Archive for the ‘Solving Fitness Issues’ Category

How Being Good on Your Diet Hurts Your Long-Term Success

I learned something that really surprised me when I discovered what it really took to successfully stick with healthier eating and regular exercise. It is doing what feels good, rather than striving to be good. It has become one of my tried and true secrets to long-term success that I have seen work over and over again with my clients.

The Struggle to Be Good Enough
When you focus on being good on a diet or in doing your prescribed exercise, you are rarely able to be good enough often enough to feel successful. Instead you end up feeling badly about yourself when you fail to eat the right thing or fit in all your exercise, and then you probably question your ability to be successful. This mindset leads to the inevitable conclusion that you can’t do it right and can’t stick with your program. At that point you give up, and it may be months or years before you try a healthier diet, an exercise program or whatever it was you were trying to improve about yourself. How many times has this happened to you?

One of my clients, Clare, used to check in each week by saying, “I wasn’t good this week, I only exercised three times”, “I was really bad last week, I overate at least twice”, “I tried to be good, but I ended up being bad”, “I’m so bad, I don’t know if I can be good”, and “I failed at doing what I know I should, and I don’t think I can do this”.

Seeing Success Differently
And yet, when we talked further, in nearly every case there was a lot she had done that was successful. She had exercised those three times, she had stopped eating before getting full more than ten times, and she was making great progress. She was surprised to hear that she wasn’t doing as badly as she assumed. She discovered that each time she had been “bad”; they were the result of situations she couldn’t easily control without a better game plan. Instead of being bad, she had done well in light of what she was dealing with, and she could create strategies for the future by having the hindsight.

We as a society are conditioned to see what didn’t go well, instead of what did. We see our failings and ignore our successes, as if having a perfect score or grade is all that matters. But when it comes to eating, exercise and self-care, you don’t need a perfect score. Good is good enough. Since you don’t have to be perfect, you can instead focus on all your successes, and that is a great feeling and a powerful motivator to continue making progress.

What Clare and all my clients have learned is that being successful is actually about honoring yourself. It has nothing to do with the judgment of being good or bad. When you can’t exercise as you planned, you end up feeling less energized. When you overeat, you don’t feel as well afterwards. When you drink too much, you lose control of your choices and don’t feel well the next day. When you are out of control around food, you don’t feel good about yourself. The repercussions of not doing something healthy affects how you feel and your chance to take good care of yourself, and that is it. The only one to beat you up is you. You weren’t bad; you missed an opportunity to feel and look better.

Focusing on Feeling Good Rather Than Being Good
When you see it that way, you start to focus on ways to feel good. For example, it feels reallygood to eat healthy food that is satisfying and to move enough that you have more energy and want to do even more activity. It feels great to have more confidence in yourself, to be in control around food, and to see your body get stronger and leaner. And it feels absolutely wonderful to become healthy and fit.

To make this shift, you need to know how you actually feel. Most of my clients have no idea how they feel when they get full, eat unhealthy food or push their bodies too hard, because they have never paid attention. Many of my diabetic clients don’t really know how it feels when their blood sugars get low or high, and even fewer clients really know how they feel emotionally. Once they learn how to check in with how they feel, they have an easier time making healthier choices because it feels so much better than being unhealthy and inactive. And the better they feel, the more of that great feeling they want.

So the secret to long-term success is doing what feels good to you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually instead of striving to be good.

4 Steps to Bounce Back from a “Bad” Week

“It was a bad week,” Sherry told me. “I didn’t do well with my food.” That was the first thing she said when we started our session, so I asked her what did go well before we talked more about what didn’t.

She told me about all the times when she was able to stop eating before getting full, how she had made a batch of brownies for her kids and realized she wasn’t interested in having any herself, and how she had gone out to dinner with her husband and made healthy choices without overeating. She had also had friends over for dinner and had prepared healthier foods which was a first, and she didn’t overeat or over drink.

As she shared all this with me, she was seeing how good a week she really did have. She was amazed by how many things she had done that felt really good; and she said “wow, I didn’t see all these things until now.”

That was because she was focused on the one thing that hadn’t gone so well; the one night when she overate and didn’t feel in control. That clouded her thinking about the other thirty-one times she had eaten a meal or snack the past week without overeating or making unhealthy choices. It also left her feeling like she’d failed, which had the potential to derail her efforts moving forward. After we talked, Sherry felt successful and motivated to have another good week.

You can do the same for yourself with these 4 steps:

1. Review your past week for all the times you made healthy choices.
Notice how often you ate just to the point of satisfaction and stopped before getting full, had breakfast, didn’t get too hungry, ate balanced meals and snacks, had treats in moderation, exercised or was active, got enough sleep, drank enough water, and took care of yourself in other ways.

Like Sherry, you will probably be amazed by how many healthy and positive things you actually did for yourself and how well the week really did go. Allow yourself to feel good about and to shift your perspective about your accomplishments.

2. Be curious about what didn’t go so well, instead of beating yourself up.
Also notice when you overate, ate lots of unhealthy foods, ate when you weren’t even hungry, skipped a workout or opportunity to be active, drank too much alcohol or soda, or didn’t get the sleep or water you needed. Do this with interest and curiosity. There was a good reason for this.

Think back to what was going on that day. What were you thinking when one of these behaviors occurred. That will give you clues as to what was driving that decision or choice. Maybe at the time, you were dealing with a lot of emotions or had totally run out of time. Maybe you were not paying attention and let things happen. Maybe you didn’t plan ahead and weren’t prepared, so you opted for a less healthy choice. None of these make you bad. These are opportunities to see what gets in the way of what would leave you feeling better physically and about yourself.

If you beat yourself up, you won’t see what really happened. You will only focus on how bad you are, and that won’t improve your behavior. Instead that will lower your confidence and kill your motivation.

3. Learn from that situation, so you are more confident and in control next time.
With curiosity, you can look back and see what you would have done differently, what you really needed or how you might have prepared in advance.

How could you have addressed your emotions instead of turning to food? How could you have been more conscious, so you were able to be in charge of your choices? How could you have planned ahead to have time or have food? Were your goals realistic for this week or had you really thought about it, would you have expected yourself to fit in so many days of exercise?

By asking yourself these types of questions, you can see that any time you aren’t as successful as you would like to be, these are opportunities to understand why and to consider what you might have done differently either at the time or leading up to the decision. Maybe you would have set more realistic exercise goals. Maybe if you had done your meal planning and shopping over the weekend, you would have had healthy food in the refrigerator instead of munching on pretzels and ice cream for dinner. Maybe, knowing it would be a difficult week, if you had gotten some healthy to-go food or stocked up the freezer with healthy frozen entrees, you would have had enough healthy food to eat during the week. Or maybe when you found yourself upset, if you had called a friend, gone for a walk or gotten your journal out, you wouldn’t have pigged out all night and ended up feeling sick.

With these insights, you can develop strategies for next time. And there is always a next time.

4. Let your successes and new insights motivate you to stay on track.
Feeling successful is the key to staying motivated. When you feel good about yourself and can see all that is going well to be healthier, more fit and reach your goals, you will want to do even more. No matter how small those successes are, they build your confidence and enthusiasm for staying on track.

Having strategies to support you in being successful is also motivating. It gives you direction and hope that you really can continually make healthy choices and stay on track. As you implement these strategies, you can learn more about what works best for you. These strategies aren’t new rules; they are new ideas to experiment with. The goal isn’t to be good. The goal is to discover what works to support your health and fitness, to stay motivated and on track, and to feel really good each day.

Do You Need Variety to Stay Motivated?

Ellen was finding she felt more excited and enthused when she was trying something new or mixing up her exercise activities. She realized she had always known that variety was important to her, but she had discounted it as being a flaw in her personality. Ellen felt she needed to be more serious and dedicated to specific exercise workouts and had to stick with them for years to come to reach her goals. Yet inevitably she would get de-motivated and quit just weeks after starting a new program. She came to me to find out how to increase her motivation, so she could stay on track long-term.

The answer was in the very thing she was fighting: variety. If variety made her excited and enthused, then this was the perfect thing to leverage as a motivator. Instead of seeing it as a flaw, she could instead see it as an advantage. To accept this, she also had to change her belief that the only worthwhile exercising was structured, specific and needed to be done at least 3 times a week. That was easy; she was delighted to give up this belief. The idea of doing the same routine over and over was unappealing and de-motivating.

Ellen is one of many clients who have this misconception that worthwhile exercise is a specific and rigid work-out routine, which comes from the fitness industry. Even though a personal trainer will mix things up when they meet with a client, the recommendations from trainers for those working out on their own is usually a fixed cardio and strength training routine they can do at home or outdoors several times a week. The reason is you need a trainer’s knowledge to know how to substitute strengthening exercises appropriately and organize them in the most effective order. When they can’t be there to guide you, all they can do is provide a structured set of exercises. This is why in magazines, the routines are very specific and you are given the recommended number of days a week you do them.

Yet, it is ideal to mix up your aerobic and strengthening activities. Our bodies adapt fairly quickly to doing the same exercise in the same way routinely, which means you get less return for your effort the longer you do the same thing. So, to the amazement of Ellen and many of my clients, variety works to their advantage.

The same is true with food. Most people who like variety in their fitness activities, also like variety in their meals and snacks. Again, this can be used to your advantage. Plan for more variety and let the desire to try new things help you to expand your healthy choices.

 

3 ways to tell if you need variety to stay motivated:

  • Do you get bored doing the same activities, whether it is exercise-related or elsewhere in your life?
  • Do you feel energized when you aren’t stuck in a routine and get to have lots of variety?
  • Do you have more fun when you are mixing up your activities and foods or trying new things?

3 ways to mix up exercising to be motivated and more effective:

  • Give yourself permission to get aerobic exercise by being active for x minutes or x days a week. Allow yourself the freedom to decide which activity you will choose based on your mood or what works best on a given day. For example, Karen likes to bike, walk, kayak, swim and do Zumba, and she can pick from any of these to reach her weekly minutes goal. She doesn’t have to commit to doing any one of them regularly. Instead she will go with what feels good that day, without the burden of worrying about what she should do in the future.
  • Pick a few types of aerobic activities you want to be good at and do each of them at least once a week. One of my clients is doing Taekwondo, racquetball and walking her dog. She is working toward new belts in Taekwondo, and she is learning how to play racquetball so she can do this with friends. Each week she learns new things and pushes her body in new ways that feels really good.
  • Train for a triathlon, which requires mixing up swimming, running and biking throughout the week and adds in greater intensity levels as the training progresses.

Take advantage of whatever it is you prefer to do to reach your goals. If something doesn’t work for you, don’t assume that makes you a failure. Instead see what does work and how to turn it into a motivator that will keep you jazzed for the long term.

Are You Setting Yourself Up for Holiday Weight Gain?

Ahhhh another school year. Whether you have kids or not, the change in temperature and shorter days reminds us all that is time to get refocused and back to work – or back to the gym and regular workout routines. But just like kids, you don’t want to go back and you put it off for a day and than one more day. And the next thing you know it is the holidays and you never did start exercising or eating better. And of course you can’t get started once the holidays begin, so you wait until New Years when you feel more uncomfortable, overweight and disappointed in yourself. Is this a familiar story? It doesn’t have to be.

Why not create healthy routines that you look forward to instead of dread. To succeed long term in getting back into shape, maintaining your health and achieving a great feeling in your body means creating a lifestyle that fits your life, not the other way around. Forcing something to work that you really resent or is more than you can really take on isn’t likely to last. The first time your schedule gets disrupted it will be the first thing to go and the last thing to add back in. Think of what usually happens for you and if this is generally true. Do you really want to get back on that treadmill or start that diet? I didn’t think so.

Determine instead what is realistic for you and your body. Start by creating small realistic daily or weekly practices that slowly change your lifestyle so that eating better and regular exercise get easily incorporated in your planning and schedule. It is better to start with just a few changes and a small commitment – maybe exercising a few days a week doing as much time as you can and working up to five days for 30-40 minutes. What is most important is incrementally increasing the days, time and intensity in a way that is best for your fitness level and schedule. This isn’t a race or a comparison game. It is a process of incorporating fitness for a lifetime.

The same goes for food. When we feel fat, we start a diet. But diets have less than a 4% success rate. Almost no one can keep the weight off a year or more after the diet, but that doesn’t stop us from trying what everyone is doing. This is particularly alluring for us as women. We are compelled to do the next diet. It is far better to select healthy options from among foods you enjoy, and to eat when you get hungry and stop before you get full. You will be more successful long term if you enjoy what you eat, feel free to eat what you love without being deprived or judged, and creating a routine that isn’t driven by the latest diet. This is easier than starting something new every six months.

And know what is right for you. Decide what is realistic and sustainable in your daily life. Everyone’s goals, abilities and schedules are different, so it is best to focus on your situation and not someone else’s. If you push too hard, you can get burned out, frustrated, injured or impatient for results. If you cut too far back on food, you will lose your muscle mass, reduce your metabolism and end up overeating when the diet is done. It is better to start with moderation and healthy choices with enough variety to keep you interested and your body supported, so you have successes and feel motivated to stay on track.

Focus on choosing things you think you will enjoy most of the options you have available to you. Sometimes that means trying new things, such as new foods or new types of activities. You may find that you really like some of them. This is how I came to love Pilates, kick boxing and even P90X. Listen to your body and what feels best to you. You might find that a new way of eating or activity grows on you because of how good it feels to your body.

So now that fall is in the air, what simple steps can you take that are appealing and realistic to boost your aerobic levels, balance your meals and take care of your health, so you can avoid that holiday weight gain?

My Significant Other is Obese, What should I Do?

You wish your sweetheart took better care of themselves and weren’t so overweight, but whenever you try to help, it backfires. You’ve tried friendly suggestions, cooked up healthy meals, kept cookies and ice cream out of the house, and resisted saying too much. Yet it bothers you that your significant other is only getting heavier and doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it, and it is affecting how you feel about them. Now what?

Martin had the same problem with his girlfriend Ellen, and more than once she told him to back off when he tried to give advice or encourage her to make changes. He loves her, but he wasn’t sure he could stay with her if she didn’t start taking care of her health and losing some weight.

The truth is, you can’t force anyone to change, no matter how nice you try to be about it. But you can make it easier for them to make those changes for themselves. As we all know, when it is just as easy to get a delicious hearty salad as it is to grab a bag of cookies, it is more likely we will have the salad and maybe a cookie or two to go with it.

If our environment makes it simpler and easier to make healthier choices, than we are more inclined to do them. This is why more businesses and communities are working to provide easier access to walking areas, healthy foods and fitness support. You can do the same for your partner.

Have healthy foods in the house
To make it easier for both of you to eat well, you need to stock your refrigerator and freezer with healthy foods that are fast to make, easy to dress up and taste really good. These days it is easy to find good frozen foods, pre-cut vegetables and very simple fast recipes.

But do not remove unhealthy food from the house in an attempt to force healthier choices. Your mate will only go out and get more of that food out of anger and a genuine fear of deprivation.

Buy healthy meals or a meal service
If you don’t want to prepare meals yourself, get healthy to-go options at your favorite restaurant or grocery store, and look for a service that delivers meals. You may be surprised how affordable these options are.
Everyone prefers healthy foods if they taste good, including vegetables. You may be surprised how much your significant other looks forward to these balanced healthy meals.

Suggest healthier restaurants
Some restaurants are healthier than others, and more places are providing locally sourced foods, which often includes more vegetables and cleaner foods. Go exploring to see what new healthy restaurants have popped up in the area, and make it a date night. The goal isn’t to stay on a diet but to find delicious well balanced fare, so it’s easier to make a healthier choice.

Keep healthy snacks and water around
One of the main reasons people overeat and binge on junk food and sweets is because they get so hungry they go for the easiest food and then can’t stop eating out of a compulsion to make up for not getting enough food earlier. The way to avoid that is to have healthy snacks on hand in the house, in the car, in your bags or in the office – for yourself and your partner. Water is also important. When you don’t get enough water, you deplete your energy and your metabolism slows down.

Take a cooking class together
Cooking can be fun, and a cooking class is a great way to do something together, taste new interesting foods and get recipe ideas. The class doesn’t have to be just about healthy food. The idea is to learn some cooking techniques, discover new flavors and be open to cooking at home. It is easier to prepare healthy foods for sweetie, if you both know how to cook or have some recipes you like.

Suggest some easy activities
Try suggesting activities you can do together that sound fun and don’t take lots of time or exceeds your partner’s physical capabilities. You want to make being active inviting instead of intimidating, such as birding, walking a nature trail with great views, seeing a great view that takes some stairs, dancing, taking a ballroom dance class, or anything enjoyable that requires limited exertion. Baby steps are the key to getting them interested in doing even more active outings.

Offer to be a walking buddy
Your partner probably assumes you would not be interested in walking with them on a regular basis. Yet you might actually enjoy that. Martin did, and Ellen was totally amazed. She knew she couldn’t walk as fast or as far, and she thought Martin would hate walking with her. But that wasn’t true. He enjoyed getting time with her after work, and he loved that it was outdoors and doing something active. So if you think it is appropriate, offer to be a walking buddy, even if the pace is slower than you prefer at first.

Be loving and non-judgmental
It is so easy to judge others for being overweight, yet you don’t know what they are dealing with or why it is so hard for them to change. Honestly neither does your significant other, who also struggles to understand why they don’t do as they know they should. And the more they try, often the worse it gets, because the real problem is not lack of willpower or intelligence. The problem is buried deep in their subconscious beliefs and emotions, which drives choices and behavior unconsciously on autopilot.

Don’t sabotage their efforts
You may think you know best and can help your sweetheart by either denying specific foods or rewarding with treats. That doesn’t help at all. Nor does pushing someone to be better or make better choices. They aren’t you, and if you push, they will rebel and get angry. Let them discover that the more they do that feels good to their body, the more healthy things they will want to do, particularly if they aren’t trying to measure up to someone else’s expectations.

The worst thing you can do is make the one you love feel guilty, ashamed or bad about themselves. That will backfire. It is human nature to resist doing anything for yourself when you have low self-esteem, just as it is normal to turn to food to avoid painful feelings or shame.

As Martin learned, the best thing you can do is help your partner feel good about their choices and about themselves by supporting them in a non-threatening way. By doing little things that made healthier decisions easier, Ellen started to make small changes and feel good about her little successes. Martin didn’t try to take the credit or push her to do more; he was simply there to listen and be supportive. A year later, Ellen had slimmed down and became the one who wanted to take an active vacation and encouraging Martin to run with her in a 5k. The same could happen in your relationship.

This column was originally posted at YourTango.com.

Overcoming a Fitness Lapse

It happens to all of us at one time or another: the inability to exercise for a few days or even weeks as a result of illness, injury, an emergency, extra work, vacation or any number of situations. It has happened to me twice in the past three months. In December I couldn’t do any aerobic exercise for almost three weeks due to bronchitis and holiday travel, and then I tore a muscle in my arm that has been slow to heal. Yet unlike the past when I would have felt I’d failed and it was too much to get restarted, I was able to easily get back on track. But for most people getting started again feels too hard and challenging, yet it is easier than you may think.

The biggest issue is the perception about a derailment, regardless of the cause. Too often it is seen as evidence of failure, even if it is totally outside of your control. You aren’t in control of getting sick or injured. You can’t avoid times when you have to step in to deal with a family emergency or address an issue at work. And you wouldn’t want to skip going on vacation or taking time out for other types of activities in your life. And none of these make you bad or a failure if you aren’t able or don’t choose to exercise during these times.

There was nothing I could do about getting sick or injured, and the best thing for me has been to rest, take it much slower or lower the intensity when I am active, and let myself fully heal. Under these types of circumstances, you can look at non-exercise as another way of taking care of yourself, equally as beneficial as exercising. Then when you are ready to be active again, you can start back into your routine gently at a slower pace.

This is the safest and most successful way to get back on track without overwhelming yourself or your body, and within a short period of time you will be in full swing as if you hadn’t missed a day. Looking back a few weeks or months later, you would have a hard time even remembering that you had a week or two off or had a week of doing a bit less – sort of like when you take a vacation.

Feeling like you have to start all over again is one of the most common reasons many people don’t resume exercise after a period of inactivity. It feels like too much effort to start over, and from that perspective it looms over you and zaps your energy. Yet you aren’t starting over at all; even if it feels that way. You are just resuming after a short break. And surprisingly, you will bounce back very quickly once you get going, and you don’t have to start back at the same frequency, pace or exertion level you had before the time off.

So why not give yourself a break and start back with lower expectations and a gentler pace? There is nothing wrong with that. This is the best way actually to regain your motivation, re-establish how good it makes you feel to get moving and get your body back up to speed. It doesn’t matter if it takes you a few days or a few weeks to regain your former fitness levels.

Instead of seeing a break in your fitness routine as a setback or derailment, see it as an expected part of your fitness lifestyle that will occur from time to time and one that you can easily accommodate and work with.

Stop Forcing Yourself To Exercise Outdoors

The research is in! According to a new study released from MIND, a UK mental health organization, 90% of women over the age of 30 are uncomfortable exercising outside. The findings suggest that women are too self-conscious and embarrassed about their bodies or their abilities to be seen exercising in public. As a result, many women go to extremes, such as exercising in the dark or skipping doing any activities. The findings make total sense. What doesn’t are the author’s recommendation to find ways to be active outdoors anyway.

Read the rest of this column posted at YourTango.com

A Whole New Type of Physical Therapy

 

 

 

 

As you get older, you have more aches and pains and are more easily hurt from being active. I know this first hand from getting hurt exercising a number of years ago. So to prevent injury and be in better physical shape, I encouraged the contestants to go to Labell & Associates Physical Therapy in Rowley, before moving into more advanced levels of exercise or strengthening routines. All they had to do was ask their doctors for a referral, which has been no problem, and insurance covers it. Most people in the group have now worked with Bryan Labell and his staff, and all of them are thrilled with the results and amazed by how much more they can do with their bodies.

Bryan’s goal isn’t simply to help people heal an injury, which is what physical therapy (PT) is typically used for. His goal is to show people how to use their bodies more effectively, to protect themselves from injury, and to be able to perform activities at a maximal level – whether they started with an injury or simply wanted to increase their ability to do certain activities. His PT treatments are designed to restore full flexibility and full strength across the body, as well as increase coordination, endurance and balance. He starts off with stretching tight muscles and strengthening weak ones, balancing out the muscles and building a strong foundation, before he shifts people to more dynamic exercises to enhance physical performance and agility.

By the time people are done with their sessions, they are more in tune with their bodies and what it takes to stay pain free, and they are doing much more than they ever would have thought possible. He happens to have an advantage most PT businesses don’t; his offices are inside the Excel Gym, so he has use of the exercise equipment. Those in the group who have worked with Bryan gush about how great the experience has been and how motivated and excited they are by what they can now do. And that in turn is motivating them to do even more activity and to pursue a regular strengthening program to continue improving their fitness, which Bryan has personalized for those who want to do this.

Lisa – Healing plantar fasciitis
Lisa was the first to go to Bryan and she is thrilled to have accomplished so much. “When I started,” Lisa said, “I was so tight in my hips, hamstrings and calves. Now I am looser, have full range of motion and no pain. I am also much more in tune with my body, so I can tell when things are changing, what feels different and what I have to do to make adjustments. I feel so much better, and I can really notice a difference at work.”

Lisa injured her foot doing a lot of walking this spring and developed plantar fasciitis, which she had dealt with in the past. Fortunately she could still bike, but it was very painful and affected her at work where she does a lot of standing and walking. The PT started with her feet and moved up to the muscles in her lower body. Bryan, or one of his associates, stretched out the tight muscles in her legs and feet, and when she was more limber shifted her to lower body strengthening exercises. They also did ultrasound and massage techniques. That strengthening led to more tightening, which Bryan anticipated, and they added more stretches for that and did deep massage work. As Lisa got stronger, she did dynamic exercises that increased her balance, coordination and physical performance, and she did cardio exercise to increase her endurance.

Maureen – Addressing tightness
Maureen was next to go, but not because she had anything wrong. She just knew that the more she had been exercising the past few months the more stiff and tight she felt, particularly in her hips. What she appreciated was how much of an improvement she made every couple of weeks, which she could see because they continually measured her range of motion. “It was very affirming,” Maureen said, “to see how much I was able to do and that I could reach the goals they set for me. And now I notice how many things I can do and how much more efficient my movements are. They helped me to see that I have a lot more abilities than I had realized. I’m stronger and more capable than I would have believed, and for the first time I’m looking at my body and what it can do.”

Like Lisa, Maureen really enjoyed the PT, which you probably wouldn’t expect. She found Bryan and his staff motivating and great fun. And now that her sessions are done, she loves feeling in better shape and moving with greater ease, and she is determined to stick with the exercises and continue to use her body to the best of its ability. “Why wouldn’t you,” she said. “It feels so good to be able to do all this and to keep it up.”

Eric – Recovering from an accident
Once Eric’s doctors gave him the okay after stabilizing from a major auto accident, he too went in to see Bryan. What they found was poor range of motion in his shoulders, back and hips as well as a weak core. At first the focus was on stretching and doing movement exercises, like picking up a weighted milk crate and putting it on a shelf. Once he had made improvements, they moved on to strengthening machines and doing lots of balancing exercises. Each time he went in, he was doing something different as he progressed further and further. “I’m in better shape now,” said Eric, “than before the accident. It is sort of like personal training, but more like occupational therapy. They took it easy with me at first, and now I’m doing weights and making a lot of progress. I’ve learned you don’t have to kill yourself to get into pretty good shape.”

Eric has been so impressed and enthusiastic that he asked Bryan for a strengthening routine he could do on his own at the YWCA, while going to PT. He has also learned the importance of stretching, and is fully committed to this at home. He’s not alone. Everyone in the group has been dedicated to their at-home exercises, which has impressed Bryan quite a lot. And most of them have joined a gym to keep up their strengthening exercises.

Cheryl – Overcoming a long-term illness
For nearly twenty years, Cheryl has been limited by what she could do from an illness she had many years ago. The past six months she has done more than she thought possible, walking outside, in the pool and to an in-home video. But going to PT and working with Bryan has taken her ability to a whole new level. His staff worked every part of her body, explained what they were doing, how it all worked, and what she needed to know, so she felt informed, educated and surer of what she could do.

Her PT started with the stretching, and then they added strengthening, dynamic movements and cardio endurance to help her increase her tolerance for particular movements. “I’ve learned I am a lot stronger than I thought,” Cheryl said, “and I can do a whole lot more. I also now know what to do when I get fatigued or have pain to recover faster, and I’m learning to listen to my body. This has changed my life, and now I feel so much more confident and capable. I would never give this up.”

Wrapping Up This Contest Series
Everyone has seen dramatic results from their PT sessions, and they are pumped about the experience. As Bryan said to me, his mission is to “get people to feel the way they want to feel and working beyond their expectations, and when they feel so good and are doing so much they want to maintain that.”

That summarizes the philosophy of this contest. The goal is not for the contestants to be good and to do as they are told. It is to discover how good it feels to be active, physically fit, eating healthy foods and taking care of themselves, and then to feel motivated to maintain that great feeling.

At this point, now eight months into this two-year contest, you have followed along as the contestants have learned new skills, changed their thinking and overcome obstacles to making healthy lifestyle changes. They have successfully embraced healthy eating, learned how to be in control with food, become self-motivated to stay active and gained skills to overcome their challenges, while you have had a chance to witness the process and their thoughts in this blog series.

Now I am wrapping up the series, as the contestants continue to maintain what they have learned. For them, it was never about being in a contest or winning prizes, but about a chance to reclaim their lives and to feeling really good. We will still have awards at the end of this month and in December, and the final awards at the end of 2011.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

How to Stretch Yourself and Love the Results

It can be so easy to get into a routine where you start to eat a bit better and get in some aerobic activity, but that is as far as it goes.  You are doing enough to get a bit healthier, but not enough to really change your body or your attitude.  And while a small change for the better is a success; it will likely lead to disappointment.  When that happens, it won’t be long before you go back to old unhealthy habits.

To help the group participants avoid settling into a lifestyle that is less than what they had hoped for, I asked them to consider what it is they want to improve and how they want to stretch themselves further.  Because they set their own goals and I don’t force them to do any particular activity, what they decide to do is up to them.

This contest and program was set up deliberately to emulate what it is like to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  In real life, there is no one to tell you what you should do or force you to stick with it.  The drive to do more has to come from within, and what I have learned – and now they are learning – is the more you do, the more you can do and the more you want to do.  Those who are doing the most activity are the ones pushing themselves and trying new things.  And they are the ones who are the most enthused and seeing huge changes in their attitude and bodies.  They are almost giddy with how great they feel and how much fun they are having being more active.

I remember having a similar experience during the two years I went from sedentary to fit, and I found myself wanting to do strengthening exercises, try Pilates, go to new classes and check out new types of equipment.  I amazed myself by what I was discovering I could do and my new interests.  At the end of two years I was even more shocked to realize I had a passion for fitness.  Yet I am not alone.  Read almost any fitness or weight loss success story, and you will see that this happens to most people who are active long enough that they want to do more and more and more.  It is the reason for the record number of older adults now doing races and triathlons.  They love how great it feels.  But it takes doing enough fitness activities and then sticking with them long enough to get that great feeling.

For some people, even some in the groups, there can appear to be limitations in what they can do to be active.  These can come from a physical ailment, a preference for doing certain types of activities, only wanting to be outdoors or indoors, a tight schedule, having kids at home, having a poor body image, or any number of things.  Yet very often this is a perceived limitation and not an actual one.

Consider instead:

  • Ways to address an ailment with physical therapy, a visit to your doctor or seeing another type of healing practitioner.
  • Finding new groups or programs you weren’t aware of, such as outdoor MeetUp groups at www.meetup.com.
  • Easy-to-follow and fun DVD or OnDemand fitness programs.
  • Local specialized classes and programs listed through Adult Education or the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Who can watch your kids or which local fitness facilities have a good place for kids, like the YWCA.
  • Any judgment about how you look or how capable you are trying a new activity is your own self-judgment and a perception of what others think.  If you refuse to be judged, no one can judge you.
  • How you can stretch yourself and try something totally new, like rock climbing at MetroRock.

In our group discussion, these were the things we talked about, and a number of people got ideas about what they could do to increase their level of activity, and they left feeling excited by the new prospects.

Read What the Participants Have to Say

Find out what else the group participants have to say about stretching themselves to feel even better, when they add their comments to this blog.  And please share your own insights about what works for you.  It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.

For more information about the contest and contestants, visit www.aHealthyLifestyleWorks.com/contest.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Six Ways to Become Self-Motivated

There are many different ways to keep yourself motivated to make healthier choices and stick with exercise intentions. To find out what is working for those in the New You Groups, I asked them to share what was keeping them motivated each week. We heard lots of different answers, and that was my point. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, and what seems to work for you can stop working after a while. Then you have to find something else that works. The good news is there are lots of things you can try and many ways to stay motivated.

Motivated by How Good It Feels
A common motivator that a number of people shared was how good they felt from being active and eating healthier foods, which inspired them to do more of it. Whether it was feeling good from having an accomplishment or feeling good physically, this further motivated their desire to eat well and exercise. Those who are starting to see a big difference in how their bodies feel are getting really excited about the possibility of doing things they haven’t been able to do for a long time, like skiing, playing tennis, hiking or doing a round of golf.

Motivated to Reach an Accomplishment
Another motivator some folks mentioned was the desire to accomplish a particular goal, like walking a 5k in an hour (specifically the Coastal Rail Trail 5k this coming Sunday), running 5 miles by the fall, doing a 10k walk in July, participating in a bike-a-thon next September or going skiing next winter. This provides a vision of an achievable goal and the incentive to do a certain amount each week in order to reach that physical challenge.

Having a longer term physical goal can be extremely motivating, yet not everyone is inspired by that. A couple of weeks ago I had encouraged everyone to consider making a 3- or 6-month fitness goal, and many weren’t ready to do that or didn’t feel any interest in it. I totally understand, because I am not motivated that way. I’m more like one of the gals in the contest group who is motivated by checking off and tracking her day-to-day and weekly fitness goals.

Motivated by a Daily or Weekly Goal
Some in the groups are motivated by having a daily or weekly goal to get in a certain number of minutes or steps, like 8,000 steps using a pedometer or at least 30 minutes walking or biking. By looking back and seeing how much they’ve done, they then find they want to push themselves a bit more with a slightly higher goal. One of the contest winners has done this with great success. She started off walking for just a few minutes six days a week and each week she’s added a minute. Now she has just passed the 30 minute mark and doing more than she thought was possible. She’s even adding in some hills and increasing her exertion levels, and that is exciting for her.

Motivated by Just Doing It
Sometimes you just don’t feel motivated by any of the things I’ve mentioned, and then you have to Just Do It. We all have those times when we just don’t want to get up and exercise or make a healthy meal. We may be feeling ambivalent, tired or super busy. Yet, these are the times when very often you will feel so much better if you overcome the mental excuses and just go do it anyway. That worked for one person in the group, who had been derailed by plantar fasciitis. She got out on a friend’s bike instead of letting her foot be an excuse, and she felt so much better afterwards.

Motivated to Get Better
One fellow in the contest group was in a serious auto accident about a month ago, and he has been told walking will make all the difference in how well his body will heal. The more he can do now, the better chance he has of staying healthy and being able to have an active life long-term. That is pretty motivating. Others have seen their blood pressure, stamina and energy improve, and that inspires them to keep doing even more.

Motivated from Realistic Successes
A couple of the guys in the groups shared what they’ve learned is de-motivating, and that is having a goal that doesn’t seem achievable or failing to succeed right off the bat. At that point, their feeling was why bother doing it at all if you can’t succeed, and then wanting to give up entirely.

For one of the guys, the excitement in having a realistic way to get from the couch to a 5k and actually run again for the first time in years was lost by seeing someone else run it at a speed he knew he couldn’t attain. It completing deflated his motivation. Yet when he could see that he didn’t have to run that fast and didn’t have to compare himself to others, that he regained his motivation to running a 5k at whatever pace he could. Another one of the guys pointed out that if you set the goal very low and have a success, you want to see how much more you can do. So instead of pushing yourself to do too much and feeling like a failure, you can start off slow and become motivated by what you can do.

Explore What Motivates You
As you’ve just read, everyone is motivated differently and can be motivated by a number of different things. What matters is recognizing what does and doesn’t work for you, and then being open to trying something new when you find yourself losing interest.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the participants have learned about what does and doesn’t motivate them, when they add their comments to this blog. And please share your own insights about what works for you. It may be just the spark that helps another person reading this blog.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Winning Strategies for Staying on Track

 

 

 

The past couple of weeks have been particularly challenging for a number of people in the groups. When I asked them to share any success they had despite the difficulties, they each found one they could feel good about.

When you focus on successes, you stop focusing on what you didn’t do, should have done or your perceived failures. Instead you see what did go well, what worked best for you and that you can succeed. This is critical to being able to stay on track.

For many of them in the groups, the one thing they found that really helped them to have some success was their awareness. For example, they stayed aware of when they got full, so even if they were triggered to overeat, they were able to stop before they lost control. They listened when their body started to hurt and took time off without feeling guilty. And they were conscious of their desire to turn to comfort or junk food, and if they did have some, they were able to keep it to a minimum. They shared honestly without beating themselves up and could see that by staying conscious of what was going on and how they were feeling, they didn’t revert to old habits which would have been so easy to do.

There will always be days or weeks when they will struggle with issues in their lives, don’t meet their goals or feel like they’ve gotten off track. It happens to all of us. A month ago I had vertigo for several weeks. Life isn’t predictable or easy to manage. Plans get changed, emotions get stirred up, injuries happen and illnesses will catch you off guard. Or worse, as in the case of one of our contestants, who has been out for weeks from a bad auto accident, you can get derailed for long periods of time.

Instead of judging yourself or getting caught up in the disappointment, what everyone in the groups are discovering is they can learn from these experiences and get right back on track. In fact, these are golden opportunities to create strategies for similar future situations. You can look back and see what might have worked better for you, which would have left you feeling good physically as well as mentally and emotionally. The objective isn’t to look back to see how you could have been better at being good, because that isn’t the issue. It is not about being good or bad. It is about doing what leaves you feeling good and about respecting your body and yourself.

Here are some strategies that resulted from our discussions:

  • If you have worked your way up to walking for 25 minutes – or whatever amount you can now do, avoid taking a much longer walk even if a friend invites you to walk the length of our new rail trail or any other great walk in the area. Know your limits and speak up, letting that person know you’d love to walk but that after x number of minutes you’ll have to turn around.
  • Remind yourself that 10 minutes, one mile or one loop around the block is enough exercise, if that is all you think you feel up for. It is better than nothing, and who knows, you may find you want to do more once you get started.
  • If you begin to notice some aches or pain in your feet or legs, don’t push through it or pretend it isn’t there and continue with your goals for the week. Instead to take it as a warning signal that you may need to back off the exercising, do some icing, add in more stretching, see a practitioner or do an activity that doesn’t put exertion on that area.
  • If you are making dessert for company that is visiting, you don’t have to serve big pieces or an 1/8th of a pie. You can make the servings much smaller, so each person doesn’t feel compelled to eat more than they want or need.
  • Notice if you are really enjoying the food you are eating and if it is really all that satisfying. If you aren’t satisfied or don’t really want any more of it, to throw it away – even if it is ice cream.
  • Buy one meal and split it three-ways with the kids instead of a full meal and two kid meals.
  • And last, but not least, sometimes you have to tell yourself to “Just Do It”. We all have times when we come up with excuses and resist doing something we know will feel good once we get started, and it helps to give yourself a strong nudge to just go do it anyway. When I first started exercising, that is exactly what worked for me. I would say to myself, “too bad, no discussion, just go it”, and that would be enough to get me in my sneakers and downstairs.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the group participants learned from talking through ways to create strategies from their challenges.

Have a fit and healthy week,
Alice

Keeping Exercise on Track

 

 

 

 

Food is Getting Easy, Exercising is a Bit Tougher
After two months of doing this program, the harder issue for most people in the groups is doing more exercise, yet they are all making incredible progress and feel they have improved their fitness since starting. What is interesting is that almost everyone feels they have a good handle on portion control, are easily choosing healthier foods and planning balanced meals and snacks. And I would agree looking at their weekly journals. This is one area they are getting down, and yet it was the area most of them felt they had their greatest struggles when applying for the contest. At this point the bingeing, cravings, addictions, over eating, unhealthy choices and imbalanced selections are getting to be a non-issue.

In fact, I’m now encouraging them to stop tracking foods and to go back to tracking hunger levels by type of meal, unless they have occasions when they struggled with balance or over eating of a specific food. Then that is a good time to write out the actual foods involved. Otherwise, I want them to go back to focusing on how they feel and keeping the journaling process very simple. In doing that, they will remain conscious and stick with their new changes easily.

So this week, I had them all share what they were most pleased about in their fitness progress and choices. They shared how much more energy they had, how much better they were feeling and how well they were doing in staying active each week. As important, we heard again and again how motivated they felt to move a bit more during the day, to get out and walk when the weather was so gorgeous and to choose exercising when they normally would have felt too tired to consider it in the past. Across the board, everyone was fairly pleased with their accomplishments and felt they could do even better.

Addressing Exercise Obstacles
Now is the time to put more of the focus on establishing a solid exercise routine and building up aerobic levels. To do that, I addressed the most common types of exercise obstacles and how to deal with them this week. It is easy to judge yourself when you don’t exercise as being bad, lazy or undisciplined. But those are rarely the real cause of lack of movement. Without understand what is really keeping you from exercising you won’t resolve your inactivity.

The 8 reasons for struggling with exercise are the following:

Low Motivation: A common obstacle to exercising is not feeling motivated enough to do it. You won’t be motivated day-in and day-out to exercise if you haven’t identified what it is you want to be able to do or feel as a result of regular aerobic and strengthening activities. Once you have a focus for why you really want to be more fit, then you can focus on finding ways to stay motivated day-to-day. The trick is knowing what fuels your desire to do more, such as looking forward to a fun activity, tracking steps or calories burned and seeing them go up, or seeing progress as you check off your accomplishments on a calendar.

 Low Priority Planning: Not having enough time is really a result of not putting exercise higher in your priorities. Anyone can find time to exercise if it matters enough to them, and if they can find the motivation to stick with it. A way to make this easier to is to find an exercise or a group class you love so much, you will find ways to fit it into your schedule. Another is to look at your calendar for the week and see where you can fit in time for exercise and schedule it.

Too Much, Too Soon: In the excitement of starting a program, when you feel highly motivated to get started, it is easy to overdo it and find yourself giving up because you can’t sustain the pace or because you’ve gotten injured. Try starting off with smaller goals and less intensity, so that you don’t feel so overwhelmed and can experience your ability to succeed in reaching your goals.

Compliance Perfectionism: Feeling you have to measure up to someone else’s expectations or attain perfection in reaching your goals is the fastest way to failing and giving up. No one is perfect, and no one knows better than you as to what you can do each week, what is motivating or how your body is feeling. Instead of trying to comply to unrealistic expectations or someone else’s rules and goals, focus on what you want for yourself, what your body is telling you, and what works to keep you moving and on track.

Inflexible Beliefs: Another way people sabotage exercise is with the belief that doing anything less than x days a week or x number of minutes isn’t worth doing. Any exercise counts, even if it’s for 15 minutes, and the more active you are, no matter what it is, it all adds up. You may have other beliefs about what you need to be wearing, what your significant other will or won’t do to support you, what constitutes as exercise, or countless other requirements that are keeping you from being active and fit. Stop and identify what your “excuses” are and see if you can change your beliefs so you can achieve success.

Emotional Rebellion: Most people think emotions are just tied to food, but they also impact exercising. Think about it; you do have feelings about exercising, and if you’ve had bad experiences or anxiety about exercise than this can impact your behavior. If you are resistant or ambivalent towards exercise, become curious (without any judgment) about how you feel about exercise and why that is. Most likely you will find there are good reasons for your feelings, and once you acknowledge and validate them, you can start to look into ways of exercising that can address these feelings. For example, maybe you were called a klutz in grade school and have an aversion to gym-based exercise. Maybe you were forced to exercise and hated it. Maybe you had a bad experience with a trainer or fitness program. Are there other ways of being active that you feel confident about, or can you find a class that interests you that offers a safe environment for becoming proficient?

Derailment Resistance: There is nothing worse than finding yourself derailed from your fitness routine and struggling to get restarted after an illness, injury, vacation or period of just not wanting to do it. Once you get derailed it can seem too hard to get re-motivated again to exercise, and often this short period of non-exercise can turn into months or years of inactivity. An easy way to get restarted is by taking it slow and setting very low goals the first week or so.

Extreme Associations: If you’ve participated in extreme fitness programs and boot camps that you didn’t enjoy or that left you with an injury or bad taste in your mouth, you may be dealing with conflicting beliefs and emotions around exercise. On the one hand, you may believe that anything less than extreme fitness isn’t worth doing because of the quick results, and on the other hand you may cringe at the thought of signing up for another program. It is better to choose exercise options that you find motivating, enjoyable enough to sustain, and fit your personality. The majority do best starting off with baby steps and doing just one small thing at first, which easily leads to doing more because it feels good, it boosts your confidence and it motivates you to stretch yourself further.

To create a regular exercise routine in your life, pay attention to what feels best to you, what motivates you and what is really getting in the way of being consistent. We are all different, and our reasons for not exercising are all valid. Instead of beating yourself if you find you can’t quite get moving, respect that you have a good reason and try to understand what you really need to do to get active and to develop a consistent exercise lifestyle.

Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what the contestants have to say about what gets in the way of their fitness goals and how they are learning to address them, which they usually add the Monday after this post goes live. 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


Alice Greene
Healthy Lifestyle Success Coach

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