Can I Work Out at Home?

When you decide it’s time to start a fitness program, one of the first decisions is where you’re going to work out. Should you go to a gym/health club or should you simply work out at home? There are some great reasons for working out at home that include:

  • Privacy – nobody watching or bothering you.
  • No travel time – less time added to the workout means it fits more easily into your schedule.
  • Cleaner and less germs – Some gyms are not on top of their cleaning which may gross you out or at least turn you off. In fact, it’s one of the biggest reasons women quit clubs. At your own home it’s as clean as you want it to be and if there are germs around, at least they are your own.
  • Always open – You can workout when you like 24/7/365
  • No gym membership expense – sometimes the price of health clubs can be difficult to swing.
  • You can wear whatever you want (or nothing at all). It’s nobody’s business but your own.

Home gym equipment

Having listed some of the potential benefits of working out in your own home, there are some downsides too. Many people that have the good intention of working out at home, run into some stumbling blocks. Here are a few of them and some suggestions as to how to work around them:

  • Home gym equipment is often made poorly, may not work well, and can break easily (especially machines).  This can leave you unmotivated to continue. *Either spend the money and get better quality equipment or use very simple equipment (tubing and dumbbells can work great).
  • Since your gym is always there, you think you’ll get around to it but rarely do. *Create a schedule that you will stick to.
  • You can be easily interrupted. I know I said no distractions, but maybe you have kids, pets, or a phone that keeps ringing. *Once you set a schedule, make sure everyone knows that’s your time. Close the door and turn the phone off.
  • It can be tough to motivate yourself on your own. *Once you set a schedule for yourself, track of the days that you work out. Then, set up little goals and rewards for yourself. i.e. if you get your workouts in for two weeks, you get to have a massage.
  • Even if you have equipment, most people don’t really know what they should be doing for a workout. Sure, you can do an exercise video or stream a workout, but it’s not really tailored to your individual needs. *Hire a certified personal trainer to create a workout that meets your specific needs. Then, bring them back every few weeks for progressions and variety in your program (as well as double checking your form).

Going to a gym or health club works for a lot of people, but if that’s not where you feel comfortable, no worries. Working out at home may be a great option for you. In the end, it doesn’t matter where you work out as long as you do work out.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

Reframe Exercise From Chore to Gift

“I have to go workout.” is often said with a groan. Typically people don’t want to do it, but they feel that they have to do it. It’s like going to the dentist or doing the grocery shopping, a chore. This view, exercise as a chore, does not make you feel all warm and fuzzy about it. Chores, inherently, are things we would prefer not to do. Here’s the kicker, though, a simple change in prospective can turn how you feel about exercise to something positive. “In every job that must be done, There is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job’s a game.” (from A Spoonful of Sugar, in case you weren’t sure.)

Now, I’m not suggesting taking a spoonful of sugar, just that you look at exercise as something positive, a gift to yourself. Imagine getting up early. It can be positive or negative depending on what you are going to do. If the boss wants you in early to finish some work, getting up early might be a chore. If you are getting up early to get head to the beach, it’s a gift and you’re happy to get out the door. Reframing our self talk from “I have to” to “I get to” is a start. The “have to”s are when we focus on the thing we are going to do. i.e. “I have to do 30 minutes of cardio.” or “I have to go lift weights.” The “get to”s, on the other hand, focus on the benefits we gain from the act. i.e. “I get to become stronger which will make my daily activities easier.” or “I get to improve my health which will help me be around for my grandchildren.” or even “I get to take class with my friends.”

Untitled design (57)Mindset matters. Take a week or two, and try this out. As you prepare yourself for your next workout, find a couple of “get to”s that helps you to look forward to it. It doesn’t take long to see that because you “get to” workout, your health, your physical and even your mental capabilities are all going to be better for it. 

I’m going to leave you now. I “get to” teach a fitness class to some of my favorite people. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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.

pedometer

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.