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Safety in Numbers?

Safety in Numbers?

It’s human instinct to assume there’s always safety in numbers. I’m sure there are times in my life when being with a large group of people kept me safe, but I also know that there have been other times when following the crowd wasn’t good for me.

Most people acknowledge that peer pressure can be detrimental for kids. Growing up, I remember hearing numerous campaigns and lectures about the dangers of peer pressure.  After high school, these campaigns and lectures seemed to disappear. 

Society acts as though peer pressure isn’t a problem for adults. Is that really true, though? My own personal experience and my experience coaching others suggests that peer pressure doesn’t go away as we age and can be bad.

As adults, these pressures are often to eat unhealthy food, remain sedentary, and be so busy that sleep and recovery are afterthoughts. Have you ever been pressured to try a dessert after politely declining, to take an elevator or escalator instead of taking the stairs, or take on one more project even though your schedule’s full?

If any of this sounds familiar, I encourage you to see these suggestions for what they really are — peer pressure. Unfortunately, so many of us are unhealthy, and always doing what everyone else is doing may lead us further down that same path. If you need some help resisting peer pressure, I encourage you to find a health coach to provide guidance and support along your journey towards better health. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. 

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day

Advertisements leading up to Valentine’s Day suggest that Valentine’s Day is so special that a small gesture means you don’t care—only a grand gesture will do. I disagree with this. Of course, I think it’s important to show appreciation to those you care about—so important that one day isn’t enough.

Making small gestures of appreciation on a regular basis helps to nurture a relationship. If you’re making small gestures regularly, not purchasing the perfect gift, organizing the perfect dinner, planning the perfect trip, etc. won’t be such a big deal. On the other hand, one large gesture on Valentine’s Day probably won’t do much to improve the health of your relationship if you’re not regularly doing small gestures of love.

The same is true for fitness. A while back I worked at a gym that provided free initial visits to all new members. One of the members I worked with said that they hadn’t exercised in the past year—except for completing a obstacle course race. Obstacle course races are usually challenging and injuries are not uncommon—even for the physically fit. They walked alway from the race without injury, but they didn’t walk away with a fit body. That’s why they eventually found their way to the gym.

Just like it may take some trial and error to find out how best to nurture your relationship, it may take some trial and error to find out which exercise routine works best for you. If you need some help creating and sticking to an exercise routine, don’t be afraid to ask a fitness professional for help. 

Thanks for reading. Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day, and I hope you have a safe and healthy week.

Undesirable yet familiar

Undesirable yet familiar

I used to have very little upper body strength. Soccer team conditioning practices found me struggling to lift the lightest weights. I can’t say I liked being the weakest person on the team, but I accepted it. I allowed my lack of strength at that time to become a part of my identity — it defined me.

How we define ourselves is important because it influences how we live our lives. When I defined myself as not strong, the idea of getting stronger seemed impossible. Because I didn’t feel strong, I tried to avoid anything that required strength. I remained weak for years.

This story is uncomfortable to share, but I share it because I know that many of you have similar stories. Maybe you too have allowed your current lack of strength to define you. Or maybe you have let your weight, diabetes, joint pain, etc. define you. These things are real and impact how you live your life, but they aren’t you—or at least they don’t have to be. 

If you are defining yourself by an undesirable condition because it is familiar, I encourage you to reevaluate the situation. You may find that simply changing the way you perceive yourself will help you make choices that improve your body and your life. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.

Healthy or Healthy Marketing

Healthy or Healthy Marketing

Have you ever gone grocery shopping when you’re hungry? Did you buy a lot of things you hadn’t anticipated? Under the influence of hunger, everything looks good and interesting, and you’re not able to logically think through your decisions. The last time I did this I filled my basket with a lot of ready-to-eat food that looked healthy at first glance— such bright colors, such well-written health claims. Because I was in a hurry to get home and eat, I didn’t bother with actually doing my due diligence and looking at the labels. Due diligence isn’t fun, it requires energy, and my stomach was telling me that it is time to eat NOW.

After eating, I didn’t feel so good. I figured I had simply eaten too quickly or possibly too much. However, when I had that same reaction after eating a smaller portion more slowly, I decided to finally look at the list of ingredients. I was dismayed to find that what had looked healthy at first glance actually wasn’t that healthy.  

If you’re trying to make healthier food choices, I encourage you to read the labels of everything you purchase. This may take a while— especially when you start— but it will help you to make more informed choices. You may realize, like I did, that what may seem healthy at first glance, may not be.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.

The things we learn from a sunburn

The things we learn from a sunburn

Many years back I went on a beach outing with a bunch of people. We left early in the morning in order to spend more time at the beach. Upon returning from our adventure, someone commented that they had gotten a strange sunburn. He stretched out his arms so that we could clearly see the unique pattern. Someone else piped in that she too had the same sunburn pattern.

We were all surprised at how similar their burns were until several minutes later when both individuals crossed their arms. The odd sunburn wasn’t caused by applying sunscreen unevenly, nor was it mere coincidence. These people had most likely spent a long time with with their arms crossed, because the part of their arms that was exposed when their arms were crossed got burned, and the part that was covered was spared.  

Like these two individuals, many of us are unaware of how we hold ourselves or how we move. This lack of awareness can lead to some unpleasant side effects like an unusual  sunburn or chronic joint pain. If you’re working out and your body’s not moving with more ease, it may be time to hire a fitness professional to watch and correct your form. Learning good posture and movement in the gym can help you properly stand and move with more ease outside of the gym. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. 

Healthy Body, Healthy Brain (Because Your Brain is Part of Your Body!)

Healthy Body, Healthy Brain (Because Your Brain is Part of Your Body!)

Have you ever known anyone with dementia? have worked with individuals who suffer from it, and have had several loved ones suffer from it too. It is not an easy thing to cope with— either for the individual who suffers from it or the individuals who love and care for them. 

I remember the day I realized a loved one could no longer remember me. She was in the hospital at the time, and I periodically visited her there. As usual, the nurse excitedly announced my arrival. Instead of breaking out into her usual warm smile, my loved one seemed lost. Taking the nurse’s excitement as a clue, my loved one guessed that the nurse was introducing her to one of the nurse’s close friends. It was heartbreaking to watch her struggle and sad to know that I too was now a stranger to her. 

Most people recognize that exercise is beneficial for the body, but not as many are aware of how is benefits the brain. So many studies show that exercise can reduce your risk of dementia. According the the Alzheimer’s Society, exercising in mid-life can reduce the risk of developing dementia — in general — by approximately 30% and Alzheimers — in particular — by 45%. If dementia runs in your family or you are concerned about your memory, I encourage you to begin an exercise routine if you haven’t already.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.

Adjust for the right reasons

Adjust for the right reasons

Have you ever made a goal that seemed amazing when you made it but stopped resonating with you? As we learn and grow, our interests may change. When you have a goal that no longer resonates you, it may be a good idea to pivot and find a new goal. Maybe being a conductor was your dream job growing up, but you realized being a pilot allowed you to travel and explore more. Maybe you wanted to be a pediatric nurse growing up, but you realized being a teacher would allow you to work more closely with students. 

At other times, our life experiences make our goals seems even more important to us. This was the case for an acquaintance of mine who wanted to be a singer. She was a bright student and a talented singer who had applied to several prestigious schools as a music major. The competition was tough.  She was determined to get good grades, great test scores, a moving essay, impressive extra-curricular activities, and a flawless audition and interview.  She told me after working so hard to achieve these things, she fumbled the audition to her first-choice school. She got nervous, sang too quickly, and missed a couple of notes. 

After that performance, she wasn’t optimistic about her chances of studying music at her dream school.  She thought about walking out before the interview and giving up on her dream. She only stayed because her ride wasn’t ready to pick her up. When the interviewer broached the subject of her audition, she admitted that she messed up. She explained that she was still learning.  She wanted to learn how to perform better, and thought that she would best learn at that school. She got in.

This year I encourage you to evaluate any goal(s) you may have. If you’re working towards an important goal this year— especially if it is a large goal—chances are you will probably have some obstacles or setbacks. When this happens, it can be tempting to throw your goal out the window. However, if your goal is important to you, don’t let those obstacles or setbacks prevent you from moving forward.  Don’t give up because you don’t know what the future may hold. If you need some help navigating obstacles or setbacks, don’t be afraid to ask a coach or other qualified professional for some assistance.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.

Decision Fatigue

Decision Fatigue

Life is full of choices. Some choices are clearly better than others in the short run and the long run. Some choices leave you in a better place now and in the future. How easy it is to make these choices. However, we must be cautious when things get confusing, and — let’s be real — real life is confusing. Some choices are good in the short run but detrimental in the long run, and some choices are good in the long run but detrimental in the short run. Other choices are less clear-cut. For them, there are too many factors, and it isn’t remotely clear how you’ll be affected.

Making choices is hard, which is why some of us avoid making choices. Have you ever found yourself mindlessly agreeing with someone just so you didn’t have to make a decision? Have you ever put off your decision so long that time eliminated one option and the decision was made for you? 

Deciding to get a healthier body is a big choice that involves a lot of smaller choices. Making all of these choices can be overwhelming. If one of your goals is to get a healthier body this year, don’t be afraid to seek the assistance of a health coach, personal trainer, or other fitness professional. They may be able to guide you to the good choices that work for you, and support you in making them.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.  

the common struggle

the common struggle

Have you ever felt like you were completely alone with your problem? Have you ever thought that everyone else was doing great, but somehow you weren’t competent? It can be hard to know that others are struggling too when you don’t directly interact with other people.

Teaching is usually an isolated endeavor. One of the sites where I taught outdoor education had a meeting that began when the buses took the kids home. Despite being exhausted from the long week of work, I truly enjoyed the Friday meetings. During the meetings, we could share our most memorable stories of the week. Some were heartwarming, and some were funny — many were heartwarming and funny. 

The stories that really stood out were the stories of struggle. At first I was shocked to hear stories from some of the most experienced and talented teachers. I realized that they too sometimes struggled to reach the children we all wanted to teach and inspire. We had a common struggle.   

Unless you are working out with a trainer, workout buddy, or very social group, exercise can be an isolated activity. It may be tempting to look around and feel like everyone else is comfortable in the gym, knows how to use the equipment, and has a great workout that will produce results. If that’s the case, let this be your abbreviated Friday meeting. You are not alone. I’ve interacted with many people at various fitness facilities, and I’ve found that many people feel uncomfortable in the gym, many people—including some gym regulars— aren’t familiar with how to properly use some of the equipment, and many people don’t know how to come up with an effective workout for themselves.  

Hopefully knowing that you’re not alone is comforting. However, if you would also like some direction, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a fitness professional. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week. 

Cramming

Cramming

Many students recently finished finals. I remember my first round of finals in college. I watched as the majority of students hunkered down and studied. They pored over their books and laptops—barely taking breaks to eat and sleep. Except for the library, which was packed to the gills, campus was dead.  

Determined to tap into this endless focus that seemed to have washed over campus, I sat down and got to work. After about an hour of concentrated studying, I felt like I wasn’t focusing too well. Still, I relentlessly hit the books until I realized beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t learning. I needed a break. My roommate was shocked when I told her I was heading to the store.

As I walked to the store, I questioned my decision to take a break. Studying constantly seemed like the right thing to do. There was a lot of material to cover. Plus, everyone was doing it—not just the freshmen. Surely the juniors and seniors knew what it took to do well on finals. 

I almost turned around before I even got to the store, but then I had an epiphany. I had taken challenging courses before, and I actually got worse grades on the tests that I had crammed for. By taking breaks, I was more productive. I made it to the store, got what I wanted, and continued to take other short breaks throughout finals week. My strategy paid off, and I ended up doing well.

Research is showing that learning and exercising are similar. Cramming for extended periods of time doesn’t work well (for most people :). It won’t help most people do well in school, and it won’t help most people develop a healthy body.  I encourage you to listen to your body and find your own path. If you’re still unsure which strategy works well for you, don’t be afraid to ask for some guidance from a fitness professional who stays up to date on research.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a safe and healthy week.