The other day I was in a real funk of a mood, dramas with my kid, changes of plans, unexpected bills – you know the drill. In the midst of my moodiness I decided to take a few minutes and hop on the treadmill. I pulled up an uplifting play list of songs from my phone, stuck my earbuds in, and did 30-second sprints with 30-second rests for 10 minutes. The result, I got rid of my blue mood, refocused my perspective towards the positive, and the rest of the day was great.
After my ten-minute shake-up, I realized how easy that had been and how rewarding on so many levels, and I knew I had to share this reminder with my readers: No matter what’s going on, with as little as five minutes of aggressive movement (that doesn’t mean it has to be high impact mind you), you can lift your mood and re-energize your spirits. Plus you’ll get the added bonus of burning some extra calories or adding to the building of your muscle tone.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have gym equipment at home, or even if you’re not at home (i.e., traveling). If the weather is fine, take a fast-paced walk, climb a tree or some rocks. If you’ve got access to a pool, try some impromptu water aerobics (blast fun music and pretend to jazzersize in the pool).
If you’re stuck inside: trot up and down your stairs (if you’ve got them), or perform a circuit of burpees, push ups, and crunches, or even hula hooping. There’s always some way to MOVE for 5-10 minutes that can stimulate endorphins wake up your brain, body, and mood.
For those of you who watch Grey’s Anatomy, you’ve no doubt seen that when things get really heavy on their heads and hearts, Meredith and her friends dance their blues away in the living room with mindless music blasting. You can do this too. Your form and style is irrelevant, all that matters is that you move your body and distract your mind.
This works great for kids too. If they’re sulky and/or tired from a summer’s day of doing nothing but watching videos, get them up and moving in a drastic but fun way for at least 10 minutes. Make it fun and youthful and they’ll play along — like jumping on the bed or having a pillow fight! You’ll all benefit in the long run.
So the next time you find yourself weighted down by circumstances – turn that frown upside-down by moving and literally shaking things up for at least 5 minutes. Your body, heart, and mind will thank you.
In 2013 I wrote the post Can I be blunt. In light of the current erosion in our Nation’s capital (I mean YOU #45), I felt it was a good time to update and re-post it, and remind everyone that while it is paramount that we be truthful with each other, tact is even more important!
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What’s the difference between tact and blunt? When you are being honest are you tactful in your delivery, or are you being blunt? Do you make a conscious decision when to invoke either approach or is your personality simply always tactful or always blunt? Well, let me be blunt … I recommend using both at the same time.
The dictionary defines tactful as: “a sense of what is fitting and considerate in dealing with others, so as to avoid giving offence; having skill or judgment in handling difficult or delicate situations.”
Blunt has a much more, well…blunt, definition: “lacking subtlety; straightforward and uncomplicated, quick and to the point.” Also many people who wrongly pride themselves on being blunt, are really being rude. There’s a very short and fine line between bluntness and rudeness. Clearly our current President has ample rude-bluntness (one of the selling points for those who voted for him), and none of the tact (again, sadly, one of his selling points to his fans).
While I am a huge proponent of being blunt (I do think there’s too much candy-coating these days), I only advocate bluntness when it is colored with tact. Tact is the tempering that keeps bluntness from being rude.
I bring this up today because I find that often my clients aren’t honest with themselves or those around them, and a little “cutting to the chase” (i.e., being blunt) could really help them move forward in their lives. If this resonates with you, read on…
For me, being blunt means speaking straight to the point in a quick and honest way. I don’t like to tiptoe around an issue, hoping that the recipient gets the gist of what I’m trying to say, and with the sentiment that I intended. But unlike some people who get labeled as brutally honest (i.e., their truth tends to hurt), I feel that if you deliver your blunt honesty with compassion and respect (i.e., tact) you will not be brutal and ideally you may be helpful.
Being too tactful (without bluntness) has it’s own set of problems. This approach often results in a wishy-washy delivery of what you think the person wants to hear. Inside you’re thinking I wish I could just tell them the truth, but what comes out is a round-about soft-ball that doesn’t really get things resolved. How much time is wasted in your life having misdirected communication because you’re trying to be tactful. If someone asks for your opinion, or you are in a position to offer helpful wisdom or advice – do it quickly, compassionately, and be succinct!
That leads me to my other favorite word when it comes to communication between people – succinct. Succinct means: “marked by brevity and clarity; concise.” Succinct goes beautifully hand-in-hand with bluntness, as both imply quick or brief, and being succinct when you’re being tactfully blunt is helpful as you won’t overkill your message. Get to the point, deliver your message with kindness (even when it’s constructive criticism) and then stop talking and let your words sink in. (Again, if our current leader could only follow this advice.)
So the next time you need to be honest about something of importance to you or another person, be tactfully-blunt, and succinct, and you will enjoy a quicker resolution and likely receive more appreciation and respect from those around you.
Many years ago I addressed a common culprit that keeps people from achieving their fitness and/or life goals – procrastination (see Finding Motivation)! I felt it timely to remind everyone once again that while motivation is what’s needed to propel you into effective action for changing your body or life, procrastination, if you’re prone to it, can be the cog in the wheel every time.
Motivation: something that provides a reason for a person to act a certain way.
Procrastination: the act or habit of putting off or delaying.
Depending upon your personality, you might not need profound motivation to achieve your goals and aspirations. Simply the desire to be or have what you seek is enough to drive you from step A to Z. Whether it’s weight loss, a change of career or home, or the ending of a dysfunctional relationship, some of us can stand up, make plans, take action, and manifest a change.
However, if you are a procrastinator, making changes to your body or life can be difficult, if not painful. Planning may not be the problem, you may easily cogitate on ideas and pros and cons lists all day long, but if you maintain a state of reluctance to actually take action (i.e., procrastination), then changes never occur.
Even if it there’s urgent motivation (your health, your finances, the needs of your family), to a procrastinator, obvious needs are often not strong enough to overcome a lifetime of chronic deferment. So how do find the right motivation to get off your butt and take serious action?
Start by facing your fears. More often than not it’s fear that keeps you from action, rather than laziness. Cut to the core of the problem, and you can see the path to resolution. Fears generally boil down to one of these four types:
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of failure
- Fear of pain
- Fear of the unknown
Once you name the fear that’s holding you back, then acknowledge what limits that fear truly contains (i.e., will it kill you or will it simply be difficult). Next, pick the hardest step first. We all tend to number our steps starting with easy (baby steps), progressing to the big and more scary steps. Reverse this. Tackle that which seems like it will take the most of your energy right off the bat. It’s all down hill from there (in a good way).
Now keep your steps simple and brief. The longer things take the more likely you’ll loose motivation. Keep intermediary goals to something achievable in a short period of time (a few days or a week). Once you have several successes under your belt, you’re more likely to continue plodding towards your main goal.
Lastly, seek support. Find family, friends, or co-workers who understand the cycle of procrastination. You may think having a go-getter in your corner will keep you accountable and focused, but for a habitual procrastinator a “cheerleader” is often a deterrent. But if you can find an ally who, like you, moves slowly and over-analyzes everything, you might find that while they’re stuck in their situation, they are great and helping you get unstuck. Then you can repay the favor when they see your achievements and get re-motivated to shake up their lives.
In the end, remember that procrastination is a choice. If something in your life isn’t changing and you’re unhappy about that – make a new choice!
The skill that I have paid the most attention to in my role as a trainer, life coach, and self-aware adult is that of perspective. I understand that there are always two sides (or sometimes more) to a story and usually the reality is somewhere in the middle. Conversely I also know that the grass is really never as green as it seems from the “other side.” Changing your perspective is the single best way to successfully change that which you are unhappy with, whether it be your body, a relationship, a job, or just how your emotions respond to stressful situations.
In the sequel to Alice in Wonderland (Through The Looking Glass) everything she knew about life, and even about Wonderland, was upside-down or backwards. But by embracing that different perspective (instead of fighting it), Alice was able to overcome obstacles and get back home with a new and better understanding (i.e., perspective) of her life.
Have you ever noticed that something that causes you great emotional stress doesn’t affect others the same way? Is that because they’re better than you? No, it’s because they simply have a different perspective. Same goes if you handle some stresses easily while your friends rage about. You’re not better, you just have a perspective in this area that differs than theirs and causes less strife.
If you are unhappy with the condition of your body (or any of the other life-issues I mentioned above) and no matter what you’ve tried (working out or dieting), nothing has successfully budged that excess fat, then perhaps it is time you changed your perspective. As an example, in some other countries, women with higher body fat are deemed beautiful and/or a symbol of a successful or wealthy family. These women have a different perspective about their bodies than we do in the U.S., that’s all there is to it.
So how do you change your perspective? One of the best ways is to de-personalize your view of the situation. In other words, take yourself out of the equation and look at it as if you were counseling a friend who was in your place. This allows you to see all aspects of the situation, not just what your emotional state focuses on.
An easy way to do this is to write yourself a letter, assuming the role of a friend. Pretend that the YOU are writing to is a friend who is in need of support and encouragement, but most importantly – CLARITY. Diagnose the situation via the facts, and look at how other situations in this “friend’s” life could contribute to how they’re handling the current situation. You’ll be surprised at how much clarity you find when looking at a problem that isn’t YOUR problem. After all, most of us (especially women) love to offer advice to our friends to solve their issues, yet fail to follow that same advice when it comes to ourselves.
Try this trick the next time you are frustrated or angry that something in your life just isn’t working to your liking. Take a deep breath and help your “friend” feel better and clearer about the situation. In the end, by seeing through the looking glass, I suspect you’ll find that your life is not as bad, or as stuck, as you thought.
Over two years ago I posted Stop Competing, Start Caring which focused on the rampant issue of women putting each other down through mean-spirited acts of unspoken competition. From the gym to work environments I see women continuing to combat jealousy via negativity and attempts to feel superior. Sadly, I suspect if my gender was more supportive of each other on the whole, if we’d have a woman as president today instead of the misogynist we’re stuck with. But I digress…
I recently joined a new gym, the kind of gym where everyone is very fit and focused on hard core workouts. This is no meat-market pick up joint, or Planet Fitness where you cannot grunt or show too much skin. Despite being a fitness professional I found clientele on the workout floor a bit intimidating, so I decided the best counter-action was to smile sincerely at everyone, especially the women. Not surprisingly, but too my renewed dismay, only one out of every ten women smiled back. Even with deliberate eye contact and my broad and welcoming smile, they looked away with down-turned mouths. I even attempted to strike up a conversation with one woman in-between sets and she answered me quite curtly and sauntered off.
So here is the post again, with slight updates, in my hopes to remind all women that we do not need to compete or be jealous of each other. The grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and only if we work together can we continue the improvements to our role in society that the Suffragettes’s started and the 60’s feminist movement continued.
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Since I was a young girl I’ve been aware of the serious nature of girls competing against each other for just about everything from friends to grades to boys. It gets worse and uglier as we grow into women. I see it at the gym, the mall, restaurants – women sizing up the competition. You can see it in their expressions, a defensive once-over seeking some flaw or registering uncalled-for disapproval.
I’ve mentioned this before, living in Las Vegas I regularly see parades of girls, each more scantily clad than the next, perched in ridiculously high heels, all glaring at the gaggle next to theirs to see if there is anyone they can put down to make themselves feel better. Belittle the competition and they’re no longer a threat, right? Yet despite girls’ intentions, the message men take away from this contest of looks is that we’re offering your bodies and not our brains, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.
The question is why are we so quick to condemn or ridicule? The answer is competition. We compete to be prettier, smarter, slimmer, or funnier. But the true concern really comes down our fear that someone is “better than me.” Girls are constantly worried that another girl will get more attention, steal a mate, or even get a better mate. We regularly match our own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem – and we usually know nothing about this other girl’s character and/or life other than her “cover” which we judge.
It’s sad that we are driven to such levels of insecurity that we view our fellow “sisters” as potential threats to our happiness. I suspect this is also a part of the reason that women are still undervalued and underpaid in the workforce. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with men for jobs, but when women consistently treat each other with distrust and resentment in a work environment, it’s easy for employers to offer us less money knowing that we’ll accept it just to get ahead of the next woman.
I know in my youth I did my share of mocking another or feeling envious of another girl’s achievements or looks, but I’ve worked hard in this second half of my adult life to remind myself that the grass is rarely greener on the other side, and that we all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and limitations, and the only person I should compete with is myself – to constantly grow and improve.
So I suggest that all women take stock of their attributes and stop beating yourselves up about your detriments. If there’s a negative aspect of yourself that you can actually change, DO IT and move on. Otherwise, be proud of who you are what you’ve achieved and never stop trying to be more. Consider the woman next to you your equal and always be there for each other.
If we can teach our daughters through this example, we just might have a generation of women that work together to boost each other up, improve the world at large, and show men that we are not only equal, but in some areas might even be superior? Just food for thought.
In light of receiving many encouraging responses to last week’s post (No More Labels), I contemplated further why we feel the strong need to label everyone with an adjective indicating physical approval or rejection based upon our exteriors. It hit me that this is because a huge portion of our society is shallow – shallow in their views of bodies, shallow in their treatment of women, shallow in our obsessions with ourselves and our need to conform. Keep in mind, I’m not calling people shallow per se (a disparaging usage), I’m saying our choices and/or view points can be shallow as the dictionary defines the word: of little depth.
Now I’m not pointing an accusatory finger around blindly without looking within – I spent the week analyzing how and when I make choices based upon my insecurities or “shallowness.” I concluded that society (myself included) is often so busy and focused on the trivialities of day-to-day life that we are living only on the surface, which in itself equates to a shallow life (for the surface has little depth). It doesn’t help that somehow we just elected the shallowest of shallow men as President (I’m allowed my opinion) which seems to further prove my point that a vast amount of society doesn’t care to look below the surface.
So what do we do about it? Well just the suggestion that we look deeper at how we view and treat each other, as well as how we view ourselves, will cause us to make less shallow choices. Once you become aware that you’re prone to judging a book by its cover, it’s harder to maintain that habit.
I put myself to the test this past week and did my best to view others with less pre-conceived notions about who they are based upon their outsides or a limited glimpse of behavior. I especially applied this new perspective to myself. Anytime I hesitated to do something or try something because I worried about how that would seem to others (those who might judge me only by my surface), I forged forward with the encouraging reminder that if if you dive deeper (or live life less shallow), you find unexpected treasures.
My conclusion is that I will ever-more look below the surface so I can better understand and appreciate the diversity of those around me, have a fuller life, and encourage everyone else to do the same. That way we can hopefully rid society of the labels and judgments that bind (or rather blind) us.
Last night my daughter asked me the one question that I always refuse to answer when a friend or client asks me: am I fat? I replied do you think you’re fat? She pushed further asking me to choose between whether she was skinny or fat. I responded that I wouldn’t pick either, as those adjectives are negative labels cast about by a society obsessed with perfect bodies – something that doesn’t exist.
In my conversation with my daughter, I took it a step further and pointed out that there are a myriad of body descriptions (labels) in-between skinny and fat, and none of those might fit her body type either. But even still I was not going to be cornered into labeling my child. I said if you feel fat, we can talk about that and I can always instruct you in ways to change your body composition to be healthier. But if you’re just worried that compared to the next girl you’re “fat” then I’m not going to engage in that kind of labeling and neither should you. Remember, every BODY is different!
The idea of placing a descriptive label on a “body” lends itself towards negative views and feelings on the part of both the describer and the describee. Unless you’re giving an eye witness account to a crime where physical descriptions are necessary, I feel that we over-use these negative body labels all the time and this wide-spread habit is an assault on our self-esteem.
If I were to tell you fascinating a story about one woman’s journey, would it matter if she was skinny or fat? I suppose if it was about her climbing a mountain it might come into play about what kind of shape she’s in. But if I’m telling you about a woman confronting a governmental or societal obstacle or battling cancer, it doesn’t matter in the least what her physical shape is. Yet we always seem to embellish our stories with these details.
If I describe a woman as stocky and solid, you will most likely imagine someone akin to an Olympic gymnast or swimmer. But if she’s just an average girl, that description might make you think she was short with a thick torso, which society has labeled as less attractive. If I describe a woman as lean and ripped, most would imagine a track and field star or fitness model. As Society has deemed that body type as one to be coveted, are the rest of us then sub-par?
This matters to boys and men too as society’s labels have suggested that if they’re not “strong and buff” they can’t get the girl of their dreams. I find all these labels to be detrimental on the whole because it’s diminishing the importance of our character, habits, and manners thereby making how we look – or what shape/size our bodies are – the more important factor.
So I ask you now to note how many stories or incidents you tell throughout your week where you interject something about a person’s skin color, size, shape, age – and then assess if those descriptions (or adjectives) were necessary to the story. Also note how many times your children describe people or other children with labels that they either envy or disdain. Perhaps with more awareness we can move away from these labels and get down to the more important facts and issues of life.
For most people, success in life is measured by the job they hold, the money they make, and the possessions they acquire. We raise our children to aim for this trifecta, focusing on school and grades and constant “upward” movement. Unfortunately I feel the most important skill or tool that we can provide our children with to help them “succeed” in life is often the least focused on – relationships.
Relationships are the essence of our lives and without the ability to maintain good relationships, I believe we truly cannot succeed. From home life to the office, if you cannot communicate and work well with people, your forward movement is limited. If you do not have a supportive group of family and friends (co-workers too), all of your challenges and hardships rest solely on your head and shoulders.
But a person who cultivates and cares for relationships above college degrees, money, and acclaim is a person who will get further than just their career/life experience will take them. Did you know that people who were in fraternities or sororities are 60% more likely to have successful careers because they have a network of built-in friends to gain support, leads, and referrals from? Again, it’s about relationships!
Consider two people with the same exact education and experience applying for the same job. Person A has not learned the fine art of conversation, improvisation, and the ability to find something to relate to with everyone they meet. Person B puts relationships and real communication paramount over everything else they do, and they want people to be comfortable around them. Guess who gets the job?
In this age of technology-focused society, the current generation(s) are learning texting instead of talking. We are pushing our youth to stay ahead of the curve with their computer skills and educational goals, which is essential to stay competitive with other countries, but they’re missing out on skills that can really make the difference in the quality of their lives, as well as their careers.
It’s the same for intimate relationships (marriages, partnerships). A person who is content with only their significant other and/or children for company and does not work at maintaining relationships with life-long friends (who often have moved far away) or does not seek to create new friendships is keeping their world (and therefore their growth) very small and limited. This also teaches children that friendships and the work required to maintain them is not as important as having a family and plowing forward.
My mother instilled in me the fine art of conversation, something seriously lacking in so many adults, not to mention children, these days. She said there was always something to talk about with anyone you meet. She taught me to ask questions, and then listen to their answers. While this skill has helped me more times than I can count (garnered me many a job lead or an awesome new friend), I am saddened to see how many adults cannot reciprocate. Often they do not engage in asking questions back – a “get to know you” kind of exchange. Once I’m done “interviewing” and offering a few clever anecdotes of my own, the conversation ceases as they do not know how to communicate back. So many people feel uncomfortable unless they’re only talking about themselves (which is very one-sided). How do you fare where you are forced to mingle with people you do not know?
In the next week as you think upon this post, look at how you communicate with friends and strangers. Look at how they communicate back to you. See if you can find examples of where your relationships with someone benefited your goals, or where not having certain types of relationships have held you back. Then see what you can do to improve the quality of your relationships and communication skills. Remember there is value in having true, honest and reliable relationships in your life, and those relationships start by you being true, honest and reliable.
A current hot catch-phrase in my industry is “are you living an authentic life?” I hear and read that slogan frequently and I always scream in my head what the hell does that mean? Are people running around living false lives? Well in a way, yes. The issue for me is that I think “truth” is a better and more easily applied word than “authentic.”
One of Webster’s dictionary definitions of the word authentic is “representing one’s true nature or beliefs…” While that definition is easy to understand, it can be a hard put into practice. How does one represent their “true nature or beliefs?”
Clearly I do understand the essence of this phrase – that many people choose to not follow their dreams or listen to their instincts, and end up living out circumstances that they never intended or wanted. But my issue is that to live authentically one must first really know and understand who they are and what they want. While some of us enter adulthood already having figured out who we are and what we want (and then spend the rest of our 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s refining that), there is a huge quantity of adults walking around who simply do not know the answers to those questions.
That’s not a criticism mind you, it is a reality that not all personalities are able, or in some cases even willing, to set in stone the life they want to live. There is nothing wrong with going with the wind and currents and just enjoying where life takes you and how it shapes you, if that’s is who you are. So who then, is really living the “authentic” life? Is it people like me who have things all mapped out and goals firmly being adhered to, or is it those who fly by the seat of their pants? I think what it comes down to is if you are happy with the life you’re living. After all, either approach can leave a person feeling unsatisfied and/or lost.
To me, what’s truly important is honesty. Are you honest with yourself and those around you – honest about who you are and what you want? Honesty can be much more easily applied to one’s life than authenticity, don’t you think? Perhaps then, the better way to state the catch-phrase would be “are you living an honest life?“
To that end, I leave you with the true essence behind this posting: if you are not living an honest life, if you are not being honest with yourself, remember that life (or time) seems to zip by very quickly (you know the other old catch-phrase life is short). Now I know how hard it is for many of you to be honest. Honesty is sometimes scary for while it’s freeing for the deliverer, it can be painful for the recipient. But honesty, as we teach our children, is always better than the burden of lying (or in this case, living a lie).
So dig deep, don’t let fear stop you, and start being honest. Remember to take baby steps, and be patient, it will get easier, and that honesty must always be delivered compassionately (that includes to yourself). Honesty is the most powerful tool to altering your life’s course. Take heart in those that live an honest life for they demonstrate that when we live an honest life, we are at the very least, happier and able to breath just a little bit better.
One of the most important aspects of fitness is often the least focused on – that of flexibility. I must confess that even I tend to place the least priority on flexibility – me a former full-time dance student! But in our fast-paced, jam-packed lives, it often seems that all we have time to focus on is exercising (cardio & resistance training) and nutrition (which we know to be the largest part of the fitness pie. But I need to remind us all that flexibility is a major and necessary component of total fitness.
It doesn’t matter how strong your muscles are if you don’t the flexibility to move them in a full range of motion then you will not be able to push past your current fitness levels (i.e., burn more fat). Without good flexibility you’ll not be able to run or even walk the speed and distances you seek, for your muscles will be too tight and too shortened and therefore your legs will simply lock up.
If your job keeps you in a sedentary seated position for long hours, it’s hugely important to stretch and lengthen your muscles and spine (see last week’s blog Respect Your Spine). This will improve circulation which will in turn improve your productivity.
Of course as a Life Coach, I can not ignore the figurative necessity for flexibility in our minds and attitudes as well. Emotional flexibility allows us to embrace change better and affect change in our lives – and our workouts.
So today I’m suggesting that we all commit (myself included) to improving our flexibility over the next month, and then we can compare notes and really testify to the benefits of being more flexible.
First, prioritize and schedule a small chunk of time for stretching (10 mins minimum). It’s important that your body be warmed up so I recommend either right after a shower, or right after a long day but prior to being sedentary for several hours. (In other words, after you’ve come home from work and made dinner, but before you plop down on the sofa to binge watch Netflix for a few hours before bed).
Second, challenge those around you and keep each other accountable and on task. Flexibility is essential and beneficial to everyone around you, whether children or seniors, spouses or co-workers. The more people in your life that will take the time to stretch with you (although it doesn’t have to be at the exact same time), the more likely we will all achieve this goal and reap the rewards.
Third, remember to be flexible in your head and heart. Not only does this reduce the emotional tightening of your muscles (no more stress headaches), but it will likely improve your relationships too. Be more willing to see the other side of things, and be more forgiving of yourself and others.
Lastly, I will leave you with a few specific details about the best way to be flexible, i.e., stretching techniques:
- Never stretch cold muscles.
- Always move slowly into a position that stretches the desired muscles to the point where you want to stop. Then hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds, while breathing in a slow and relaxed manner. Then stretch further and repeat the hold and breathing. Do this one more time on that muscle and then you can move on to the next.
- Start at the head/neck and move down towards feet: neck, shoulders, lower back, glutes (butt), hamstrings (back of thighs), feet/ankles. Look on the internet, YouTube or ask me for specific examples of stretches that you can practice.
Now go be flexible and improve the quality of your body and your life!