Posts Tagged ‘self motivation’
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.
When people call me, one of the things they say they struggle with the most is staying motivated. They liked how good it felt to eat better, exercise and get enough rest and water, but they couldn’t get themselves to stick with these healthier behaviors. Jennifer was one of them. She couldn’t understand why she would quit her walks and Zumba classes, since she enjoyed them when she went. And she actually liked vegetables and whole foods more than junk food, yet she never stuck with them. It drove her crazy, and she wondered what was wrong with her that she would keep going back to choices that left her feeling lousy.
I asked her what got her to pick up the phone to call me, and she said, “I have just been told I have pre-diabetes, and I have got to change my lifestyle to avoid getting the disease.” She had found her motivation to take action, yet as I explained to her, this motivating catalyst was based on something she didn’t want, and it probably wouldn’t be enough to stick with healthier changes long term. Here’s why.
There are five steps to getting and staying motivated.
1) The Catalyst Motivator It starts with being motivated by what it is you don’t want to have happen, feel ashamed about or don’t like about yourself. These are catalysts that propel you into action, and the most common ones are a diagnosis or clear risk for chronic illness, seeing a photo and realizing how big or out of shape you are, being shamed by what someone has said or what a doctor has written, or not being able to do things anymore. For some people, it takes repeated experiences like this before one specific event becomes the wake up call and catalyst to do something about it. And even then, if you don’t act on it fast enough, you can lose the motivation very easily.
2) The Endurance Motivator Once you are determined to make a change, you need something positive to look forward to and fight for when sticking with your new changes feel like too much effort to bother. Change is not easy, and you need to know why it really matters to you to overcome your inner chatter that tries to derail you.
So why do you really care if you are overweight, can’t do all the things you used to do or are at risk for disease? What is your vision of what your life can be (or can still be) if you have your health and fitness? How do you see yourself at your best, and why is that worth sticking with new changes no matter how hard that will feel? What are you trying to achieve or be physically capable of doing that matters to you? Maybe you want to participate in a fundraiser walkathon or be able to get around when you travel abroad. Once you know this, have ways to remind yourself everyday, and keep your eye on the prize.
3) The Success Motivator Within a few days or weeks of starting your new routine, it becomes harder to reach all the goals you set for yourself or to feel confident you can really succeed at keeping up with your expectations. This is much tougher if you set high expectations, embarked on too many changes at once or picked too extreme a change to sustain each week. As you struggle to stay on track, find yourself not fully following the program or missing a day here or there, it is easy to see yourself as bad, a failure or incapable of success. Any of these thoughts will de-motivate you, and it won’t be long before you give up.
Whereas, if you set very small goals, make only one or a couple of changes at a time, and start off with baby steps, you have a greater chance of success. When you have a success, no matter how small, you become motivated to see how much more you can do. And when you focus on what successes you do have each week, rather than on the failures, you will feel more confident in your ability to succeed and even more motivated to continue.
4) The Accountability Motivator It really helps, particularly in the first six to twelve months of starting to exercise or eat better, to have someone who you are accountable to and who champions you. This could be a buddy who joins you, or a friend who is doing something similar and you acknowledge each other successes and brainstorm what might work better when you were challenged. It could be a class instructor, a lifestyle coach, personal trainer, classmates, team or anyone else who is involved in your new changes.
5) The Day-to-Day Motivators
From day to day, most people have to figure out additional ways to stay motivated, and there are lots of tools or techniques to make this motivating. You may be motivated by reaching certain numbers, and if so, pedometers, accelerometers (calories burned) or distance tracking work really well. You can have daily or weekly goals for this. Tracking calories and your weight on the scale can also work for some people, but for the majority, tracking these kinds of numbers often backfires, and I don’t recommend them. Instead I encourage clients who like numbers to track their hunger levels and how they feel on a scale of 0-10.
Other types of motivators are having a weekly fitness log where you record what you did, or having a calendar where you check off your goals. These work great for list people. Some people like to put gold stars on their calendars when they completed their goals. Others like to reward themselves with small celebratory non-food gifts periodically, such as a massage, special bath, manicure, inexpensive accessory or something else meaningful. And many people find all they need is a fixed-date goal when they need to be physically fit and healthy enough to participate in an event.
The key to motivation is to find ways to celebrate your successes, build your confidence, focus on what you want to be able to do, and how good you feel. You may find that your day-to-day and accountability motivators work for only so long, and that you need a new type of motivator. If that happens, consider it an opportunity to experiment with different types of motivators.
You CAN stay motivated. By addressing all five types of motivators as specific steps, you have much greater success of sticking with your new healthier behaviors and loving how you feel.
Every year just after Christmas and before New Years I would make my list of all the things I was going to improve on or do once January started. I still have some of those crazy lists, and few of the things on them ever got done. It wasn’t for lack of putting in the effort those first few weeks, but the list was too big, the expectations too unrealistic, and the reality of real life too demanding to ever succeed.
I could have been like most people and totally given up on the idea, but I didn’t. What about you? Have you given up on resolutions? Or do you still hold out hope you can make some changes this year?
Thankfully I discovered there are two ways New Year’s “resolutions” can work to inspire you and help you take action, so you can become more of the person you want to be.
- The first takes advantage of your frustration and desire to fix something in your life, and that angst fuels your resolve (as in resolution) to make a change and takes advantage of a new year, with its clean slate, to get you into action. But the action is open-ended. You don’t have to reach a specific goal. You simply need to get started by taking the first small step and then learn what feels best and is inspiring to you to keep the action going. No long lists, just one step in the right direction.
- The second way focuses on what you intend (as in intention) to have more of in your life or what you want to experience in the new year, but it doesn’t have to happen immediately and it doesn’t come loaded down with fixed goals. With an intention, there is no burning drive or catalyst to take action on January 1st, instead there is a strong desire to experience it at some point during the year in whatever way that happens.
Resolutions and intentions are important distinctions, and they give you flexibility and openness about how you will achieve positive changes in your life. Most importantly, they need to be driven by inspiration, moderation and what truly feels good to you, or you won’t stick with them.
Here’s how these two approaches have worked for me. Thirteen years ago when I was 43 and struggling with my health and my weight, I had a wake up call. I knew if I didn’t make some changes and start taking care of myself, I was going to have even more health problems and might not be able to lose the weight. I was resolved to start using my unused Stairmaster down in my basement beginning on January 1st 2001. I didn’t set a weight loss goal. I didn’t set any specific goals, such as how long I had to use the Stairmaster each day or each week. I just resolved to get on it and not stop until I got back into my wardrobe of size 6 clothes, however long that took.
At the time I was a size 16 and extremely out of shape, with cellulite down to my knees. It took me nearly two years. Because my only objective was to get on the stairs, I allowed myself to start where I was (at a few minutes) and to gradually increase my time, my frequency and then my intensity. I then started to set weekly goals, and if I came close I celebrated. If I missed a day, I moved on and didn’t let that bother me. I discovered that by giving myself permission to simply do what I could and to stretch myself a bit each week or so, that I had continual success and felt inspired to do more and more and more.
That one New Year’s resolution was all about taking my first step on the Stairmaster, and now 13 years later I am celebrating what that one step has done for my life. Had I resolved to use that equipment 4 days a week for 30 minutes right up front, or set a goal of losing 30 pounds by June, I would have seen myself as a failure and given up. But I only had one goal – get started and don’t stop. It worked.
Then on subsequent New Year’s, I would pick one new fitness activity that I would like to pursue at some point during the year. It didn’t have to be on January 1st, it was simply an intention. One year my New Year’s intention was to add in Pilates. In April I ran into a neighbor who was studying for her Pilate’s exam, and soon afterwards she started coming to my house to instruct me in Pilates. She instructed me for nearly four years. Another year I set an intention to learn kickboxing. I wanted to have the right type of trainer for this, and it wasn’t until the following fall that I met the perfect gal to teach me how to kick box. I worked with her for nearly a year, and I still do kickboxing.
A few years ago, I intended to shake up my routine to get my body out of its metabolic plateau, and in August that year I had coffee with a girlfriend who was doing P90X. I hadn’t seriously considered doing such an extreme program. But with her reassurance I could do it, I began the 13 week program on my 53rd birthday and amazed myself that I completed the 90 days. I would never have guessed at the beginning of the year that my idea of shaking up my routine would have included P90X, but I did know I was looking for something new and demanding. I got it.
This past year I was dealing with the menopause belly so many women get going through this biological change, and it has been getting worse over the past few years despite all the exercising I do. I realized I needed to kick up my metabolism more often during the day to amp up my fat burning, so I took some courses on metabolism last winter, and in the spring added 2 minutes of high intensity exertion 3 times a day, and within months the belly fat was gone.
What about you? Is this the year for one simple resolution or an intention that fulfills one of your desires?
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.
“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.
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.
How often have you made New Year’s resolutions that you struggle to keep because they were just too much work? I remember making my lists each year of all the things I should change about myself and the things I should start or stop doing. By the end of the first week in January, I was always failing to keep up with my expectations, and by the end of January, I had given up on my resolutions all together. How often have you had the same experience?
I now do resolutions differently. Instead of focusing on what I should do differently, I focus on picking a few things I would like to experience or do more of in the coming year, and I don’t set a specific date for getting started. I set an intention that I would like specific things to happen and then wait to be inspired to take action. For example, I decided five years ago that I wanted to try Pilates. A few months later, I was running errands in town when I ran into my neighbor, Adrienne, who taught Pilates. I didn’t know she was teaching Pilates, and I was excited to find out she was working with clients in their homes and didn’t need equipment to do it. This was perfect, and I was inspired to work with her. I loved it, and I’ve been doing Pilates ever since. It wasn’t a struggle; it wasn’t a chore. It was so easy and effortless to get started and stick with it.
A few years ago, my New Year’s intention was to add kick boxing to my fitness activities, and I wanted a certain type of instructor who could either work with me in my home or who had their own facility. Nearly eight months later I was introduced to Heidi, who was exactly the person I was looking for, and I trained with her for nearly two years. I loved working with her, and again it wasn’t a chore to me. It fit my lifestyle and my personality. It is possible that a whole year could have gone by without meeting her, and if that had happened, I would have re-evaluated if that was still a resolution I wanted that next January.
Very often, just the act of setting resolutions and feeling excited about a new year can be the inspiration you need to make a change in your life. When I started exercising eight years ago, it was the desire to take advantage of New Year’s that inspired me to make January 1st the date I began my commitment to fitness. There is something inspiring about a new school year or the beginning of the calendar year, and if you feel this way, it is the perfect time to take action.
The challenge is often narrowing the list of improvements down to just a couple of things, or just one thing, so you don’t lose your inspiration. A change to your routine or way of thinking isn’t easy to maintain at first, particularly if you’ve decided to make several changes at once. Very often, people who want to get healthy and fit attempt to add exercise and a change to their diet all at once. While some people do fine by combining these changes, many others find making several changes at once too overwhelming and difficult to keep up with. For them, it is better to pick one change at a time and to pick the one they are most inspired to do first. Then as they assimilate that change, they are encouraged by their success and have greater desire to add another change to their lifestyle.
There is nothing wrong with taking small steps and doing them in the order that feels most enticing to you. In fact, you have greater chance of success if you set small resolutions. You can always add to your resolutions at any time during the year. When you resolve to do something for yourself to improve how you feel or how you live, you are the one in control of your expectations. Give yourself permission to set more realistic and enjoyable expectations. A great way to do this is ask yourself on a scale of 0-10, how confident are you that you will achieve the resolution you’ve created. If your confidence is anything less than a 10, reduce the goals to the point you can say you are fully confident at a 10 on the confidence scale.
Resolutions and their start dates don’t have to be carved in stone. They can be fluid and adjustable. They can also be chosen to accommodate what you want to experience so they feel good, instead of being a “should” that is measured against a rigid expectation. This year, set yourself up for success instead of disappointment.
So many people find fall a time for getting back down to business, just as kids are doing by returning to school. As often happens this time of year, people are calling me to say that they want to make healthier food choices and get back into shape. They are motivated by the start of a “new year” to ramp up their fitness routine, lose weight and create a healthy diet, and they want to get a jump on the holiday season.
This is a perfect time to respond to that little voice urging you to get moving, eat healthier and take better care of yourself. If you don’t do it now, will the moment pass you by? If you put off the urge to start until October, by letting just one more week turn into just one more month? Will you wait until you find yourself overindulging on Halloween candy, but then think “what’s the point” since the holidays are just around the corner? Many people do, and the next thing they know, it’s New Years and they are feeling fat, uncomfortable and badly about themselves. You don’t have to let that be you!
Decide to take advantage of this time of year, when you feel some motivation to get back into a healthier routine. All you need to do is something small, and let your success at taking one action motivate you to take more small steps. Soon you’ll find you feel so good about yourself and how you feel, that you will stick with your new changes throughout the holidays and New Year’s will just pump you up to see what more you can do.
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
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,
Healthy Lifestyle Changes Aren’t Easy
It is easier to make a change than it is to maintain it. That’s why so many people can do a diet or a fitness program for a while and then find themselves derailed and back to their old unhealthy and inactive habits.
Here are 4 Ways to Make Healthy Choices Easier:
1. Having Healthy Options Nearby
If you have healthy foods that are just as easy to grab as junk food and a beautiful place to exercise right outside your door… then it is much easier to make healthier choices as you go through your day. Most people gravitate to the healthier option if it is just as easy as an unhealthy one.
This has been the lesson many of the group participants have learned. They now make sure to shop ahead so they have enough healthy snacks and foods during the week. This makes it easier to pick healthier choices at work, at home, in their car or in a bag if they out and about, because they are making sure they are well stocked in all these places. They are also making sure they have water bottles or ways to get at water, rather than skipping it or having something else like soda.
And many of them are enjoying the new Coastal Trails in our town. They find it much easier to want to get out for a walk, bike ride or jog, because the trails are easily accessible, nicely maintained and inviting. I’m noticing how many people are using the trails, so clearly this readily available option for getting exercise is making a big difference in motivating our local residents to do much more walking.
2. Staying Conscious to Be in Control
The second way to stay on track while making a lifestyle change is to be conscious of what works to keep you motivated and making healthy choices and what sabotages your good intentions. If you aren’t fully conscious as you overeat, grab an unhealthy snack, skip your exercise plans or excessively drink, you can’t make a different choice. You only have options, if you are conscious enough to recognize what it is you are doing at the time you are doing it and what it is that is driving you to make an unhealthy decision.
Staying conscious enough to make a different choice is easier than you might imagine. Those in the New You 2010 programs stay aware by tracking their hunger levels during the day, which is simply marking on a scale from 0-10 where their hunger levels are whenever they eat – and any other observation they have.
They also use a fitness journal, which helps them see their goals (which they create for themselves) and the days they hope to achieve them. They then track how they feel afterwards and how they did in meeting that goal. And, they can see their progress week-to-week. As with the food journal, it isn’t about being good or perfect, it is about having a way to stay conscious of what you are doing and having some accountability.
3. Focusing on Feeling Good, Not Being Good
We aren’t taught to focus on how we feel physically and letting that be our motivation; instead we are encouraged to focus on meeting specific goals, doing as we are told and being good. Yet the secret to success is doing what feels good, not striving to be good.
When you first start a diet or an exercise program, you are motivated to comply and be really good. But it usually doesn’t take long before it isn’t so easy to be good and fully do everything you’ve been told you have to do. By the third or fourth week, most people struggle to follow the diet or do all the exercise they have been instructed to do, and that creates a feeling of being bad and failing. It isn’t long after, that people give up with the belief they can’t be successful.
When you focus on choices that feel good to do, like a satisfying healthy meal that is easy to prepare or going for a walk that leaves you feeling fantastic afterwards, you want to do more of these things. The emphasis isn’t on being good or perfect, but on doing what feels good to your body and your state of mind. The New You 2010 participants have discovered how true this is. The more they focus on what is in their best interests, what feels really good to them and what makes them feel good about themselves, the more they want healthier foods and to increase their activity levels. They have stopped trying to be good; instead they are discovering just how good feeling good can be.
4. Having Just Enough Accountability
Staying conscious, having access to healthier options and focusing on feeling good doesn’t happen over night. So it really helps to have someone or a group to account to, in order to stay on track until this does become second nature.
This can take different forms, and for some it really helps to fill in a journal and submit it each week to someone who can provide positive feedback (rather than what wasn’t good enough). For others, all they need is to share what they’ve accomplished on a regular basis to a group or person who is simply supportive. And for some, it helps to have a partner who does it with them.
The best type of accountability is done without any judgment. You don’t need judgment; you need support, positive encouragement and someone with whom you can celebrate your achievements. And that is just what we do at our meetings each week. Everyone shares their successes when they check in, and we look for what is working for them and why. This gives them just enough accountability and greater motivation.
Read What the Participants Have to Say
Find out what else the group participants have learned about what helps them stay on track, 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,
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,
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,
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,