“The brain is the body’s major glucose burner.” This factoid is just one example of the many bits of wisdom I gained from my first certified personal trainer workshop (given by the American College of Sports Medicine) on my journey to passing the exam and getting my certification—and of course, being able to sign my name Jen Katt, cPT!
I started with the brain because although exercise, fitness, and nutrition generally center on the body, your brain is the driver of the change and commitment needed to reach your goals. The workshop I attended last month in Williamsburg, VA, not only reinforced that notion, it also identified a perfect starting point for getting there.
It’s all about patterns, and more specifically, about creating healthy ones and sticking with them until they become a seamless part of your lifestyle. Maybe for you, that means committing or recommitting to patterns that are working now or did before—or maybe it means deciding to change something so that it fits in better with where you want to be and how you want to live.
That is the key–what you do most of the time.
Creating a pattern takes some initial planning, but once it’s there, it becomes a framework that supports its continuation. ACSM recommends a brainful goal-setting and adherence strategy, known as SMART—Specific, Measurable, Action-based, Realistic, and Timely. Here are a few examples:
You are tired of being a zombie during the day and decide you really need to sleep more. A SMART goal might be to go to bed just 30 minutes earlier, starting this Sunday, for an entire week. Keep moving your bedtime up in 30-minute increments 1 week at a time until you reach your goal of, say, 8 hours a night = your new pattern.
You don’t eat enough vegetables, especially green ones. A SMART goal would be to do your “store perimeter” shopping on a given day of the week, purchase vegetables you can eat without heat: carrots, snap peas, celery, green/red peppers, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, pickles, etc. Each week at lunch, add 1 serving (1/2 cup) of veggies until you make a dent in the recommended daily allowance (five ½-cup servings)—snap! New pattern.
You have become sedentary, sitting at your desk, computer, couch, kitchen table, whatever, for hours on end. You have no time to exercise. A SMART goal would be to purchase a pedometer (picture) and record your steps for a few days to get a baseline average. Then, decide you’ll add 500 steps each week, until you reach a daily goal number, let’s say 10,000. How do you get there? Find 15 minutes, before work, during lunchtime, after dinner—we’re talking 15 minutes!—and walk. Park farther away from the office or store, take the stairs routinely (remember, it’s all about patterns), take the dog for a walk after dinner…you’ll both benefit.
You are not sedentary, but you don’t exercise enough. Go for a minimum—the rule of 3 comes to mind: pick 3 days a week and exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes for 3 months. Start with what you like: dancing, biking, hiking, tennis, walking, roller-blading. Buy some dumbbells for your office, do daily pushups. Don’t join a gym thinking that will force you to go—it won’t. This is the “Realistic” part. Picking a day and time and specific activity and writing it down so you can check it off will help you over the change barrier.
And don’t give up if you relapse; that is an expected part of the process. Relapse prevention strategies might include setting a “date” with a friend so you have a commitment to someone other than yourself. As a trainer, I will help my clients and they, me, to become who we want to be “most of the time.”
Check out ACSM’s “Exercise is Medicine”.
Keep moving — Jen Katt