice who can offer preventive full body evaluations, so we know where their imbalances are and what physical therapy exercises can be done in preparation for strength training.  I used to have someone who did this for my clients, but that PT is no longer available.  So if anyone reading this blog knows of a PT who would be interested, please have them contact me. 

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the group members are doing with their fitness and how they are doing in making other healthy changes in the comments below.  Please feel free to add your own comments as you follow along.

To participate on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details and tools at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Motivated to Change Willingly vs Forcing with Willpower

This week, our sessions started a bit differently. I asked everyone to share what it was that allowed them to succeed at reaching all or part of their fitness goals. As it turned out, all but those who had illnesses or other situations outside of their control, met their goals and most exceeded them. They have been doing this for several weeks now, and I wanted to hear what was enabling them to stay on track and be successful.

Three Powerful Ways to Continually Reach Fitness Goals
The most obvious reason mentioned is accountability, which is why having a group, coach or other support structure makes all the difference when you are making lifestyle behavior changes. It is very hard to do this on your own, both when you get started and as the going gets tough to maintain the changes as a way of life. This is another reason I made this such a long program. It takes time to get new lifestyle changes integrated so they are a natural part of you and it no longer takes energy to stick with the new mindset and behaviors.

The second reason many gave for their success was the freedom to feel okay about making small changes they could achieve and then feeling motivated by that success to do a little bit more. In all the groups, most of them had exceeded their goals and felt really good that. They were excited by how good they were feeling from moving more, and quite a few are already seeing improvements in stamina, strength and energy. They were also jazzed by the ability to choose activities they found most enjoyable, such as walking outside instead of getting on indoor equipment, using the Wii Fit, or dancing with their kids instead of “exercise”. Any movement that gets your heart rate up into the fat burning zone and is sustained for a period of time counts as aerobic exercise, even if it is housework, yard work, washing the dog, shoveling, dancing around the house or playing in the snow. When you get rid of the rigid definition of exercise, you discover a whole world of aerobic options.

A third reason I heard was the versatility and flexibility they had to change their mind and pick other fitness activities during the week that better fit their mood, situations or schedules. They aren’t being forced to comply to specific fitness regimens, and they have the freedom to do what feels and works best to reach their goals. They also aren’t being encouraged to do too much or risk overdoing it, and many of them appreciate that. It is very easy to do too much and feel too stiff or sore to get back into a routine, which is often what derails people for days, which turn into weeks (or even months and years) as they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of starting over again. It doesn’t have to be that overwhelming, nor is it necessary to overdo it. It is best to make goals that are within your ability and totally realistic, and then to increase those goals week-to-week by no more than 5-10%. You can even decrease the goals if you know that is all your schedule will allow, as some people did for the vacation holiday. This assures you are always setting goals with a high level of confidence you can achieve them.

Creating a Way to Track Fitness Goals
What is helping them set fitness goals is the use of a fitness journal, which they began using a week ago. This gives them a place to set goals each day for up to two different aerobic activities and some stretching. And it gives them a way to track what they accomplished and how they feel. The journal can be found on the contest website at www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest . Many people are finding this journal very helpful, and others are interested in creating their own variation of it, and I don’t have a problem with that. I told them, what is more important is they have a journal that works best for them as a part of supporting their healthy and fit lifestyle; not what is best for me or to be in compliance with my rules. Not only that, as they begin to add in strengthening exercises they will need a way to track that – either as a part of this journal or on another form.

Finding a Willingness Rather Than Willpower
As each person checked in and shared what worked for them, I could hear a genuine interest, motivation and willingness to be active this past week. They weren’t relying on willpower as much as they were on the desire and choice to do what would leave them feeling better physically and about themselves. They aren’t fighting the process but finding themselves willing participants to be active. If you have to rely on willpower, you will lose the energy it takes to keep it up. Whereas, if you focus on the desire to feel good, you will increase your willingness and self-motivation to stay active. It is more than a change in mindset; it becomes an internal driver of self-care.

Read What the Participants Have to Say about Reaching Their Goals
I can only summarize what the participants are experiencing in this blog post, so read the comments to find out what they each experienced for themselves this week.

To do this for yourself, either on your own or in a group, check out the contest website for details, tools and instructions to join them on the contest website.

Have a healthy and active week,
Alice

Discovering Satisfaction and Focusing on the Positives

 

 

 

 

Putting the Emphasis on What Went Well
Our sessions started with a weekly check-in with everyone, in which they shared a fitness and food success. Some people wanted to also talk about ways they weren’t so good or didn’t do so well, but I asked them to only share what went well and any positive insights they got. The reason for focusing just on what went well is to avoid putting the focus on self-criticism or not being good or perfect enough, which most people do to the exclusion of seeing what they did in fact accomplish. You can feel like a failure and want to give up, when in fact you had a really good week full of positive changes and successes. This was eye-opening for several people who couldn’t see their successes at first and then realized they had been far more successful than they had given themselves credit.

Naturally Making Healthier Food Choices
As we did our check-in, again and again the group members shared how great they felt about achieving their fitness goals and making changes in their eating behaviors. They were having successes and ah-ha observations about food that was helping them make positive changes in their approach to food. A big change was the drop in overeating. If overeating happened, it occurred only a few times during the entire week, which was a big shift. They were also beginning to make healthy food choices and smaller portion sizes that were more satisfying than what they’d been doing in the past, and finding they were enjoying their food more. What they loved is they were doing this without feeling forced or because they should, but instead as a natural extension of their awareness of hunger and fullness levels – called Intuitive Eating.

The real test was Super Bowl Sunday, and nearly everyone avoided overeating or being totally out of control that day for the first time ever. Some of them deliberately portioned out smaller amounts, others made healthier versions of their party foods, many simply stopped as they began to feel full, and a few discovered they didn’t really want any of the food after all.

Getting Motivated by How Good It Feels to Move
They were also getting excited about how much better they were feeling from being more active and discovering how to pick activities that were most enjoyable. A number of people got outside and walked, which they really enjoyed, rather than get on their indoor exercise equipment. Some parked much further way from their destinations and got in more walking and felt more energized. Several others got a Wii Fit this past week and loved it so much they overdid it. A number of people pushed themselves to do more than they had set as a goal, and several of them felt really sore as a result. Getting sore isn’t a bad thing, but it can be a warning sign that you are doing too much too soon. I’ve learned over the years in my practice, that doing too much can lead to overuse injuries, joint pain, lower immune systems that show up as repeated colds, or a feeling of frustration and giving up. There is time to build up to doing more and giving the body a chance to acclimate to the changes. The best way to progress is by incrementally adding no more than 5-10% more time (or intensity) each week and checking in to see if you (and your body) are ready to progress.

Setting Realistic Fitness Goals
The last thing we discussed was setting fitness goals for the upcoming week, and this week they got a fitness journal to track their goals and what they actually accomplished. You can get a copy of this from the contest website.

Read the rest of this post for tips to setting realistic goals.

Hear what the participants have to say about their individual experiences this past week by reading their comments to this post.

Have a healthy and active week,
Alice

First Steps toward a Healthy Lifestyle

 

 

 

 

Contestants and Groups Selected
This week, four groups began the two-year journey together that will change their lifestyles. I received nearly 100 applications for participation in the contest, and of those I narrowed the applicants down to 40 and then talked with each of them at length last week. Each of them was ready, motivated and committed to making healthy lifestyle changes to reclaim their health, fitness and wellbeing. They all recognized that rapid weight loss and dieting was no longer the answer, and they wanted to finally take good care of themselves.

It was challenging to pick just eight for the contest, so I decided to create three more groups of eight to experience the same two-year program in order to support at least thirty-two of them.

Read more to learn who became contestants.


Getting Started

In our first sessions together, the group participants talked about what led them to apply for a spot in the contest. They shared the struggles they’ve had to exercise regularly, make healthy food choices and make themselves more of a priority. These struggles and the associated frustration, disappointment and pain they created are what motivated them to finally take action. Being inspired to change because of what is no longer tolerable, from a wake-up call or an opportunity to be in a life-changing contest, is often the motivating catalyst that puts people into action, yet that motivator has a short fuse and can disappear as quickly as it appears. The catalyst can get you to make a change, but it won’t keep you motivated to stick with that change or to make long-term changes. For that you need to create long-term motivators based on what it is you will be able to do, feel or experience as a result of the healthy lifestyle changes. These positive outcomes are what keep you motivated to stay on track.

Read more to learn how they selected their motivators and their first week’s goals.
 
See What Contestants and Group Participants Have to Say
I’ve asked the contestants to comment on their experience each week on a local community blog and the group participants to comment on this blog.  In that way, you will get a birds-eye view of what they are discovering for themselves, which will help you in following the contest and participating on your own. You are also free to comment on your own experience.

Have a healthy and active week,

Alice

Rickie Lake Sets an Example

Obese for most of her life, Rickie Lake is now fit and slim at a healthy weight and for the past three years she has been able to maintain her success. For twenty years as an actor, comedian and TV talk show host, she battled her weight with dieting and at one point starved herself while doing extreme exercising. None of it worked. Instead she yo-yoed in her weight, and did it very publicly, which wasn’t easy.

What finally worked was to stop dieting and extreme fitness. She discovered how to be physically active and eat a healthy diet in a way that was satisfying, easy to maintain and fits her lifestyle. Instead of focusing on quick fixes and rapid results, she focused on having a healthy lifestyle and she looks and feels better than she ever has, and she has been able to maintain it long-term.

What has helped her is getting food delivered by a service, and anyone can do this. There are personal chefs in nearly every community that have reasonable prices that most people can afford – even these days. If you don’t know of one, do a search on line. There are many directories for personal chefs.

Rickie learned that the answer is not dieting, and she is a good example of someone who has tried all the diets out there without long-term success. The answer is eating enough healthy food you enjoy, so you don’t go hungry or feel deprived. It is also to find a way to exercise that gets you energized and motivated to keep it up. Rickie discovered hiking and does it four times a week for nearly two hours. She doesn’t need to go to the gym to keep in shape. She is doing it outdoors which she really enjoys.

Instead of fighting her weight, Rickie is now living a lifestyle in which her weight takes care of itself. By now, after nearly three years of living a healthy and fit lifestyle it is a part of who she is. I doubt she’ll ever have to fight the weight demon that those who diet still struggle with. She would agree. I happened to see her interviewed the other day and she felt confident those days were now behind her.

I know how she feels, I will celebrate 9 years of my new fit lifestyle this January 1st, and I never worry about my weight or going back to my sedentary ways and perpetual dieting routine.

The Best Time to Exercise? Any Time You Can

Clients frequently ask when is the best time to exercise, and while some experts will tell you first thing in the morning, the truth is whenever you can fit it in. I once made the mistake of telling a client that mornings were best, and when her schedule didn’t accommodate time for being active until the evenings she felt like it wasn’t worth doing, got depressed and sabotaged her goals. That wasn’t my intention, and fortunately she got back on track the next week without a problem.

If you create a rule that narrows your chance for success, you are setting yourself up to fail. And that isn’t necessary. Instead you can be more open and set yourself up to easily succeed. Any time that you can make for being active, whether it is 10 minutes throughout the day, longer periods a few times a week or just in the evenings is just fine.

Up until recently I used to always make time in the morning for my fitness activities, but lately it just isn’t happening and I’ve had to adjust to fitting it into my evenings. The toughest part about that is making sure I don’t let other plans get in the way. Last night I was in my basement at 9:30, where I am lucky to have a mini gym set up, and doing a functional training routine. That isn’t ideal, but I knew I’d feel worse if I didn’t do it. My body gets antsy when I go without some type of exercise, so late as it was I was glad to be there.

What do you do when you find yourself having to exercise at night? Skip it or find a way to make it work?

Have You Discovered Zumba Yet?

I just discovered Zumba. It’s the Latin dance fitness program, created by a Miami-based dancer and choreographer a few years ago. You can get DVDs for it or you can probably find a local class. There are more than 25,000 instructors around the world, and a friend of mine found one in my own town.

Even though I am not a dancer and usually struggle to catch on or keep up with any choreography, I surprised myself and was able to follow along fairly well my first time there. I’ve been back a few times since, and even though the dances change a lot, I am finding there are a base series of steps used in each class. I’m now starting to get it.

What has been the bigger adjustment is wearing the recommended dance sneakers, which have a plastic sole instead of a rubber one. The plastic makes it easier to turn and twist on the balls of your feet, yet that can also make it harder to keep your feet from slipping a little too much. Of course that is what your core is for. Needless to say, this is fabulous cardio and core exercise that feels a lot more like great fun.


Alice Greene
Healthy Lifestyle Success Coach

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