Category Archives: Staying on track

Commitment and Follow-Through

Commitment and follow-through are two topics that are frustrating to me both as a regular person with goals and a health coach who helps others reach their goals.  I am as guilty as the next person of starting something with enthusiasm and then finding my interest wanes and tapers off.  I think this is a common phenomenon.  I can recall a family member who had every piece of sports equipment in her garage – bowling ball, bowling shoes, street bike, mountain bike, bike helmets, softball bats, softball gloves, tennis racquet, squash racquet, racquet ball racquets, basketballs, volleyballs, etc. etc. etc.  Maybe it isn’t so harmful to find hobbies and then leave them for a bit, but when it comes to health and wellness I don’t believe they can be passing fads or phases one goes through.  These are things that require life-long commitment and follow through.
This really struck me one time when I was reading about a young woman who wanted to lose 150 pounds.  She did it the right way through diet and exercise, and I picked up her story when she was closing in on her goal weight with 10 pounds to go.  She wrote so well about how for so long she was so focused on losing the weight and getting to that magic number of hers, and now she was almost to the figurative finish line and was starting to think beyond it.  To lose all that weight she was particular about how she ate, and faithful to working out.  And she realized that after she lost the 150 pounds, she was still going to have to be particular about what she ate and faithful to working out.  The day AFTER she lost 150 pounds nothing was going to change!  It was a daunting thought for her and honestly, when I read this story several years ago I hadn’t thought about it from this perspective either.
The moral of the story is this: You’re not harming yourself if you start a hobby and lose enthusiasm, but you ARE harming yourself if you start eating right and exercising and let yourself lose the desire to do it.  You are cheating yourself out of health, longevity, personal fulfillment, and so much more that life has to offer.  None of us can afford to lose focus when it comes to doing right by our bodies and maintaining the commitment to keep ourselves healthy This, along with the follow-through to ensure it is a life-long endeavor, is positively essential.
So, what do you do when the inevitable starts to happen and you find your ardor starting to fade?  I have a few tips for you!

  • Remember what got you interested and motivated in the first place – No matter if the reason is significant or simple, there was a reason that got you on the right path in beginning.  Take time to revisit that reason.  Give it some serious time and meditation.  Figure out if this original reason can sustain your excitement for health and wellness for the long term.  Write your reason for getting started on a piece of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror where you are reminded each day of why this matters.
  • Find a fresh new reason if need be – Perhaps if your original reason no longer exists (I want to looks smashing for my 20th class reunion, which was 6 months ago.) it’s time to find something else to get you going.  There isn’t a rule that says you can only have one reason to get going.  Motivation can be a fluid, ever-changing thing, so it’s up to you to stay on top of it.
  • Change what you’re doing – Sometimes a decline in excitement for eating right and working out can be attributed to being bored.  Eating the same old dry and flavorless grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts with steamed vegetables every evening for dinner can put you in a rut really quickly.  The same goes for the same old same old workout routine.  Variety is the spice of life!  You wouldn’t wear the same white shirt and brown pants everyday, would you?  Probably not. Your closet is no doubt filled with many colors and so should your menu (literally and figuratively, but that’s a topic for another day) and so should your workout.  Try a new-to-you vegetable or a recipe you thought you wouldn’t like. Try a new sport or workout.  Ignite your interest in something new.
  • Take on a challenge – If something feels like a boring slog, then it’s time to put a new, difficult goal out there for yourself.  Starting to skip breakfast again? Challenge yourself to have a healthy breakfast everyday for 30 days.  Are you sick and tired of running the same training run, the same distance on the same path?  It’s time to change the route and challenge yourself to new speeds and distances.  Try to improve your mile run time over the course of three weeks.  It could be anything you want!  See how long you can go without skipping a workout.  Try going without that unnecessary dessert for a whole month and see how you feel.  Use your imagination on this one.
  • Recruit a friend – When getting to the gym seems like a chore, arrange to meet a friend there to help reinvigorate your attitude.  If you know someone is waiting for you to show up and you’ll get some concentrated buddy time while getting your sweat on, why wouldn’t you look forward to your workout?
  • Scare yourself – This will probably sound a little unorthodox, but fear is a great motivator and can be very effective in jump starting your efforts.  A friend of mine never worked out at all until one day his college roommate died of a heart attack at 45.  An awful tragedy for sure, but that was enough to get my friend up and into the gym regularly.  Think about the negative consequences that you could face if you don’t make healthy eating and exercise a part of your life – diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, congestive heart failure, osteoporosis, premature aging, reduced sexual function, arthritis, and the list goes on and on.  If you’re a visual person, search for images of the physical consequences of a poor diet and lack of exercise.  Often, thinking of what can happen to you as a result of relaxing your efforts can spur you to action.
  • Don’t delay – We all experience the waxes and wanes of life, and like I said above it’s human nature to be very excited about a new venture right when you start only to have that excitement decrease over time.  But don’t wait until your diet and workout habits are off the rails to try to jump start the zeal again. When you start to feel like you’re in a valley, that is the time to kick things up and get excited again.  Don’t wait.

Have you ever dropped the commitment to eat right and exercise?  Did you get back to the routine?  How?  What motivated you to recommit and follow-through?  Share your thoughts with me in the comments or on Facebook.

Details and Housekeeping

Hello everyone!
Today is one of those days where I have a bunch of little things to share with you that don’t warrant their own long post, but deserve some time here on the ole website.  Updates, reminders, and bits of information coming at you!
1. Remember last week when I shared my adventures with making my own raw sauerkraut?  Well, it’s been fermenting in one of my cabinets for a little over two weeks and I gave it a bit of a taste test.  OOOOOH-WEEEE!  It’s SPICY SPICY!  And tasty too.  But not quite there yet.  I’m going to give it another week and then try it again.

I purposefully made it spicy (with two jalapenos including seeds) and then made another, larger batch without any jalapenos in it.  That way, I can have a super spicy kraut, mix the two and have a medium spicy kraut, or just eat the plain for a not-at-all spicy kraut.
2. I just finished writing up the newsletter for March and I hope you are subscribed because this month I have THREE great offers in there that you don’t want to miss.  Not to give anything away, but you’ll have the chance to win a dinner, get a discount on health coaching, and get some free First Comes Health swag.  You’ll have to subscribe and wait until the newsletter appears in your inbox on March 1 for more info than that.  Do it!
3. For those of you who aren’t subscribed to my newsletter yet (tsk! tsk!), you missed my big announcement from last month, I now have a First Comes Health store!  Did you notice the “store” link at the top of the page there?  Click away to see the first three shirt designs, plus all the colors and fits you can order.  Right now there are t-shirts available, but look for more merchandise and additional designs being released soon.  I’m thinking summer tank top season is coming up, right?  And who doesn’t want a moisture wicking shirt to wear while running?  Oh the ideas are endless.  Tell everyone how much you love being healthy with a First Comes Health t-shirt.

4. Now is the time to start thinking about signing up for a CSA — community supported agriculture.  For those who don’t know what this is, it’s a chance for you to support a farm that is local to you, a chance to get a weekly (sometimes biweekly depending on your subscription) delivery of top quality farm fresh produce and other products, and it’s your chance to get experimental with your food.  Most CSAs run for about 20 weeks and start in the springtime.  You’ll get a portion of produce delivered to a location near you (usually someone’s house) where you’ll go and pick up your share of whatever is fresh on the farm that week.  Generally you do not get to choose what you get, but the farmer(s) will give you a rough idea of what is in season at any particular time.  You eat what you get!  It’s as fresh as you can get, you’ll be eating seasonally (the healthiest way to go!), and oftentimes the goods are organic.  CSA programs vary widely from farm to farm, but this is the basic idea.  Check out this website to find a CSA near you.  I encourage you to browse farm websites and call those who participate.  Ask questions about share sizes and delivery days.  Ask what might be included in the harvest this year.  Find a drop-off location that works for you.  And most importantly, enjoy the beautiful bounty that you get each week!  Don’t delay, though.  Farms sell out of shares and you don’t want to be left out this spring and summer!
5. As always, don’t forget to connect with me over on Facebook and Twitter.
I’ll be back on Thursday with a check in with my 2012 Goals Project participants!  Since the beginning of February someone new has joined the challenge.  I can’t wait to share everyone’s successes with you.

Metrics

Yesterday was a big day at my gym.  In CrossFit speak, the WOD was 1-1-1-1-1 max DL and saw many PRs.  In regular English, the workout of the day was five chances to do the heaviest deadlift you could do.  People definitely rose to the occasion and there were many personal records set!  Even I set a personal best with a 168 pound deadlift.  Maybe.  I’m not really sure.  I think I did anyway.
There is no mystery in the fact that I did lift 168 pounds.  That happened.  But I’m not completely sure it was my best effort to date.  Why?  Because I (stupidly) don’t keep track of my workouts and my progress.
That’s got to change.  How will I know if I’m improving?  How will I know what my weaknesses are?  How will I know if I’m inching towards any goals if I don’t have a way to measure my progress?
There are many ways to record and measure your progress and the way you choose to do it will depend on what your workouts consist of and what your goals are.  Regardless of what kind of workout you do, it is important to track your progress. Let’s talk about different metrics.
In my health coaching practice I get a lot of people inquiring about my services whose primary goals are to lose weight.  They have weighed themselves on a scale, received a number, and want to reduce that number.  Weight is definitely a metric, but probably not the best metric by which you can measure your progress.
But wait, isn’t that pretty much the exact opposite of what you’ve always thought?  Isn’t weight the best way to show weight loss progress?  Isn’t weight plus height and body mass index the best way to show how healthy you are or if you’re overweight or even obese?
In short, yes, no, and no.
Because muscle has less volume than fat, the same amount by weight takes up less room in your body.  Check out this graphic:

The orange tangerines represent a pound of muscle.  The yellow grapefruits represent a pound of fat.  Each set of fruits represents the same weight, but each set takes up less space.
Now take a look at this photo:

(Source)

The version of this woman on the left is akin to three grapefruits.  The version on the right is akin to the three tangerines.  Her weight is the same, but the amount of space she takes up (read: her dress or pants size) is drastically different.  Click here to read all about this woman’s transformation and how she figuratively went from grapefruits to tangerines.

So you see, the scale and your weight is a metric you can use to measure weight loss, but it isn’t really the best way to see how far you’ve come.  The scale can be a useful tool if you have a large amount of weight to lose and want to see how much you’ve shed, but it isn’t the most accurate or reliable way to measure progress especially if you are near a healthy weight to begin with.

Ok, so what are some reliable metrics?  How can you keep track of how well you’re doing and how quickly you are progressing.

If your goal is “weight loss”- and I’m putting that in quotation marks because as we saw above, you might not actually lose weight – taking your measurements is a great place to start.  It is difficult (coordination wise) to do yourself, so enlist a friend or a personal trainer to help you.  Here are some instructions for women and men on how and where to measure yourself.  As you can see in the photos above, while this woman didn’t lose any weight, her measurements certainly changed!

Keeping a workout log is also an excellent way to measure your progression.  If I had been diligent in doing this, I might know for sure if my 168 pound deadlift was actually a personal best or if I fell short.  No matter what kind of workout you do (and you DO workout, don’t you?!) it is very wise to catalog what you did, how you felt, track your times and weights, and record any intangible variables that you think might be important.  Here is a list of valuable metrics to know about workout performance that you might want to record in your workout log:

  • Speed — Timing yourself doing a particular workout each time you do it and seeing how your speed differs each time will let you know if you are indeed getting faster or not.  Run a mile and time yourself.  After a week, month, year of training, run the same mile and time yourself again.  How did you time change?
  • Strength — Shame on me for NOT doing this, but recording how much weight you can lift in a particular way (deadlift, overhead press, etc.) can give you an idea of how your strength is improving.  If I had recorded my deadlift from 6 months ago I would have known if I had improved and by how much.
  • Endurance — Writing down how you feel after a workout can show you how much endurance you have to complete the task.  If after that first one mile run you feel like your lungs are on fire and your heart was going to beat out of your chest, then knowing how fantastic you feel one month later is valuable to know.  You can see based on your log entries that over time you have improved your endurance.
  • Sleep — This falls under the aforementioned “intangible” category.  Our sleep patterns, how soundly we sleep, how we feel when we wake up, and how tired or energized we feel during the day can clue us in to how well our bodies are recovering.
  • Food — Logging what you eat and when can be an essential tool in determining how your body reacts to different fuel in relation to your workouts.  You ate a bowl of sugary cereal and a bagel for breakfast, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, and a pasta dinner and you’re wondering why you feel sluggish and heavy at the gym the next day? Maybe you can pick up some clues from your diet.  Of course I’m being extreme here to make my point, but you get my perspective.  What you eat can help or hinder your workout performance and you’ll want to know what works for you and what doesn’t.

I learned my own lesson last night when I had no idea if I had improved or not and I hope you take this lesson to heart too.  Logging, cataloging, and making notes on your health, wellness, and fitness doesn’t have to be complicated or laborious.  Just a few sentences in a notebook after each meal and workout.  Have a trusted friend take your measurements.  If you’re faithful to a healthy lifestyle you’ll see results in no time and you want to have something tangible to brag about, right?
Share in the comments or on Facebook your strategies tracking your progress.  What metrics do you use to keep yourself motivated and on the right track?
 
 

What Will It Take?

When I’m in social situations with people I’ve just met, I inevitably get asked, “So what do you do?”  When I tell people I’m a holistic health coach that usually inspires more than a few questions.  What does that mean? What do you actually do? Why did you go into this?  I love talking about my job, so it’s always a pleasure.
But something that many people have said to me has me thinking.  When I say that many of my clients are trying to lose weight and learn to eat right nearly everyone says something to the effect of, “Oh! I need you!” or “I could use some help with that!”  I’m always happy to answer questions and talk casually about health and wellness, but I can’t help but wonder why so many people say this.
Sure, we have an obesity epidemic in this country.  I know that regardless of actual weight or body composition, nearly a third of American women are currently “on a diet”.  I am not wondering about what the motivation is for saying these things, I’m wondering why there are so many people who do.  Why do so many people say they want to be healthier, but the statistics show that most people aren’t actually achieving it?
My question is this: Where is your tipping point?
The tagline at the top of every page on this website, on my business cards, and on my t-shirts is “Make the choice to make a change”. I love that because to live a healthy lifestyle, to be well, to feel good inside and out, to get fit requires making daily – maybe even hourly – choices to change what you were doing to something else that will take you closer to your goal.  One has to consciously choose to change habits and mindset.
I find that when I’m talking to people, whether I’m in the aforementioned social situation or chatting with prospective clients, nearly everyone wants the final result – weight loss, increased energy, improved overall health, a greater feeling of contentment and happiness, self-acceptance, etc., but few are actively in pursuit of these things.  What is it going to take to inspire change?
I heard someone say one time that most people are miserable with their own state of being, but not miserable enough to do anything about it.  If this is true, just how much misery, or even discomfort or dissatisfaction, are YOU willing to put up with in your own life before you decide to make changes?  Why is it human nature to wait until we’ve reached the point of misery before we do something?
In working with my clients I have found that nearly every one of them has reached a point where they can’t stand “X” anymore.  Everyone’s “X” has been different – weight, various health problems, etc. I always ask why they waited so long to call me.  Why did they put up with this issue for as long as they did when they could have sought relief months or years before?
I know that everyone has his or her own tipping point, that instant when feeling bad just got unbearable and the prospect of making changes seemed less uncomfortable or unbearable than enduring one’s own X factor any longer.  I am just urging you to reassess where that tipping point is.  Nobody has to put up with negative feelings and physical discomfort when there are ways to change the situation.
So, I’m asking you to give these questions some thought.  Write your answers down on a piece of paper with the date at the top so you can see your responses and use them at a later date for inspiration to change your circumstance.

  • What do I want to change about my life?
  • What are the things or forces in my current circumstance that make me unhappy?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being mildly disgruntled and 10 being abject misery), how badly do I feel about these things?
  • How many things did you rank with 5 or more?
  • What are the factors in my current life situation that are keeping me from making changes towards a healthier lifestyle?
  • Among the factors listed above, which are out of my control to change?
  • Among the factors listed above, which are within my control to change?
  • What can I do today to make one simple change towards a healthier lifestyle?
  • Do I need help with making changes in my life?
  • What resources do I have available to me that can help me change things that make me unhappy?

Writing these responses down isn’t just meaningless busywork.  I’m asking you to give these ten questions some serious thought and meditation.  Take a few hours or days to think about each answer.  Hopefully after careful reflection you’ll start to see very clearly all of the forces and circumstances that are keeping you from feeling healthy, strong, capable, and looking your best.
If you find the above exercise to be difficult to complete, give yourself time to truly be honest about the responses.  Shining a light on what makes you sad can be a uncomfortable or even painful prospect.  Don’t rush.
Contact me if you feel you’re stuck or want someone to who will listen to your responses without judgement.
We all possess the power to change our circumstances for the better.  Waiting until you can’t stand the negativity anymore before you enact change doesn’t have to be an option.
Make the choice to make a change.

Healthy on the go

You didn’t even know it, but for the past several days, I’ve been out of town and on a little pre-Christmas vacation with my Dude.  We’re city people. We live in a city and we like to visit cities when we go on vacations (with the exception of going to the Caribbean now and again!).  For the past several days we’ve been in New York City soaking up all kinds of fun and interesting stuff.  Traveling is part of who we are.
Unfortunately, the bad part of traveling is trying to keep up healthy habits while on the road.  A huge factor in living more healthfully and having healthy habits is routine.  Traveling is the enemy of routine and makes this difficult because when you’re not at home, you’re out of routine.  During a normal day you know what your next meal will be (hopefully), and you can plan ahead.  Your workout fits in nicely before or after work, and there’s no guesswork or curve balls to throw you off.  But when you’re out of routine and on the road, staying on track can be hard.
My biggest tip for traveling to be prepared.  Let me emphasize that properly: BE PREPARED. Yep, that’s how important it is, I had to put it in all caps and make it bold.

  • Pack snacks and a water bottle – In transit, it’s as simple as that.  If you are flying, you cannot get through the security screening with a bottle of water, so bring an empty and fill it up at a water fountain on the other side.  Bring fruit, dried fruit, cut up vegetables, beef or buffalo jerky, and nuts in your carry-on.  If you’re driving a long distance, pack a cooler.  There are too many roadside fast food stops and too many temptations along the highways and byways and that translates into too many opportunities to make bad food choices.
  • Plan ahead for where to workout once you reach your destination –  A hotel gym is almost standard these days.  Take advantage of it.  If there isn’t a gym in your hotel or they want to charge you a hefty fee to use it, there are many things you can do in a hotel room or in a hotel hallway to get a sweat sesh in while on the road.  Ask a trainer for some advice on this, but it takes very little room to do burpees, squats, sit-ups, push-ups and lunges.  Why not traverse the length of your hotel corridor a few times doing walking lunges?  And maybe if Santa bought you a jump rope and a resistance band you could really get a workout going in your hotel room!
    Running outside or in a local park is a great way to take in the local scenery, orient yourself with your vacation spot, and stay on top of race training.  Some larger hotels even have running concierges who will map out an interesting and safe route for you to run at any distance you request.
    If you are a CrossFitter, like Dude and me, find out where the closest box is to your hotel.  It’s a great way to make sure to get your workout in, and to connect with some locals who might have restaurant recommendations for you or ideas about what the can’t-miss things are in their town.
  • Let the Internet help you find places to eat – Since your snacks are for when you’re in transit, you’ll obviously need to find restaurants that fit your lifestyle and budget.  When I go to a city that I’ve never visited before I often do an Internet search for the name of the city and “farm to table restaurant”.  Read reviews on UrbanSpoon or Yelp to see what price range you’re getting into and if the locals think it’s a worthwhile place to eat.  Ask for recommendations from friends, relatives, or colleagues about what the tastiest and healthy spots are around town, or what a local delicacy is.  Maybe the town your visiting has a great urban garden that supplies local restaurants, or is famous for its artisan cheese.  Explore the possibilities ahead of time so you don’t have to wonder where to eat once you arrive.
  • Walk everywhere – This is especially easy when you vacation in a city, and it’s a great way to actually see and experience where you are.  You’ll be up and moving AND seem like a local.  A win-win if you ask me.
  • Have a good time – This is the point of going on vacation, no?  Relaxing with your friends or loved ones, exploring a place you’ve never been before, taking time away from your daily grind.  These are all the reasons we take time off.  It is important to move and fuel your body with great food while you’re out of your routine, but it is just as important to polish your spirit while you’re away too.  Do not forget to pamper yourself, make the most of your time away and enjoy.

Who is traveling these days?  For work? For pleasure?  Where are you going and what are you healthy travel tips? Share your experiences and recommendations!

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