Viewing entries tagged
exercise

Comment

For Fitness Success, Pack a Plan in Your Holiday Suitcase

Pack a plan and relax! 

Pack a plan and relax! 

Question: I’m going on holiday for two weeks soon- YAY! How do I stick to my diet and fitness plan during this time? 

 

Answer: Your question shows me that you’re taking a proactive approach by preparing to pack a plan as you’re packing your suitcase! Here are my eight tips for diet and exercise success while you’re on vacation:

1. Carry a copy of your diet and fitness guidelines, as well as a checklist for the time you’re away.  What holds you to your plan while you’re at home? Do you put your workouts on your calendar or set an exercise reminder on your phone? Do you have a food list taped to your refrigerator? Do you count calories using an app like MyFitnessPal or FitBit? Be sure to continue using systems that work for you while you’re on vacation. I like to carry a short checklist with me using the Evernote app. Don’t put your systems “on hold” until you return- these tools are important for success and may be challenging to reincorporate into your life if you let them go for a week or two.

2. Prepare ahead by packing some healthy snacks and meals. Almonds, hummus, buffalo mozzarella, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and protein powder are just a few items you can have on hand at the airport and in the hotel. Pack a few snacks in your day bag as well; popular tourist destinations are often surrounded by fast food joints and healthier choices can be tough to find. Invest in a cooler bag and some Tupperware and bring a few pre-prepared lunches with you for the days when you’ll be out and about. Most hotels have refrigerators in the room now, so there's less worry about spoilage. 

3. Do a little research before your holiday. What are some healthy food options that are native to your destination? That way, you’ll still be able to enjoy the cultural experience of dining out while sticking to your plan. Heading to Greece? You can’t go wrong with souvlaki, briam, dakos, and grilled fish! Vacationing in Japan? That’s an easy one- head over to Tsukiji fish market for a sashimi breakfast with free flow green tea. Bouncing over to Malaysia for the weekend? That can be a bit trickier, due to the amount of coconut milk, sugar and butter in many of the dishes. In this case, focus instead on portion control. Don’t deprive yourself, but definitely skip the full portion of char kway teow.

4. If you’ve got the budget for it, book a hotel with a fabulous gym! Make the gym one of the most important factors in choosing where to stay. Is the equipment shiny and new? Are there many machines to choose from? Are classes offered? Is there a pool or a sauna? How about a yoga and pilates studio? Hotels know that fitness services are increasingly important to travelers, especially in Asia! Drool-worthy gyms include the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, the Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong, the Westin in Beijing, and the Conrad in Bali. Be sure to book a nice massage as well!

5. Get your travel partners involved. Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers to success in sticking with new habits can be the people you love the most. Maybe your spouse is always pushing homemade cupcakes your way. Perhaps your best friend is constantly asking you to get a drink with her. Or, maybe your kids regularly leave food on their plates and you feel guilty letting it go to waste. Whatever the case, be sure to have this worked out BEFORE your travel. Usually that means sticking with a new habit or behavior on your own for at least a few months. At this point, the important people in your life will have come to some level of acceptance about the new you.
Sit down with your travel partners before you head on vacation and tell them about your diet and fitness plan. Highlight why it’s so important to you to stick with it and outline a few ways that they can help you while enjoying a vacation together.

6. Tap into an online network of supportive buddies. Before you leave, build a network of online friends who understand the journey you’re on, be it losing weight or quitting smoking or training for an athletic event. Social networking sites like Fitocracy, Bodybuilding.com, Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal are great for discovering like-minded people who are working toward bettering their lives. Nearly all hotels have WiFi these days, so don’t be afraid to take twenty minutes out of your itinerary to connect with a few of your online cheerleaders.

7. Reward yourself for sticking to your plan. Speaking of massages, schedule a few hours at the end of your trip to pamper yourself as a reward for adhering to your diet and exercise plan while you’re away. Maybe a two-hour Ayurvedic massage tickles your fancy, or perhaps you’d like a half day alone to wander around a fabric market or get a tailored suit made. Maybe a poolside mani/pedi is more your speed. Whatever it is, make the reward special- it’s your treat for being being a determined and fabulous traveler!

8. Enjoy life! Give yourself a little wiggle room while you’re on vacation- don’t be so tough on yourself. It’s a vacation, after all! If you usually exercise five days a week for an hour, aim for five days a week for 40 minutes instead while you’re on vacation- you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking anyway. Consider building in a “cheat meal” every 4-5 days to eat what you want within reason. If you’re in Italy, for instance, enjoy a plate of pasta and a gelato. Don’t you dare feel guilty about it!

Be well, and happy travels!

-Aimee

 

Comment

Comment

Setting Up Non-Negotiables for Better Health & Wellbeing

Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. "Forest bathing" is a great non-negotiable!

Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. "Forest bathing" is a great non-negotiable!

It’s a universal conundrum: you’re dead set on adopting a new habit that will inch you closer to the kind of life you’d like to have. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight and want to incorporate exercise into your schedule five days a week. Perhaps decreasing your anxiety is a priority and you know that a daily walk in the park after work would help you unwind. Or, maybe you’d like to spiritually reconnect through a morning prayer or meditation practice. Sticking to this new habit over the first few days usually isn’t too difficult and you may actually start to feel like you’re getting somewhere… but then something always happens that we like to label “life.” Your child comes down with the flu. A coworker’s been fired and you’re stuck holding the bag. Your partner is having a family crisis. The weather’s been terrible. You feel depressed and unmotivated. There’s simply too much to do.

When something always seems to be getting in the way of your goals, a change of strategy is required, as well as a shift in thinking. That’s where “non-negotiables” come in. So, what is a non-negotiable? A non-negotiable is something you incorporate into your life NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. The boss just told you that you have to prepare a gripping, award-winning PowerPoint deck within the next 24 hours? You’re still doing your non-negotiables. In a foul mood and just want to hide under the covers? You’re still doing your non-negotiables. A UFO landed on the rooftop of Takashimaya department store and the aliens are giving out free Chanel handbags? Yes, you’re still doing your non-negotiables. Non-negotiables aren’t only about adopting healthier habits and organizing your day. Non-negotiables teach you the practice of honoring your desires, making time for yourself, and gratefully accepting that taking care of yourself should always be a top priority.

Non-negotiables are always on your calendar, and they are always marked “important.” Reminders about your non-negotiables should be posted on the fridge, your laptop screen, and your work desk. Non-negotiables automatically remove all guilt about having to turn down invitations or needing to postpone any family obligations, if only for a little while. Non-negotiables let the world know that you also matter, and that you’re sticking to your guns this time.

When you decide to set up new non-negotiables, start with one and only one. Once it becomes ingrained, you may slowly add more. As a general rule, practice your non-negotiable for at least 60 days before adding a new one. This isn’t just a habit, it’s a non-negotiable, and that’s a really big deal.

In general, non-negotiables should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. Here are fifteen specific “SMART” examples of health and wellbeing non-negotiables to get your mind buzzing:

1. Engage in at least thirty minutes of moderate exercise every weekday before work.
2. Write one full page in a gratitude journal every evening before bed.
3. Meditate or pray upon waking each morning for twenty minutes.
4. Stretch in the living room for fifteen minutes each evening before dinner.
5. Input daily food consumption every evening at 8pm in a calorie counter (MyFitnessPal is a great tool and it contains nutrition information for nearly every single hawker stall dish available in Singapore).
6. Take a thirty minute walk in nature after work every weekday (the Japanese call this Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest bathing").
7. Call one friend every afternoon during lunchtime.
8. Sit down to eat a healthy breakfast every morning at 7am.
9. Go rock climbing every Saturday with your spouse at Climb Asia.
10. Bike to work every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
11. Participate in a boot camp every Saturday morning.
12. Have an adventure date with your significant other every Friday night at 8pm.
13. Spend one hour walking with your dog each evening after dinner.
14. Take a dance class every Thursday and Sunday.
15. Eat two pieces of fresh fruit each day- one with breakfast and one with lunch.

Now that you have a few ideas, I hope you’ll adopt a few “non-negotiables” of your own. I have three that frame each day for me: 20-30 minutes of meditation each morning after my shower, a minimum one hour of exercise six days a week, and a prayer of gratitude each night before I go to bed. They are the fuel of each day, and they ensure that I take good care of myself so that I can better care for others!

Do you have any non-negotiables? Would you like to establish some? Have any questions about setting up non-negotiables and keeping them? Leave your comments down below. I’d love to hear from you!

Comment

Substituting Your Habits

1 Comment

Substituting Your Habits

Steep climb, incredible view.

Steep climb, incredible view.

 
When I began my journey to quit smoking and drinking five years ago, I felt like the anchor that tethered my sense of self to the Earth had been violently yanked out from the sea bottom and hurled into outer space. There I was, drifting through the atmosphere, angry, nauseous and directionless. Smoking and drinking had been a ritual for many years, my bookends to each day.  As soon as I woke up, I’d pour myself a cup of coffee and sit on my patio stoop in my pajamas with a pack of cigarettes and a stinky glass ashtray. On my morning walk to the train, I’d puff away, rushing to finish before I reached the platform. After work was done, I could officially relax when I poured my first drink around 7pm— almost always a glass of wine in my kitchen or at a neighborhood bar. My pack of cigarettes would be emptied between the first glass and the last, and I’d usually drag myself to the convenience store just before bedtime to buy another pack for the next morning. Day in and day out, these were the habits that set the pulse of my life. Deciding to give it all up was like losing both my identity and my oxygen. There were times when I just swung there, suffocating in space. The deprivation was overwhelming.

In those first few raw weeks, I began to figure out that running around the block whenever I wanted to smoke or drink would alleviate some of the physical and mental discomfort I was experiencing. This was my personal introduction to the concept of “habit substitution,” one of the primary techniques of behavior modification. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew was that running around the block was molding me into an actual runner (and eventually, a marathoner), and that runners generally don’t smoke and drink to excess, and that I was starting to feel better. By substituting a bad habit with one that is healthier or more positive, it's very difficult to continue to embrace the negative behavior. Can you imagine crossing the finish line with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other? Or racing with an ashtray mouth and a hangover? Not going to happen.

When it comes to breaking habits, too many well-intentioned people dole out the same tired advice about “willpower” and “white knuckling it” and “toughening up.” For many of us, deprivation is just a short cut to another failed attempt. Substitution, however, has shown success across all types of habits. If you’re looking to change your behavior and in essence, your life (after all, we are our habits), here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Divert yourself from your bad habit by substituting it for a more positive one that is somewhat similar in execution, movement or sensation. Smoking was my primary bad habit, and it often triggered my urge to drink. The two eventually went hand in hand. With both, I was inhaling deeply, engaged in movement and allowed some quiet time to explore my mind. I’m a fidgety, high-energy person, and smoking and drinking gave me something to do. Similarly, running gets me in touch with my breath while burning off excess energy, and giving me time to be alone with my thoughts. In “The Power of Habit,” author Charles Duhigg writes that “to change an old habit you must address an old craving. You have to keep the same cues and rewards as before, and feed the craving by inserting a new routine.” So, if you eat habitually after work, you may wish to try investing in a juicer and making yourself a fresh squeezed, tasty juice to indulge in instead. If you’re snacking at your office desk to cope with stress, consider doing a quick set of pushups whenever the urge strikes.
  • Find a community that embraces your new habit and join them! If you’ve decided to take up running, for instance, there are many runners groups from beginner to advanced levels sprinkled across Singapore. Here’s a list to get you started. If dancing is more your speed, take up some classes to keep yourself on track and make supportive new friends. There are groups for any positive habit these days, whether it be weightlifting, knitting, swimming, meditation, juicing, rock climbing or even parachuting. If you're worried about being new and not knowing what you're doing, remember that EVERYONE starts EVERYTHING they do at the very beginning.
     
  • Be gentle on yourself. If a new behavior doesn’t stick, try something else.  There’s no reason to beat yourself up. Changing bad habits takes time. It took me a full year between deciding to quit smoking and drinking and actually quitting smoking and drinking for good. While some people are able to quit their bad habits “cold turkey,” they are in the minority. For most, it requires trial and error, patience, and persistence. Make a creative list of some habits you’d like to adopt and activities you’d be interested in trying. You never know what you might become!
     

 

Have a question or comment about habits? I'd love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments section.  

-Aimee 

1 Comment

© Tangram Fitness 2013