It's that time of year again. The time of year we all start realizing that we either need to rollover or refresh some of our goals and ambitions.
Why do New Year's Resolutions end up just being a nice idea for 92% of the population anyways?¹
Setting targets is easy, actually striving to reach them is another story. You know what I'm talking about.
But who is to say that this isn't the time where we overcome some hurdles, turn on some lightbulbs, get serious, and make sh*t happen?
Make Time or Excuses
The most common self-limiting statement I hear in the fitness world, is "I don't have time for that."
Trust me, I get the whole not having time concept, but let's be real with each other for a second, what you should be saying is "It's not important enough to me." Right?
If something is important enough, taking yourself or a loved one to the ER for example, then you make the time.
Okay, yes. I understand that would be an emergent issue, but what I'm really saying is that things we need to do, like eat, go to work, sleep (for some of us anyway), take the dog out, and so on, are things we always have time for.
These are necessities. Things we must do for optimal human functioning. Hold up though, couldn't we now argue that with all the research coming out on how physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of death due to its links to cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc, that exercising is a human need?²
That we are made to move.
That when we don't move, our bodies start to feel gross, even when we have chronic pain and think that rest is the answer.³
But if it's not important to you, meaning you probably don't understand the importance of it (you don't have a why), then you will not make time. And real talk again, it will catch up to you in one way or the other.
So what do you say you and I make a deal? The first goal for 2019 (no we wont' be using the word "resolution" around here), is to determine what is actually important to us and why it is important.
The next goal, determine when this fits for our schedule. Many times we don't realize that if we plan our days a little more intentionally, it frees up quite a bit of room for things we say we should do.
More real talk, you know as well as I do that if you don't verbalize this to someone, or financially commit to something, the chances of you actually doing and achieving what you would like to set out to do is far less likely of happening for more than a few weeks.
That said, our third goal is to find the person or thing that will hold us accountable. You know yourself, what will keep you motivated?
I'll share with you why it has been easy for me to stay motivated to workout. It has become automatic. But, it wasn't always that way. It was one of those things that it would happen if I had time or energy.
Now, it is just going to happen like eating breakfast or brushing my teeth. That will be an hour of my day, which by the way is only 4% of your waking time.
As an athlete, and even a few years after, I dreaded working out. It made me feel tired just thinking about it, and I felt like I had to do it to stay in shape and not get pudgy.
I now look forward to and love working out. What's the secret? I get to see people I enjoy being around, I get to release some stress from the day giving me a mental reset as well as physical reset, I don't have to think about what I'm doing at the gym, I can just go and do the work.
During a very emotionally stressful time in my life, the gym was like my sanctuary. It kept me sane. Had I not been able to get rid of that stress, I can't imagine the horrible alternatives I may have chosen.
Long story short, the hard work there then translates to other areas of my life. Such a win, and it can be for you too!
Let's Get Started
First step, write out those goals, friend.
Next step, pick your form of accountability. I can help.
Third step, establish your routine.
Fourth step, persevere dang it! Don't give up after a week because it's hard. You're better than that and know it.
Fifth step, keep coming back. Leave me a comment below, start a conversation, ask a question. I would love to help how I can, for as long as I can!
1. Diamond, Dan. "Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year's Resolutions. Here's How They Do It." Forbes. January 02, 2013. Accessed December 28, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/#1487c797596b.
2. Carlson, Susan A., E. Kathleen Adams, Zhou Yang, and Janet E. Fulton. "Percentage of Deaths Associated With Inadequate Physical Activity in the United States." Preventing Chronic Disease15 (2018). doi:10.5888/pcd18.170354.
3. Geneen, Louise, Blair Smith, Clare Clarke, Denis Martin, Lesley A. Colvin, and R. Andrew Moore. "Physical Activity and Exercise for Chronic Pain in Adults: An Overview of Cochrane Reviews." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2014. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd011279.
What is that terrible sound? Oh.. right, it's my alarm. It can't be time to get up, can it? It feels like I just fell asleep. Oh why not, another 7 minutes (hits snooze).
Typical morning conversation for you as well? If it is, and if you are hitting the snooze like I used to, please just STOP. This is completely throwing off your productivity and cognitive ability in the morning. More on that later.
Sleep, and rest in general are things we don't necessarily have to think about while doing, so we typically don't think about how to best optimize them beforehand.
They are not as passive as we may think; in fact, a lot of times we end up sabotaging our ability to properly recover because we don't think about either enough.
As a potentially widespread, undervalued asset to health and performance, taking and applying the science of sleep to our daily lives could be more life altering than many of us realize.
The Biology of Sleep
By the time we die, we'll have spent an astounding third of our lives asleep, despite our culture's promotion of a less is more attitude when it comes to sleep.¹
I myself often burn the candle at both ends, and have been guilty of buying into Margret Thatcher's comment of "Sleep is for wimps."
But, the reality is, it's actually not for wimps. It's for people who want to be elite and is an unavoidably critical aspect of human physiology.
Lack of sleep means functioning in a constant state of fatigue, causing:
Sleep to Remember
There is a natural phenomenon called the forgetting curve, where our brains forget 40% of the information just learned within the first 20 minutes of learning it. Discouraged? Don't be.
What scientists have discovered, is that while short-term memory is pretty pathetic in terms of retention, long-term memory is far more durable.
We can remember more information through a process called memory consolidation, in which information from our short-term memory is moved to our long-term memory.
This is enhanced when our bodies enter Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) "deep" sleep cycles, both of which are entered into 4-5 times per night after two stages of "light" sleep.³
The Cruel Cycle of Stress and Sleep
Stress can both keep us from getting sleep and increase if we aren't getting sleep. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 43% of adults report that stress frequently keeps them awake at night, and 21% report that if they do not sleep enough, they feel more stressed.
Very unfortunate to be the one who experiences both. Which, if that's the case, it's time to work on some stress management techniques to help with daily functioning and overall quality of life!
In fact, on average, American adults sleep 6.7 hours a night and only 20% report that their sleep is good or excellent.⁴
I used to think of sleep as a kind of linear thing, with a dosing stage, dreaming stage, and eventually ending in REM. Of course now that sounds silly when we focus on the meaning of a sleep cycle, which naturally implies something that repeats itself.
The typical adult will drift through 90-120 minute cycles, comprised of four different repeating stages.
Sleep Inertia: STOP Hitting Snooze!
When pulled from the midst of REM sleep, scientists have formally identified that temporary state of grogginess and mental fogginess, as sleep inertia.
Defined as a "transitional state of lowered arousal occurring immediately after awakening from sleep and producing temporary decrements in performance," sleep inertia can be blamed for your feelings of mental and physical dishevelment upon waking.⁶
This is due to higher levels of melatonin that is formed in our bodies during the REM stage. The longer we sleep, the higher those levels get.
Contrarily, when we wake up during non-REM sleep, blood pressure, heart rate, and brain activity are slowed down, which helps us feel awake and alert much quicker.
So back to that bit in the beginning about hitting the snooze and it's slap in the face to our productivity.
The two hours prior to waking, our body begins to go through a thaw out stage that gradually helps us wake up more easily; however, if we hit snooze, our body thinks we are returning to another 90-120 minute sleep cycle.
Physically we can wake up, but mentally the cortical region of our brain cannot. It will take our brains up to 4 hours to come out of sleep inertia when this happens.⁷
Therefore, the initial amount of energy that is required to push yourself out of bed will have a higher return on investment than the extra energy you think you're depositing by snoozing after the alarm rings.
Also, the small act of getting up when you intended to the night before, deposits a coin of discipline into your mental bank. When enough deposits accumulate in this bank, it translates into other areas of your life.
It will suck in the beginning, there's no doubt. But, if change and difficult choices were easy, everyone would do it, and we would all be fit, rich, and beautiful.
How Much Sleep Do I need?
The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep, and adolescents need around 10. Yet, like anything, there is individual variance within this generalization.
I know people who function great on 4 hours, others who must have 8 or they are major crank-pots, and some who are chronically functioning in sleep deprivation (6 or less) and supplementing liquid naps to make up for it.
Bottom line, find what works best for you. If possible, go a week without setting an alarm, which for many of us this may need to happen on a vacation, and see how much sleep your body wants based on when it naturally wakes up.⁸
Making time for a full nights rest is not only highly undervalued in our society, but also scoffed at. Yet, there is no out talking the science that has proven sleep is a critical part of human physiology that should be taken seriously.
Sleep is not for wimps, Margaret Thatcher, it is for the elite.
1, 8. Foster, Russell. Ted. Accessed December 13, 2018. https://www.ted.com/talks/russell_foster_why_do_we_sleep.
2. Aguirre, Claudia. Ted. Accessed December 13, 2018. https://www.ted.com/talks/claudia_aguirre_what_would_happen_if_you_didn_t_sleep?language=en.
3. Marcu, Shai. Ted, Ted, www.ted.com/talks/shai_marcu_the_benefits_of_a_good_night_s_sleep#t-267995.
4. American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep.aspx.
5. "Stages of Sleep - Non-REM and REM Sleep Cycles." Tuck Sleep. Accessed December 13, 2018. https://www.tuck.com/stages/.
6. Tassi, P., and A. Muzet. "Sleep Inertia." Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports.
August 2000. Accessed December 12, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12531174.
7. Robbins, Mel [VNV]. The 5 Second Rule: The Surprisingly Simple Way to Live, Love, and Speak with Courage. S.l.: Post Hill Press, 2017.
There are seven questions total. Answers and information for each question can be found at the end of the quiz.
Test out your health knowledge with this mini trivia challenge! Don't ruin the fun and open a tab in google, test your brain.
1. 500 Extra Calories a day = a pound of weight gain per week
This is where that magic number of 3,500 calories comes from (500kcal x 7 days in the week).
To better put this into perspective, if you were meeting your calorie needs for the day from food (which you should be), but added in a couple extra drinks (a beer or glass of wine averages between 120-160kcal) and an extra snack or sweet to go with them, you would easily be meeting your 500 extra calories in one sitting.
However, this could also come from not moving enough in the day to match what feels like a normal day of eating.
Ever feel a little "heavier" - not literally, weight gain doesn't occur that quickly - come Sunday evening if you've taken a weekend of rest from activity? Those are the extra calories your body is starting to store away to be used as energy when you so choose.
2. Most schools do not Value Physical Education
There is an organization not many people have heard of by the name of PHIT America, who is dedicated to addressing and working to make opportunities for activity more accessible to people who need it.
Shockingly, 48% of schools do not fund physical education. This is a direct statistic from the research PHIT has done.
They are currently trying to pass a bill that will have the government cover more of the costs related to physical activity.
I encourage you to take a gander at their website and the bill they are trying to pass in Congress that could make gym memberships and youth activity fees more affordable through government funding.
3. Rhomboids, Your Angel Wings
The next time you hop on the rower machine or go for a couple pull ups, pay attention to the muscles that sit between your shoulders blades, these are your rhomboids!
They are very important for any type of pulling motions we do like picking something up from the ground, pulling ourselves up when climbing, etc.
4. You Beta off seeing with Vitamin A
Along with the Beta-Carotene, which is actually converted to Vitamin A anyway, Vitamin A is found in carrots and is responsible for protecting the surface of the eye and keeping our eyes lubricated.
It is estimated that approximately 250,000 to 500,000 malnourished children worldwide who live in developing countries will become blind each year due to vitamin A deficiency. In developed countries this is very rare, as it's quite easy to get enough vitamin A from your diet.
Rich sources of vitamin A are our orange foods such as pumpkin, sweet potato, cantaloupe, and as previously mentioned, carrots. (Heiting, n.d.)
5. Fiber-Packed Foods
Thanks to my awesome, soon to be R.D. roommate from last year (hi, Erin!), I now think of Metamucil every time I hear fiber.
However, there are heaps of ways to add fiber into your diet from food. The amount of fiber in the foods on this list may surprise you.
Out of those listed, black beans contain the highest amount at 15g per cup.
Avocado ranks surprisingly high with 10g per cup, quinoa has 5g per cup and berries around 8g per cup. For a full list check out this page.
We need fiber to keep things moving in our digestive system. Not only does it keep you from getting constipated, but it helps maintain good gut health in general.
And no, I don't think just looking at the page will make you less constipated, you may actually have to eat a few beans, lentils, and vegetables.
6. POWER CLEANS TRUE TO THEIR NAME
While all the exercises on that list - Front Squats, Split Lunges, and Depth Jumps - are all beneficial for improving explosiveness in athletes, Power Cleans reign supreme because they, a) involve moving weight, as opposed to just body weight as in the lunges and jumps and, b) involve moving that weight at a high speed, as opposed to the constant speed of a front squat.
Furthermore, the Power Clean is a very technical lift and needs to be executed properly to avoid injury.
7. WHAT IS YOUR RMR AND HOW DO YOU BURN MORE CALORIES WITH IT?
Your resting metabolic rate is the amount of energy (calories) needed to maintain normal body functions like breathing, circulation, digestion, renal processing (pee formation), etc.
It accounts for 65-70% of our daily energy expenditure and is higher after exercise and in people with a greater proportion of lean muscle to fat tissue. It is also influenced by age, nutrition status, genetics, and endocrine functioning - such as hypothyroidism.
This helps explain why weight loss and maintenance can be more difficult for some than others, because we all have different factors influencing our metabolism and the rate in which we burn calories on a resting basis. (Baechle, Earle, 2008)
Heiting, O. G. (n.d.). Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene: Eye Benefits. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from http://www.allaboutvision.com/nutrition/vitamin_a.htm
McCoy, K. (2017, September 06). 20 Ultimate High Fiber Foods. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from https://draxe.com/high-fiber-foods/
Baechle, T. & Earle, R. (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 3rd Edition. National Strength and Conditioning Association.