Health

The neurology of behaviour change: How personal trainers can use brain science to help clients achieve their health and fitness goals

The neurology of behaviour changeWhen someone tells you to do something you don’t particularly want to do, what’s your immediate response?

Do you think about it for a moment before making up an excuse not to do it or just immediately say no? Do you act defiant until you realize it’s not a criticism and perhaps a good idea after all? Or are you open to the possibility of the action and agree after briefly thinking it through?

I have to try really hard not to act defiant when someone tells me to do something I only mildly despise, so I can’t imagine how some of my personal training clients feel when I give them an exercise plan. “On Monday, do this strength workout for 45 minutes”. Ugggh, they must think, especially if they’ve been told they need to lose weight by their doctor and exercising is something they have to do. They may want to have a strong and fit body, but aren’t looking forward to the work it’s going to take to make that happen. It also doesn’t help that the human brain values immediate rewards more highly than future rewards, so an hour spent on the couch watching Netflix will easily trump an hour spent squatting and sweating any day of the week.

If that wasn’t enough to contend with, there’s also something else going on in the brain that works against your best interests when someone tries to help you with their well-meaning fitness and health advice. (more…)

Is akrasia getting in the way of your health and fitness goals? Here’s how you can stop it

akrasiaFirst off, you might be thinking, akrasia? Is this some new sensitivity associated with gluten? Is it slowing down my metabolism so I can’t lose weight? Is it causing leaky gut syndrome so I’m retaining water and feel bloated all the time? Is it altering my thyroid and messing with my hormones?

Here’s the definition of akrasia from the Oxford Dictionary:

a·kra·sia
əˈkrāZH(ē)ə/
noun: Philosophy
noun: akrasia; noun: acrasia

  1. The state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will.

So, in other words, this state of mind:

I think I’ll sleep in rather than get up and go for that run I planned to do because my bed is cozy and warm and it’s cold and gross outside, even though I know running will make me fitter and boost my mood.

Or

Might as well eat this whole bar of chocolate/extra piece of pizza/bag of chips because it’s delicious and I’m feeling stressed, and this helps make me feel better right now… even though I’m trying to cut back on sugar/salt/fat to try to lose weight so I can be healthier and have more energy to play with my kids. (more…)

My three goals for 2016

My goals for 2016Welcome to another edition of my annual non-New Year’s resolution blog post, where I list my top three goals for the year to come: one fitness-related, one professional, and one personal.

I started publicly sharing my goals back in 2012 as a way to keep myself accountable, but also so I could look back and see where I was at the time fitness-wise, professionally and personally.

My 2012 and 2013 years were tough professionally and personally, as I was leaving one long-term relationship and moving into another, and transitioning from a tough contract job into a government position. In 2011 I completed my first triathlon and was a running machine, signing up for almost every local race I could afford. But in 2013 my focus shifted, and for some reason I made it my goal to “have abs” in 2013. I’m glad I decided to run my first ultra instead. That’s a much more bad-ass goal.

In 2014, I actually achieved all the goals I set out for myself, which I was super proud of — especially getting published (and featured!) in a print magazine and qualifying for Boston. Last year I did okay, but as I explained in this post, I was having another “transition” year, as I like to call it — where a lot more stuff was going on than what was shared on this blog.

So for this coming year — considering all things that have happened this past year — here are my three goals for 2016. (more…)

My top 5 posts of 2015 and a personal year in review

top blog posts of 2015 from Run. Lift. Yoga.Happy almost Christmas, friends! I have a feeling this may be my only post this week due to general holiday busyness and a whole pile of freelance work I’d like to finish before taking a much needed break with my family and friends for the rest of the week. My holiday plans consist of Christmas eve at my parents’ house with my brother, sis-in-law and niece and nephew followed by more festivities at a family friends’ house; Christmas day with Matt and his parents; Boxing Day at my parents’ house with the rest of my family; and the day after Boxing Day at Matt’s parents’ house for another holiday shindig. Somewhere in there I need to do a few strength sessions and tempo runs, as well as a long recovery run on Sunday. I ran a decent 28 km this past weekend in anticipation of a recovery week this week, before I plan to build my marathon training mileage back up again next week.

Although I’ve been pretty good with fueling and eating lots of nutritious food throughout December to help keep my body healthy, I’ve definitely indulged and enjoyed myself at various get-togethers that have occurred almost twice a week since the end of November. I’ve tried to plan my long runs around late nights, but sometimes a post-too-many-glasses-of-vino-and-food-that-my-stomach-can’t-handle-the-night-before run is inevitable. I’m proud of myself, though, for not missing a single training run so far. I knew training for a marathon throughout winter and the holiday season would be tough, and although I love the holiday season, I’ll be happy when I can get back to a normal routine.

I plan to do a 2016 goals blog sometime before the New Year, but I want to do a bit more reflecting back on this past year before it comes to an end. I’ve already shared how I did with my 2015 goals, and below I’ll be sharing my most-read posts of 2015. But I can’t move forward without recognizing some of the challenges I faced this year and the incredible growth I’ve experienced that I had no idea was in the cards for me in 2015. (more…)

Year-end check in: Did I achieve my 2015 goals?

The start of my consistent yoga practice this January

The start of my consistent yoga practice this January

In January of this year, I shared three goals I hoped to achieve by December 31, 2015: master some variation of the scorpion pose and hold it for 10 seconds, grow my client base at Koru Personal Training, and get a consistent meditation practice going.

Before I get into how I did this year, I’m kicking myself now for not adding GET INTO THE BOSTON MARATHON as one of my 2015 goals. Although I achieved my 2014 goal of qualifying in October last year, I missed getting in by 1 minute and 25 seconds. Not that it was in my control, but you better believe I’m going to be much more specific with my 2016 goals (more on those to come next week).

So how did I do this year?

(more…)

Best reads in health, fitness and wellness on the web this week

the best reads in health and wellnessHappy Friday, friends! How was your week? Have you finished your Christmas baking/shopping/decorating? Are all your Starbucks-holiday-drink-consuming, Christmas-movie-watching, annual-holiday-traditions activities well underway?  If they are, I hope you’re taking a moment to truly enjoy the season and not get caught up in the stress of “needing to to do it all.”

But speaking of needing to do it all, my Erin Condren customized planner arrived yesterday, and the type-A in me is SO EXCITED to start planning out my entire 2016 with customized stickers, a budget book, notes, colourful markers, and tabs. (more…)

Why you should handwrite (not type) your goals, dreams and aspirations

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believeWhen was the last time you wrote something down by hand?

Perhaps it was on Monday when you wrote out your to-do list in your work notebook. Or maybe it was Wednesday when you wrote on a Post-It note to remind yourself to pick up eggs. Or perhaps in was on Friday when you wrote a few pleasantries in a birthday card that you were planning to give your friend on the weekend.

Or maybe you just typed your to-do list in your lap top at work, set a reminder on your phone to get eggs and wished your friend a Happy Birthday on their Facebook wall.

Although my handwriting is barely legible and I misspell almost every word I write, I love writing things down. Pen to paper is my jam. I’m a visual learner, so there’s something about physically writing things out that helps me to remember it better than if I typed it out on a computer screen. (more…)

Improve your health, fitness level and nutrition knowledge in Koru Personal Training’s January 2016 challenge group!

practice makes purpose challangeIf you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I don’t like New Year’s resolutions or diving in head-first to some new diet trend or fitness program and giving up all your vices cold turkey. Most of us are back to our old ways by February, and feel crappy that we failed our resolutions yet again.

I’m more a fan of setting goals or intentions for the year, and then setting smaller SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals to help get me there. If one of your goals is to improve your health, fitness level, mindfulness practice and nutrition knowledge this year, I’m hosting a month-long online health challenge over on Koru Personal Training’s Facebook page for the super reasonable price of $20! (more…)

8 tips to help you have a healthy holiday season

8 tips for having a healthy holiday seasonWith less than a week until American Thanksgiving/Black Friday and Christmas not far behind that, you’re no doubt starting to experience that familiar holiday feeling: Stress.

Standing in line at Wal-Mart to get that Lego Star Wars kit for your 10-year-old; spending hours on hold with UPS trying to track down that package you ordered from Amazon early (because you were trying to beat the rush) that’s been shipped to the wrong address; hitting up grocery store after grocery store trying to find baking supplies for those thoughtful homemade gifts you’re planning to make (apparently everyone had the same gift idea); and trying to find the time to whip up a different appetizer to bring to each of the seven holiday parties you’re invited to over the next several weeks… it’s exhausting.

And let’s not forget about the guilt you’ll feel after mindlessly inhaling all the delicious holiday baking available at said seven Christmas parties (and the leftovers coworkers bring into the office after the weekend) and not being able to get to the gym because you have baking to do, decorations to put up, and Christmas parades to attend. (more…)

The small habits you should focus on to reach your health and fitness goals

focus on the steps that will lead you to the goal, not the goal itselfLast week I wrote about why we need to get obsessed with consistency and the actions that feed the goal instead of focusing so much on the final product when it comes health and fitness. So what are those little habits and actions we should be getting obsessed with in order to reach our goals?

Obviously this is going to vary from person to person based on your past histories and current habits. But here’s my attempt at coming up with a general list of habits to work on changing and how you can start to take the steps to do that, based on some of the barriers I’ve seen with clients and some I’ve encountered myself.

I’ve grouped them into three categories: exercise, nutrition and mental health, or what I like to call the Self-Care Trifecta. Getting a handle on these three things is a lifelong process, and sometimes I find we focus too much on one for too long while ignoring the others. Though balancing all three is a mighty challenge (and one I don’t think we’ll ever be able to do at the same time), having the Trifecta tip in three directions throughout your day, week or month is better than having it just topple over to one side completely.

Since trying to form too many new habits at once is overwhelming and generally doesn’t work, I would pick ONE habit out of all three of the categories to work on for a month. Then for the next month, continue your chosen habit (or take it up a level) and add in another habit from a different category. I’m going to be facilitating something similar to this using a habit changing worksheet with my Koru Personal Training January Facebook Challenge Group next year (sign up at the link if you’re interested!), but here’s a sample of just some of the things you can choose to focus on for 30 days: (more…)

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