Deliberate Practice to Reach Your Fitness and Health Goals

Written by: Callie Parry, Intern

The long standing rule has been that it takes an accumulation of 10,000 hours to be considered a master in something. In the premise of change, those 5 big zeros are daunting and discouraging. If only there was a way to cut down those hours even to just 1,000.

Recent findings have countered this statement by suggesting that quality trumps quantity. Those zeros can be cut back by focusing more on about how we are practicing rather than how long we are practicing. The type of practice I am speaking of is that of deliberate practice. Deliberate practice can be applied to all facets of life but is especially helpful in health and fitness related goals. Deliberate practice is utilizing mindfulness to ensure that workouts are all they can possibly be. It is a process-focused approach rather than outcome-focused. When individuals focus merely on the results they want they find themselves often getting discouraged because the results don’t come right away. By shifting ones attention to the method, progress is more quickly observed leaving people with a better sense of accomplishment. Practicing with intent and focus is not necessarily easy, it takes concentrated effort and commitment to work.

There are lots of ways to become more deliberate in one’s practice, but I would like to specifically touch on the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness seems to be the new craze these days and it may be for good reason. Do not fret. I am not speaking of meditating for a half an hour every morning, although that is never a bad idea. I’m thinking more of being mindful and present in your daily health and fitness efforts. First, mindfulness comes from utilizing the breath. Taking deep breaths in and out during exercise and simply throughout the day will keep one capable of focusing on the moment.

After establishing breath, take time to engage all the senses. For example, when performing a weight training session notice the feeling of the weights in your hands and the contraction of your muscles. Pay close attention to your form and address any unwanted aches or pains. Staying present in the body is just as important as the breath and will help you get more out of your physical exertion.

The most effective way to stay mindful and present is to remove distractions. Those who practice deliberately hit the gym or the trail with the intention to do work. Their workout is more important than gossiping with their workout buddy or the movie on the screen. I’m not saying that working out with a partner or watching something while you workout is bad, but make sure that those aspects are not distracting you from the work you are aiming to perform.

Lastly, the best way to engage in deliberate practice and reap its rewards is to refrain from any trace of negativity in the dialogue that runs through your head. Letting negative thoughts about yourself and your journey only leads to discouragement and hinders your ability to put forth that hard work.

Now that you know how to step up your workout game, give it a try. Breathe, engage your senses, remove distractions and ward off negativity. Be deliberate in your practice no matter what it may be and you will be encouraged by the progress in the process.

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Thanksgiving Feasting: See What a Difference a Few Choices Can Make

See what a difference a few choices can make!

The average American consumes 4,800 calories on Thanksgiving! Here’s how to enjoy your feast and save about 2700 calories.

  • Only use jam on toast, no butter
  • Eat whole fruit not juice
  • Use low-fat milk instead of cream
  • Knowing you are going to feast, eat a light breakfast
  • Instead of potato chips eat pretzels and a small amount
  • Instead of regular dip eat low-fat dip
  • Drink smaller portions of caloric beverages like egg nog or champagne
  • Instead of crackers and cheese eat raw veggies and salsa
  • Eat rolls without butter
  • Make low-fat recipes for things like stuffing and gravy
  • Eat steamed veggies without butter
  • Choose acorn squash instead of butter and sugar laden sweet potato casserole
  • Choose pumpkin pie instead of pecan which has more calories
  • Choose fruit instead of pie
  • Drink skim milk instead of 2% or whole
Thanksgiving feasting, breakfast to midnight
Menu I Menu 2 (low-fat)
I cup orange juice 110 12 sections of fresh orange 110
2 slices toast 135 2 slices whole wheat toast 135
1 tbsp butter 100 1 tbsp jam 55
1 tbsp jam 55 1 cup coffee with low-fat milk 15
2 eggs, scrambled in butter 220
1 cup coffee with cream 35
Total 655 315
10 potato chips 105 5 pretzels 120
with creamy dip 120 with low-fat yogurt dip 35
5 crackers with cheese 175 raw vegetables with salsa 40
1 cup egg nog 340 1/2 cup egg nog 170
Total 740 365
8 oz champagne 170 4 oz champagne 85
6 oz turkey, white & dark meat, with skin 345 6 oz turkey, white meat, no skin 230
1/4 cup gravy 30 1/4 cup low-fat gravy 20
1 cup standard stuffing 500 1 cup low-fat stuffing 125
2 candied sweet potatoes 285 1 cup acorn squash 115
1 cup buttered steamed green beans 70 I cup steamed green beans 35
2 rolls, buttered 240 2 rolls 170
1/4 cup canned cranberry sauce 105 1/4 cup low-sugar cranberry sauce 85
1 slice pecan pie, with whipped cream 520 I slice pumpkin pie 175
Total 2,265 1,040
turkey sandwich, with mayo, cranberry sauce, standard stuffing 585 turkey sandwich with low-fat stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy 345
1 slice pecan pie 495 1 slice melon 45
1 cup whole milk 150 1 cup skim milk 85
Total 1,230 475
DAY’S TOTAL % calories from fat 4,890 44% 2,195 11%
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How to Beat Fatigue

IMG_0608Fatigue is the No. 1 complaint I hear from my clients. There are things we can do to get our energy back.

Fatigue may result from overwork, poor sleep, worry, boredom, or lack of exercise. It is a symptom that may be caused by illness, medicine, or medical treatment. Anxiety or depression can also cause fatigue. If you have experienced fatigue for over two weeks, a visit to your physician for a physical exam is the first step.

If the exam didn’t reveal any medical or emotional causes here are some things you can do to get your energy back.

Eating protein is essential for staving off fatigue, especially early in the day when your cortisol levels are high. At breakfast eat an egg, a slice of ham on the side, cottage cheese or add milk to your oatmeal. Eat whole grains which are a complex carbohydrate that take longer to break down into glucose and provide sustained energy. 100% whole wheat toast or oatmeal are a good addition to your breakfast.

Eat small amounts of food every three to four hours to keep your blood sugars up in between meals. Snacks like fruit and nuts, string cheese, a scoop of cottage cheese or even leftover meat from last night’s dinner will satiate your hunger and boost energy levels in between meals.

Hydrate yourself because being dehydrated can lead to feelings of fatigue and increased heart rate.

Lack of sleep is most likely the main culprit behind low energy. Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night and teens 9-10 hours. To get better sleep you need to improve your bedroom hygiene. Here are some ways to improve bedroom hygiene:

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Having a regular sleep schedule helps to ensure better quality and consistent sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets the body’s “internal clock” to expect sleep at a certain time night after night. Try to stick as closely as possible to your routine on weekends.

Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations and activities before trying to go to sleep. Don’t dwell on, or bring your problems to bed.

Ease the transition from wake time to sleep time with a period of relaxing activities an hour or so before bed. Take a bath (the rise, then fall in body temperature promotes drowsiness), read a book, watch television, or practice relaxation exercises. Avoid stressful, stimulating activities—doing work, discussing emotional issues. Physically and psychologically stressful activities can cause the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with increasing alertness. If you tend to take your problems to bed, try writing them down—and then putting them aside.

Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol too close to bedtime. While alcohol is well known to speed the onset of sleep, it disrupts sleep in the second half as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol, causing arousal.

Exercise can promote good sleep. Vigorous exercise should be taken in the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, like yoga, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.

Food can be disruptive right before sleep.  Stay away from large meals close to bedtime. Also dietary changes can cause sleep problems, if someone is struggling with a sleep problem, it’s not a good time to start experimenting with spicy dishes. And, remember, chocolate has caffeine.

A quiet and dark, and environment can help promote sound slumber. Use heavy curtains, blackout shades, or an eye mask to block light, a powerful cue that tells the brain that it’s time to wake up.

Keep the temperature comfortably cool—between 60 and 75°F—and the room well ventilated.

Lower the volume of outside noise with earplugs or a “white noise” appliance.

Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable.

It may help to limit your bedroom activities to sleep and sex only. Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.

Go to sleep when you’re truly tired: Struggling to fall sleep just leads to frustration. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room, and do something relaxing, like reading or listening to music until you are tired enough to sleep.

Don’t be a nighttime clock-watcher: Staring at a clock in your bedroom, either when you are trying to fall asleep or when you wake in the middle of the night, can actually increase stress, making it harder to fall asleep. Turn your clock’s face away from you.

And if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep in about 20 minutes, get up and engage in a quiet, restful activity such as reading or listening to music. And keep the lights dim; bright light can stimulate your internal clock.

Ensure adequate exposure to natural light during the day. This is particularly important for older people who may not venture outside as frequently as children and adults. Natural light keeps your internal clock on a healthy sleep-wake cycle. So let in the light first thing in the morning and get outside for a sun break during the day.

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