Rewards are > running

I think there’s a big misconception out there about trainers…well, probably many, but one is that we all love to exercise. That exercise comes easy to us. Maybe I’m an exception to the rule, but I can tell you that exercise does not always come easy for me. Certainly, it has become easier over time and with consistent adherence, but in the category of my favorite leisure pursuits, exercise is not number one. At least not before I do it. Yet, the feeling I get after working out is hard to beat…a feeling of accomplishment that lounging around just can’t give me.

Most of us know that exercise releases endorphins into our bodies, making us feel all sorts of energized and happy after we do it. Despite this knowledge, though, it’s still hard to get ourselves to start a workout. In fact, I was talking about this very problem with two of my clients this morning…about how we overcome the lack of desire to exercise. Like any other habit, creating an exercise routine requires consistency, generally for 3-4 weeks, before it becomes a more automatic. But there are ways to get through those 3-4 weeks, and the most helpful one I’ve found is using rewards.

I’m a big fan of rewards, because I know they work. For me and for my clients, establishing specific goals and rewards for meeting them is an integral part of achieving a healthy lifestyle. Initially, I recommend that people start out with one activity goal at a time, and a specific reward to use when the activity has been completed. Often times, people don’t feel like they deserve this, that they should just be able to meet their goal through sheer willpower. But there’s nothing wrong with rewards…as long as they’re consistent with a healthy lifestyle. Setting aside alone time to read your favorite book or enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning is a great reward for completing a morning walk or run that you might not otherwise do. Treating yourself to a manicure or new workout outfit is a great after meeting a week’s worth of activity goals. Giving yourself 15 minutes of a walk in the sunshine or time to browse the latest celebrity news or twitter feeds is a good way to reward yourself for bringing a healthy lunch from home. Whatever you choose, make sure you have a clearly stated daily goal and reward, and make sure the reward is truly reserved for times when you have met your goals. Willpower is still a factor, obviously, but we don’t have to rely on it…and why should we? Manicures and shopping trips are so much more fun!

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*Here’s an example for you. I’m not a natural runner, and it’s something that will always be a little hard for me, I’m sure. But it was so beautiful outside today, and I knew that a morning run would set me up for a great day. So, with a little self-talk and promise of a walk around one of my favorite paths with an iced coffee (no sugar, of course)after the run, I did it. Ran a little more than I expected, even. And it felt awesome! Running is great, but rewards are even better!

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A great week starts with an even better planĀ 

Growing up, Sundays used to be my least favorite day of the week. Maybe it was because I was focused on the school week ahead of me, because I actually hated Sundays until after grad school. But I have to say, I see Sundays in a whole new light as a (working) adult. And not just because personal training is often a weekend gig. To me, Sundays represent the perfect balance between lounging and starting off on a clean slate for the week ahead. What’s better than a day where you can catch up on sleep, relax over a cup of coffee with your spouse or a good friend, and feel somewhat productive as you tackle the laundry or grocery shopping? (Not to mention binge watching all the shows you missed during the week. That’s not just me, is it??). I like wrapping up my Sunday with a plan for the week. A plan for my workout schedule, a plan for healthy meals, and hopefully a plan to catch up with good friends and family on the phone or in person. You name it, I love to plan…and I truly believe that succeeding in any goal is impossible without a good plan.

Which is why I tell my clients that you MUST have a plan for clean eating at the beginning of each week. This might mean writing it down, or just telling your spouse/family/roomates what you plan to eat…at least for 2-3 days at a time. This also means actually going out to buy a few days worth of meals and snacks. Now, I know not everyone is as detailed (read: crazy) as me, so you don’t have to plan which day/meal/time you’re going to eat each item, but it’s really important that you have some idea what you’re going to be eating, and to have someone to hold you accountable to this.

Once you’ve gone out and picked up all your whole, wonderfully healthy foods (with the aid of a grocery list, of course…), keep going! Spend 30 minutes on Sunday night washing and chopping a few days worth of fruits and vegetables for mid-morning and afternoon snacks, or for a speedier omelet in the morning. Portion out some nuts and yogurt in individual containers. And if you’re not too picky, make a big meal on Sunday night that you can use for leftovers and/or freeze for a later date. Having at least 1-2 healthy, ready meals (that are not in the form of a frozen package or take out menu) is also key.

If you’re on a quest to lose some weight, it also helps to track what you plan to eat with the use of one of the many apps out there. Once you tally your estimated meals up for the day ahead, you can make adjustments and feel a little more obligated to follow your plan.

Many people question if they can actually plan this much, that it might take the fun and variety out of eating. But, my response to that is…is not planning working for you?? If so, that’s great. But if you’re not eating clean 80% of the time, or more, and if you’re feeling stressed AT ALL about balancing a healthy lifestyle with a busy work or family life, I would say it’s worth a try. Take 3-4 Sundays to plan your week like this, stick to your plan, and enjoy the results.

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*Sunday dinner makes for delicious Monday lunch…and even some extra veggies for Monday night stir fry. Delicious meals + less cooking time makes for one happy Jess*