Life / Can Do

Helpful tips to living a better life

Posts Tagged ‘habit

Dealing with Disadvantages

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When it comes fitness, there is no level playing field. Below are some disadvantages that people may have when trying to adopt a healthy and fit lifestyle:

  • Genetic predisposition to gaining weight
  • Lack of financial resources
  • Lack of social (family/friends) support
  • Don’t have fit friends to act as mentors
  • Demanding job/career
  • Need to care for children

If you have any of those disadvantages you have my sympathy but you don’t have approval to give up. Even if all the forces of the universe are working against you, you will still be better off doing what you can than simply accepting the cards life has dealt you.

I currently have disadvantages on that list. At some points in my life, I’ve had all of them.

I come from a large family, 5 brothers and 4 sisters, and by “large”, I mean both in terms of the number of siblings and the average size of each member. All my brothers and sisters are overweight and all have type-2 diabetes including my father and my mother passed away due to complications related to diabetes.

Based on my genetic background, I should be overweight. If I didn’t watch what I eat and get regular exercise, I would most likely have type-2 diabetes. My knowledge of my disadvantage pushes me to work harder rather than give up.

As a computer programmer, I have to work even harder to compensate for a very sedentary schedule. It would be natural for me to sit at my PC for 12 hours or more, but I consciously make the effort to incorporate regular intervals of physical activity.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was telling me all the reasons why she was overweight. At one point, I jumped in and said, “So what are planning to do about it?”.  She looked confused at my question. I surmised that she felt she was exempt from living a healthy lifestyle due to her special conditions.

When I give advice, I generally tell people that they need to exercise for an average of an hour per day. When somebody tells me they have a disadvantage, I tell them, “I understand. For you, make it two hours per day.”

My point is that with disadvantages, some people may never have that lean fitness model physique but that shouldn’t prevent them from being the best they can be given the circumstances.

A year ago, I started coaching  a middle aged women who was obese at the time. I was attempting to get her to commit to exercising on a daily basis. She made a valiant attempt but the conditions in her life at the time made it next to impossible to workout for the 30 minutes I recommended she start with.

I then suggested that she exercise for 5 minutes per day, every day, but I made sure she was committed to doing it regardless of whatever else came up. She thought I was joking at first- anyone can exercise for five minutes – but she agreed.

From that point on, five minutes was the least amount of exercise she did on a daily basis, but most often she would do more. Once she got on the treadmill to do her five minutes, it was easy for her to choose to do an 10, 30 or 60 minutes if she had the time to do so. When she didn’t have time to do more, doing the 5 minutes still gave her a feeling of accomplishment. She was meeting the commitment she made to herself.

It’s been six months and she has lost over 30 pounds. She’s also starting to make progress with weight training which was something she refused to try when she started. Once she saw the results of her efforts she was eager to see how far she could go with her new lifestyle.

Except in extreme cases, established fitness habits are far more powerful than any disadvantage a person may face. In the same way a trickle of water, over time, can carve through solid rock, habit can break through any obstacle on the road to fitness.

If you don’t think you can do something due to a conflict or condition in your life, try to focus on building a habit regardless of how small a change that habit may be. Start to track your calories and exercise even if you don’t believe you can change what you eat or do.

Whatever your disadvantages are, if you work on making the smallest achievable changes, you’ll find that overtime you are greater than whatever challenges you face.




Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

May 19, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Fitness, Life, Self Improvement

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Pressed for Time? Stay In Shape With Mini-workouts

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I’ve been seeing a number of articles and tweets from people who miss workouts because they are too busy. Like most people, I struggle with keeping my time dedicated to workouts sacred. No matter how busy I get, with me being over 40, missing a workout can have a devastating effect on my progress.

You can’t catch up on a lost workout. Once it is missed, whatever benefits that would have been gained from the workout are lost forever. Your next workout, which was supposed to build on your previous efforts, will now be spent to get you back to where you were before you missed your workout.

Your fitness level doesn’t stand still when you miss a workout. It’s common to get advice saying you need to maintain high intensity each and every workout, but in reality progress depends more on consistency than extreme effort. You want both but if something has to give, let it be intensity or duration, not frequency.

I’ve come up with approach that I use when I don’t have time to workout. I still workout, but I shorten the duration of the workout. With strength training, I’ll do fewer total exercises with less rest between sets. With cardio, I increase the speed and cut the duration.

What I sometime find is that my compressed workouts can be stimulate more progress than if I had time for a full workout. It’s a change from my routine so it has the potential to shock my muscles to grow and get stronger. Or it could be the reduced volume is giving me more of a chance to recover between workouts. Either way, I’ll take it.

The key goal is to stimulate the muscles so they don’t atrophy before the next workout. You may not make progress, but at least you won’t have a set back. It’s not just the muscles, you also need to remain consistent to strengthen the habit of exercise. If you can justify missing one workout, why not two or three … you get the idea.

Despite everything I have just said, we are all going to miss workouts. The important thing is to understand the true cost of missing a workout. Similar to a credit card bill, if you miss a payment you are going to pay interest. It’s best to remain consistent and have a strategy for handling time constraints.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

April 4, 2014 at 11:21 am

Posted in Fitness

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Self Discipline Can Be Developed

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There’s a common misconception that your amount of self discipline is a trait you are born with and can’t be developed. Try telling that to the military which repeatedly turns fresh recruits into strong soldiers.

Sure genetics are a factor, but self discipline is more a result of influence and circumstance than genes. I personally know a set of identical twins who have radically different levels of self discipline. One is hard working family man who gets up every day and goes to work and also keeps his yard well groomed. The other can’t keep a job and routinely blows off work and family.

The first step to developing self discipline is to be honest with yourself and taking complete responsibility for your behavior. There may be many external factors that have had a negative impact on your self discipline, but you can decide to take action now to build self discipline.

Create a list the behaviors you would like to develop. For example, if you have a habit of being late for work, you might want to add “Get to work on time everyday”.

When you have your list, pick the behavior you would like to develop first. It is important to pick  a behavior that is not dependent on another behavior you need to develop. You can’t decide to go running everyday at 6AM if you currently have a problem with getting up before 8 AM. I’m not saying you can strive to do both, but your immediate focus should be on getting up early.

The next step is to track your compliance to the new behavior or habit. You can mark it down on a calendar, smart phone or online log. Whatever tool you use, make sure you are consistent and track whether or not you did what you are tracking. The goal is to try to have as many successful consecutive days as you can.

How many days it will take to develop the habit varies from person to person and habit to habit. There’s this belief that it take 21 days to form a new habit but in truth it can vary from 10 day to a year or more. In general, the easier it is to perform the habit action, the shorter the time it takes to develop the habit. Deciding to eat an apple everyday is going to take less time to make a habit than it would be to run a mile everyday.

When I first started trying to develop the habit of exercising everyday, I failed repeatedly for a couple of months before I was able to consistently exercise every day. Even then, it was still an act of will to keep doing it. It took me 6 months before it became a habit. Now I would find it uncomfortable to miss a workout.

I’ve read a few great books about how to form habits. My favorite is the Habit Factor because it is concise and easy to follow. There is even a companion app you can install on your smart phone to help you track your habit streaks. I highly recommend using a habit tracking app even if you track your habits on a more general purpose application. For some, paper and pencil is the best approach – it’s up to you.



Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 28, 2014 at 8:11 am