Stacking Habits

Having the right habits in place is important to our businesses and our lives. When it comes to breaking old habits or creating new ones, one thing that can help is to use existing habits as cornerstones to change. The idea of stacking habits is when you add a new habit directly after something you already do habitually. “When I do “X”, I will then do “Y”.

To use this you first have to acknowledge those things that you do automatically throughout your day. Say your alarm goes off in the morning, what do you do first? Second? Third? In example, I know I 1) get up, 2) go to the bathroom, 3) make myself a cup of coffee, 4) sit down and read emails, then 5) go through social media, yada, yada… Once you have created a list of your habits, you can start to tack on an additional task in the appropriate place.

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Say, you want to start writing a blog. Your evening routine is to eat dinner, clean up the dinner dishes, watch tv until 11pm, brush your teeth, and go to bed. You could stack writing into that schedule. “When I finish cleaning up the dinner dishes, I will sit down and write for 30 minutes before I turn the tv on…” You’ll have to keep reminding yourself for awhile, but this will soon become habit.

That’s to add a new behavior. You can also stack habits to help break or change bad habits. Maybe you come home from work and, before you even change out of your work clothes, immediately snack on chips or some other junk food. You could insert a behavior to help break that one. “As soon as I get home, I will go to the kitchen, take 5 minutes and eat an apple, then change my clothes, and then, if I still want chips, I can have them. The fact is that once you’ve cut your hunger by having an apple, and stalled the routine further by changing your clothes, you will find yourself in more control and be less likely to want the junk food.

By linking a new behavior to something you are already doing (stacking habits), you create an anchor for the new behavior and are much more likely to stick with it then if you just tell yourself to do the new behavior at some random point.

Try it out. I’d love to hear how this works for you.

 

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.

 

Want to Get More Fit? Do More.

I know this sounds a little flippant, but the point I’m really trying to make is that the act of getting more fit doesn’t require a major time commitment, or gut wrenching effort, it just requires you to do a little more than you are currently. That increase in activity will start you on your way to change.

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When thinking about doing more, there are a few variables that you can consider. Choose one to start with.

  • More Frequency – This could be more times per week or even more times per day. Maybe what you’re currently doing is a five or ten minute walk in the morning with your dog. More frequency might mean taking an extra five minute walk at lunch and/or before dinner. If you’re actually hitting the gym twice a week, maybe you squeeze in one more workout in the week (even a short one).
  • More Intensity – This essentially means making the effort level higher. This can be done by increasing the speed of movement, the resistance, or, if you are doing intervals or sets, decreasing the rest in between.
  • More Duration – Do what you’ve been doing, but longer. This could be more time or more repetitions (which will also take more time).

So, no matter what you have heard about the time and effort it takes to get fit, changing your fitness level doesn’t require endlessly long or endlessly intense workouts. It just requires that you do more than you are currently doing.

Start today.

Do more.

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.

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.

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?

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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?

Why Don’t Men Ask For Directions?

I know that the idea of men not asking for directions is a stereotypical, but, there is an underlying issue that makes this true for many. That is ego. Many men don’t like admitting that they don’t know something, don’t know how to do something, need help with something, are wrong about something, and/or are not as good with something as they thought they were. Somewhere along the line we were socialized into believing  these scenarios are somehow a threat to our egos.

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Don’t get me wrong. Having a healthy ego (or good self-esteem) is great! But, when that ego is easily damaged, walls are put up that usually create more problems.

When it comes to working out and taking care of our health (you knew I’d get around to this, didn’t you?), the ego can take a beating from a lot of things, like not knowing how to use a piece of gym equipment, not looking like other gym members, not using as much weight as the guy (or woman) next to you, or not getting the results you think you should be getting. There are a lot of reasons why this may be the case and none of them should damage your ego.

  • Not knowing how to use a piece of gym equipment: You are new to the gym and they have some equipment that you don’t know how to use. Ask a trainer for help.
  • Not looking like other gym members: You are not the average member. Many clubs vary in demographics, younger/older, more women/more men, more hard-core/more laid back, etc. Either look for a club more in line with you or just keep on going and not worry about it.
  • Not using as much weight as the guy (or woman) next to you: They’ve probably been at it longer. Maybe you got injured or have been away from the weights for a while, and you should be going lighter with a more gentle approach. Maybe you just haven’t been training appropriately or eating properly to support strength gains. Talk to a trainer and/or a registered dietician.
  • Not getting the results you think you should be getting: Definitely talk to a personal trainer and/or a registered dietician. Something is going on that you don’t understand. Find someone who does.

The ego thing is a little like failing at some task or venture that you take on. Many see failure as, well, failure. The insightful ones, however, see it as a chance to learn, to grow. Don’t let your fear of a damaged ego stop you from progressing. If you are not where you want to be, ask for help… ask for directions.

A New Option: Online Training

One of the newer entries into the fitness realm, is online training. In a nutshell, this is working with a personal trainer remotely using various online tools/apps, which allows for some very unique benefits.

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Mark Nutting, being video recorded while demonstrating a bench push up for an online client.

The benefits of working with a personal trainer online include:

  • Working out when you want (It’s your schedule. Fit the workouts in when you choose)
  • Working out where you want (your home, office, or at the beach)
  • Being able to work with high quality trainers no matter where you live.
  • No special equipment required. Most online trainers will work with whatever equipment you have access to, or, just using bodyweight
  • Able to work out in the privacy of your own space (No need to feel intimidated at the gym)
  • You have someone to keep you accountable
  • You have someone in your corner cheering you on without judgement
  • The cost is less than using a personal trainer in a face-to-face session

Of course, there are challenges as well:

  • If you are not using video tools (such as Skype), where your trainer can watch your every movement, you won’t be getting the same kind of attention as you would in-person training.
  • You need to make sure your trainer is reputable. You can’t simply watch work them with others as you could at a health club. Check out their credentials.
  • You have to be pretty self-motivated and get your “homework” done. The best program in the world won’t help if you don’t do the work.
  • Make sure there is a refund policy.

So, as you think about getting started in a fitness program, or if you’re moving away the accessibility of in-person trainers, or if you just want the convenience, an online personal training may be for you. It’s one more way to get healthier and more fit.

Note: Because online training is another great way to help others change their lives for the better, Men’s Fitness After 50 is now offering an online training program. For details, click here: Men’s Fitness After 50 online training program

Fitness Resolutions, Are You Ready to Fail?

Are you someone who makes New Year’s resolutions? How did your resolutions work out last year? The year before? Did you know that between 73-80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. That’s a pretty astounding failure rate. We all believe we can change (which is good, because we can) and the new year tempts us with a fresh start, but when it comes down to it, we just can’t seem to make our goals a reality. Here’s a little bit of why you might be failing and some guidance on attaining those resolutions.

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  • Your resolutions aren’t specific. “I’m going to lose weight.” should be, “I’m going to lose 10lbs.” “I’m going to eat healthier.” needs to be, “I’m going to eat 5 serving of fruits and vegetables every day.” If you don’t make the goal specific, you won’t know what precisely to do to attain it.
  • Your resolutions aren’t timed appropriately. One of two things typically happens time-wise with your goals. Either you don’t set a time limit or you set an unrealistic one. If you don’t set a time limit (given that most of us are procrastinators) it’s just not going to happen. The other time issue is that you set your time limit too short. The time you set has to be realistic. No, losing 30lbs in two weeks is not going to happen. You’re not going to achieve that beach body in four weeks. You aren’t going to run that marathon in two months if you haven’t started training yet. Not only will not reaching the goal make you feel badly about yourself, but you may very well get injured in the process.
  • You’re out of the gate too fast. This goes along with not allowing yourself a realistic time to reach your goals. You push too hard, too fast, crash and burn mentally and/or physically. Allow yourself time to start slowly and plan a gradual increase in intensity or volume as your body and/or mind are ready.
  • You grasp at anything promising a shortcut. “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills. Success is never instant no matter what the ads say. Change takes time and sustainable change takes more time. If it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t true. (I have more platitudes, but I’ll spare you.) Stay away from the hype of quick solutions and commit to the journey.

If you want to achieve your New Year’s resolutions, don’t fall into the traps that make so many others fail. Get specific, time it right, avoid going out at an unsustainable rate, and stay away from gimmicks.

Good luck and happy new year.

Sudden Death May Not Be So Sudden

I was going to follow my last post with some exercises for getting up off the floor, but something happened. Last night my wife and I were at a holiday party, saw a lot of friends, had some great conversations and ate great food. One of the people I was talking with, a man maybe 55 years old, went home and died a few hours after we last spoke. The cause is unknown to me as of yet, but it was probably a cardiovascular event. Hearing this news this morning was shocking. He seemed fine last night. Unfortunately, this is not a story that is all that uncommon.

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No matter how people may appear, they can have underlying health issues that threaten their lives. (i.e. High blood pressure is not called “the silent killer” for nothing.) Can we even prevent these sudden deaths? The answer is ultimately, “no”. However, we can take precautions to give us the best chance possible of living a long, healthy, and active life.

  • See your doctor regularly (as regularly as he or she recommends).
  • If you are not exercising, get on it. Start slowly and gradually increase your intensity. See a certified personal trainer if you need assistance.
  • Eat healthfully. Stay away from fad diets and seek to change your eating for the long-term. See a registered dietician (RD) for assistance and beware “nutritionists” who, in some states, need no qualifications to call themselves that.
  • Find ways to lower your stress. There are lots of ways to reduce stress, from meditation to simple unplugged time with the family.
  • Quit smoking. You know it. Smoking is a huge health risk.

As stated earlier, some things can’t be predicted or prevented, but we should all be stepping up and taking charge of what we can. I know that I’m going work for every extra bit of time that I can. How about you?