Spring Into Fitness

Spring is around the corner. Are you ready to take your workouts to the next level? Burning calories isn’t just about how long you work it’s about how hard you work. Intervals are a great way to increase your workout calorie burn without increasing the amount of time you spend working out. Here’s how to use intervals in your program.

Begin with a warm up. Move through the movement patterns your are going to do during the intervals at a slower pace. Stretch anything that feels tight or like it needs some attention. Then begin at a moderate pace (formula below) for 2min. Take your pace to a vigorous pace for 1 min. Return to a moderate pace for 2. This is your recovery time. Repeat this pattern until your workout is complete.

To make it more difficult shorten your recovery times and increase your vigorous work phases.

To figure out your intensity levels you can use a heart rate formula to find your target heart rate training zones. This is the Karvonen Formula a popular one used by personal trainers. You’ll need to take your resting heart rate (RHR) by finding your pulse (radial artery on your wrist) and counting for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 for a 60 sec reading.

220 – Your Age = Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)

MHR – RHR = your Hear Rate Reserve (HRR)

HRR X .40 = training % range

HRR X . 85 = training % range

training % range + RHR = your target training zone

training % range + RHR = your target training zone

40-65% = moderate workouts

65-85% = vigorous exercise.

You can recalculate according to the zone you want to workout in. Use a heart rate monitor for easy reference or divide your target training zones by 6 for a 10 second count.

Live the Life You Love

How much do you love what you are doing? With your life? With your partner? With yourself? Are you able to look around your life and feel like YES! this is what I want to be doing? If not then it’s time for you to reevaluate your life and how you life it.  Read on to change your life.

First, take stock of what you are doing and why. What drives your daily routine? Is it material items you don’t care about? Is it work that you feel betters the world around you? Is it what you want to do or what someone else wants you to do?

Now I don’t ask these questions with the expectation that you will drop everything to do a 180 in your life today, however you can start small.

The next thing you need to do is figure out what you want to do. Write a mission statement. Begin by writing down one statement that encompasses what you want your life to stand for. Sometimes it can be helpful to start this process with a paragraph about you someone might read at your death. What would you like them to say about you? What is the impact on others and the world you have left behind? Once you have an idea around what you would like your life to stand for write down the why behind your passion. What is the driver of this desire?

Then write down one thing you can do each day to move closer to this living this life. Now start doing that thing every day. My experience has been as I begin with one thing it snowballs and soon I am doing a number of things that support the life I want to live and I am no longer living a life that drains my energy, steals my excitement, and leaves me feeling life – less. Instead I feel life – full.

Exercise Doesn’t Have To Be So Serious

Many of us work the grind. Over and over we do what we are “supposed to” only to feel a little bored and uninspired in our workouts. Kinda reminds me of the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercials. What if you exercise was more like play? Here’s how big kids (aka adults) can play!First, find activities that you like to do. Usually, these are challenging, stimulating on multiple levels, have a sense of focus and one pointedness. They allow us to do nothing but focus on the task at hand.

Second, don’t worry about numbers and goals, and “have tos”. I was watching my children play the other day and they have no sense of how much they are learning as they play – only that they are having fun. Try to create this element in your own play. Of course you are doing great things for your body and it feels like activity, maybe even like exercise, but you want to create a sense of fun, excitement, and frivolousness. Adding in goals, heart-rate numbers, sets, reps, time lines, and body weight can dampen spirits and drudgery creeps in. You are no longer doing the activity just because you enjoy it. You are no longer being mindful in the moment focusing on the activity at hand, instead your mind has gone off to charts and graphs of future goals.

Third, try something new, take your game to the next level, introduce a new skill, or attempt to focus on one element of your activity. For example: downhill skiing – when I attempt to focus only on my breathing the rest of my body follows and I become much more mindful of my body in space. This allows me to focus on one element of the technique with a sense of wonder and curiosity rather than goals and future benefits.

Finally, the sense of wonder and joy are key to keeping playfulness alive. If you have forgotten how to do this spend some time watching children play. They bring a sense of curiosity and wonder to their games. Some questions to ask might be:

What if we try it this way next time?

I wonder if I can make this jump again?

What if I move my foot that way?

What happens when I run this fast or in zig zags or stop and start?

How is it different when ________?

Playing is just as important for adults as it is for kids. So get your game on and take yourself to the park. Get moving, stop worrying, and reap the benefits of activity and mindfulness all in one fun, exciting, and inspiring movement session.

Getting Started on Your Exercise Goals

I was talking with some friends the other day and one of them stated she “really wants to get started” on her exercise goals but she just didn’t feel ready. We talked about what being ready might look like for her. We all come to beginning a lifestyle change at different points in our lives. It can be helpful to think about a few things before you get started. 

1) What are your goals? Are they realistic? Do you need help deciding if they are realistic? Why do you want to reach these goals?

Many people begin attempting their fitness goals by throwing darts at an old board (and missing the target). They think about a weight, strength, or speed they had in the past and decide that is a good goal. It might be and it might not be. Much has changed since then (work, family, age). Wouldn’t be wise to consider what and how your life has changed before you try to change it back? It might be a goal worth going for with a few tweaks to support your new lifestyle.

2) What don’t you want? What do you not want to do to achieve this goal? What do you want to do to achieve it? What do you want to be different?

There are so many options there is no need to do something you don’t like – say those push ups you had to do in the military or high school gym class as punishment. Many of us have things we consider fun and exciting. Why not add those into your routine so it becomes playful and something you look forward to. If you don’t want a diet choice (say vegetables) you are an adult, you can choose, and you can find ways to get the health support you need and not eat what you don’t like. You also have choices about what you want to stay the same and what you want to be different about your life. It’s all about choices and tradeoffs.

3) What are your life obligations? Where are you going to find the time? What do you have to work around? Do you need to cycle your workouts to make sure you fit them in?

It is important to consider your life. Although, life doesn’t need to keep you from accomplishing your fitness goal it is easier to work with it rather than against it. So use it. If you have children or pets include them. Add activity into your day by parking further and walking more, taking the stairs, and planning active lunches or meetings when possible (walking around the block counts). Look at your schedule and slowly make realistic changes.

Bottom-line is we are all ready at different times and often our sense of what we are currently doing and the thought of trying to fit something else in is overwhelming. It is important to take a close look at what we are currently doing, what we want to do different, and start slowly.

You are a work in progress and just the fact that you are thinking about making a change is a step in the right direction. Keep it up!

10 Ways to Move Your Body Today

I know I haven’t written in a while. I’ve started a PhD program and it’s kept me writing and reading a ton. I have been learning about the bodies need to express itself with movement as its communication route. Here are 10 ways to let your body talk. Some people like using music others don’t.

First get quiet and draw your attention to your body. Where does your attention want to go, where do you avoid? Notice if anything needs more attention. Then allow your body to begin to move. Here are some ideas.

1) Jump
2) Move your arms like they are under water
3) Take big steps
4) Twist (be careful to honor your body’s level of fitness for this movement)
5) Bounce
6) Crawl
7) Balance – see how many different ways you can come up with ways to balance your body, arms, legs, torso
8) Walk on your tiptoes or heels
9) Open and close your fists (or your toes)
10) Move however your body wants – tighten, release, fast, slow, rhythmically, asymmetrical, just MOVE!!!!

Don’t worry about being silly or looking dumb. It isn’t about how you look to others but about how you feel when you allow your body to say what it wants. Start in privacy if you are self-conscious and just notice how listening to your body and then answering it’s call with movement feels.

I found myself beginning as an assignment and then I noticed I would do small movements at work or in the car as a way to continue to allow myself to express needed thoughts and emotions through my actions. Pretty powerful stuff! Enjoy.

*As always if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed emotionally it may be time to seek out a professional near your home. 

Find the Essence of Life

How do your days go? Do you move through the days looking for something, anything to light you up or do you find yourself loving your life experience? Many of us can probably relate to both experiences with one being more dominate in our lives. In addition, many of us tend to “go through the motions” of life rather than fully experience each moment as it passes. Have you ever thought of trying to get more out of life? Would you like to learn to live yours differently? You can. For many just the process of doing their daily tasks is too much. It sucks the life and our joy right out of us so we need to be vigilant and have an understanding of what makes us happy. If I let my planner get too full of all the things “I have to do” rather than balance between the have-tos and want-tos of course I’m going to be crabby!

You can make small and simple shifts in the way you think that can bring balance back to your life and your life will naturally become filled with essence. Begin by noticing where your attention goes all day. Who saps your energy, who brings your more, what tasks do you cringe at doing, and which ones can you let go of and delegate to others? Just begin to notice without trying to change anything. Jot your findings down if you’d like. Also, begin to notice what brings you joy, energy, happiness, and contentment. Who are you with, what are you doing, can you repeat these experiences? Again, just notice, write it down only if that feels like a good idea.

As you begin to notice what brings you joy, happiness, and contentment begin to notice not only the emotion but also your posture, physical feelings, actions, thoughts, and facial expressions. How do you change with your whole body? How do you send those positive feelings out into the world? Do you smile at people you don’t know, do you say kind words, do you let trivial things pass? These simple things have the power to change the world and they all begin with you living your life to the fullest and experiencing your essence each day.

Think it is too simple to work? Don’t underestimate simplicity. Try it for 5 days and notice what shifts for you. Notice your thoughts, feelings, physical symptoms, and how you treat yourself and others when you are living life more fully. Only begin to shift your activities when you feel ready to do so. Sometimes all it takes is slowing our thoughts down enough to get off auto pilot. At that point the pain of staying the same becomes to great to continue living the way we have been and we can begin the process of small changes toward creating the life we want.  A life full of essence – yours.

10 Ways to Jump Start Your Fitness Routine

Are you close to reaching your fitness goals? If not, now is the time to start again. Try one of these ideas to help jump start your fitness routine again.

  1. Commit to an Event – Money helps you commit  to yourself, too
  2. Ask a Friend To Join You – Buddies Help Make Fitness Better
  3. Play At The Park – Get outside and pretend you are little kid again
  4. Cross train – Trying different things keeps you from being bored
  5. Borrow a Dog or Make a Promise To Your Own – They need exercise and so do their owners!
  6. Bike to Work or Around Town for Errands – Even if you park and bike a little its more than you are doing now, right?
  7. Look for a New Sport To Learn Each Season – Maybe it is swimming in the summer and skiing in the winter, biking, climbing, hiking, running, dance, martial arts – there’s a couple of years of activity in this list
  8. Time your workout to be able to watch the sunrise or set and find inspiration in your chosen hour
  9. Enlist a personal trainer or other professional – An appointment with someone else can keep you focused
  10. FINALLY … HAVE FUN DOING WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE!!!!!

The End of 2009 – Are you ready for 2010?

Here it is… The end of the year. How will you make the new year count?  For many Americans health and fitness fall in the top three on their resolution list.  Unfortunately for many it falls off their New Year’s resolution list pretty fast.  What will you do to continue to reach for your fitness goals this year?

I know we have spent time discussing planning, goal setting, and getting ready to reach our resolutions in 2010 a few weeks ago. Go back and re-read the archives. There are 3 series of questions to help you reach your fitness goals in 2010.  Are you ready?

Weight loss, better fitness, more strength, greater endurance, better finish times do not just happen. They take work, they take responsibility, and they take planning. Have you done your homework, and are you ready for the new year?

If you have taken on this goal in the past, what will you do differently this year to make sure you reach it? Are you ready to move beyond what has held you back in the past and forward into the future? I advocate writing down your goals and the steps you will take to get there. This will help make your goal “real” to you. Once we see things on paper it helps us become more committed to accomplishing it.

Remember to prioritize your resolutions. Many well meaning resolutions get derailed because people are overwhelmed when they look at the long list and know they will not be able to accomplish all the worthy goals upon it. Decide what tops your list and stick to it. You will feel much better when you have accomplished a goal and are able to cross it off knowing you gave it everything you had and finished.

Are your goals realistic? If you have trouble figuring this out contact a personal trainer. If you are attempting a goal that is not realistic you are setting yourself up for failure. Although, failure usually leads to success it also leads to low self-esteem, lack of motivation, and the chance that you will pitch the whole idea and give up. Being realistic about a goal will help keep you on track from the beginning.

Once your list is pared down, you can begin to break the bigger goals into smaller ones. It is important to find small things you can do daily to complete your goal successfully. Small chunks are much easier to manage and they can be quickly adapted if needed. Remember, you are responsible for your choices, and your daily choices determine if you will make it or not. You can accomplish anything, but you must be accountable to you.

Chose positive strategies for dealing with problems. There will be some, so expect them, and be ready to deal with them. Contingency plans are important. What will you do when your day does not have twenty-six hours in it? What about when you are home with a sick child, or you suddenly have a huge project dumped on your desk? How will you handle cold days that derail your efforts at an outdoor workout? Thinking through these issues is a must because they will crop in your life.

As we move into the new year, look at the old. What would you like to give up? Create a ritual to let that habit, pattern, or whatever change go. Write down what you’ll let go of this New Year’s Eve and then dispose of it. Many like to burn the slip of paper, others make a ritual by writing it down and then throwing it away. Still others write it down and stick it in a safe place (say a box or jar) so when they go back to the habit they are able to pull it out and dispose of it again. If you make a conscious effort to make the change it is important to honor that it is part of who you are today and who you will become in the next year. Give purpose to the release of old and the acceptance of new behaviors that will help move you towards your goals this year! You are worth the extra effort.

Staying on Track

And so it begins.  Here we are at the crossroads of holiday seasons, the first of December.   You have probably already begun the craziness of the holidays,  and are attempting to tell yourself it will not get hectic this year.  Well, it will.  A good plan will work better than delusional self-talk.

First, remember this time of year is different. Your routine will not be the same. Your focus will not be the same, and you will have to accommodate increased commitments. In the place you record your daily schedule, remember to record time to move. Write down when, where, and what you’ll be doing this holiday season to meet your exercise quota. What are your exercise goals? Are they still realistic given increased demands on your time? Do you need to revamp them for the next four weeks? Are you ready for the New Year? You should be able to answer these questions clearly. If you cannot, review past articles on planning and New Year’s Resolutions to help you identify your goals and direction. Is it time to schedule time with a personal trainer? I know many think this is a luxury, but a session right now to help you realistically plan for busy times is not luxury when you consider the alternative – falling off track and beginning from scratch… again.

Second, keep in mind that a full length workout may not be in your best interest. Especially if the time commitment of a regular workout deters you from beginning at all. You are better off with shorter workouts than none at all. A professional can help here by creating a condensed workout so you don’t neglect any part of your goal. Many workouts can be shortened to reflect busier times without losing their overall umph for a short period of time.

Third, holiday times are stressful for many people. Many deal with too much to do, money issues, concerts, parties, social events, fundrasiers, and more. Others deal with depression surrounding the hype of the holiday season. No matter which end of the continuum you are on, exercise can help. Exercise is proven to help reduce stress, help you sleep better, it gives an emotional boost, and can help you gain perspective this holiday season. It is important to take time for you during the busy giving season. We know when we are well cared for we can give more to others. The only person who will make sure you are well cared for is you, so do not neglect yourself this winter.

The Art of Being

The art of being. The ability to just let the flow and rhythm of your world take over. Times when we are able to let everything but we are working on in this moment go when the world has aligned for us. Times when we just be.

To focus on one thing at a time. To just be and in being it is enough; doing exactly what you should be doing in this moment. Keep in mind your body has its own best interests at heart. Gobbling down extra chocolate cupcakes? I won’t say wrong, but I would examine motives: am I being present to this moment or hiding from another?

The mind likes to be active and can spin out of control finding all sorts of forgotten things, like where that thing I lost two years ago must be hiding. When we slow our minds we are better able to connect with our higher selves, to listen to our bodies, and have more clarity about what we are doing and why.  Life becomes vivid.

To get started try to remember a time when you were totally caught up in the moment.  Were you dancing, walking, gardening, doing dishes, playing with children, what were you doing the last time you completely lost track of time?  Remember how that felt.  Do you remember the bliss of just being?  If a moment eludes you don’t worry.  For many we are so driven, focused, or have been taught idleness is wrong we try hard to avoid it and instead stay busy.

The easiest way I know to slow my mind is movement. I find a simple activity I can do while staying conscious of my breathing, like walking. With each step I step mindfully. In other words, I am focused on where and how I place my foot, how the movement feels in my body.  Step one I inhale, step two exhale, and repeat the pattern. If I get lost in thought, I just come back to the pattern of stepping and breathing. Try this for 2 min, 5, or 50.

Once you have the basic feeling of staying mindful transfer this technique to other activities, such as housekeeping, playing, or sitting. This is a time to keep your mind clear so TV, radio, and other distractions are not the point. The point is to go inside yourself so you can listen to your thoughts, feelings, and needs better. Those things take us out of ourselves and distract us.

There you have it, at the beginning of the holiday season, the art of doing nothing and permission, should you need it, to just be.