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Holiday season is, indeed, upon us; what does that mean for you? For me, it manifests as family dinners, trips away from home and warm, sunny weather. Summer in Australia is magnificent; long days, warm balmy nights and the anticipation of sensational summery storms.

I thought about writing this final article for 2016 as a trip down the moderation isle and discussing alcohol and Christmas cookies… but instead I wanted to give you things to DO rather than what not to do.

No matter where you are, who you are with or what you are doing, there is always a chance for movement. Try creating a new family tradition these holidays that gets everyone together and gets them active. Morning walk anyone? How about a lap count competition at the pool or a game of touch footy on the beach or in the back yard? Use your imagination to come up with ideas of how to bond, connect and engage doing movement together.

But what about those Christmas and New Year party feasts? How about looking at eating more vegetables and more salads; let’s make it the summer of the salad, get creative with vacation vegetables and drink all the water. Filling up on nutritious, fiber rich vegetables will leave only a little bit of room for the rum balls and your body will be grateful. Those tastes of turkey stuffing, plum pudding and tantalising trifle… think of those as fuel for all those fun family frolics you’ll be enjoying. Get out and about, eat up and be healthy; most importantly, enjoy the ones you love.

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Attitude

Attitude is everything; when you think about it we have the choice to decide how we react to everything. It is so powerful, it is such a privilege.

Once we decide who we want to be and how we would like to act all it takes is awareness, every day, all the time. Being self-aware is the key to living a life with intention and existing with purpose.

On a daily basis we are confronted by less than desirable situations and we all have the choice to stop, think and assess how we are feeling and how we will move forward. Taking action is the only thing we can do; will you choose to take negative action or positive action? Will you get frustrated and walk away or do you confront the situation with kindness and move ahead with positivity.

In my household my boys know that sometimes after a long day of giving to others that I need 5-10 minutes of ‘Sig-Space’. This usually involves a coffee and some quiet. 10 minutes is what I need to recharge and reset so that I can move forward with my best attitude and be able to give my best self for the remainder of the day. If I didn’t discern the need for quiet in a some-what crazy day I would end up projecting my grumpy, worn-out-self onto the ones I love the most. How do you want to show up in the world?

Awareness is key; self-awareness! What do I want? How will I get there? Who can I become?

Balance

I love the word balance; in fact it could possibly be my life motto. I like to balance my work and family life, I balance my training plan with a mix of cardio and weights and my nutrition is also a daily balancing act. Balance in the space of nutrition pertains to living a life that is well-rounded, sustainable and satisfying. Try to think of it as the 3 S’s: Satisfying, Sufficient and Sustainable. If you keep in alignment with all of these intentions then your daily diet will be nourishing, delicious and therefore sustainable.

Every day you should think of your nutrition as a clean slate. During that day you should think about nourishing, satisfying and keeping on track with what makes you feel good. This is not to say however, that you cannot indulge a little bit here and there; in fact, I encourage it. Eating should not only be for fuel and energy but it should be enjoyable; this is where the balance word comes in and ties nicely together with the other word I love; Moderation.

As a practical example think of it like this; you enjoy the holiday buffet for brunch so dinner will be a lighter option. You might go out for dinner another night and have a glass of wine and therefore say no to dessert. The idea is to keep a lose track on what you are consuming so that you never feel deprived and you never over-indulge (usually the result of deprivation).

Keep in mind that what you eat is 100% your choice and your responsibility. Bulk up on meat and vegies when you are super hungry and enjoy that ice-cream when you really want it.

Momentum

I am fully aware that my columns, of late, have been somewhat disjointed in nature, however when inspiration comes my way, I just have to run with it.

Today I got to thinking about motivation. January 1st (or every other Monday) brings so many ideals and expectations especially within the health and fitness spectrum, we have all been there. It has now come to light that we are actually more excited by the idea of doing x,y,z then we are about actually doing it. So why is it; why do we go all-out and then stop?

We know that habit change has to be one step at a time so why is it that we set ourselves these huge list of things to do and not to eat and expect that we can handle it? By nature, most of us are just not like that. We like routine and structure. The concept of momentum and habit change I can liken to that of an old-fashioned crank, you know the one you used to start the old dam pump with? You slowly wind it up, while increasing intensity you are increasing momentum and pretty soon its running by itself.

So what does this look like in terms of nutrition and exercise? Every morning, you will commit to at least 5 minutes of walking and 1 glass of water. That is it, but you have to do it every morning. This action starts to make you feel good and so to feel even better you start walking for 10 minutes every morning and drinking 2 glasses of water. Pretty soon you day cannot start without a walk or water because that’s just what you do and the momentum has propelled you to that place of consistency, no motivation required.

What is it that you want to be doing? What is one small, achievable step you can take every day to build positive momentum to becoming that committed person? Start there; start now.

Different is beautiful

Living on a cattle property it is a given that we are surrounded by animals. Lots of cows, several horses, too many collie dogs and now, a plethora of poultry; credit to by second son being ‘bird-crazy’.

It was on our daily trip to the chook house recently that the boys and I were looking at some newly acquired half-grown chickens when something beautiful happened. Looking in on the predominately black chicks my first boy says, Mum, I like the grey one the best. I asked him why that was and he replied, ever so profoundly, because she is different. I took a breath and had a little moment before reflecting deeply on what he had said. We noted that being different is beautiful. To stand out and be unique to who you are is a gift that only you have the privilege to carry.

Why do we obsess to look like other people or have characteristics like that of certain friends, family members or more commonly, celebrities? Dreaming of someone else’s body is only going to lead to tears because you are you. YOU, is all you are ever going to be, so be the best one you can. Sure, have a vision of yourself – how you want to feel, a job you would like to achieve or even you as the fittest version of yourself. But, please, please, please do not idolise others for their appearance; your uniqueness is your beautiful gift to others and to the world. Lead by example; honour your body for what it can do for you every day and give others the permission to do it as well.

So, eat well, move with grace, sleep soundly and give thanks every day.

You can be a super efficient human being

When it comes to health and fitness it’s all about creating a lifestyle that will enable you to enjoy the heck out of everything this world has to offer. Do you agree? So within creating this lifestyle to maintain our health and wellness it just has to be sustainable. The key to making exercise sustainable is to keep it simple. Eventually the idea of spending hours in the gym will become nothing but a burden in your life so the idea of a fast and effective workout is surely the making of a super efficient human.

I want to offer up today a simple set of exercises, or workout if you like, that will cover the bases of a well rounded routine to get you started. Remembering that exercise should be fun and it must be mixed up from time to time to keep your body guessing and keep it working.

Here goes: All you will need is a dumbbell or two and a chair depending on your starting ability.

  1. Squats – Sit to the chair and stand up, perfect for beginners
  • More of a challenge? Hold the chair for support and squat until your quads are parallel to the floor
  • Body weight or dumbbell squats, you can always add more weight when it gets easy.
  1. Push Ups – Use an incline to get you started, ie. the chair or a nearby wall
  • Flat on the floor, abs tight and elbows back
  • .. Put your feet on the chair
  1. Lunge – Hold the chair for support if you are just getting started
  • Body weight alternating lunges
  • Jump lunges if you want to push yourself
  1. Bent-over Row – Hold the chair with one arm and row up with the other
  • Bend over, core tight and row each arm with your dumbbell
  • Renegade row, plank position alternating rowing each arm up.

These are the basics; do as many as you like as often as you can to get started. Here, you are working your posterior and anterior muscle chains and done right with some intensity you will get some breathlessness and some burning; just what you are after to see those body composition changes. Use the internet to perfect your technique and don’t be afraid to change things up and push yourself.

Routine is your best friend

Habit change is the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle that fuels your body and satisfies your soul. It all starts with routine. Not all at once; but one at a time until they no longer take up mental capacity to complete. Your day simply would not feel the same without completing that thing you have done every day for a lengthy period of time.

For example here a few of my non-negotiables; some form of exercise first up every morning, 1 litre of water before breakfast, protein with every meal and for a least one meal in the day fuel my body with lots of vegetables. Even on holidays, even when traveling, even on Christmas Day these things happen; they happen because I wouldn’t feel like me without them.  The exercise makes me feel alive, the water keeps me hydrated, the protein keeps me satiated and the vegetable keep me energised. They have been habits that I have created over years of finding my answer to the best diet and the best fitness regime.  Because that just it; there is not perfect diet or routine, the perfect fit is the one that is perfectly designed by you for you.

One habit at a time; what works for you? What is going to fuel you intentions for yourself? What is possible? Try laying out your exercise clothes the night before, or have a workout buddy. Cook bulk protein on Sunday for the week ahead or pre-cut your vegetables. What are the big rocks that will move you in the right direction? What are the habits you really want for yourself?

Look in the mirror and see your best self; what would she/he do every day to live a healthier life?

So many question, so much thought, loads of potential.

Sleep, waist or time or necessary for survival?

You guessed it; we need adequate shut-eye consistently to be our best self. Brain fog, cravings and depression are just a few negative side effects of inadequate sleep. 7-9 hours of good, uninterrupted sleep every night will enable you to think clearly, communicate effectively and put forward you best self to the world. Enough sleep will allow your energy levels to rejuvenate, your muscles to repair and grow and the chance for your body to concentrate on fighting invading bacteria and infections. A good night’s sleep is essentially your nightly maintenance schedule.

It’s easy to get caught up in a passion project, TV show or a work deadline and stay up late – but beware that you will pay for it in the end or in this case the next day. Tired, cranky and generally off your game.  I know, especially as a parent, that sometimes interrupted sleep cannot be helped, but the negative side effects can be combated with the following; fuel your body with nutritious food and water, allow for a slower paced schedule the next day, get in a little nap if you can and simply be kind to yourself and adjust your expectations.

In the meantime, when you can, get to bed before 10pm, limit the use of tech devices after 8pm and indulge in a nightly pre-bed relaxation routine or ritual that prepares you for all of that inner body repairs.

Super sleep is super powerful.

Stress

Whether you are super busy with work, not getting enough sleep or being chased by a lion, your body perceives this as only one thing; stress. It is truly the silent assassin. Without getting too scientific about it, what stress does to the body is makes us release the hormone cortisol which in short makes us store body fat and prioritize only metabolic functions that are necessary for survival.

 

If someone where to ask you, are you stressed? You might say; no I’m fine. But what about the 5 hours of interrupted sleep you are getting each and every night, the processed takeaway food being consumed every other day or the lack of water your are drinking. Stress is anything deemed not optimal by the body. This is by no means a lecture, but you don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that your body is designed to be fueled on pure nutritious foods for optimal health. All the other ‘bits’ we add in are more difficult for the body to process therefore creating stress.

While you sleep is the time that your body rejuvenates, relives energy stores and heals ailments. Without adequate (7-9 hrs per night) this too causes the body strain.

Worry is huge for some; being anxious or nervous takes its toll on the body as well and withdraws energy that would normally be used for healthy bodily functions to be sidelined for a temporary issue. Over-exercising is another one; running 10km 6 days a week is bound to leave your body feeling drained and strained

 

It is all about awareness. Say you have the perfect training plan, meals are prepped and on track but you still don’t see the results you are after. What else could be going on that is causing you body to be under stress? Dig deep, combat those issues head on and see the bright light on the other side that will lead you to a lighter heart and a lighter self.

Think of the sky

Meditation is something I have always wanted to explore; something that I think would be a true privilege to experience. A close friend told me recently that as part of a course she is doing at the moment on mindfulness she was asked to dote 1 hour to doing nothing… no television, no phone, no ipad, not even a book! The task was to simply sit and BE. I found this idea completely confronting… Sure I have plenty of time without technology or someone to talk to but I would usually be busy doing something like cleaning the house, mowing the lawn or riding my horse.

As a society we have become completely unable to simply sit and be quiet. We are all guilty; waiting for a plane, a doctor appointment or even at the grocery check-out… We will stand there with our phones and be entertained. I could go on and on about the social implications of being so tech-driven but today I want to think more about that idea of being at peace with you. Being ‘ok’ with who you are and where you’re at right now. You know sometimes when things seem dauntingly impossible or scary… try to think about the bigger picture. When your life seems to be filled with rain or storm clouds now and then, take a step back (or jump up in this case!) and think that above all this crazy weather there is the big bright sky and its really not that big of a deal. Next week I will touch on how meditation and mindfulness can combat the biggest reason behind not living your healthiest life… STRESS