Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan


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Delicious, healthy and light Thanksgiving tips and recipes

So you’re hosting or coming as a guest for this Thanksgiving holiday.  But… you’re not looking forward to gaining weight and feeling stuffed from eating too much heavy food. There are many delicious alternatives to the usual rich fare that dominates during holiday season.   Do you know that sugar or heavy food “hangover” you experience after a feast?  I’m very familiar with that!  But, I’m getting better at how to still enjoy traditional Thanksgiving and holiday treats by keeping the following tips in mind.

To begin with, eat a reasonable breakfast, and a very light lunch if the Thanksgiving feast is your dinner. This may seems counterintuitive, but instead of saving up all your calories for the big meal, you’ll modulate your intake better if you aren’t ravenous once it’s turkey time.  If the feast is in the middle of the day, eat a light breakfast, with plenty of water, tea or light beverages before the main meal, especially if it will take place mid-afternoon. Having soup before your main meal is also a good way to reduce your chances of eating too much later.  Soups are filling and can prevent calorie overload once the meal is served.

When drinking, be aware of how many glasses of wine, beer, or hard liquor you’re consuming by not refilling a drink before you’ve fully finished the first glass. Make a decision ahead of time how much alcohol you’ll consume, and try to keep it to no more than 2 glasses at the maximum. The calories add up quickly, and will power goes out the window as soon as alcohol comes into play.

Be aware of the “invisible” calories that come in the form of appetizers before the main meal.  Chips, dips, cheese and crackers easily add 500-800 extra calories before you can say “Pass the brie, please.”  Don’t be fooled by the dips that are called vegetable dips (artichoke dip is a classic) that have lots of extra cheese, sour cream or butter in them.

There are certain foods that show up almost exclusively on Thanksgiving, such as stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Forego the more common foods like mashed potatoes and bread that may be part of your weekly diet in favor of the specialty foods that appear only on this holiday.

Watch your portions!  Usually the most enjoyable bites are the first few, and if you eat slowly, you’ll give yourself the minimum of 20 minutes that are needed to register satiety in your stomach.  Socializing is a great way of slowing down the chowing down, so sidle up to your favorite friend or relative to pace your forkfuls. Rethink taking a second serving of anything. You probably are already full, and visualize how you’ll feel if you overeat.

This is a good time to practice the new healthy plate distribution. Fill up half your plate with low starch veggies like green beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, beets, cauliflower and any leafy greens including salad.  Fill a quarter of your plate with turkey or other protein, which is very satiating, and another quarter with starchy foods, which include sweet potatoes, rice, squash, corn or peas. This portion should be no larger than half a baseball in size.

When going for dessert, take small slivers of the pies or cakes, or just one cookie instead of piling up your plate. If you take small amounts at a time, there’s a built in delay that will prevent eating more than necessary. Lack of proximity to food is a good deterrent; be sure that you avoid sitting near tempting foods within easy reach.

More tips for managing holiday feasts can be found at https://www.realsimple.com/health/nutrition-diet/healthy-eating/healthier-thanksgiving

I’m a sucker for all types of “orange” veggies, and my favorites are delicata, acorn and kabocha squash and sweet potatoes. Instead of a sweet potato casserole, try this tasty alternative. You can also substitute butternut squash cubes for the sweet potatoes.

Maple glazed roasted sweet potatoes

  • 2½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
  • ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter or smart balance,  melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Active preparation 10 minutes, but ready in 1 hour, 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  1. Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.
  2. Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender and starting to brown, 45 to 50 minutes more.
  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Just before serving, reheat at 350°F until hot, about 15 minutes.

Nutrition info:

  • Serving size: about ½ cup
  • Per serving: 92 calories

See http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/18000/holidays-occasions/thanksgiving/  for more great ideas.

Gluten-free mushroom fennel quinoa stuffing- tastes better than it sounds!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth (vegetarians use veggie broth)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup fennel, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook rinsed quinoa in broth according to package directions.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, in a large heavy sauté pan add olive oil to the pan, then the onion, sauté one minute.
  3. Add the fennel, celery, and carrots, salt and pepper to taste; cook about 12-15 minutes over medium heat, until vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the mushrooms to the pan, more salt and pepper if needed and cook, stirring 5 minutes, then cook covered for 2 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released their juice and are cooked through.
  5. Add the cooked quinoa to the pan and mix well.

Yield: 7 servings, Serving Size: 3/4 cup, calories: 136

For more excellent alternatives to traditional thanksgiving recipes, go to

https://www.skinnytaste.com/holiday-recipes/thanksgiving-recipes/ 

There are so many great resources online and in articles and cookbooks with a focus on reducing calories, but not your pleasure as you enjoy your holiday meals. Check out the resources above, and have a fabulous, healthy Thanksgiving with your family and friends!

 


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Can improving your posture reduce back or neck pain?

The short answer is very likely yes.  Even if improved posture doesn’t reduce pain, it may prevent pain from getting worse or more chronic. Very frequently, I’m asked by my clients how to improve their posture.  The answer is multi-pronged. Stretching, strengthening, and rolling out tight muscles all play an important role.

There are many reasons why posture becomes an issue as we age. The most obvious ones, gravitational pull and weakened muscles are partly to blame. The older we get, the longer we have spent in the same static positions and body holding patterns.  Decreased activity and more time sitting are also culprits. Increased use of technology is wreaking havoc on people’s necks, as smartphones, tablets, and computer monitors are rarely in the perfect ergonomic position. I shudder to think of how children and teenagers who are constantly looking at their iPhones will fare as they get older. As the technology in our homes, cars and devices improve our convenience and efficiency, the reduced demand on using our bodies may actually be detrimental.

Where should you begin when trying to improve your posture?  The very first step is awareness.  After you recognize when your head, neck, back and pelvis are in poor positions, then try the following steps.

  1. Use a mirror to align your body and have a friend or partner confirm that your head and spine are positioned well.
  2. Do specific stretches (see below) that will loosen up the tight chest, shoulder and arm muscles that interfere with good posture.
  3. Do specific exercises (see below) to strengthen overstretched and weak muscles of the neck, shoulders and back and shore up postural muscles.
  4. Repeat and practice the stretches and make them a habitual part of your daily routine.
  5. Give permission to close family or friends to remind and cue you to stand up straight to raise your awareness of your spinal position.

Following are some tips to improve posture:

  1. Stand with feet about hip width apart, with eyes focused straight ahead, arms relaxed.
  2. Turn palms forward, rolling shoulders back.
  3. Use a wall as a reference point to to position head directly over shoulders by gently pushing the back of your head into the wall, or use a pillow behind head to accomplish pressing your head back- repeat 5 times maximum.
  4. In above position,  move shoulder blades back so they are squarely against the wall.
  5. Practice sitting on the floor, with straight posture, knees slightly bent or criss-crossed, using back muscles to hold yourself up with hands on lap, instead of slumping against the back of a chair or sofa.
  6. Regular rolling of tight muscle groups can relieve muscle knots and prevent acute problems from becoming chronic.

Try the following exercises:

Seated back straightener at https://saveourbones.com/weekend-challenge-seated-back-straightener/.  This site also lists the muscles essential to good posture.

The Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais are two biomechanical methods that examine how your daily habits contribute to chronic pain.  I’m a firm believer in the benefits of chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture and the myriad of other energy and pressure release and alignment techniques that can help you temporarily feel better.  However, if you return to the same patterns of movement and static ways you hold your body, don’t be surprised when the pain returns.

See the site below to learn more about these methods:

www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/well/trying-the-feldenkrais-method-for-chronic-pain.html?&moduleDetail=section-news-1&action=click&contentCollection=Well&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&pgtype=article

Last, but not least, what are some good, tried and true exercises to improve posture? The ones that are simple, require no special equipment, and are ones you’ll do every day.  See the following for some ideas:

  1. Plank- Activate all the major muscle groups, from neck to toes
  2. Crunches- keeping low back on the floor, with neck in alignment
  3. Crunches with twists
  4. Superman/woman – use cushion under abdomen and be sure not to strain back by lifting too high
  5. Superman/woman with flutter kicks- swimmers
  6. Back extension- bridges
  7. Dumbbell side bends
  8. Seated Twist for obliques or bicycles
  9. Shoulder rolls
  10. Kneeling stretches to stretch hip flexors

The following site will show demonstrations of these exercises and stretches.  http://www.keepinspiring.me/10-simple-exercises-to-improve-posture/

Some of the other benefits of better posture are improved oxygenation of muscles and brain due to better lung expansion. Proper spinal alignment helps decrease the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces and decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of the spine together. Last but not least, straighter posture helps you feel more alert, and look more confident.

If you have been struggling with trying to improve your posture for a while, or have chronic back, neck, hip or shoulder pain, a class or personal session to address  postural alignment, and weak and/or tight muscles is in order. You may also want to explore the Feldenkrais or Alexander techniques which are offered in this area by googling certified practitioners.  At the very least, try the exercises and tips above to see how you can improve your posture. Here’s your chance to do what your mother has always encouraged you to do – stand up straight!


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Self control- can exercise help?

IMG_2579IMG_2558IMG_2572IMG_2581                                                   A walk through the woods in the Berkshires………

I often hear from my clients say that they’d like to improve their self restraint when it comes to eating, or discipline themselves enough to maintain a consistent exercise habit. A recent study out of the University of Kansas, published recently in Behavior Modification Journal, examined the effect of regular exercise on self control in adults. Although it was a very small scale study, it holds promise for those of us seeking to better control our behavior.

In the first very small study, 4 sedentary, overweight volunteers, 2 men and 2 women, agreed to participate in a “two-month walking and jogging regimen, meeting three times a week for 45 minutes with the researchers, who coached them through the sessions, urging them to maintain a pace that felt difficult but sustainable.” They were told the training would prepare them to run a 5K. At the beginning of the study, and each week thereafter, the men and women also repeated the questionnaires, using an accepted practice called  “delay discounting.”  “This is a measure that psychologists use to assess someone’s ability to put off pleasures now for greater enjoyments in the future. For example, they would delay accepting $5 now instead of $15 next week.”

Of the 4 volunteers, 3 showed good compliance. When answering a questionnaire about their self control, the 3 committed volunteers could point to improvements in their behavior as it pertains to self-control, but the one who missed many sessions saw no improvement.  The researchers repeated the study with 12 female volunteers of varying ages and fitness levels who saw nearly identical gains, proportional to the amount of time each attended the exercise trainings.

It’s useful to note that one month after the volunteers returned for the last round of questionnaires, most had retained their improved levels of self-control, and 2 of the 4 initial participants had completed a 5K race. This suggests that their efforts had a positive effect lasting beyond the initial training, but further testing is in order to assess long term gains.

Check out the link below to learn more details.

These results are intriguing on many levels.  What may account for the improvements in self control that the committed participants saw? One explanation is that exercise may not be much fun while you’re doing it, but most of us feel much better afterwards, or when reaping the rewards of better health. This, in itself, represents delayed gratification. Other “past studies have concluded that regular exercise alters the workings of portions of the brain involved in higher-level thinking and decision-making, which, in turn, play important roles in impulse control.”

Exercise has many well-researched benefits, such as improved mood, better overall health, improved brain function, and stronger immune responses. The take-away is that exercise likely has a positive effect on self-control that may have lasting benefits.


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Habit Change – Part III

“Whatever liberates our spirit without giving us mastery over ourselves is destructive” – Goethe . 

“Conversely, whatever liberates our spirit while giving us mastery over ourselves is constructive.” – Gretchen Rubin, author of “Better than Before”

When thinking about habit change, one of the main objectives is mastery over something we consider important.  We left off in the last blog post talking about rewards being a useful strategy toward positive change, and also viewing the changed habit as its own reward.

Here are a few additional strategies to keep us on track toward goal attainment:

Pairing- When trying to create a positive change, pair it with something that is motivating and enjoyable. For example, if you’re trying to increase your time exercising and enjoy watching certain shows, set the time you’re on the treadmill as the only time that you watch your favorite shows. Another example is to shop for clothing only when traveling if you’re trying to reduce your spending, or take a long walk with a friend so the walk becomes a way to maintain important relationships,  rather than just exercise.

Knowing your innate tendencies – Depending on your dominant tendency, be it obliger, rebel, questioner or upholder (see habit change, part I for a refresher) your path toward habit change will vary. For example, while I like to oblige others, I also find myself rebelling if I feel too controlled, or questioning rules that seem arbitrary. The most successful strategies for me are ones that I decide to use on my own, or ones that will benefit others as well as myself.

Clarity – Knowing the reason for your desire to change is essential when deciding to break old habits in favor of creating new ones.  The clearer you are about what you value, and what actions you expect of yourself, the better your success rate will be. For example, we may want to to have some time to relax when we finish work, but we also want to live in a clean and clutter-free house. Which will win out?  When we have a conflict of goals, we need clarity to decide which one is more important. We also have to make sure the goal reflects our values, and not those of others, lest we build resentment. Ideally, you are the only one who decides what is truly important to change.

Identity – If your sense of self is threatened or challenged by your desired habit change, it’s important to reconcile both. For example, if people count on you to be the life of the party, but you decide you want to drink less alcohol, this may be in conflict- how can you accomplish both? Changing a habit is more challenging if that habit means losing or altering a part of yourself. Being good parents by getting enough sleep to increase your patience may conflict with setting aside time for your couplehood late at night after the kids are asleep.

Other people’s influence- When we spend a lot of time with other people, their behaviors affect ours. Health concordance, which is when you adopt behaviors of people close to you, has been shown to be a useful tool if the health behavior is desirable.  Goal contagion, when one person “catches” the behavior of another influential person also may play an important role in habit change. Very often, when one person begins to cook low carb meals, his or her partner will lose weight. Role modeling strongly influences all kinds of behaviors.  If you want your children to use foul language less, it’s important that you do the same.  Beware of becoming preachy, as we’ve all seen this backfire with children as well as partners.

We can build our habits only on the foundation of our own nature. The importance of understanding our own levers, both external and internal, can’t be understated.

Some habits become completely automatic, others require effort indefinitely.  You may not achieve perfection, but you will likely end up with a habit that is better than before. There are costs to keeping a habit, and breaking habits, so you have to figure out which one you’re willing to pay.  Habits multiply both within and among individuals. I have one room in my house that is a perpetual mess, which is my sunroom. All the mail, correspondence, projects, and business that is unfinished ends up in that room. Every few years, I’ll clean it out, only to have it pile up again. When I walked in there yesterday, I observed that most of the stationery, envelopes, cards and old files are no longer needed.   I’ve switched to paying bills online, have computerized many paper systems, and I could toss or shred many old files. The habit of procrastination has created this cluttered room.  If I dealt with the mail once, threw out unneeded paper, and donated unneeded office supplies, this  would make a nice sitting room once and for all.  The habit of organizing, and doing a  once a week clean out should take care of it, and if perpetuated, will yield the result I wish for every time I enter this room.  When I shed light on this problem,  know the solution,  and use some of the above strategies, I should be able to achieve my desired result.

So, the grand take-away from the last 3  blog posts? Decide on one habit change. Figure out what your essential nature is to build on your personality type, and try a variety of strategies to see what works. Remember that the goal is to better than before, not necessarily perfect.  Remember to enjoy the rewards and treat yourself so it doesn’t become too tedious.  I’d love to hear your results!


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Habit Change: Part II

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As detailed in the last blog, there are certain techniques that will orient you toward success in changing and keeping new habits. I left off discussing accountability, e.g. like keeping a record of your progress or checking in with others, such as a coach or trainer.

Once you have a system for accountability, the next step in “Better than Before” discusses taking the initial action toward habit change.  Here are some ways to get started.

1. Begin now.  There’s no reason to equivocate about when is the best time.  When starting, don’t go for the gold immediately. The beginning is not as intimidating if you break the habit down into smaller nuggets.  Instead of saying, I’ll work out an hour a day, every day,  how about committing to walking 15 minutes 5 days a week?  You’ll likely be able to reach or exceed that goal, which will encourage further  progress.  Some people do better when they push themselves to commit to bigger first steps, because it’s more exhilarating to have a “blast” start.  Know that you’re unlikely to continue with the intensity if you choose the bigger start.

2.  Clean Slate. – Another way to think of and start habits is to try doing it with a “clean slate”. This is beginning something on a Monday, at a new job, with a new relationship or anything else that marks a natural beginning. This is why New Year’s Day is a popular time to make changes. At the same time, if you decide that you must change a habit, today is usually the best time to start.

3. Lightening bolt – This is a useful strategy when you are confronted with a new reality, a new idea, or a meaningful event that compels you to change a habit immediately, and often in a dramatic way.  An excellent example of this is when a person with an unhealthy addiction becomes pregnant.  Although she may have failed in many other programs, being healthy for another person’s sake is enough to trigger her to change her lifestyle for good.

The following are additional strategies for maintaining your new habits:

a) Abstaining-  If we don’t start, we don’t have to think about how to stop- this works well for all-or-nothing types. If you are a moderator, one bite of dessert will be enough for you.  Research suggests that when you indulge in something less over time, you want it less.  Carbohydrate cravings are an excellent example of this.

b) Convenience- Make the desired habit more convenient to attain.  Conversely, make it inconvenient to break the habit.  A strategy that I use frequently is ensuring that I don’t have a supply of cookies in the house. I won’t go out and get one, if it’s not here already. If a pack of cookies “lands” in my house, I freeze them, so the added act of defrosting is often enough to deter me from eating one.  If they are brought to my house as dessert after a dinner, I send them home with people so I don’t indulge, or leave a small piece here (because I can be a moderator) so I don’t overindulge.

c) Anticipate and minimize temptations- Use safeguards to ensure you keep your new productive habit.  Eliminate the trigger or the cue for the temptation, such as doing work in other parts of the house, besides the kitchen, if you have a tendency to overeat when at home.

If we stumble, we may get a better idea of those triggers that cause a lapse in our healthy habit forming. Planned exceptions for worthwhile indulgences have an advantage over spur-of-the-moment decision-making when trying to maintain a habit.  For example, when going to a cocktail hour, I make a decision to eat only 2 of the most tempting hors-d’oeuvres, instead of eating anything that looks good that is passed my way.

d) Loophole spotting- Most of us are naturals at creating loopholes for ourselves, making special exceptions when we fall short of expectations.  For example, you might think,  “I can’t exercise today, it’s too hot/cold/rainy or I’m too busy.” Chances are, with a little creativity, you could find a way to exercise inside, even if it’s for a short time.

e) Distraction – Often distracting yourself for 15 minutes by doing a competing activity can allow you to use more will power. For example, when tempted to make an impulse purchase, I’ll try to do the rest of my shopping, and see if I still want that item when I’m finished with my shopping.  If so, maybe it’s not so impulsive, it may be something that’s a practical purchase.

f) Reward- Sometimes rewards can sabotage your achievement of your goal.  For instance, if you decide to reward yourself with a piece of chocolate cake after avoiding sugar for 2 weeks, it could begin a downward spiral of your return to eating sweets. It also may condition you to accomplish a goal only to get an extrinsic reward, instead of the goal attainment being its own reward. Let’s say you finally fit into the clothing that you wore a few years ago, after exercising and reducing your food portions.  If you decide that you’ll buy more clothing that fits your new size, that would be an excellent choice, because it fits the goal of the behavior.

Many studies have shown that when children are rewarded for good grades or behavior on a consistent basis, they don’t learn  to derive the intrinsic benefit of the better behavior.  This holds true for adults as well, even though we have more evolved control (hopefully) over our behavior.   Try to think of the habit itself as being the reward, and enjoy the natural consequences that come from the improved lifestyle. For example, if you begin an exercise program, and feel more energetic and stronger, you’ll be able to partake in more physical activities and enjoy your time with children and/or grandchildren, as opposed to saying, if I stay consistent with my workout program, I’ll celebrate with a big purchase. If you think about the natural benefits of being stronger and more fit, how about taking a family trip that has you hiking and doing more strenuous things that you may not have been able to do without your improved fitness level?

Some habits are more fragile, and unusual circumstances may cause you to stop.   A change in schedule such as business or acute illness may disrupt your habit maintenance.  Once the circumstances allow, make sure you “start now”. That way, the fragile habit isn’t broken, just paused.

The major take-away from this section is to use some simple strategies to move you toward your desired habit change, and let the improved behavior be its own reward.

 

 

 


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Better than before- secrets of habit change

“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” – Mark Twain

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Because the end of summer is near, or maybe because fall signals a time for new routines, I’ve been reading a book called “Better than Before” by Gretchen Rubin. This book discusses how best to change and/or uphold desired habits, and it details where to begin, how to make changes, and how to maintain them.

One of the first steps is to know yourself, and what your tendencies are. We all have both internal and external expectations, and we each have our unique ways of managing them. Ms. Rubin describes four different personality types as it pertains to meeting expectations:

  1.  The upholder- one who readily accepts and meets both internal and external  expectations- a rule follower who is most comfortable when guidelines are clear
  2.  The questioner – one who questions both internal and external expectations, and if  he/she determines that the rationale for them is merited, he/she will meet them
  3.  The obliger – one who meets others’ expectations, but may fall short of their own
  4.  The rebel – one who has to do things his/her own way, and doesn’t attend to others’ expectations

When motivating yourself or others, it behooves you to understand these types, and which types dominate the personalities in question. For example, if you are an obliger, you may need accountability to other people for habit change, but if you are an upholder, this may help, but you may already have expectations of your own that you regularly meet. If you are a rebel, it may be helpful to be directed to resources for habit change, but you will need to do it in your own way in your own time. If you are a questioner, you will need solid proof of why certain strategies are effective, and you will not change habits just because you think you “should” or others recommend it. Of courses, most of us are combinations of a two or more types, but we also have dominant tendencies that favor one or two types. Our “type” can also depend on specific circumstances. You may be an obliger in one situation, but an upholder in another.

Knowing yourself also helps you figure out when to tackle the most difficult tasks of the day.  If you’re a morning person, then you schedule the most challenging obstacles soon after you awaken. If you’re a night owl, then your creativity and energy are at their highest in the evening and even later, and you’ll likely make the best progress toward your goals at those times. There are many other examples of how insight about your innate tendencies can set you up for success. Are you a(n) …

procrastinator or marathoner or sprinter?

underbuyer or overbuyer?

simplicity or abundance lover?

opener or finisher?

familiarity or novel lover?

promotion focused or prevention focused?

small step or big step taker?

Let’s take the example of trying to begin and maintain an exercise program.

  • Would you say, OK, I’ll start tomorrow or right now?
  • Would you want to buy a fitbit, polar heart monitor, great workout gear, and the best sneakers before you begin?
  • Would you enjoy the start of the program, but have difficulty maintaining it once you got into a routine?
  • Would you need the program to be repetitive so you could memorize it and get it ingrained, or would you want a new challenge and set of activities on a frequent basis?
  • Would you do it because you know if would give you more energy, or because you don’t want to get weak and/or stiff?
  • Would you join a gym, decide you’ll devote an hour a day to it, or begin by walking 10-20 minutes a few days a week to get started?
  • Would you decide you would exercise in the morning or in the evening?

The answers to these questions can help you orient yourself for success in reaching your goals.

There are some pillars of habits that have been shown to be invaluable. The author has studied which strategies have proven to be most effective in helping habits stick.  Let’s take the example of improving eating habits. The following are examples of ways to help you change your habits for good.

  1. Monitoring- keeping a food journal and really keeping track of your food intake
  2. Foundations of healthy habits:
  • sleep
  • movement/activity
  • eating and drinking in moderation
  • uncluttering

If we take the example of healthy eating, one would set up the foundation by ensuring at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night to decrease sugar cravings and be rested enough to use will power.  Obtaining enough activity each day- at least ½ hour-1 hour of walking, exercise or other activity will set you up for success. Being diligent about avoiding too much alcohol, excessive food or sweets intake, is essential to lose weight and feel your best. Finally, clearing out any enticing high calorie, low nutrition food from your kitchen would round out the foundation.

3.  Scheduling- Taking the time to schedule in your new healthy habit is essential, and             should be regarded with as much care and deliberation as any other worthy task.               You may need to schedule time to shop for and prepare healthy snacks and meals               at the beginning of the week to make sure you have them ready after a long days               when you have no time to prepare healthy foods.

4.  Accountability –Being accountable to others or yourself by writing things down                  and checking in with another person, and declaring and keeping track of your                    new habit may help keep you honest –for example, keeping a food journal has                    proven to be very effective.

If you want to start or change a habit, take a look at the information above to see which strategy may be useful for you based on your personality type.  Then stay tuned for Part 2 for tips for habit change that I will post next time. Good luck and let me know your thoughts!


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1. Goal setting and Training 2. Performance and Goal Attainment 3. Maintenance

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Training team (Newton and Needham gang)

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The reason I ride- to help fund a cure for cancer, and the specific team I ride for

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Goal attainment at the Provincetown finish with my best riding partner

Each year, the build-up to the Pan Mass Challenge is different. This year, unpredictable, cool and rainy weather delayed the start of training, and we needed to catch up during the last few months. Luckily, we trained on plenty of hills this year in the Berkshires, and this seemed to make up for our late start. We also allowed time for recovery in between long or intense rides. This has become more important as we get older. Every exercise trend has its moment, and it has arrived for the evidence supporting recovery.   The large number of baby boomers in their 50s, 60s and 70s who want to maintain high levels of fitness need recovery, which includes rest, foam rolling and gentle movement as an essential part of our routine.

So, what are some ways to set and reach your goal through the proper training?  Below are some tips to get you there:

Goal Setting and Training

  1. Set a reasonable goal and give yourself time to build up your muscles and cardio capacity in increments in order to avoid injury.  For the PMC, we begin training in April as soon as the weather permits to build up our endurance for the big weekend in early August.
  2.  Examine your motives. What does the goal mean to you? Why are you doing it?
  3. Plot out your workout schedule to ensure adequate time for your body to adapt to higher demand.  A minimum of 3 times a week of cycling is our magic number, ramping up to longer rides as the event approaches.
  4. Be diligent about your nutrition to allow your body to make the changes needed to accomplish your goal to meet your energy demands.
  5. Constantly assess your progress, and make changes when necessary. For example, if you find that you need more cardio work, you may add interval training on machines or walking outside to your regimen.
  6. Go to the app store to find training regimens that are tailored to specific types of sports like half or full marathons or sprint triathlons. For example, there’s 10K trainer, couch to 10K training, or Running Trainer.
  7.  Because training is sport specific, you must practice the same sport in which you’ll compete.  Even though you may be in good overall shape, or good running shape, it may not translate to good biking shape, so you must cycle frequently for a biking event, run frequently for a 5, 10K or marathon.

Performance Day and Goal Attainment (if all goes well)

  1.  Get good sleep the night before. Allow yourself time to wind down and consider that you may have before-race day jitters.
  2.  Get proper nutrition. Before the PMC weekend, we always have a pot luck dinner with plenty of protein and carbs to have the energy needed to complete the weekend.
  3.  Don’t put additional pressure on yourself the day of the event. Just tell yourself you’ll do the best you can, and count on your preparation to take care of the rest.
  4. Hydrate and nourish yourself plenty during the event if it’s an endurance event, or plenty afterwards if it’s more of a sprint,  (less than 1.5 hours).
  5. Give yourself a recovery day if needed.

Maintenance– the hardest part.   You may feel unmotivated to continue the ramped-up training after the event, so….

  1. Plan for your next event or decide on a new one that piques your interest, so you can keep up your fitness level.
  2.  Get a fitness buddy for impetus when your motivation flags.
  3.  Find a professional who can keep you interested, accountable and knows how to motivate you. You don’t have to do it alone !
  4.  Assess how good you feel when you’re in top form, write it down, and refer back to it to remind yourself to continue your training.
  5. Lay out your workout clothing and put it in a prominent place the night before to set your intentions to continue your workout habit.

So, there you have it. Go for a new challenge and enjoy the rewards !