Staying Active in Colder Snowier Months

If you are reading this in my hometown of Calgary right now, you are aware that we have received a way-too-early dose of winter. As the days get shorter, commutes get longer and temperature chills it can sometimes be hard to stick with any healthy routine. We begin craving heavier comfort foods and its easier to hit snooze and stay tucked into your warm bed then jump up to get out the door for a morning workout. It is during these hard, “I will tomorrow” days that we MUST push through and do it anyway. But how? It depends on your barrier.

“I’m just not motivated”

  • Find a list of indoor activities you LOVE to do. It may still be hard to get there but you know once you are there you won’t regret it. If not for the activity, for the community of people you will get to share an hour with. If you do well with intensity early in the morning, an indoor spin class can be great, or an indoor circuit such as “orange theory”.

  • Agree to meet a colleague or friend. Sadly we can easily let ourselves down but its much harder to justify if someone else is counting on you to show up.

  • Switch-it-up! If you are usually a high intensity person with your activities, maybe try a yoga class or go for a swim instead. Changing the pace may be what you need.

  • Download a playlist you only listen to at the gym. I do this through spotify and have a variety of playlists from acoustic chill, jazz, to more upbeat hip hop or dance. Hearing that favourite tune from 1994 can sometimes give a much needed boost

  • Listen to a podcast. This is also great for the commute TO the gym. Feeding your mindset with something constructive and positive can change your physiology before you even break a sweat.

“I can’t afford a membership to those fancy studios”

  • Make a home plan! Central Athlete is a great resource for a variety of exercises if you are strength training, but there are a variety of yoga classes on youtube, or membership sites that offer free or discounted intros you can try.

  • Many studios offer intro offers. Try a few and see what community and type of class pulls you the most!

  • Often studios will also have options to volunteer in exchange for a pass. Spare 3 hours a week for unlimited access. Sweet deal.

“I don’t have time”

  • We make time for what is important to us. Perhaps that Zumba class isn’t important to you, but the self worth you build by keeping agreements with yourself could be, or the tone and energy you gain along the way. Find the goal or intention that anchors you most and review as often as needed.

  • Set yourself up for success by preparing lunches, wardrobes and your gym stuff the night before, so getting out the door has fewer hurdles.

  • It does not have to be “all or nothing”. Sometimes the commute takes longer than expected and you’re cutting it close to get to a meeting on time. If you are unable to complete that workout as planned due to time, you have two options. Either condense it and put in 15-20 min of intervals or plan an extra workout that week so if one is missed or dropped you have your core plan still in place.

What will have greater affect on you? Action or non-action? Know what barriers tend to arise that keep you from moving (or following through with any of your healthy habits) and find options to overcome. The one work-out or one plate of vegetables isn’t what builds health just as the one missed workout or one fast food meal isn’t going to create disease. It is what we do consistently that matters most.

5 Thoughts on burnout & how not to

I’m currently finishing up preparations for a presentation this week to a local company about preventing burnout. I’ve done many presentations...stress reduction, eating well, lifestyle...and although the content I’m putting together overlaps a lot of that, somehow this topic resonates with me the most. Perhaps because I’ve been there. I know this stuff because I’ve lived it...and still do from time to time. But as any lesson in life, I don’t know that the point is never to fall again, but to gather tools along the way so we fall less often, fall less hard and get up quicker.

One of the daily rituals I enjoy (and yet still inconsistent with), is reading something uplifting as I drink my morning tea, as the start of my day. My favourite right now is to read one or two short essays from Timothy Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors. The questions asked of 100 experts in their field are clever and applicable to anyone wanting to uplevel. I have come to believe over the years that there are no coincidences (thank-you Deepak Chopra), and those “that’s so crazy” moments of serendipity are in fact reinforcing that you are on the right path. So today, before I revisit my presentation, I grabbed Tim’s book and opened up to the next story. The bold quote at the top of the page reads “Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success” from none other than Arianna Huffington. I won’t rewrite the contents here because I truly believe this is a book that anyone would find valuable, but there were some key thoughts she shared about life and burnout in particular that I felt to be worth sharing here...and you can bet will be included in this week’s presentation also. Keep in mind I’m paraphrasing here, but this is how her words fell into my ears...

1. Express gratitude. Remember those who supported you when they had nothing to gain. She STILL sends a Christmas card to the banker who gave her a loan years ago when she (seemed to be) out of options. 

2. Put on your own oxygen mask first. This analogy is used a ton with coaching people to put self care as a priority. Arianna (may I use her first name?) describes her oxygen mask to be sleeping, meditating, walking, working out, etc. It took her collapsing in 2007 from exhaustion for her to see how important her wellbeing was to her productivity. She views taking care of herself as an investment (as we all should) that has pay-offs for years to come.

3. Reframe perception of time. This one is huge for me. I honestly always have felt this panic around “running out of time”. Even when I graduated at 25 from Chiropractic College, I felt I was late to the game (of work) and still feel that way at times. I think a lot of this is culturally constructed. In this context, she was discussing the parameters she had placed around work vs non-work time. She began to reframe what “work” time meant, and started to include walks and meditating and unplugging as part of her “work” because those habits were what enabled her to be productive, creative, effective and...happier. And isn’t that the grand poobah goal for all of us?

4. Changing your mind about something is one thing, but sometimes it is easier to start with a small action step to move us in the right direction. She gave two tech tips I love...one won’t be brand new but when I’ve done this, I had the best sleep of my life and got out of bed with ease. It’s as simple as plugging in your technology OUTSIDE your bedroom at night. NO scrolling through social media, or last minute emails. If you must remember midnight ideas, then leave a journal and pen beside your bed. But disconnect. The second, which was a new idea for me, is to periodically scramble the apps on your phone. She describes the benefit of giving you an extra amount of time to decide if you do indeed need to use their phone or if its more a boredom or habit. I’ve also gone so far as leaving my phone in my car if I’m waiting for an appointment. I’ve noticed things around me when my eyes aren’t glued to the screen and the biggest thing is that in a room full of people, no one is even aware of the person next to them. If I want to improve my connections in this world it wont happen by looking at my screen. From a neurology standpoint though, scrambling the apps on your phone or tablet is similar to taking a different route home. It causes the brain to pay attention and gets you out of the hardwired path you take each day. Any action that has novelty is brain food.

5. OK so, sometimes we can’t always be ahead of the game and lets face it. We all hit a wall from time to time. So what then? Typically that’s when we feel we have the least amount of time and often by then are in a headspace where solutions elude us and the downward spiral continues. SO what then? Arianna mirrors my thoughts on taking five minutes to breathe. If taking five minutes away from the task will make the next twenty more productive, you must pause and centre yourself.

There is so much more I could write on this, and I likely will, but these gems stood out. Start where you are, look to where you want to go and ask yourself if your current lifestyle and habits will get you there. If so, breathe and enjoy. If not, its in your hands to take one step (or one thought) in the right direction.

 

Guest Blog: Making a Sustainable Nutrition Plan w/ Max Caron

As a former athlete and strength and conditioning coach, I understand that many of us have a Love/Hate relationship with food. When most people think about their diet in relation to their training, the mind goes to 1 of 2 places; what we feel we have to eat to stay healthy and in shape…. and the delicious assortment of goodies that we will eat when we get there!

The reality is that having a plan in place for our diet is just as important as having a plan in place for what we do in the gym. Rather than close our eyes, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best, our time and effort is best served when we put a system in place that supports our lifestyle and fitness goals.

My #1 focus when building a nutritional plan to support my training goals is to make sure the plan is sustainable. When I have a training AND nutrition plan that support each other and function harmoniously with my life, then I can maintain the progress I make when life gets hectic. When I think of sustainable meal choices, I think of 4 elements; delicious, homemade, healthy and simple.

While making a nutritional plan healthy is self-explanatory, an emphasis on taste and flavour is sometimes neglected. When we enjoy what we eat, our motivation and commitment to the plan will stay high. Simply put, it is always harder to stay on the plan when our taste buds aren’t stimulated. 

Homemade choices are another important element because finding healthy choices outside of your own home is hard and often times the choices aren’t as healthy as they seem. It is very tough to get consistent results when we don’t know exactly what is going into our bodies. Furthermore, the healthy choices offered often come at a steep price, which gives us even more reason to save some money and learn to make home cooked meals.

So we need a home cooked meal that is healthy and delicious; the final piece to this is our meals must be simple to be sustainable. For many, the demands from work and our personal lives leaves little time to prepare meals. The best choices are meals that we can prepare in 30-45 mins max. We must anticipate that we won’t always have time to throw together the perfect meal. Meal prep strategies such as making extras, pre-cutting vegetables or making and bottling homemade dressings and marinades are great ways to help shave off some cook time.

I also recommend “mastering” the prep time for 1-3 meals that you love to eat; so when your crunched for time you will know exactly how long it takes to churn out your favourite choice. This can be tough if we try and learn 7 recipes all at once, so stick to just a few favourites. Remember, the whole strategy is to eat homemade, healthy, delicious and simple meals on a consistent basis. This is the key to a sustainable meal plan which will help deliver sustainable results. Happy Cooking!

 

 Max Caron is a strength and conditioning coach at OPEX Calgary Central.

As a previous CFL player for the Calgary Stampeders, Max was a 16th overall draft pick in the 2014 CFL Draft as well as a 1st Team All-Canadian and CIS Football Major Award Winner.

His playing career was cut short due to injury, but his proudest moment was returning to play after suffering 2 ruptured achilles tendons in back-to-back seasons.

With his professional athletic career behind him, he now gets to help others be their best selves and reach their health and fitness goals.

When not coaching, Max enjoys playing sports, training, cooking and spending time with his wife and their two kitties. 

IG:            @max.caron43
Twitter:    @MaxCaron43