Deep sleep in a comfortable bed

Over-extended?

The last few weeks have been HECTIC. I’m prone to working a lot. A lot, a lot. All the time. I’m way interested in what I do, I’m passionate about helping people feel better, and I have a lot less anxiety when my To-Do list is at a manageable level. Every now and then these tendencies lead to me over-extending myself, and then being somewhat (very) sorry.

I’ve spent the last three weeks working what felt like triple overtime, without taking a break from the hour or two of research, planning, and reading that I try to do daily AND maintaining some semblance of a workout routine… Turns out that burning the candle at both ends will in fact catch up with you.

No big surprise, I got sick. I’m finally on the tail end of a head cold, which doesn’t sound terrible (and isn’t, as far as sick goes) but really knocked me down. One of life’s not-so-subtle reminders to slow down, I’ve been prompted to remember:

  • Sleep is ok. Seriously, your job will be there tomorrow and your body doesn’t expect you to kill yourself over the job. That’s a big one for me, and I also have to remind myself that all my little projects that I’d like to finish and the entire internet will be there for me to look at tomorrow too.
  • Prioritizing is ok. We all have long lists of things that we would like to get done, feel like we should get done, or actually have to get done. I’m trying to be a little more conscious about the fact that an extra 20 minutes cooking a healthy dinner that will also be my lunch for tomorrow is way better than eating two cheese sandwiches and snacking my way through the next workday. I’m working on putting down the things that aren’t making me happy and healthy, sooner, so I can more quickly get to the things that ARE good for me.
  • Easing back into exercise is ok. Fatigue sticks around, especially when you’ve got to jump right back into other commitments and hit the ground running. I did a half hour of yoga when I got home this afternoon, and took the easiest option for every pose. And I still feel like I had a workout. So even through I’d love to go out for a run tomorrow… The smart thing to do will be to keep it to a low-key walk. Or sleep a little longer (see above).

We all have habits that challenge our health rather than support it. I’m working on recognizing mine and giving myself permission to look after myself first and foremost – playing catch-up isn’t much fun.

How can you take care of yourself today?

 


Middle age woman raising her eyebrows in surprise

The Secret Life Of A Health Coach

Want to know the biggest secret about my life as a health coach/exercise physiologist/personal trainer?

I’m just a normal person.

I like all types of fried potatoes, working out is sometimes more effort than it seems like it’s worth, and I definitely do not have a six-pack. I’ve been through periods of being super active and fit, and periods of being super lazy, and while I much prefer feeling and being super fit and healthy, I frequently struggle to make the time for it.

It’s called real life – as least, it is for most of us. There are great trainers out there who are able to juggle big workouts, prepping and eating routine meals, making their body their whole focus – Awesome for them. I’ll even admit that I’ve more than a little jealous. I had that for a few years and it was great, but it was also when I was in college with the luxury of plenty of time to spend on it.

In the years since, I’ve stopped beating myself up over NOT doing all those things. I’ve found my balance between eating healthy and really enjoying my meals, between being fit and being out of shape (though I often sit slightly below my ideal fitness level). These days, my ultimate goal is to strike that balance between making my entire life about my body, fitness and health, and being able to enjoy what life has to offer.

So, my big secrets?

My fitness levels fluctuate A LOT and I have to really work for what I have. My biggest challenge is balancing my time between every life demand in a way that I’m happy with (or at least can live with). Sometimes workouts lose out.

I love eating. LOVE IT. I love movie popcorn and giant salads and everything in between. Portion control is my nemesis.

I struggle to make myself a priority. I spend all day every day talking to people about taking care of themselves. I’m the worst at taking my own advice!

Stress-eating: Ugh, yes, that’s me.

I would much rather watch Netflix than go to the gym. (Though as with most people, I get a lot more satisfaction from going to the gym, once it’s all said and done.)

I may or may not read on my phone every night in bed, even though I know all the science says it’s bad for your sleep. Oops.

The point is, this is real life. We can have all the education and experience in the world – I’m not short on either and definitely know better – and making the best choices is still challenging. I live those choices day in and day out, just like everyone else. But these days I’m ok with those challenges. They are a lot easier now that I’ve learned to make life about habits and choices I enjoy, rather than choices that feel like chores that I should or have to do. I’ve found my balance between the effort I’m happy to make, and the results I’m happy to have. I’m launching this new section, The Secret Life Of A Health Coach: Food and Fitness in Real Life, to share what those choices look like for me, and to give you some ideas and support in finding your own balance.


Very happy woman giving thumbs up after health coaching

Get Motivated With An Awesome List

I read a piece from the Smarter Living section of the New York Times earlier this week discussing reader tips for outsmarting procrastination. While one reader had gotten his do-it-now mantra tattooed on his arm, it was another reader that submitted the tip that really struck me as spot-on:

Make your list.

Not the list you might be thinking of though – decidedly NOT a To Do list and not quite a wish list, either. The reader in question titled her list “I Will Feel Great About Today If I…” and noted that this particular list is all about giving yourself the reward of feeling awesome every day. This “reward” can be directly linked to the release of dopamine – the feel-good neurotransmitter – and the pleasure centers of the brain.

Why is this important?

Procrastination can be defined as the absence of progress, or the voluntary delay of an important task, despite knowing that you’ll suffer as a result. Avoiding a task or activity that you know is good for you, or that you need to do, often will lead to guilt, anxiety, or shame, and then to further avoidance of the task. Even thinking about those feelings is not fun! In the long run this can have a negative impact on both physical and mental health.

Back to the list!

I’m calling it The Awesome List. As a concept, recognizing that you can help yourself feel awesome is perfectly aligned with the Be Nice To Yourself bedrock of HealthFit Coaching. As a practical tool, this concept is simple and easily applied (though it may not make the actual tasks any more fun). I love this so much that it’s immediately gone into the coaching processes.

The biggest benefits of making and sticking with your own Awesome List:

  1. It will help you prioritize. Keep your daily Awesome List short, with no more than three tasks. Remember that this isn’t a To Do list and will not encompass all you’ll get done in a day. Rather, this is about decreasing the dread that comes with the To Do list. Think of which task(s) you’ll be the most relieved to get done, or are the most challenged by. Start with one task a day.
  1. You get to Recognize the Suck! Many tasks we put off doing are challenging, outside our comfort zone, or things that we just plain don’t want to do. It’s not uncommon to think of the task, think “ugh, not looking forward to that” and then immediately think “But I should be better at it/should enjoy doing this/should be more motivated/etc. etc. etc.” You may recognize some of these thought patterns! Like ripping a band-aid off, admitting that you don’t want to do it can actually make it easier to get the task started and get it done!
  1. You’ll get a mental boost. This is the crux of The Awesome List! Anytime you do or get something that you wanted, your brain releases dopamine. Checking items off your Awesome List will lead to dopamine increases, and you’ll also get to bask in your accomplishment! Yay for you! And yay, because it will make it so much easier to do it again tomorrow.
  1. Reinforces your competence and ability to get things done! We often hold ourselves back because doing new or unusual things can be intimidating. Hopelessness at starting a new task and fear of failure can loom large. But as the saying goes, done is better than perfect, even if you feel challenged by the process. No longer will you feel hopeless. You did it!

wooden stairs that are good for running or walking for fitness

Healthy Made Easy: Avoiding Effort Overload

I’ve been in the health and fitness industry for over 10 years, and in that time I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. I’ve had the opportunity to chat with a lot of these people. Most start off excited and enthusiastic – this is their third time starting, and this time they’re really gonna do it! They tell me about going to the gym and going on a diet. And a large number of them end up going nowhere with it. It’s heartbreaking, since they’re all up against the same challenge.

I call it Effort Overload.

It’s the wide-spread idea that healthy living is all water bottles, gym time, and meals in Tupperware, with no nights off or pizza with a glass of wine in sight.  This sort of “healthy” lifestyle isn’t so (mentally) healthy for most of us, since it usually means a LOT of change in a short period of time. Coupled with a lot of “I don’t really know what I’m doing…” and “Is my body supposed to be this sore or am I injured?” and “No thanks, I’m just going to have this lettuce for lunch”, healthy living all of a sudden seems hard and unappealing. It’s totally understandable that people decide that they’ll take the long-term health risks in order to put an end to their Effort Overload. It’s just too stressful.

In truth, taking much smaller steps towards a healthy lifestyle actually has a much greater rate of long term success. This is way easier on our brains, and in the HealthFit Coaching process, is actually designed to be NOT stressful. We help you break healthy choices down into steps so small that you might feel almost silly not taking them. Not to make you feel silly, but to help you feel like you’re actually getting somewhere!

Since there are many potential changes most of us could make to improve our health and fitness, we work to have a deep understanding of what will suit you best. Some of the questions we ask to help determine your steps:

  • What kind of things do you like to do in your spare time?
  • What are the healthiest choices you are making for yourself, right now?
  • What might you need to do to prepare to take the next step towards better health and fitness?
  • What are your biggest challenges in making healthy choices for yourself and your family?
  • Who are your strongest supporters in making healthy choices?

It’s always easier to keep moving forward when you have some momentum behind you, so we make sure to look at what’s already going well for you and build on that. Effort Overload is avoided by keeping the focus on one step at a time – the easiest step you can make, until that step has been mastered and it’s time for the next. Enough small steps, after all, lead to great progress.


Healthy Made Easy: The Power of Habit

Isn’t living a healthy lifestyle supposed to be a lot of work? At best, it’s a boring life full of Tupperware lunches and hours at the gym, right? We say “nah”…


Healthy living does NOT have to be like that. Trust me. Over the last decade, I’ve helped hundreds of people discover that “healthy” can come in many forms, and that healthy choices can be flexible enough to meet your needs and still be enjoyed.

One of the ways we make healthy easy at HealthFit Coaching is through harnessing the power of habit.

Almost half of our daily actions and activities are done out of habit. Essentially, we live much of our lives on autopilot. When I think about my days – how much I absentmindedly click over to Facebook when I’m at the computer, or have a snack as soon as I get home from work whether I’m hungry or not – I can readily believe that I’m this driven by subconscious habit.

Habits are created when you do something repeatedly, especially when they are linked to a specific event, situation, time of day, or other trigger (like getting home from work, in the example above). When you do something repeatedly, your subconscious “learns” the trigger and the action to take. This means your conscious mind doesn’t actually have to expend any energy on deciding what happens next, freeing your brain up to focus on other things.

Our goal is to help you create new healthy habits that will take the place of old, less healthy ones. You and your coach will identify the habits you don’t like, and what aspects of your daily life trigger you to take those actions. You’ll figure out exactly what you want to do instead (it’s all about the details!) and then with the help of your coach, you’ll develop a plan to turn your preferred habit into reality.

Putting your plan into action is the bulk of the work. While it’s commonly accepted that it take about three weeks to establish a new habit, in reality this process can take anywhere from a few days to several months. The good news: We’ve identified the steps you can take to make sure your habit-development timeframe is on the short end of that scale. These steps form the basis of our process, and you’ll have the support of your coach and the HealthFit community the whole way.

In the end, we want to help you make your healthy choices automatically. When you make them without even realizing it, that’s the easiest thing of all.


Woman tying running shoes before starting to run

Getting Started With Exercise: An Interview

Our Principal Exercise Physiologist and company founder, Erin Haske, chatted to our friends at Just Knead It Sports and Remedial Massage about getting up and going as you kick start an exercise program.

Pop on over to their blog to find out what she has to say about strategies to get up, keep moving, and even enjoy it!

Just Knead It is a remedial massage clinic based in Woolloongabba on the south side of Brisbane. HealthFit Coaching strongly supports the role of remedial massage in short and long-term health maintenance and prevention, whether you are an athlete or not. And you always feel amazing at the end of it!


What’s Your Why?

Let me pose a question to you:
Why are you working so hard to improve your health and fitness?

I ended up where I am in this business because I love the buzz I get when a client comes back to me and exclaims any of the following: I don’t have to take my blood pressure medication anymore/My knees don’t hurt/I can’t believe how good I feel!

It’s awesome to be a part of that. But it’s taken me the better part of a decade to figure out that helping people feel better is why I stay up at night poring over research papers or writing three different programs to make sure one will work. I’m doing those things because I want each client to get the best program, with the most up to date information and most efficient approach possible. I want you to get better, fast, and to help you find a way to do it that works for you.

Finding what works for you is the key component of creating a successful program. That includes setting SMART goals, and creating measurable steps along the path to the ultimate goal so that you can definitively tell that you are making progress. I have operated this way for years, and have had a lot of success with this approach. But inevitably, at some point, progress stalls and clients plateau, and I’m juggling to kick-start their motivation again. Clearly, there is a piece missing.

That piece is Why.

Goals are great, and absolutely necessary to keep you going through the hard work required to change your life and well-being. But even the best goals aren’t always enough to take you all the way. Here is a classic example: I had a client, Bryan, who came to me for help with training to run a marathon. His two best friends had started running a few years before, and had started running races not long after. His running friends had decided to do the Las Vegas marathon, and had invited him along to hang out. Bryan decided he’d like to run the marathon with his friends, but needed to get training right away. A marathon is a classic SMART goal: You have a set date by which you have to be capable of a certain measurable thing, and you can prepare for this by taking the right steps at the right times.

Bryan’s preferred training time was early morning, before work. He was going really well for quite some time, making great progress with increased running distances and appropriately incorporating strength training and recovery activities. About two-thirds of the way through his training program, it started getting harder and harder to continue those early morning training runs. After spending some time discussing how he felt the training plan was going overall, we turned back to the ultimate goal: Finishing the marathon with his friends. Bryan was confident that he could run the whole way, but he wasn’t sure he could keep the pace with his friends, and the thought of getting left behind was a huge turn-off.

This was a lightbulb moment: Running the marathon wasn’t about running a marathon. It was about having an equal part in an amazing experience with two of his closest friends. A couple small tweaks to the training program to help his speed, and he was pumped to be running again. He was getting up even earlier to make sure he warmed up well before his training runs. His times dropped a little and his confidence and excitement skyrocketed. When it came to running the marathon, though he had to work for it, he kept pace with his friends and more importantly, had a great time.

Bryan figured out why he wanted to run.

Bryan’s why wasn’t the hardest to figure out, and each of us has our own reasons behind the “whats and hows” of our goals. Figuring out these “whys” out can be a time-and-thought-consuming process, and in my experience, there can be several false starts as you make your way through the many reasons that make up your motivation. You don’t ever have to share them, but knowing them yourself is powerful: There is no stronger inspiration than your deepest desires.

So, what’s your why?