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Forget about your New Year’s Resolutions!

Make one small change every week & feel results that last!

New year resolutions may work for some people. I find that people come into the year feeling motivated and determined to cut their sugar intake, be more consistent in their exercise program, lose weight, quit smoking, spend more time with loved ones… You name it! But New Year resolutions are often much like a crash diet. A diet where you cut out too much too soon and you’re eating celery sticks with dry rice cakes six days a week! Sure you lose some weight but it doesn’t last very long before you’re back to your usual eating habits of quick-fixes and sweet thrills. It’s just not sustainable.

I’m not saying don’t make positive changes to your life for 2020. Let’s just figure out the more sustainable way to do so. It’s about making small changes one at a time.

Before you get worked up about how many key points there are and how many you need to change, remember, the idea is to change one at a time. So, let’s say you feel you really need to work on your nutrition. Pick one of the points mentioned under the nutritional guidelines and that’s your focus for the week. One small win before you add the next change on your road to realizing your potential!

Here are the 5 key areas that are absolutely crucial to physical, mental, and emotional health!

1. Sleep

Sleep, over all other areas of self-care and management, is the number one most important thing for minimizing stress and enhancing your performance. Most experts in the field of sleep and recovery advise a minimum of 7 hours per night in a pitch dark, cool room. The optimal amount is 7-9 hours. I know what you’re thinking. It’s not that easy, especially when you have a baby or young child, work late or have to be up with the sparrows to get to work on time, or if you’re making time in your day to get a workout in. I think it’s safe to say that most people, including myself, do not get enough quality sleep. It’s really tough and therefore I’m not just going to tell you to make time and get more hours. Instead, here are a few ideas that you can put into place to focus on improving sleep quality rather than quantity.

Environment & sleep-promoting habits:

  • Cool and dark bedroom. Research has shown that 16-20ºC is the ideal room temperature range for good quality sleep and the darker the room the better!
  • Ditch your tech 30 minutes before bed. Avoid screen time (yes, that means no Netflix as well) 30 minutes before for intended bedtime.
  • Keep any electronics in another room. Your body will rest and recover much better without any distractions because we all know you’re much more likely to “just quickly check something” before closing your eyes if your phone is in the room. Next thing you know, it’s 1 am and your eyes feel like cracking because you’ve been watching cat videos. Buy a cheap little alarm radio to wake you up in the mornings. Your cellphone and other devices also emit small amounts of radiation so why not avoid that for 7 hours a day if you can?
  • Do 8-10 minutes of soft tissue mobilization such as stretching, foam rolling, or use a mobility ball just before bed. I will relax and down-regulate your nervous system.
  • Lose the snooze. This is especially tough for me but it gets easier the more you do it. Get up with your first alarm. It signals your body to wake up and be alert much quicker and sets the tone for the day.
  • No coffee after 4 pm. There will still be caffeine in your blood by the time you go to bed if it is consumed after 4 pm. Even if you say you don’t feel the jittery effects of coffee because you’re so used to it now, it is still having a negative influence on your sleep.
  • Limit your nightcap frequency. Although that glass of wine every night feels like it relaxes you, alcohol intake can stop you from getting to your deep sleep state. So maybe not every night and no more than one.
  • Finally, find a bedtime and stick to it. Your body will recover and you’ll be way more energized when you wake up if you are in a routine of going to sleep at the same time every night.

2. Stress

Stress is a constant in people’s lives. There are positive stressors and negative stressors. Some stress motivates and drives us to work hard and achieve our goals. Other stress can cause physical and mental illness. A huge factor is our perspective on that situation or element of where the stress is coming from. Try to view it in a way that you can learn and grow from it rather than dwell on the fear of what may happen. Again, easier said than done but here are a few things to help manage your stress on a daily basis.

  • Try to incorporate just one of these techniques each day:
    • Get outside in the sun and move (go for a walk or stretch)
    • Spend time in a sauna or warm bath
    • Get a massage
    • Breathe and/or meditate (2 minutes of calm nose breathing has been shown to change a persons mood state)
    • Practice a hobby
    • Spend time with a loved one or pet
    • Take a power nap (20 minutes)
    • Unplug from social media for an hour
  • Balance out your training program. A really intense workout session is a great stress reliever however it is still causing stress to the body. By all means, give it your all in a workout, just not every single day. The harder you train in a workout the more of a need there is for rest and recovery otherwise you will not get the full benefit from your session. This goes for strength, fitness, and weight-loss. If you are training 5 days per week, for example, 3 of those days can be more intense with the days in between more of an active recovery focus (walking, jogging, swimming, stretching and mobility movements).
  • Be compassionate to yourself. Cut yourself a bit of slack by:
    • Asking for help when needed
    • Unplugging from the Internet for most of one day per week and unfollow social accounts that bring about negative thoughts or feelings
    • Being realistic about the goals you set and how they fit into your life
    • Pushing yourself but also knowing when to back off on things that are not serving you and your purpose
    • If you are so stressed that you feel helpless, please seek professional help/counseling

3. Hydration

Hydration habits:

  • Aim to drink a minimum of 30ml of water for each kg of ½ your body weight.

Example: ½ bodyweight of a 70kg individual = 35kg

30ml x 35 = 1050ml of water (Just over 1 liter)

  • Monitor the color of your urine each time you urinate. If it’s dark yellow, you should definitely drink some water. If it’s nearly clear, hold off on consuming water for a little while or until you’re thirsty. Aim to have your urine be a pale yellow color.
  • Add a pinch of salt to your water glass or bottle each time you fill it. The sodium will assist in helping your body absorb the water you drink. This is especially important when training for an extended time in the heat.

Here’s why it’s so important to drink enough water:

  • Water is essential to the lubrication of our joints
  • It helps the body regulate temperature through sweat
  • It’s the main mode of transportation of nutrients, oxygen, and waste across our cells and through our blood
  • Keeps tissues (eyes, mouth, and skin) moist
  • Our muscles are 75% water. It only makes sense, especially if you’re training to tone and build muscle.

Here are some dehydration symptoms to look out for:

  • Decreased performance (in daily life tasks and in sport or the gym)
  • Dizziness/Light-headedness
  • Fatigue (General, not activity-induced)
  • Moodiness/Irritability
  • Lack of motivation to train/perform
  • Muscle cramping
  • Nausea

4. Nutrition

As with each of these areas being covered in this blog, there are so many different opinions and research claiming to have the answers but the fact is that there is no one size fits all diets or eating plans. There are, however, a few key points that seem to be consistent throughout the different schools of thought.

Here are some of those key considerations for the next time you’re purchasing the fuel you’re putting in your engine.

  • Choose whole food sources as much as possible – these are plant-based foods that are unprocessed and unrefined.
  • Leave out the added sugar. Avoid adding sugar to your tea, coffee, and cereal. As a sugar substitute rather flavour your cereal, yoghurt or oats naturally with things like cinnamon and fresh fruit such as blueberries and pomegranate. When it comes to your daily cuppa, work towards leaving out the sweetener completely.
  • Prioritize getting in lots of different types of vegetables – you should aim to have 5 veggies with each meal.
  • Consume a lean, whole food protein source at each meal.
  • Try to eliminate vegetable, canola, and any other industrial oils from your cooking. High quality, single-source oils, such as olive, coconut, and avocado oils are much better for daily consumption.
  • For at least one meal per day, put down the phone, close the computer, and eat without distraction. Take a few deep breaths, smell your food, and chew your food slowly – Chewing your food thoroughly is better for the absorption of nutrients and your digestive process.
  • Understand that you are in control of what you buy and therefore what you put in your body. Make good choices and your body will benefit accordingly. It’s that simple. Not easy, but simple.

For some amazing advice on nutrition for health and performance contact Flavia Busacker (Dietician) on her email below.

email: flavia@wwcf.co.za

5. Movement

I’m going to assume that if you are reading this that you have some form of movement practice whether it’s CrossFit, running, yoga, bowls or archery, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we as humans feel better when we are physically active. Maybe not always during a workout session, but there is definitely something magical that happens to our mood states, confidence, physical health, and emotional state. Going into each of these examples will be an entire article on its own so we’ll move on for now. Your gym session is not where the magic happens for your health. Movement throughout the day is important. Let’s say you gym 1 hour per day. You may be at work sitting or in some continuous position or pattern for 8 hours. Not to mention the seated car/train/bus travel time. Therefore it is not realistic to think you can get away with 1 hour of being in a good position with your body. Your body will adapt to the stimulus it is confronted with the most. Sitting all day with unfavorable posture will mean that your body will adapt to that.

For those of you that don’t have some type of exercise regimen at the moment, know that the small changes-small victories concept applies here as well. Start off by walking every other day. Then maybe add some bodyweight exercises and/or stretching on the days you’re not walking. Don’t like something new you’ve tried out? Stop doing it and find something else. The best exercise for you is the one that you will stick to. Consistency is my number one most important factor when it comes to exercising for strength, fitness, weight-loss, or just pure enjoyment!

Exercise guidelines

  • Perform some sort of physical exercise that stresses your body most days of the week. Seven days in a week – you need to move on 4 of those days. You can do more and you can do fewer days, as long as you know what your specific objective is. For more specific individualized programming you can email me or book for online or in-person consultation at https://rbmove.com/physical-therapy-book-now/
  • Now, more specifically, we need to load the skeleton to ensure it can withstand the physical forces of life over a long period of time. Longevity is achieved by gradually and progressively loading your body and making sure it has time for necessary adaptation. What does that mean? Some of your training sessions need to involve something more than just bodyweight movements and there needs to be sufficient recovery time for your body before the next heavy load on that specific area or movement pattern.
  • Active rest is a real thing. How often have you felt so stiff a day or two after a workout and then dragged yourself to a training session only to realize that you feel so much better after some blood flow and activation of your muscles? Let’s be a bit more intentional with it because doing another hard workout to feel better is not the ideal choice. Light, cyclical (repetitive) movement through your full ranges of motion is what you need to fully recover your body.
  • If it is real physical fatigue and lethargy that you feel setting in then, by all means, take a day off to rest (sleep and eat healthy). Plan your rest days just like you plan your training days.

A few more components that I feel are even more important than our high intensity, very focused workout sessions:

    • All of these are basically ways to expend more energy than just sitting on the couch when you get home
    • Walk your dog or significant other
    • Walk/bike/skate/handstand-walk to work or school
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator 
    • Go dancing, or just dance at home
    • Wash your car
    • Work in the garden. Don’t have a garden? Make an urban veggie/herb garden. Very relaxing and you’re smashing some nutrition points! https://www.gardenandhome.co.za/gardening/kitchen-gardening/growing-veggies-in-containers/

So here’s the action plan going forward – Choose one of the key points you read here and implement it for the week. What if you completely botch the plan for that week? Be patient with yourself and take one more week to get it going. Don’t use patience as an excuse though, use it as motivation and compassion for yourself!

Contact me for any questions or advice. Contact details are at the bottom of the page.

Here’s a short mobility sequence to get you started on point number 5, my favourite, movement!