Achieve Your Summer Fitness Goals

imagescae2vkgaWill this be another season of half-hearted attempts at getting fit, or will this really be the summer begun with a new attitude? Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit gives us hope and a way to make changes that can break-up the old routines. The following is a mini-plan to begin.

1. Create a Routine: Teach your brain that it’s time to exercise by devising a cue, like putting your sneakers next to the door, or packing your lunch the night before. “A routine gives your brain something to latch onto,” says Duhigg.

2. Set Small Goals: You want to run 5 miles 3 x weekly? Week one, wear your workout gear. Week two, walk around the block. Increase slowly until you reach your goal. Habit formation is built on small wins, according to the author.

3. Choose a Reward: When you reach your daily goal, regardless of what it is, treat yourself to a piece of chocolate, 20-minutes of Web browsing or whatever you genuinely take pleasure in. “This works because you are training yourself to associate a behavior with something you actually enjoy,” states Duhigg.

4. Write it Down: List your cues and rewards: “Monday- put on workout clothes + one square of dark chocolate.” This works because by identifying your routine, you significantly increase the chance that the habit will take hold,” according to the author.

Change require discipline, patience and your personal buy-in. Think back to times when you have been able to consciously shift your thinking, modify or eliminate a behavior. Redirect your focus into replacing old actions with new behaviors for success!

• Are you a biker, runner, walker, swimmer or outdoor enthusiast?
• Is variety important to you?
• Learn a new skill or mix in what you already know?
• Is your best time morning or later in the day?
• If equipment is necessary can you borrow it first?

Trying something new requires patience. As a rule of thumb, I suggest trying an activity at least three times. You will have low expectations at first. The next time, you are a still a beginner and on the third attempt, you will have a better feel for the activity. Perhaps you may look for something else or sign up for lessons with a pro, purchase the bike or dust off those old roller blades and get moving!

©MWeisner2017

Achieve Your Summer Fitness Goals

imagesCAE2VKGAWill this be another summer season of half-hearted attempts at getting fit, or will this really be the time to begun with a new attitude? Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit gives us hope and a way to make changes that can break-up the old routines. The following is a mini-plan to begin.

1. Create a Routine: Teach your brain that it’s time to exercise by devising a cue, like putting your sneakers next to the door, or packing your lunch the night before. “A routine gives your brain something to latch onto,” says Duhigg.

2. Set Small Goals: You want to run 5 miles 3 x weekly? Week one, wear your workout gear. Week two, walk around the block. Increase slowly until you reach your goal. “Habit formation is built on small wins, according to the author.

3. Choose a Reward: When you reach your daily goal, regardless of what it is, treat yourself to a piece of chocolate, 20-minutes of Web browsing or whatever you genuinely like. “This works because you are training yourself to associate a behavior with something you actually enjoy,” states Duhigg.

4. Write it Down: List your cues and rewards: “Monday- put on workout clothes + one square of dark chocolate.” This works because by identifying your routine, you significantly increase the chance that the habit will take hold,” according to the author.

Change require discipline, patience and your personal buy-in. Think back to times when you have been able to consciously shift your thinking, modify or eliminate a behavior. Redirect your focus into replacing old actions with new behaviors for success!

Strengthen Your Core

habitOver 40% of our behaviors are habits. Habits are routines of behavior that are repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously. Some practices are good, like tooth brushing for healthy oral hygiene and some are even fundamental to our ability to function. But there are those things we do that are far from mindful as we react to the initial cue to engage, knowing the end result will make us feel better in some way, if only for the short term. Habits, good or bad, make us who we are. The key is controlling them. If you know how to modify your habits, then even a small effort can create significant changes. Eating what’s convenient vs. what you know is healthier or watching TV because you are too tired to take a walk are the default behaviors that can be changed when you have a plan to short-circuit the familiar cause/effect patterns.

We all learned early on that the “Three Little Pigs” had some construction challenges and that the house built on the strongest foundation was most resilient. If you attempt to drive a golf ball far down the fairway with your feet together, you will get mixed outcomes ranging from losing your balance to not connecting with the ball at all. Taking a wider stance puts you in a far better position to maintain your stability which will likely result in better shots.

So how is this image transferable to behaviors that we have placed on auto-pilot like gym workouts? In my case, I feel better after my 60-minute program is over, but I know it is one that could use some updating by scheduling a session with a trainer to plan and review my current goals. I love doing sit-ups, hundreds of them, and not even break a sweat in the process. However, as soon as I moved from the bench to an exercise ball; not so easy, and in fact, not only was it harder, but my attention was now completely focused on each sit-up. I could not zone out and just go through the motions and when light weights were added, I quickly went from being stable to shaky as new muscles were engaged.

It takes practice to make a change and with the specific goal in mind of getting stronger by building my core, I am looking forward to hitting better golf shots and recording those favorite TV shows for post-gym workouts. An added benefit is that with a sturdier mid-section, my posture is improving and I feel more confident and energetic. Yes, a simple change in process can indeed yield broader results than expected.

How will you strengthen your core?

• Identify 1 activity that focuses on your core
• Plan it
• Do it!

© 2014 Maureen Weisner

The “Fitness Cliff”

Two Women Exercising With WeightsWhen I first read the term, fitness cliff I assumed that the reference was to another cutting edge training program. After all, it is spring and time to think about getting in shape, preparing to shed layers of clothing and improved conditioning for outdoor activities. Naïve on my part. Gold’s Gym graphed member check-ins from January 2010-January 2013. On February 18th, 48 days after most of us vow to eat less and exercise more, attendance nose-dives and continues on a downward spiral with a few positive spikes near bathing suit season. Surprised?

So, what happened and why does it continue to be an ongoing pattern? Similar to the New Year’s resolutions that many of us have been wont to make with certainty, over 50% never get beyond January 31st in changing some behavior. Fewer than 20% of us follow through on a resolution to its conclusion and actually make the proposed change.

Reassess your goal:
A closer look might help. According to fitness trainers, if you fixate on changing a specific body part and you don’t immediately see results like flat abs or thin thighs, your commitment is likely to wane. Instead, look at the bigger picture.

What’s important about being healthy?
• Greater endurance/more energy
• Improved mood
• Increased strength
• Sleep better
• Participate in more activities
• Develop greater discipline
• Gain confidence
• Clothing fit better
• Diet changes
• Exposure to more people/exercise buddy

Action:
Focus on why exercise is a positive activity that has both long and short term benefits. It’s energizing and de-stressing and can also add a social component. When the “pay-off” is not necessarily immediate, your goals need to be approached in small steps with built-in rewards, like a massage or another spa treatment.

©Mweisner 2014

Anxiety or Stress?

1028789_origWho isn’t experiencing some level of stress…or is it anxiety? Does it make you anxious to think about how stressed you are just reading this? Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America, affecting around 18 percent of the U.S. population in any given year, and almost 30 percent of American adults across their lifespan.

Stress is part of the natural human condition. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to sound the proverbial alarm if danger were imminent. Stress is one of the greatest tools an animal has to beat the odds and stay alive. So, how do we differentiate between stress and anxiety when the lines seem to be so blurred?

According to psychologist, Harris Stratyner, stress is distinguished in several ways. Imagine visualizing a graph chart of spiking highs and lows that also subside repeatedly. You usually know what’s prompted the upsurge. This could range from major issues like a job loss, pending bills, a relationship break-up or even less pressing events like snarled traffic or the grind of your morning commute. Reactions might range from difficulty in focusing to stomach aches or even breakouts. He states that, “Once the cause is gone, though, you feel lighter and the symptoms quickly vanish.” There is a feeling of relief until the next time.

On the other hand, anxiety may feel like stress but it doesn’t stop and you can’t figure out why. Perhaps every day you awaken filled with dread and you cannot shake the feeling that everything is out of control. Dr. Stratyner says, “If that’s you more days than not over a six-month period, and it’s preventing you from working or having fun, you may have generalized anxiety disorder.” It is highly treatable and seeking out a consultation with your doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist may be a good start.

We have all experienced periods in our lives that are less ideal than others and we may be trying our best to manage a lot while maintaining some sort of balance. When I look back on times when I could have benefited from the support of others, professional or not, I wish that I had done so sooner than I did. However, whether I felt up to it or not, exercise, always helped. Whether it was dragging myself to the gym or taking long walks, physical activity was better than not. So, for now, grab your headphones, get moving and no matter how…break a sweat.