What is health coaching?

Urban Well is HealthFit Coaching‘s home for health coaching, where every clients gets a gold-standard science-based plan.

So much more than just “what to do, when to do it”, good health coaching is a collaborative process that helps you get the most out of your lifestyle. (Without making it no fun at all.)

I often joke with my friends about the busy-ness of adult life, and how I wish it were easier. (Honestly, who doesn’t?!) Real life is busy. When we look at something as complex as keeping ourselves in good health, it also becomes confusing.

Our health coaching relies on good science to help us understand how people respond to different approaches to a healthy lifestyle. We weed out the fads and stay current with the “gold standard” in preventative health care. The coaching process translates this information to you, so you don’t have to sift through the internet to learn what might work.

Ultimately, coaching helps you make the best choices. Since so many “healthy lifestyle” approaches work, the key is actually figuring out what works best for you. This means considering what’s realistic, and what’s appealing. The technically-best plan won’t work if you hate it! We make sure the steps fit in with your lifestyle, time, and commitments, so you’re already halfway to winning!

Our other difference is the supportive accountability that we offer. You work together with your coach to set your goals and create a plan to achieve them. You’ll dive deep into the steps, considering different options and thinking ahead to see how they’ll work for you. And your coach will be there to support, troubleshoot, and cheer you on as you get stronger, move easier, and feel better.

If you’re interested in how health coaching can help you, you can book a free initial call through the Urban Well website.


Exercise Physiology and HIIT Training

Would you benefit from exercise physiology if you’re already training hard? Absolutely! Exercise physiology and HIIT training – like Crossfit, F45, or Beach Body Challenges – are a match made in heaven, and you’ll see it in your results. Here’s three reasons why:

Your technique will be top notch

One of the biggest benefits of exercise physiology is the technique fine-tuning that happens in each session. This isn’t personal training, where we’re here to give you a list of stuff to do and then count your reps (and true that good PTs don’t do that either!).

Instead, exercise physiology is all about your movement and how your body responds to it. An exercise physiologist should spend the majority of your session closely watching how you move, and helping you fine-tune your technique so that the right muscles fire at exactly the right time. This helps minimize undue stress on your joints, muscles, and connective tissues. Of course, we do some stress – just enough that your improve your strength and fitness). If you have a health condition like heart disease, we also watch for signs that you’re working safely and not beyond your health limits.

You’ll stay injury and pain free

Good exercise technique and minimizing undue stress keeps your body happy. If a movement is off-balance, it usually leads to overuse injuries in the long run. This happens through too much load on the wrong structures. If you’ve ever had a meniscus tear or a bulging disc in your lower back, you’ll probably understand what moving just slightly the wrong way feels like: “not good” is an understatement.

“Balanced” movement is simply good exercise technique. This keeps the exercise load in the working muscles (good stress) and not so much on the joints, ligaments, and other anatomical pieces that are along for the ride. In the long term, this means fewer injuries – and only the good, DOMS-y soreness that you get from a solid workout.

You’ll maximize your workout bang-for-buck

Keeping the load in the working muscles means that you aren’t leaking effort. What the heck does that mean? Pain, past injury, and sloppy exercise technique let your stabilizer muscles coast along, so you’re not using all you can. Tightening up your technique turns stabilizers on, and adds more “good” stress without making things harder. You’ll also transfer force more efficiently. This is especially important for power exercises and full body movements. In fact, once you get used to the technique tweaks we recommend, the same workout will actually feel a lot easier. You can lift more and go farther with the smallest changes. Sounds good to me!


Our new home for exercise coaching

One of the reasons I started HealthFit was to help people find ways to make health easier. It’s a pleasure to find likeminded clinics, which is why I’m so excited about joining forces with Urban Well. With a tagline of Simplifying Health and a collaborative approach, it’s a great option for health and exercise coaching, rehab, and preventative health care.

I’ve met tons of clients who struggle to stay as fit and healthy as they would like. As a result, they worry that when push comes to shove, they won’t be able to do what they want to – or have to. My entire health and exercise coaching approach is based in the idea that you don’t have to settle for anything. This means getting clear on your motivation and working with a tailored plan is a powerful place to start. Doing the work in the company of a supportive community is when the magic happens.

Urban Well provides this community in two ways. First and foremost, one of the founding principles of business is a client-centred collaborative plan. That means that the person you see at Urban Well communicates with everyone else on your health care team. Our goal for you is that your whole health care team is on the same page , and it’s less likely that every person gives you 30 minutes of homework to do every day! In addition, the team at Urban Well is always working to build a great community. It’s important that every person who comes through our doors feels supported and encouraged. Through stretching and strength classes, brain and body health workshops, and a great provider team, we hope to connect our clients to others doing the same work. It’s easier to stick with the changes when you’re not alone, and that’s what we are all about.


Maintaining motivation to exercise

TL;DR: Motivation to exercise is a mental game, and life is more mentally challenging these days. We’re all struggling with hard things a bit more often than normal, and exercise is no exception. Sometimes considering what keeps us unmotivated is enough to turn things around. Also, it’s ok to take it easy and be nice to yourself.  

How to maintain motivation to exercise? What a great question. This year has been hard on a lot of people, in a lot of different ways. And even though the emphasis on self-care has grown exponentially (even more than pre-2020!), emphasizing the importance of something doesn’t automatically make it easy. So what does?

Rather than jump in with advice – easy to give, but often also easy to ignore – we all might get more value out of reverse engineering our motivations, starting with why we aren’t feeling motivated much at all. (I’m saying “we” here as I’m solidly in this boat as well!) 

I think there are a few factors here that could help to understand why we struggle with motivation to exercise, especially in : 

  1. The feeling of Why Bother
  2. Things are harder to do right now
  3. We’re out of routine (even if we aren’t anymore)
  4. It’s so much work

Over the past several years, I’ve spent a lot of time with my psychologist talking about my avoidance of things and the ensuing guilt. One of my biggest lessons has been learning to be kind to myself, and treat myself the way I would treat any of my clients. That means STEP ONE is accepting my starting points, and being ok with starting almost from scratch. From there, depending on what roadblock I’m feeling, it becomes easier to flip the “don’t wanna” to the “ok, sure”. 

Why Bother Exercising?

For me, it’s all about feeling better. When I’m not working out regularly, I feel gross. I call it fat-n-floppy, which reflect my physical discomfort rather than any aesthetic or judgement. Using exercise to feel better means I get a physical boost (anywhere from just the “fresh” feeling post-cardio to the lack of back pain when I get my glutes switched on!) as well as a mental boost. 

What I’ve also realised is that it doesn’t take much exercise at all to feel better. It’s much easier to talk myself into five or ten minutes of movement than forty minutes to an hour. It’s the silver lining of lost fitness: Less time to a solid workout. 

Why did you start to exercise in the first place? Does that reason still exist? If it doesn’t, is there something else that you miss about exercise, or maintaining a specific level of fitness? 

Things Are Harder 

Time to get creative. When I was a new exercise physiologist, I was really set on having squat racks, chin up bars, a bench, and a good set of dumbbells before I could get into the groove. I didn’t really have the tools in my mental toolbox to be creative. 

Now is the time to get more creative. 

Fortunately, lots of people are out there doing the thinking for us. We can find workouts designed for doing at home, short workouts for when we are time-poor, workouts that use DIY weights, all sorts of things. Just because we don’t want to (or aren’t able to) access places and things that we’re used to, like the gym, or reasonably priced weight sets, doesn’t mean we’re stuck and out of luck. 

Out Of Routine

This is definitely the year of things not going as expected! We’re all (still) learning to adjust to… 2020. Bring out of routine, and trying to find a new routine, actually takes a lot of brain power. Using a lot of brain power saps your physical energy, which might very well explain why you’re so tired after working all day at home without any of your normal “work day” activities like… going to work. Your brain might be scrambling to figure out what the heck is going on. 

“Be nice to yourself” falls into this category too. When you’re mentally exhausted or emotionally drained, it’s tough to peel yourself off the couch for a workout. This is normal. 

If you’re looking to add some sort of exercise to a new spot in your routine, do this: 

  1. Think about when you’ll get the most feel-good benefit from it (morning, midday break, before bed, etc) and when you’re most likely to do it. 
  2. Come up with a few workouts to pick from, including easy and tough ones, and then mix and match as needed. If you had a really big day or are feeling really flat, take it easy and stretch out or jump on the foam roller. If you’re feeling like you want to burn off some anxiety or stress, pick a hard workout. 

Planning these things ahead means not having to worry about it in the moment, which means you can just get on with it. Maintaining your motivation to exercise just got a whole lot easier.

Working Out Is… So Much Work

There’s no getting around this one! Oh wait, actually there is. Turns out that even “gentle” exercise like splashing around in a pool or going for a walk gives you a mental and physical boost. 

Behaviour change science tells us that the hardest part of starting a new habit is actually the starting. Once you’re going, it’s nowhere near as tough to keep going. You don’t have to smash yourself every session. You don’t have to smash yourself at all. Interestingly, there is even evidence that low intensity, frequent movement is more beneficial for long-term quality of life. 

Finally, what I’m really saying with all of this: Maintaining motivation to exercise can be challenging at the best of times. It’s ok to not always be motivated, and it’s ok to be not-motivated and do just a little. Five minutes of movement is 100% more than zero minutes of movement, and it might just be enough to get you back in the groove.


Picture of Healthy Habits: Start Simple

Healthy Habits: Start Simple

Life is pretty complicated right now!

Suddenly out of routine, you might be struggling to maintain normal habits – healthy or otherwise. Your normal Get up–Work out–Healthy breakfast–Off to work routine now might be Cramming anything in your mouth and Not even thinking about exercise until you’re well into your work day. While being out of routine is frustrating, it’s also a golden opportunity. Create a new habit means changing an old one. With normal habits disrupted anyway, half the work is already done. Setting up new healthy habits just got easier.

So what is a habit?

Habits are automatic actions, a behavior that you’ve done so many times that you do it without any conscious thought. This is a win for your brain; It keeps you doing the basics without taking attention away from things you need to actively think about. An action is truly a habit when it’s done before you think about it. (Like those rather frightening times when you drive to work and arrive without realizing it.)

Healthy habits are automatic actions that support your health, fitness, and overall wellbeing.

A great way to create healthy habits:

Start simple.

Psychological research tells us splitting your effort (brainpower) among different tasks prevents you from doing any of them well. This is why multitasking isn’t great for mentally demanding tasks: Your brain never gets into enough of a groove to do meaningful work.

This concept applies to longer time frames too. If you’ve ever tried to change a habit, you know it takes a while. Sometimes a long while. When you split your effort across multiple new habits, it’s a recipe for… not failure, exactly, but backsliding. It is possible to create several new habits at once, but it takes a very long time. Your brain is busy trying to automate all the things! You’re more likely to give up than to achieve.  

What to do instead?

Pick one thing to focus on, and do it until you are doing it without thinking. Pick something that is maximum benefit for minimum effort, or the thing that will be easy to implement. It helps (a lot!) if your new habit is something interesting, exciting, fun, or will lead to an outcome that’s really meaningful to you.

By the way: There are lots of Health-Fitness-Wellness gurus out there that are happy to tell you exactly what your body needs. Contrary to all their “expert” advice, you are the expert in that area. A good coach just helps you figure it out!


Green capsicum bell peppers that look like they are screaming

Eat your veggies (Someone else will cook)

Good news everybody!

I’m always harping on about “Eat More Veggies”, because they are good for you.

Right now, eat more veggies might be a bit more challenging than usual, thanks to limited shopping opportunities and people not exactly buying what they need… (Are people hoarding fresh produce? You might actually still be ok on this one.) The whole “going outside” thing isn’t as much fun as it used to be either.

If you’re in Brisbane, I’ve got a solution for you. A good friend of mine is pivoting his business. Hay Gurl cafe is moving from storefront vegan/plant-based cafe to plant-based meal prep and delivery service. No contact home delivery, delicious (seriously delicious) food made from so many plants, that you don’t have to cook yourself. Heat and eat is a great option when everything else is not so great. (By the way, I get nothing for posting this. I just love the food and want to support local businesses.)

They make a Breakfast Toastie that I would literally break-and-enter for. Check out their stuff:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/haygurlcafe

Instagram: Haygurl_cafe or @haygurl_cafe

You want in on the action? Sign up here and get notified when the next round of ordering opens.

 

Fabulous image courtesy of imgur 


motivation with carrot

Staying motivated to work out

When I was in my 20s, I lived with a lady who got up at 4:30am to get to the gym before work. She was a self-professed not-morning person, so one day I asked her how she managed it. Her answer?

She slept in her gym clothes.

Being honest, no one is always motivated to get their workout done. This can be a really hard thing to admit, since our cultural narrative tells you that you should totally have no problems A) being motivated and B) fitting a workout into your day. (Ha!) It’s actually quite difficult to stay motivated sometimes; this is especially true when exercise is a new habit, or when your routine has seen a significant change (hello, COVID-19).

A big part of my job is actually helping people understand that there absolutely can be a difference between what you see in the fitness-related media (magazines, websites, TV shows) and how you actually feel about working out. That is, you don’t have to love it, or even like it, 100% of the time. You definitely do not have to always be motivated.

There are things you can do that help stay motivated, though.

This won’t be the first thing you read to tell you to find something that you enjoy doing. Not surprisingly, this helps a lot. The “no pain, no gain” mindset is not actually a great one. It can be off-putting, and can actually have significant drawbacks. On the flip side, enjoying what you do for exercise makes it a whole less lot like a chore. It doesn’t have to be intentional “exercise” either; some of my best workouts have come from gardening. Take a look at what you do regularly in life that gets you moving, especially if it helps get your heart rate up or gets you moving in different ways than you might normally.

In that vein, thinking outside the box can also be helpful, especially right now when so many of us are stuck in one spot (more or less). Make it worth doing. What can you do around home that gets you moving that you need to do anyway? Lots of bigger household chores can give you a good workout and the satisfaction of getting things done.

Of course, keeping your goal in mind makes a difference too. If you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen! Which, duh, of course… but you might not realize how much you don’t connect the effort and the outcome, in the moment. It’s so easy to get stuck in the “I don’t want to/This is hard/But I really should do these other things…” and let that derail you. It can be helpful to keep a small reminder of your goal nearby, or near where you might be if you’re putting exercise off.

Lastly, bear in mind that you won’t always enjoy it, and you don’t have to.  No one likes to talk about it, but “work” is part of work out. I wrote this piece about staying motivated a while ago, inspired by some of the different things people to do keep themselves going – especially when feeling unmotivated. It’s actually one I go back to frequently in my own efforts to keep on track! Hopefully some of this might help you too.


blue neon sign of the word cool

Just some home workout goodness

Cool happenings: HealthFit’s old but popular post about making your own weights for home workouts has been picked up and included in a list at Greatist. It’s very exciting to be included! Especially since there’s some very cool stuff on there. Can you find us?

Many of us are still in the process of finding a home workout routine in these anything but routine days. But this really can be a silver lining: Working out at home is the ultimate in convenience. Who doesn’t like having one less stop to make during a busy day (or one less reason to go outside, right now). One of the main reasons that people don’t do more home workouts is that they don’t have the equipment to they think they need. As it turns out, you need less than you think, and you can make a lot of what you do need. Mostly all you need is a bit of creativity – and now all you have to do is follow directions!

Greatist  has a bit of a different take on “how to get  fit” – but then, so do we! Their articles target somewhat of a younger crowd, meaning their approach isn’t always suitable for everyone, so use your best judgement. They have a flexible take on health, fitness, and nutrition that I really like, which can be a good starting point for your own ideas. I would normally suggest checking it out on your commute… but maybe check it out with your new non-commute time instead!


Working from home giving thumbs up and smiling

Work-From-Home Tips

Here’s to working from home!…In less than ideal conditions. 

Right, so. Working from home is definitely a thing now. Great! Pros include: Fewer meetings that could have been emails, no need to hotdesk, no more time spent on commuting.

Cons: No desk at all? (Also things like not being able to leave the house, etc.)

If working from home isn’t your normal setup, this “new normal” might include plenty of time working on a laptop, jammed into the laundry room at a makeshift desk, at the kitchen table, or – even worse – on the couch with your computer precariously balanced on your knees.

This can quite literally be a pain in the neck.

You are probably well aware that being stuck at a desk all day is a sure-fire way to ramp up neck, shoulder, and upper back tension. This often leads to “knots” and muscle pain, and if left long enough, can give you chronic headaches. All that time spent sitting can also trigger lower back pain and stiffness. It happens to almost everyone at some point. Working from home can create an even greater issue, since most of the time we aren’t equipped with the normal office desk-chair-tech setups that make looking after your body a little easier.

I spent much of each working day with clients to help them decrease their muscle tension, improve their movement ability, and brainstorm ways to get their desk or workspace set up to make the best of a potentially painful situation. Regardless of whether you’re in the office, or in your “office” (kitchen), when it comes to looking after your body, the same rules apply: Give yourself as much physical support as you can, minimize distraction as much as you can, and take lots of short breaks!

Let’s get specific. Here are some of my top recommendations:

Vary your chair. One of the joys of working from home is that you have a whole house full of furniture to use. Use them all. Varying the chair that you spend many hours in will mean that you are A) standing up/sitting down more often as you change seats and B) aren’t stuck in the exact same sitting position for as long as you’re doing the work.

Sit and stretch. You might be stuck sitting at a computer, but you can still stretch. By changing the positions of your legs and chair, you can find ways to stretch out while get stay productive. Some stretches might be harder to hold for any length of time, depending on how flexible you are. Don’t stress if you can’t hang onto it for long, but do try to hold each stretch for at least a minute. You’ll get better with practice!

Set yourself up. The office version of this means lifting your monitor to eye height, using either a deep desk or a chair with arms so that your elbows can rest on something, bringing your mouse closer to your body so you don’t have to reach far, and adjusting your seat so that your hips and knees rest at about 90degrees – which might also mean using a footstool. Our choices at home are often a lot more limited, but the same principles apply as much as they can.

Give yourself “space”. Sounds impossible? What you want to look for is some mental separation between “work” and “home”, which is helped by some physical separation. Ideally that means setting up your work-from-home work station in a different room, but that isn’t always possible. If you don’t have a room to spare, see if you can take your work outside to a porch, veranda, or balcony for the day. Or, set yourself up in whatever space you have, and when you’re done for the day, pack your work items away again so that your space goes back to normal (no, that’s not ideal, but really, what is ideal right now?)

Sit and trigger point. There are lots of trigger point spots that you can work on while you’re sitting at the desk. Try a tennis ball, cricket ball, or big spikey ball under your hamstring (the back of your thigh), sitting with it under your glutes (your bum), or leaning back into your chair with the ball pinned behind you.

“Walk to work”. If you’re stuck working from home but still have the opportunity to get outside, stick to your before- and after-work routines as much as you can. Get up, get ready for work, and then go for a walk around the block to “commute” to work. This is a great way to get a little extra movement in, as well as giving you some separation to get your brain into work mode. Do the same at the end of the work day, so that when you get home, you can relax. You can also take a break from work for a lunchtime walk, the same as you might do in the office, to break up the day and help keep you mentally fresh.

These are just some of a long list of ideas. What are you doing to keep yourself moving?


Woman asleep in white bed in wood paneled room

Wake Up Happy

Sleeping well is the most underrated and overlooked thing you can do for your health and fitness. Not only does a good night’s sleep help you feel better and get through your day more easily, it also keeps your body systems ticking along in tip top shape.

According to Sleep: A Health Imperative, published in the journal Sleep, 37.1% of American adults experiencing inadequate sleep; the number of Australian adults is similar at 39.8%, according to a report commissioned by the Australian Sleep Health Foundation.

That’s a lot of people not sleeping well, or enough. And as long as daily functioning isn’t impacted, why not spend more time on work and play? Well, because eventually sleep deficits can catch up to you. And it’s not just feeling it (things like simple tiredness, poor daytime function, and microsleeps) — it’s also your health.

Most research shows that 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night is what will keep you healthy. Less than 6 hours per night will drive a cumulative sleep deficit that stresses cells and changes how the brain (and therefore the body) functions. In turn, this changes the way your metabolism, immune system, and nervous system work. This sets the stage for:

  • Increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary heart disease, and possibly stroke.
  • Increased risk of obesity, possibly due to changes in hormonal control of hunger signals, as well as decreased glucose tolerance and development of type 2 diabetes.
  • Increased risk of numerous types of cancer, including break, colon or colorectal, and prostate, which may be linked to an overall increase in cell damage throughout the body.

Ok, so it’s not good for you – you know that. Does that mean it’s time to make an appointment to see the doc for some sleeping tablets?

Nah. For most of us, good sleep is a matter of making some easy lifestyle adjustments. Start with the easiest and work your way through the list as you can or need to. Everything you do will help!

  • Make your room dark. Blackout blinds will limit light from outside. Inside the room, minimize any lights (from electronics or other devices), and a trusty eye mask will help if your partner insists on reading in bed.
  • Keep your room cool. Research suggests that optimal room temperatures range from 16-18°C, or 60-67°F, since that’s neither too cold (keeping you from falling asleep), nor too warm (causing restless sleep).
  • Make your bed comfortable. Find a mattress that gives you enough space, support, and comfort. The best mattress and pillow will allow you to stay in good posture while you sleep: with your head, neck, and spine in alignment. A mattress that is too soft will cause you to slouch, and a mattress that is too firm will put pressure on contact points like hips or shoulders. Pillows should allow your head and neck to stay in a straight(ish) line with your spine in your preferred sleeping position.
  • Make your room quiet. Loud or unusual noises will disturb your sleep, which you probably already know! If you live somewhere where this is common, using a white noise player (via specialized machines or simply any number of Youtube tracks) can help mask outside noises and lull you to sleep.
  • Develop a bedtime routine. When you create a routine around the tasks of going to bed, it helps your brain recognize that it’s time to wind down. This makes it easier to fall asleep, especially if your routine is a relaxing one.
  • Make your room a haven. Bedrooms should not be multi-purpose rooms; sleep scientists recommend only using your bedroom for sleep and sex. Choose paint, sheets, curtains or blinds, and other decor that you love, and going to sleep will be the best part of your day!
Want more information? Try these references:
Sleep – A Health Imperative, from the academic journal Sleep  https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/35/6/727/2709360#124879694
The Sleep Solution, by Dr. W. Chris Winter https://www.amazon.com/Sleep-Solution-Why-Your-Broken/dp/0399583602
Asleep On The Job: A Sleep Health Foundation Report http://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/files/Asleep_on_the_job/Asleep_on_the_Job_SHF_report-WEB_small.pdf