Monday, September 17, 2012
The importance of goal-setting!
Itís in almost every weight loss article I have read in the last couple of years. Advice on this subject is given in abundance by every fitness and nutrition expert.
ďSet your goals today.Ē
ďKeep your goals small and realistic.Ē
ďWrite down your goals.Ē
ďShare your goals with friends or family so that they can keep you accountable.Ē
ďMake a vision collage of your goals.Ē
ďBe flexible with your goals.Ē
Advice, which, in most cases, is valuable and foolproof. But what about the nature of the goals? When it comes to weight loss what kind of goals should we set?
Most of us have started our journeys using the scale as a starting point for our goal-setting technique. ďI want to lose 10 pounds/5 kg/10% of my body weight by Christmas/my birthday/summer vacation.Ē Or we make it even shorter: 2 pounds this week. And I canít help but wonder: Even if we do everything right, how sure are we to reach this goal? There are hundreds of times that Iíve come across blogs from frustrated people wondering ďWhy didnít the scale move? I didnít do anything wrong!Ē Simply because our bodiesí chemistry is much more complicated than ďcalories in-calories outĒ. There is no diet and no program in the world that can guarantee a specific weight loss for every person that tries it. So, are we setting ourselves up for disappointment when our goals revolve around the scale?
During my journey I set a lot of fitness goals. I entered the world of fitness being utterly unfit! I could only dream of being able to do jumping jacks for two minutes. But I did. I couldnít picture myself doing ten real push-ups. But I did. I finished three three-month DVD bootcamps. I never imagined myself running on the treadmill. And now Iím training for a 5K.
I would be a liar if I told you that I had no scale goals during this time. The number on the scale and its fluctuations were always at the back of my mind. But thatís where I kept them. I would put fitness goals in front, make them ďlouderĒ in my mind and focus on them. They were always there to help me get over the scale disappointment. They were something I was fully responsible for. My physical abilities Ė which could only get better Ė and my commitment to exercise. No metabolism rates, unwanted water retention or any other complex body chemistry mechanisms included.
As I slowly enter maintenance period Ė aka the rest of my life Ė goal-setting with no scale numbers involved becomes even more important. We canít keep losing weight forever! But if youíve had the gain-it-all-back experience at least once in your life, you know how important it is to stay fitness and health motivated. And the scale canít help you here. Thereís not much fun in seeing it stuck to a number, nothing to work towards. Fitness possibilities, on the other hand, seem endless. Thereís always something new to try.
But the scale-free goal-setting technique doesnít have to be about exercise only. There are many nutritional goals you can start with or try to adopt even if you have reached your weight goal. Eat a certain amount of fruit or vegetables a day for a week, try a new healthy recipe each weekend, eat a healthy breakfast every morning and make a big streak out of it, you name the change in your nutritional habits. And set a goal or more out of it. And while you focus on succeeding with your goals, a lot of other changes will be taking place within you. Changes that will get you closer to a healthy and balanced lifestyle that weíre all here for.
And the scale? Believe me, eventually it will have no other option but to follow!!!
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
As I was writing this, an old song came to mind: ďThere is something strange, in the neighborhoodÖĒ But donít rush to call the Ghostbusters! The change isnít frightening at all. On the contrary, itís quite promising!
Our neighborhood is a typical city one. The apartment building we live in is situated right next to a busy street, so our life has a constant soundtrack of various traffic noises. A few evenings ago, the sanity-threatening symphony of car honks, roaring engines and sirens suddenly stopped. And I donít mean it stopped for a minute or two which would be normal but it had stopped for quite a while, so that the silence could reach not only our ears but our brains, as well. We rushed to the balcony to discover the source of this newly-acquired and so ear-and-mind-soothing silence. And we stared in amazement! The cars had vanished! The road was full of bicycles!
We had seen them before. People who like bikes, get organized through Facebook and go on evening rides around the city, while having fun and motivating others to use bikes at the same time. We used to see groups of 20 or 30 people. But this time, there were hundreds of them! People of all ages, mothers with toddlers in separate seats, couples, families with children, teenagers. All those people getting fitness-conscious and environment-conscious at the same time! What a nice surprise!
My girls were thrilled! They stared with eyes wide-open to the sparkling bicycle lights and the illuminating wheels in the darkness. And when my elder daughter spoke, I couldnít believe my ears: ďMom, I know what I want for my birthday: I want you and dad to buy bicycles, so we can do this together!...!!!
(Momís ear-to-ear smile glittering with pride: My children are fitness-motivated!)
Unfortunately, bikes are expensive and not affordable at the moment. But thatís probably the only bad thing I can think of. Letís see the facts on cycling:
- On a bicycle you can have your cake and eat it. Simply because a moderate half-hour commute will burn eight calories a minute, equivalent to 11kg of fat in a year! So, cycling burns an average of 480 calories per hour! Not bad for a seated activity, is it?
- An adult cyclist typically has a level of fitness equivalent to someone 10 years younger and a life expectancy two years above the average. No wonder countries with the highest levels of cycling and walking generally have the lowest obesity rates. Feel younger, look younger and actually live longer!
- On a bicycle you use a motor and you can improve its strength and efficiency - and even its working life - the more you cycle! Which motor? Your heart, of course!
- Using a bicycle means caring for our big home, the planet! Bicycle traffic in Copenhagen prevents 90,000 tons of CO2 from being emitted annually!
- You can park about 15 bicycles in the same space that one car takes. No more parking tickets!
- A bicycle can really shrink your car vehicle maintenance expenses. Maintaining a bike annually costs twenty times less than maintaining and riding a car. Oh, and rising gas prices? On a bicycle you can travel up to 1037 km on the energy equivalent to a single liter of petrol! Because you simply use up fewer watts of energy than a car consumes just to power its lighting system for the same distance.
-The bicycle is the most efficient vehicle ever devised; a human on a bicycle is more efficient (in calories expended per kilo and per kilometer) than a train, truck, airplane, boat, car, motorcycle or jet pack. In simple words, it can - theoretically, of course - take you further than any other vehicle without pit-stops!
To sum up all benefits:
Unfortunately, not all cities are cyclist-friendly, and as a result, many accidents Ė some serious ones Ė increase the risks of riding a bicycle in a city. If we add the driversí carelessness to the lack of cycling lanes Ė many drivers are not properly educated on how a cyclist should be treated on the road Ė the dangers involved rise significantly. And thatís the second bad thing I can think of, but thatís as far as it gets.
But things are changing and thatís such a promising fact. I really hope I managed to make you think about it. Even for seconds. Toy with the idea of a change in your means of transportation. Become a kid again. And enjoy the best of both worlds at the same time. If not, if you really canít imagine yourself without a car, itís ok. Just think twice the next time youíll find yourself next to a cyclist on the road. Theyíre going somewhere Ė like you do Ė but in a way which protects our planet, the home we all live in. They deserve their safety. And we all deserve chances to live better in a healthier planet, donít you think so?
For more interesting facts on bicycles, check out these sites:
Tuesday, September 04, 2012
This blog is about ďtimeĒ.
And itís about time we saw this fitness factor in its real dimensions.
And cross it off the list of excuses once and for all.
And Iím talking to you, the person who claims thereís no free time in your daily schedule for exercise. Youíre too busy with work, family, errands and you just canít find the time for a quick workout. Well, Iím sorry, your excuse is about to get self-destroyed!
Every creature on this planet is given exactly 24 hours daily. So, unless you live in a parallel universe where an ugly, torturing, time-eating monster is making your life difficult, you have the same amount of time as every other businessman, businesswoman, working parent, student, the list of busy people goes on. You need 20 minutes of your day to start a workout routine. Thatís 1.4% of your daily time. And you need to repeat it 4 times a week which is 0.8% of your weekly time! So, youíre so busy you actually canít devote less than one hundredth of your week in order to improve your health and the quality of your life? Are you trying to fool everyone around here or just yourself?
I know what youíre going to say. I donít know, I have no right to talk, Iím a stay-at-home-mom, what do I know about busy schedules? I have lots of time to kill, Iíve been ďaccusedĒ of that before. And youíre probably right. I have much more free time than you. But does this mean that you donít have any? At all?
Donít you ever watch TV? Donít you log in to Facebook or Sparkpeople? Donít you read the newsí headlines? Donít you check e-mails? Donít you ever read a book or a magazine? Donít you talk on the phone with a friend? Whether you do one or all of the above, you certainly can trade 20 minutes of these activities for a healthier, stronger and fitter version of yourself, canít you?
One of two things are happening. Either you donít like physical activity and youíre just using this answer every time the subject comes up, or you have let this false belief - that exercise needs lots of time - keep you away from all the benefits that working out has to offer. If you belong to the first category, you should research your options once again. There are unlimited ways to put exercise in your life and maybe youíll stop wanting to use the ďtime-excuseĒ if you find something that suits you.
If youíve been led to a misunderstanding about time and exercise, and youíve comfortably used it to avoid any fitness activities, itís time to reconsider.
Your excuse is not valid anymore.
You can find a new one.
Or stop needing one.
Monday, August 27, 2012
I still remember myself running in high school.
And when the pictures come back to me I feel out of breath like I felt back then. As much as no other kid in school. And I still see myself being the slowest than any other kid and crossing the finish line last after everyone else had already cooled down. When I finished high school I was particularly happy that the physical education classes were a thing of my past!
Ever since then I never tried running for exercise again. And when I had to run for a reason, it always felt awful.
Watching sports that involved running, on the other hand, has always been my absolute favorite! Track running, marathons, sprints, hurdles, relays, you name it, I love, love, love watching! But I always believed that running is only for them. For athletes!
When I joined Sparkpeople and I met some of my best Sparkfriends who were experienced runners, I realized I was wrong all this time. Running is for anyone who has legs and a healthy heart. My heart has been playing games with me ever since I was 20 years old. Thatís when those sudden, fast, heart-fluttering feelings started. But thereís nothing wrong with it. At least thatís what doctors have told me after many thorough exams for years. Itís just how my heart reacts to stress, physical or mental and itís not at all dangerous. Yet, it happens, itís frightening and it gives me another reason to be scared to run fast.
At the start of my fitness attempts while being a Sparkpeople member, I tried running on the treadmill once. It was so weird. I felt I would trip over and fall all the time! I thought it would take seconds for me to land with my face down like those funny compilation videos we watch on the internet Ė I never laugh with these by the way, I always feel sorry for them.
All of the above sum up my inner fears for running Ė for those of my Sparkfriends who were curious what Iím scared of. But this summer I was determined. I would go for my first run outside.
I hope you all runners out there wonít think Iím stupid that I chose the oddest circumstances to do so! High altitude, mountain village (either uphill or downhill Ė no straight road!) and on a humid day! Well, I needed inspirational scenery and that was the only choice I had. I put on my new HRM and I set off.
I chose downhill Ė the other way seemed scary. The beginning of the road was a bit steep so I walked to warm up and once it got a bit smoother I started running. It was late in the afternoon, the sun had begun to set behind the mountains and you could actually ďseeĒ the humidity around the sun rays escaping through the sparse clouds. It felt great! I had no music with me and all I could hear was the sounds of nature. It was just me, the mountains and their beauty. Exactly as I wanted it to be.
I ran for about 2 km. The HRM reading reached 180 at some point but I didnít feel as much out of breath as I expected to. On my way back I chose to walk.
The next day I could feel the downhill road taking its revenge on my shins. But I really didnít mind. I knew that if I had gone uphill instead, I would have been disappointed and maybe too frustrated to want to go running again.
Back to the city my options are limited to say the least. My neighborhood is not runner-friendly, I have to get two different buses to go to the closest park and all the track fields around are not open to public. But, at least Iíve got a treadmill. Itís not my favorite option but, for now, it'll do - as long as I manage not to fall! I just finished my first week of the 5K training. The plan is to finish it by November when the Athens classic marathon is scheduled and Iíd really like to take part in the 5K race of the day. I have so many things to learn and I keep reading all my friendsí race blogs trying to find all the required motivation. I have to thank you all for the feedback and the invaluable support youíre giving me.
Iím trying to discover the runner deep inside me.
And in case she doesnít exist, Iím going to have to create her!
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