How to be Motivated for Change

sleep

We are creatures of habit, plain and simple. We love routine, we like to stay within our comfort zone and we don’t like unexpected interruptions. Many of us talk about needing to “change things up” or “do something different” because we’re bored with our situation. But, the fact of the matter is, that’s a lie. We like comfort too much.

 

Does that mean you can’t change or you shouldn’t change?! Absolutely, positively NOT! It only means that voluntarily deciding to change goes against our evolutionary genes. For a select few of us (less than 1% I would say), we can decide to make a change and do it immediately, no questions asked. For the other 99% of us who knows a person like this, we look at them and think “why can’t I do that?!”. We tell ourselves we’re not strong enough, or not disciplined enough or simply that we’re failures. Here’s the thing…those 1% are what we call Outliers (check out Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers for more). They are the exception, not the rule. But, because they exist, we all believe we should be able to accomplish the same feats as them.

 

Although we look at Outliers with astonishment and bask in their achievement-glory, we need to understand how to truly motivate ourselves to make sustainable change. Motivation and change are intertwined, like spaghetti and meatballs…without one, you can’t have the other (that’s the Italian in me coming out).

 

To get you moving in a direction (whichever direction you decide is best to achieve your change), I have a couple of recommendations. These recommendations should be done in sequential order:

 

  • Accept the Change You’re Trying to Make!

While most of us understand that we have changes we SHOULD make, we may not believe we HAVE to make them. Let’s take our health for example. If you’re over the age of 45, the likely hood of you having high blood pressure or cholesterol issues or diabetes is extremely high (29%, 31.7% and 9.3% respectively)! Anybody with one of these conditions has been told by their doctor at least once to make a lifestyle change, whether that’s being more active or eating more vegetables or drinking more water. So we know that change is NEEDED to improve our health. But without ACCEPTION, it will be nearly impossible to be motivated to develop sustainable change.

 

  • Start with 1 Habit!

The next mistake most of us make when making change is trying to tackle every aspect of our change at once. Let’s say you want to try this new Paleo diet to help with your body composition goals. Currently you don’t eat breakfast, eat fast food at lunch every day and drink sodas on a regular basis. Here’s a short list of the habits you have to change to make the diet change:

 

  • Start eating breakfast
  • Stop eating fast food for breakfast
  • Stop drinking soft drinks totally
  • Start packing your lunch (which requires you cooking food in advance)
  • Start drinking water in place on soda
  • Start eating vegetables
  • Go to the grocery on a regular basis
  • Prep your food
  • Eat about 4 times a day
  • Eat more protein

 

Seems simple enough, right?! And all of these habits require little habit changes in and of themselves. Our minds only have the capacity to focus on 1-2 important tasks at a time (contrary to what most of us would like to believe). Give yourself a fighting chance and pick one habit that you believe will get you started on the path. Once it’s ingrained in you, choose another one.

 

  • Be Patient with Yourself!

We live a world of instant gratification. Everywhere you turn, everywhere you look you find new ways to get what you want, when you want, how you want. Although many products and books and motivational speakers promise instants results, the fact of the matter is, when it comes to life and change, things just don’t happen quickly! Get rich quick schemes and fad diets and bogus supplements all want you to believe it can happen fast. And maybe it did…for SOME (remember the Outliers?!) Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Be patient, build habits and develop sustainable change!

 

Change is a scary word. If done correctly, you can build change into your life without feeling like a failure. Accept change, build habits and be patient and you may be surprised at the results you get in the long run!

Breathing to Destress

36-arrow_BW_thin_right

Work deadlines, sitting in traffic, strained relationships, personal or family illnesses are all examples of stress. Stress is defined as any event in which environmental demands, internal demands or both tax or exceed the body’s adaptive responses. Chris Kresser more easily defines it like this, “stress is a disturbance of homeostasis. Homeostasis is the body’s ability to regulate its inner environment.” When our stress gets out of control, our body’s ability to fight off disease or even to function optimally is greatly diminished. To be able to recognize stress and knowing how to manage it takes more effort than following any diet or exercise program out there yet is crucial for optimal health and wellness.

 

Most of us recognize the big stresses in life but what about the more subtle ones? Our body also recognizes inflammation, poor sleep, food intolerance and over exercising as stress. It is everywhere and everyone has it. Here is how stress works in our body. We have 2 small structures that sit on top of each kidney known as our adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are responsible for releasing our fight or flight hormones-cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. However, the adrenal glands are the body system that is most adversely affected by too much stress. Cortisol is meant to be cyclic in our body. High in the morning to wake us and gradually drop lower through out the day so we fall asleep at night. Prolonged stress will disrupt this cycle causing us to carry high cortisol throughout the day leading to adrenal fatigue. This will cause us to feel fatigued even when getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night, hold onto belly fat even though we exercise and eat nutritious food, increase our hunger and sugar/caffeine cravings as well as lower our immune system response. The hormonal disruption creates a hostile environment within our body setting us up for failure and chronic disease.

 

So how are we to manage stress in our lives so we do not end up falling victim to all the ill effects? First let’s learn to BREATHE. Does that seem silly? Well it isn’t when it comes to the beneficial and calming effects that breathing has on us. When you are stuck in traffic remember to practice breathing. When you want to argue your point with someone pause and breathe. Even better would be to start or end your day with the following breathing exercise from the book Unbeatable Mind called Box Breathing. It will help you better control your stress response and improve your mental concentration. The technique goes like this: start by exhaling all the air from your lungs. Inhale to a count of five. Hold your breath for a 5 count and then exhale to a count of 5.

 

Always inhale and exhale through your nose to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. You can do this in short intervals throughout the day when you encounter stressful events but try practicing this daily for 5-10 minutes too. For the greatest benefit make it a habit. Do it first thing in the morning before getting out of bed or at night right before you go to bed. Start with doing it for only a minute or two and when you are consistent then advance the time. Add to this a positive affirmation like  “you got this” or “ I am grateful for…..”. Breathing is a natural body response we all take for granted but when done with purpose can be healing and a stress management tool too.

 

 

How to Create Successful Habits

 

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a book that explains the science of habit formation and change. It defines for us why habits are subconsciously created and how we can change existing habits to build better habits.

 

Habits form because our minds are always looking to save effort so we can remember and accomplish all the things we have to do every day. Habits make things happen in our life with next to no effort once they are established. In other words, habits free valuable space in our brains.

 

The book tells the story of a toothpaste known as Pepsodent and how it successfully started people brushing their teeth daily. We will use the example of brushing your teeth to show the process of habit formation.

 

As a child you have to be reminded by your parents to brush but after performing this task repeatedly a pattern begins to develop in your mind and it then becomes habitual. At first your brain must work hard to establish a cue from the environment to offer as a clue to what follows next in the pattern. This is identified as “the habit loop” requiring three steps to complete.

 

The first is the cue to tell your brain to enter the automatic mode and which habit to use. Second is the routine followed by the third step which is the reward. The reward tells you if you should remember this habit for future use. Let’s look at a common habit loop. You brush your teeth after your morning shower daily so you don’t forget. The cue is the shower, the routine is to brush your teeth and the reward is a clean mouth or fresh breath. Once this habit is established it takes no conscious effort on your part. It will just naturally happen, that is if you take daily showers. Now your mind has time to focus on other more important tasks. To understand how habits work is essential to making sustainable change in exercising, healthy nutrition and other things in life.

 

When seeking to make any type of change, it is best to only work on one habit at a time. Statistics show that if you tackle one habit your success rate is greater than 85% in making that habit permanent. If you try to work on two habits at the same time, those numbers fall to less than 35%. More than two it plummets to a less than 10% chance of succeeding.

 

An example is if you want to “break the habit” of drinking soda daily then simply work on drinking more water. If you currently are drinking soda with your meals (cue) then sub in a glass of water (routine) instead. You will save money and lose weight (reward) even if you drink diet soda. I would like to add to this that it is better to focus on building new or better habits than breaking old ones. This takes the negative out and keeps the action positive. By focusing on the positive action, it is then a more natural progression that the negative action will be eliminated.  Another example would be to eat less refined carbohydrates and sugar by focusing your meals around lean protein and lots of vegetables. You will naturally have less room for carbohydrates, maintain a stable blood sugar, improved satiety and lose weight.

 

To get started building sustainable life-changing habits, identify a cue or trigger to attach your new habit to and work only on one habit at a time. Perform the habit for two weeks consistently and track your progress. If you slip, don’t give up, just start the process over until you achieve 14 days straight. Anyone can do anything for 14 days right? If you fail at your new habit, it maybe that it is too big a change and needs to broke into smaller steps. Start by just drinking water with one meal a day or giving up that afternoon soda you have after lunch to achieve success.

 

Remember success doesn’t usually come in a quick fix that will stick with you. It is better to be patient and consistent for sustainable change.

 

Why You Should Stop Working Out and Start Training!

perfection

When you walk into a Fitness Center, you see a lot of people working out. Some people are probably in the free weight section pumping out dumbbell curls, others are on the treadmill getting in their 8 miles for the day, and more are in the aerobics room getting their dance on (or pilates on, or yoga on, or barre on…).

 

But, if you really, really pay attention, you’ll notice that, while most people go to the gym to work out, some people go to the gym to train. Well, that doesn’t make sense, aren’t those the same thing?! Yes, but mostly no…

 

Last week, we were having a conversation during one of our Team Meetings and one member of our Team, who’s trained with us for 3 or 4 years as well, brought up the idea of working out VS training. He said that, before he started training with us he would go to the gym to work out. He’d walk in, do some stuff on the machines, hit up the elliptical and finish off with the sauna, same basic routine, no defined path. But once he started with us, he came in with a purpose, hoping to get one more rep than he did last week or deadlift 5 more pounds. Now, he comes in to train.

 

This got me thinking. Is there something to this?! At first, it simply seems that this an argument of semantics. Partly, that is what’s going on here. But it’s much deeper than that.

 

Speaking semantically (I guess that’s a real word), working out is exercise without purpose. Sure, you want to accomplish SOMETHING, whether that be fat loss or general fitness. To get the results you really, really want from your exercise routine, there should be something more than fat loss or looking good naked.

 

Training, on the other hand, is exercise with purpose. Whether you’re a runner who is constantly trying to improve their 5-mile time, or a mountain biker who climbs steeper and steeper mountains, you have a purpose. I know what you’re thinking…” What if I am not training for a marathon or training for a weight lifting competition?! What am I training for then?!”. That’s a fantastic question, which requires an equally fantastic answer…so here it goes…

 

You’re training for LIFE!!!

 

This is what I mean by “purpose”. Most people workout because they know they should. That’s certainly a great start. Moving, after all, is ALWAYS better than not moving. Exercising with purpose will help insure that, as you get older, you don’t start to fall apart. During the aging process, our bodies are constantly fighting us: you lose muscle, you lose cognitive function, your hormone production slows down. It’s an uphill battle.

 

But this doesn’t HAVE to happen!!

 

If you move often and move with purpose, you’ll see things happen that you couldn’t have imagined. Find something you enjoy doing and do it the best that you can! There will be days that are harder than others and it won’t be an easy road all the time. Start training and you’ll be surprised at the progress you make within your personal goals.

To Eat Dairy, or to Not Eat Dairy?! That is the Question!

 

 

This is a question that is frequently asked by those trying to lose weight or improve their health. It is also one that many experts will have various opinions about as well. So what is the correct answer? To find the answer let’s look at some of the facts we know about dairy.

carbs

Dairy is promoted by many health organizations worldwide as being necessary for bone health and proper growth in children. All dairy is not the same structurally nor necessarily good for you. A large part of the benefit of dairy depends on how the animal was fed, under what conditions it was raised and how the dairy was processed. Grass fed dairy is completely different from conventional dairy in it’s fatty acid profile and vitamins. Dairy, milk in particular, is meant to promote growth in animals. Humans though are the only mammal to consume milk after weaning and the milk of another animal. This brings us to why dairy can disagree with many people.

 

Dairy is very nutritious. After all it contains everything necessary to raise a calf and other mammals to adulthood in the animal kingdom. Let’s focus though on humans and how it is metabolized in our body. Most dairy contains the milk sugar lactose. As an infant we produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose. In some people, the gene that produces lactase is “shut off” prematurely and they become lactose intolerant. It can happen by the age of 3, sometimes not until you are in your 20’s or even much later in life. Nearly 65-75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. A milk allergy is different from lactose intolerance because in a milk allergy it’s a reaction to the protein in milk not the sugar. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can range from gastrointestinal upset, acne or simply a stuffy nose after consuming dairy. As you can see the signs and symptoms vary greatly among individuals. Those without the very obvious symptoms can still be intolerant. The easiest way to determine if you could be intolerant of dairy is to eliminate it from your diet for 30 days. After 30 days, add it back in and observe for symptoms to return.

 

As for weight loss, dairy is high on the list of insulinogenic foods. In other words, ingesting dairy will raise the circulating insulin in your blood for the next 2 hours even more so than some carbohydrates. Remember, the goal in weight loss is to keep your insulin levels low by maintaining a stable blood sugar. Secondly, milk (dairy) promotes growth in animals therefore you may want to avoid dairy if you are having difficulty losing weight. Once again, eliminate it for a while and see what happens on the scale.

 

If you tolerate dairy, consider using grass fed dairy products. Grass fed dairy is an excellent source of saturated fat plus is full of omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. CLA has many health benefits ranging from cancer prevention to improving body composition. It is also rich in fat-soluble vitamins we need for many of our bodily functions. Goat’s milk is said to be better tolerated by those who are dairy sensitive because it is structurally very similar to human breast milk. Try some goat’s milk to see if it works for you.

 

So with all the differing opinions about dairy, it’s best to decide for yourself if it is right for you and your goals. Don’t feel that it is absolutely necessary in your diet. It’s more important to find if it is causing you health issues or impacting your weight loss goals. Choose to use grass fed dairy in moderation if you are tolerant and always use full fat dairy.

 

 

 

 

The Art of Super Setting: How to make Your Workouts more Effective

mobility

At this point in my life, I’ve trained on a regular basis for about 15 years. The first 5-8 were almost purely instructional: here’s what you do and here’s how you do it. These were the high school and college years. And, although their intentions were pure, sometimes coaches didn’t know exactly what was best when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness. They were sport coaches after all, not strength coaches.

 

Getting into college and starting to train regularly in a “Fitness Center” atmosphere led me to learning different ways of performing set and reps. When you first hear about things like drop sets, cluster sets, super sets, tri-sets and so on, it can be a bit confusing. But some of these can make your training much more effective, and, more importantly (at least to the average Joe), more efficient.

 

Super sets are something that has been around for a while. They’ve been utilized in many different ways for many different goals. Understanding what a super set is and how to use it is something that many general population athletes (this is anybody who isn’t a professional athlete. We’re all athletes, after all) lack.

 

A super set is when you do 2 exercises together in one set. For instance, if we labeled the exercises A1 and A2, you would perform A1, then perform A2 immediately after, and rest. This would be completion of one set. Generally, what most GP Athletes do (especially those who perform split routines) is perform an exercise, then rest for 2 minutes or so and repeat.

 

As you can tell, the do-1-exercise-then-rest method can be much less efficient when it comes to getting more exercises in in less time. So there are a couple of ways to go about super setting, as well as some things you should avoid when picking exercises:

 

  • Good Ol’ Push/Pull – This technique has been around forever. Push/Pull was popularized by bodybuilders back in the 60s and 70s. The idea is to pick antagonizing movements and perform them in as a super set. Let’s say we wanted to start our training with bench press, which is a push movement. We would want to pick exercise that is a pull movement so that we are fatiguing the muscles we’re trying to utilize during our bench press. Here’s how this would look:

 

A1 – Bench Press

A2 – Dumbbell Row

REST

A1 – Bench Press

A2 – Dumbbell Row

REST

A1 – Bench Press

A2 – Dumbbell Row

The best way to do is to pick movements on the same plain. What does that mean? Bench Press is a horizontal pushing movement (you’re lying horizontal to the ground), therefore you would pick a horizontal pulling movement (upper body horizontal to the ground, or pulling in towards you). Your other option would be vertical pushing (think shoulder press) and vertical pulling (think pull-ups).

 

  • The Upper/Lower Cross Super Set – Choosing an upper body and lower body exercise that are on opposing sides of the body is a great way to perform a super set. Let’s say you pick an anterior (works the front of the body) lower body exercise and a posterior (works the back of the body) upper body exercise, it would look like this:

 

A1 – Front Squat

A2 – Chin-up

REST

A1 – Front Squat

A2 – Chin-up

REST

A1 – Front Squat

A2 – Chin-up

 

This is the technique we primarily use a Thrive. When you’re picking an exercise for upper and lower body, plus using antagonizing sides, you’re effectively lowering the possibility of fatiguing muscles groups that are used during these movements.

Super setting upper body and lower body exercises is also a great way to get a better metabolic hit during your weight training sessions. When you perform an exercise, your body has to rush blood to those muscle groups that you are using. Alternating upper and lower body exercises forces your body to drastically adjust where it is going to pump more blood, which is making your heart work hard, which is increasing your cardio endurance.

 

  • The Get-Strong-Then-Mobilize Super Set – Here is an instance where you may want to add a less intensive exercise to your super set. Lifting heavy weights is fun. But supersetting maximal deadlifts with maximal squats may not be the best way to go for form and effectiveness. So trying alternating your heavy deadlift with a quality mobility exercise. This way you’re doing your strength training while getting in the mobility work you probably aren’t doing (which you should be!!). Take a look:

 

A1 – Deadlift

A2 – Adductor stretch w/ T-Spine Rotation

REST

A1 – Deadlift

A2 – Adductor stretch w/ T-Spine Rotation

REST

A1 – Deadlift

A2 – Adductor stretch w/ T-Spine Rotation

 

This way you are still maximizing your time, and not wasting it chatting about Sports Center clips.

 

Making your time effective in the gym is important. Many of us hold off from going to the gym often for this very reason. Training doesn’t have to take hours at a time. If you plan accordingly, you’ll get the work done that needs to be done.

The Butternut Squash

 

0403161541a

Butternut squash is a strange looking “vegetable” or should I say technically a fruit since it contains seeds. It is a cousin to the acorn and spaghetti squash. Beige in color and shaped like an hourglass, they are rich in phytonutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. They have a thick peel and can be kept for up to 3 months in a cool, dry place. Once cut, they only last for a week in the refrigerator. They can be a tough “squash” to handle since their peel is extremely thick and requires a very sharp knife to peel and cut up if not cooked. Today though, it is common to find this squash already peeled, cubed and ready to be used in a variety of recipes. They can be roasted, pureed for soup or just split in half and baked in the oven. Let’s learn a little more about the health benefits of the butternut squash.

 

They are low in fat and rich in anti-oxidants, which make them an anti-inflammatory food to help us decrease inflammation in our body that leads to chronic disease. One cup contains approximately 60 calories, 16 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of fiber. Rich in beta-carotene that our body converts into vitamin A. Beta-carotene gives the flesh its rich orange hue. Vitamin A is important for eye health. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that maintains healthy mucus membranes, soft tissue and vibrant skin. Butternut squash is also rich in Vitamin C necessary for wound healing, development of ligaments, blood vessels, and cartilage plus supports our immune system. Vitamin C also helps our body absorb iron to prevent anemia. Potassium is also abundant which is important as an electrolyte for cellular function, protein synthesis to aid muscle development and healthy blood pressure. Lastly, it contains fiber, which provides satiety, regularity and a healthy digestive system.

 

How do you pick a ripe butternut squash? Look for one with unblemished skin, matte in color and heavy for it’s size. If the skin appears shiny put it back since this means it is not ripe and will not taste as sweet. Below is an easy recipe to go along side lean protein for dinner tonight.

 

Baked Butternut Squash

 

Ingredients:

 

3 pounds butternut squash peeled and sliced into 1 inch chunks

3 tbsp of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ tbsp. of balsamic vinegar or fresh squeezed orange juice

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the butternut squash in a large bowl and toss with the oil, seasonings and vinegar or orange juice.

Place the squash in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes tossing gently a few times while baking. Add additional sea salt and pepper if needed before serving.