Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Here's To Your Best Year Yet!

Every January, millions of people make some pretty big promises to themselves. This is the year they'll stop smoking; the year they'll learn to love their green veggies; the year they'll finally write that book or make that long-needed career change.

But by far, the most common New Year's resolution is the one in which we resolve to get into shape. We'll exercise every day, we'll join a gym and actually use it, and we'll burn calories until we whip our bodies back to where they were when we were 18. Every year, we start with the very best of intentions, and by February, we're right back to our old unhealthy habits.

Not this year. In 2009, I'm going to help you make your resolution stick, so that by March, you're on your way to your healthiest body ever. It all starts with a few small adjustments to the way you set out to make your changes.
  • Make your resolution realistic. No one is going to go from couch potato to marathoner in one fell swoop. If you aren't a regular exerciser now, you aren't immediately going to work out six days a week, and by vowing to do so you set yourself up for serious disappointment and ultimately, failure. Small steps set you on a path to long-term lifestyle changes; begin by making the commitment to exercise for 20 minutes a day, three days a week. Once that's become a part of your routine, build on it a little every few weeks.
  • Set small goals and then reward yourself each time you achieve one. Every five pounds lost earns you a special treat, whether that's a new CD downloaded to your iPod or a pedicure or a new game for your Wii. Just be careful of rewarding yourself with junk food, or you'll be undoing all your hard work.
  • Figure out what's behind your unhealthy habits. Do you turn to junk food for comfort? Why? Maybe counseling is in order, or maybe just a good long soul search, but identifying the issues that hold you back will help you move forward.
  • Get a support system! Tell people about your goals and ask them to hold you accountable. Join the HealthStyle Fitness Facebook group and find others who will support you on your journey. Click here to join the HSF Facebook Group!
  • Believe in yourself. You can do it.
  • Join a fitness program or hire a trainer. Boot camps, fitness makeovers and hiring a top notch personal trainer provides the motivation, accountability and gives you all the tools you need for success.
  • Make a list and check it twice. Write down the little things you need to do to accomplish your goals - squeeze in enough servings of fruits and veggies, walk for 20 minutes, get to your HealthStyle small group. Check them off as you complete them. At the end of the day all those little checkmarks will give you a great sense of accomplishment.

This is the year you're really going to do it. The team at HealthStyle will help you every step of the way. Happy New Year - and happy new you!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins - Cincinnati's HealthStyle Fitness, Inc

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sweat It Out

It seems as if everywhere we look these days, news of gloom and doom surrounds us. As the stock market continues to display volatility, housing prices go down, and the "experts" debate various bailout packages, our stress levels go up, creating the perfect storm for our physical, emotional and mental health. Add in the stress of the holiday season, and you've got a recipe for disaster. But there is good news to be found!

Did you know that the most effective stress-buster around is also all-natural, easy to find and very often free? It's true - and of course I'm talking about exercise. In addition to keeping your body firm and healthy, and helping you manage your weight, regular exercise is proven to foster an inner peace that will keep your stress level in check and counteract the damage it can do. Let's take a look at why exercise is more important than ever during these worrisome times.
  • You've certainly heard of the "runner's high" - that exhilarated feeling people get after a long, hard run. It's not a myth, and it's not just for runners. During exercise your body produces feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which foster a natural sense of well-being. It also decreases your cortisol, which is the hormone produced when your body reacts to stress. Cortisol is the culprit behind stress' many negative effects - anxiety, weight gain, elevated blood pressure and much more. You don't have to be a conditioned athlete to enjoy these benefits; even a good brisk walk will provide relief.
  • Exercise offers a healthy, natural outlet for your frustrations. What better way to release the tension than through a good, hard workout? Kettlebells, boot camps, running, working out with a friend and strength training all do the trick to knock out worry, aggravation and frustration.
  • Physical activity creates an opportunity to clear the mental cobwebs and the emotional baggage. Getting deep into your body during a workout will pull you out of your head, creating a Zen-like state that will continue well after your workout is finished. Getting out of your house or office and into a fitness setting gives you a fresh perspective and can set your thoughts on more positive focus. The mind and the body are incredibly closely connected - a healthy body goes a long way toward fostering emotional and mental health over the long term.
  • Interestingly, research shows that regular exercisers exhibit less physical response to stress. Now there's a positive thought!
  • Successful people exercise regularly. The renowned Dr. Ken Cooper has studied the impact of regular exercise on top executives for over 25 years. His research shows that CEOs who exercise consistently are significantly more productive, resistant to the demands of leadership and successful than their sedentary counterparts. More on Dr. Cooper's groundbreaking research in a future article.

So, while we cannot control the economy, we can absolutely control of our reaction to it. It's easy to forgo your exercise routine in favor of brooding or working longer hours, but doing so only exacerbates the effects of what you're already facing. Right now the economy is in wintertime. This gives each of us the perfect opportunity to focus our energy in laying a strong foundation for the arrival of spring - it will come. Learn a new skill, register for that seminar you've always wanted to attend, set some new empowering goals, take care of your body and you will reap a bountiful harvest when the economy turns around.