52 Healthy Habits Blog

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Welcome to 52 Happy Fit Habits

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” 

John Bingham

Why another fitness blog?

Welcome to my 52-week healthy habits journey back into a fitter, happier lifestyle. 

Healthy habits work, and I’m going to explore which ones to use, how to make them stick, and why they work.

I’m a middle-aged fitness professional who lost my fitness lifestyle during the pandemic (who didn’t?), and I’m going to start again from the beginning. I’ve spent the last ten years helping people find and build their fitness path. So it’s a little embarrassing to find myself so off track. I love this quote from John Bingham, and I think about it every time I meet someone starting on their fitness journey. We have to find the courage to start something new and stick to it.

Habits work

It’s tough to start something new that will disrupt how you live your day to day life. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. There is no get-fit-quick program that you will sustain over the long term. What works is consistent effort building healthier habits.

I will use the best health and wellness practices to build the happyfithabits. Building one habit a week will help us sustain changes over the long haul. It will also show how fitness professionals select programs or fitness tools at different stages of their programs. We will use what works and set ourselves up to succeed by building habits that work well together.

There are many different ways for you to apply a healthy habit

I’m going to be the example, but you’ll be able to apply these methods and habits to your fitness journey in a way that works for you. 

Please remember: No one thing works for everyone, but everyone can find something that works for them.

What I used to do doesn’t work for my body or time of life anymore, so I’m going to explore my fitness journey the same way I train others: by meeting them where they are at, exploring how they like to move, and applying fitness fundamentals one habit at a time. 

Nothing happens overnight. We will build our new path one habit at a time. Yes, we will fall off track from time to time, but habits are sticky. Once we’ve built a practical habit that serves our lifestyle we will find it easier to return to.

Please feel free to join me, ask questions, let me know what works (or doesn’t work) for you.

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Healthy Habit # 8 Hobbies are Good for Your Heart

Good news! It’s time to dust off that passion that you can’t seem to find time for. Pursuing your hobbies for as little as 20 minutes a week is good for your heart. Even better news, it doesn’t matter what your hobby is as long as you enjoy doing it. Here are some tips and tricks for finding those elusive 20 minutes and putting them in your schedule. https://happyhealth.ca/2022/01/habit-2-schedule/

https://www.verywellmind.com/the-importance-of-hobbies-for-stress-relief-3144574

Hobbies are just as good for your heart as exercise

Heart disease is the leading cause of death. Unmanaged stress is linked to heart disease. Stress causes us to release the hormone cortisol which raises our heart rate and blood pressure. How we manage our stress will help us prevent heart disease. 

https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/hobbies-reduce-stress-just-well-exercise

 Top tips for finding a hobby that fits?

Sometimes we don’t know what to do with our free time or we want to get the most out of our limited free time. Here are the top tips for relaxing hobbies

1-Go outside (walk, hike, photography, sightseeing)

2-Join a group-loneliness increases our stress so any activity that you enjoy in a group setting will decrease your stress

3-Add music-you can sit and listen to it, join a fitness class that plays music while you move, or learn to play an instrument

4-Do something with your hands, knitting reduces all sorts of stress-related aliments, but anything you build with your hands will do the samehttps://www.lifehack.org/314247/6-unexpected-benefits-knitting

5-The hobby will have the best long term impact on your physical and mental health will be the one that engages you mentally as well as physically

https://news.ucmerced.edu/news/2015/relax-benefits-leisure-go-beyond-moment

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Habit # 7 Train your Heart Rate Zone

Why heart rate zones are more important than calorie counts for successful workouts

What is Heart Rate Zones training?

Heart rate zone training is how most athletes train. They set out their training plans to incorporate short high-intensity workouts (higher zones) with long slower endurance training sessions (lower zones). They don’t keep doing the exact same workout and expect to improve. You can figure out your heart rate zone by figuring out your max heart rate.

What is Max Heart Rate?

The simplest calculation for your max heart rate is 220 minus your age. You will be in your peak heart rate zone for very short bursts during sprints or HIIT efforts. Most of your cardiovascular training should be in lower zones so you can build your endurance, pace, power and then speed. Just like in strength training, you wouldn’t walk into a gym lift your heaviest weight once and call it a workout. You need to lift all kinds of weights in all kinds of ways to build your strength.

How do I calculate my Zones?

Zone 1 is Light 50-60% of your max heart rate. This would be achieved through a walking pace that you could do all day. This is your recovery and warm-up heart rate.

Zone 2 is Endurance 60-70% of your max heart rate. This is light cardiovascular exercise and may help you lose weight if you kept it up for longer than an hour. 

Zone 3 is Tempo 70-80% of your max heart rate. This is where you will be when everything is feeling like you are in the meat of your cardio session. This is the last aerobic heart rate zone before you hit your anaerobic threshold.

Zone 4 is Power 80-90% of your max heart rate. You won’t want to talk in this zone. You’ll feel the workload. In this heart rate zone, you’ll be getting closer to your lactate threshold and anaerobic training. 

Zone 5 is Sprint 90-100% of your max heart rate. This is where you’ll find yourself during a really tough, intense part of a workout and it will only be sustainable for a very short amount of time as you aren’t using your aerobic system so you’ll fatigue quickly.

How Do You use Zones?

The purpose of heart rate zone training is to measure your workout effort and help you get more results from your efforts. As you build more endurance your heart will not have to work as hard during a workout. So you might have been in zone 4 when you first started running but now the same distance and speed is only a zone 2 effort for you. You can do a couple of different things with this information. You can increase your endurance by staying in a zone 2-3 effort for a much longer time or you can push yourself to get back into zone 4 for the same amount of time which will increase your power.

Heart rate zones are also an excellent way of managing your workouts during times when you aren’t 100%. Your heart rate will be higher if you are stressed, lack sleep, have allergies etc. This way you can listen to your body and either shorten your workout if you are in zone 4 or lessen the intensity of your workout. 

The more time you spend in the lower zones-building your base-you more efficient your body will become and the more obtainable speed and power will become. Start small with one change a week https://happyhealth.ca/2022/01/habit-2-schedule/

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Healthy Habit # 6 Protect your heart with sleep

Want to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by 50%? How about reducing your chances of dementia? Of course, we want those things, but that doesn’t help us sleep. How do we build the healthy habit of sleep? What healthy habits help us sleep better?

Here are 5 proven habits to try from the Mayo Clinic

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep/art-20048379

1. Stick to a sleep schedule

Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Most people don’t need more than eight hours in bed to achieve this goal.

Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try to limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.

If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you’re tired. Repeat as needed.

2. Pay attention to what you eat and drink

Don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. In particular, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Your discomfort might keep you up.

Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.

3. Create a restful environment

Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Exposure to light might make it more challenging to fall asleep. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.

Doing calming activities before bedtime, such as taking a bath or using relaxation techniques, might promote better sleep.

4. Limit daytime naps

Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep. If you choose to nap, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day.

If you work nights, however, you might need to nap late in the day before work to help make up your sleep debt.

5. Include physical activity in your daily routine

Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. Avoid being active too close to bedtime, however.

Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too.

6. Manage worries

Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.

Stress management might help. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Meditation also can ease anxiety.

Know when to contact your doctor

Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night — but if you often have trouble sleeping, contact your doctor. Identifying and treating any underlying causes can help you get the better sleep you deserve.

Other Resources

https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-dementia

Happy Habit of walking outside in a forest
Blog, Happy

Happy Habit # 5 Go for a Walk

Can we make a happy habit?

Happiness is a feeling, and what makes me happy might make someone else feel something else entirely. So can we build a happy habit the same way we develop our healthy habits? Health is a clinical measurement, while happiness is constructed from individual perception and cultural values. Most adults struggle to name what makes them happy. How do we make a happy habit when we aren’t sure what they are made of?

Serotonin is linked to happiness

Happiness is linked to the chemical serotonin in our brains. So the happy habits I’m going to explore increase serotonin. I’m going to explore different ways of cultivating happiness, and some things will work better than others. One of the keys to improving your happiness is to explore what works for you. Let’s stay curious.

Make Going Outside into a happy habit

Going outdoors for a walk will cause instant physiological changes: lowering blood pressure, increasing serotonin, and an increasing sense of purpose. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317451 Ideally, your trek will be in a park or natural setting to get the full benefits of the physiological effects. It doesn’t need to be a long walk 15 min daily is enough to get the benefits.

Winter Blues

Many of us are going through the mid-winter blues coupled with feelings of lethargy from the pandemic effects on our lifestyle. Getting outside will bring a much-needed boost to our moods and energy levels. It doesn’t have to be an epic hike. Just get outside and walk around the block. It will be extra beneficial if you can do it in the middle of the day, especially if you live in a cold wintery place. moods.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210108084121.htm

It’s tough to get going so make it a regular short walk that you use some of the scheduling tricks from habit # 2 https://happyhealth.ca/2022/01/habit-2-schedule/ to make sure it fits into your busy day.

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Habit #4 Review, Reset, Refocus

Review your plan and change your plan to meet your goals (if needed)

1-Review What Worked and What Didn’t

Are you feeling Happy and Healthy? Most of us have struggled to meet all of our get-fit goals. Review your measurements from HappyFitHabit # 1. Are there any positive changes in what matters most? I saw no change in my weight, although I’ve been eating a healthier diet. My husband lost 7 pounds, so I’m frustrated! However, I reviewed my measurements and found I’d lost 7cm. So I’m getting denser? 

Take a few minutes to review your plan and what got you off track. Be honest with yourself, no judgement, just look at your scheduled workouts or diet and what you ended up doing instead. Did you undereat day after day and end up tired and so hungry that you couldn’t help yourself but overeat with whatever came to hand? Did you plan to work out at a time that really doesn’t work for you? Or maybe your workouts were too intense, and you ended up injured. There are a million different ways to get off track and just as many ways to get back on track. Once you have a clear idea of why your plan didn’t work, you can reset it.

2-Reset your Plan

If your plan wasn’t working, reset it. This sounds much simpler than it is. My plan was a pretty simple one I’d workout for at least 30 minutes a day and follow my diet guidelines. I took rest days when life got in the way, which was about twice a week. I think my plan is working for me, even though I haven’t lost any weight. I’m going to be more intentional with planning my workouts. I’m going to lift weights in the gym twice a week, do cardio three times a week, and have a reformer workout day. 

Stack my Schedule

I will make this adjusted workout schedule easier to follow by planning my workouts to occur along with something I’m already committed to doing. Accountability helps people stay on track, and I’m going to add accountability by asking someone to join me in some of my workouts. 

3-Refocus

Refocusing is hard. We have to change the story we tell ourselves before actual change can occur. Most of us aren’t aware of why we keep getting in our way. Let me suggest a simple phrase to say that I got from my coach, Amy K, when you struggle and can’t figure out why.

Even though I….. (whatever it is that is holding you back)

I love and trust myself enough to …..(whatever it is that is you have planned)

Even though I’m not athletic

I love and trust myself enough to go to the gym for 30 minutes.

Try it; it’s surprising how effective it is.

Blog, Diet

Habit # 3 Follow a Diet

Diet is a four-letter word since we’re good or bad when following a diet. We think of different kinds of food as good or bad food. But I was hoping you could think about it differently. The word diet describes what you eat. Most of us think we know what healthy food is. So what do I mean when I say you to follow a diet? What are you supposed to eat? 

What should you eat? A diet should help you follow your goals. Once you know what the guidelines are for your diet, you’ll be able to follow them with confidence. The key to most people’s long term success is to keep it simple.

I will explore three different diet guidelines and how to use these guidelines to build a diet that works for you.  I’m going to explore diet guidelines for the Mediterranean diet, as it is the only diet proven to promote longevity. The Canadian food guide has the most straightforward dietary guidelines for healthy living. The third diet guideline I’m going to outline is a calorie deficit diet-this is the kind most people think of when they use the word diet. Please remember I’m not a dietician or nutritionist, and there are no magic solutions to nutrition, just daily choices. Once you’ve selected your diet guidelines, you’ll find healthy eating much easier to do.

Mediterranean diet

https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/authors/intermountain-healthcare/

I follow this guideline for my diet as it is easy to understand, allowing me some flexibility. This diet might be a significant change for people who don’t cook or eat many pre-packaged food.

An Even Simpler Diet is the latest Canadian Food Guide

The Canadian Food Guide is the simplest guide designed for ease of use and effectiveness in disease prevention. However, you will need to come up with your meal plan without suggestions or portion recommendations. 

Canada's Food Guide

https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/

This simple dietary guideline was designed to help you avoid many lifestyle-related illnesses. Make half of every meal fruits and vegetables, a quarter is a protein, and the remaining quarter is whole grains. Drink water instead of soda or juice, or alcohol. The food guide has many lifestyle tips to help someone who follows their dietary guidelines enjoy a healthier diet.

The Kind of Diet We Think of When We Think Diet is the Calorie Deficit Diet

Diets that focus on cutting calories cause so much harm to people’s psyches. It is the type of diet that promotes the idea of good and bad foods. All you need is willpower and discipline only to eat good foods. This belief is nonsense, but it is a belief that generates billions in sales every year. Yes, lots of people will be healthier if they lose weight. The best way to lose weight is in the kitchen. So you will need to create a calorie deficit in your diet to lose weight. 

3,500 calories a week equals 1 pound

The guideline for sustainable weight loss is to reduce your caloric intake by 3,500 calories a week or 500 calories a day. This reduction in calories should amount to roughly a pound a week. It is tempting to think it is this simple, and of course, it’s not. Many factors to consider, such as your metabolism, genetics, how long your body has been in a calorie deficit, medication, and the amount of movement and exercise you get in a day. Also, if you go from overeating to undereating you will run out of willpower. You should replace the quantity of food with better quality of food.

The simplest way to create a calorie deficit is to count your calories, and the simplest way to do that is through the app myfitnesspal. The app is super easy to use. You can plug in your current weight, your ideal weight, and how much weight you want to lose per week. It will give you your daily calorie count, and as long as you can stick to it, you should lose weight. I’ve seen this technique work wonders for some people, but most don’t keep it up and start a roller coaster of gaining and losing weight.

Most long term diets are the same

Once you’ve been using the app for a while, you will figure out that planning your meals to be half fruits and vegetables is your best choice for the quantity of food with the fewest calories. If you follow your myfitnesspal recommendations, your diet will quickly resemble the Canadian food guidelines as well as the Mediterranean diet. If you enjoy tracking your food or need to control your portions, myfitnesspal is an excellent awareness tool. It has an attractive option to show you how nutritious your food selections are.

Blog, Planner

Habit # 2 Schedule

Use What You Already Do

The best way to stick to a new routine is to build it into your already existing schedule.  Unfortunately, many people try to make their exercise routine more challenging than it should by not incorporating it into their existing routine. They plan to be at the gym unrealistically early or late, add a complicated workout routine into their stressful day, and force-feed themselves food they don’t enjoy. It is easiest to plan your new workout routine to complement your hectic schedule.

KISS Keep It Simple Sweetie

Change in your routine is hard to start and harder to stick to. I’m going to show you different simple ways to make your new routine easier to stick to. You don’t want to count on willpower for your success; you want to rely on routine. Routine is something you do daily without spending energy thinking about whether or not you should do it.

According to James Clear in his book Atomic Habits, the best way to establish a new habit is to do it frequently.  The frequency technique adds a small attainable change to something you do daily. His example was to add one minute of meditation to drinking your morning coffee. https://jamesclear.com/about

Most of us find small changes super doable. We can easily add a quick minute-long change to our day. How can we get back into fitness using the frequency habit?

Here’s the good news, the more often you work out, the less duration your workouts need to be. The easiest way to build a workout habit is to add your workout to something you already do daily. 

Schedule a Minimum of 150 Minutes of Exercise a Week

Starting a fitness routine and maintaining your fitness routine have the same amount of time requirements, 150 min per week. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm

You can accomplish this recommended workout volume of 150 minutes a week in different ways. You could schedule to work out 30 minutes a day for five days a week or 60 minutes a day for three days a week. The habit will be easier to stick to if you do it more frequently.

I will show a few examples of how different people schedule the 30 min for five days.

Schedule on Google Calendar, 

Most of us use a planner to track our appointments and work schedule. I use google calendar, which has reminders built into it. After looking at different apps to track my workouts, I made a recurring reminder to work out for 30 minutes every day at 6 pm. It’s super easy to use, and I like crossing things off my calendar. 6 pm is the end of my workday, and I can get 30 minutes in every day at that time.

#1 Technique Make it the First Thing You Do in the Day

This is an excellent technique for people who have days that are interrupt-driven. Busy moms and entrepreneurs are similar in that their time is not always their own. They have a hard time squeezing workouts into their full days. Getting a workout in first thing is the best scheduling habit for them. Consequently, they get up early before their kids are awake (or emails start piling up) and put on their workout clothes.

https://www.everydayhealth.com/self-care/

Lunchtime Walks for professionals 

A 30 minute walk is one of the best ways to build a healthy habit that will stick. It provides so much more than an exercise break. I guarantee you won’t have the afternoon slump if you get fresh air in the middle of the day.  Most people stop and munch while sitting in front of a screen. The complete break and some fresh air will leave you invigorated.

https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/outdoor-exercise-benefits.aspx

Stack your Schedule

If you are having trouble finding a scheduling technique that works for you. Try stacking your activities together. You could stop in at the gym on your way to or from work or after dropping kids off at school. Another stacking technique is to do your exercise while doing something you will do anyway, like watching your favourite show while walking on your treadmill. The idea is to pair the workout with something you’re going to do every day. 

Blog, Health Measurements

Habit # 1

Where to Start?

There are many different ways to get fit, so it can be overwhelming to know where to start. I like to begin by considering the basics. The most fundamental questions I want to know before building a get fit plan for a client are who, what, where, when and how. You might know the answers to all these questions, but you’d be surprised how often people skip one of these steps when building their plan. 

Rethink What You Measure

Your weight isn’t a measurement of your fitness

Of course, what brought you to this blog is concern over your weight, and I get it. I will explore different diets and their effectiveness, but it really shouldn’t be your first concern.

Let’s start with answering the question: Who? You know who you are. But let’s take a second to consider your current fitness level and take some measurements. Most people only consider their weight when starting a fitness journey, but we can’t lose weight indefinitely. Sooner or later, we’ll have to maintain our weight or get sick. So rather than get on the rollercoaster of losing and gaining weight and thinking you are failing because you aren’t losing weight, here are best the measurements for you to care about. They will give you an accurate measure of your current fitness level. It doesn’t make sense to start a healthy journey without knowing where you are when you start

1-Waist to hip ratio: https://youtu.be/PVRC6H75IOY

Abdominal Obesity Measurement Guidelines

OrganizationMeasurement usedDefinition of abdominal obesity
American Heart Association, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (10)Waist circumferenceWomen: > 88 cm (35 inches), Men: > 102 cm (40 inches)
International Diabetes Federation (11)Waist circumferenceWomen: > 80 cm (31.5 inches), Men: > 90 cm (35.5 inches)Different cut-points for different ethnic groups
World Health Organization (12)Waist-to-hip ratioWomen: > 0.85, Men: > 0.9

2-Blood Pressure

Measure your Blood Pressure, this is a number most people don’t know and it is a really easy way to measure your overall health. Great news is that it responds really quickly to regular exercise.

Exercise is a fantastic way to lower your blood pressure but you need to know where it is before you start. Most pharmacies have free machines to measure your BP. Please see your doctor before you start any exercise program, especially if it’s elevated.

3 Cardiovascular Measurement. 

This is a super simple test to do if you have a watch that measures your activity but you can do this old school as well. You need to walk a mile (measured out). 

https://www.verywellfit.com/rockport-fitness-walking-test-calculator-3952696

 To perform the Rockport walking test:

  1. Warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes with easy walking.
  2. Start your stopwatch and immediately start walking as fast as you can. Make every effort to push yourself, but avoid jogging.
  3. At the end of the 1 mile, stop your stopwatch and record your time in decimals. For example, 11 minutes plus (30 seconds ÷ 60 seconds) = 11.5 minutes.
  4. Take your heart rate immediately. If taking your own pulse, count the heartbeats for 15 seconds and multiply by four. For example, if there are 40 heartbeats in 15 seconds, your heart rate would be 160 beats per minute (bpm).

Calculating Your VO2 Max

Upon completion of the test, you will need to do some math to determine your VO2 max. In addition to your heart rate, you will also need to measure your weight in pounds. The formula is as follows:2

VO2 max = 132.853 – (0.0769 x your weight in pounds) – (0.3877 x your age) + (6.315 if you are male or 0 if you are female) – (3.2649 x your walking time) – (0.1565 x your heart rate at the end of the test)

For example, if you are a 33-year-old man who weighs 160 pounds and completed the test in 11 minutes, 30 seconds with a post-exercise heart rate of 160 bpm, you would calculate your VO2 max as follows:

  • 132.853 – (0.0769 x 160 pounds) = 120.549
  • 120.549 – (0.3877 x 33 years of age) = 107.7549
  • 107.7549 + (6.315 because you are male) = 114.0699
  • 114.0699 – (3.2649 x 11.5 minutes) = 76.52355
  • 76.52355 – (0.1565 x 160 bpm) = 51.48355

Rounding off to the first three digits, your VO2 max would be 51.5 ml/kg/min.

If you aren’t comfortable with long math, there are a number of online calculators you can use that allow you to plug in the individual values.

VO2 Max Norms for Women
AgeVery PoorPoorFairGoodExcellentSuperior
13-19Under 25.025.0-30.931.0-34.935.0-38.939.0-41.9Over 41.9
20-29Under 23.623.6-28.929.0-32.933.0-36.937.0-41.0Over 41.0
30-39Under 22.822.8-26.927.0-31.431.5-35.635.7-40.0Over 40.0
40-49Under 21.021.0-24.424.5-28.929.0-32.832.9-36.9Over 36.9
50-59Under 20.220.2-22.722.8-26.927.0-31.431.5-35.7Over 35.7
60+Under 17.517.5-20.120.2-24.424.5-30.230.3-31.4Over 31.4
VO2 Max Norms for Men
AgeVery PoorPoorFairGoodExcellentSuperior
13-19Under 35.035.0-38.338.4-45.145.2-50.951.0-55.9Over 55.9
20-29Under 33.033.0-36.436.5-42.442.5-46.446.5-52.4Over 52.4
30-39Under 31.531.5-35.435.5-40.941.0-44.945.0-49.4Over 49.4
40-49Under 30.230.2-33.533.6-38.939.0-43.743.8-48.0Over 48.0
50-59Under 26.126.1-30.931.0-35.735.8-40.941.0-45.3Over 45.3
60+Under 20.520.5-26.026.1-32.232.3-36.436.5-44.2Over 44.2