By Coach Meredith
How can we increase movement throughout the day if we have a standard 9-5 desk job? My answer to you is: there are A LOT of ways to increase activity even if you have to remain at your desk for the majority of the day. Here I will go over just a few ways to focus on core strength and increase physical activity throughout the day.
Even with standing desks, parking at the furthest end of the parking lot, walking to meetings and trying to walk at lunch, most people STILL spend the majority of their workdays sitting. Booooo!
Fortunately, there is a way to sneak strengthening exercises into your daily routine, even if your day is packed with meetings. One trick is using isometrics. These are moves that use contraction and relaxation to engage muscles.
HOW ISOMETRIC EXERCISES WORK
On a basic level, muscles contract in three main ways. Concentric contraction happens when a muscle tenses, which means you’re shortening it. Eccentric contraction occurs when that muscle tension is prompted through lengthening, such as resistance or lowering a weight.
For example, with a bicep curl, you have concentric contraction as you bring the weight toward you, and eccentric contraction as you lower the weight.
With isometric contraction, muscles tighten without changing length, and there is no movement in a joint. Examples include pushing against an immoveable object like a wall or holding plank. You remain in one position without movement, but are still doing plenty of work.
Isometrics are also called “static strength training.” These exercises can be so effective they bring muscles to fatigue quickly and the effects last long after they’re done.
Try some of these isometric exercises throughout your workday. Although they seem like modest moves, they can help to keep your muscles working:
Clasp your hands or press your palms together in front of your chest, elbows bent, exerting equal pressure in both arms. Hold each press for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5–6 times. This will work your biceps, chest and triceps — maybe while you’re reading emails.
Sit up straight in your chair, with shoulders relaxed. Breathe deeply and engage your abs as if you’re bracing for a punch. Hold for 5 seconds, then breathe out while “crunching” your abs upward as if you’re doing a sit-up. Exhale completely, take a few breaths, then repeat. This can be a great exercise during long meetings, since the action is subtle and no one will know you’re doing a major ab workout while you’re taking notes.
Strong glutes help to protect your back, especially when you’re chair-bound for most of the day. A simple isometric exercise is to squeeze your glutes and hold the contraction for 10 seconds, then release.
To get some movement in your shoulders and engage your core, stand about 3 feet from a wall and place your palms against it at shoulder height and width apart. Press firmly against the wall for 10 seconds, then release. You can also make this into a push-up by lowering your torso toward the wall and pressing back up.
The main benefit you’ll see with isometric holds is stabilization of the muscles. Isometric exercises are done in a static position which means they won’t help improve speed or athletic performance, however they can help maintain muscle strength.
Isometric movements are often used in physical therapy to rehab injured muscles, so if you’re trying to bounce back after injury or other issues, putting some isometric exercises into your everyday schedule can also be useful.
There is also another advantage to performing these movements, especially for work: Isometric exercises can help lower blood pressure. That means you can de-stress and fit in some workout moves at the same time.
You should try incorporating a few exercises per day, and do them at about 30% of your max effort. From there, you can start to build more into your workdays and increase intensity over time.
Like I mentioned, this is just one way to increase your physical activity with a desk job. There are also bodyweight movements and other exercises you can perform to improve your strength while on the job.
Provided by Coach Meredith
In 1972, researcher Walter Mischel did a now-famous experiment at Stanford. He sat children between the ages of four and six in an empty room with a marshmallow on a table. Researchers told each child that they could have one marshmallow right now, but if they waited a little while, then they could have two marshmallows. Then, the researchers left the children alone with the marshmallow to see what happened.
Some kids ate the marshmallow immediately.
Some kids waited a few minutes, then caved in.
But about one-third of the children were able to wait longer.
They came up with ways to avoid the marshmallow temptation while they waited. Some covered their eyes or turned away from the marshmallow. Some invented little distractions, such as humming. Their payoff, of course, was twice as many marshmallows.
By waiting - or delaying gratification - these children succeeded in getting more in the long term than they had in the short term.
TO SEE THE STUDY CLICK HERE
That's interesting enough, but what's even more interesting is what happened afterwards.
Children who were able to delay gratification in the marshmallow experiment turned out to be more successful later on, too. (By the way, this experiment also worked with pretzels, candy, and chocolate, in case you were concerned that maybe kids just didn't like marshmallows.)
In the late 1980s, when Mischel checked in on the children he'd studied, the two-marshmallow kids were still winning the game of life. They were doing better socially and academically. They had their act together.
And guess what? The same principle of delaying gratification applies to wellness, weight loss and getting in shape.
Remind yourself of what you truly want.
Remember that what you get in the future might be twice as good as what you get right now.
You don't have to have iron willpower for this.
Sometimes, all you have to do is get through just a few minutes of discomfort.
Think about the "impulse eating" situations that you often find yourself in, such as:
Like the children you can:
Remember what's truly important to you
WHAT's UP NEXT?
This weekend, try sitting with a little bit of discomfort and difficulty.
Get just slightly hungry. It's OK. Embrace the challenge.
WHAT TO DO TODAY
1. Stay focused on what you truly want in the long run.
Remind yourself of who you are and why you're here. Ask yourself:
When and where are you likely to make rushed or thoughtless choices? From now on, anticipate this. Come up with ways to stay on track and delay gratification.
3. Find strategies to help yourself stay focused.
Like the children you can:
By Coach Meredith
It’s that time of year where the spotlight is on that beach bod. Some of you may have already started months ago working towards your new summer body goal, whereas some may be getting frustrated with where they’re currently at and want to make a change ASAP. When setting weight goals, it’s easy to pick a number that seems as low as possible, or at least lower than you are now, or to illogically choose a time in your personal history when your weight seemed just right. Maybe that was high school, pre-baby or just a few months ago.
Some may choose to go with a standardized number, like the “normal” range of your body mass index (BMI), or even compare yourself to some of the fitter people on your social media feed who seem to be around your height, age, and build.
The fact is: Choosing an ideal number for your weight isn’t easy. This is because age and gender play a role as well. Body weight does have a relation to optimal health and can be useful for preventing health risks that come along with being overweight or obese, however that number isn’t the “end all be all.”
Let’s talk a bit about the problem with using a BMI (Body Mass Index):
Although it’s common for physicians, insurance companies, some schools and even the Centers for Disease Control to use BMI for measurement, there are plenty of issues when it comes to using that for gauging weight.
First off, those with more muscle mass are automatically heavier and will be put into a higher BMI. So technically speaking if we are using the BMI scale, the fittest, most ripped person you know will be considered obese (For example: Rich Froning, Katrin Davidsdottir = obese). Even with those who are “normal weight,” the BMI doesn’t allow for insight into muscle versus fat.
Adding to the difficulty of using BMI, there have been several different formulas in the last 50 years for determining “ideal weight.” Even within the BMI, the range of recommended weight can be wide, four formulas in particular — Hamwi, Devine, Miller and Robinson — each come with their own set of criteria, and while the results may be similar, there are still variations.
For example, a 30-year-old woman who is 5-foot-4 would be considered within a healthy range if she weighed between 107–145 pounds. Using the most recent formula, the Robinson formula would put her ideal weight at 123. But a woman who has solid muscle mass may weigh more than the “ideal weight.” So does that mean she needs to risk losing that muscle just to reach a lower number? That seems ridiculous. The BMI gives a very imprecise estimate of a person’s activity level, which is recognized as contributing to successful aging and greater health.
What’s a better way to measure?
You can track body fat percentage, waist-to-hip ratio and other measurements, OR you could simply ditch the numbers altogether. Step away from the scale, set a goal, write it down and work toward it. When I say set a goal here, I mean set a more tangible goal like having your clothes fit better or be able to run a 5k within a certain time. Fitness related goals usually create the body composition changes you want without the reliance on weight.
Don’t get me wrong, the scale is a great tool to measure progress, but it is not the only one AND your weight needs to come into context with other aspects of your lifestyle—Nutrition, physical activity, sleep and stress ALL come into play here.
If you’d like a more accurate measure of your health, you can set up a time with Coach Meredith to get measurements.
By Coach Meredith
I hope you all have been enjoying your summer so far. Can you believe it’s already July?! Let’s start off this month by talking about getting your whole family active. Summer months are the most active for Ohioans and you and your family should definitely be taking advantage of it!
Active parents raise active children. It’s a fact. Research shows that children will take after their parents and have similar physical activity levels. So, as you find the balance between work, family, and extracurricular activities, be mindful that your children will follow in your footsteps, literally. Fitness should always be a priority in a family’s daily schedule.
It is recommended by the American Heart Association that from the age of 2 and above, you should participate in an hour of moderate to vigorous activity every day. Children who meet this goal will find it easier to maintain a healthy weight as they work to prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke, and other metabolic diseases.
One hour each day might sound like a large chunk of time, but there are several different ways to incorporate physical activity into your family’s routine little by little.
Here are some ideas:
There you have it, some top tips for increasing your family’s activity level.
By Coach Meredith
Food cravings tend to derail our weight loss or fitness goals. Cravings are a natural and normal response to meeting a need, however we don’t always need to give in to an edible object. Learning how to control our cravings is key for our health and wellness. We can reduce our overall susceptibility to acting on them and ultimately reduce the effect it has on us.
Here are some tips to help control and satisfy those cravings:
Our hunger cues can be both physiological or hedonic. This means either our bodies are actually hungry or we saw something appetizing and it set off hunger pangs. If it’s the latter, try something as simple as breathing. By changing our breath, we can change how we feel. Long, deep exhalations help to ease anxiety, which also helps you fight cravings. Very slow breathing, about nine breaths per minute, has also been found to possibly help reduce food cravings.
THINK ABOUT IT
Justification is the enemy here. When someone eats something they probably shouldn’t have or has too much of something, they typically use justification as to why they were “allowed” to have it. For example: “I walked my 10k steps today, I can have this brownie Blizzard.” Although it may seem hard in the moment, being logical and actually thinking about why you need the food, can help to stop a craving. Are you actually physically hungry and are in need of energy? Or are you just bored? If you track your calories or macros [macronutrients], you are able to easily see if you’ve hit your goal for the day. This helps you to see that you don’t “need” that ice cream, you just “want” it.
Procrastination isn’t always a good thing, but it might help you with your cravings. Taking a brief walk or doing some physical activity for 3-5 minutes has been known to help decrease the thoughts of food. Also replacing that craving by playing a game or reading, helps to reduce overall snacking. Using an app like Stop, Breathe & Think or Headspace and doing a short meditation is another great way to distract yourself from those cravings.
Eating on a consistent schedule helps us to keep our blood sugar levels stable which in turn helps us to avoid the crash and cravings that follow. Whether you’re a 3, 5, or even 6 meal a day person, this strategy will surely help fend off the unwanted cravings.
HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN
It’s always a great idea to have a Plan B for your nutrition. For example, if mornings get too crazy trying to shuffle the kids out of the house and you don’t have time to make breakfast, keep five ingredients on hand that you can toss in the blender to have a quick, healthy smoothie. Or what happens if you pack everyone else’s lunch and forget your own? Have a plan to know exactly where to go for a healthy lunch option. Having a plan in place will make you less likely to eat just anything.
There are my top tips to fighting off those annoying food cravings and saving you the extra calories. And don’t forget to DRINK PLENTY OF WATER as it is getting hot outside (another food craving fighter).
By Coach Meredith
I’ve had some people asking me about the best ways to go about ‘Meal Prepping.’ There are more than these options to go about it, however I find that most people are able to stick with these 3 food prep schedules:
1. Sunday Service
You don’t have to do this on Sunday, of course. You can choose any day you like, but pick 1 day during your week that works best for you.
I say Sunday because it is often a time when people are more free, more relaxed, and more able to devote time to this type of task. It is also a time when we’re usually thinking ahead to the upcoming week.
Whatever day you choose, set aside 2-3 hours once a week to do the following:
Meal prepping in advance helps to give yourself a little extra buffer zone. You never know what unexpected challenge might strike at 6pm on Wednesday, and when it does, you’ll be glad you stocked away an extra meal in the freezer.
You can combine what you do on Sunday with a Daily habit — for example, by preparing the labor-intensive staples such as lean protein on Sunday, and then adding some quick-prep items, such as fruit and veggies, every day.
It often takes about as much time to prepare a few items as it does to prepare one.
For example, it’s nearly as fast to chop 3 carrots as it is to chop 1, or to scramble 6 eggs instead of 2. During the Daily Ritual, you can prep a few extra items to have on hand for later in the day, or the following day.
Another option for the Daily routine is the Morning routine – this is where you use some of the time-saving strategies to whip up a healthy breakfast or lunch:
Or try a Dinner routine where you simply make extra portions and save the rest for tomorrow.
Again, it doesn’t take much more time to prepare a few extra things, so cook in bulk where possible.
3. Healthy meals made for you
I briefly touched on this in a previous blog, however it is another great option to eat healthy. Many grocery stores now offer a wide range of grab-and-go meals. This includes salad bars, pre-washed and cut vegetables, and individually-portioned lean protein. There are also many specialty food store chains that offer healthy food takeout and delivery.
There are also options for a healthy meal delivery service, if only for one or two meals a week. Some of these include Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Paleo To Me (which delivers to our gym!). If you don’t enjoy cooking, or are extremely busy, you may find that having a break from the time and hassle of meal prep is worth the money. It might just mean the difference between a delicious, nourishing, physique-friendly lunchtime salad and another regrettable fast-food run.
The goal here is: Do what works best for you, your life, and your goals.
You can mix and match all of these food-prep options, in any way that works for you. Anticipate, plan, strategize.—This is the key to mastering your nutrition.
By Coach Meredith
Stop being "PERFECT" and be "GOOD ENOUGH" instead.
Outdoor survival tip!
When you’re running from a bear, you don't have to run the fastest.
All you have to do is run a little bit faster than the slowest person.
In other words, when you're improving your habits and choices, you never have to be "perfect.”
You just have to be a little bit better, consistently.
The 0% Game
Try a game.
You know those parents who focus on how much less than 100% their kids got?
For example let’s take a grade school test, "If you get 90% on your math test, what happened to the other 10%?"
They start from 100% (i.e. perfect) and work backwards. So everything is always portrayed less than 100%.
Now let’s do the Opposite:
So how could you apply this to your lifestyle?
See how much better things look when you start from the worst-case scenario?!
Let’s explore further:
What would move you just a little bit forward today?
What could make you just a little bit better today?
The answer? --
Progress, not perfection
Consider two options:
Option 1: Making yourself crazy for a week chasing a "100%" performance, followed by burning out and giving up.
Option 2: Trying to be 1% better every day, for a full year
Let's do the math:
7 days x 100% effort + 358 days x 0% effort = no change, or backsliding. You end up feeling like a failure.
365 days x 1% better every day = significant transformation. You end up feeling like a superstar.
Focus on "making a little progress" each day rather than being "perfect.”
Start from 0% and add. Notice your small accomplishments.
Let yourself be "good enough for now". Take the pressure off. Be patient.
Keep showing up. Keep trying.
And let the bear bite someone else in the butt.
Don’t wait for the “perfect” day, “perfect” body, or “perfect” schedule full of free time to come.
It never will.
Do something NOW.
Take the next 5 minutes to do whatever you can do, immediately, to stay on track.
Do that, and you're already 1% better. Congrats!
What to do today
Remember- you are only one person and can only do so much. Do not wear yourself down aiming for perfection when changing a little at a time is much more effective and manageable.
If you’re in need of any help setting goals or finding where to start, please do not hesitate to ask one of your coaches. We’re here to help!
Stop Exercising...Start Training!
By Coach CJ
You’ve probably had every intention of getting in the best shape of your life THIS year, but still haven’t committed to the process. What went wrong?? It doesn’t matter if you haven’t stepped foot in a gym for 20 years or if you’ve been going FIVE times per week, chances are you’re looking at it as 'EXERCISE' not ‘TRAINING.’
Let’s take a step back and discuss the difference:
Exercise is movement without purpose; motion without direction. It’s what my mother does when she walks around the block, or you go to the gym and make up a workout on the spot.
Training is a mindset. It’s, the way in which you approach any exercise you do. Training is doing that same ‘EXERCISE’ activity, but with a specific, measurable goal in mind. Training involves having a plan of action on how you’re going to get to that goal. If you want results, training is the most effective way to get there.
Here are 5 steps to begin training:
1. SET A PRIMARY GOAL & MAKE A PLAN
We at The Bar Athletics love SMART Goals (Refer back to last week's SMART GOAL BLOG). SMART Goals allow you to get started in the right direction. All too often we hear, “I want to get healthy [fit, strong].” In order to become healthy, fit, or strong, you need a plan to get to that destination. “Healthy” and “strong” aren't specific enough. I want you to think of a road map, the foldable kind our parents kept in the glove box and used for family vacations. My father would unfold the map, mark our home or our starting location, and then find our destination. Next, he would highlight the route from starting location to end destination, figuring out the most efficient way to get there. He included checkpoints for gas and rest along the way. The point here is that he had a goal, a destination in mind, and the map was his plan. Think of your goal as a destination on a map. What route and what checkpoints do you need to go through in order to make it to your goal? How will you become healthy, fit, or strong? It’s time to set some goals and get SMART!
2. SMALLER, MORE SPECIFIC GOALS
How do you know you're headed in the right direction? Smaller, more frequent goals. At any particular moment, training and exercise might look more or less the same. But as we discussed earlier, they are not. When you train, sessions have specific goals relative to the overall goals of a program. The activities, loads, and frequencies you use are vital. You do what you need to do, not just what you want to do. For example, when training for a competition 3 months down the road you will need to set expectations of your training in order to perform at your best ability when the competition date arrives. Smaller goals such as attaining a higher load or more repetitions, will benefit the ultimate goal of your performance down the road.
3. FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
Fundamentals are the basics of your training. Without them we should not and could not train. They also provide the importance of having a coach. Having a coach might seem obvious, but there are many athletes that prefer to train alone. There are several important reasons for having a coach, but two integral reasons are:
1. The coach has knowledge, experience, and can provide an unbiased set of eyes.
2. The coach will get an athlete to do things he or she wouldn't do otherwise.
4. TRAINING IS EFFICIENT
If you look at any particular element in your training program and you can't explain how it will aid in your primary goal, then you probably shouldn't be doing it. For example, let’s say you’re looking to fit into your bathing suit this summer and are only doing cardio and avoiding strength training. Oh, you just want to “tone up?” Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but “TONING” is actually saying you want to build some muscle and lose body fat. Strength training is the most efficient way to “tone” up and lose body fat as it burns calories both during and post-exercise versus cardio which only burns during. An Olympic lifter, for example, would be wasting his time and energy doing hundreds of bench presses and calf raises when his focus should be on cleans, jerks, and snatches. In comparison, a bodybuilder doesn't need to be doing an hour of power cleans every day. My point here is to train efficiently for your goal. Do what is necessary to get you one step closer to where you need to be.
5. TRAINING USES STATS
When training, you will know before a session is even finished whether or not that day was successful. You don't judge training quality based on how tired you are, how sore you got, or the volume you were able to perform. Successful training is not judged on the pump you got, but on the progression toward YOUR GOALS. This is made possible by keeping record of all volumes, repetitions, and drills you use in training. Other items we must keep track of are our nutrition and sleep. If you didn't hit your planned number or rep scheme for the day, then there was a flaw somewhere. Flaws are due to the many variables in our lives. Maybe it was the programming, maybe your nutrition was off or perhaps you weren't rested enough. Good record-keeping will help you identify the problem and point you in the right direction to solve it.
So if you want results from your exercise, set up a training program to get to your goal the right way. Use the five steps we discussed to get started today!
Not sure what goals to set? Meet with one of our coaches for a FREE goal setting session.
By Coach Meredith
Friendly Reminder -- This coming weekend is ‘Daylight Savings Time’ and we will be “springing forward” by setting our clocks 1-hour forward at 2:00am on Sunday March 12th. So unfortunately, we will be “losing” an hour this weekend, but we will gain that extra hour of daylight in the evenings to look forward to!
That being said let’s touch base on how we can become more well rested, have a great start to our day, and in turn become more successful human beings. Studies have been done to prove that morning people are generally more successful throughout their lives and I have gathered some of the top tips to help you become an early riser.
1. Get Up An Hour Early
Getting up an hour earlier is going to take time to adjust to, so I suggest weaning yourself into it 10-15 minutes at a time until you’ve built up to an hour. Research has shown, not only are early risers more optimistic and conscientious, they also anticipate problems and minimize them more efficiently. Most people will say they do not have the time to wake up a full hour earlier if they want to make sure they are well-rested (6-8 hours of sleep), therefore I suggest you take a look at your nightly routine to find any adjustments there as well.
I personally love early mornings. There is something about knowing you are up before the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world that provides a sense of clarity and motivation for the day. Waking up early offers you opportunities that few get to enjoy – watch the sun rise, hear the sound of birds chirping, and just be still. We are always on the move. Sit and enjoy the morning calm. It’s a brief time where you can be alone with your thoughts and just breathe.
2. Eat Breakfast
Fuel your body right for the day and tasks ahead. This means feeding yourself a wholesome breakfast. If the rest of the family is up, take some time to sit down and enjoy the start to your day with loved ones. Feeding your body with whole foods within an hour of waking will help you maintain a steady focus throughout the day.
3. Bed-head or Dread-Head?
Re-prioritize your to-do list, placing the most dreaded task at the top of your list. Instead of letting it loom over you all day, save yourself the agony and stress and get it done first thing. You will feel a sense of relief and accomplishment and be more ready and willing to tackle any trivial task that follows. Remember, the morning is the time when you typically have the most energy and feel the most rested. This is a win-win!
First, dig deep and find out what inspires you. Second, create your mantra. Third, repeat that same saying to yourself every morning. Fourth, breathe and relax. This is shown to improve motivation and focus for your day ahead.
5. Move it or Lose it
Morning workouts not only give you a boost of energy, they pump you up, ensuring your senses are up and running. You’ll feel ready to tackle any problem that comes your way. Studies have shown that people are less likely to come up with excuses early in the morning. SO-- with fewer interruptions, you now have no excuse not to set your alarm 15-60 minutes early and sneak in a quick jog or workout.
There you have it. Five tips to help you become a more successful and healthier person by 9am. Have a great week all!