Goal setting, Health and Fitness

Momentum to Move: Igniting Motivation To Exercise

Let’s face it: it’s hard to feel motivated to exercise all the time – even if you’re a professional athlete and you’re getting paid to train. Life is busy, with so many things competing for our time – both important and not so much. Meeting a big deadline at work is important, while watching “just one more” episode of a show on Netflix arguably is not. But what about exercise? Like any form of self-care, we often put exercise at the bottom of the list when things get busy…and even when things aren’t so busy? Continue reading “Momentum to Move: Igniting Motivation To Exercise”

Health and Fitness

Self Acceptance

So January is behind us now…the month of “new year, new you.” Did you set goals for your health and fitness this year? If so, and you’re like most of us, the enthusiasm has already waned. Life takes over, change is difficult, information overloads us. We all want to be healthy and fit – even achieve an epic goal such as completing a triathlon, obstacle race, or running event. But what does it really take to make those goals a reality? Two things: smart goal setting, and self-acceptance.

At first glance, these two concepts seem contradictory. If you accept yourself as you are, why set goals for improvement?

I believe that goal setting and self-acceptance are actually essential companions. In other words, accepting yourself as you are today is vitally important to keeping yourself on track, and especially getting back on track when things, inevitably, don’t go as planned.

I’ve written before about SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic, and Timely. When your goal doesn’t have all of these qualities, it’s often a recipe for failure. I’m not a huge believer in the “dream big” philosophy; rather, I understand how the brain responds to success and achievement. Every time we succeed at something, accomplish something we set out to do, or move out of our comfort zone, even just a little, we get a hit of feel-good brain chemicals as a reward. And that reward is incredibly powerful. Not meeting a high-reaching “dream goal” has the opposite effect, and we give up, feeling like a failure.

This effect demonstrates the power of “process” vs. “outcome” goals. Process goals are based on actions we take ourselves – where we are in control. Outcome goals are often only achieved when everything comes together perfectly – and much of which is outside our control. Read more about process goals here.

A big part of self-acceptance is the ability to see exactly where you are, right now, without judgement. Accepting where you are in your fitness journey does not mean giving up before you get started. Instead, reframe your current state or ability level as just a starting point. The best place to start is right where you are. This is truly the way to form a foundation for your goals. You may have far to go, but every step will get you closer. Every little success is another gold star on your homework, and proof to your inner self that you are capable.

Embracing Self-Acceptance

Many of us have a perfectionist mindset. While this can serve us well to some degree, eventually that internal “task master” can squelch your progress. Constant self-criticism often leads to an internal rebellion, if you will – a struggle between doing what you know you “should” do (i.e. your workout or eating healthy); and “cheating.” While initially “cheating” feels good, it usually leads to a knee jerk response of even more perfectionism – and a vicious circle ensures.

How to break through this cycle for good? Embrace self-acceptance.

The foundation of any fitness or training journey is accepting your physical body, your mind and your spirit, just as they are. We all have imperfections, either real or perceived. Think about what aspects of yourself you’ve struggled to accept. Is it some extra weight, your current running pace, your fear of failure even? Accept that this is where you are now, and that you are taking steps in the right direction toward change.

What about motivation?

“I just can’t get motivated to __________.” The “blank” here is something you want to do to move you closer to something you want to achieve.

It’s a common misconception that in order to want to do something, you must first feel “motivated.” In fact, motivation is the effect, not the cause. It’s the action itself that produces motivation, not the other way around. Read more about motivation here.

First, accept that you are feeling this way – and don’t beat yourself up for it! Instead, acknowledge the feeling, and even explore it a little. What’s behind it? Then simply take one small step – and you’ll begin to generate energy that propels you forward.

Some personal examples:

  • When I don’t feel motivated to write a new blog post, I challenge myself to take just one small step – sitting down at the computer and pulling up my list of topic ideas. Then I feel “motivated” to take one more step, this time selecting a topic that sparks with me today. Now I’m feeling even more motivated. Then I open a blank document, type the title, and suddenly I’m off and running. I set the timer on my phone for however much time I have (or want) to work, and when time’s up I can either keep going (which I usually want to do) or I give myself permission to stop at that point.
  • When I have a particular training session scheduled – let’s say it’s a run intervals workout – and I’m not feeling motivated to do it – I challenge myself to do just one small step: putting on my running clothes and going outside. Once I’m out in the fresh air, I make a deal with myself that I’ll do my warmup and two intervals. If I don’t feel like continuing, I give myself permission to stop and go home. 99% of the time, my “motivation muscles” start to fire and I finish my workout as planned.

Accept Yourself – Enhance Your Training

Once you find self acceptance in the present, you may find that making choices and taking actions that move you toward your goals come much easier. Your choices are based on who you are, instead of a struggle for instant perfection.

When, inevitably, something doesn’t go as planned, you’re not a failure. Temporary setbacks, obstacles and “bad days” are just a part of the journey – they don’t define you. You still accept yourself for the amazing person you are, which allows those obstacles and “bad days” to become just another part of the process.

In life our first job is this: to divide and distinguish things into two categories. Externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.

Epictetus

Accept yourself, and embrace the journey.

Laurie Kelly, CPT, CES, is a Road Runners Clubs of America Certified Run Coach. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist accredited by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and an ITCA-Certified Triathlon Coach. Based in Denver, Colorado, Laurie works with clients one-on-one to help them live healthy and active lives, and achieve their unique fitness goals. Contact her here or follow her blog at www.dragonfly-fitness.com.

Health and Fitness

Why is nutrition information so confusing?

Photo credit: Arek Socha

We’re bombarded with nutrition information these days. Every day there seems to be a new study showing how this or that food may cause cancer…or eating lots of one special food (cabbage? kale? green tea?)  makes you lose weight…or that taking this company’s special supplement cures all ills. Even documented, peer-reviewed studies seem to contradict one another.

The fundamental principles of science involve combining many ideas and concepts, then testing, evaluating, re-evaluating and so on – over decades – to ultimately come to a final conclusion.

Interestingly, nutrition science is still in its infancy:

  • Macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) weren’t discovered until the mid-1800’s.
  • Vitamins were discovered in the early to mid-1900’s.
  • Only in the past two decades have studies emerged on newer problems, such as what foods are healthy in a world of tasty, cheap, processed food where people move and exercise very little.

Below are nine reasons why nutrition science can be so confusing. [Note: content and graphics courtesy of Precision Nutrition.com]

#1 – Nutrition research is still very young.

It takes time to master a science. Compared to chemistry, for example, nutrition science is still in its infancy.

#2 – Most research funding goes toward disease treatment – not preventative nutrition

Most researchers would rather work towards finding an end to an epidemic – not how to get rid of a muffin top.

#3 – Nutrition research is often funded by “interested parties”

Where the money comes from can often affect a study’s results. While this doesn’t mean researchers are “cheating,” corporate pressures can influence a study’s design so the research outcomes are more likely to show what the company wants.

#4 – Confounding variables make it difficult to prove the effects of food

Even in the best controlled trial, it’s difficult to isolate the effects of nutrition from all the other factors that affect human health. In fact, just the act of participating in a research study can change the outcome one way or another.

#5 – Most nutrition studies are observational

Observational studies rely on participants’ completing questionnaires about their lifestyles and eating habits. This approach is fraught with errors, as people tend to underreport what they eat, and overreport how much they exercise. Furthermore, observation-only studies can’t account for all variables, resulting in faulty and meaningless correlations.

#6 – Measurement tools always have limitations

For example, even with a straightforward question such as “how do calories affect weight” it’s difficult to get a concrete answer, because:

#7 – What you eat does not affect your health immediately

For example, to definitively prove whether red meat causes cancer would require a large group of human subjects to live in a metabolic chamber eating varying amounts of red meat for 30 years or more. Who wants to sign up for that?

#8 – You must never assume a particular study’s findings apply to YOU.

Even if you could seal a group of people in a metabolic chamber and study them for 30 years, the results would still not provide evidence of who else those results would apply to. Here’s why:

#9 – If doing the scientific research seems difficult – reporting on it is even harder

Remember this:

Hopefully these points help you understand that just because a study comes out stating that food X causes disease Y doesn’t mean the end of the world. Most importantly, remember that there is a vast difference between correlation and causation. Correlation means two things are observed to happen at the same time, but causation means one thing truly is the cause of the other – and is much harder to prove.

So how do you interpret nutritional information so it’s meaningful for YOU ? Talk to an independent nutritionist, registered dietician, or health/wellness coach – preferably one who’s impartial, meaning they are not selling a particular nutraceutical product/ supplement or commercial weight loss program. These professionals will give you non-biased, personalized advice to help you reach your wellness goals.

Laurie Kelly is a Precision Nutrition Certified Level 1 coach, specializing in exercise and sports-based nutrition coaching. She is also a NASM-certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, and a Road Runners Clubs of America Certified Adult Running Coach, and a Certified Professional Triathlon Coach by the International Triathlon Coaching Association. She’ll work with you one-on-one to help you live a healthy and active life and achieve your unique fitness goals. Contact her here or follow her blog at www.dragonfly-fitness.com.

Health and Fitness

Are you sabotaging your workout?

Sabotage workout

Are you spending hours in the gym every week and not seeing any results? It just might be that you’ve developed some habits that may be sabotaging your success, without even realizing it. Here are six of the most common workout habits to change now – and see improved weight loss and body composition while becoming more efficient in the process. Continue reading “Are you sabotaging your workout?”

Health and Fitness

Breaking Through an Exercise Plateau

Exercise Plateau

Do you find that no matter how hard or how often you work out, you just can’t seem to make any progress? You may have hit the dreaded exercise plateau – and it’s sapping your motivation to continue. What you need to break through that plateau is a change in how you train – something called periodization. Periodization is the smart way to train in any exercise discipline. Continue reading “Breaking Through an Exercise Plateau”

Health and Fitness, Running

The Many Health Benefits of Running – And How to Get Started

Run shoes on sand

Are you a runner? If you are, that’s awesome! Or perhaps you’ve tried running before and given up, or never gave it a chance at all. The truth is that running can benefit almost every part of your body and your mind. It’s not hard to learn, and can be done anywhere, anytime. Read on for more on the many health and wellness benefits of intelligently incorporating running into your life. Continue reading “The Many Health Benefits of Running – And How to Get Started”

Health and Fitness

Three Key Reasons to Always Warm Up

Warmup

You’re committed to a workout program, even though you have to squeeze exercise into a busy schedule. To save time, you skip the warm-up portion of your workout – the main set is more important anyway, right?  Or perhaps you’re late to an exercise class, so you jump right in with what everyone is doing once you arrive. Is a warm-up really necessary?  Absolutely…and here are some important reasons why – plus some suggestions for what constitutes a good warm-up. Continue reading “Three Key Reasons to Always Warm Up”

Health and Fitness

Hurts So Good – Why You Should Foam Roll

Foam rolling woman

Foam rolling is one way to perform what’s technically known as “self myofascial release” or SMR. Perform basic SMR techniques on yourself to reduce your chances of repetitive stress injury, minimize muscular imbalances and improve your overall flexibility, function and athletic performance. Continue reading “Hurts So Good – Why You Should Foam Roll”

Health and Fitness

The Criminal vs. The Victim – Targeting the source of your muscle and joint pain

 

Pain illustrationLike any system, the human movement system relies on a complex integration of muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints that, when in balance, allow us to move freely without pain. But if one of those becomes impaired, a cascade effect follows where other parts of the system have to work harder and harder, or move in an unnatural way, to compensate for the part that’s not doing its job. Targeting the root cause of that pain (the “criminal”), and actually fixing it rather than dulling the symptoms (the “victim”), is the purpose of what’s known as corrective exercise. Continue reading “The Criminal vs. The Victim – Targeting the source of your muscle and joint pain”