Monday, November 18, 2013

Healthy Lifestyle (Part II)

In reference to Healthy Lifestyle (Part I), I believe there is a sixth element to the Model of Change. This element (not stage) is struggle. 

To struggle isn't a phase that we come in and out of identifiably; rather struggle is present in each of the five stages because it is a fact of life. 

We can't escape struggle altogether, it is impossible - 
we are imperfect human beings.

The influence and impact of struggle throughout the five stages of the Cycle of Change is generally due to our perspective about what is happening within each of these stages. 

If we take charge of our perspective while struggling in these phases, I believe that two things can occur:

1 - Your attitude improves causing a more stable, accurate, and improved self-image.

2 - You spend more time in the Action and Maintenance Phases with less volatility and greater success each time you are in these phases.

Perspective as a Tool
How then can perspective possibly become a tool rather than a viewpoint? 

With regards to "getting healthy", we often associate this concept as a period of restriction rather than embracing a lifelong change.

In this light we have already failed before we even begin. If I am devoting massive amounts of time and energy for a period of restriction, then the results will only last for that period of time as well; seldom do changes last much longer than that.

Going into change with the realization that you aren't perfect, struggle is generally always present and you embrace it still, then perspective somehow becomes more accurate. We become increasingly more patient with ourselves, which has the effect of being more disciplined and focused.

Example 1 (Perspective not as a tool, i.e. the way most of us do it.): 
During the last week of December I decide to buy a fitness program or a gym membership with the intent to start up on January 2nd. 

At this same time I decide that the way I eat is unhealthy, I also drink too much caffeine, and so the list of things to change builds. Come January 2, I begin to change all of my habits at once. 

Jumping full-steam ahead into 90-day program or gym membership I last somewhere between four to fifteen days because I have in that time already over trained and have reached burnout, maybe even injured myself. 

To make matters worse I get on the scale and see that I haven't lost the 20 lbs. that I had planned on losing that week, but instead I have gained weight 4 lbs! 

This frustrates me because I don't understand the phenomena as to why I have gained and not lost. I don't care anyway because I am burned out and so I quit.

Example 2 (Perspective as a tool): 
During the last week of December I decide to buy a fitness program or a gym membership and I have a lot of goals I want to meet and a lot of habits I need to change. 

Understanding that a true lifestyle change isn't established overnight I make a S.M.A.R.T plan with a single specific goal to improve my heart health. 

First, I take measurements of my body and current weight and log them in a record book, then I go for a 1.5 mile walk (outside or treadmill) and see how long it takes without losing my breath and without being too slow. 

Then I set an attainable goal to improve my 1.5-mile walk/run time and endurance by 30-seconds or so within a month. I understand that this initial effort is relevant to the goal of improving my heart health. 

I create a calendar of a daily fitness schedule and put it on my mirror. Each day I cross of the workload as I complete it.

The aim of the improved heart health goal is to have a more solid foundation to start from at the end of my first 30 days (time-bound). 

At month end, I will review my goals again and adjustment efforts accordingly. That adjustment may be the addition of just one thing or the removing of just one thing, not both.

During this 30 days I don't weigh myself at all because I know that it is normal to actually increase in weight, as muscle is more dense than fat. Instead, it is more important to track measurements than weight, so this is what I monitor for the first 30-40 days.

Also, I anticipate being somewhat sore during this period because muscle that has otherwise been lying dormant is now in use. As muscle breaks down, in order to be built up, there will be some soreness. 

If I am sore beyond 36-48hrs at a time, then I know that I am pushing myself too hard and not allowing enough time for the muscle to recover before exercising that particular area again.
With this plan in mind, it permits my perspective to be focused on something other than, "I hate my body." It is now focused on measurable realities like:
  • My lungs don't burn in my 1.5-mile walk like they used to.
  • I'm comfortable with 1.5 miles, maybe I will go further or maybe I will run for 30 seconds then walk for 30 seconds and so on, for the full distance.
  • Hey my pants fit better now.
  • I'm starting to get the hang of this. 

In time, creating this foundation will reduce my risk of injury and increase my probability of success. Also note that struggle is still present. 

As it gets easier, I do more (struggle still being present). As I do more, I get excited what I can do (struggle still being present). The cycle continues as growth and development occurs (struggle still being present).

It is when there is plateau that means you have really achieved something and it is time to switch things up. Now it is time to review my progress, make sure my tracking log is current. 

Reviewing my tracking log, I see awesome things. I now have proof that I have improved my cardio health. I went from a 40min 1.5-mile walk, to a 15min 1.5-mile walk/run and then over the course of few months I am at a 11min 1.5-mile run. During this time I have completed a 5k charity run and look forward to more.

At this time I revamp and create a new goal and increase my workout resistance. Based on the new goal I create a new workout schedule and print it out for my mirror. As this becomes a habit, it takes less and less time and the effort to be consistent becomes easier.

Now that I know my heart is ready to roll, I am ready to focus on flexibility, balance, and strength improvements. Also, while looking forward to maintaining and improving my heart health.

But what about those with limitations? Stay tuned!

Healthy Lifestyle (Part I)

I oftentimes talk about perspective as a tool, rather than a habitual individual vantage point. It is a tool that I believe shines best amid struggle. 

I would like to explain my thoughts on this concept. In doing so, I will pick on the ever popular concept of creating a healthy lifestyle, also known as getting healthy.

Setting the Stage
About this time of year many people start thinking about changes that they want to make for the coming year. Oftentimes this plan involves toying with the idea of getting healthy and improving your fitness efforts. 

Real changes won't begin until after the Holiday's of course, because you crave certain things during these next few Holiday's. Maybe there is no time to devote to fitness, or maybe you associate getting healthy with being outdoors and you don't like being outdoors during the winter.

Whatever the case may be, this effort is often viewed as a big job with huge changes. Seldom do people that are seeking big change, change just one thing at a time. Usually they try to change everything all at once. 

These huge changes may stay in effect for a few days or a couple of months, but eventually the efforts fail your perceived standard or goals and then you revert back to the path of least resistance (i.e., old habits). 

The perceived standard is usually you measuring what you feel is the worst about you and comparing it to someone else's best.

The silly thing about this is that oftentimes that "best" is chronically under horrible scrutiny by the other person and seldom accepted as good.

Stages of Change
I really like James Prochaska's Transtheoretical Model of Change1. I like the Model of Change because it has so many applications to human behavior. 

The pre- and post- Holiday's desire to become committed to change and "get healthy" really puts things in perspective for me. 

According to the five stages of the model, Group 1 (most people) vacillate roller-coaster style between the first four stages and lose it most often in the fourth stage (Action).

Group 2 is where the majority of the people that succeed past the Action Phase tend to linger; bouncing between Contemplation, Preparation, and Action as they lose focus or discipline not long after they start the Maintenance Phase. 

Group 3 are the people that we usually compare ourselves against. Group 3 houses the people that generally live in the Maintenance Phase, when they slip out of that phase, they seem to speed through the first four phases in very little time and then they return to the Maintenance Phase rapidly. They make everything look so darn easy.

In my own personal opinion, I believe there is a sixth element to the Model of Change; which is Struggle. I say Struggle and not the Struggle Phase. Struggle isn't a phase that we come in and out of identifiably; rather struggle is present in each of the five stages.

The influence of struggle throughout the five stages is generally due to our perspective about what is happening within each of these stages. I will explain this in more detail in the next post.
1Prochaska, JO; DiClemente, CC. Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: toward an integrative model of change. J Consult Clin Psychol 1988 Jun;51(3):390–5. Accessed 2009 Mar 18.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

G-words & Laughter

I am writing this while down in bed. I am sure I will be well soon. However at this time, kleenex, herb tea, and a warm blanket are my friends. I have a lot on my mind though, so let's see if I can summarize. This is going to come out in stream of consciousness format with very little connections for sure - thank you medicine induced state!

It is quite fitting that as I sit and type that I can see snow falling. I love it when it snows and rains (as long as I'm not driving in it). I also love it when rays of light touch people, things, or shine through trees. Something about these kinds of settings make me feel peace. 

In all seriousness, the feeling I get with the snow, rain, and sunshine is similar to the feeling of peace and relief I get with prayer or looking at pictures of the resurrected Savior. I especially love Del Parson's piece "He Is Risen", depicting Jesus Christ emerging from the sepulcher. It is as if He is walking right out of that tomb and walking directly up to me. And for all intents and purposes, He is.

It is interesting that I feel this same emotion when I perform service for someone else.

Laughter, like anything else, is a good thing if used appropriately. We spend a lot of time taking life so seriously, but I believe we don't laugh enough. There is healing in laughter. There is bonding laughter. In fact, let's all just step away from this blog for now and jump over to YouTube to laugh a little; my recommendations: 
Ellen monologue - Types of Laughter
Skype Laughter Chain