All posts in Health

  • How Chilling on My Couch Keeps Me Skinny (or Using a Buffer to Do Difficult Things)

    couch
    image courtesy of gordon2208

    People think I have endless willpower and discipline.

    They consider my strict diet and consistent exercise regimen, and my ambitious professional and personal pursuits, and they think I’m just exceptionally driven. But I’d argue my propensity for achievement is less about tenacity and more about creative problem solving.

    I’m good at recognizing true barriers to goals and seeing non-obvious ways to get around them. This is precisely the idea behind this site: finding alternative ways of reaching badassery. (hey-o!)

    One strategy I’m particularly fond of is replacing a roadblock I’m experiencing with a pleasant little “buffer.” This method has worked for me time and time again, and with some customization, it’ll work for you, too.

    Here are a few examples from my life to get your wheels turning.

    Dodging the Unnecessary Snack

    I’m a ninja in the mornings, but I start crashing in the afternoon. I should get more sleep and I’m getting better at that, but the fact remains: I’m dragging by 3:30pm.

    Sometimes I realize I’m tired, but most of the time I don’t pick up on the sleepiness (I subconsciously deny it or fight it). I do routinely notice, however, one of its symptoms: the desire to eat.

    You guys, I HAVE an afternoon snack. Every afternoon. And somehow, 30 minutes later, I think I need another one. But really, it’s common to want to eat when you’re tired. Your body needs energy, so it calls out for food, a source of energy.

    What keeps me from snacking is my couch.

    Instead of eating, I grab a book and hop on the couch ASAP. I don’t need food; I need rest. I don’t usually fall asleep, but just reclining back, and shifting my mind to something less stimulating than the 87 browser windows I have open on my computer gives me a little break and–shit you not–rejuvenates me. I insert this “rest buffer” between feeling like I need to eat and actually getting a snack, and nine times out of ten, I find the “hunger” I was experiencing has magically disappeared.

    Waking Up Crazy-Early to Work Out

    Though I’m both an early bird and a gym rat, the idea of waking up before the sun and hitting the gym right away sounds pretty awful to me. I’ve tried it in the past, and I know some people have success with it–they wake up and are out the door in 10 minutes–but I think it totally blows. If you tell me I have to work out as soon as I get out of bed, I’ll hit snooze 10 times and skip the gym. I’m not getting up for that shit.

    Before I started working remotely, though, I was a before-work exerciser, so I did have to make it the gym at some (early) point in the morning. Per usual, I started tricking myself. I established this pleasant little buffer period between waking and gymming.

    When my alarm went off, I didn’t roll around in bed dreading the whole process of getting up, changing into workout clothes, gathering my stuff, and heading to the gym, because that’s not what I planned to do anyway. I planned a nice little morning for myself instead, to be enjoyed pre-gym.

    This involved coffee, a little snack, and some reading and writing. Ahhhh…feels so much better. That’s something I can get out of bed for. And by the time I’d head out for the gym, I was fully awake and happy.

    Avoiding the Nighttime Eat Fest

    My bedtime ritual is not complicated or demanding–change into PJs, wash face, brush teeth, moisturize, done–so I guess the reason I dread it is because I’m already tired. I’ll be finishing up dinner, and I think about this process ahead of me, and I groan in my head. And this twisted part of my brain rationalizes that if I eat more, I can delay the nighttime routine. (Eating is always/never the answer, you see?)

    This was happening on a subconscious level to me for a long time, and I used to feel powerless over it. I’d refill my plate or make some sort of dessert, even if I was totally full, and it pissed me off that I couldn’t seem to control myself. It finally dawned on me that what I was really doing was creating a way to postpone getting ready for bed. So I simply found a better way to postpone: a buffer (good guess, you guys!).

    I started making it a point to read blogs or watch TV or whatever after dinner instead of eating more. This way, I was no longer experiencing the jarring feeling of going from highly pleasant process (eating dinner) to less-than-pleasant process (washing my face and whatnot), because I had a delightful little activity–a nice buffer–in between.

    ***

    Discuss

    What obstacles do you need to get past to achieve your goals? Is there an opportunity for you to replace a roadblock with a buffer? What other strategies do you use to do difficult things?

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  • Increase Your Workout’s Effectiveness by One Hundred Million Percent: Three Fun (Seriously) Ways

    dumbbells
    image courtesy of bepositivelyfit

    I rarely read articles about increasing workout effectiveness, because those words say one thing to me: work harder (and hi, sorry, no thankee).

    So I’m assuming if you’re reading this, you’re either into the overall message of Alternative Badassery and believe that even though this title sounds like a post you may not find especially awesome, it actually totally will be because YOU KNOW ME and you know I write applicable, life-changing stuff only, OR, you’re at least willing to consider working harder in the gym. Either way, I like you.

    But this is absolutely not about working harder.

    Actually. Actually, you guys, it kind of is about that. But like, you’ll do it because you want to and without really noticing. Because the way I achieve better workouts has nothing to do with physical effort, but rather, mental hacks, if you will.

    There are probably several good variations of this method; here are the three I use:

    Pretend You’re a Personal Trainer

    I used to be self-conscious about fellow exercisers watching me as I worked out. I’m pretty sure a lot of people experience this, but I was probably especially sensitive about it because I make up my own exercises. I mean, I do a lot of common moves, too, but I also somehow just understand how to tax a specific muscle, and I develop exercises based on that understanding. I always worried people would laugh at me because I wasn’t doing “real” workouts and, to them, obviously had no idea what I was doing.

    I’m currently studying to actually become a trainer now, (an ACE CPT. So to those of you in Houston who were planning to contact me about personal training but are now reconsidering because you don’t need someone who’s just making shit up but who’s actually certified, go ahead and send that email), but before I ever decided to go after that goal, I started pretending I already was one.

    See, it occurred to me one day that no one around me actually knew whether I was a trainer or just a regular old gym-goer. I reasoned that if they saw me doing something they’d never seen before, they would maybe just assume I created it because I’m a professional, especially if I was working out as if I totally did know what I was doing.

    What this mental switch achieved for me was an increase in confidence to attack my workout without restraint. I stopped holding back on exercises I knew were good but weren’t “real” for fear of judgement, and I started getting shit done in the gym.

    Even if you’re not doing stuff outside the norm, I’d bet you’re still wondering if people are evaluating your skills or stamina or whatever, and it’s messing with you.  Stop that. YOU’RE A TRAINER, and you’re doing things perfectly. Now keep at it and push harder.

    Boom. Effectiveness effectively increased.

    Channel Your Inner Attention Whore

    Oh, I love this one.

    First of all, if you’re not already working out to awesome (to you) music, you need to click away because clearly we should not be friends.

    Sometimes as I work out, especially during cardio, I like to enter a club or a concert hall in my mind. Either way, I’m on stage, there are tons of people, it’s loud and hot and the lights are all on me and my outfit/hair/makeup is perfect and miraculously I know how to sing and I’m already a great dancer and I just fucking start rockin it. I’m not ellipticizing; I’m performing for my fans.

    If I’m not on stage, I’m shooting a music video. The point is: I escape the gym to go somewhere in my head where I’m singing and dancing and just being a total star. Apparently, this is something I subconsciously aspire to, because the daydream perks me up, my speed increases as well as my energy, and before I know it, I’m finished with my workout and signing autographs (jokes! I would be such a loser if I actually imagined that part…).

    Make Someone Proud

    OK. I’m not saying this because I wrote a post I’m afraid offended my parents; I’m saying this because I really use this tactic. I love my mom and dad so much–definitely more than you love your parents–and I live 16 hours away from them. Sometimes, when I’m not really feeling strength training, I imagine my parents are watching me (wow tears are brimming as I write this). I pretend that this is an opportunity to show them how strong I’ve become since I saw them last, and, no surprise, I start banging out reps with perfect form.

    I think no matter how old I get, I’m always going to want to make my parents proud.

    This tactic can obviously be customized to work with whomever you’d want to be proud of you: grandparents, mentors, dogs, whatev.

    ***

    Discuss

    Do you use any mind tricks to help you get through workouts or make them better? What else helps you step it up in the gym?

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  • What You Need to Accept to Get Your Ass to the Gym Consistently

    fitness center
    image courtesy of Rose NYC Apartments

    Those who know me in real life know the gym is my happy place. I swear working out must be like what taking drugs is like: glorious. The combination of music and endorphins simultaneously puts me in a blissed-out and take-over-the-world frame of mind, which it seems like only a highly illegal substance would be able to do.

    If I’m in a really shitty mood, exercising nearly erases it. If I’m already in relatively good spirits, working out makes me feel like high-fiving everyone I see for the rest of the day. I am always so happy I went to the gym.

    But here’s the thing: Nine times out of ten, I don’t want to go at all.

    Everyone Thinks I Heart the Gym, But I Heart My Computer More

    People assume I would work out all day if I could. “Wow you guys live next door to LifeTime Fitness? I bet Cassie is in heaven!” “Oh hey! A boot camp! Cassie, I bet you’d love that, right?!”  “Oh, here’s the gym. This is Cassie’s favorite place, eh?”

    (all real examples)

    These comments aren’t off the mark; I’m a total gym rat. And I do love it. But that’s only true after 18 minutes into my workout (my personal threshold for going from “just do this, Cassie” to “EFF YEAH YOU GUYS THIS FEELS GREAT WOOOOOOOO!”) .

    The truth is, what I’d actually like to do all day is read. My laptop is my bestie (I’ve fallen asleep on the couch snuggling it more than a few times), and I could lose days consuming content. I prefer to exercise my brain.

    But I work out at least 4 days a week, every week. I am consistent. This is for one reason.

    Don’t Wait to Want to Work Out; Accept That You Don’t Feel Like It and Go Anyway

    I don’t decide whether to go to the gym based on if I want to go. Actually, I usually don’t decide at all. I just go. I change into my workout clothes not really feelin’ it, I grab my phone and keys grumpily, and I head toward the gym thinking about how this sounds like the most anti-fun thing I could do right now.

    And if you’ve worked out even just a single time in your life, you know how the rest of this story goes: I warm up and get some music going, and I start feeling good, and I keep going and all the sudden I’m on top of the world and exercise is the best thing ever and I never want to stop and I can’t believe I was dreading this and I make a mental note to remember this feeling tomorrow.

    Sometimes I remember it, sometimes I don’t. But it never really helps either way. When it comes time to hit the gym, I’m already sitting, I’m already on my computer, and, god, I just want to stay there just like that.

    But instead, I accept that feeling, get my stuff, and go. Because I know on some level I’m going to love it, and I know I’m going to love having done it. I just can’t get myself to feel that way when I’m at my desk.

    Schedule Your Workout at a Low-Resistance Time

    I’ve been a morning, lunchtime, and after-work exerciser at different times in the past. Certain times have worked better for me than others with varying work schedules and priorities, but I can tell you my after-work phase is when I exercised the least. I had all day to make excuses and rationalize not hitting the gym, plus that’s the point in the day I’m the most tired. I bailed all the time.

    Mornings are my most energetic, productive, creative, and focused time of day. That’s a big reason I tried the after-work thing; I wanted to give my best self completely to work. But I soon realized if I didn’t go in the morning, I wouldn’t go at all. I’m already an early riser, so it was a matter of making peace with the fact that part of my most effective time of day would be spent in the gym. Not working out at all isn’t an option.

    I now work remotely, so lunchtime workouts fit beautifully into my day. (I’m not what you would call “fast” at getting ready, so a mid-day workout + shower + makeup + hair + travel time situation was never realistic for me. Now, my gym is a one-minute walk away, and all I need to do post-exercise is get clean.) I get to crank out great work all morning, then hit the gym when I still have plenty of physical energy, but the mental stamina is starting to fade.

    The point is, plan to exercise when you’re least likely to skip. Experts often recommend mornings, and I mostly agree with them (for once), but consider your own natural preferences to choose your time. For example, my boyfriend John would rather shoot himself in the face than get up early to exercise. But after work, he’s a ball of freaking energy (and I’m like, “John, I am SO TIRED NO I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT FUN THING YOU’RE SUGGESTING.”). So exercising after work makes sense for him.

    Plan to go at your ideal time, but expect to feel like not going at all.

    And then go anyway.

    ***

    Discuss

    Do you have trouble exercising regularly? When’s your best workout time? What helps you make it to the gym?

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