Category Archives for "Fitness"

5 Simple Strategies for Starting Your Day Like A Champion

Imagine you’re at the Olympics. The crowds are cheering, but you’re not among them. You’re down on the field, crouched at the starting line, poised for the race that may define your career.

No doubt you’ve trained for this moment for most of your life, but how would you prepare for it on the morning of the big day? If you were looking to accomplish something monumental, would you begin by hitting the snooze button until you were running late, grab whatever breakfast came to hand, then rush into the fray distracted and without a plan?

A Strong Start for a Strong Finish

Runners know that the morning of a big race is crucial, and they leave nothing to chance. All-State Conference track and Olympic distance triathlete Maria Serrata explains, “When that alarm goes off and you want to sleep in another hour, you can’t. No matter how much you’ve prepared, the things you do the morning of are critical. They will make or break your race.”

Whether you’re an Olympic runner, an adventurer setting out to ascend Mt. Kilimanjaro or a busy mom with a mountain of laundry to summit, the way you start your day can have a huge impact on whether you meet your goals or fall short. The Tiny Habits for Moms team offers these tips for creating a morning routine that will prime you to accomplish whatever you choose to pursue.

  1. Stop the snooze. Waking before the rest of your family gives you a few minutes to get centered and think about the day to come. Skip the snooze button and stretch, meditate, write in your journal or read a few verses of scripture while the house is still quiet. The calm and focus you’ll carry with you throughout the day will feel much better than another nine minutes of sleep. One habit to try: After I open my eyes, I will open my journal.
  2. Make Your Bed. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Making your bed first thing in the morning starts you off with a win and sets the tone for the entire day. By accomplishing something concrete right away you create something we call success momentum. As Stanford behavioral scientist and Tiny Habits creator BJ Fogg says, “the success you feel will radiate out to other parts of your life.” Ready to get started? Try this: After my feet touch the floor I will fluff my pillow. 
  3. Watch the sun rise. (Or at least greet it when you rise!) Open your blinds, step out onto your porch, or have breakfast on the patio. Dr. Phyllis Zee of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that exposure to natural light, particularly in the morning, has beneficial effects on mood, alertness and metabolism. Make it a habit for the whole family: After I check to see that my child is awake, I will open her blinds.
  4. Hydrate – with citrate. Runners aren’t the only ones who need fluids. Every part of your body, from your brain to your immune system, benefits from adequate hydration. Add a squeeze of lemon and drain a glass before your morning cup of coffee to reduce inflammation, stave of infection and stimulate enzyme production. It’s an easy way to start your day off right. Just tell yourself: After I turn on the coffee pot, I will pour each family member a glass of lemon water. Now drink up!
  5. Don’t wake the kids. Instead, train them to wake themselves. Illustrator, mom of four and Tiny Habits for Moms alumni Kimberly Petersen buys each child an alarm clock a few weeks before they start kindergarten. “It seems like a Tiny Habit for now, and it’s something that does make my life simpler every morning, to not have to wake them up, but really it’s something that I’m doing because it’s a life skill that they’re going to need as adults,” she says. Is someone in your family having trouble waking when the alarm goes off? Put the clock across the room and work on the habit, “After I turn off my alarm I will touch my toes” (instead of getting back into bed!)

There’s one more piece of advice that applies to star athletes and moms alike: Figure out what works for you and do it every day. “My friend eats pop tarts before every run. After a race I drink a Sprite. Listen to your body and do what works best for you,” says Serrata.

However you choose to structure your morning, do it with the same focus and intent as a runner preparing for the Olympics, with the understanding that by starting your day focused and strong you’ll set yourself on the path to achieve your goals and do amazing things.

For more free tips on creating strong habits, click here.

To learn more about how to achieve your goals by creating habits that work for you, join our next session of Tiny Habits for Moms.

5 More Ways to Improve Your Brain Health in Under 30 Seconds

If 5 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health in Under 30 Seconds inspired you to care more for your brain in the coming year, click here to receive information about our upcoming course, Habits for Brain Health. If you’re ready to plant some new seeds today, try one or more of the habits below.

  1. Sip a cup of green tea. The antioxidants in a cup of green tea may contribute to lower blood pressure, better working memory, stronger bones and a healthier immune system. Drink it hot as you read the morning news or iced at the end of your workout for the moderate boost in energy and long-term neuroprotection the caffeine will provide. Brew your own and go easy on the sweetener for a brain- and budget-friendly beverage.
  2. Stub out your cigarette. If the threat of lung, throat and oral cancer isn’t enough to dissuade you from smoking, maybe its effects on your brain health will. Smoking thins the lining of the cortex, a part of the brain that is essential for memory and language function. The sooner you quit, the less damage you’ll do and the longer your brain will have to recover.
  3. Text a friend. “Remember that time when…?” Research shows that the more connected you are, the more likely you are to maintain high cognitive functioning throughout your life. Reminiscing with friends activates the memory center and relieves stress, providing a one-two punch against cognitive decline.
  4. Grab a brain game. It’s no surprise that exercising your brain is good for your brain, but if you’re not a fan of crossword puzzles, don’t worry! Research shows that any mental challenge will do. Keep a book of sudoku in your pocket or a brain training app on your phone and sneak in a mini-workout next time you’re sitting on the train, standing in line or waiting for a friend.
  5. Put your phone on airplane mode. Too little sleep puts your brain in a fog and contributes to the buildup of beta-amyloid in the brain, increasing the risk of developing dementia. Set yourself up for a restful night’s sleep by putting your phone on airplane mode. Your alarm will still work, but you won’t be disrupted by the buzz of an incoming late-night email or text. Try this trick when you’re with your friends and family, too. Being present with the ones you’re with strengthens your social connections, keeping your relationships and your brain strong, healthy and happy.

These habits may seem simple, but don’t be deceived. Every one of these actions can have lasting long-term effects when they become a part of your everyday life. But you don’t have to wait until your senior years to reap the benefits. The habits that support long-term brain health will also help you to feel healthier and happier while you’re still young. For information on our upcoming brain health course, click here.

Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health in Under 30 Seconds

Like a thriving coral reef, a healthy brain is the product of millions of tiny units and connections. Every minute of the day you’re making choices that either strengthen that network or tear it down. Exercise, sleep and a nutritious diet have a big impact on brain health, but many brain-boosting behaviors take less than a minute a day.

  1. Breathe. Chronic stress puts your brain at risk. While we can’t get rid of every source of stress in our lives, we can learn to manage it. Meditative breathing increases blood flow to the brain and increases cortical thickness in the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory. Try taking three deep, mindful breaths every time you hit a stoplight or every time you hang up your phone.
  2. Pop your pills. Resveratrol, turmeric, and vitamin D may all play a role in preserving memory function, but the king of brain supplements is DHA. Fish oil supplements contain a rich supply of this omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for normal brain function. Try pairing this habit with your brushing/flossing routine or your morning cup of coffee.
  3. Strike a pose. Yoga incorporates the health benefits of mindful breathing with body-altering stretches and balance challenges. Both flexibility and balance decline with age, putting the body at risk for injury that can prohibit other kinds of brain-boosting exercise. Balance exercises also work the cerebellum, which is central for overall brain health.
  4. Pet your pooch. A rich social network slows memory decline and increases quality of life, and even your pet can contribute. Just a minute or two of snuggling with your pet lowers cortisol and boost seratonin, protecting your brain’s connectivity. Pets can alleviate symptoms of depression and calm patients who are already suffering from the effects of dementia. Take your pet outside for a walk and you’ll also elevate your heart rate and interact with others, both important keys to boosting brain health.
  5. Put on your helmet. Brain trauma, whether a single traumatic event that causes loss of consciousness or repeated, less severe incidents are increasingly linked to neurodegenerative disease later in life. Will Smith’s new movie Conscious brings awareness to this issue, and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health currently has two studies underway to examine the long-term effects of brain trauma on professional football players and professional fighters. Whether you’re snowboarding, riding your bike to the store, or meeting friends for a pick-up game of football, take an extra ten seconds to strap on a helmet and protect your vulnerable gray matter.

Over time, these small acts can make a big impact on your brain health. If you’re interested in learning more, sign up here and you’ll receive a special invitation to our upcoming course, Habits for Brain Health.

When Tiny Habits are “Starter Steps”

by BJ Fogg, PhD

I’ve been focusing a lot on the power of  “starter steps.”

“What’s that?” you ask. 

Well, a starter step is the first step in a longer sequence of behaviors. For example, opening your sketchbook is a starter step in drawing a picture. Putting on your gym clothes is a starter step for working out. Setting an apple on the kitchen counter is a starter step for eating it.

When you think of the bigger behavior, the ultimately behavior you want — drawing a picture or working out — you might find yourself resisting. It’s odd, but I’ve heard from lots of people about this resistance. Even though they sorta wanted to do the behavior (workout), something inside them resisted it at the moment of truth. Their brain finds excuses. Starter steps don’t seem to invoke this kind of resistance. You just put on your gym clothes. No big deal. 

Some people report that they trick themselves with starter steps (I’ve done this too): For example, people tell themselves, “okay, I’ll put on my gym clothes, but I’m not really going to workout.”

And guess what happens? 

Surprisingly often people go all the way. And that’s the magic –> With starter steps you overcome your initial resistance, and once you’re started on the path, you just keep going.

I’m a fan of designing for starter steps. Some of my own Tiny Habits are starter steps. 

But there’s one more thing you should know: I don’t feel bad if my starter step doesn’t cascade all the way to the bigger behavior. Just celebrate the fact that you’re making the starter step a habit. I know this may sound strange, but it’s part of the secret to creating habits quickly and easily: Be happy with your tiny successes. Never feel guilty about not doing more. 

Start To Dance Every Day (By Starting Small)

By Robin Peter Zander

I am currently dancing classical ballet about 20 hours each week and am about to start a gig performing with the San Francisco Opera. Regularly, I hear some version of admiration followed by self-denial, like: “That’s great that you dance so much. I have two left feet.”

I always say the same thing: “You can, too.” To begin dancing, start simply. It doesn’t have to be complicated. 

The 7 Simple Steps To Dance

  1. Make sure you are alone in a room. No one is watching you.
  2. Turn on a song that you know well and enjoy.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. No, really: close your eyes!
  5. Listen to the music.
  6. Begin moving in any way to the music that you hear
  7. Pay attention to how you are moving – both how it feels and what you are actually doing
  8. Congratulations, you just danced!

We make “dance” to mean performing under pressure or doing something that is incredibly hard. While these things are fine desired outcomes, they are much to big to begin with. We have to start small, in order to quickly proceed to bigger and lofier goals. So play some music, close your eyes, and move. That counts and having done so, you’ve danced today! Congratulations!

There’s much more to how to dance regularly, and I’ll be following up with posts about other things that people use to hold them back.

I have begun to coach people (for free) in how to dance every day. BJ and I interested in people who want to dance everyday but don’t. If you are interested in FREE coaching on this, join the Facebook group or fill out our brief Dance Every Day survey.

Appreciate Your Progress

By Robin Zander

In any learning process, appreciation is essential. Celebrating yourself throughout a learning process will make the whole experience more enjoyable, and incidentally faster.

Appreciate where you are

Appreciating where you are right now is probably the most difficult aspect of appreciating the learning process. Most of us want to be better, more successful, more fulfilled than we are now. That’s fine. Striving is a great attribute. But it is also important to acknowledge with compassion or gratitude where you are right now. I find it easiest to do this just after a successful practice interval. For example, when I am enjoying my runner’s high or just after a great ballet class is when I feel the most proud and appreciative of where I am right then.

Appreciate progress

The appreciation of progress comes of noticing progress. I often get down on myself for not learning as quickly as I think I should. Of course, this self-judgment impedes progress. Instead, there are several simple ways to notice how much you are changing.

  1. Know the steps. This requires some amount of forethought: knowing each of the steps along the way to where you would eventually like to be. I find it most useful to set a specific goal and then break down all of the possible permutations of steps that will allow me to reach that goal. I describe an example of this in my story of achieving the gymnastics giant.
  1. Record progress. Even if you aren’t going to break down each of the steps towards every specific goal – which does require a lot of thinking – it is still useful to monitor your learning. There are many tools for this sort of self-monitoring, but for my own physical studies I find a video recording my progress to be the best measuring device.

Appreciate future goals

This is probably the easiest for most people. Future goals are where you would like to go. But the important thing to know about goal setting is that getting upset for not being there yet is only going to impede your progress. By all means, set ambitious goals. Then get excited about accomplishing them, not down on yourself for not being there yet.

Appreciate where you are, your progress and your goals for the future.

If you’d like help learning to appreciate progress and expedite learning, I am currently using the Tiny Habits Method to coach people how to dance every day for free. Contact me through my Tiny Habits page.