May 15, 2017
For the month of May we’re looking at milestones and personal growth. One of the ways that research shows us we can achieve this is through the completion of something – i.e. being able to tick it off the list – so for this week’s Body blog we’re talking about completing a running race.
There are many races in the calendar year that may take your fancy whether you’re a beginner or more advanced. There are 5km fun walk/runs, the 9km Bridge run, the 14km City to Surf, the Great Ocean Road half marathon, a full marathon, and the 100km Oxfam Trail walk. You can’t say there aren’t options!
Completing any one of these races carries with it a sense of self-achievement, pride and honesty to yourself. Your head can really get the better of you, especially in the longer races, so it’s a great way to get in touch with what you’re trying to achieve and conquer that inner critic.
So here are the top reasons that other people have told us they LIKE competing in races.
1. Motivation for your training. We all tend to fall in the trap of a motivational slump, particularly at this time of year as the mornings are darker and the weather is colder! Registering for a race and committing to it is a great way to pull you out of it and inject new energy into your potentially stale workout. Training for a race doesn’t have to be just all running either. In fact, it SHOULDN’T be. You should be including agility training, strength training along with endurance training to mix up your workout and prepare your body.
PRACTICAL: Write down a realistic race that you want to compete in for 2017.
2. Personal growth. Nothing beats the thrill of crossing the line on your first, fifth or one-hundredth race. Not only will you overcome the physical obstacles, but the mental ones as well. A race, big or small, is more often than not a mental battle to overcome your doubt, questioning, and self-perceived flaws. When you finish the race, for even that split second, those thoughts are quashed and you will notice a change in your own ability to overcome things in your everyday life.
PRACTICAL: Write down your biggest fear in relation to competing in a race. Having it on paper, or sharing it with someone halves the problem and helps you to get back in control over it.
3. A bonding experience. Competing in a race is a great way to bond with family, friends, or even work colleagues. You will get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses leading up to the race through your training, which will not only help you to get through the race but will bring you closer together. Most races allow you to register as a team and build momentum together. It’s a great way to make time to spend with people that you want to get to know better or build a stronger connection with – all while getting fit!
PRACTICAL: Encourage your work colleagues to participate in the next race with you and offer an incentive for when you all finish together.
4. You can support a great cause. Most organised runs have some charity that they are affiliated with, but even if they don’t, you can always start your own fundraising activities for the run. Utilise social media and encourage a bit of friendly competition to see who can raise the most money. You could even put up an prize for the biggest fundraiser in your team!
PRACTICAL: Set a dollar target for yourself or your team on a Facebook page and get fundraising!
5. It boosts your overall health goals. We now know that health is much more than just the physical, but getting the body moving is often the best way to kick start your other health goals. Training for a race requires great nutrition to fuel your training and get the body in peak condition. It also is a great way to master the mind to calm the body, and working on mindset mantras and meditation exercises can really help for preparation and during a race.
PRACTICAL: Write down three health goals that relate to the race and implement them during your training.
We talked last week about having something to be able to say you’ve accomplished for 2017 and a race is a great way to do it. So get researching the race that’s right for you and start training!
Founder of E|B|M Angela has a birthday coming up this week, so in celebration of this we’re talking all things related to milestones.
You’ll commonly see lists like “30 by 30” or “50 by 50” that people set themselves as goals to achieve by a certain timeline. Not only do these lists help to set plans and timelines in place, but they are a fun way to put together a bucket list to do by yourself, with your friends, or with your significant other.
Today we’re putting together a top 10 list that you may find some inspiration for your own list no matter what age you are! The important thing with lists like this is that you only put elements on there that personally relate to you and that you consider important! Find yourself a comfortable space in the sunshine or rugged up on your lounge and get creative.
NOTE this is not a typical “achievement list”; this is looking through the lens of ENERGY|BODY|MIND of creating a healthier and happier YOU.
#1 Set a five and ten year plan: if the word ‘plan’ makes you run in the opposite direction then this one is DEFINITELY for you. As we get older the years seem to absolutely fly by. Before you know it, Christmas is here again and another year is over, but you can’t seem to think about what you’ve achieved in that last 12 months. Having a longer term plan can help time to slow down, with smaller milestones set along the way to achieve the bigger plan. It also means that your decisions become geared towards this goal on a daily basis, and instead of floating through each day, week, month or year, you can depend on your life goals to guide you. You may even put some of these things from the list in it.
#2 Find your significant other: You don’t need to have an engagement or marriage on your list (although if that is important to you then you definitely can!) but finding your significant other is an honourable quest. Finding that one person that you want to spend a majority of your life with and who has similar goals and values to you can make life just that little bit sweeter. However, a huge realisation is that this significant other cannot fulfil ALL your desires from another human. They cannot act as your best friend, confident, lover, philosophical dreamer, lifelong partner, or whatever is on that never ending list. Your significant other is the person you want to share a life with and follow your dreams simultaneously with. They will inherently understand you, respect you, and want the same life goals as you. You’re going to need a whole tribe for everything which takes us to #3.
#3 Create your tribe: They say it takes a community to raise a child so we believe it takes a tribe to raise an adult. You are the result of the top 5 people you spend the most time with, and with time being so precious, choosing those people is crucial to your overall mental and physical health. We talked about finding your tribe but for your list it’s great to seek out people who are in a similar position to you, or ones that are where you are striving to be as an inspiration. Having people in your life that push you and support you will help make this life much more fun.
#4 Fire up those neurons: The neurons are like trees that have beautiful leafy branches stemming off them when we are young. Unfortunately as we get older, these branches start to wilt and some even die and fall off UNLESS we use them. The best way to fire them up and stimulate new growth is to learn a musical instrument or learn a language. It’s a difficult concept for our brain and the effort required is what fires up those trees to be sustainable and grow. Plus it gives you a great excuse to travel!
#5 Travel somewhere you find a little uncomfortable: We’d all like to spend time on a European holiday relaxing in the sunshine with not a care in the world. While those holidays are great, it’s also good to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try a holiday that makes you a little bit uncomfortable. It can be somewhere with a different culture, a different language, or maybe just a different timezone but in any case, it’s somewhere that will help you to develop a cultural awareness and give you personal growth. Ideas include spending time meditating in India, or volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro! We’re not saying find somewhere unsafe, just something that pushes you a little outside your comfort zone; that’s where the magic happens.
#6 Start saving and pay off your debt: In the day and age of credit cards it seems all too easy to just buy things that you can’t afford “right now” in the hope/anticipation that you will get the money in the future. Some of the most successful people have cut up their credit cards and live ONLY off what they have in the bank. Having debt on a credit card not only puts you behind the eight ball for future savings but it acts like a constant dark cloud of any spending. Work out a 1 month, 6 month, 12 month plan of paying off the debt and then start to put away savings each week for something in your longer term plans. It’s amazing what just a little bit now adds up to.
#7 Find an interesting hobby: Do you have a hobby at the moment? You’d be one of the few. It’s amazing to talk to people who HAVE a hobby compared to those who don’t. The passion and flow of conversation that a hobby can create is contagious and extremely attractive. It could be something extravagant like sailing, or something simple like cooking. In either case, it’s something that inspires you and drives you to learn.
#8 Learn how to cook: You don’t have to be on Masterchef but learning how to cook can change your life. Not only will your finances be much better off if you’re not having weeknight dinners out and brunches every Saturday but you’ll know what’s going into the foods you’re eating and be in a greater position to meet your health goals. Plus, doing a cooking class or course is a fun outing to do with friends!
#9 Complete a sporting event: This doesn’t have to just be for the fitness fanatics out there! There are LOTS of sporting events available for any level from a 5km fun run to an ironman triathlon. Participating in a sporting event gives you a goal to work towards and also provides a great personal sense of achievement when you complete it. Once you start, it often creates the momentum for bigger and better ones in the future and you can introduce some fun competition with others to get involved.
#10 Give your time: Purpose and passion are two of the greatest traits that we are all in search of. While it’s not possible for us all to have our dream job that means we wake up looking forward to Monday’s, we can however determine what happens during our own time. Volunteering your time for a cause near and dear to you will heighten your own sense of worth but also provide an invaluable asset to those in need. Even better, make it a regular occurrence; do it once a week, a month, or even a year.
This list goes fundamentally to your self development to help you to be a better person not only for others, but also for yourself. If we stop growing, we die, both in the physical and the mental sense. So keep striving for better.
Wrapping up the month on synchronicity and listening to your intuition, we’ve secured yogi Nicole Belliveau from the Byron Yoga Centre to take us through her little tips and tricks. Nicole started yoga at a young age now is a host and teacher at the Byron Yoga Centre. She also trained as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and is passionate about all things health and wellness.
So let’s get into the interview!
Nicole can you tell us a little about your background and how you wound up at the Byron Yoga Centre?
I am a Canadian who grew up with an active lifestyle but poor quality food. Somewhere in the transition from mcnuggets to quinoa, I took a leap and studied Holistic Nutrition. While learning about food science and the healing benefits of whole foods, real transformation happened. Now as a Holistic Nutritionist, I have a much healthier relationship with food and nourish myself with an organic plant-based diet.
I started practicing yoga at a young age almost 10 years ago. It started off as another form of physical exercise but slowly I started to feel the benefits on deeper levels. On my mat was the first time I truly connected with myself. It is where a lot of my healing and self-love happens.
In January 2016, I arrived at the Byron Yoga Centre to study and become a yoga teacher. After the course finished, I asked to volunteer for a few weeks to soak in all the knowledge I gained and the beauty of the centre. Over a year later, I still haven’t left! I now have the privilege to be one of the Retreat Hosts; I teach some yoga classes and wellness workshops, ensure the retreats run smoothly and most importantly that the guests are happy and relaxed. I feel blessed every day to be in a position that allows me to grow in a healthy environment surrounded by like-minded people.
Wow what a journey to end up there permanently. It’s funny how life takes us to the places we need. How do you keep balanced and centred with so much going on? What’s your secret tip?
I don’t have one specific tip but rather a combination of habits that make up a healthy lifestyle that invites vitality and clarity to take the best step forward. I make an effort to eat nutrient-dense living foods, practice meditation and yoga, ensure adequate sleep, spend time in nature and fill my mind with content that inspires me to be and live better. Some days I slip off the health wagon but i’ve learned to accept this and not be too hard on myself. Reminding myself what I am grateful for, to breathe deeply and be present helps me stay positive and get back on track.
It’s nice to know that even yogi’s can fall off the bandwagon – makes us mere mortals feel a little better! We’re talking a lot about synchronicity and intuition this month. That can include things like finding your own tribe with similar interests, listening to what your body needs for nutrition, choosing the movement exercises that work for you, and finding time for yourself. Can you tell us a little bit about how you have tapped into your intuition?
For me, tapping into our intuition is connecting to our true self, in the present and using it to guide our thoughts and actions. When we are aligned with this inner wisdom, it is easier to recognize what will serve our highest good and purpose. Our intuition always speaks to us but sometimes there are distractions that get in the way.
When I feel disconnected, I make an effort to get out of my head to reduce the noise it creates and get more into my heart. Often this takes place with eyes closed, breathing deeply, focusing on my heart space on my mat, immersed in nature or reading with a lit candle and herbal tea. Books such as Rebecca Campbell’s Light is the New Black and Caroline Myss’s Anatomy of the Spirit, have helped me see the world in a whole new light and tap into parts of myself I didn’t know existed.
Getting out of the “should” mentality and more into exploring how I truly want to feel, helps to gain clarity and be in the flow of life. I also find that when I let myself write organically in my journal, I connect to what I need to be reminded of. To stay true to my authenticity, I will add that I am still working on all of this. The more I practice these rituals, the more I spend time in connection with my intuition and synchronicity happens.
It seems like continuing to learn and grow is so important for all of us. So from a yogi’s point of view, what are the best ways to being open to and listening to your own intuition?
Patanjali’s Yoga sutras teach us to apply the principles of Ashtanga (8 limbs). Included in these steps are how to live a meaningful and purposeful life, compassion for self and others, self-discipline, mindfulness, pranayama (breath exercises), meditation, asana and eventually for some, enlightenment. His teachings are very in depth but some key points are mindfulness, deep breathing, reflecting before reacting, and moving the body to eliminate stagnant energy. When the limbs are practiced, openness and intuition can flow with ease.
That point you made about the “should” mentality is a trap many of us fall into! We need to really disassociate ourselves with that and focus on what we really want. So finally Nicole what would be your top three tips for a corporate worker trying to align themselves with their future goals and vision?
1. CLARITY: For true alignment to happen, the goals need to be in sync with our true desires. Once we get clear on how we want to feel, we can use this as our compass rather than what we “should” be going for. Having clarity on HOW to reach the vision is also essential to achieving the goals. There is something powerful about writing on paper our goals and the actions step necessary to make them happen. Being realistic, taking it one step at a time and writing a date to have them accomplished by will help the transition towards the end goals.
2. PERSONAL GROWTH: “To have more than you’ve got, become more than you are” –Jim Rohn. By investing in ourselves with books, podcasts, documentaries and people that stimulate us to grow and change our mindsets, our lives change radically. Happiness is an inside gig – Our perceptions, thoughts and beliefs are what shape our lives. By changing our internal world, the outside world becomes aligned with our energy and the grass gets greener.
3. SELF-LOVE: To remind ourselves that we are GOOD ENOUGH. To have compassion and kindness towards ourselves along the journey. Even if the process doesn’t go as planned or we make mistakes, all is well. Underlying the actions, there needs to be love and trust. Self-love also includes taking time for ourselves and resting (which is very different to laziness). In our busy go-go-go lives, we need to create balance by slowing down and recharging ourselves. Learning to receive, saying no to the things that do not serve us and putting ourselves first are also part of this loving process.
All points that I need to remind myself of!
Thanks so much for your time Nicole it’s been a pleasure.
Photo credit: Simon Hunter simonhunterphotography.com
Ever feel like you’re the odd one out of your tribe? Like you are trying to grow and develop yourself everyday, week, and month, and no one is there with you? You may have started (or mastered) meditating, you exercise consistently every week, and you’re eating the best foods to fuel your body.
Your tribe are the people you spend the majority of your time with – your family, your friends, your partner. These people have the biggest impact on your habits, lifestyle, and quality of life. If you are not synchronised with them, then it can make you feel a little out of whack.
For example, research has shown that obesity has become a ‘socially contagious’ disease, spreading among people like a virus. In married couples, when one spouse becomes obese, the risk to the other increases by 37%. Among siblings, the risk is 40%. And it’s worse among friends – for casual friends the risk raises by 57%; for close friends, the risk almost triples (see more on this here).
So what do you do about this? How can you get your tribe synchronised to your ideal lifestyle?
1. Lead by example. Just because your tribe aren’t eating kale, running marathons, and meditation gurus doesn’t mean they can’t be (or a more realistic version!). Share with them the benefits that you are feeling from your own healthy habits. Tell them how much more energy you have, calmer you feel, lighter you are. If obesity is contagious, so are healthy habits, so it can work both ways.
Encourage and invite them to try the healthy habits with you. Instead of going to a burger place for dinner, take them to a healthier option. Replace a morning coffee with a walk. Crowd out mindlessly watching TV or a movie with a guided meditation that you can do together.
There are lots of options out there that you already know about (and are possibly already doing!) and you can act as your tribe’s own coach to spread the good vibes.
2. Change your tribe. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If #1 fails, it may be time to take a hard look at your tribe. While you can’t choose your family, you can certainly choose your life partner and your friends.
Clara* is a prime example of consciously choosing her tribe. She moved to Sydney and got caught up in a group (and a partner) that prioritised partying and drinking over meditation and smoothies and she felt the impact it was having on her own quality of life. So she proactively started seeking out activities that she wanted to do for herself. It was here that she found her new tribe and her life was turned around.
While finding new friends or a new partner can seem overwhelming, you don’t have to leave the old ones behind immediately. Just start to venture into new activities (you can even try #1 again with some of your friends!) and see where the universe takes you.
3. Run your own race. At the end of the day, this is your life. You decide how you want it to be. If you believe that you can make the healthy choices on your own despite the fact that your partner wants to order a burger and fries, then do it.
There are people who can make their own decisions and not be influenced by those around them. If you’re happy to have a healthy meal while your nearest and dearest are having burger and fries then you run your own race!
So learn to love your tribe or leave them. Either way, make the decision that is right for you, your health, and your happiness!
*Name changed for confidentiality.
This week we’re interviewing Kat Jacob. Kat’s a passionate personal trainer who is doing some amazing things with her own training. She works with many corporate clients, so this week we’re talking to her about how exercise can help relieve stress and what types of exercise are best for that whether you’re a beginner or more advanced.
So let’s jump right into this interview with Kat:
So Kat, tell us a little about your background and how you became a personal trainer?
I’ve been passionate about health and fitness for as long as I can remember; I always loved being active and been interested in nutrition. Over the last few years I found that my ‘actual’ job – Event Producer – was impacting more and more on that lifestyle; the years of working long hours and late nights started to take its toll and I became stressed and sick.
I started questioning whether I was in the right job – I was producing amazing events, but it started to feel meaningless and the risk of giving up a safe income and changing careers very quickly became less scary than the thought of staying in the events industry for the rest of my life.
I happened to be introduced to the right person at around that time, which led me to take the leap and start on my journey to becoming a PT. I have now quit the events industry altogether and can honestly say it was the best decision I’ve made – there are challenging times and the money is nowhere near the same yet, but I am a much happier & healthier person and finally feel like I’m helping people change their lives in a positive way.
That certainly is a leap of faith! You now do a range of different training regimes yourself? Can you tell us a little more about them and why you do so many?
I love having variety in my workouts – it keeps me motivated and to me is much more fun than doing the same thing every day. I’m also a big believer in that we need to keep challenging our bodies to get stronger & fitter – by exposing it to a variety of activities & exercises we allow our bodies to grow in a much broader way. It also helps aid recovery between big sessions to give those movement patterns you just worked very hard a break and get the body moving in a different way.
The majority of my training is based on Gymnastic Strength Training – lots of handstands, bodyweight strength training, rings etc. with a big focus on mobility. There is a lot of variety within this style of training, and I love the strategic approach of working towards set goals (i.e. a muscle up) – it pushes me to get better and work hard. I like mixing things up on my rest days with touch football, surfing / swimming, hiking or the odd run.
Wow that certainly is a lot! How do you keep up with all your different training schedules with so much going on? What’s your secret tip for fitting it all in?
I’m actually German and used to be an event producer so being organised comes with the territory! But in all seriousness, for me it’s all about planning ahead and having a set schedule of what to do when & where. I plan my sessions in 6 week cycles, and each session is written down so when I go to the gym I just need to open up that notebook and know exactly what I’ve got to do that day to stay on track.
It means I don’t have to think about it when I get there but can focus my energy on the session, and it holds me accountable on those days where I’m feeling tired. I also meet up with a mate a couple of times a week and we train together – we teach each other new stuff, play with different exercises, spot each other and just generally make sure the other one pushes (or rests!) when we need to.
That’s a great tip about planning your workouts in advance. It takes the effort out of trying to think what you’re going to do when you actually get to the gym which sometimes feels like half the workout!
So this month we’re talking a lot about stress and mental health. Can you tell us how exercise helps with that?
Exercise is proven to reduce our bodies stress hormones – adrenaline and cortisol – and stimulates the production of endorphins, the chemicals in our brain that act as natural pain killers and help lift our mood.
Exercise can also help take your mind off things and shift your focus, and some exercises can in fact be a form of moving meditation – running or long power walks tend to do that for me! It can be a great way to get in some ‘me-time’ to create the space to think things through or just find the time to breather and switch off.
Exercising regularly makes you want to eat healthier too, which in turn helps reducing the stress, as your body will be fuelled with the right nutrients to help cope with stress.
For some statistics on the connection between physical exercise and mental health, check out the Waves of Wellness Foundation. Interestingly, research has shown that physical activities can sometimes be more beneficial for patients with mental health than a strictly clinical approach; after working with the ‘One Wave’ charity Joel Pilgrim founded ‘Waves of Wellness’ based on this approach, a non for profit that helps people struggling with mental health to find an outlet through surf therapy.
Exercise helps people to feel better about themselves, and the community & their support that comes with sports and exercise groups can provide a sense of belonging too.
So there are a lot of benefits and some great statistics to back it up!
One of the biggest concerns our clients tell us is that they don’t have enough TIME to fit in exercise. How would you overcome that?
I think the most important thing is to find a type of exercise you love – if you really enjoy something and it makes you happy, you will find it much easier to make the time.
The gym isn’t for everyone – try team sports, swimming, cycling, yoga, tennis etc. and figure out which activity makes exercise fun and not just a chore you feel obliged to do for health reasons.
Also, think about why you want to exercise – to feel healthier, to be able to keep up with your kids, or because you want to learn a new skill? It’ll help your motivation and keep you going on the days where it gets hard.
That’s so true, you have to find something you love. Exercise can’t be seen as another chore in our lives – we just won’t do it. Plus we work with clients consistently to re-identify their ‘why’ for all their goals. It’s just one of the best ways to keep them motivated and pushing forward!
So what are the best exercises to be doing to get in a quick, efficient and sweat inducing workout?
My go to for a quick and efficient workout is a bodyweight circuit (think lots of animal movements like bear crawls, ape walks, frog squats, caterpillar walks and bodyweight pushing & pulling exercises. followed by some max sprint efforts –it’ll get your heart pumping & the sweat going while working your entire body.
And what if I’m a beginner and never really exercised before, is there anything different that I should be doing?
The most important thing is to ease yourself into it – you don’t want to go so hard that you’re hurting for days as that’s the best way to stop yourself from wanting to go back.
If you’re unsure about technique or completely new to something, I’d recommend taking a few classes to learn the ropes and make sure you’re getting it right from the outset. It’s harder to fix bad habits than learning from scratch, and the right technique can make the difference between reaping the benefits or getting injured.
Stuart McGill, a professor of spine mechanics said “First move well, then move often.” and I 100% agree with that statement. Other than that – get out there, try lots of different things and find the kind of exercise that makes you keep coming back.
That’s it isn’t it. Just try something! But don’t go too hard. So many people go out really hard in that first week and when they can’t walk think “I’m never doing that again!”. It’s just best to build it up.
Ok so the other end of the spectrum, what if I’m quite advanced, how can I keep pushing the intensity and make sure I’m making progress?
Add some variety to your workouts by taking it into a different environment (i.e. outdoors or vice versa), add new movements into your sessions, look at ways to achieve your goals by trying a new approach.
Let’s say you want to learn how to handstand – don’t just keep kicking up again and again, look at what other skills and strength you might need to achieve that handstand and work on those – for example your shoulder mobility, core strength etc. It adds diversity while still working towards your main goal, helping to get there faster.
Another option is to find a training partner or group, a bit of healthy competition can go a long way in stepping up your game and it may expose you to some new ideas.
Yes healthy competition is definitely a great way to up the anti! We’ve talked about that previously for finding your training soulmate!
Ok final question, what would be your top three tips for a corporate worker trying to integrate three exercise sessions during the week?
One thing that can make a big difference is getting the exercise in first thing in the morning – that way it’s done and no matter what the day throws at you or how tired you are after work, you will have had your exercise. Plus it’s a nice way to start the day rather than rolling from bed onto a chair and sit down right away, it’ll get your body and your mind going.
I know it can be challenging when you work long hours or have kids to get back to, so you could try to incorporate exercise in your day in a way that makes it easy and doesn’t leave much room for excuses. When I was still in events, I used to run home from work at least a couple times a week – depending on the route I’d get a good 45 – 60min run in and with traffic taking the bus would’ve taken the same time. Or you could walk the first 5km before getting on the train home, cycle to and from work or give a lunchtime class a go. Travel a lot? Pack your trainers, most hotels have a gym & pool, or you can go for a walk and explore the area.
If your week gets the better of you, get moving on the weekends! If you have kids, get them involved – go for a bike ride, play soccer in the park…there are so many options. Find the most convenient option for your lifestyle and make it a part of your routine – trust me, you will be more productive as a result and feel better for it!
There’s always a way if you make it a priority right! Thanks so much Kat that was really helpful.
Well readers we hope you all got something useful out of that and you’re all going to kickstart your workouts to feel the benefits!
For the month of March, we’re talking about stress, and the ways that we can manage it. Stress is something that we can’t avoid, but if we learn the tools and techniques to control it, then we can go a long way to creating a healthier and happier life.
It may seem a little counter-intuitive, but exercise can be one of the best measures to immediately and sustainably reduce stress. After all, exercise is known to increase cortisol – the stress hormone – so how can it also manage it?
On the one hand, stress weakens the brain, particularly the part responsible for your memory. Conversely, exercise promotes the production of neuro-hormones that are responsible for learning, and improved cognitive function. So we now know that just by increasing your heart rate through exercise, you can start to immediately reduce the impacts of stress. There are a few other positives that you can get from exercise that relate to reducing stress:
1. It creates a sense of calm. Stress can really take control of your life. When you think about your never-ending ‘to-do list’ in both your work and personal life, everything can feel somewhat overwhelming and cause the body to try and shut down. Regular exercise can provide structure to your otherwise chaotic life. It is a great way to train the body to get into a rhythm, and as human beings we crave this.
2. It gives you a hit of the ‘feel good’ hormone. When we’re stressed, our self-confidence often takes a hit. Exercise helps to boost the production of endorphins, so that ‘high’ that you get after you exercise (and often for hours after) is not imagined. It improves your confidence and your decision making abilities to keep you switched on for the whole day.
3. It helps with your breathing. Ancient wisdom used to count a persons life by the number of breaths they took, so learning techniques to slow down the breathing were highly regarded. When we exercise, it forces the body to learn how to take deeper and more controlled breaths and be more efficient with oxygen. The more efficient your body becomes with regular exercise, the better your breathing. When we have calm and controlled breathing, we feel physically and mentally calmer and in control.
4. It helps your heart. Heart issues are one of the biggest killers in Australia. While exercise is a great way to get over a broken heart, it also helps with your physical heart health. Linked to #3, when you start to breathe diaphragmatic (nice deep breaths into the belly), the diaphragm gives the heart a gentle massage. This massage keeps the heart beating in a controlled and consistent manner and is also a sign to the body to switch on the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) where our body focuses on digesting and resting.
5. It will improve your sleep. This one is all but guaranteed. Not only does the research tell us that exercise helps us to sleep, but I’ve SEEN it in all of my clients. I had clients who were previously on multiple sleeping pills and potions be able to wean themselves off them all just from taking up exercise. The benefits of getting a good nights sleep are second to none!
So if you’re feeling stressed, try to get moving. It doesn’t have to be a vigorous gym class or bootcamp (though they are great). Something as simple as walking regularly is shown to have access to all of the above benefits. A walk around the block before an important meeting can be a great way to calm the nerves, or a run after work can be one of the best ways to de-stress after a busy day. Exercise is one of the BEST remedies you can implement to manage your stress – and it’s FREE!
The world has become a pretty unstable and unsettling place at the moment – Donald Trump is in charge of the most powerful country in the world, the UK is in negotiation to leave the rest of the EU, and war continues to rage in the Middle East. One sitting of the news and you’re likely to walk away feeling more down than when you started.
In a time where we’re experiencing the highest standard of living in history, paradoxically we’re also more depressed, anxious and unhappy.
First things first, we need to take care of ourselves. I’m not saying this out of selfishness, or from a ‘every man from himself’ perspective. I’m talking about learning to create happiness and peace from within that can radiate onto others and create a ripple effect. There’s a reason they get you to fit your own oxygen mask on a plane before others – you won’t be able to get someone else’s mask on if you’re not breathing!
So here are the top 6 things that you need to be doing for yourself regularly in 2017. I’m not saying that these things will change the world, but they will definitely help YOU to feel happier, healthier and a more altruistic human.
1. Breathe. It’s amazing how many people aren’t breathing to its full potential. I used to be one of them. I used to just keep all the oxygen in my chest, and not expand the breath into my diaphragm and lower abdomen. When you start to breathe diaphragmatically, the PNS system (learn more on this here) is switched on, and your body starts to relax. It’s great to mindfully breathe like this first thing in the morning and last thing at night before you go to sleep for about five minutes. This will help you to subconsciously breathe like this throughout the day as well. It’s amazing what 5 minutes of deep breathing can do for your mental and physical health!
2. Fuel your body. It’s easy to forget that the reason we eat is to provide fuel to the body. The balance between eating for pleasure and eating for survival has swung considerably to the former and this is having ramifications. Try to make at least one meal a day focused on fuelling for nutrition. Eat nutrient dense foods – like fruits and vegetables – and try and eat as close to the natural source as possible. Processing of foods has changed considerably, and it’s hard to know what’s been added when you can’t understand the ingredients!
3. Move more. Unless you’re an ultra athlete, we could ALL do with more movement. Our sedentary lifestyle has us sitting down more than ever. Unfortunately, one hour of intentional exercise has been shown as not enough to combat the effects of sitting at a desk all day. So we need to start integrating movement throughout the day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to/from work or a portion of the journey, or go for walking meetings instead of sit down coffees. Do whatever it takes to make that magic 10,000 step number. It’s not in any way easy, but it’s very rewarding for your body.
4. Learn to meditate. If there is only ONE thing that you do this year, learn to meditate. There are yoga studios and meditation centres popping up everywhere, and plenty of resources online that can teach you the fundamentals – I have even made a recording for you here. If you’re already meditating, make it a goal to foster your practice. I could go on and on about the benefits of meditation (and I do so here) but for the sake of this blog, just realise that meditation is one of THE BEST forms of self-care out there. It takes as little as 5 minutes a day, and it can be life changing. Trust me on this one.
5. Embrace minimalism. I have blogged on this already (and will probably continue to!) and it seems to be quite an emerging theme for me (and plenty of others) in 2017. It seems that an excess of ‘stuff’ is manifesting our discontent, and there is no end in sight in the hunt for something new. Cleanout your wardrobe (learn how to here) or de-clutter your office space. Just spend time over the next year clearing the physical to allow the mental space for growth.
6. Sleep. At the end of the day it can feel like there’s just not enough time to do any of those self-care activities. I wouldn’t blame you for telling me so! The proverbial ‘to do list’ continues to grow, and despite the number of items we tick off, it never seems to end. One thing you CAN do that doesn’t require an extra item on the to do list is to sleep. I mean, force yourself at least 7-9 hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT. I can hear you groaning through your computer “who has that much time to sleep?”. The change makers do and so do you. The plane and oxygen analogy is most pertinent here. You will be so much more productive, have so much more energy, be capable of achieving so much more in less time, IF you get more sleep. Try it for a week and see what happens…
Now this may seem like a lot but even if you just pick ONE of these things to do this year, the transformation may just surprise you.
Jennifer Scott did a Tedx Talk on her form of minimalism in the wardrobe. She talks about how we constantly add to the wardrobe yet don’t throw out things that are currently in the wardrobe. Despite this paradox how many of you have those mornings before work when you think “I have nothing to wear”? The struggle is real to find an outfit that feels comfortable but also looks good. We often have to end up picking something last minute so we’re not too late, and for the rest of the day end up feeling slightly uncomfortable in our choice. My partner – who wears a suit everyday – still has the conundrum of picking out what colour SHIRT (he only has one choice to make!) he’s going to wear that day.
So why does this inverse relationship exist between the number of clothes and the ease with choosing what to wear? Behavioural economics will tell us that it primarily relates to the notion of choice. Research shows that increasing choice actually overwhelms our brains, and too much choice has a negative impact on us. So how do we overcome it then?
Well Jennifer proposes a 10-item wardrobe. She advocates for having a small high-quality wardrobe that is in heavy rotation. There seems to be quite a stigma in Australia about wearing the same clothes. But this isn’t the case in all cultures. Look at any European film; the main lead women characters wear only a few items consistently. It allows them to demonstrate their own unique style everyday. Whereas American films are all about having a different outfit in each scene!
Let’s just think for a moment about what a 10-item wardrobe for Summer / Autumn could look like:
· 2 pairs of pants
· 1 pair of jeans
· 3 dresses
· 4 shirts
· 2 pairs of trousers
· 2 pair of shorts
· 4 shirts
· 2 jackets
Seems reasonably do-able? You are also allowed some ‘extras’ on top of your 10-item wardrobe, such as: t-shirts, blazers, and special occasion wear like for weddings or specific occasions.
I’m not going to stand here though and say that I have a 10-item wardrobe (maybe one day!) but I do a wardrobe cleanout twice a year. To make things easier, I turn all my coat hangers to face the ‘wrong way’. When I wear an item, then it is turned back the right way. This helps me identify what clothes are not being worn regularly. This cleanout has four rules that a piece of clothing has to pass before it gets to stay in the wardrobe:
1. Does it fit me today: don’t wait till you lose/put on that weight and think ‘then it will fit me’. The rule stands for ‘does it fit me TODAY’.
2. Is it age appropriate: there are some items that can last decades and still be timeless, but that tiny leather skirt you bought when you were 18 is probably not appropriate to wear to your friends 30th birthday anymore.
3. Is it my true style: I find as my wardrobe starts to shrink, it also starts to develop. You know the typical clothes that you feel most comfortable in and that look good, so I keep items that follow that trend. If you think that biker jacket looked really great in the shop but you’ve never worn it, it’s probably not your style.
4. Has it been worn in the last 6 months (you can tell by the coat hanger flipping trick!): this is the best rule for the bi-annual clean up. If you haven’t worn it in the last 6 months then it’s got to go.
On top of this, I also enforce the rule that if I buy something, then the equivalent in the wardrobe has to go. Realise that RIGHT NOW you have enough of everything, so anything you buy is excess. So for an easy example, if I buy a new pair of socks, then I throw out an old pair. If I buy a new top, I know that I need to throw out a top at home. This requires a little more thought now in the buying decision. So rather than just impulsively buying items, I now think about what will be sacrificed for this new piece.
So you may still be asking ‘why bother?’. Well despite having a lot more room in the wardrobe and not having to squish everything in, there are some real benefits to having a condensed wardrobe:
· When you need to get dressed for work, you should now be able to pick 2 items and they’ll go together.
· You can let your true style shine through that is classic and unique to you, not like everyone else.
· You will save money because you won’t be impulse buying.
· A clean wardrobe means a clean mind.
· You’ll always be able to look presentable and not default to your ‘active wear’ even though you’re not exercising.
See how you go with de-cluttering your wardrobe!
The annual survey of worldwide fitness trends is now in its 11th year! I always can’t wait to read up on it because not only do they predict what’s coming for the next year, but they also reflect back on previous years to see how people’s predictions played out. It’s very interesting to note that there are two new trends in the top 10 for 2017!
While I would LOVE to go through each of them individually, I thought I’d post the list and instead discuss some of the ones that you’d find most interesting and would potentially have an impact on you!
Number one on the list is perhaps not surprisingly Wearable Technology. Think Fitbits, smart watches, GPS trackers, and smart eyeglasses! While the jury is out as to whether these devices actually increase the amount of exercise we do, as a former researcher, there is definitely power in the idea of tracking your activity to at least know what has been done. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy expensive technology, as your smartphone also provides many free options for tracking a lot of your activity (and as a trend is in at # 17) but use the options available! The Apple watch alone is predicted to reach over 485 million device sales by the year 2018 so this is a trend that doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon!
Number two on the list is also quite interesting with Body Weight Training. While this type of training has been around for centuries as a form of resistance training, it didn’t appear on the trends survey until 2013! It’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to exercise and great for outdoor bootcamps or your own workout at home! Now with a newly packaged name by the commercial gyms, it’s a trend that should stick around for a while yet.
Number seven on the list is Exercise is Medicine ®, which is a global health initiative focused on encouraging health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for their patients. Fundamentally it is an attempt to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and fitness professionals, which is something I can’t believe is only just beginning to happen! We all know the benefits of exercise in treatment of many chronic yet preventable diseases, but it’s an implementation gap for a patient that’s the issue. This is one that I’m really supporting and excited to be a part of in the coming years.
Number twelve is my favourite type of training – functional fitness. Its premise is to use strength training to improve power, endurance, coordination, and balance, to improve the ability to perform normal daily living activities. There’s still a lot of misunderstanding around functional fitness, but I like to think of it as focusing on the movements I may need in my daily routine (think squatting down to pick up something heavy) versus training just for aesthetics (think bicep curls). Functional fitness has been fluctuating on the list since 2007 but I think with people becoming more sedentary, fitness needs to be as functional as possible to keep our bodies moving and mobile!
Number fifteen on the list is my daily work – wellness coaching. Wellness coaching has been in the top 20 since 2010 and has been progressively making its way up the list since then. For those new to my website, wellness coaching is the integration of behavioural-change science with healthy initiatives. Like a personal trainer, a wellness coach works with people to achieve their broader goals, through focusing on their values, needs, visions, and aspirations. Many people are trying to move into this wellness-coaching arena with little to no qualifications or practical training in ‘coaching’, so be mindful of who you work with. It’s definitely one of the most exciting trends though and who doesn’t want someone motivating and challenging you along your life path?!
The final number that I believe relates to you is sixteen with Worksite Health Promotion. The foundation of a corporate wellness program is to improve the health and well-being of employees. Again, this is very much in my domain, but the trend here is for a range of programs and services that evaluate employee health, health care costs, and worker productivity. With rising health care premiums, increased absenteeism in workplaces, and decreasing productivity due to stress, its no wonder that this is an up and coming trend to watch out for!
There’s a very important distinction that is made between a trend and a fad for the purposes of this world wide trends survey. The former is defined as ‘a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving’ whereas the latter is ‘a fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period’. So this survey is really looking at the change in people’s behaviours as a whole that can last a considerable period of time.
Full list below:
|Body weight training
|High-intensity interval training
|Educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals
|Exercise is Medicine ®
|Exercise and weight loss
|Fitness programs for older adults
|Group personal training
|Worksite health promotion
|Smartphone exercise apps
|Flexibility and mobility rollers
How does your day usually run at the moment? Do you have time for breakfast? Do you catch yourself at work wearing a top and skirt that don’t match? Or odd coloured socks? Do you get stuck in the rain without an umbrella? Left your keys/wallet/phone at home?
Or are you the complete opposite? Have everything together and the day just runs smoothly and seamlessly? There seems to be a spectrum where people fall between the Planners and the Free Spirit, but no matter where you fall now, there is always another tip or trick you can steal from these organisational hacks to up your own planning mojo.
Below are the top three hacks that other Planners are using everyday to make sure they’re on top of things, have more energy, and reduce their stress levels:
1. Prepare Prepare Prepare
There’s three of them because it relates to three levels of preparation depending on the situation. The old saying rings true that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” so below are some of the best ways people plan ahead. Creating healthy habits will get you a long way, but if you can create rituals (basically a series of habits strung together) then you really set yourself up for success.
Level One: Daily Preparation.
Planners believe that getting organised the night before is key to having a smooth running morning and reducing stress throughout the day. They check the weather forecast before going to bed to help decide what to wear and whether they need any wet weather accessories. They choose what they’re going to wear (plus all the things you need underneath!) from top to bottom and lay them out the night before. Your morning self may not pick up that two different shades of blue don’t actually match! They have their lunch and snacks in a bag ready in the fridge to just grab and go in the morning. It’s a seamless process!
Level Two: Weekly Preparation.
Planners spend time early on to save precious hours later by carving out their weekly schedule on Sunday’s with everything they want and need to achieve in the upcoming week. They schedule in meal preparation, workouts, “me time”, stretching time, meditation, appointments, presentations; all of it goes in. They treat everything as EQUAL so the practices they deemed important at the start of the week can’t be compromised on. They also allocate some ‘spare time’ for catch up in case unexpected things pop up.
Level Three: Monthly and Yearly Preparation.
This is the next level for Planners. Not only are they kicking goals on a week by week basis, but they also see the bigger picture. They set out their goals and intentions for the year broken down into the months so they know what’s next on their list. Because it’s so easy to run through life day by day, week by week, month by month, without achieving anything significant, overcoming this requires forward thinking and an understanding of the big picture to project yourself to where you want to go.
2. Embracing Minimalism
When I say “Minimalist” I don’t mean throwing out all your most prized possessions and going to live in a tree house in the middle of a rainforest. Planners are Minimalists in their daily lives. An example is their wardrobe. One of my clients Sara* is a Minimalist with her wardrobe. Most people only wear about 20% of the items in their wardrobe, so knowing this, Sara does a 6 monthly clear out of her wardrobe. If it hasn’t been worn in the past six months, it goes, to a worthwhile charity. The tip for knowing if it’s been worn or not – turn the coat hanger to face towards the front of the wardrobe and if it’s still that way at the six month check up, it goes. Having a clean and minimal wardrobe takes the stress out of making decisions on what to wear as well!
Planners also tidy as they go. Spending 10 minutes every night before bed tidying up around the house is PLENTY because there isn’t a whole heap of ‘stuff’ in the first place. A great tip is to apply the philosophy that if it takes less than 60 SECONDS to do something, do it at the time IMMEDIATELY. This frees up your weekends too so you’re not spending the whole time cleaning and tidying before the new week begins!
3. They take notes on EVERYTHING
The stores like Officeworks, Kiki K, and Typo are not just making money because their stationary looks good. There are so many things that we need to remember throughout the day that it’s easy to forget or become overwhelmed.
The process of writing notes down as reminders on either post-it notes or digitally in your phone, having an open calendar in the kitchen for everyone to see, or your meal ideas for the week, helps Planners to stay on top of everything and have others in the household also informed!
There are so many templates online and sites for advanced to do lists like Trello or Google Sites, or if you want the hard copy there are lots of amazing options within stationary retailers. Writing things down frees your mind for the more important areas you need to focus on!
Planners always seem less stressed, they have more energy, and despite their massive ‘to do lists’ they manage to get it all done. We can’t all be Perfect Planners, but we can all learn a little something from what they do…
*names changed for confidentiality