Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Powering Through Plateaus

It's that time of year. Those who started, and have stuck with, their new year's resolution are starting to get frustrated - they are hitting what's commonly referred to as the plateau and are on the verge of giving up. 

We all know that seeing results can be motivating, but if your progress has come to a halt but you haven't quite hit your goal yet don't quit. Getting back on track can be as easy as making a tiny tweak to your routine. 

Ask yourself the following questions and get back on road to success.

Are you getting enough rest?

Recovery and adequate rest is just as important as exercise and fitness. If you aren’t getting the rest you need your body simply can’t function properly. 7-8 hours of rest per night and at least one full day of rest from exercise is recommended to see the most improvement in reaching your fitness-related goals.

Adequate rest also reduces the risk of injury or overtraining.

Are you stuck in a routine?

Change happens outside of your comfort zone. Your body needs a challenging stimulus to improve. When you do the same class, route, pace or activity every day your body is going to adapt.   

Weight lifters – You might be resistant, but add a walk on an inclined treadmill for 15-20 minutes before your lifting session or on off days. Moderate cardiovascular activity is good for your heart, can increase metabolism and may improve recovery ability. It can also lead to an increase in lean muscle mass. Other change agents:  Use dumbbells for your bench press instead of barbell or change your repetition count and weight.

These small changes can make a big difference in training.

Cardio addicts – You’ve found, and relish, that “runners high” or you breeze through your 50-mile bike ride with ease. Use a timer to incorporate intervals, changing between sprints and your standard pace. Reevaluating and adjusting your cardio can be simple, but the most important thing to remember is to be sure you are adding in strength training. 

Strength training will build lean muscle mass so your body becomes even more of a calorie-burning machine. If you don't like to hit the weight floor, hop in a group fitness class or press play on a strength training video at home.

Class regulars – try something new ! We know you love your regular schedule and your accountability partners, but change might be in order – at least for a short period. If you are taking two body sculpting classes each week maybe you swap one out for a bootcamp or yoga class.
It’s all about comradery, right? Invite one of your fitness friends to make the change with you – sometimes it’s easier in pairs.

Are you eating the right amount of healthy foods?
You may think you eat perfect, but when we increase exercise frequency or intensity two things tend to happen: 1) hunger increases and 2) we overestimate calorie burn.

It is important to look at your nutrition habits and caloric intake to make sure they are appropriate for your body weight and activity level. You can find out your caloric needs by using this calculator: http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy_living_tools_content.aspx?id=4
{HINT: Most people with a sedentary job and planned exercise should use the 2nd Activity Level from the Left}

If you aren’t logging your food, start now. You may find that you are right on track. But you might also realize that you are grazing more than you thought or that you aren’t getting enough vegetables or whole grains.

As you evaluate your current process use the above to identify areas of change. Best of luck as you continue on your successful fitness journey!

Friday, April 7, 2017

A Healthy Lifestyle is More than a 45-day Challenge

I'm at the Arts & Sciences of Health Promotion Conference this week in Colorado Springs. I'm here specifically to understand what makes employees tick and what will motivate them to not just participate in programs but what will help them develop healthy habits. 

The past day and a half I have been participating in an Intensive Workshop based on behavior changes via habit design. I have many takeaways I will be able to share later, but during our discussion yesterday the presenters spoke about the ever-popular challenges and why they rarely result in sustained habits or behavior changes. 

In today’s world of social media and instant gratification health and fitness challenges seem to be popping up all over. Clients are talking about them constantly. They carry catchy names like The 30 Day Push-Up Challenge, 4 weeks to 200 Squats, and The 21-Day Sugar Detox.

These challenges seem to be most popular in the first months of the year and are usually targeted to The Resolution Crowd. This crowd is usually made up of folks looking to jump-start a healthy lifestyle.

The problem with using a challenge like those listed above is that they generally don’t teach us anything. The simply force us to eliminate a certain ingredient or master one movement.

What’s the issue with that, though? Something is better than nothing, right? Not when it comes to long-term change or instilling new habits.

One exercise will not make a significant impact. Unless you are doing additional forms of exercise and monitoring your nutrition intake simply doing squats or push-ups will not aggressively change your body or improve your fitness level.

Expectations are generally not SAFE. Few people can do 50 (or 100!) push-ups with good form – even experienced exercisers. You’ll see more benefit from 10 push-ups with proper form than 50 with poor form. Poor form often leads to injury.

The focus is on discipline, not making healthy choices. This is true especially of nutrition challenges. Success is a usually a force of will as opposed to an exercise in habit control or flexibility – 2 of the most important elements of a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.

Results are often short-lived. Most challenges are designed to be a specific length of time (5, 7, 10 or 30 days) but offer no follow up plan. Once you are done and go back to your normal habits any progress you might have made is lost quickly.

Do I think all challenges are bad? No!

The most effective, however, are usually done in conjunction with an already established routine and provide a sustainable path for a lifetime of implementation.

My suggestion? Create your own challenge. Choose one behavior at a time to work on, like walking for 30 minutes 3-5 days a week. After 30 days, add another, like incorporating a salad at lunch. This allows you to master one healthy habit at a time and will cut down on the risk of failure or burnout.
Focus on incorporating a healthy behavior instead of completely eliminating any one thing.

Think big picture. Good nutrition and physical activity must become a part of who you are. Work to become more mindful of your daily habits and how they effect your health.

One thing I know for certain is that developing new habits and making healthier choices will be hard, especially at first. But the good news is that once you accept that challenge it suddenly becomes just a little bit easier.

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