Archives for August 2017

Create healthy living habits from the ground floor up | 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp reprise

Changing our habits around eating and exercise is hard. (If it wasn’t, we’d all be elite athletes with fabulous blood pressure and cholesterol counts…).

So hard, in fact, that there’s an entire sub-discipline of psychology devoted to studying how best to develop new habits (as well as eventually ridding ourselves of the old).

What those studies tell us, in a nutshell, is that we’re doing it all wrong. Making grandiose resolutions, setting unattainable goals and generally, adopting an ‘all or nothing’ mindset. A mindset that ultimately leads to yo-yo dieting, dust-gathering dumbbells, feelings of defeat and often, abandoning those new habits before they’ve had time to become routine.

If you’re looking to increase the chances of making those new health and fitness habits ‘stick’ try the following:

 

1. Choose a single, small habit to adopt.

Practice it daily until it’s no longer a chore. This might take a week. It might take a month. Commit 100% to it’s practice. Remind yourself that you can do anything for a week or two.

Once you’ve mastered it, choose another single, small habit to adopt. The trick is to retain the first habit while cultivating the second. And so on.

Think of each tiny habit as a step on your path to improved health and fitness.

 

2. Associate that habit with contextual cues.

Do it at the same time of day (morning workouts set the stage of healthy decision-making the rest of the day). Or in the same place (create a ‘workout corner’ in your spare bedroom or basement).

Use something to trigger the habit’s occurrence.

For example, set your workout clothes out the night before. Put them on as soon as you get up. The clothes are your contextual reminder to head to the gym.

Leave the blender and the ingredients for your morning green smoothie out, on the counter, where you’ll see them before you’re tempted by the left-over pizza or scones your hubby brought home from the bakery.

 

3. Reward yourself immediately.

Humans are driven by positive rewards. The more immediate the reward, the stronger its effect on the likelihood that you’ll repeat the behaviour. Note that this doesn’t mean you need to buy yourself a pair of Fluevogs every time you successfully hit the gym.

Try creating a ‘star’ chart. Once you’ve earned 10 stars, treat yourself to something special; a book, a manicure, movie night with a friend. Just make sure the reward doesn’t undermine the new habit; i.e. a piece of chocolate cake isn’t a great reward for successfully eating 5 servings of fruit and vegetables 😉

 

4. Regularly reflect on your progress and adjust your approach, if necessary.

For example, if eating 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is the habit you’re trying to create, yet after a week or two of practice you only ever manage to eat 5, change your target habit to what you’re capable of repeatedly doing. Chances are those 5 servings are significantly greater than the 1-2 you were eating before.

Scaling back on goals isn’t a sign that you’re weak, merely an indication that you understand you’re more likely to succeed if the goal is small and do-able.

Once you’ve mastered this simplified version of the habit you’ll be ready to tackle a slightly bigger bite.

 

5. Share your practice with others.

Tell people what you’re intending to do and why. Enlist their support. Find an accountability tribe (in real life or online) and check in daily.

Research shows keeping behavioural change a secret significantly reduces the likelihood of the new health and fitness habit ‘sticking’, thereby accounting for the popularity and success rates of group weight loss programs and exercise classes.

These are the exact same approaches I share with my personal training clients and the basic philosophy of my 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp.

Over the past two years, this program has helped hundreds of women jump-start their journeys back to regular exercise and a healthier way of eating. In the words of the participants themselves;

“The 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp was a great kickstart to strength training”

“…it helped me get out of my funk and off the couch”

“My fitness goal was to reduce the pain/weakness I felt getting up and down from the floor with my toddler/baby and have more energy. After only 2 weeks, I was feeling better!”

“I loved how the exercise chunks were small enough to feel doable, even though they were still quite a 15-minute challenge for me at first!”

The 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp has been on hiatus for the summer. In part, because I was out of town on holidays and I like to be around to support my participants.

But also, because the program was ‘stand alone’.

Participants signed up for and executed the program on their own, whenever it suited their schedule.

While this worked well for some individuals, others mentioned that they would clearly have benefited from going through the program with a group of like-minded others. They wanted an accountability group, as described by my point #5 above!

Because September is often a time of ‘starting over’ (all those years of sending kids off to school after summer vacation kind of makes ‘September the new January’…), it seems like the perfect time to update the program and offer a synchronized AND fully supported session of the 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp.

In addition to the 3-weeks worth of habit-building workout and nutrition exercises in the original program, you’ll also have access to a private Facebook accountability and support group. A safe place to ask questions, share challenges and brainstorm solutions with all the other women in the program.

Registration opens later this week. I’ll be sending out invitations with enrolment instructions to my email list first, then sharing on my social channels. Questions? Send me an email and I’m happy to answer!

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Tips for returning to your fitness routine after a holiday

In a perfect world, holidays wouldn’t disrupt our fitness routine.

We’d plan on staying in hotels with exercise rooms.

This was Vegas. Lots of great hotel exercise rooms in Vegas.

 

We’d pack our resistance band or do mini body-weight workouts in our B&B’s before the children awake.

B&B push-up workout in Bath

 

We’d research local gyms and spinning studios in advance and add them to our itinerary.

We’d pass up daily pints at the pub and scrutinize the menu for healthier options.

Not a meat pie 🙂 at the Tollhouse Tavern, Edinburgh

 

We’d build lots of movement into our adventures.

The best way to see York? Walk the old city walls.

 

And return home in the same shape we’d left, with a couple of personal bests to boot.

One of my personal bests (the standing stones at Clava Cairns; gateway to my book boyfriend…)

 

Because my world (like yours) is less-than perfect, I’m sharing my best tips for returning to your regular fitness routine after a holiday. The exact same tips that I’ve been following for the past 5 days (and will continue to follow because #jetlagisreal ).

Do you know where this photo was taken? Hint: I’m a huge fan-girl of the books and TV show…

 

Tips for returning to your fitness routine after a holiday

 

  • Return to routine ASAP

Regardless of how many time zones you crossed to return home (8 for us), the best way to get back to routine is to get back to routine.

That means eating, sleeping and exercising at the same times you normally would. Even if it feels like you’re heading to the gym at three in the morning and having dinner for breakfast.

One of the best ‘breakfasts for dinner’ I had in England. At the Corbridge Larder, in Corbridge, England

 

Don’t delay that first trip to the gym. Act like you’re back in your usual routine and you soon will be.

  • Re-set your circadian rhythm

That’s the clock in your head that tells you what time of day it is, energizes you accordingly and gets your digestion moving again (a common problem when travelling, especially to places that don’t have the same quality and quantity of fresh fruits and veggies as you’re used to…).

Indoor plumbing comes to the White Tower

 

Early-in-the-day exercise is a great way to re-set your clock (and if you’ve just travelled west, it will never be easier than this to be the first one at the gym).

  • Dial it back at bit

You can’t expect to take several weeks away from formal exercise and maintain your strength and muscle mass; even if you were super active on vacation and walked 15 to 20K steps each day.

The top of Arthur’s Seat, in Edinburgh (but who can tell in the fog…)

 

Some deterioration is bound to occur.

Thankfully, I don’t look as decrepit as Nunney Castle…

 

Check your ego at the gym door, pick up lighter weights than you’re accustomed to lifting, and shorten the length of your usual workout.

Your initial task is simply to re-build the habit; lifting too heavy or too long during those first few workouts only increases your risk of injury and undermines your return to regular exercise.

Save the heavy lifting for another day (the stones at Castlerigg Circle haven’t moved for years; I don’t suspect these guys will budge them an inch)

 

  • Be gentle with yourself

Expect to feel like a beginner and experience some delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the first week or so back.

Instead of feeling poorly about the fitness you’ve lost, let your less-than-stellar performance motivate you to create a workout schedule and stick to it.

Find that competitive spirit and let it propel you upwards and onwards.

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