Category Archives: Fitness

These are articles about working out. Keep your workouts safe, interesting and fun!

Minimum Effective Dose

Originally Posted on April 14, 2013 by 

If you’ve ever done a marathon, you know (hopefully) what it’s like to wake up Saturday morning and head out for a 3-hour run.  If you’ve ever trained for a triathlon, you know what it’s like to spend nearly half your day running, biking, and swimming.  As pursuers of healthy living we look forward to and enjoy these breaks from reality, but if you’re like me, you don’t realize how much of your day is spent exercising.

As I drove to the gym last year I noticed a problem.  I had just spent 20 minutes at home getting my workout clothes on, was now driving 20 minutes to the gym, was planning to work out for 60 minutes, and was going to spend 20 minutes driving home.  The whole process took 2 hours and I wasn’t even that happy with my workout.  At that point in time my gym membership was about to expire after 13 years, and I was feeling pressure from my profession and my partner to reprioritize my time, basically, I was working out too much.  I hate the idea of exercising less but I also knew it was taking priority over other areas of my life that it shouldn’t.  I decided to do something about it.  I let my gym membership expire, I purchased a set of 20 pound dumbbells, and I relocated our kitchen timer to our office (my new gym).

I started by setting my timer for 20 minutes and not letting myself work out any longer, that was the max.  If I was in between reps I would force myself to stop.  I was starting to look at my workouts differently, instead of increasing duration, I increased intensity and efficiency. I began doing timed sprints behind my house instead of driving to the track.  It may be an American thing to do, breaking things down and trying to micromanage your time, but for me I’ve found I can get great workouts and not spend huge amounts of my day doing them.  I still enjoy my longer workouts, don’t get me wrong, but by interchanging routines that focus on getting the minimum effective dose of exercise, I’ve found I have more time for other priorities in my life.

Editor’s Note:
David Hurford is my brother and an awesome athlete.  He wrote this article for my previous blog and I am reprinting it here.

Forming Habits Seize the Day

Carpe DiemEvery day is a gift and we all have a choice to take advantage of that gift. I keep saying that I’m going to get some ink with my favorite mantra: CARPE DIEM. While the tattoo hasn’t happened yet, I think we have constant reminders around us to seize the day.  Reminders to stop putting things off, to do the things we want to do, be the person we want to be or the parent our kids deserve.  Today is the day to make a choice to start healthy habits, not dwell on past mistakes that weigh you down but focus on living.

Change is hard, especially for those of us that are stubborn and resist it. Developing habits doesn’t just happen overnight.  It takes work, and a lot if it.  Using my favorite mantra, I broke down how I try to develop habits.

Commit to it.  Obviously the first step and it usually takes awhile for me to get here.  It might be a decision to eat healthier, work out more or use your time better.  Whatever it is you’re working to improve, you need to make a commitment to yourself and write it down.

Announce it.  I used this to kick my soda habit.  Using social media for good, I announced I was quitting.  I knew that putting it out there meant that anyone who saw me buying or sipping it would call me out.  If you want to run your first 10K, commit to it and announce it to your family and friends.  They have a way of helping keep us accountable, without saying a word.

Repeat it.  The old saying that it takes 21 days to develop a habit, unfortunately, is not the case. The time will vary, it could take less than 21 days but usually takes much longer.  For all of us, the more often we do something, the faster it becomes a part of life.  If you are trying to eat ‘real’ food the more often you eat real food, taking in fresh, clean food, the more you crave it.  It becomes the ‘norm’ the more often you do it.

Positive Reinforcement. Make sure you have some.  Life is short!  If you’re trying to walk every day, find a friend that makes you laugh and go have a good time walking.  Set a goal to go to the gym 3 times a week for a month and then reward yourself with some fun workout gear.  The rewards don’t have to be big, just little incentives to keep you excited and ideally not something with calories.

Exceptions, don’t make them!  Until it’s a habit, do your best to make no exceptions.  With my diet coke, I knew that if I allowed myself a small soda every couple of day, I wouldn’t break the addiction.  Exceptions are really just excuses.  Be firm with yourself and it will pay off.

Daily Reminders.  There are a ton of apps out there to keep you on track, whether it’s diet, exercise or getting organized.  I’m completely old school with my running.  I write my mileage in sharpie on my calendar but I also love list and home organizing apps to keep me focused on improving the chaos of three boys and their Wonder Dog.  Test different ones out and then use what works for you.

Imagine.  I’m terrible at this but I know some of the most successful runners visualize their race.  One of my favorite cycle instructors really keeps you in the workout with his use of visualization. For me, I think I hold back in this area to prevent disappointment.  I don’t expect enough of myself because I don’t want to fall short.  I need to get out of my comfort zone and imagine great and I’m sure I’m not alone!

Expect Imperfection.  I try to eat healthy MOST of the time. I love the 80/20 concept.  I try to eat clean 80% of the time and allow some ‘treats’ for the remainder.  I’m an emotional eater and know that I’m weak during stressful times.  It’s too easy to have a slice of cheesecake, feel like a failure and give up.  I’m guilty of this more times that I’d like to admit. I’m working to accept the blunder and move on, not let it derail my efforts.  Don’t allow one bad decision to send you into a downward spiral.  Stop the cycle and get right back on board.  Recommit and use it as a learning experience.

Make it Part of You.  You are the only one with the power to change you. Make your habits part of you and they will become second nature.

I love that we can start every day over again.  New opportunities every single day to take advantage of, don’t waste those gifts.  I might not have my tattoo YET, but I know I’m a work in progress and doing the best I can to seize the day.  Every day is a new opportunity to start over, live the life you want to live and be the person you were meant to be.  CARPE DIEM.

Find What Motivates You

Whether you’re new to an exercise program or a seasoned athlete, there are times you simply lack motivation.  It’s hard to get up early and lace up your shoes and it’s not any easier to head to the gym after a long day at the office.  You have to make the time to fit that workout into your day and that requires motivation.  While these tips definitely won’t work for everyone, these are 5 ways I try to stay on top of my training.

Find a Friend.  It might be a gym buddy, a co-worker that can join you for a walk during lunch or another soccer parent that can run the track while the kids practice.  You usually work out harder when you do it with friends, friends keep you accountable and the best part is you have some fun at the same time.  Without my running buddy, there would be many, many mornings that I’d hit the snooze button and put off my run.  Knowing that she’s waiting for me, gets me up and going, which is the hardest part.

Register for an Event.  With three boys, their homework, sports and a dog, it’s easy to blow off a workout.  I have to always have an event on the calendar.  It still leaves a little wiggle room, for when life gets in the way but it prevents a downward spiral.  Even better if you can find an event that donates a larger portion of the proceeds to a charity.  It helps keep you motivated to train AND you feel amazing helping others.  Win=Win.  Don’t think you can do an event?  Buy a set of sessions with a personal trainer or register for a new type of exercise class.  The point is there is a deadline with all of the above.  Your event is marked on the calendar, your sessions will be wasted if you don’t use them and classes will come to an end.  With a deadline, you know there is an ending point, you might have to work hard to get there, but there is a goal at the end.

Track your progress.  If you’re training for a half marathon or longer, you see your progress with the increasing mileage and your long runs.  Pictures are a super easy way to see changes.  Plan on taking your picture once a month, for comparison.  Journaling is also another way to keep track of workout plans.  I have the fancy apps that you can enter things but I still prefer the old school journaling.  I can note workouts, what I ate, how I felt, etc.  While a journal doesn’t help get me out for a workout, I can use the notes to figure out slump patterns and work to prevent them. Sometimes looking how far you’ve come is just what you need to lace up your shoes and keep at it.

Find someone that inspires you.  Go through magazines and check out some of the success stories.  Seeing the before and after shots always get me ready to sweat.  Health is more than just a workout, it includes what you put in your body and keeping your spirit alive.  Seeing too many professionals turn to performance enhancing drugs, the majority of the people that inspire me are the moms I see at the gym dragging in their kiddos- MAKING time to work out, the 100 year old marathoner that doesn’t let a number stop him or the athletes that have overcome serious medical hurdles to do things most people take for granted.  While I look to so many others for inspiration, always keep in mind people might be looking to you for some.  Often I MAKE myself go get my workout done so that I set a good example for my kids.  I can’t expect them to work hard on the soccer field or get up early for conditioning, if I’m not willing to do it myself.  I want to inspire my kids to live healthy.

Reward yourself.  Months and months of gray, wet skies make it so hard to keep any sort of outdoor fitness routine going.  Every once in awhile splurge on a pair of fun running knee-highs, a bright running skirt or some sort of workout gear that makes you smile.  When you’re excited to put on your workout clothes and feel like you look good, it’s a lot easier to get that workout started.  Once you’ve got it started, the really hard part is over.  Your reward can be something completely unrelated to working out, but ideally not related to food.  It should keep you feeling good, a new pair of jeans, a fun dress or one of my weaknesses, a new purse.  If you do choose a treat, just make sure you don’t go crazy.  Too often we reward a hard workout with a burger, fries and shake, taking in more calories than we spent.

We’ve all been there.  At some point in time we’ve all experienced a lack of motivation. Life is busy and it’s easy to come up with a million excuses to skip a workout.  Even if you only have 20 minutes to do something, make that time count.  No one regrets getting it done but we’ve all experienced the guilt of skipping a sweat session.  Do you have a trick that works for you?  Pass it along!