There Are Good Reasons for NOT Changing

Most people understand that they should exercise. They know that they would be healthier if they did. They also know that if they could make healthier food choices and manage their stress. So, why don’t they?

Well there are plenty of reasons for not working out, changing your diet, or trying to combat stress. The explanations typically start with, “I know I should ________, but…” These “buts” are actually “ands”. You may think that they are mutually exclusive, but, they’re not. “I know I need to start exercising and I am too busy to go to the gym.” Both can be true.

Untitled design (49)Let’s look at some real reasons for not changing:

  • Making time to workout will be hard.
  • My body aches and I don’t feel like working out.
  • I’m tired all of the time and I don’t feel like working out.
  • When I get stressed or depressed, eating comforts me.
  • Eating is one of my pleasures in life and I don’t want to give that up.
  • I don’t like the taste of “healthy” food.
  • Meditation is too weird for me.
  • It’s easier to just keep doing what I’m doing.

All of these things could be true and they cannot just be ignored for “the better good”. These are also strong anchors keeping us moving forward with change. To get beyond these and begin the change process, address your reasons for not changing. In example, say your body aches and you don’t feel like working out. Start by asking yourself how you could make your body hurt less. Maybe it’s by warming your body up through a short series of mobility or stretching movements. Try it. Don’t worry about working out yet. Simply try to lessen the hold that the aching has on you. Another example might be not liking the taste of “healthy” food. Start by looking at what you do eat and like. Surely something there is healthy. You can eat more of the healthy food that you are already eating. Then take a look at where you might be able to make small tweaks in other foods that you are eating. Maybe a little less sugar in your coffee or a smaller portion of that pizza.

The key to overcoming obstacles to change is to acknowledge them, tweak them to lessen their hold, and then, when you know they are no longer holding you back, add a small amount of the behavioral change you want. Add a little more activity. Throw in a small amount of healthier food on your plate. Take a few minutes to just breathe and relax at your most stressful point of the day.

Give it a try. If you have any questions, please ask away in the comments below.

There’s a Tabata for Everyone

A couple years ago I briefly mentioned the Tabata protocol and I thought it was time to bring it back. This time I’ll go in more depth and discuss how anyone can do some variation of it.

Dr. Izumi Tabata (University of Ritsumeikan, Japan) was studying the effects of an all-out, high intensity interval training program (on a stationary bicycle) that consisted of 8 rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, totaling a mere 4 minutes. The results were surprising in that the training improved participants’ VO2 Max (the efficiency of the body’s use of oxygen, typically achieved through longer cardio programs), their anaerobic or sprint endurance, increased their resting metabolism, and it also may aid in fat loss and in retention (even building) of muscle. Pretty darn good for only four minutes. This is why I actually use it with many of my clients, more bang for your time buck.

Now, the catch to this is that purists will say that for maximum results it has to be an all out effort and most people aren’t ready for that. This is true… for maximal results…, but maximal results doesn’t need to be the focus. How about good results, or even any results? Most people can wrap their minds around going a little harder than usual if it’s for only 4 minutes. Taking the Tabata protocol (20 sec work:10 sec rest x 8 rounds) and working even a little harder than usual will give better results and start you on the road of being able to handle higher level workloads. Bit by bit you can build that intensity to get even more out of your Tabata. You could also start with half a Tabata protocol (4 rounds/2 minutes) and build to 8 rounds.

Here’s a guideline to get started, start with 4 rounds of an exercise that you can last for 20 seconds with, say air or chair squats. At a nice even pace, not intense, do them for four rounds of 20 seconds. Then build to 5 rounds, then 6, then …. When you get to all 8 rounds, start counting repetitions each round. Next, try to add a rep or two to each round. Continue to increase the repetitions per round until you truly are pushing as hard as you can. This takes time to build up and you cut yourself some slack and let it be a very gradual progression. You will eventually get there and in the meantime you are increasing the results from each Tabata that you do.

As for the activity or exercises, almost anything that can be done at very high intensities and involves the large muscles of the body will work. Again, Tabata did it on a stationary bike. To keep it interesting, I will often pick 4 exercises and do 2 rounds of them (8 rounds total). i.e Build-a-burpee: Speed Squats, Squat Thrusts, Squat Thrust Jump, Squat Thrust Push Up Jump.

So, Tabatas are not just for the ultra fit. Anyone can start working their way to being able to work at higher intensities by giving yourself permission to start slower and build gradually.

BTW: there are all kinds of Tabata apps that you can use to keep the timing simple. I happen to use Tabata Timer

 

Training to Look Good or Feel Good?

Billy Crystal’s caricature of Fernando Lamas on Saturday Night Live, was noted for saying, “You look mahvelous, dahling!” and “It’s better to look good than to feel good.”

Billy Crystal

“It’s better to look good than to feel good…”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0RTD7250II

When it comes to the fitness world, it seems that most of the marketing for gyms, fitness products, and fitness programs follow the same philosophy… it’s better to look good, (i.e. “Get rid of that belly.” “Shred your body!” “Get lean and mean.”) than to feel good. The photos they use showcase people that look like celebrity instagram models, in essence saying, “You should aspire to look like this.” Don’t get caught up in the hype of it all. Think about what is most important to you. Would you rather just look the part, or be able to physically do what you want and feel good while doing it? 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s possible to achieve both, but there are two things you need to consider. First, the practical aspect, you should choose exercises that relate most to the activities that you want to get better at. Maybe that’s putting your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin or working on getting up off the floor. Exercises can be selected to specifically help with those movements. Second, and probably more important, you need to be focused on getting and feeling better about your ability to move, and not focused on the scale and how you match up to those images that you are bombarded with. The scale will go up and down and isn’t always predictable. However, with consistency, your physical abilities and how moving feels to you will continue to improve. Additionally, with your attention on how you feel and not how much weight you’ve lost, you are more likely to stick with a program and be happier with your results.

So, think about what’s really important to you. Is it better to look good or feel good (dahling)?

Drop the Negative Self-Talk

“Arrgh! I just blew my diet! I can’t do this! It’s too hard for me. I’m such a loser.” “Working out is too hard. I’ll never be able to keep it up!” Have these statements or something similar ever crossed your mind? We can be very cruel to ourselves when it comes to our inner voice and just because it’s us giving the verbal abuse, doesn’t make it any less damaging than if it was someone at home or work dishing it out. Just like abuse from an external source, this kind of negative self-talk can have some pretty serious effects on an individual.

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Some of the harmful effects include:

  • increased stress and anxiety
  • increases feelings of depression
  • decreased self-esteem
  • limited success in whatever you’re trying to accomplish (let’s face it, you’ll talk yourself right out of trying)

We are what we believe ourselves to be. So, don’t diminish yourself. Change is difficult and you will have ups and downs. Expect that. It’s part of the process. However much you do, it’s more than you’ll be doing if you quit and every little bit helps. Tell yourself how well you’re doing as you challenge yourself to change. Be your own friend.

Note: maybe you start a negative self-talk jar (like a swear jar) and every time you talk down to yourself, you have to put in a dollar. Save the money up to do something that makes you feel good about yourself.

 

CPR, AEDs, and You

I’m in the process of getting recertified as a CPR/AED instructor (which is what prompted this post). While I’ve been certified as an instructor for about 12 years, I have been CPR certified for at least 30 years. I’ve used CPR twice, once on a subway in NYC and once in a gym, also in NYC. One of individuals lived and the other did not. Both times I was thankful that I could do something to help. CPR may not always save a life, but it gives the individual the best chance possible.

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What am I talking about?

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) consists of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, although it has now been established that even just performing chest compressions can still be very effective at sustaining life.

Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is a method of delivering an electrical shock to someone that is in cardiac arrest (a sudden stopping of regular heart beats). The AED essentially shocks the heart back into a regular rhythm. While you may not have an AED at your home, most restaurants, health clubs, airports, and public buildings now have them. Don’t be afraid to use them. To see how simple it is to use and AED, check out this video of this AED.

This post is actually a plea to readers to get certified. While anyone can suffer a cardiac event, as we get older, it becomes more likely that it will be a friend, a family member, or our spouse. Imagine if it happens and you are not prepared. How would that make you feel? (yes… I know. Guilt trip. But it is so easy to learn and so important to have, that I don’t mind throwing a little guilt your way.)

Find a course near you.

Dig Your Well(ness) Before You’re Thirsty

“Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need” was a book I read on networking by Harvey Mackay. The premise is that, because both digging a well and building a network take time, if you wait to start until you need it, it is going to be too late to help you.

Recently, it occurred to me that many people do the same thing with health and wellness. They wait until they have problems before they seek a solution. Benjamin Franklin is quoted as having said, “An ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.” and that certainly holds true with our health.

Now, while it’s never too late to start, it can be a lot more difficult fighting your way back from injuries or illness than if you had begun before there was a problem. Proper nutrition and exercise can help with so many health and wellness issues, that the sooner you start, the more likely you are to avoid or postpone them.

If you’re not currently working toward better health and fitness, what are you waiting for? Move more. Better your diet. Manage your stress. Dig your well(ness) before you’re thirsty.

Seniors, What’s in a Label?

As I was heading out to buy a bus ticket into New York City, my wife says, “Don’t forget to ask for a senior discount.” Ggaackk!! “senior discount… senior? As it happens, you have to be 62 to get a “senior” discount on the bus and I’m a mere 61 (and a half). It’s interesting to note that the idea of being classified as a senior got under my skin. I also wouldn’t take kindly to “elderly” (maybe when I hit 90 I’d be okay with it). I don’t have a problem being my age, just the label(s) that go along with it.

Untitled design (33)Now, because society loves labels, every generation has a designation:

  • Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials: Born 1996 – TBD.
  • Millennials or Gen Y: Born 1977 – 1995.
  • Generation X: Born 1965 – 1976.
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946 – 1964.
  • Traditionalists or Silent Generation: Born 1945 and before.

I can live with being a baby boomer since it actually was a time of a baby boom. I’m not so fond of “Boomers” and industries (including fitness) realize that those of us that are in the second half of our lives, as a whole, don’t really like it. So, they have attempted to find other, what they feel to be more pleasant sounding designations.

  • Retirees (many are not retired)
  • Middle Agers (well, the middle of what?)
  • New Agers (a new generation and a new way to age)
  • Young-Old (65-80)
  • Silvers (you might as well call us blue hairs)
  • Zoomers (that’s just silly!)

I guess my point really is that we should not accept being labelled at all. We are all individuals. We are all at different levels. We all experience the aging process differently. As I explain to personal trainers that want to train the over fifty population, “The only difference between training someone over fifty and someone younger is that we’ve had more time to screw up our bodies.” We may or may not have special issues, depending on how we’ve treated ourselves through the years.

So, in my humble opinion, no labels necessary. You be you. Take health and fitness on wherever you are and just keep on getting better!

 

Time for N.E.A.T.

We, those in the fitness industry, are always talking about what kind of exercises the public should be doing and how much. I think that’s reasonable. More than 80% of the US population don’t get the recommended amount of daily exercise. But there’s more to health, fitness, and weight loss than hitting the gym. Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, aka NEAT, is another great way to burn some calories and avoid some of the downfalls of a sedentary life. NEAT is all of the activity that you do that is not exercise or sport related.

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Everything movement you make burns calories. The more you move, the more you burn. Walking, gardening, house cleaning, climbing stairs, dancing, etc. can significantly add to the calories you burn each day. You could potentially burn as many calories with extra movement throughout the day as you do in a cardio workout. (I’m not suggesting skipping your cardio workout, just thinking of great ways to fit a little more in) Some of the ways that you could add in more NEAT include:

  • parking farther away and walking to destination
  • taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator
  • walking around the room while talking on the phone
  • skip the riding lawnmower and use the push mower
  • get up and walk around or do another activity for 5 minutes each hour
  • gardening and landscaping
  • take your dog on long walks
  • ride your bike or walk to work
  • walk or ride your bike somewhere for lunch, don’t eat at your desk

I know that none of those seem significant, but they can really add up. Even leg fidgeting under the table or desk can increase calorie expenditure 20-30% over sitting alone. So, if you want to burn more calories and add a little more health benefit to your day, think about how you can incorporate NEAT into it.

Have an Injury? Should You Be Exercising?

I’ve known a lot of people through the years that have physical challenges. Maybe you need or have had a joint replacement, or you have a “bad back”, or arthritis, or…. the list goes on. Too often people let these conditions keep them from doing things that they would like to be doing. Too often they think that they should be avoiding using the effected area and, in fact, many doctors will say the same thing, “Don’t do ________.” It’s actually something that constantly frustrates personal trainers. The doctor says , “Don’t squat.” Untitled design (28)Well, squatting includes standing up from a chair (or the toilet). Are you supposed to avoid that? There are a million ways to do any exercise. Modifications in effort and range of motion can be made to fit your individual needs. Doing something is almost always better than doing nothing. When you do nothing the muscles surrounding the joint or area get weaker and less flexible. This means that you will be able to do less. You also burn fewer calories and, unless you adapt the amount of calories that you are eating, you will end up gaining weight. It’s potentially a spiral of disability.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times that you need to just rest and heal, but it’s not as often as you may think. It’s also not usually a total body thing, even if you had a shoulder replacement (I have), you can leave your shoulder alone to heal while working the rest of your body out (I did).

If you’re dealing with a chronic condition that is not going to just go away, or if it’s an injury that you can work around, you should be finding ways to strengthen, gain mobility, and become more fit. Don’t just give in to inactivity. Go to a physical therapist, and, when cleared by them, see a certified personal trainer with experience working with individuals in your situation and get started on a health and fitness program as soon as you can.

Will You Ever Change?

Change is hard. Change can be risky. Trying to change means you risk failing. It’s easier to stay on the same path. You know that path, and there’s a certain amount of safety on it. But, is that direction the one that will take you where you want to be?

changes

To change where we are, we need to change what we are doing. Before you make changes, however, you need to clearly define where it is that you want to be, what you want to accomplish. This vision quest, or clearly defined vision of the future you, dictates what needs to be done to get you there. This could be a task like completing a hike or a competition, or it could be getting off/staying off medications.

Next, you need to believe two things.

  • First, you need to believe the change is possible. Obviously, if you think that it’s impossible you won’t work for it. This is like saying you want to levitate (I think that would be very cool, btw). How hard are you going to work toward that?
  • The second belief is that the change is worth the amount of work it takes to achieve it. Here again is the question, if it’s not worth all of the work required to achieve it, how hard will you work?

Now, if you’ve attempted to reach this goal before, and failed, identify the obstacles that you encountered last time and pre-think solutions for them, because they are likely to show up again.

Lastly, you need to have a plan and it starts with what initial step is required. That may be researching your options for a place to work out, or a shopping list for healthy foods to buy and have at your home or office, but determine that first step and take it.

Change can happen for all of us. What’s holding you back?