The Four Tendencies and Becoming Better Than Before

Persisting with a habit can be particularly hard when the habit doesn’t yield flashy results. While there’s the satisfaction of knowing that I’m doing what’s good for me and holding myself to my intentions, rarely do I achieve glorious outcomes. I’ve found, however, that if I can get through this dry period, the habit truly takes over and proves itself by making my life better than before.

– Gretchen Rubin

Better Than Before

Better Than BeforeIt’s the title of Gretchen Rubin’s new book and my mission as a personal trainer. I always tell clients if I don’t leave them better than I found them than I haven’t done my job. Her quote also explains the challenge of my process. Real fitness, real change, isn’t quick or glamorous. Finding the right way to guide people through that “dry period” of forming foundational habits is tough. Getting them to the point where all of the hard work seems worth it isn’t easy. Putting together an exercise program is a snap. Getting people to do their exercise homework isn’t. Explaining how food works in the body and the simple rules of balancing the plate isn’t difficult work. Helping clients change their thinking about their bodies, the choices they make and their relationship with food is the real work.

That’s why I am such a student of behavior change. Every time I read a book like Switch or The Willpower Instinct my goal is to get new tools to help my clients make lasting change via the formation of new habits.

The thing about Better Than Before is that most of the tools aren’t really new. Scheduling, Monitoring and Convenience are classic behavior change tools. Waiting 15 minutes (delayed gratification) before reaching for the cookie and leaving your gym bag in the car (clear the path, set up for success) are common tidbits of behavior advice. The problem is these things don’t seem to work for everyone. Her explanation of WHY this is the case is what I found most fascinating.

Her framework of self-knowledge, called the Four Tendencies, looks at how a person responds to expectations. Basically in this world we have both inner expectations (the goal we set for ourselves to meditate for 15 minutes) and outer expectations (the boss expecting you at the 8 am staff meeting). Some of us respond best to both (Upholders like me), while others respond best to inner expectations (Questioners like my husband Brian) or outer expectations (Obligors like most of my clients). There are also those who really don’t respond well to either. She calls them the Rebels.

The curve is bell shaped. Upholders and Rebels are on the tails with a majority of the population being either Obligors or Questioners. Most strategies, as she readily admits, appeal to the Upholder nature. We love to-do lists and schedules. We have no problem making a meal plan or keeping a gym date with ourselves. If we set a rule for ourselves, we follow it.

I know that most of my clients are Obligors and they come to me for accountability. Obligors do well when they commit to others. The hire me so I am waiting for them to do their workout. They need to have someone to answer to because answering to themselves just doesn’t do the trick. Sometimes I forget this. I fall back to my Upholder tendencies, relying too much on the tricks that work for me. Despite the fact that I say it all the time, I forget that everyone is different. I sometimes forget what the beginning of this journey is like.

When I remember the need for accountability, I hit another issue. The biggest problem I encounter is that most of my Obligors are already over obligated. The stress of work deadlines, kids involved in multiple sports, commitments to book clubs and charities and husbands who are less than helpful with cooking and housework make my request to go to the grocery store seem extremely daunting. I feel caught between a desire to hold their feet to the fire about homework and a fear of pushing them closer to the edge of rebellion (and the pint of Ben & Jerry’s the husband insists on keeping in the freezer).

I REFUSE to use exercise as punishment. If they skip home workouts their training sessions will be tough enough as it is. I don’t need to make them do 10 burpees as penance. If the food log is blank I believe it’s better to encourage them to start at the next meal instead focusing on what cannot be undone and the shame of an incomplete assignment. Yet I know I need to do a better job with accountability because that is their whole reason for seeking me out in the first place.

By the time I finished the book, I had managed to gleam a few ideas that may provide some new ways to keep Obligors accountable while being sensitive to the stress of modern life.

  • The obligation doesn’t have to be to me. It can be to their Facebook friends or their co-workers. All they need to do is announce their intention to walk daily online and someone will hold them to it. If they tell their kids or office mates that they are no longer eating sugar, they are now obligated to them to not eat sugar.
  • I need to help them avoid rebellion and burnout by encouraging treats, not food ones preferably. As part of the weekly workout schedule I need to include things they want to do for pure pleasure and are no way tied to a reward system. By adding “take a nap” or “watch an episode of Orange Is the New Black” to their plan it helps them avoid guilt of taking time for themselves. The time to refresh will actually strengthen willpower.
  • If I frame an assignment in terms of the benefit to someone else it can be extremely helpful. While they may have an issue going for a walk themselves, telling them to walk the dog because it’s good for the dog might be more effective. They may struggle to eat breakfast for their own health. However if I frame it in terms of eating breakfast with the kids so they can concentrate in school they may be much more successful.

These tips also work with the Upholders and the Questioners, especially if the Questioners can see the logic for doing so. The Rebels are another story. I don’t think she offered any solid advice for the Rebels. All I can do is offer my time, my expertise and acknowledge that there are just some things a personal trainer can’t fix.

5 Move Medicine Ball Workout

5 Move Medicine Ball Workout

There is only one exercise that every client enjoys. They ask for it. They cheer when I tell them they get to do it. Any guesses what exercise it is?

Medicine ball slams.

As a personal trainer I love medicine ball slams because they are a great low impact (unless you count the impact of the ball on the floor) exercise that gets your heart rate up and develops power. Anyone at any age or fitness level can do medicine ball slams. My clients love them because they are a great stress reliever.

A medicine ball is actually a very versatile piece of exercise equipment. It can be used in many strength exercises in place of a dumbbell, like wood chops or tricep extensions. I’ve found this especially handy with clients who have grip issues. With certain types of tendonitis holding a ball is less painful than trying to grip a dumbbell. I once had a client with cerebral palsy who could not grab a dumbbell but could hold a small medicine ball.

They can also provide a new level of challenge to your workout because of their shape and their ability to be thrown, bounced and rolled. Yet the medicine ball is less threatening than many other types of exercise equipment. You throw a ball as a kid, you know how to do that. It feels safe in a mysterious gym full of otherwise foreign and intimidating tools.

Perhaps best of all they are relatively inexpensive and you can keep one anywhere. You only need one to get a great workout that combines both strength and cardio. If you’re short on time, try this five move medicine ball circuit training workout to get your heart rate up, work most of your major muscles and have some fun while doing it! Beginners, go through this circuit two times, 30 seconds per exercise. If you’re more advanced do this up to four times and 45 seconds per exercise.

  • Squat and Raise

    Start standing with feet shoulder width apart and toes turned out slightly. Hold your medicine ball low and in front of you with straight arms. Descend into your squat with the goal of touching the floor with your medicine ball. As you come out of the squat raise the medicine ball over head with straight arms. Lower ball and repeat.

  • Soccer Taps

    Place the medicine ball on the ground in front of you. Shift your weight from side to side as you lift a leg up and tap the top of the ball with your toe. Make sure you bring your knee all the way up so you hit the top of the ball and not kick it on the side.

  • Lunge and Twist

    Hold your medicine ball at chest height, close to the body. Take a forward lunge with the right foot, hold the lunge and twist to your right. Return the ball to center and then come out of the lunge to return to the starting position. The lunge forward with the left foot, holding while you twist to your left. Return to center and then back to start. Continue alternating sides.

  • Medicine Ball Push Ups

    Get in push up position with a medicine ball under one hand and the other flat on the ground. Perform a push up, then roll the ball to the other hand. This can be done on your toes or knees, just keep your body straight and don’t engage your hips.

  • Medicine Ball Slams

    As I said, this core activating and heart rate elevating exercise is the favorite among my clients. Use a rubber medicine ball that will bounce. Hold it high above your head then throw it forcefully down to the ground. Don’t use your legs! Keep your arms straight and focus on using your shoulders and back for the slam.

Did I mention medicine balls are portable too? If you’ve got a summer road trip planned, grab a medicine ball to do these moves on the road. You’ll have fun and get a great workout on the go.

My Fit Foodie Favorite Things in Springfield, MO

 

Fitness Favorite Things

Have you ever been a tourist in you own hometown? With all the travel that Brian and I do it’s easy to forget how much beauty we have in the Ozarks. It’s easy to overlook  great food since we don’t dine out a lot when we’re not on the road. Our lives get so busy that we don’t make time for things like the First Friday Art Walk, something we used to do every month. We hike like crazy in Hawaii but neglect all the trails just an hour or so away from home. My love of tea and being forced to walk not run due to an injury inspired me to take a fresh look at 417-land. This month, I am loving my hometown and the unique things it has to offer.

Chabom Tea + Spices

The anticipation of this shop is what inspired me to get curious about what’s new (or new to me) in Springfield. Brought to you by the owners of Café Cusco, Chabom offers has a huge variety of loose teas and spices plus tea ware, gifts and treats. I’ve been looking forward to their opening for months. (I might have been a bit overzealous with my Facebook posts, declaring my excitement.) I feel like I may have ambushed them with my excitement at their soft opening during the C-Street Stroll. I could tell it was really a soft opening for them, so I waited to really explore when I came back a couple weeks later. The fully stocked store was everything I had hoped it would be! Joe and his staff are amazingly friendly, patiently answering all my questions about what  pu-erh tea they can order and who makes their delicious selection of gluten free and vegan baked goods. Buying loose tea by the ounce is a great way to learn about new teas. Plus they’ll brew you a cup of anything on the shelf! Stop buy for a cup of Chinese jasmine and a rose spiced cookie if you want a real treat! Tell them I sent you.

The Date Lady

Born in Springfield but available in over 500 stores in the US, Date Lady products are amazing! I’ve always loved dates but The Date Lady has made my affection soar to a whole new level. We were lucky enough to have the owner and Chef Date Aficionado, Colleen Sundlie, to ourselves for a bit at the C-Street Stroll open house. Her story deserves a blog post of it’s own! She is passionate about her product, loading up the car to travel all over the US to spread her date love! I can guarantee most people have never had the quality of date she sells. Soft and caramel like, they almost melt in your mouth. I replaced honey on the baked pears I have been making with balsamic vinegar date syrup blend with delicious results. I am also absolutely in love with the date syrup! I made The Date Lady gluten free coconut macaroons and I followed her suggestion to put the date syrup on my protein pancakes. I am very inspired to work on some date recipes of my own! Even if you don’t live in SGF, you can still enjoy her treats by visiting The Date Lady online.

Legacy Bagelry

Never underestimate the power of Instagram. I’ve been following Legacy Bagelry for a while but I wasn’t inspired to actually visit their store until I saw their protein bars. These house made gems are peanut butter based, vegan and gluten free. While they didn’t have specific nutrition facts available, they didn’t taste overly sweet. I know they are sweetened with date syrup (from The Date Lady!) and come in a chocolate peanut or trail mix varieties. The staff was super helpful when I asked a million questions about the bars’ ingredients. I love their mission, which they call call their Doctrinology:
Simple. Wholesome. Fresh.
Next time I may grab a coconut chai latte to go with my bar or a bagel to share with Brian.

I have another local favorite that I plan on visiting…once my ankle heels. I ran a 5K a few weeks back and somehow injured my ankle. I was fine during the race but the next day not so much. As soon as I can run again, I am going to my local Ultra Max Sports store to get a new pair of running shoes. I have a feeling part of my problem came from running in the wrong shoe. Ultra Max fits you for the right show and, according to one of my clients, will take them back if they turn out to be the wrong shoe for you! I may end spending a little more than I might if I ordered from Amazon but to be able to return a used shoe is well worth it. In them mean time, I can walk and hike! So I am open to running shoe suggests. I’ve got flat feet with a bit of a wide toe box. I open to our suggestions as well. What running shoes do you love? What spot am I missing in SGF? Where would you take me in your hometown?

Farmers Market Finds for June: Zoodles and Berries!

Farmers-Market-Finds-for-June--Zoodles-and-Berries

Here is my best piece of farmers market advice.

Go EARLY!

Farmer's Market Zucchini

There is a big difference in the crowds at 8 am, when Farmers Market of the Ozarks officially opens, and 10:30 am. On a particularly rainy Saturday, when I arrived much later than usual, we were elbow to elbow under the pavilion. It’s harder to browse, harder to get the farmers attention to make a purchase and certainly harder to get a parking spot. If early mornings aren’t your thing you can go to Farmer Market of the Ozarks on Thursday nights but you won’t have nearly the selection. Plus you have to dodge people and their cocktails who are there more for happy hour than to pick out zucchini.

fmf-06-2015-3

Speaking of zucchini – it’s everywhere! I’ve been enjoying my zoodles both raw and cooked. I have a new raw salad combo that I can’t get enough of featuring zoodles and a Spicy Thai Peanut Dressing from Clean Eating magazine. I add shredded carrots to my zoodles along with fresh cilantro and basil. Then I top with a tablespoon of the dressing. I could eat it every day! I have also found zoodles to be a great way to bulk up regular pasta thanks to the Healthy Pasta cookbook. I recently made a linguine with zucchini noodles and peas from the book. I omitted the pancetta and learned a vegan cooking hack for replacing smoky meats – smoked sea salt! It helped give the base the flavor it needed and then I added a few vegetarian “bacon bits” on top.

Farmer's Market Blue Berries

Fruit lovers can also rejoice in June! Blueberries and peaches are here! I had my first peach of the season a couple of weeks ago. It had gorgeous orange and red flesh and was so juicy I had to hold the napkin under my mouth the entire time. Peaches will be around for a while as the different varieties hit their peak but blueberry season is very short. Get plenty and freeze them for use in smoothies or chia jam later in the year.

This month I also want to give a big shout out to Echigo Farm. I’ve raved about my favorite delicacy, the an-pan, in past. Now I have to let you in on my newest find – fermented chickpea hummus. Fermented foods provide a host of health benefits with their probiotic qualities but most people don’t eat them often enough. This hummus is a delicious solution to that problem. Plus the fermentation process helps the fresh made hummus last longer (if you can resist eating it all in a single weekend). Try it to liven up your veggie wrap or to dip your baby carrots and cucumber in. I also picked up another fermented food for Kimchi Fried Rice (another Clean Eating Magazine find). I love that Echigo Farms makes so many varieties of kimchi. There is bound to be something to please any palate. (Personally I go with the Vegetarian Kimchi because most traditional kimchi contains fish sauce.)

I find kimchi is either a love it or hate it kind of food. Which camp do you fall into? What’s your favorite way to eat your zoodles?

Why I Decided To Stop Weighing My Clients

Why I Decided To Stop Weighing My Clients

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the scale. However, as a personal trainer it has always seemed a necessary part of my job. Clients seem to expect to get weighed as part of their assessment and at regular intervals in their program.

Yet I have always hated starting our initial training relationship by having them step on the scale. It’s like answering the door in a wedding dress on your first date. It creates a lot of pressure and perhaps anxiety for most people who are already anxious enough. That anxiety continues as they wonder, in those first weeks of training, when the scale will be coming again. I tell them during their assessment that we won’t weigh every week or even every month. Despite my efforts at reassurance the “weigh in” can still loom heavy on their minds.

When it is time to check their weight, nothing can ruin a session quicker than a client stepping on the scale and not seeing the number she had in mind. She could have been feeling great up to that very moment and then suddenly she feels like failure. I feel like I have failed her by not letting her just feel strong and enjoy the process. I feel guilty for bringing THAT NUMBER back into the conversation.

So I made a decision to change the conversation. I have decided to stop weighing my clients.

There is enough anxiety in the process without me adding to it. They know how much they weigh. Most of them step on the scale on a regular basis (every morning even, despite my admonishment not to). There is no reason for me to reinforce this unhealthy relationship with the scale by asking them to do it again. If they want to do it, I will oblige. Otherwise we’ll just stay focused on the behaviors needed to reach their goals.

So how do we know if we’re making progress or not? That’s easy enough when you redefine what progress means.

The Goals

There are so many other ways to measure how your body is changing. Start with how your clothes fit. Every one of us has an outfit we want to wear comfortably again. Use that as your goal instead of pounds. Taking a progress picture at regular intervals can also help you see the change that perhaps you can’t see in the mirror. Setting activity goals are another great option to take the focus off weight loss and turn it to living a healthy life. Finishing your first 5K can open the door to a whole new way of looking at yourself. Being able to do a push up for the first time can redefine your limits and help you understand how truly strong you are.

The Behaviors

Real fitness is about consistency. A healthy life is built on healthy habits. I’ve always preferred to focus on what we can do vs. what we can’t do, especially in the beginning. Are you drinking your water every day? Are you eating breakfast? Are you strength training 3 times a week? Are you getting closer to reaching 10k steps a day? These are all behaviors you can control. Mastering them can give you a sense of accomplishment and let you take on a new identity – athlete.

The Milestones

Celebrate conquering your demons – big or small. What bad habits do you need to banish? If you can go 30 days without soda that’s a big win! It may not translate to pounds but I guaranty you will feel better if you do. Maybe 30 days is too much? Try a week without wine, fast food or sugar and you’ll still reap benefits. You might feel so good you’ll decide to do it for another week.

The scale is just a number. It doesn’t define you but it can consume you. If your only goal is to be thinner you will never be satisfied. If your goal is to live a healthy life, every day will be a blessing.

How Three Words Can Inspire a Fitness Journey

BetterU Springfield, MO 2015

According to the calendar the official start to summer is still about a week away. For me, summer starts with the first day of BetterU training.

I’ve spent the last few weeks getting to know our team of 10 women. They gathered for the Welcome Party in May to meet each other and to see just what it was they had gotten themselves into. Each of them comes to the process at a different stage in life and a different stage of their journey. Our youngest is in college, just entering her 20s. The most mature member is just over 70 and ready to make the most of her “golden years”. They are married, single, divorced and widowed. Some of them have children and some do not. It is the group with the most diverse experience and varied fitness levels in my four years coaching the BetterU Makeover Challenge.

I asked them to give me three words to describe their journey so far, just before our first group workout last Saturday and after their initial assessment appointment. Here are a few of their responses.

Overwhelmed. Determined. Enlightened.

Bernadette

How many times have you felt that way? That moment when you start to get the information that might be missing, that light bulb moment. You’re ready to make the most of it but there is just so much of it! It’s okay. For real fitness we take it one step, one habit, at time.

Active. Educational. Soreness.

Claudette

Even if we “tip toe” in, soreness is a reality of moving again. If you do something different your body is going to tell you about it. Would you believe me if I said you come to appreciate the soreness? It becomes a signal that you challenged your body in a new way. NOT PAIN. Not soreness so bad you can’t get out of bed or bend your arms. That’s not what we’re about.

Empowering. Confidence Building.

Judy

This is the WHY. This is what I hope for every client. This is why we want to get fit, to get healthy. It’s about what we can do outside of the gym. It’s about being capable to fully participate in life. If your fitness program is breaking you down instead of building you up, it’s time to rethink your path.

Ready Set Go!

Sarah

That pretty much sums it up. Everyone is ready to move forward. Other words were offered up – nervous, curious and complicated came up too. Yet everyone’s participation so far tells me that they are ready to move forward and soak up every moment of our 12 weeks together. Everyone’s path is going to look different but the road map is the same. My hope is by the end of August the 4 Keys to Real Fitness will be firmly planted in their brains and ready to guide them no matter what the future brings.

Over the next 12 weeks I will ask the ladies to share more of their stories (in more than three words). You can follow their journeys on social media as well with the hashtag #GoRedSGF. I’ve encouraged them to share as much as possible because teaching is learning. Showing others the way is sometimes one of the best ways to learn and stay motivated. That’s one of the reasons I love my job so much. I look forward to this program every year because it reconnects me to my WHY. It gives me new ideas and a new energy that I can share with all my clients.

My three words as we start the program? My three word mantra for success…..

Just Be Present.

What are your three words today?