Category Archives: Change

“Have to” versus, “Get to,” or, The Power of Gratitude in Your Life!

Adding gratitude into your life can be powerful.

Adding gratitude into your life can be powerful.

Today I had a session with a client who experienced a very powerful shift. During a family weekend away in a cabin, she stepped into a messy kitchen. Suddenly, she realized that instead of automatically thinking, “Oh, I HAVE TO clean this all up…” she reframed the thought as, “I get to do this for/with my family so that we can spend better time together.”

Once she switched the thought in her mind, she also noticed that the attitude spread to the other members of the family. Everyone worked together to get things done, and it kicked off a wonderful experience for the rest of the weekend.

How many times do we rush through our day thinking that “I have to do this,” when, if we take a step back, we can instead be grateful for the opportunities that we are able to do or have? Life, after all, tends to be made up of the choices we’ve selected for ourselves. There’s actually a saying: “If you don’t like your life, make better choices.”

Gratitude has a host of benefits across a wide spectrum, including a stronger immune system, being less bothered by aches and pains, lower blood pressure, better sleep, feeling more alert and alive, experiencing more joy, optimism and happiness, and being more forgiving and outgoing. These benefits can be obtained with just such a shift in thinking.

Sometimes if we’re mindful of the moment and think about what is going on, it can cause us to realize that we ARE too busy or stressed to enjoy what is going on. If the list of things for your day is a mile long, even enjoyable activities can start feeling like a “have to”, instead of a “want to,” or even, “get to”.

Here are some simple ways to cultivate gratitude in your life:

  • Savor moments of happiness: When something good happens, really enjoy the moment and make it last. Reflecting upon these moments later has also shown to have health benefits.
  • Express it: Simply saying, “Thank you”, benefits both the person who says it and the receiver of the thought. Make it a point for a day to state gratitude for things both small and large. Note how it makes you feel.
  • Keep a gratitude journal: Making notes of what we’re thankful for, either daily or once a week, can be an invigorating experience. This can also help guard against taking things for granted.
  • Meditate on gratitude: I’ve written about the benefits of meditation on a focused mind. There are many ways to meditate, and this includes concentrating on the things for which we are thankful.

Later, I realized I had mentioned during a chat with my sister that, “I have to walk the dog now.” Noting that this was something I normally enjoy, I reflected on my conversation with my client. I suddenly realized I had been preoccupied for most of the day.

So, I took a deep breath, looked out into the sunshine, and reframed the thought. “I get to walk with my dog on a peaceful evening and enjoy the scenery,” I mused. Due to that simple shift, instead of feeling bothered… I felt happy, smiled, and appreciated the time to head out the door with my pal.

Contact amie@runningwithlife.com if you’d like to open up your life to gratitude, and more!

Until then – Keep Running with Life! -Coach Amie

Have You “Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for RUNNING?? Here’s How to Get It Back!!

How to rekindle your LOVE OF RUNNING!!

How to rekindle your LOVE OF RUNNING!!

I’m dedicating this post to someone who recently contacted me about this – however I frequently speak to people who have this issue. They rarely run anymore because what they once loved now feels like a chore. Perhaps you have the same feeling but it’s toward another type of exercise, a job… or even a relationship! Here are a five questions to ask yourself to rekindle your fire!

  1. What did I originally love about it?

    Think back to when you really loved to run. What got you to lace up your shoes and get out there? Perhaps it was the feeling of being outdoors in nature, but recently you’ve been rushed and have just been putting in treadmill miles. Or maybe it was the endorphins (feel-good chemicals) that rushed through your body and left you feeling exhilarated, but recently you’ve been stressed and so just push through your run to “get it over with”. Maybe it was the freedom, however now when you run, instead of letting things go, you just stare at your sports watch with demanding expectation each time.

    Picture yourself back when you used to run and loved it. What elements were different that you can recapture now?

  2. What caused me to stop enjoying it?

    Feelings of irritation or avoidance can happen if we push ourselves hard for a goal, sacrifice, and end up with results that are less than stellar in our eyes. Perhaps it was a race goal that didn’t pan out as expected, or even a bad string of workouts. This can leave us feeling dejected and not wanting to participate, or sometimes even think about, that activity anymore.

    If this is the case, can you reframe the result from something negative into a positive? If you didn’t get the race time you wanted, what other good things came out of the training you had put in? Maybe you lost a few pounds or got into great shape. Maybe you worked harder than you ever thought you could. What did you learn about yourself in the process?

    And if it was a bad race – sometimes we overgeneralize the situation. Just because one race at one time wasn’t ideal, doesn’t mean that all future races will be the same. You’ve gone through it – you’re smarter now. You’ve learned what works for you – and what doesn’t. Now you can focus on improving your training, schedule and strategies for next time.

    If you’re going through a bad set of workouts, maybe you can look at something else that has been affecting you, such as poor sleep or compromised nutrition, that you can correct for the future. Again, learning from it, rather than staying down for the count.

    Pulling out the positives can help motivate you to move forward toward new goals and new heights, rather than dwelling on perceived disappointments.

  3. Am I overwhelming myself with expectations?

    Sometimes we set our goals so high that it feels overwhelming. We think it will take hours and hours of time, we must hit certain paces all the time, and if we don’t do that 100% then we’ve failed. It becomes demotivating to even think about.

    I’m all for setting high goals, however it’s best to be realistic and set them to a level that you can achieve or is just above what you think you can achieve. Maybe your first goal is to just go for a run without any focus on time or distance, but for the sole purpose of enjoying it.

    With small wins, you can have the confidence to move on to bigger things.

  4. Is my life in balance?

    Sometimes burnout can occur when we do one activity to the exclusion of other things we enjoy. Even things we love to do need balance. If running feels like a burden, it’s OK to stop for a while. Even elite athletes are known to take up to a month off in their off-season or after a tough race. Studies have shown that up to ten days off of workouts affect fitness very little.

    There are also health and mental benefits to cross-training or trying another type of workout. You may even find one you enjoy enough to incorporate from time to time on a regular basis.

    And, even workouts need balance. For all the hard workouts you do, remember to incorporate recovery into the mix. This helps become stronger both physically AND mentally.

    Also, what else is going on in your life? Are you extremely burdened at work or is a relationship or other issue taking it’s toll? Are you allowing someone else’s negative opinions toward your running influence the way you feel? Sometimes other issues can lead to an overall loss of motivation, so work on balancing things in your life as a whole.

  1. Have I been doing the same ol’ same ol’ a bit too long?

    Perhaps every day you go out and run the same route at the same time of day. Or, your pace and distance are always the same. If so, spice it up! Add interval training – if even on the same route, alternate fast/slow running. If the route is convenient, try running it in the other direction, or even changing up a block here or there. Add some cross training, such as push-ups or squats after every few blocks.

    Go trail running if you just run on roads. If you run alone, try running with other people, or volunteering to run with a shelter dog. If you always run from home, try a different route. Even driving a few miles away and just starting from a new location can open up a lot of new options. Run at a different time of day. Sign up for a race… or if you feel all you do is compete, don’t, and just run without your Garmin for a while, enjoying being mindful of the moment.

    Overall, don’t be afraid to change things up for a while. And make sure to give yourself permission to do so. Feel good about what you are trying versus feeling guilty because “I should be…” Do what you need to do to stay healthy and well!

I work with people every day to develop strategies to improve health and wellness – contact amie@runningwithlife.com for how!

Like/Follow the Running with Life Facebook page for more updates 🙂

Until then, keep Running with Life! – Coach Amie

10 Answers to Why You’re Not Losing Weight (!)

Are you trying to lose weight for health or optimizing performance, but the pounds just aren’t coming off? Read on for 10 solutions!

Why aren't you losing weight?

Why aren’t you losing weight?

  1. Track your food intake.
    Start doing this one step, and you can stop reading this now! Some like to claim that it’s not all about calories in versus calories out; and honestly, it can sometimes be more complicated (more on this later.) However, if you haven’t tried this basic formula, how will you know if this method works – for you?

    Websites and apps like MyFitnessPal, Weight Watchers or SparkPeople all allow you to readily track the food you eat and the calories you burn exercising using a large database of food counts and exercises.To lose weight, the calories you eat need to be less than calories burned. This is normally the first problem many people have.
     
    Studies have shown that many consistently underestimate their food intake and overestimate their daily activity, with many saying they must just have a slow metabolism, bad genetics or other factors.If you feel this method is too inconvenient for you, do it for three days or a week. That alone may surprise you.

  1. REALLY measure your food portions.
    This goes along with #1… if you are tracking, but haven’t weighed or measured your food, it can be an eye opener as to what a portion size actually is. A simple food scale can do the trick here. Weighing can be more accurate than measuring, for example, 120 grams of something, versus a measured half cup. 120 grams is 120 grams, but a measuring cup can be overfilled, even unknowingly.
     
    Another way is to go by observational portion sizes but even these surprise many: a 3-ounce serving or protein is about the same size as your palm. A serving of peanut butter is about the same size as your thumb. See this chart for more…

    Portion Sizes are often overestimated

     
    If you were tracking and measuring for a while and then decided to “wing it” after a while, it’s good to track and measure again for a few days just to make sure your portions are still in line. It’s natural to sometimes get a little hungry when trying to lose weight. Psychologically this can cause slight “excesses” here and there – a slightly larger portion here, a small snack there. And it all adds up!

  1. Correct your calorie deficit.
    To lose weight, the typical rule of thumb is that a 500-calorie deficit per day will equal around a pound of weight lost per week. A generally safe rate of weight loss for most people is around 1-2 lbs per week, or about 1% of your total bodyweight per week.Some might see shows such as the “Biggest Loser” and think, “But that’s too slow!” But frankly, the smaller and leaner you are, the longer it can take to safely lose fat.
     
    Everyone is different, and you may lose somewhat faster (or slower) than this, however expecting to drop 10 pounds in a week with an extremely high calorie deficit, either through eating too few calories or combining that with exercising to the extreme can be unhealthy and even dangerous, causing nutritional and hormonal imbalances. At a lesser level, it can actually slow weight loss in the long run. Also, as hunger rises, it can lead to a binge and cause a larger setback than it’s worth.
     
    On the other hand, if you are at a very low- or no-calorie deficit, you will find your weight loss stagnant or non-existent. There could be several reasons for this. First, see #1 and #2. Then, even if you are diligently following what you read, the listings for calories in food values can be inaccurate. As well, calories burned during exercise are based on average equations and can vary greatly from person to person.
     
    So what to do? One method is to adjust what you’ve been doing. If you have calculated a reasonable calorie deficit according to your preferred method, continue using the same technique as you were before before, but adjust your TOTAL daily calories by 100-200 calories per day, and see if that changes anything. Experiment until you find a level at which YOU begin to see your desired results.
  1. Stick with the program.
    Real weight loss programs may take 3-4 weeks to show results. Some may notice weight loss right away, while others may take longer as their body adjusts. Factors such as sodium intake, bloating or dehydration can skew results. Many people choose to weigh themselves once a week, and any of these factors can influence the number you see.
     
    If exercise is involved, it can be even more complicated. Exercise is powered by carbohydrate stored in the muscles. A hard workout burns off carbohydrates.  Since carbohydrate is stored in the muscles with water, this can cause weight loss. When the carbohydrate is replenished, this can then again appear as weight gain – however it is not fat gain, yet the scale will vary due to these issues. Therefore, it can take a while to see a weight trend.
  1. Measure results in different ways.
    I usually advise people to use more than one measure for the most accurate results if they are trying to lose fat. A scale is one tool, but doesn’t always tell the whole story. Regularly checking body composition, or the percent of your body that is comprised of fat, is also an important component. “You could be gaining muscle,” is often heard by frustrated, exercising dieters. Yet this almost cliché statement can be true!
     
    How to check body composition? There are many ways, with some of the methods considered the most accurate (the “Bod Pod” air displacement chamber, water displacement or DEXA scanning) also being the least available and most expensive. Other ways include an experienced trainer using calipers to “pinch-test” the amount of fat on the body (the more sites “pinched” with the calipers tend to be the more accurate). Or, a step-on body fat (bio-impedance) scale.
     
    Some argue the step on bio-impedance scales vary in their readings, however I have found on several different occasions that when using a 7-day average of results, a step-on bodyfat scale has been within 1% of the DEXA or underwater weighing methods for measuring body fat. Also, it’s not always getting stuck on the exact number, but observing a gradual downward trend, that matters.
     
    Other commonly used methods are how your clothes fit (using the same clothes), measuring tape, progress pictures, a mirror or athletic performance. These can all give a better rounded picture of your progress than just a number on the scale.
  1. Reduce stress.
    Stress can stall in weight loss or even cause weight gain, as can lack of sleep. Stress and tension can cause the “stress hormone” cortisol to build up in the body, which some say can lead to excess fat accumulation, especially around the midsection. As well, anxiety can be a large culprit of overeating or even sedentary behavior.
     
    Looking at lifestyle factors outside of diet and exercise can cause the “A-ha” moment to your body and be the key to weight loss success.Relaxation and focus techniques such as meditation, massage and even enjoying more moments of laughter or serenity can all help with both stress and weight loss. Intense bouts of exercise can also help calm anxiety.
  1. Be careful of “justification calories”.
    After an endurance race or other hard fitness goal, it can be OK to take a break and give your body the extra calories it needs to heal. However, it’s not uncommon for the break to become an extended vacation from healthy eating habits and lead to weight gain over the coming weeks or months.
     
    This attitude can even happen after a single exercise session. In one experiment, researchers had two groups of people walk the same route around a campus. One group was told they were going to walk this route for exercise. The second group was told they were going to walk the same route to sightsee. Afterwards, both groups were polled as to what they ate – and guess what – the group who thought they did the route for exercise ate more than the “sightseeing” group. So again, watch the “justification” calories.
  1. Start just one time.
    On the contrary, it’s tempting to give up after falling off the wagon only one time. “I already ate a donut, so I might as well eat <fill in the blank> as well, and start over tomorrow/next week/next month.” Constant progress, over perfection, is the goal. Many times if someone has overly perfectionistic attitudes toward eating, this can also result. So give yourself a reality check and just keep going!
  1. Moderate the “cheat.”
    As mentioned before, not counting small snacks here and there can add up. However, some people choose to give themselves free meals or days during the week. While some can find this motivating, having an extreme free for all, even just one day a week, especially when paired with any of the previous steps, can set a person’s weight loss plan back several days – each week. An integrative doctor I used to see commented that some hormonal markers such as insulin levels can possibly take many days or even longer to reset after an event.
     
    While it’s fine to give yourself treats or a break now and then, try to keep in mind moderation, and a full picture of figuring out a lifestyle change that will work for you for a long time to come.
  1. Change it up.

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over...

    STOP the Insanity!

    If what you’ve been doing for the past three months or three years has not worked – stop and try something else! Just because it worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for your particular body type, chemistry or lifestyle. Or, if it was working for a while and then is no longer working, perhaps your body has become accustomed to your routine. The human body is extremely adaptable – so change up your workout routine or food intake.

    I wrote in a recent Facebook post about my 50+ lb weight loss. There was a point when I ate very healthfully, trained sometimes twice a day but could not break out of a weight loss plateau I had reached. At one point, I accidentally injured my foot, and could barely walk at all. Not wanting to gain weight without exercise, I cut calories to a sedentary level and watched my intake like a hawk. That week – the weight started falling off. Weeks later as my foot healed, I had lost 18 lbs without any exercise whatsoever, whereas everything I tried before hadn’t worked.

    When I went back to a workout class that I had regularly attended before my foot injury – everyone else who had continually gone to the same class looked the same. They all asked me what new diet or exercise program I had tried. I simply told them I stopped exercising as much and relaxed my calorie deficit. To this day I’m not sure some of them believed me.

The key to lasting weight loss is to find what works for YOU. This is one thing a Wellness Coach can help you to discover. Contact amie@runningwithlife.com for more information on how.

Keep running with life ! – Amie

How to start running if you haven’t run for a while (or at all…)

starttobegreat

Returning to running after a battle with injury or illness is tough. It may have been weeks, months, years… or perhaps you’ve never started! So, no matter what your level, here are 10 tips on how to begin!

1. Think Big

What are you goals, beyond just putting your running shoes on? What motivates you? How do you picture running influencing your overall health and life? Perhaps you want to run to get into shape – what does that look like to you? Maybe you were inspired by someone who ran the Boston Marathon. That could be you one day! Picture what that looks like – think BIG – inspire yourself. Then, write it down. When you run with a goal in mind, you will be running TO and FOR something. When obstacles inevitably occur, you can think of your BIG goal and be motivated!

2. Start Small

Paradoxically, it’s often best physiologically to start in small steps. Perhaps you used to run 10 miles a day. Or, others make running look so easy. However after a layoff or when just starting out, it’s good to be conservative. Just trust that you will get to where you want to go. You lessen your chance of injury and premature burnout if you start small and build gradually. Running is basically jumping from foot to foot and the body needs to get adjusted to the forces of impact that occur with each step.

In any case, starting small might mean jogging and walking down the block, or running one mile. A 10% increase in total mileage per week is often recommended, but everyone differs in what they can handle. Pay attention to how you feel, how fast you are recovering from the workouts you are doing, and build from there.

3. Get Social

Running with other people can be motivating and hold you accountable. Perhaps the weather isn’t ideal, but the thought of five people asking you, “Hey where were you last night,” can be enough to get most people out the door. When coming back to running or just beginning, most likely most of your runs will be at a pace that most coaches call, “Conversation Pace.” This is an easy pace at which you are able to hold a conversation while running. As part of a running group, these miles can go by faster if you actually have others with whom you can have a conversation. No running groups in your area? Think about starting one of your own, or just recruit some friends to get healthier informally. Some also rely on a personal trainer, wellness coach or social media for similar encouragement and support.

4. Stay Positive

I was running in the pouring rain  and thought that there are two ways a runner could look at the situation. One is to think negatively about the rain, and as a result, skip running altogether or feel miserable the entire time. The other is to view it in a positive light: “Just think how much of a bad-a** I’ll feel like when I get done!” Sometimes, non-runners look at me like I’m crazy for running in challenging conditions. I just say, “The Marathon won’t pause for me because it’s raining/cold/hot,” and you can think of all the others who didn’t go the extra mile and get the mental edge that you will have. No matter the situation, think of what good can come from it, and it will keep you moving!

5. Keep going

When obstacles inevitably occur and things get hard, think about your Vision from tip #1. One of the biggest assets any runner can have is consistency. Maybe you feel tired, you’re frustrated that you’re not where you were before or feel you should be progressing faster. Keep going anyway. If you have a 5-mile run planned but it feels overwhelming, tell yourself you’re just going to go run a half mile. At worst, you still got a short run in. At best, you’ll feel so good that you go on to finish your whole workout.

6. Vary Workouts

A key concept in running is to vary the “FIT” of your workouts – Frequency, Intensity, and Time. Try to avoid increasing too many of these variables at once. For example if you start out with 2 or 3 days a week, perhaps next week increase either the number of days you run, or run a similar number of days for more minutes (distance). Intensity increases tend to cause the most stress on the body, especially for new runners.

7. Change Surfaces

One thing many runners do not think about in their workouts is to run on a variety of surfaces. Surely, if you are training for a road race, you’d want a majority of your running to be on roads. However running on concrete can be hard on the body, especially when returning or starting out. A trail can be a softer option. I do most of my recovery runs on trails even just in general training, and this option is also favored by such athletes like Olympic runner Meb Keflezighi.

Other less impactful options include treadmills or a rubberized track. One advantage to these two options is that you can exclude steep inclines with them if you are just getting adjusted to that, or trying to avoid irritating one of the many injuries that can be worsened by hills.

If you are recovering from injury, many physical therapy clinics have a supported treadmill such as the Alter-G, in which runners run on a treadmill supported by a “bubble” that counteracts gravity to variably counter some of the weighted impact to the joints. Elite athletes such as Dathan Ritzenhein have used the anti-gravity treadmill a training tool.

Another option is to run in the deep end of a pool wearing a floatation belt, which utilizes the same muscles as running. Yet, water has up to 12 times the resistance of running through air. I also include this option to more safely handle adding more weekly mileage. A final option is to cross train using a lower impact exercise such as an elliptical or bike.

8. Allow Recovery

Skipping or not planning recovery days is a common mistake amongst newer and experienced runners alike. The more hard-core, the better, right? But recovery days are how the body actually gets stronger from hard workouts. As well, a workout on paper might not look that difficult compared to what you used to do, or you may not even mentally want to admit that it is. But you must realistically go from the level of conditioning you have today. And as you come back or start running, the individual workouts may not feel that hard. However it is often the accumulated stress and fatigue that can build up if proper recovery is not taken. Take days off, or easy days, along with the harder and/or longer days. You’ll get stronger and build endurance faster, and your body will thank you!

9. Watch Nutrition

Nutritional needs change when a person starts running. Increased calories are needed as miles increase. Continuing to eat the same amount can lead to poor performance, lowered recovery and healing, as well as nutritional deficiencies. For some, exercise surpasses appetite. However for others, it can increase hunger. Others mentally over-justify excess calories because they feel they ran hard, so “earned” another slice of pizza or pie. There’s even a term, “Rungry”, which refers to the cravings and resulting excess calories a runner can take in especially after long runs. A general rule of thumb is that runners burn 100 calories per mile on “average”, however this can vary significantly from person to person.

And remember, if you see the scale going up, this doesn’t always equal fat gain. Runners store extra carbohydrate and water in their muscles to power through workouts. Regular body composition checks can tell you more accurately what changes are occurring.

10. Other Changes

One you begin establishing your running routine, what other changes can you make to keep going and optimize your performance? Looking at factors outside of your running, such as getting quality sleep, improving nutritional intake, lowering external stress and adding in strength work can all be beneficial. As a wellness coach, I can combine this with my services and knowledge as a running coach to make the big picture work for you. Feel free to contact me for more information – amie@runningwithlife.com

Run With Life…. -Amie

Moving Through Change

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. We had our pea-coats with us, and I took a bag. Of all my worldly possessions I took no more than the few necessaries that filled the bag. Where I might go, what I might do, or when I might return, were questions utterly unknown to me…

I love this passage from “Great Expectations”, by Charles Dickens. It depicts the transitional March personality as well as new beginnings. Leaving it all to venture forward into the unknown is an enthralling experience. What big changes have you made in your life? What changes do you want?

I was feeling a bit low in remembrance yesterday so I did what normally boosts my mood: I slipped on my running shoes and headed out the door. My breath and strides felt heavy as my runs have felt labored since the 100K, yet I didn’t care. I was outside, moving and alive.

The night prior I’d thought about some losses I’d experienced. I remembered dismissing them as if they didn’t matter and thought I was leaving things behind. However, while it’s necessary to let go of the past, we also need to realize and even grieve over what was lost. Sometimes, that’s the missing piece that stops us from really being able to start over with a clean slate. Acknowledging what hasn’t worked and what that meant is part of moving forward in a new career path, relationship – life itself.

I took a deep breath, and like a Phoenix flying from the embers, the crisp air set my soul alight.

What would you like to change? Have you started? Why or why not?

Is Your Social Network Killing You?

“Having a poor social network is as bad for your health as smoking two packs of cigarettes a day,” states Matthew Lieberman in his book, “Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect”.  Lately, I’ve been picking up this pattern of importance in neuroscience books. TLDR: A lack of social connections is dangerous to health.

I’ve been researching what tends to keep people healthy versus what tends to increase risk for depression and declining health. Lieberman states that people are becoming increasingly disconnected from one another in the modern world. Yet, humans are social beings, wired to be around others since the beginnings of time. We banded together to survive – to hunt together, share community work and live in the safety of numbers. If someone was sequestered from the group, it was a signal that something was wrong. Even today, quarantining is used as a form of punishment. Studies have shown that not only is the risk of depression increased for those who are isolated, but it also increases the chance of an early death as well as dementia. [1]

When we feel down it is often contradictory because we don’t feel like doing the things that may help the most. Being around others is one example. But according to author and psychology professor/researcher Dr. Steve Ilardi, sometimes literally just being in the presence of people can help lift mood. Go to a café, take a walk at the mall. Go to a group run. Do work you were going to do anyway in a place where others are present.

And, research on social connectedness shows that it’s quality over quantity. Alex Korb, in his book, “The Upward Spiral”, writes that someone who has five people in whom they can confide is in a better position than an individual with 1,000 Facebook friends who feels they have no one they can really trust.

How would you rate your social connectedness? Is it something you’d like to improve?

[1] http://healthland.time.com/2013/03/26/social-isolation-not-just-feeling-lonely-may-shorten-lives/