Motivational tips

4 months later…Welcome to December!

Ok, so, some of you may have noticed that there hasn’t been a new blog post since the end of July…4 months ago. It started off as a summer break, and then turned into some sort of sabbatical. Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and there was snow on the ground; it makes it a little hard to call it a summer vacation. So let’s just say that I took the time to figure some stuff out, and in the coming weeks I’ll let you in on some things I’ve learned.

But first things first. I have a challenge for you.

It’s December, the time of the year when we give ourselves over to eating and family. It’s kind of nice to spend more of our time and money on everybody else, and have the opportunity to eat cookies all month without the usual guilt (because they’re Christmas cookies, right?). But come January, we’ll feel the repercussions. It’s the same every year: binge for a month in December, and pay the price in January, February, and maybe even March. Why do we do this?

So let’s not do it this year. Have the cookies if you want. Skip a couple of those long gym workouts to spend time with family and friends. But don’t wait until January to try something new.

This is the challenge: 10 minutes of working out per day, 6 days a week, for the month of December. You can add it to your usual routine, or scrap your routine and try this instead. And you don’t have to limit it to 10 minutes, either. You could do 30 minutes. Or you could do 3 10-minute sessions in a day.

The only requirement is that the 10 minutes has to be intense. I’m not talking about a 10-minute stint on the elliptical. I’m talking 10 minutes of burpees. Or mountain climbers. Or jump rope. Or hill sprints, or push ups, pull ups, jump squats, kettlebells swings, snatches, or clean-and-presses. Pick something that requires minimal space and equipment, and preferably something that you can do at home. It should be a movement so intense that you can’t do it for 10 minutes without a couple of breaks. The good news is, the breaks count towards your 10 minutes…so you may actually only do about 5 minutes worth of work during your 10-minute workout.

Studies have shown that short bursts of high-intensity effort can have just as much or better effect than long, slow workouts. So why waste your time? December is a time-crunched month anyway. So take 10 minutes a day, 6 days a week, and start to make it a routine before January gets here. You might find that in one month, you’ll like the new pattern so much that you won’t need a New Year’s Resolution.

Here are some 10-minute workout suggestions:

1. Jump rope until you can’t anymore. Rest until you can jump again. Repeat until you hit 10 minutes (rest included).

2. 3 pullups/ 8 pushups/ 10 squats. Take one minute to do the entire set; anything left over within that minute is rest (example: if it takes 48 seconds to do all 3 exercises, you get 12 seconds of rest). Repeat 10 times.

3. Pick a heavy kettlebell and do some swings. Take 2 seconds of rest for each swing that you do (example: 10 swings/ 20 seconds of rest). I like to do 50 swings/ 1 min 40 sec rest; 40 swings/ 1 min 20 sec rest; 30 swings/ 1 min rest; 20 swings/ 40 sec rest; 10 swings/ done. That’s 150 swings in about 10 minutes.

4. Single-arm clean and presses. Start on one arm and switch to the other when the first side gets tired. Go back and forth for 10 minutes. Just try to make sure that you do the same number on each side.

5. 20 situps/10 pushups. 18 situps/9 pushups. 16 situps/8 pushups….all the way down to 2 situps/1 pushup. Don’t take breaks; just try to get it done in 10 minutes or less.

6. 20 squats/10 stiff-legged deadlifts. 18 squats/9 stiff-legged deadlifts. 16 squats/8 sldl…all the way down to 2 squats/1 sldl. Don’t take breaks; just try to get it done in 10 minutes or less. Alternate this workout with #5 for a total body rotation.

Hopefully you get the idea. Feel free to submit your own quickie workouts at the bottom of this post. Don’t wait until January to get started on your New Year’s Resolutions. Make December your best month of the year! Good luck!!

Resolution Success Step 30: Congratulations!

It’s time to give yourself kudos.  It’s been three and a half months since you committed to a plan that would hopefully transform your life, so check it out!  Isn’t amazing what a little time living in the healthy lane can do for your outlook physically and emotionally?

It’s important now that you continue setting goals for yourself to maintain (or continue!) your weight loss.  When you don’t have something to strive for, it’s too easy to roll over and turn off the alarm you’ve set for your early morning workout, or crash on the couch after work instead of hitting the gym.

Signing up for a 5K, or a bicycle race, is a great way to commit yourself to training for a future challenge.  And many of these events are for charity, so you’re not only doing something good for yourself but helping others as well.  How about training for a triathlon?  Or a ski trip?  Or mountain climbing?  Or a cross-country bike tour?  Pick something that interests you, something that you know you’ll have to train for at least a little bit, and sign up.  Create that finish line so you have a reason to keep moving towards it.

Remember, success breeds success.  After only a few weeks of new, healthy habits, the momentum begins to swing in that healthy direction.  It takes less effort to keep it going than it does to take a break and then get started all over again.  Weight loss occurs over time, so it’s important to keep track of all your victories, especially non-scale victories.  Maybe you’ve lost a pants size, or another inch off your waist.  Maybe you just ran a mile straight, and you can’t remember ever doing that before.  Or you’re sleeping better, or you have more energy, or your back doesn’t hurt anymore.  These are all achievements worth noting.

Life should never be idle.  It’s important to keep moving forward.  You have the ability to be the best version of yourself.  So keep your eye on the prize, and stay vigilant.  Treat yourself occasionally, but don’t compromise your new healthy behaviors too often; it’s a slippery slope.  And most importantly, don’t beat yourself up.  There’s not much point in remorse; feeling guilty over a splurge or missed workout is not a part of a healthy life.  Keep things in perspective and move on.  Start fresh at the very next opportunity (usually the next meal).  If you fall off the wagon, just get right back on.  Enjoy the splurge (otherwise what was the point?)…and then take pride in getting back on track.

So congratulations!  You’ve made it a quarter of the way through the year on your New Year’s Resolution–that’s about 3 months longer than most people!  And if you didn’t make a resolution at the beginning of the year, now is a wonderful time to start.  It’s spring, a fresh start for everything else…why not for you too?  You can refer back to these blogs any time you want to get a pick-me-up and remind yourself what a healthy lifestyle is all about.

Start being the person you want to be!  Happy New Year’s, everybody!!

Resolution Success Step 29: Opening up

Step 27 was all about trusting yourself.  “It’s not about being in control; it’s about being empowered.”  Well, there’s a flip side to that coin.  Because you can’t do everything on your own, and there are people in your life who are proud of you, who want to help you, or who want to follow you and emulate you on your quest for a healthy lifestyle.  It’s incredibly important to let them in.  Part of empowerment is to continue growing and nurturing your support systems, letting others in as you reveal more of yourself in the process of shedding weight.

Learn to shift your boundaries.  Make an effort to stay connected to anyone who’s come into your life during this journey and influenced you in a good way.  Or go back and repair other relationships.  If you’re defining yourself in different terms, then you should let others know what that definition is.  Teach people how to treat you as the person you’ve grown into.

The support of others can actually make you feel stronger, not weaker, and in a position to help someone else when the time comes.  So keep yourself open and emotionally available.  Accept help from those who offer, and be prepared to offer your support in return.

Resolution Success Step 28: Where are you now?

We’re getting awfully close to the last two steps, so it’s time to take stock.  Stop and think about how far you’ve come.  What changes do you feel, physically and emotionally?  Write them down!  Next time you complete a really tough workout, ask yourself when was the last time you were able to complete something like that?  Maybe this was your first time!  That’s real progress.

Learn to be proud of yourself; you can do just about anything you set your mind to.  For me, this was the realization that transformed my life and turned me into the balanced, strong person I am today.  I wasn’t always the cocky personal trainer; if my current clients were to get together with my high school classmates and discuss me, they’d think they were talking about two different people.  Hell, I’d think so, too!

Find the happiness that comes from being proud of yourself; of accepting that you are worth every bit of effort you’ve put into this program.  Accept that you are a physically strong person, and allow that to turn you into an emotionally strong person as well.  Allow the inside to match the outside, and become the person you’ve always wanted to be–because now, that’s what people see when they look at you!

Use fitness to create a different set of experiences and attitudes.  You’ll move from past experiences of “I’m a loser, I’m fat, I’m worthless” to “I’m capable, I’m strong, I’m confident.”  And that move will truly change your life.

Resolution Success Step 27: Trust yourself. Be your own best friend.

So many times in our life, we rely on other people to make choices for us.  We rely on other people to trust in us, and give us the encouragement we need.

But what happens when, for whatever reason, those people aren’t there anymore?  Or their goals don’t line up with ours?  Can you move forward without holding someone else’s hand?

It’s wonderful to have backup, or support, or just someone to say, “I’m going to do this and you’re coming with me.”  But there are going to be times when it’s up to you–and only you–to take the next step.  This is when it’s most important to trust yourself.  Stop second-guessing your actions, and believe that you can move forward on your own.

This is an emotional issue that is far more common that you might think.  We all have self-doubt.  We all, at some point, hear that little voice in our head telling us that we’re not stong enough to do something on our own, or not smart enough to make the right decision regarding our own health.  A big part of losing weight and becoming healthy is learning to tell that voice to shut up.

It can be very difficult to do, but you have to be your own best friend.  Trust that you can make good decisions on your own.  No one else can lose the weight for you, so learn to rely on yourself.  Like I said, it’s wonderful to have backup, but it might not be there 100% of the time.  So trust in yourself, too.

You don’t have to be in control all the time, but you do have to be empowered.  Any time you start to feel fear, welcome it with your eyes open.  Don’t give fear the power to stop you in your tracks; only you have the power to start or stop.  Start seeing what you are capable of.  Trust yourself.

Resolution Success Step 26: Love what you see!

It’s time to take a step back and admit that all your hard work has paid off.  Look in the mirror and really try to see the changes that you’ve made; hold an old picture of yourself up next to your reflection and be proud of how different you look…how good you look!  You’ve honored your commitments to yourself and it shows.

Now is a good time to treat yourself.  Time to get a haircut, maybe get your nails done.  Time to go buy new outfits in sizes you haven’t seen in a long time.  Even if you haven’t quite reached your goal yet, find a way to reward yourself and show off your accomplishments.

And if you don’t want to spend the money on new outfits, especially if you’re still progressing toward your goal, go shopping and at least try on a bunch of new outfits.  It’s a thrill and an extremely pleasant surprise to see what sizes will fit you now.  Maybe you even have some great old clothes in the back of the closet that you’ve been itching to try.  Put them on and go out to show off!  Exult in your success, and love what you see in the mirror!

Resolution Success Step 25: Become a role model.

Whether you want to or not, you are becoming a role model.  People are noticing  that you’re losing weight, and they’ll want to know how you did it.  They’ll look up to you; over 60% of American adults are overweight, and it takes dedication to take yourself out of those ranks.  Be proud of what you’ve done so far.

For a lot of people, the most important people in their lives are their kids.  As a parent, your actions make a huge impression on your kids.  They notice when you take them out for fast food all the time, and they notice when you go on bike rides with them and let them help you cook healthy dinners.  You’re already setting an example in everything you do, so why not make it a healthy example?

And remember, even if you haven’t reached your goals yet, you should be proud of what you’ve done so far.  Other people are, even if they haven’t said anything.  You never know who’s looking up to you.  So step into the role, and set a good example for others.  The more people you inspire, the more support you’ll have in your new lifestyle.

Resolution Success Step 24: Eating out. Safely.

This is a topic I’ve written about a couple of times: how to eat out and still stick with the plan.  It’s impossible to avoid real-world scenarios, such as eating in a restaurant.  In the past I’ve given some of the same old advice that you’ve all heard before (but I repeat it because it works).  Today I’ll give you The Biggest Loser‘s version.  Mostly, these are the same tips I’ve given; but maybe one or two of these seven rules are exactly the advice you’ve been looking for.  Maybe it helps to hear them from a source besides myself.  So read on, because almost 25% of Americans’ meals come from eating out, so there’s no point in just pretending it will never happen.

1. Don’t be too hungry when you go out.  Perhaps the best strategy of them all, this usually requires you to eat a healthy snack a couple of hours before going out.  Being too hungry increases your risk of making poor food choices; eating unordered, shared items (chips, bread, and so on); ordering too much (a large appetizer and a main course); and overeating.

2. Have a plan!  Go into the restaurant with a clear idea of what you plan to order.  You should aim for a moderate portion of lean protein, a big serving of vegetables, a very small serving of carbs, and a minimal amount of fat.  If you’re planning on having a beer or a glass of wine, or splitting a dessert, map it out in your head.  Remind yourself of your program and your goals, and stick to your guns.  On special occasions, it’s important to give yourself permission to have something special without feeling guilty.

3. Get connected to the bigger picture.  Remember that this is not your last supper–another delicious meal is only a few hours away.

4.  Avoid all-you-can-eat specials.  Buffets and all-you-can-eat menus present too much temptation, so avoid them if you can.  After a while, you’ll be able to choose healthy foods even at a buffet, but it takes practice and discipline.

5.  Control the immediate environment.  Ask that chips, fried noodles, bread and butter, and other high-calorie foods be removed from the table or at least moved beyond arm’s length.

6.  Control your portions.  Split an entree or visit restaurants that don’t serve excessive portions.  You need to leave a little food on your plate, even if you were always encouraged to clean your plate as a child.  It takes practice, and there are various strategies: Order a clean plate, put what you need on it, and request a take-home carton for the rest; pour salt or pepper on the extra portion so you won’t be tempted; or, if there’s food remaining on your plate that you don’t want to eat, ask the server to remove it as soon as possible.  Take pride in learning how to push excessive food away.

7.  Enjoy every bite!  Eat slowly and appreciate your food.  Notice the colors, textures, and aromas, and think about where the food comes from, to savor it fully.

Finally, don’t be shy about making special requests, like substituting vegetables for french fries.  Look for steamed, boiled, baked, grilled, poached, or roasted foods.  When in doubt, go with a salad.

Resolution Success Step 23: The Joy of Movement.

At this point in your journey, you should be feeling a little more energetic.  You’ve begun to notice that little things don’t seem so hard any more; participating in life is sounding like a better and better idea.

Congratulations!  You’ve overcome inertia!  So keep your body moving, and start looking for ways to continue building momentum.  You’ve heard all the old tricks: park in the spot farthest from the store entrance.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Start walking or riding your bike short distances, rather than driving.  Play with your kids or pets more.

The best part is, the more you move, the more you’ll want to move.  It doesn’t have to be “exercise” necessarily, just movement.  And all that movement adds up to more calories burned, more weight lost.

Now is a good time to start looking for other opportunities to add activity.  One of my favorites is to do some sort of activity during the commercial breaks on TV.  An hour-long TV show can burn 300 calories! (if you do jumping jacks during the commercials).   Or you can pick a different exercise to do during each commercial break during a show: first squats, then push ups, then lunges, then sit ups…you get the idea.  You don’t even need weights or other equipment.  You don’t even have to make it hard or break a sweat.  Just move. 

So now that you’ve discovered movement, don’t forget about it!  Keep up the momentum, and your weight loss will continue, too.

Resolution Success Step 22: Take a break.

It’s really important that you take time on a regular basis to find “me time.”  For some of you, working out might have turned into that sacred time.  But if working out still feels like another thing on your to-do list, find another way to focus on yourself and recharge your batteries.

I always tell my clients that you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.  A lot of people feel a constant need to take care of others, to make sure that everyone around them–spouses, kids, parents, coworkers, friends, the mailman, the cashier at the supermarket–is happy before they start worrying about themselves.  But you are like a pitcher of water: you can only pour so much water into other people’s glasses before the pitcher has to be refilled.  And once your “spiritual pitcher” is full, you’ll be able to give much more of yourself, and take even better care of those around you.

When taking on big lifestyle change, it’s a good idea to find a little time to do this on a daily basis.  Even if it’s only 5 minutes, take that time and do something to recharge your batteries.  Sit down with a cup of coffee and sip it while you read a few pages of a book.  Or think about (maybe even write down) a couple of ways in which your life is better now than it was when you started this thing almost 3 months ago.  Call a friend you haven’t seen in a long time.  They’ll enjoy the surprise.  Cuddle with your cat, or take your dog out in the yard and start a game of fetch.  Pets are fabulous stress-reducers. 

Whatever you decide to do, and no matter how much or how little time you spend doing it, make sure it’s something that you want to do–not something you have to do, or something someone else wants you to do.  It’s about recharging your batteries, and making yourself a happier, healthier person that has a lot more to give back to the people in your life.

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