Posts Tagged ‘active fitness’
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 six months. Last fall I couldn’t do any aerobic exercise for three weeks due to bronchitis and this month I couldn’t do much after developing a case of vertigo for a week. 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. Most people don’t, 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 either illness, and the best thing for me was to rest and 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.
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
This past winter I dealt with an overuse injury that resulted in tennis elbow. At first I wasn’t sure why my elbow was bothering me because there was nothing in particular that I recalled doing to cause me pain. Then after a few weeks of taking high doses of ibuprofen to no avail, I realized what had happened and I learned an invaluable lesson just in the nick of time.
I had spent hours on end vacuuming up leaves with an old leaf vacuum mulcher that required me to hold the nozzle rigidly in place as I vacuumed. Without realizing it, I had overexerted my forearm muscle and created micro tears in the tendon, and that is how I had woken up one day with a painful elbow injury.
I then had another ah-ha. I remembered reading an article about tennis elbow and realized I was doing all the wrong things. I didn’t have tendinitis any longer – if I had ever had it. I had tendinosis, and the worst thing for that is ibuprofen. I was aggravating my situation and making it impossible for the tendon to heal. I share all this, so you can learn, as I did, what to do for tendinosis.
I couldn’t find the article so I started searching the Internet. My memory was right. Tendinosis frequently occurs from overusing a muscle, and it is not the result of inflammation, as tendinitis is. Tendinosis is a chronic degeneration of the tendon due to the failure of proper healing and the loss of collagen. Everything I read said there was no easy or effective treatment. The type of collagen in the tendon is totally different from what is in skin and cartilage, so a collagen supplement won’t help. Instead I learned most people never fully heal. E-gads!
Fortunately, I stumbled across one site that said one way to treat tendinosis was to pump fresh blood into the tendon in order to bring fresh nutrients and reactivate the generation of collagen. The suggested procedure was costly and required a unique series of injections. Yet I knew of an easy way to pump fresh blood into the area. Apply ice for 2 minutes, heat for 2 minutes, repeat again and end with ice. You don’t want to end with heat and leave lots of blood in the joint area. I did this 5 times a day for almost 2 weeks before my pain started to diminish. Gradually I went from 5 to 3 to 1 times a day. My pain is nearly gone, and I have been able to add forearm physical therapy exercises and regain full use of my arm.
This was a close call, and I consider myself very lucky to read and know enough to help myself. I hope this proves to be helpful to you or someone you know dealing with tendinosis.
Exercise. For most people, that word conjures up unpleasant thoughts and feelings because of past experiences when they struggled with exercise or got hurt, or what they believe it takes to meet the minimum requirement of exercise to lose weight that doesn’t seem realistic for their current lifestyle. For others, it reminds them of a time when they loved being active and having the benefits associated with being fit and healthy. What does the word exercise bring up for you?
It is easy to assume that when you don’t exercise regularly, you are somehow lazy, bad, undisciplined or a couch potato. These are judgments that don’t reflect the real reasons for not exercising. The real reasons are likely tied to one of eight different obstacles, that once understood can be addressed with strategies.
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. It often isn’t enough to want to lose weight or avoid a disease. It takes wanting something that really matters to you enough to exercise, even if you aren’t in the mood, such as being able to keep up with your kids, having the stamina to follow your dreams, participating in a team charity walk, wanting to feel self-confident in your relationship or wanting to feel good about yourself. Sometimes it is simply wanting to avoid the regret of not doing it. It also helps to choose activities you find so energizing and fun that you can’t wait to go.
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, 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. This will also help you set goals based on what is realistic, and if you can find someone to be accountable to, you will be more motivated to reach those goals.
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. With each weekly success, you can stretch your time, distance and effort a bit more and continue to have successes. In time, you will be doing more than you once thought possible, and you may surprise yourself by discovering you have a passion for being fit and participating in fitness events. It happens to many people, including me.
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.
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. For example, you may believe that if you can’t do 4 days of exercise a week there isn’t much point, or if you can’t work out for at least 30 or 45 minutes, that you won’t get enough benefit to make it worth your while. 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.
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 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?
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. Let yourself gently re-engage into exercising by doing what feels easier and doing it at a slower pace. Then you’ll find your motivation as you get back into a groove, and you can increase your goals and effort within a couple of weeks. You’ll probably be surprised how quickly you bounce right back to where you left off.
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. While these programs energize some people, most don’t do well with them. 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. Respect that you have a good reason and try to understand what you really need to do to get moving and to develop a consistent exercise lifestyle.
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?
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,
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.
- 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,
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.
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,
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,
It seems like common sense to set goals for your weekly fitness intentions, so you can schedule your time accordingly, and have a way to be accountable and stay motivated. And for the vast majority (and about 98% of my clients), this is what works best to get started exercising and stay on track week after week. But it doesn’t work for everyone, and for those people where it doesn’t they need to experiment with what does work to retain their commitment and continue to make progress.
The main reasons goals don’t work for these people has more to do with their subconscious rebellion of rigid rules (or paperwork), past experiences where they failed to meet goals, a fear of imperfection, or a need to have greater freedom to do what feels best. It may also be something else. It isn’t often obvious what the issue is and there may be more than one reason, yet it is worth trying to figure out what is driving the resistance to goals, since it is likely also affecting the ability to successfully stick with a fitness routine.
For example, if the issue is a fear of imperfection, which is virtually impossible to attain, than anything can and will derail the pursuit of regular exercise and activity. This becomes an opportunity to change the belief that perfection is required and instead create a new belief that good is good enough. When you’ve got a history of past failures, remember that the past is not a reflection of the future. In these cases, setting very small and highly achievable goals can be helpful to break that belief and create a history of successes. Those dealing with rebellion of rules need a way to have greater freedom to define their own success, supported by a sense of structure, such as having a way to see or report on what they did without being required to decide what that is ahead of time.
Here’s a way to succeed when goals get in the way:
1) Decide you will do some type of aerobic activity in the upcoming week and consider what that
might be and when you might do it, so you can picture it and see yourself succeeding.
2) Plan on telling someone at the end of the week about what it is you accomplished, so you have
3) Be active without overdoing it, and do something you find enjoyable.
4) Notice how it felt physically to be active. Did the exercise, no matter how little it was, leave you
5) Notice how it feels emotionally to share your success. Did sharing your success feel good?
6) Notice if you also want to track what you did on a calendar or in a journal, so you can see your
accomplishment. One of my clients likes to use stars to see her successes.
7) Now ask yourself if you are motivated to be active in the upcoming week without setting goals.
If so, see if you don’t want to do a bit (up to 5-10%) more since it felt so good last week.
8) Continue each week setting loose goals until you get to the point you find you want to set more
specific goals or you are finding you are easily exercising more and more regularly without them.
If you either aren’t motivated to be active each week or are not successful in past weeks in doing as you hoped, than this approach without goals probably doesn’t work for you. At this point, it is worth going back to setting goals and seeing what type of reaction you are having either to the goal process or the exercising so you can address what is driving that response.
There is no rule that you have to set goals or that the goals you set have to always be the same or increase each week. There are times when decreasing them because of a change in circumstances is appropriate. What is more important is finding a structure that motivates you to be and stay active week-to-week and month-to-month, so you can achieve consistent exercise in your life and push yourself to increase your fitness levels and feel your very best.
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,
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,
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.
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?