Here’s a good video on Why Exercise is so Underrated:
Back in May I purchased a Fitbit Charge. The inspiration came from observing my boss who has had one for a while. I am really loving it. It’s like having a friend who is interested in a running commentary on my personal fitness. I don’t think any human being could be as interested in my fitness as my Fitbit is.
The Fitbit has provided sufficient inspiration that I have actually been tracking my food. I’ve done that in the past but never with the consistency I am now over time. It isn’t really even a pain in the neck. I like the feeling of control of really seeing what I eat and how much I move and the result of the interaction between those two things. Eventually I want to broaden my repertoire and incorporate more lifting and yoga back into my routine, but for the time being I am just getting used to moving more and consistently.
I feel like a pigeon being fed corn pellets in that I am so motivated by Fitbit’s little badges and peer competition. The boost in accountability of having the constant feedback has gotten me tackling 50 flights of stairs at work or stepping in place in front of the TV rather than sitting after a long day at my desk and driving. If it works I am OK with it.
I know not posting to a blog is not the same as, say, falling off the face of the Earth. Yet I almost feel like I did. Over the past few months I identified that the steps I was taking to deal with a nearly lifelong problem with anxiety were not enough. Rather than just interfering with select portions of my life, it had begun to interfere with my work. So I did something I had long resisted doing: sought a recommendation of a helping professional from my primary care physician and started taking medication for the problem for the first time in my life.
About 5 weeks in and past most of the bothersome start-up issues I think it was a good idea. In addition to the meds I am reading a book that’s designed to help one with disordered and dysfunctional thinking: “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by David Burns, M.D. . It’s long been one of my quips that I feel responsible when it rains. Apparently this is a problem.
I am pleased to say that I’ve actually lost 15 pounds over the last year and that the meds I am taking don’t seem prone to screw that up as I move forward in my quest for better health and fitness.
Over the course of my working life I’ve had insurance with most of the major health insurance companies; sometimes twice. We had a stint with one of them last year that ended in July, but during my time with them I learned something new about myself.
The company offered financial incentives to take part in wellness activities. The first thing I did was take a health assessment which I believe earned me a $50 gift card. Score! As a result of my responses to this health assessment I received a phone call asking me if I wanted to participate in wellness coaching. Now I don’t get many phone calls and somehow the first reach-out caught me at a bad time. So I said no. But son of a gun, they persisted and called me again. The second time I decided what the heck. So I said yes.
My coaching consisted of periodic phone conversations with a wellness coach; a nurse, I think. We set goals together for me–with a big emphasis on making them achievable. My goals included fat loss, increasing the number of times per week I exercised and increasing the amount of water I drank.
What I found surprising as the months went on is that having this little conversation scheduled gave me permission to take more time for myself. So when it was 5:20PM and I hadn’t hit the workout room at work yet, rather than saying to myself that I had to rush home to be timely for dinner I would jump into my workout clothes and text my spouse that I was working out.
I got reasonable results on this program –not to mention $175 worth of goodies–and was disappointed when we switched health insurance companies that I had to let that go. I am now looking into getting it started with our current company. The major lesson I learned from the experience of wellness coaching is that the little boost in accountability to someone other than myself really helps me to make the extra push whether it’s pushing myself into the weight room, swigging more water or letting myself claim a few minutes here and there just for me and my health.
A few months ago my health insurance company reached out to me to ask if I’d like to take advantage of Wellness Coaching. Well actually it began a step before that. My health insurance company offers subscribers financial incentives to get healthy. The first one was taking on on-line health assessment for which they gave me a $25 gift certificate. There are activities one can complete for another $75 and the actual periodic chats with a wellness coach will get you another $75. I have a very nice general practitioner who has expressed to me a weight goal for me. Does it go without saying that I don’t see much of my general practitioner? As of this winter that goal had receded to being 15 pounds away and it dawned on me that I needed to reverse that trend pretty darned quick before it receded any further.
So when my health insurer made this offer I agreed to work with a coach. My coach calls me once every few weeks. We set particular goals and then discuss how I am doing to meet them. These have mainly included getting my amount of exercise up and drinking more water. Since I started working on this program I have lost 6 pounds and and inch and a half off my waist. The program has lots of on-line motivational tools and exercises with cute little tracker bars to tell you how you’re doing on them.
I’m not doing everything the program would like to see me do. The main thing I am not doing is tracking all my food daily. I probably should. I have a few excuses for not doing so including that I mainly eat the same set of things day in and day out. I think my plan is to keep that arrow in my quiver so that if I stop making progress I can start tracking and be able to keep going.
For me there was a fair amount of low hanging fruit with respect to my habits. So first off measuring certain foods was a place to begin. Cutting back on splurge meals and evening snacking was another place. Drinking more water was another. Actually I am not really pushing hard enough on that. It sure would help if it weren’t so darned cold out this spring.
One of the main benefits of coaching for me is accountability. While I am plenty smart and know a lot about health and fitness, I do tend to b.s. myself and make excuses about why I don’t do things. (Um, like it’s too cold out this spring to drink enough water…) To make changes I have to be more honest with myself. And yes, while I don’t believe in low-calorie dieting and I do lift weights, it is also true that I have been over-fat for a long time and that only changes in my behavior will change that. Period. And they are changes that I will have to stick with by and large for a long, long time.
Recently I’ve found myself plagued by “golfer’s elbow.” This is like tennis elbow but on the inside of the arm instead of the outside. If you’ve ever had either you know what a pain it is. Being me of course I am self-treating it with trigger point therapy.
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies, Amber Davies and David G. Simon is amazing for finding out the cause of what ails you and treating it. The basic concept is that there are little bundles of muscle tissue become contracted into tiny hypersensitive areas that may not hurt themselves but can send pain to other places. They map that all out for you with helpful pictures. I’ve had this problem before with referred pain. To me it makes complete sense that the place that’s hurting may be a symptom and not the cause. I’ve experienced this with for example leg pain that actually emanates from a “crunchy” place in my lower back. I am still grateful to the first person that figured out that one for me, a massage therapist. To treat these crunchy places I use a combination of tools.
One of my favorites is a little orange ball with nubs on it called the Stress Buster Massage Ball. If you are looking for one know that it has to be fairly firm to actually make a difference. A tennis ball also works some but I really like the nubbiness for getting to those little knots. You can roll the ball on your back against a wall and get a pretty nice massage on tense areas. For my arm that I am working on lately I use the kitchen counter.
The book makes the point that most health professionals don’t think of pain in this way. The ones who do are typically people who understand the body and won’t suggest you medicate away the symptom but rather figure out its source and start working on it. Masssage therapists that practice myofascial release will understand this. What’s best about the book is that it is written with the goal of self treatment in mind. How many of us really have both the time and the money to get a series of massages when something hurts? I know I don’t.
The tale is that if you toss a frog into boiling water he’ll jump out but if he’s in a pot which slowly heats up he won’t and will die. It is disgusting to be sure. We used to use it to describe people’s circumstances of living in violent relationships… But I digress.
Lately I have been thinking about motivation. Looking at some of the fitness literature and web information I read I see that the great success stories are often the people who had never touched a weight and then discover weight lifting and proper diet and of course dramatic changes ensue. I think for more of us it’s harder because we are not suddenly discovering a new way of living which we can attack with religious zeal.
Like the frog in the slowly heating water I’ve been lifting weights and doing some type of aerobic exercise for about 35 years. Also I need to shed 10 to 15 pounds of fat. I remember reading somewhere in an article about building muscle how really modest the gains a person who has been training over time can expect to make in a year. So how do I stay motivated to keep doing enough of the right activities? And how do I stay motivated to eat in a way that supports the exercise enough to keep making positive changes?
For me having a variety of activities I can pursue helps some. My preferred forms of exercise are walking in a hilly local park, using the elliptical machine in the new fitness room at my job, lifting weights in my basement and taking the occasional hot yoga class at a local studio. I recently discovered http://www.lauramustloseweight.com which is cool both because of Laura’s personality, and for me, because she is about my height. It’s a good graphic portrayal of both the truth and the possibilities. I guess images and stories help because it’s hard to move from abstraction to action. It would be nice to be motivated more by the positive, e.g. move towards what Rachel Cosgrove calls being a “fit female” than by the negative, e.g. ominous health worries or the image of myself as some sort of lonely Jabba the Hutt. In any case, if I figure out the secret to motivation I promise to share it.