Exercise, fitness, health, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Creatures of Habit

Habit (noun): a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

We all have habits in our lives, most commonly known as our “routines.” You know your routine, those steps you take each day, almost without even thinking about it.

• Morning coffee

• Snacks after dinner

• Leaving for work at the same time each morning

• Brushing your teeth

• Washing your face

These habits did not take much to instill into you, and it might even be hard to think back to when they started, as they have always been a habit. Habits can be our greatest strengths or our downfalls, depending on the habits themselves. A habit of hitting the gym on your drive home from work is a great way to ensure you get your activity in, brushing your teeth twice a day is crucial to dental health, and going to bed at the same time each night makes sure you get enough sleep. However, habits such as mindlessly snacking in front of the tv, or having a few beers with friends, and pizza with your beers, can be pretty rough on your overall health. Doing these actions a few times, even once or twice a week, is one thing, but them being habitual can be detrimental to your health.

Maybe you have some goals for healthy habits for your life. Maybe you’d like to hit the gym three times a week, or maybe even just drinking a glass of water right when you wake up (so good for your digestive system, and helps to rehydrate you after sleeping all night. Highly recommend). No matter what the habit is, the way to get there is the same.

Step One: Create a goal using the SMART method of goal setting (found here)

Step Two: perform the action once.

Step Three: repeat the action for at least 21 days

Step Four: keep repeating the action for at least 6 weeks

It takes at the minimum 21 days of consistency for an action to become a habit. The “21 day rule” came into effect Dr. Maltz, a plastic surgeon in the 50s, noticed it took 21 days for his patients to get used to seeing their new looks. He then noticed it took 21 days for him to put a new habit in place. The problem is, after 21 days, it’s not a settled, automatic action yet. Once you’ve hit the 21 day mark, the action is integrated into your routine, which makes you remember to do it more, but, at this point, you still have to consciously make the effort to perform the action.

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and their health coach certification that I hold, it takes at least 6 weeks of performing an action consistently for it to be a settled part of your routine. Once you have been performing this action for 6 weeks, it will be extremely hard to give up, making it a part of your every day life.

Habits can take time to form properly, and can be a tedious process as each habit requires its own process to form. The payoff from creating these healthy habits, in the correct way, can be incredibly important to your long term health success. Pick an action you want to incorporate, and get to habit forming. One day at a time, one step at a time, one habit at a time.

It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.”

Exercise, fitness, health, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Health and Fitness?

Health: “the condition of being sound in mind, body, and spirit.”

Fitness: “the ability to carry out tasks without undue fatigue.”

Health and fitness are always intertwined everywhere you see, with fitness magazines giving you general health tips and health magazines giving you some fitness tips. This isn’t a super weird concept, considering their are very much related. But where does the line stop? Where does the connection between health and fitness end, and what’s the difference?

Health and fitness are incredibly related topics. Without health, there is no need for fitness. Without needing to have a sound body, one free of ailments or disease, there would be no need for physical fitness. Especially considering the technology we are blessed (or cursed) with today, the ability for your body to carry out difficult and strenuous tasks wouldn’t really be necessary, as I’m sure there’s a machine for that. Physical activity helps to grow and maintain muscle mass needed for overall body stability and strength, reducing the risk of osteoporosis; it helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as keeping your brain healthy and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Staying physically fit and active also helps to increase your day to day energy and stamina, providing you with the energy you need to do all the activities you want, keeping your mind happy. In these ways, physical fitness is crucial to health.

Where health and fitness clash is in the media and in the fitness industry. Both of these platforms describe an extreme level of fitness being vital to health. Extreme fitness, with very low body fat percentages, hours in the gym, and fad diets and food restriction, is almost the exact opposite of health. Your body may look great, but remember: health is more than just your physical appearance. When you attain such a low body fat, you sacrifice certain aspects of a normal life. You sacrifice the freedom to go out and eat with friends on the weekend because you’re on a diet, or at the gym. You sacrifice energy to go about your day, as the diet you need to be on for that low of a body fat will be very low calorie. You sacrifice comfort, as body fat helps to insulate your body, as well as help provide you with energy. Glamorizing this level of fitness is not healthy, and does not relate to health, as it actively decreases all areas of health.

Even as someone who works out more days out of the week than not, I am not in the extreme category. I value my mental health and spiritual health, as well as my physical health, so I ensure I have a healthy balance of the three. I work out because it’s what I enjoy doing. It makes me feel strong and confident, helps to keep my heart healthy, and allows me to indulge with my friends without panic of gaining weight or becoming “unhealthy.” I have been on the extreme end of the fitness spectrum, and I was miserable. I assumed getting as “fit” as possible would make me happy and accept myself, but all it did was make my mental health worse.

The unfortunate part, is that the extreme is what the general public associates with the word “fitness.” Fitness is no longer about the ability to do activities without strain, but now it is the ability to be the most muscular and the leanest person in the gym. Fitness is absolutely not an all or nothing type of thing, you can workout out casually and eat relatively healthy most of the time, and still be fit and healthy. It’s not an extreme sport, and it’s not a competition. More is not always better. Taking care of yourself physically is only a benefit as long as it is also benefiting your mental and spiritual health with it. If you are sacrificing your health for the sake of your fitness, it’s time to re-evaluate your goals and actions.

Being fit does not automatically mean that you are healthy.

Being healthy does not automatically mean that you look like a fitness professional.

Find a balance of your physical, mental, and spiritual health to be in your best “shape.”

health, Nutrition, wellness

Sodi-yum?

From tortilla chips to popcorn to pretzels, salty snacks are a crowd favorite. And I don’t blame you! Even if you’re a mainly sweets person, a salty snack can just hit the spot. Honestly, If you tell me that you don’t love a salty snack here and there, you’re lying. All that salt that we love so much, it can’t be healthy, right? Well, just like everything else in the health world, there’s good and bad to salt.

The Bad

Excessive sodium in your diet can have numerous health consequences.

• Too much sodium can lead to elevated blood pressure, causing your heart to work harder than it needs to, and putting strain on your arteries as well. This added strain puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.

• Too much salt can also help lead to dehydration, as it throws off the balance of water and salt in your body (and your blood.)

The Good

You actually need sodium in your body, and in your diet.

• Sodium is important to your nervous system, helping to conduct impulses.

• Sodium is also one of the elements in your body that is in charge of muscle contraction, so too little sodium can affect how your muscles work (and set you up for cramps!)

• Sodium is an important electrolyte and helps to maintain the fluid balance in your body.

Sodium has its place in your body as an electrolyte, and is important to healthy function. However, as a society, we way, way, way overdo the sodium consumption. The bare minimum sodium we need to function is 500mg, which is actually routinely stored in healthy kidneys so you don’t run low. The upper limit of sodium that is recommended to consume in a day is 2300 mg, which is only about a teaspoon of salt, with people with high blood pressure recommended to consume about 1500mg of sodium per day.

Weirdly enough, salt is not our problem when it comes to sodium. Sodium is just an aspect of salt (chemical name sodium chloride), but sodium is in much more than just salt. According to the FDA, the majority of our sodium overconsumption comes from processed and prepackaged foods. This is because sodium is an excellent preservative, extending the shelf life of common foods, as well as a great flavor enhancer (hello, we all love salt). The biggest sodium offenders include foods such as bread, pizza, processed cheeses, processed meats, and then our beloved snacks.

To ensure you aren’t overdoing the sodium, while still being able to enjoy some salt here and there, there are a few steps we can take.

Eat potassium. Potassium helps to counteract the blood pressure raising effects of sodium, so eating foods such as beans, bananas, and tomatoes can help offset the sodium effect.

Prepare your own foods when you can. That way, you are in charge of the sodium amounts going into your foods, rather than something prepackaged with a long shelf life.

Buy fresh foods when you can. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce your sodium intake, as these foods are no sodium added, unlike canned or sauced fruits and veggies.

Enjoy low sodium foods. There are plenty of snacks that have lower sodium contents, including no salt chips or no salt pretzels. As well, there are lower sodium versions of sodium rich foods, such as low sodium soups and beans.

Drink your water. To help with fluid balance after a salty indulgence, drink extra water. This helps to retain that balance of fluid and salt in your body, helping to counteract the dehydrating effects of sodium.

So no, sodium is not the best thing you can ingest. However, your body does need sodium tor in properly. As long as you do it with caution and moderation, and your doctor doesn’t tell you otherwise, you can still enjoy a salty snack here and there.

Exercise, fitness, health, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Gym Anxiety

A huge component of getting your health on track is exercising consistently. This usually requires you to get out of the house, and most likely your comfort zone, and head to a gym or health club.

If only exercise was as easy as walking into a gym.

Once you get there, there are so many options.

Do I start with cardio or weights?

If cardio, do I use the elliptical, treadmill, stair stepper, rower, or bike?

How long should I be doing this for?

Should I still lift weights afterwards?

If weights, how do I do this?

Can I just use machines? Are there directions?

Will the machines be enough?

How many of each do I do?

Do I do cardio after this?

Should I have eaten beforehand? How long before? What should I have eaten?

For me, all of these questions are easy. I’ve spent the past nine years of my life studying the science behind these questions and figuring it out myself. I’m guessing you don’t have that same experience, and that’s totally fine. As a fitness professional, even I get gym anxiety. I don’t like being around so many people, and sometimes, it’s just too much for me to handle. I also feel the eyes of everyone in the gym, and I also feel the pressure to look and perform a certain way, especially given my background. Most days, I’m cool as a cucumber, and the gym is my safe zone. Some days, I full on panic walking in there and seeing all of the other bodies getting their workout in.

The gym is a place for everyone to work on their health. If you feel uncomfortable in a certain gym, there’s nothing wrong in switching to one that is more your type of environment. There are gyms that cater to elite athletes, ones that cater to crossfit, ones that cater to bros who like to scream and slam weights, and ones that cater to those who are not so comfortable in all of those previous scenarios. You just have to find the right one for you.

Not only is the right environment step one to feeling comfortable in the gym, but knowledge is too. Obviously, I’m not suggesting you head out and get your personal training certification in order to feel somewhat comfortable in the gym, but a little research goes a long way. Before you head into the gym, reading some articles on the basics of fitness (may I recommend the foundations of fitness posts I wrote HERE and HERE), can make you feel much more comfortable. Having a concrete plan of what exercises you are doing, what machines you are heading for, and how long to do all of them is huge. This gives you a set program for yourself to follow, taking the guesswork out of this crazy place. There are plenty of free, generic programs out there for you to follow until you feel comfortable enough to put your own spin on it.

Use the resources that the gym provides. Many gyms offer complimentary personal training assessments as part of the membership. Yes, this can be scary to sit down with a professional when you feel less than an amateur, but remember: their job, above all else, is to improve your health. Don’t allow them to sell you on random shenanigans you don’t need, but don’t be afraid to ask them for help. Ask them to show you a machine, ask for a quick form check, ask them how many reps they thing you should do, the worst they can do is say no. Many gyms also offer exercise classes. This can be a great way to learn a thing or two, without drawing too much attention to yourself. Just be careful with new movements, and don’t push yourself too hard until you know you’re doing it right (this is actually great advice for any new exerciser. Don’t be afraid to start light until you get the hang of it)

If all else fails, put on your headphones, hop on a treadmill, and observe. Tune out all the craziness and hubbub of the gym by putting on your music that you like, and hop on the treadmill, even at a walk. Once you’re on the treadmill, look around you. Watch people at the gym and watch the exercises they’re doing. Watch how they do them, watch the personal trainers and the exercises they give clients. It’s a great way to get yourself familiar with some things you maybe have only seen online.

One of my favorite quotes is “don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” It’s totally fine to be scared as hell of the gym, but don’t let that stop you from getting healthy. It is a large, confusing place, full of lots of other people who seem like they know what they’re doing, and you just missed the memo. Everyone was once a beginner. I promise you, most of those people don’t know much more than you do, they just hide it better. There was a time when I was just wandering around the gym, lost and confused. Now, I’m more comfortable there than pretty much anywhere else. Just like anything else, it takes time. Everyone is there for the same reason, you got this.

Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Keep Calm and Drink Ya Water

As Derek Zoolander says, “Water is the essence of wetness. Wetness is the essence of beauty.”

Drinking enough water is probably the easiest, and single most important, thing you can do to improve your health. Why? Well just to begin:

1. Your body is up to 65% water.

2. Your blood is around 90% water.

3. Your brain is around 75% water.

4. Your lungs are around 85% water.

When you see just how much of your body consists of water, it’s much easier to understand why proper hydration is that important. That water keeps everything running smoothly in your body, from dissolving vitamins in your blood for easier absorption to lubrication joints to aiding in muscle recovery. If that’s not enough to convince you to up your water intake, there’s more.

Proper hydration can also be crucial to weight loss and management.

First, keeping yourself properly hydrated means that your body is running at it’s best, allowing you to have the best performance in workouts that you can. It also means that your brain is functioning well, keeping irrational thoughts at bay (hello, “i had one cookie so this means I’ve failed and I’m going to eat the whole package and be a failure forever.” That’s much harder to think when you aren’t dehydrated.) Even dehydration of just 2% leads to decrease in physical and mental performance, leading to you feeling lethargic and a bit irrational.

Second, the cue for thirst is most often mistaken for hunger. This means that when you are actually thirsty, you may be reaching for snacks that you don’t actually need. Staying hydrated means you most likely get that thirst signal in the first place, so if you get a hunger pang, you’re most likely in need of some calories.

Third, water keeps you full! You can’t abuse this one, but when you have a belly full of water, it’s hard to overeat. I tell clients to start each meal with a big glass of water. Not only does this help them reach their hydration goals, but it helps to prevent overeating.

Last, water has zero calories. Replacing a soda or juice with a water of the same size can save a ton of sugar and between 100-200 calories. Add all of those calories up throughout the day, and water can be the difference between you hitting your goal or not.

Now that the reasons for drinking water are laid out, the question is now “How Much?” There is actually no universal standard for how much water to consume. It used to be 8 8oz glasses, which is still better than nothing, but water intake is also based on your size, how active you are, how much you sweat, etc. The best rule of thumb there is right now is to drink .5-1 ounce of water for each pound of bodyweight. This means that the intake for a 150lb person would be between 75 and 150oz.

The best tips i can give you for water consumption, especially if you haven’t been drinking nearly enough is just to start.

• Drink an extra glass of water daily

• Buy a refillable (BPA Free!) water bottle to refill all day long

• Drink a glass of water before each meal

• Drink a glass right after you wake up

• Replace one sugary drink with a glass of water

• Use crystal light or MIO drops to flavor water if you need to

Exercise, fitness, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Ready, Set, Goal

Today is the last day of 2018 (we made it, woo!), and tomorrow is the day. The day that you have decided will be the day that you become the person you want to be, and do the things you want to do. Goodbye you of yesteryear, and hello new and improved 2019 you!

I don’t know about you, but I have some HUGE goals for 2019, most that are too big to work towards right off the bat. Why do I say that? Because I like to feel like I’m accomplishing things, as I’m sure you do too. Only working towards my overall goal, and not accomplishing even close to all of it by the end of the month? That’s pretty discouraging. But it’s not my fault, and not yours either if that happens to you. The fault was in your goal, not in yourself. The first step to success, in any journey, is to make sure that your goals set you up for success. These goals need to be as helpful as possible, and they need to be SMART.

*Specific – Make sure your goal is actually specific. Losing weight is a good goal, but losing 15lbs of body fat is an even better goal. This sets us up for an actual number goal, to ensure we’re making progress towards it, and also includes that we want to lose body fat, not just any mass (including muscle).

*Measurable – We want to make sure we can actually measure our goal. A specific goal is usually one that can be measured and tracked. Seeing the physical evidence of progress towards an overall goal can help with both motivation and adherence to the goal.

*Attainable – Make sure your goal is something that can actually be achieved. A goal to lose 50lbs and 10% body fat is a great goal, it is both specific and measurable. However, if we decide the deadline is four weeks to achieve this goal goal, it now becomes unattainable. (Or if you can attain it, it won’t be sustainable). An unattainable goal sets you up for failure before you even start.

*Realistic – This also can be “results based”. Make sure your goal is realistic. This goes hand in hand with attainable. A goal that gives you no chance to reach from the beginning will not help you reach it. It is much better to make multiple, smaller milestone type goals. This will keep your motivation elevated, as you reach smaller goals more often, on your way to the overall goal.

*Time Sensitive – Give yourself a deadline! This goes along with each of the previous attributes of a successful goal, but give yourself a time table to reach your goal, as long as that deadline is realistic. This will again keep that motivation high, as you strive to hit the goal by your deadline. Again, smaller goals with deadlines that approach more quickly, with deadlines every couple of weeks or months, can help keep that drive. This allows you continuously hit goals, rather than feeling like you might never hit your overall goal.

If you write down your goals, and they don’t hit all of the SMART points, there’s no problem with reworking them a bit. The most common goal mistake I come across is too much too soon. This means that your goal is your overall goal, making it not so attainable. All you have to do is take a step back. Think about what steps you need to accomplish to hit that overall goal. What’s the first step? Boom. There’s your goal. I find it most helpful to take my overall goal and work backwards, in there I find my actual, SMART goals.

Set yourself up for success, make sure your 2019 goals are SMART.

Exercise, fitness, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Holiday Wellness

Wellness Tips for the Holiday Season:

1: Do what you want to do. If you love your family and want to spend the season with them, do so. If your family stresses you out, and being with them isn’t what’s best for you, don’t feel pressured to. Your mental health is more important, so do what’s best for you.

2: Enjoy your holiday. (Close to Tip One, but slightly different.) The holiday season is the end of your year, and you should enjoy it. Of course, keep your physical and mental health in mind, but feel free to indulge a bit. Go out for drinks with friends, share a dessert you’ve been meaning to try, blow off your friends and look at Christmas decorations, whatever you want to do, do it.

3: Don’t worry about your diet. Enjoy the food of the season! Don’t go nuts, but make sure that you aren’t neglecting your life in the name of “health”. Remember: veggies are full of vitamins and minerals, not just “low cal options” and exercise is there to enhance your health, not to punish you for eating and drinking too much the night before.

4: Try to stick to your routine. This can be a hard one, depending on your holiday plans, but do your best to stick to what you do daily. Just because you’re on vacation and relaxing doesn’t mean you should neglect all of the habits you’ve worked so hard to form! If your schedule allows, try to get the same amount of exercise in, even if it means three 20 minute walks around the neighborhood instead of three days in the gym. Staying active will only help translate into your new year.

5: Reflect on your year. This time of year can be hard for us, whether financially or emotionally. Make sure, even if you feel like you’re struggling, that you give yourself credit where credit is due. Reflect back on your year, and on your accomplishments and successes. Reflect on your not so big successes, but the lessons learned from them and not the negative feelings. No matter how your year went, let’s focus on the positives, and the lessons we can implement in the next year.

Enjoy your holidays, wherever you decide to and with whomever you decide to. This was all around a rough year for a lot of us, so be sure to give yourself a chance to relax, reflect, and get a game plan for next year. Happy holidays everyone!