You Are Not A Dog

January is a time for goal-setting.  With that in mind, I wanted to talk about the idea of rewards.  Not the reward of doing something good for yourself (though we will touch on that as well), but more about the idea of rewarding yourself with something (think clothes, spa day, food, etc) for reaching one of your goals.  While this seems like a logical way to get yourself motivated, it turns out the truth is as the title states…”You are not a dog” and this particular rewards system does not work for our species.

I know some of you have already started an internal argument with me.  You may have had results increasing a good behavior or decreasing a bad behavior by using a reward as a shiny, gold, dangling carrot.  This could be true, but let me ask you, how long did these changes last?  Was it something short-term?  Were you able to continue this changed behavior over the long-term?  Are you motivated to continue?

While research still continues to pick apart motivation and change, there are some concepts that come up time and time again.  For example, the idea that there are 4 main motivators.  On one side people are extrinsically motivated, meaning they are motivated to do something for a reward or out of fear of a punishment.  Close to this is an external motivator.  These are the things you do because you feel you “should” and feel guilty when you do not complete them.  On the other side of the spectrum we are looking at internal motivators or things that align with our values.  Next to this are the intrinsic motivators or the things you LOVE to do, no real persuasion needed.

So the rewards I am talking about are those in the extrinsic category.  These are the deals you make with yourself (“after I lose 10lbs, I can buy a new dress”) that involve a reward or punishment.  This reward system has shown to increase the wanted behavior immensely in the short-term, but for long-term change, can actually hurt your motivation.

Let’s use exercise as an example.  You hate running, but you made a New Year’s Resolution to “get in shape”.  So you decide that for every day you get up and run, you get to buy yourself a fancy coffee.  So you head out every morning and suffer through your 45 minute jog, distracting yourself with music, and thinking only of your coffee reward.  After about 2 weeks, you decide it is not worth the coffee.  It is too awful.  So you start up your coffee pot at home, have a little session of self-loathing and resentment, and throw the idea “getting in shape” in garbage.

Now, let’s try this a different way.  You decide you want to “get in shape”.  So you decide to experiment with different ways of moving to see what feels best to you.  You decide you love swimming.  You love the silence in the water, the rhythm of the stroke, and the time away from your phone.  You exit the water feeling energetic, calm, and ready to take on the day.  You LOVE it.  You can’t imagine starting your day any other way.  That is the reward.

By taking the material reward away, you were able to focus on the things that were important to you.  The things that aligned with your values.  This was the reward for your changed behavior.  When you added the reward in, that was your main focus.  The reward undermined your intrinsic motivation and undercut the success of accomplishing your long-term goals.

So how do we connect with our internal and intrinsic motivation?  Well, start by asking yourself why you want to accomplish a certain goal.  What would change in your life if you accomplished it?  Why are you making it a priority in your life right now?  These questions will help reveal your values.

Now choose a step in the direction of your goal.  Is there an easy step?  Something that does not even feel like a sacrifice , something you may even enjoy?  For example, say you want to move more, but you don’t really like exercise.  BUT you do love spending time with your friends.  Is there a way to ask a friend to join you on a walk or at the gym so that you can socialize and work toward your goal of being healthy?

If you can’t find a way to easily motivate yourself, take a look at your values.  How do your values align with the next step toward your goals?  For example, you don’t have a friend that can meet before work for a walk, but you value moving better and feeling healthier and those values align with the act of walking.  So now, you are walking for your health, not just because you feel you should.  This also leaves room for variety.  Health could also be represented in a different movement, a mediation, or cooking a healthy meal.  You are not committed to one activity in order to reach your goal.

So when you think about all you want to accomplish, first ask yourself why.  Then get very clear about your values.  Try to find something that you already like to do or is easy to do to start moving towards your goals.  Then, move forward with your values in mind.  Get rid of the material reward and let your accomplishment, discipline, and transformation to becoming who you want to be in this life be your ultimate reward.

 

Additions vs Resolutions

I want to use this very appropriate time in the year to talk about resolutions.  I have noticed that the media surrounding this subject has changed over the last few years.  As a society, we have consistently failed at keeping our New Year’s Resolutions, so the popular message has turned to “stop making them”.  While I agree that resolutions put a lot of pressure on ourselves and I also agree that most people don’t follow thru, I believe this problem to be user error rather than the act of making a resolution.

What I mean is, we  make resolutions quickly, without much thought or reflection, and usually as a reaction to something in our life that we are currently doing or not doing that is making us feel bad about ourselves.  Instead of making “changes”, what if we thought about “adding” to our lives.  Using the New Year as a chance to reflect on what we want in life, what are some things on our bucket list, and what we feel are our top priorities.  Before making any promise of a resolution, make sure you have a clear plan of what it is you want to do with this life.

For example, I make a sort of “resolution” every year.  There are certain things I have always wanted to add to my life, and using the New Year to set up a plan on how to get it into a busy schedule feels motivating and keeps me consistent year-over-year.  Last year I added 3 things in, and in order of priority they were: 1) Learn Spanish, 2) Add Meditation in my routine, 3) Journal. I didn’t just make these resolutions and hope all would fall into place, I made a plan.  Any addition we want to add to our lives will take a sacrifice of time and a solid commitment.  It is important to know where that time will come from and the cost of the commitment.

For my top priority, I started to look at my options, between classes, tutors, and online courses.  Knowing I would needs consistency and accountability in order to commit to learning Spanish, I opted for in-person classes.  After a few months, the times were too hard to make, so I committed to one-on-one tutoring so that I could more easily work it into my schedule.  I am still getting tutored once a week.

For my second 2 priorities, I had to play with what worked.  Was morning or evening better?  Should I do them together or separate?  Should it be daily?  I started with daily and then worked my way to a place where I felt I could have consistency (which turns out is 3x/week).  All 3 of my resolutions are now just part of my life, they do not feel like a sacrifice of time or resources, it is just part of me.

I like resolutions and I like the New Year as a time to reflect and remind ourselves about what we want in this life.  You can do it whenever you want – 4th of July, Summer Solstice, your Birthday – it doesn’t matter, just make sure you take the time to reassess.  Without this time, we tend to get caught up in the day-to-day of our lives and never move onto the things we really want.

Here are a few suggestions on how to make productive additions to your life instead of resolutions that will never manifest.

Ask yourself:

  1. What is on your bucket list?  Is there something on there you could start working towards  or even complete this year?  What will it cost you in time and money?  Do you have those resources available to you or do you need to find them?
  2. When you think of what you want your life to look like, what do you see? Is there something you should add to your life to move closer to this vision?  Do you need help and guidance, or focus and time, or all of the above?  Where can you find what you need?
  3. Is there something you love to do, but have not had the opportunity to do it lately?  How could you add this back into your life?
  4. Do you need support?  What does that support look like and how could you move closer to finding it?

From these answers, start to make your roadmap.  What is the most important?  What can be accomplished easily with just a little effort?  What are your first steps?

Now give yourself “loose” deadlines.  You don’t want to leave everything open-ended or a whole year may go by with little progress.  Take a look at your roadmap and give yourself achievable deadlines.  Sometimes it is easier to give yourself mini-deadlines for all the first steps instead of one massive, end-goal deadline.

Now you have a plan for your additions.  Focus on these additions rather than changes. Make sure you have a clear reason “why” these additions are important to you.  The first thing my Spanish tutor asked me was “Why do you want to learn Spanish?”.  It is important for everyone involved to know the motives.

At the close of 2019, I am no where near fluent in my Spanish, but I practice every week and could easily travel with my “Spanglish”.  I will continue to learn and progress, not just with my Spanish, but with everything is this beautiful life.  And this year, I am focusing on making things (already handmade a few Christmas presents) and mapping out the future of my business (already met with and hired a business coach).

What will you do with you 2020?

November Move of the Month – Hanging

At the beginning of September, I had the great opportunity to spend a week interning with Ido Portal in Germany.  While I was there, I met a great women from Northern Ireland and last month (October) she invited her crew to participate in a hanging challenge.  So for the month of October I hung and swung and watched my grip get stronger and my shoulders more open.  So, I decided this month, I should invite my crew to participate.

The details of the original hanging challenge from Ido himself can be found here.  In short, the challenge is to hang for 7 minutes of accumulated time per day.  However, since I am a big proponent of not letting the perfect get in the way of the good, I suggest we start at just hanging every day.  So, it can be in dosages of 10 seconds or 2 minutes.  You can hang for an accumulated time of 1 minute or 15 minutes and each day can be different.  There are no rules.

I do have a few suggestions though…

  • Hang in different places with different grips.
  • Set yourself up for success by identifying easy to access areas to hang.
  • Set an alarm on your phone so you do not forget to get at least one hang in a day.
  • Try to build on your time each day.
  • Don’t bore yourself out of the challenge, find friends to hang with our post your photos on Instagram and tag me!  (@brennabacke)

Today is day 1!  Get our there and hang!

“Embrace the Suck”

It happens daily.  I give my client an exercise or movement and they immediately respond with “There is NO WAY I can do that.”.  To which I say “Of Course!”.  I’m a trainer, who gets paid to challenge people and push them beyond their expectations.  Of course I am going to give my clients things they are bad at, that is the only way to grow.

Embracing the “suck” is my way of saying to get your ego out of the way and focus on developing and expanding your movement and mind in new ways.  Our bodies are designed to adapt, they enjoy new challenges and demands.  It is important that we feed the need or we risk the chance of getting bored, unmotivated, weak, and maybe even depressed.

Once, I was at a yoga class with a slightly eccentric teacher (looking at you Full Throttle Yoga), and someone asked the question “What’s the big deal with handstands these days?”.  The response was so honest.  The instructor replied “There isn’t anything special about them.  If you’re an a$$hole, you’ll still just be an a$$hole in a handstand.  The reason we are doing them is to challenge you to do something new.  After you accomplish a handstand, you may go out in your life and accomplish something else.”  Just the act of going upside down can lead a person to gain confidence in themselves and their abilities.

The idea is simple, practice what you suck at more and spend less time practicing what you are good at.  Our fear of failure lurks in every part of our lives, including our workouts.  It is important to start identifying your fears, asking yourself why you don’t like to do this or that and start to slowly put yourself in uncomfortable (but safe) situations.

Reaching outside of your comfort zone and moving in different ways not only expands your physical skill set, you can literally strengthen your brain.  Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change throughout your life.  Exercise has been shown to increase the grey matter in your brain (actual neurons) and it triggers a reaction that stimulates neuroplasticity.  When you try something new, something you are not quite sure how to do, your brain looks at is as a riddle.  Your brain immediately starts to try to solve the problem, working out the different routes to success.  So the long and the short of it is that you get the brain benefits of not just exercise, but also of problem solving.  So stop thinking about pumping up your biceps, and starting thinking about pumping up your brain.

I know, I bet you are starting to cringe at the very thought of being embarrassed or bad at something, but hear me out.  Moving out of your comfort zone and challenging your mind and body is not only stimulating and fun, it is a sign of maturity and can allow you to grow way beyond your own expectations. I am by no means saying you must go out and do a handstand.  It can be something as small as saying “yes” when you would normally say “no”.  So, pick something attainable, just on the other side of your comfort wall, and bit-by-bit, impression-after-impression, make yourself stronger in every meaning of the word.

Runner and Walker Recovery – Hip Pain

At my studio, Koa Fit, we work with not only runners and walkers with hip pain, but also cyclists, dancers, golfers, tennis players and a lot more.  As said before in my previous posts about foot pain and knee pain, “hip pain” is a broad term.  Most importantly, your hip pain could actually be back pain in disguise.  It is important to know if your hip pain is a symptom of overuse/misuse or if it is nerve pain.  A physical therapist can run you through some tests to help you identify where your pain is coming from.

For the purpose of this post, I am going to be addressing the hip pain in the upper hamstring that is usually associated with activity.  It normally comes about during or after strenuous activity and feels like a a deep ache or muscle strain located where your leg meets your bum in the back.  Any pain that feels “sharp” or “burn-y” is most likely nerve pain and you will need more evaluation before getting appropriate exercises.

To help relieve and prevent the onset of hip pain, try the exercises below.  Even with the absence of hip pain, these exercises are good to perform to keep the hips moving smoothly and to avoid over-tightness.

Runner and Walker Recovery – Knee Pain

Let’s move on to the 2nd biggest complaint among runners and walkers, knee pain (if you have the 1st, foot pain, please see my last post).  I know “knee pain” is such a broad term, but let’s start big picture and then move into the details.

Pain in the knee, if not caused by trauma (getting side-tackled for example), comes from a dysfunction of your biomechanics, or movements.  The movement I am talking about most is your gait, whether walking or running.  When you have a breakdown in the mechanics of your gait, that deficiency gets highlighted over thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of repetitions with each training session.

It is important to have a professional assess your walking and running patterns to identify any inefficiencies you may have in your stride.  But for now, we are going to focus on one of the more common points of pain, patellofemoral pain.  This is the pain commonly felt just below the kneecap and is usually a signal of over-used quadriceps and an under-utilized posterior kinetic chain (arch, calves, hamstrings, and glutes).

Try the exercises below to help prevent the onset of patellofemoral pain and keep your knees happy!

Runner and Walker Recovery – Foot Pain

One of the main complaints I hear from my runners and walkers is about pain their feet.  Whether it be the heel, arch, or ball of the foot, it seems every pedestrian ends up with foot pain at one point or another.

There are many factors that can cause inflammation on the bottom of the foot.  It is best to get an assessment by a movement specialist to determine your precise cause.  However, there are a few general movements you can start doing to help you keep the pain at bay or even prevent it from starting in the first place.  Check out the video below and follow along to help increase your foot’s flexibility and strength.

Fix Your Forward Head Posture

Did you know it has been estimated that up to 90% of us have forward head posture?  Want to know if you do?  Stand up right now, turn your camera on, hold your arm straight out to the side and snap a pic of your profile, including your shoulder.  Take a look.  Are you ears forward of your shoulders?  Congratulations!  You have forward head posture.

Let’s take a quick look at what causes forward head posture (from now on we will call this FHP to save me some time sitting at the computer).  There are the obvious culprits – prolong sitting, computer use, texting, and trauma such as whiplash from a car accident.  But there are also things we don’t think about – the sports we play, the heavy backpack we carry, our jobs, the way we breath.

{Side Note}  Let’s talk about this last one for a hot second.  The stress of our daily lives has left most people with shallow, stressed, labored breathing.  We no longer take relaxed breaths.  Instead, most of us have a habit (without even noticing it) of holding our breath or breathing faster than we need.  This alone can not only affect things like your heart, your oxygen intake, and your mood, but it can also start to tighten down the muscles at the front of the neck, pulling your head forward.  For more on how to help your breathing, check out my past blog post, Breathe Deep.

Symptoms of FHP don’t just include looking like a sad puppy, there are also REAL issues that can occur.  Because of the strain FHP puts on the cervical spine, every system is affected.  This includes the musculoskeletal systems (headaches anyone?), the nervous system (maybe you are a tingling hands kind of person?), and the vascular system (raise your hand if you have sleep apnea!).  The longer your head hangs out there, the more vulnerable you are to muscle spams, bulging and herniated discs, and even TMJ.

So, let’s get to work.  Perform these 8 moves a couple times a week.  Use them as a warm-up to your other activities or do them right before bed.