Habits Are Hard to Break..

It’s nothing new that habits are hard to break. One of the biggest obstacles we face when setting a new goal for ourselves is changing our behavior. We must replace old habits with new and find other ways to do things to succeed. The good news is that it’s possible. The bad news is that it’s not easy.

There are five stages of behavior change according to the transtheoretical model. Precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. To briefly explain, these stages relate to first being unaware of the problem at hand then having a realization that change should occur, preparing for that change, and then taking action. The last stage is when you’ve created the habit and are able to maintain this new behavior.

Once you’ve decided that you want to make a change it takes a little planning. The key to creating sustainable habits is to make small changes over time. Being consistent with small changes and being patient about the process will put you on the road to success. If you try to go all in, while the enthusiasm is great, the likelihood of relapsing to old ways is very high. Certain behaviors are going to be easier to adopt, but it can take up to two months for some to adhere to new habits. In the event that you do have a slight or complete relapse, don’t let it discourage you. Get back up, dust yourself off, and try again. Life is full of failure on the road to success.

An important component to sustaining change is finding a good support system for yourself. It may be friends, family, or even an online community. A support system will help your journey. They will provide encouragement when you’re not feeling great. They will support your efforts with diet changes or workouts. They will help you to maintain accountability.

Another excellent way to nudge ourselves onto the desired path is to try incorporating some stimulus control. You can tweak things in your lifestyle that will provide a greater chance for the desired behavior to take place. Pack your gym bag the night before so it’s all ready to go in the morning. Replace soda with flavored seltzer or something similar. Take the time to log your foods and identify trigger foods then keep them out of the house. Whatever your goals or desired change may be, little things like these can create a greater momentum towards a successful journey.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is find enjoyment in your new ways! Find a workout that you really love. It could be group fitness classes or just going to the gym to lift some weights by yourself (preferably under the direction of a trainer). If you like to dance, take a dance class. If you like to play sports, join an adult sports league. Explore new recipes to find healthy meals you enjoy and find alternative ways to prepare the foods that you love. Make new friends that have similar goals to support each other in creating new habits. When you find the joy in your new ways adherence will be greater.

If you want this, you will make time for this. You will put the effort in. It is a slow process to create sustainable behavior change. It will take a little dedication and effort, but I believe you have the power to achieve your goals!

Be strong. Stay strong.

 

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What’s In a Diet?

Great. You’ve decided to take action and lose some weight, but you’re bombarded with all of these fad diets your friends are promoting or advertisements for cleanses and shakes. It can be really overwhelming, especially if you’re new to all of this.

First of all, you already have a diet. The definition of a diet is basically the food that you eat. Is your diet healthy? Does your diet contain too many calories? What is your diet doing for you right now? Chances are if you want to lose some weight, you’re taking in too many calories. All you have to do is get a general idea of your estimated daily needs (there are a plethora of calorie calculators online) and adjust your diet as necessary. You don’t have to get all crazy strict or go into a huge caloric deficit. You don’t have to go keto. You don’t have to pronounce bread and sugar the devil. You don’t have to drink shakes. You don’t have to do a three day cleanse to jump start your metabolism (that one is a load of crap.. it doesn’t actually jump start anything). What works for your best friend may not be something that is going to work as a long term commitment for you.

Making small changes over time and being consistent is your ticket to success. Small changes are going to be more sustainable. It will be easier to create habits that will work with your lifestyle and that will still allow you to eat the foods you enjoy. There are plenty of programs that people will claim worked for them the last time they wanted to lose 20 pounds. Guess what? If they’re back up 20 pounds, then it didn’t really work. It wasn’t sustainable. Work towards something that you can maintain for a lifetime. Once you lose 10, 20, or 30+ pounds you want to maintain that loss, correct?

I do suggest utilizing an online food log to track your calories for a week or two (at least). This will help you to spot patterns in your diet and get an idea of where you can make changes. You may notice on days you’re extra tired that you eat more (so common) or that you don’t eat very many vegetables. By making small changes it is less overwhelming and more sustainable.

I’m not going to say that you have to count macros, but it is important to get a good balance of macronutrients for the body to run at optimal levels. If you’re adding workouts into the equation, your performance will be affected by your diet. You want to eat a crap diet then your performance is going to suffer. Aim for a good amount of protein, eat more vegetables, and have that small piece of cake at someone’s birthday party.

Be Strong. Stay Strong.

A Desk Job… Ow, My Hips…

Since moving I have resorted to a part-time desk job. This means a lot of sitting. A staggering amount of Americans have jobs that require sitting for most of the day.  The lack of physical activity can have negative effects on your health. Not only is it going to increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity; the health of your muscles can suffer too!

For most of my life I’ve kept fairly active jobs where I need to walk a lot, lift things, etc. It has kept me fairly active and my body would rarely revolt. This desk job has been a real eye opener. My hips are killing me! Even though I continue to lift weights and train on my own time I can feel how differently my body is reacting to the prolonged sitting. I have lost mobility and flexibility; my hip flexors are over active, my lower back is fatigued, and various leg muscles are too tight. This has really created a negative impact on my life.

Our bodies are masters of compensation. If a muscle or joint lacks mobility or strength the body will find ways to compensate for that. If you listen, you can figure out where you need to address issues and bring a focus to that area.

I have started to look for solutions to my problems. I hope some of you find this helpful if you’re suffering from a desk job. I now get up 15 minutes earlier for my day to warm up my body. I chose Yoga because it’s pretty beneficial. I begin my day with focusing on my breath, then adding some dynamic movement, and I end with some static stretching. I focus on the hips, back, legs, and stability in the core.

Here is what I start my day with:

Begin in Mountain Pose and find your breath.

Inhale bringing your arms overhead and back down to your sides. Do this for at least a few breaths.

Inhale bringing your arms overhead and hinge forward at the hips exhale into forward fold. Inhale to flat back and exhale down. Do this until you begin to feel your muscles start to warm up and loosen in your back and legs.

Inhale to flat back and crawl with hands to plank (inch worm). Hold for a count of 5 and crawl back to starting position. Then roll up one vertebrae at a time. Repeat a few times.

Next, get into Down Dog. Keep the shoulders down and back while pressing the sitting bones towards the sky. Begin to shift your weight from leg to leg. You will feel a deeper stretch on the weight bearing leg. Breathe with each movement.

Lower your knees to the ground. Hands under shoulders and knees under hips in a tabletop position. Perform a few rounds of cat/cow pose. Round your back to stretch like a cat while you exhale, then release to the opposite direction looking up while you inhale.

For the hips I like to start with the runners lunge or high  lunge. Keeping the knee in alignment with the ankle and the knee at 90 degrees. The hips should be square and you will feel a wonderful stretch along the hip flexor of the straight leg. You can also perform this with the back knee on the floor (low lunge), but be careful to not rest directly on the kneecap. Complete this on each side and repeat as needed.

Next sit with the soles of your feet together in the butterfly or bound angle pose. Work at a level that is comfortable for you. Inhale and lengthen the spine then gently lean forward.

Straighten the legs out in front of you. Inhale lengthening the spine and engage the core. Lean forward and reach towards your toes, gently falling into the seated forward fold. Hold for a few moments and inhale rolling up one vertebrae at a time.

Bend one knee and cross over the opposite straightened leg. Pull the knee towards the center of your body, feeling a stretch along the glutes of the bent leg and the hamstrings of the straight leg. If you are feeling good enough inhale to lengthen the spine and rotate towards the bent leg looking behind you for a great lower back stretch. Release and repeat on the other side.

Lay down with knees bent and equal distance apart. Push up through the heels raising your behind off of the floor into bridge pose. Exhale up and inhale rolling the back down one vertebrae at a time. Repeat a few times then hold up and bring your hands together under your back (if flexibility allows) stretching the front of the chest. Slowly release.

Laying with knees bent cross an ankle over the opposite knee and clasp your hands together through the bent knees to pull it towards your body for another great glute stretch. Mind your form and do not lift your lower back up off of the floor. Repeat on the other side.

This is where I choose to end my morning session. It’s a point where I feel good and ready to start my day. It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete and it’s so worth it. I hope this inspires you to try a little something. You may add on to my sequence or pick bits and pieces out. Do what works for you. There are so many great poses and vinyasa flows to try out. I really enjoy Yoga Journal as a resource. They have a huge library of poses.

Now back to work! While you are at your desk be aware of your body. Keep your shoulders rolled down and back to prevent the pectoral muscles from becoming tight/overactive and the back lengthened/weak. Keep the core engaged for good posture. Get up and move around as much as your job will allow you. Do a quick stretch or take a walk on your break. Just get up and get active!

Be strong. Stay Strong.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a Yoga instructor. I am a certified Personal Trainer. By doing anything that I have suggested, you are doing so at your own risk.

 

So You Want to Start Lifting Weights?

So you’ve decided that you want to start lifting weights. You will not regret it. Your body will begin to change in ways you never thought possible. You will feel stronger, more confident, empowered, and fierce.

Of course I am going to recommend that you seek the assistance of a qualified trainer when beginning your weight lifting journey. You will need at least a few sessions to get form down. Their knowledge can be invaluable. I do realize that hiring a trainer is not always feasible; it’s expensive. There are plenty of individuals that have started on their own, myself included.

If hiring a trainer is just not in your wallet right now, I suggest that you study, study, study. Read all of the books… watch all of the videos… then do it all over again. Focus on the mind body connection and use a mirror or take videos to identify your weaknesses. There are also a ton of online communities that can be very helpful.

Start with body weight movements to focus on form then move onto light weights. You can add weight to your load as you’re feeling confident that your form is impeccable. Form is such an important factor in preventing injury. Don’t get sloppy and don’t get stupid. It’s always going to be quality or quantity. So get educated, get motivated, and go lift thing heavy things.

Be strong. Stay strong.

Why Women Should Consider Strength Training

Strength training is an important part of any exercise program. Whether you’re training for a specific sport or just want to lose a few pounds, you will benefit from lifting some heavy weights.

With age, we begin to lose lean muscle in a process called sarcopenia; a leading cause in the loss of independence as an older adult. Strength training will help to maintain lean muscle mass as you get older and in turn will maintain your quality of life. Individuals will likely see an improvement of their quality of life when beginning a strength program at an older age. Everyday activities will become easier and require less strain.

Weight bearing exercise will also help to increase bone density, making it a good preventative for osteoporosis. Strength training will not only strengthen muscles, but connective tissue. It improves balance, sleep, blood sugar levels, and mental health. So many amazing benefits, not to mention the feeling of empowerment that comes along with building a stronger body.

 

I keep seeing women jump on the cardio train. They want to lose weight or “tone” up and cardio is always their answer. Yet, they never quite get to where they want to be. A little secret I will reveal to you is that in order to look “toned” you actually need to build muscle and shed enough body fat to see it. Do not worry about “bulking up”. You absolutely will not get bulky if you lift weights. As women, we lack the amounts of testosterone it takes to bulk up with muscle.

If you’re already strength training, keep at it! If you haven’t started yet, it’s never too late to start! Most beginners can expect to aim for three total body strength sessions per week. As your goals change and you evolve with your fitness it’s perfectly OK to try a new split (in fact, I encourage it!). But this is a good place to start.

Be strong. Stay strong.