Staying on Track to Fitness Goals (Why is it so hard?)

A very common scenario: You want to meet a fitness goal. It could be showing up at the gym 3 times per week, attending a class once a week, running more kilometers, running any amount at all, doing a home yoga program, doing ANY exercise at all!! You feel motivated, write down the goal, buy your gym pass, purchase some new runners. Tell people about how great it is going to be. Make all sorts of plans. Then a month later berate yourself for doing only one workout and nothing more!!!

Guess what? You are not alone. In fact some stats show 70-80% of people who make fitness related New Year’s Eve goals have given up on them by February. In my work as a personal trainer, I often have clients ask me to set them up with a program that they can then follow on their own. I am always thrilled when in following up with my clients they are on track. More often I hear “AAAAAK, I don’t know why I fell away from my routine”.

First, don’t beat yourself up. Similar to many aspects of life, when we look around (especially on social media) it can look like everyone else is doing things perfectly. Other people’s perfect airbrushed highlight reels can result in wondering “What is wrong with me!!” Take it easy: here are some reasons WHY staying on track with fitness might be difficult, and some suggestions worth trying.

  1. We are programmed to rest when we can. Our early ancestors had no choice but to run (after food), to squat (to dig up food), to do upper body work (gathering wood) etc. They had to “exercise” all the time. So when these ancestors were able, it was in their best interest to get some rest. But you did not run for 4 hours today to hunt down your dinner, so understand that you have to overcome the resting instinct.

  2. We are social. Often the fitness routines that are most difficult to keep are solitary: going to the gym on your own or doing a home program. There is much less accountability, as you can fool yourself into believing your excuses, but others may not be as easily duped. Here is my personal story: I joined a running group to train for a half marathon. The first 4 weeks I showed up to every training session. One “hill night”, I skipped. The next running group day, a couple other runners said “hey, you missed hills!”. I started in about the weather that night, and how I was tired, and a couple other excuses, and then as I heard myself I said, “ya, those are all just my excuses”. Yes, even those of us in the fitness industry have struggles to stay on track. But it is a little harder to skip out on a session when others will notice. Recommendation? Join a fitness class, get a running/walking buddy, sign up with a hiking group.

  3. Habits rule our lives. Think about your morning routine. You don’t have to leave a note to yourself to brush your teeth, convince yourself of the reasons why you should brush your teeth, set short and long term goals around teeth brushing. You just do it; it’s a habit. Now habits can be either beneficial to your health (drinking a glass of water first thing every morning) or not (eating potato chips every day after work). So the magic bullet here is to develop the habits that will support you. When starting a fitness routine, it won’t begin as a habit as this takes time. But picture when it might be a habit. Is it sustainable? Is it at least somewhat enjoyable? Does it interfere with other important parts of your life? If you know that you can fit into your schedule 2 yoga classes per week, you enjoy yoga, and the timing works with other aspects of your life, this has a good chance of becoming habitual. The goal is having to think about it less and less as you continue with your fitness habit.

So recognize that your desire to rest is pre-programmed and you will have to actively overcome it. Finding something to do with other people, even a class with a bunch of strangers, can be a positive step toward success in fitness goals. Think about developing habits, those practices that become your lifestyle. Your lifestyle becomes your life.

Remember the idea is not to beat yourself up. It’s to lift yourself up.

Running Tips for Beginners

Ready to start on your journey to become a runner? Below are 6 tips for beginner runners:

  1. Shoes, shoes, shoes! The first and most important investment is good running shoes. Go to a store that specializes in running and have a knowledgeable salesperson assist you. Plan to spend time trying on various shoes and going for short runs in the store to try them out. Running shoes lose their cushioning over time and need to be replaced. All other purchases, such as stylish running clothes and wearable technology, can wait.

  2. Start with intervals. Your first few outings will be mostly walking. In my “Walker to 30 Minute Runner” program, our first outing consists of alternating between walking for 4 1/2 minutes and running for 30 seconds, repeated six times. The next time we increase running to 45 seconds and decrease walking to 4 minutes, and so on. These walk/run intervals will build endurance to being on your feet while safely building running stamina and strength.

  3. Add slowly. Stay at a level if not ready to move ahead. There is no need to rush to increase the amount you are running.

  4. Discover what you love: treadmill vs. outdoors, music vs natural sounds, solitary or with a group. We stick with whatever we enjoy.

  5. Register for a 5 km event when you are ready. When you can run continuously for 30 minutes, or run/walk for about 45 minutes, go ahead and find a fun event in your community. You don’t have to run the whole 5 km, you can walk as needed. Crossing a finish line is a great feeling!

  6. If you run, you are a runner! Don’t wait to tell yourself and whoever else you feel like: “Yes, I am a runner!”

Blackberry Apple Crisp

It's the time of year to visit the locally growing wild blackberry bushes!  The berries are ripe, juicy, delicious, and full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Go get some.

For this recipe I also use wild apples, which I found growing on a tree beside the local beach.  These apples are small and somewhat tart.  You can substitute another type of apple, cutting back the number of apples from 6 to 4.  Or try out a different berry or combination of berries.  Have fun and enjoy this yummy and nutritious crisp that can be used as a pre workout snack.

RECIPE

Fruit Filling:

6 small wild apples, peeled + cored + chopped into small bite sized pieces

2 1/2 cups of blackberries

1/3 cup brown sugar (this recipe is not too sweet; if you prefer more sweetness increase this amount)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

Topping:

1 1/2 cups extra thick rolled oats* (see below for why I choose organic)

1 cup white flour*

3/4 cup brown sugar

pinch of salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup melted butter

Directions:

Butter a 9 x 11 " baking dish.  

Mix all fruit filling ingredients and place in baking dish.

Mix together topping ingredients and pat down over the fruit filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Enjoy!!

 

*I choose organic ingredients as much as possible.  For oats and flour, I prefer organic in order to avoid glyphosate which is sprayed on grains in conventional farming. 

 

What Are Your Fitness Goals?

Take a moment to think about your overall health and wellness.  Choose one area where you would like to see a change.  This could be increasing the amount of time you participate in fitness activities each week, reducing intake of a certain unhealthy food, quitting smoking, getting a better night's sleep, or incorporating meditation into your routine.  These are just a few of the hundreds of possible goals a person could have with respect to their health.  

Once you have one idea in mind of an area for change, state it in the form of a goal.  State it in a way so that you will know when the goal is achieved.  For example "get in better shape" is vague, and it can be difficult to determine when this has happened.  However, "each week I will attend two yoga classes and go for one 45 minute walk for the next month" is an objective goal.  At the end of each week, and again at the end of the month, it can be determined if the goal was met.  

For more details on how to set and write goals, look up S.M.A.R.T. goal setting.  A quick search online will produce many well written articles, so I won't repeat that here. 

Once you have defined your wellness goal, take this important step:  get out a piece of paper and a pen/pencil/coloured pencil.  Write that goal down in big letters, taking up the whole paper.  This gets posted somewhere you will see it everyday.  You can also take a photo of your written goal and make it your screensaver, so you will see it throughout the day.  The act of physically writing it down and frequently looking at your goal will switch your brain into gear to make it happen.  

Now take that overall goal and decide what steps need to happen.  With the goal listed above, going to yoga and walking, you may need to purchase a pass at the yoga studio, check your walking shoes, call up a friend and make a plan so you have a walking partner, organize childcare, check out the yoga studio schedule, etc.  Each of these steps carries you on your way toward the goal.  Take out another piece of paper.  Write out all the steps.  As you achieve each one, put a big (I mean BIG) check mark beside the item.  It will feel great as you check things off your list.  Don't do it in your head, do this physically.  

Get out your calendar.  This can be on your laptop, phone, diary, whatever you prefer.  Schedule time to achieve your goal.  These time slots are as important and non-negotiable as any other in there.  If you have scheduled 7:30-7:45 am meditation on Tuesday, then on Tuesday morning make sure you are ready at 7:25 with everything you need for a quiet 15 minutes.  

When you see your posted goal, when you notice the entry in your calendar, smile and feel proud. You are working toward a positive change.  Give yourself a mental and maybe physical pat on the back.  If there are slips, which will happen, do not beat yourself up! Tomorrow is another day and a chance to get back at it.

What is your health and wellness goal going to be?  

Hot Weather Hydration

5 reasons to stay hydrated and 5 ways to get your fluids!

Drinking water and staying hydrated are always important components of a healthy lifestyle, and key considerations in a fitness program.  As summer approaches with warm and sunny weather, the outdoors call us to walk, run, hike, swim, cycle, and attend outdoor fitness classes.  What's better than outdoor yoga?  During activities in hot weather it becomes even more critical to consider hydration.  This article describes 5 reasons to stay hydrated and 5 ways to get your fluids. 

Reasons to Stay Hydrated:

1.  Increased energy.  One of the first signs of dehydration is a sluggish, tired feeling.  Going through the day neglecting to drink water is one of the sure ways to experience that late afternoon energy crash.  The last thing you will feel like doing is anything fitness related!  Maintain energy by drinking regularly throughout the day.  If you start feeling lethargic, check in to how much you have hydrated that day.  Try drinking a big glass of water and see if energy levels start to rise.

2.  Stay cool.  Especially in hot weather, we sweat during activity to regulate our body temperature.  Sweating is awesome - the sign of a great workout!  If our body is not properly hydrated, we are not able to fully cool off through sweat.  This can result in dizziness and exhaustion, and at the extreme can lead to in heat stroke which is a serious condition.  So drink lots, sweat lots, and be cool.

3.  Boost endurance.  During activity stamina will drop with the effects of dehydration.  A well hydrated body will experience more endurance and be better prepared to push through the second half of your run, class, or hike!

4.  Prevent headaches.  Studies show that not drinking enough is related to headaches.  Even a mild headache can make us say no to getting outside and getting some exercise.  Headaches are a drag, so use some prevention and drink that water.  

5.  Because I'm Happy!  Mood is affected by hydration.  Feeling uplifted increases motivation and make fitness more fun.  

How to Get Your Fluids:

1.  Carry a water bottle with you at work, in the car, going for a walk.  Make it convenient to stay hydrated.  If a water bottle is in the cup holder of your car, you a likely to sip some water when hopping into and out of the car.  Instead of always having a coffee or tea beside your laptop, try a nice ice water with some lemon squeezed in.  (PS - Choose a re-useable water bottle instead of disposable.  Let's reduce plastics :))

2.  Squeeze a lemon or lime in your water.  This tastes refreshing and is good for you.  Juice from 1/2 lemon provides a good dose of Vitamin C as well as other trace nutrients.

3.  Choose a smoothie for after workout re-fuelling.  Have a blender?  Make a smoothie!  Following a workout, toss into the blender some frozen fruit, milk (or alternative such as soy or almond milk), yogurt, protein powder, and a little maple syrup for taste, and zip it up.  The frozen fruit provides lots of hydration and the protein powder is great for fuelling the body post exercise.  

4.  Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning.  Yes, that's right, before coffee!  Try to develop this as a new habit.  Upon getting up in the morning, head first to get yourself a tall glass of water.  Soon you will crave this when you wake up, and then you are on your way to having a hydrated and wonderful day.

5.  Mix electrolyte based drinks 1/2 and 1/2 with water.  If you enjoy drinks such as Gatorade, mix them 1/2 and 1/2 with water.  You will get the taste and the electrolytes, but less sugar, coloring, and other artificial ingredients.  

There are plenty of other reasons to stay hydrated, such as keeping muscles and joints lubricated and skin supple, and loads of ways to increase fluids through out the day.  Find what works for you.  Drink, have energy, be happy!

6 Tips for health and happiness during the holidays!

Welcome to the holiday season.  Christmas time can bring many different emotions, from excitement while we look forward to seeing family and friends, to anxiety about all the expectations.  Feeling cheerful looking forward to food, drink, gifts, and more food, then experiencing guilt for not sticking to our usual healthy habits.  Here are 6 tips to help you hold on tight during the holiday emotional roller coaster!

1.  Don't do everything!  Write out a list of everything you think you should get done during the holidays.  Now take your pen and cross out half of those items.  Keep the ones most meaningful to you.  If you don't enjoy baking, and it is just a stressful "to do" item, cross it off the list!!  No one needs the extra sugar and calories anyway.  Dread writing out Christmas cards:  cross off.  Now you are being environmentally friendly.  Give yourself permission to let go of the should's.  The only thing you should do is be kind.  

2.  Pack the fridge with veggies and fruit you enjoy.  Prior to going to a Christmas party or family event, eat some carrot sticks or an apple.  

3.  Drink water.  It is easy to replace water with hot chocolate, special gingerbread spice coffee drinks, wine, and other beverages that are often full of sugar.  Don't forget water!  Have a big glass first thing in the morning, take a water bottle with you when you go out, and drink water with your apple prior to holiday events.  

4.  Stop and breathe.  It can be easy to go through our day with shallow breaths, especially when stressed.  Take one minute.  Sit comfortably and focus on nothing other than deep breaths.  Notice your body expand and deflate with each full breath.  Let all other thoughts drift away for this one minute.  Deep breaths send signals to the body that result in relaxation and a calm feeling.  

5.  Do some physical activity every day.  10 minutes is great!  Walk around your block before you hop in the car to go to the mall.  Get down on your living room floor and do 10 minutes of your favourite mat exercises.  (Or even your not-so-favourite)

6.  Have a sense of humour.  Expecting a perfect holiday season?  Hahahaha ...  Perfect does not happen.  Find the humour.  Tree falls over after you have completed decorating it.  That is really funny.  Burned the special dish you were preparing.  Put a smile on your face.  Now you have a good story to tell.  Laughing is good for us.  Watch the movie "Elf" with Will Ferrell.  Again.