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.

 

Is Your Squat Helping or Hurting You?

The Squat – it is the epitome of a gym exercise, the king move amongst gym rats, the foundational move for all athletes.  Anyone can do a squat.  It should be a no-brainer, right?  Sorry, not so fast.

When we were kids, squatting was a part of life (think of the kid in the diaper who you know is doing his business because of the squat position he is holding).  As we get older and we spend more time sitting and working and trying to squeeze in a workout here or there, the tighter our hips become, the more our squat goes awry.  Once our hips have become off-kilter, the squat work we were hoping would sculpt our hammy’s and glutes is actually putting pressure into our low back, knees, and other vulnerable joints.

Focusing on the position of your pelvis and hips during a squat, can not only help you get stronger in the areas your are trying to target, but it can also help you retrain your hips into a balanced position.  Watch this short video and learn how to squat to help you balance your pelvis, remain injury-free, and get the most out of your squat.

Podcast, Episode 6 – Low Back Pain and the SI Joint with Katharine Hauge, DPT

Brenna Backe sits down with Katharine Hauge, DPT to discuss low back pain, and specifically, the role the SI joint can play. They cover why the SI joint is so important, how an imbalance can lead to pain or injury, and how to differentiate between hip pain, knee pain, and pain caused by the SI joint. If you have ever had low back and/or hip pain, you will want to listen to this episode.

Strong and Balanced – Breathe Deep

Yes, this is yet another blog post about how important it is for us to breathe.  Why? Because we forget.  We do breathing exercises for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, and then what happens?  Life, stress, and our daily grind get in our way.  So consider this your public service announcement for breathing for good health.

Now, I know you are busy, so I will get straight to the point.  Doing some form of breathing exercise can help you with the following:

  • Stress Reduction
  • Proper Organ Function
  • Decreased Inflammation
  • Better Sleep
  • More Endurance, Stamina, and Energy
  • Increased Flexibility, Tension Relief
  • Reduced Spinal Pain, Better Posture
  • Better Brain Function, Clarity
  • Decreased Anger
  • Strengthen the Immune System
  • Promote Good Digestion
  • Strengthens the Heart

You get the point, right?  It is one of the best things you can do for your well-being.

So, let’s get practicing.  Below is a video from my friend and amazing body-worker and life-coach, Emily Wishall.  In this video she goes over a few different ways to use your breathe to help you achieve your goals.  Whether you are trying to fall asleep or trying to gain some more energy in the afternoon, this 10-minute videos goes over simple exercises you can start incorporating into your daily life.

Also, check out Emily’s 10 Simple Steps to Jumpstart Your Day.

Happy Breathing!

Strong and Balanced – Community

When I opened my 2nd personal training studio in 2012, I wanted to build something larger than just a gym.  I really wanted to establish a place of community.  I wanted to be an informational resource for our town, to provide a space for people with common goals to come together and support each other, and I wanted to create a learning environment for the other trainers in the studio.  5 years later, there is definitely a strong community at Koa Fit AND it is something that I try to foster, care for, and grow every week I am in business.

Community = COMMON Purpose + Values + Experiences

Being part of a community, whether you seek it out or it finds you, is one of the most important pieces to living a strong and balanced life.  There are the communities we attach ourselves to because we have a common interest or purpose (think sports teams, weight loss groups, networking, etc) and then there are those we are part of because we share common values (non-profits, religion, political groups, etc.).  And then there are the communities we may just find ourselves in due to our life experiences (support groups, travel, neighborhoods, etc.).  You have probably found yourself in at least one or all 3 of these communities at one point or another in your life.  Being part of a community allows us to have a sense of belonging, provide mutual support, and have greater influence in our society.  It is important for us to not only be part of a community, but to be ACTIVE  and INVOLVED  in that community on a daily basis.

Support

One of the biggest benefits of being active in a community is the support that you get and give.  Working together, supporting each other through life’s challenges not only helps you bare the burden, but also fulfills the want to be needed as you help others.  As you give assistance to someone, you expand your capacity to be compassionate, patient, and generous.  You will also experience more in your life as you look at situations from someone elses shoes or help them get through a particularly trying time.  Your reality and view of the world can be expanded when you support those around you.

Understanding

As you engage and support people as a community, you will also better understand others.  You will understand where they came from, what they value, why they made certain decisions, and what they want to do in their life.  These insights into people’s lives create an atmosphere of understanding, so that even if we disagree, we can UNDERSTAND the other person’s viewpoint.   Understanding leads to patience which leads to compassion which then leads to trust.

This understanding also expands our own knowledge and gives us the opportunity to teach others.  This give and take is a much more valuable life education than anything we can pick up in a book or a classroom.

Connection and Trust

The biggest reason people join a community is to make connections.  It could be as simple as you all enjoy reading books or riding bikes, or it could be more complicated, like trying to conquer an addiction.  Whatever the reason, connection is something every human requires.  Connection leads to friendship and intimacy, and gives us the sense that we are on a team and that people have our backs.

These connections that we make in our communities also lead us to trusting one another.  It helps create a camaraderie in our society that allows us to walk down the street feeling safe and secure.  The more people you can connect with, build a relationship, and ultimately trust in your community, the more peace we can have in this world.

Move the World

Communities can create movements.  Obviously, as a group you have much greater influence than you do alone.  But bigger than that, the power a community can cultivate is exponential.  The motivation and inspiration that feeds the community is only doubled and tripled as the group expands.  This is literally the “power” of a community.  Giving your attention to something larger than yourself can help move attitudes, beliefs, and policy.

Strong and Balanced – Sleep

A few days ago I had the honor of seeing Arianna Huffington speak at a conference I attended.  One would expect a lecture from her to review best business practices or how to lead the pack, but in this particular speech, she went a little more personal and spoke of the everyday boundaries she sets so that she can take care of herself.  This got me thinking of my own self-care practices and what I hold most valuable on a day-to-day basis.  The number one thing that came to mind…SLEEP.

I value sleep over food, workouts, and even showers.  If I don’t get enough sleep, I am miserable to work with, to live with (ask my hubby), and I don’t make great decisions. And those are just the things that I notice right away.  Lack of sleep can also lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, memory loss, and more.  1 in 3 Americans do not get enough sleep (according to the CDC).  This is not surprising when we add the stress of our daily lives with the stress of what happens if we don’t sleep!  It is too much.

So, our only solution is to find ways to trick our bodies, to create routines, to set ourselves up for sleep.  We need to give it the same respect and attention we do to brushing our teeth or showing up to our job on time.  We need to start adjusting our days and the amount of work we take on so that we can get the sleep we need to be our best selves.  For those of you who are rolling your eyes and think you are too busy, read this article about Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, getting 8 hours of sleep.  If he can do it, so can you.

Here are my favorite “Hacks” (disclosure: not hacks at all, just good ol’ fashion advice) for sleep:

  1. Respect your sleep time.  Treat sleep like you would an interview, a job, an appointment.  Heck, put it on your calendar if you need to.  Set up your day and your obligations where you are allowing enough time for your Zzzz’s.  Cut social events short, leave emails unread.  The world will keep spinning, I promise.
  2. Establish boundaries. Do this with your work, your screen time, and your obligations to others.  Make sure you have a cut-off point at night and a start time in the morning.   Allow time in the morning to think about what you want from yourself and what you want to accomplish that day before checking your phone to see what the world wants from you.  At the same time, create time in the evening to reflect on your accomplishments, your successes, and what you were grateful for that day (if you make it from sun-up to sun-down with clothes on your back, you can find something to be grateful for each day).
  3. Move and engage your mind everyday.  Our bodies and minds are meant to be used.  If we slack off on utilizing one or the other, it will probably keep us up at night.  Make sure you are challenging yourself physically and mentally for at least part of your day, so that you can power-down easily at night.  PS – if you want to get both done at once, try the Strong Balance Class Home Video.
  4. Focus on quality not quantity.  While performing your tasks and obligations throughout the day, make sure you are focused.  Start and end projects without allowing yourself to be distracted by email, phone, or social media.  When you do something, go all in.  You will get more done in a smaller amount of time and will feel more accomplished and satisfied at the end of the day.
  5. Set yourself up for success.  You can not get home at 11pm and expect that your body will be able to settle down by 11:01pm.  On the same note, you can not play candy crush or browse your Facebook page till it is time to turn off the lights and then fall into a state of blissful rest.  Have a routine to get the screens out of your life at least 30 minutes before you want to go to bed.  Absolutely no screens in bed.
  6. Make your bed the most heavenly place on earth.  What makes you feel comforted and snuggled?  Soft sheets, fluffy pillows, lavender scents?  Whatever it is, spare no expense.  Make your bed super dreamy so that you can not wait to jump in at the end of the day.

Check out my podcast below for more tips on how to get a perfect night sleep.