32 Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness Tip #27

32 Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness

#27 How To Stay Accountable With The Calendar Challenge

What do we do when we know that nutrition is the biggest aspect of health that we need to focus on to make progress towards our fitness goals, but struggle doing it?

The Calendar Challenge

This simple challenge will help you to implement a habit to improve your nutrition, and a simple reward system that helps you make the habit a part of your lifestyle.

First, set a nutrition goal (no alcohol on weekdays, no refined sugar, add 20-30 grams of protein to your breakfast, eat a vegetable with each meal, eat a vegetable etc.). Think about one thing that, once you do it every day, will help you to transform your nutrition for the better.

Second, print out a calendar sheet for this month, stick it on the fridge, and draw a blank check box in each day. For every day you successfully complete your nutrition goal: add a big red X mark in the square.

Don’t break the chain! Try for big streaks of days with no lapse in the chain of check marks.

The book Atomic Habits, tells the story of how Jerry Seinfeld used this strategy to become one of the most successful comedians of all time! Seinfeld, knowing that consistency was the most important thing to reach our goals, put up a giant 365 day calendar on his wall, and every day he did his writing task, he would put a large red X for that day.

It didn’t matter if he felt like writing, or didn’t feel like writing, he had to write so he could earn his big red X!

We can use the calendar challenge to create small habit changes in our own lives. Start with a challenge that is challenging, but doable. Stick with this challenge for 30 days, 3 months, or the entire year. Once we make this small habit a part of our lifestyle, we can switch to another habit, and another.

This challenge works great for nutrition goals, but we can use it for any goal that requires a process of daily commitment: be in bed by 9:30pm each night, drink half our bodyweight in ounces of water each day, etc.

The calendar challenge is a simple solution to help us stay accountable so we can finally implement the changes we need for to reach our health and fitness goals!

32 Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness Tip #26

32 Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness

#26. The Science of Longevity

What are the three main indicators of longevity?

1. Build More Muscle
2. Reduce Body Fat
3. Improve your V02 Max

Build muscle!

To live longer healthier lives we need to look at overall body composition, specifically we need to build muscle mass! “The greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death,” said Dr. Arun Karlamangla a co-author on the study of body mass and longevity.

How to build muscle (in a nutshell): Include resistance training in your workouts, add more protein to your diet, eat carbs and protein before & after your workouts, get more sleep.

Reduce body fat and you’ll live longer!

Studies show the relationship between excess body weight and early mortality is clear. Excess body fat is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.

How to Reduce Body Fat (in a nutshell): Eat in a slight caloric deficit, increase your workouts, sleep at least 7 hours, manage stress & anxiety, and drink enough water to live optimally.

Improve your V02 Max

Our VO2 Max, a measure of aerobic fitness (how our body utilizes oxygen for high intensity workouts), is a single measurement that is associated with heart disease risk, all-cause mortality, and even cancer-related deaths. One study found that the higher levels of VO2 Max extended life by about 5 years!

How to improve your V02 Max (in a nutshell): add more cardio & high intensity interval training to your workouts. When we challenge the heart, lungs, and bones to deliver oxygen during high intensity workouts, we adapt by improving our aerobic systems and improve our VO2 max.

None of us can predict when it is our time to die, but when we improve these three markers for longevity: 1. increase muscle mass, 2. reduce body fat, 3. improve our V02 Max, we might just live a little longer, and we will certainly be healthier & fitter individuals during our remaining years!

CrossFit helps us with all 3!
1. Resistance training to help us build muscle.
2. Cardio & HIIT workouts to help us improve our VO2 max.
3. High power output workouts that increase our net energy expenditure to help us lose body fat!

32 Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness Tip #25

32 Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness

#25. You Are Moving 24 Hours a Day!

The positions we are in 24 hours of the day creates the story of how we are as movers. Our standing posture, sitting posture, sleeping posture, etc. all play a role in our health and movement patterns.

Most of us think movement = working out. And we pay attention to how we are moving during our workouts: we want good form during our workouts, we stretch in accordance with the workout of the day, etc.

But when we rethink movement to be the positions we are putting our bodies in 24 hours of the day (how we sit in a chair or car, how we hold our kids, how we pick up our laundry baskets, etc).

Stand Right to Win Back Your Positions

We often stand… like we are lazy, tired, stressed: head and shoulders slumped forward, mid back rounded, over-arching our low backs (anterior pelvic tilt).

When we stand intentionally we: have our butt a little bit squeezed to make sure our pelvis is neutral, head tall to make sure our head is not round forward stressing out our neck and back, shoulders pulled back a little so that we maintain healthy shoulders.

Sit Right to Stay Healthy

We often have our butt too far away from the back of the seat, which causes us to round our lower back (posterior pelvic tilt). And we sit too much for too long which causes our hip flexors to get tight.

At work, invest in a good char that helps you to sit up-right, and promotes a neutral pelvis. In a car or seat, start by sitting your butt all the way to the back of the chair, and then down, so you sit upright, and maintain your curve in your low back.

Get up and move! Set a timer so that every 20 minutes or so you have a habit of getting out of your chair, and moving around. Hit some quick hip stretches to restore your movement so that you stay healthy.

When we think of how we are moving 24 hours a day we can stand, sit, sleep, and move intentionally so that we stay healthy and live optimally!

32 Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness Tip #24

32 Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness

#24. Massage, Physical Therapy, & Chiropractic Care

Cars need a lot of maintenance: oil changes, engines tuned, timing realigned, tires rotated, fluids filled, etc. And most of us pay a professional to do these things because they have the knowledge, tools, and experience to do the job better and faster than us.

Our bodies can be vastly more complicated than, and I hope we value them more than our cars. A professional body worker (masseuse, physical therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, etc.) can help keep us healthy, fix our movement issues, so that we can move pain free, and do all of the physical activities that help us too thrive.

A great masseuse can help determine your mobility restrictions, work on your tissue to help you move better, break up fascial restrictions, reduce scar tissue, all so that you can move better and feel better.

The practice of chiropractic care has changed over the years. Some chiropractors specialize in adjustment to restore the nervous system and mechanics of the body. Some chiropractors specialize in movement screens and rehab treatments. Some chiropractors specialize in tissue manipulation/mobilization.

A great physical therapist can determine the underlying cause of your pain or dysfunction, can work on you (if needed) to reverse dysfunction and improve your movement, can teach you what to do between sessions to continue to get better, healthier, stronger.

We only get one body for the rest of our lives, so it pays to invest in getting some professionals to help us with our tweaks, reverse our dysfunction, and keep us healthy!

32 Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness Tip #23

32 Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness

#23. Stretching & Mobility

When we improve our range of motion through stretching, mobility, and stability exercises we move better, perform better in our workouts, and are at lower risk of injury.

If, for example, we have good ankle mobility, we are going to have a better squat, we are going to be able to maintain our balance better during our squat, we are going to reduce our risk of injury during a squat.

Why Do We Get Tight?—Lack of Movement, or Injury.

When we stop moving into ranges of motion that utilize the full capacity our bodies are meant to move into we begin to lose the ability to get there. When we get injured, one of the ways our bodies protect themselves is to reduce movement to safe ranges of motion.

How Do We Improve Our Mobility?

Knowing where we are tight can be tricky. Work with a coach to test your mobility and see where your personal restrictions are. There are basic movement patterns all of us should have access to, and tests that can determine where you are lacking mobility.

Challenge your positions of restriction. When we spend some time in positions that are difficult for our bodies to get into we can create adaptation (over time) and regain these positions.

Have a Daily Practice of Stretching & Mobility

What are your biggest limitations, your biggest trouble spots? Pick 3-4 stretches/mobility drills to do every day for 2 minutes/side to restore your positions and regain your movement. Once you have made progress in these areas, you can prioritize other areas and stretches.

Stretching For Back Pain

Lack of mobility around the hip is one of the causes associated with non specific low back pain (that affects 80% of adults). Stretching to improve hip mobility is shown to help fix low back pain issues.

When we implement a daily habit of stretching & mobility, we move better, feel better, get more out of our daily workouts, reduce back pain, and reduce our risk of injury! Pick 3-4 stretches a day to make consistent change over time.

32 Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness Tip #22

32 Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness

#22. Recovery
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When we recover better from our workouts and the stress of our daily lives we feel better, we think better, and our bodies are better able to perform optimally.⠀
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Recovery is holistic: we need to sleep, eat healthy, drink water, and workout to reduce our stress. Here are 5 Tips to help you recover better so you live as your best, healthiest, full functioning self!⠀
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Tip # 1: Get 8 Hours of sleep each night. During deep sleep our bodies secrete testosterone, and growth hormone. These anabolic hormones allow us to recover, changes our cognition, affects our decision making abilities, aids in memory consolidation, helps motor skills sink in, and reduces inflammation.⠀
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Tip # 2: Get more sun! Lack of sun exposure leads to lack of vitamin D3, which we need to make 5-HTP into Serotonin, Serotonin becomes Melatonin, and Melatonin helps turn off our adrenals so we can get good sleep!⠀
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When we are Vitamin D3 deficient, we are serotonin deficient (which makes us moody), we are melatonin deficient (which causes sleep issues), and we get all of the problems associated with sleep issues.⠀
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Tip # 3: Reduce Alcohol consumption. Alcohol essentially spikes our cortisol, and, similar to taking a sleep drug, we don’t enter into deep sleep and lose all of the benefits and adaptations that happen during deep sleep.⠀
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Tip # 4: Workout to help you sleep better. The right amount of training can increase your sleep pressure—our drive to want to go to sleep. And the higher the sleep pressure, the better quality of sleep we get.⠀
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Tip # 5: Track your Data. Services like the Whoop Watch have data tracking and analysis to help you track things like your sleep (total time in bed, deep sleep cycles, etc.), and your Heart Rate Variability indicating that our nervous system is balanced, and that our body is very capable of adapting to its environment and performing at its best.
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When we recover well we improve how our body functions, so we feel better, we move better, we continue to get healthy and fit. We can start with getting good sleep to recover better, and look at our lives holistically to improve our recovery so we can live optimally.

32 Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness Tip #21

32 Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness

#21. Stress Management
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Stress is in large part the story of cortisol aka, the “Stress Hormone”.⠀
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When we are stressed our bodies increase cortisol, which has been linked to weight gain, including higher levels of visceral fat.⠀
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Stress Stops Healthy Habits. “The link between stress and weight gain is real, mainly because healthy habits like getting enough sleep, exercising and eating a healthy diet are harder to maintain when you feel like you’re maxed out emotionally.” – Dr. Heinberg⠀
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Ways to Manage Stress:⠀
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Exercise pumps up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins, and improves your mood!⠀
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Practice mindfulness training, such as: meditation, prayer, breathing exercises, and journaling.⠀
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Get more physical contact—even as little as 6 seconds of physical contact can help to boost oxytocin, a stress fighting hormone.⠀
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Eat a healthy diet—managing your weight can help to manage your stress, and managing your stress can help to manage your weight.⠀
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Sleep 7-9 Hours a night to recovery well and reduce cortisol levels.⠀
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When we manage our stress we make it easier to lose weight, get more sleep, exercise consistently, and make better nutrition choices. Take time to treat yourself, and use these tips to manage your stress so you can live optimally!

32 Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness Tip #20

32 Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness

#20. How Does Sleep Affect Weight Loss?
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The Research Is In: To reduce bodyfat, you need to get enough sleep.⠀
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Lack of sleep messes with how our bodies regulate hormones, which leads to increased hunger and appetite, and decreased energy for physical activity. When we sleep less we end up eating more and exercising less which leads to significant weight gain.⠀
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We are also less able to resist tempting foods. One study found that increasing sleep amounts reduced sugar intake significantly (by about 10 grams!) Boosting sleep amounts started participants on a trend toward lowering their fat and carbohydrate intake.⠀
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To Improve your sleep, total time in bed is important, so is sleep quality.⠀
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Establish a Night-Time Routine⠀
• Establish a consistent time each night to be in bed.⠀
• Set a reminder at night to begin this new habit.⠀
• Create a routine that begins 1-2 Hours leading up to your ideal bed time.⠀
• Avoid electronic devices/tv before bed.⠀
• Practice journaling/ meditating/ praying, before bed.⠀
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Improve Sleep Quality⠀
• Avoid caffeine & alcohol before bedtime.⠀
• Do not going to bed too full, or too hungry.⠀
• Block out all light. Sleep masks can help.⠀
• Sleep in a comfortable, cool room.⠀
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When we get enough sleep, we eat better, we recover better, we feel better, we get more out of our workouts, and when we add all of these things up we can live better. Rest well to live optimally!

32 Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness Tip #19

32 Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness

#19. How to Drink More Water

Our body needs water for just about every bodily function. When we don’t drink enough water we feel rotten, it affects our mood, and can lead to long term health problems. When we drink enough water we improve our health, our body functions optimally so that we can look good, feel good and live optimally!

The best tip for drinking more water: make it enjoyable. When we like drinking water we are more likely to drink more water. Use an added (non sugar) supplement to your water like Zip Fizz, or Nuun tablets. Infuse your water with your favorite fruits for added flavor and micronutrients!

Tip #2: Make it convenient. Have a water bottle with you at all times. Have a straw top so you don’t even have to take off or open a lid. When we make it as convenient as possible we make it super easy to drink more.

Tip #3: Make a goal. A good start is to try and drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day. Add another 6-8 ounces for every hour you spend in the heat. Add 6-8 ounces for every hour of high intensity workout.

Tip #4: Make sugar free coffee or tea! We used to think coffee and tea are diuretic based on some really shoddy science which has since been debunked. So coffee and tea in moderation count toward your water intake. Just look for healthy options without added sugar!

Tip #5: drink to satisfy thirst. Our bodies are pretty good at letting us know what we need. When you are thirsty drink water. If urine is extra dark, this can be a sign that we are dehydrated and need to drink more. If urine is clear, this can be a sign we are over hydrating and need to make sure we replenish our electrolytes (which really means salt).

If we make drinking water enjoyable, and convenient we can drink enough water to look good, feel good, and live optimally!

32 Tips to Improve Your Health & Fitness Tip #18

32 Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness

#18. Focus on One Healthy Habit Change A Time

Making changes to our busy lives can be difficult! making time to plan out our schedules, track our macros, meal prep, fit in more workouts, etc. can all be overwhelming.

One simple strategy to reach our health and fitness goals, and make consistent progress is to focus on changing one habit at a time.

Every time we perform the habit (getting 30 grams of protein at breakfast, drinking more water during the day, going to bed a half hour earlier each night, etc.) we get to feel successful, we activate the reward hormones in our brain (dopamine), and we want to repeat the habit.

Some healthy habits to try:
• Get in bed at the same time every night.
• Eat at least 30 grams of protein at breakfast
• Spend 15 minutes a day stretching
• Journal for 10 minutes every night before bed
• Eat one vegetable with every meal
• Put your gym clothes out before going to bed

Once we successfully complete the habit enough times, the habit becomes a part of our lifestyle, and we can choose a new habit to work on. We repeat the process of small successful wins again, one habit at a time, to continue working towards our health and fitness goals.