Thursday, 30 July 2020

Goals... The Importance of Goal Setting and Success

Why do we need to set goals
Good question? We all have goals for many different reasons. They can range from a 'small' habit change to a total 'life' change. But why do some of us have the motivation to see our goals through and some of us......well, we just can't seem to get started? We need to look at our goals and break them down to manageable segments, find our stimulus and never see any part of our journey as a failure.
"Without dreams and goals there is no living, only merely existing and that is NOT why we are here." Mark Twain

 Where do I start?
The first thing you should do is write in your diary or journal the goal you wish to achieve. It doesn't matter if it's a huge goal such as booking the holiday of your dreams, buying a house or leaving your job and travelling the world? Everything is manageable. It maybe a smaller goal for example you want to achieve a healthier lifestyle, exercise more or lose weight. These are all goals, your own personal goals you feel will make you happier, successful or achieve the lifetime change you have always dreamed of. They are your goals and YOU want to be triumphant.
"This one step - choosing a goal and sticking to it - changes everything."  Scott Reed
  1. Write down what you want - goals are all about the positive, not negative. If we take a goal from the above mentioned list - "I want to lose weight for my health or to feel better about myself". This goal will set you up from the start in a positive mindset. "I want to lose weight because I don't want to look like this anymore - I feel awful" - already this is negativity about yourself and will not help your motivation whenever you look at this statement. 
  2. Make your goal challenging, but not out of reach - your goal should be inspiring but not impossible. An easy goal is seldom motivational, neither is an unworkable goal. "I want to lose 1/4lb this week" compared to "I want to lose 10lb this week". One goal may not be challenging enough and the other way too challenging. 
  3. Choose a goal that is attainable by you - its is always best to set a goal that does not involve the influence of others. This goal is yours and relies on your input and performance. "I will lose 2lb this week - only if I can walk with my friend 3 times during the week". It is a great idea to have a "buddy" to help and support you through your journey but they must not control or effect your goal setting.
  4. Measuring your progress - achieving goals should be measurable and have a time limit. "I want to lose weight" is neither measurable or quantifiable. "I want to lose 1 stone in 3 months" is achievable and has a deadline.
Make your Goal S.M.A.R.T.
"A Goal without a Plan is just a Wish." Antoine de Saint-Exupery
S.M.A.R.T is an acronym that you can use to help you set your goals to make them attainable and motivational. Look at your goal.....the goal you have written in your diary and approach this goal using the S.M.A.R.T goal setting system. Then 'break' that goal down once again into short term, medium term and long term goals.
  • S = Specific
  • M = Measurable
  • A = Achievable
  • R = Relevant
  • T = Time bound
The difference between a goal - "I want to lose weight to feel better about myself, starting from Monday" and a S.M.A.R.T goal "In one year, I want to lose 3 stone to be a healthier version of me" is more defined and certainly more structured. This is your long term goal. 
  • Specific - 3 stone is specific whereas "lose weight" is unclear.
  • Measurable - Your weight on day one to the end result (3 stone lighter) - is perceivable 
  • Achievable - Weight loss can vary greatly from 1/2 lb to 2lb a week. Weight loss earlier on in your journey maybe more, than your final loss of a few pounds - so 3 stone in a year is attainable
  • Relevant - the focus is solely on the weight loss of 3 stone and consistent with reachable guidelines
  • Time bound - by giving yourself a deadline you will hold yourself accountable 
You can now use this goal and break it down into smaller goals. "I want to lose 2lb this week" to "I want to lose 8lb next month". Each step toward your ultimate goal will give you the motivation you need to accomplish all you have set out to do. As an additional motivational tool you can reward yourself with each success. Just make sure the 'reward' does not un-do all the hard work you have made to succeed. The reward of a 'piece of cake' does not fair well as a weight-loss recognition award. Choose your rewards carefully. 

Set yourself goals to challenge yourself or to make self improvements. Always make your goals S.M.A.R.T goals so they are specific and defined. Be kind to yourself and recognise all your achievements with an appropriate reward. If your goals are to lose weight and feel healthier, then please read my articles Weight Loss and Maintenance Management and A Healthy Life-style


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Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Movements we need to think about as we Age

Functional Movements
'Functional' is often used in the world of fitness these days - the 'buzz' word of the moment. The actual meaning of the word functional, 'designed to be practical and useful, rather than attractive'. This being the ideal description for our ageing bodies......from young and attractive to moving on in years......So yes, we really need our bodies to be practical and useful. The term 'functional training' is just that.......'fine tune' certain moves, so that our bodies will become 'practical and useful' long into our latter years. Functional training is a must as we get older, as it is designed to train and develop our muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities such as reaching the top shelf, getting out of the bath or chair with ease and the ability to carry our weekly shop without issues.

What is Functional Training
Firstly......what are the functional moves that will help us obtain full movement and engage all our muscle groups to help our bodies cope with the ageing process? The moves are very simple and mimic our everyday is as simple as that. 5 fundamental moves.

  1. Squat
  2. Hinge
  3. Push
  4. Pull
  5. Loaded Carries
  1. Squat - The action of sitting down - From a standing position to a seated position and back to a standing position
  2. Hinge - The action of a hip movement whereby the hip movement is the prime mover rather than the knee. For example a bow, where the legs are straight while maintaining a flat spine.
  3. Push - The action of pushing only, for example pushing a shopping trolley
  4. Pull - The action of pulling only, for example opening a door towards us.
  5. Loaded Carries - Lifting an object/objects with good form and moving for a set distance - for example, two shopping bags or moving large boxes overhead and placing them on a high level.
If we work on these movements daily by using various everyday objects to hand or using weights and resistance bands, we will benefit greatly by developing strength, balance, mobility and thus decreasing our chances of injury or damage to our muscles and joints.

1.Sit to Stand progression to Squat
The squat can be performed from a chair with progression to a full squat. Try this for 30 seconds and see how many you can do. You will feel the muscles working in the thighs and bottom (quads and glutes). This exercise is also a good cardio workout so if you feel out of breath, you can rest before your 30 seconds are up. Work on improving the length of time you can perform this exercise. 

2. Hinge - Glute Bridge
The glute brige is a hinge exercise that strengthens the hips and bottom. Squeeze you bottom and tummy muscles as you raise your hips, until your shoulders, hips and knees are in a straight line and hold for 2-3 seconds. As you lower your hips, make sure your movement is controlled and repeat. Continue this move for 15 to 25 repetitions in a controlled movement. Your form and controlled movements are required rather than speed for this exercise.

3.Push - Overhead/Shoulder Press
The Shoulder press is a push exercise. This can be performed seated or standing. You can use bottles of water or dumbbells (if you have some at home). Make sure that this exercise is performed with control both on the push and the return to the starting position. 15 to 25 repetitions. Once you feel comfortable and able to repeat 15 to 25 repetitions, then rest for 30 seconds before trying again. Perform another set of 15-25, for a total of 3 sets of 15-25 repetitions.

4. Pull - Bicep Curl/Hammer
The bicep curl or hammer is a pull exercise. This can be performed seated or standing, with water bottles or dumbbells (if you have some at home). Make sure you perform this exercise with control on the lift and return. Make sure that you squeeze your tummy muscles (abdominal muscles also known as engaging the core muscles) on the lift. Make sure that your elbows are tucked in at the waist and do not move throughout this exercise so that the bicep muscle is used and not the shoulder. 15 to 25 repetitions. Once you feel comfortable and able to repeat 15 to 25 repetitions, then rest for 30 seconds before trying again.Perform another set of 15-25, for a total of 3 sets of 15-25 repetitions.

5. Loaded Carry
Loaded carries consist of carrying a piece of equipment or pieces of equipment for example, two dumbbells or two bags of potatoes and walking for a pre-determined distance with good posture. By simply doing this, you will build muscle, strength, stamina and re-train proper movement patterns. You will also find an improvement in your grip strength and core stability. Remember to use a squat stance and straight back, pushing through your heals when you pick up your weighted pieces. Do not bend your spine and round your shoulders as this may cause injury when lifting weighted equipment from the floor. 

Functional training is definitely something we should be thinking about as we age. Core stability, balance, mobility and good posture have so many health benefits as well as helping to prevent injuries. Each of the 5 exercises above mimic our everyday movements and keep our bodies 'fine tuned' to accomplish our daily tasks. Performing these moves and exercises regularly will keep us on the path of preserving our independence for many years to come. Always remember to warm up before exercise and stretch after exercise to prevent injury and increase flexibility and mobility. Please refer to my article which explains why it is important to warm up and cool down. There are some great routines and exercises that you can use to help warm up and cool down your muscles. When and Why we Should Stretch

Warm up and cool down routines - - warm up and cool down

Friday, 24 July 2020

Travel for a Healthy Mind

Can Travel really benefit our mental health
Travel.......what's the first thing that comes to mind? A package holiday, a cruise, a spa retreat? Maybe you are more active....perhaps a hiking tour, or skiing in the Alps? Possibly travel means more than a holiday? Some may feel that travel is not travel unless you research your destination and get to know the culture, history and tradition of the countries you plan to visit? Whether your thoughts on travel are exciting and exhilarating, adventurous or relaxing you can be sure that it will be beneficial to your well-being, mental and emotional health.

  • Reduces Stress Levels - Planning a holiday or a trip away from the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life will help decrease stress levels especially during the planning stages of a vacation. Our thoughts of relaxation or adventure will take our minds off our worries and daily chores as we organise our itineraries. Looking at brochures and pictures of our destination will promote happiness and a sense of calm. Interestingly ticking off a destination from our "bucket list" and achieving a goal gives us a sense of accomplishment, contemplating our own personal plans and interests.
  • Promotes Self-Care - Holidays and travel are an essential part of nurturing our personal care. I believe, personally, we are not meant to stay in one place, but explore the world around us, to educate ourselves and venture onto the unknown. This all helps to improve our self-esteem and confidence. Getting away from the "norm" in exchange for warmer climates, relaxation or adventures, hiking or skiing, with loved ones or solo will give a sense of fulfilment and accomplishment, leading to a healthier mindset.
  • Helps you stay fit and healthy - How many of us think about travel and holidays prior to the year end or at the start of a new year. These are generally the times when we decide to do the big 'overhaul' on our health and fitness routines. With a holiday planned for the summer, we have an aim or a goal with the reward already waiting for us and our new healthy self to enjoy. When we want to make improvements to ourselves, we need to make a goal and make it achievable. This is more sustainable with the reward being 6 to 8 months away. We have time to implement and visualise our goals. Booking the vacation, spa retreat or package holiday can make a 'hole' in our 'nest egg' or regiment our saving plans thus helping us to stay on the path towards our own personal goals.
  • Boosts Happiness - Travel definitely brings happiness, especially during the planning, budgeting and booking of the actual date.......the anticipation and rush of pleasure as you click the 'send' or 'accept' button. A surge of 'happy' hormones when you finally have those tickets in your hands. Your thoughts of chilling out in the sun, swimming in the sea, skiing down the slopes or hiking to see the most stunning views are all that your body and mind crave for - the 'stress busters'. We envisage leaving work, it's pressures and the everyday schedules behind as a 'trade-off' for dining outside in the warm evening breeze, relaxing walks and the freedom to do as we please. All these feelings and pleasures will re-charge our batteries, improve our mood and help to increase our happiness when we return back to our normal daily lives.
  • Creates Memories - Part of our happy 'structure' is made up of joyful memories. Holidays and travel create those wonderful recollections. We take photos, write journals and post on social media to help us recall events or experiences that make us smile. We should hold on to these experiences and recreate them when we return to 'normal' life. If you enjoyed Greek food.....learn to cook some of the foods you enjoyed. If you loved swimming in the sea, then do this at home too. If you enjoyed long afternoon strolls or 'cat naps' in the afternoon try to continue at home, if this is possible. If you can recreate happy memories to improve your physical and mental health, then a holiday is well worth the investment of your hard earned cash. 
Book that Holiday or Break Away
So want to book a holiday? Take your time and browse through brochures, social media and travel sites. Open your mind and look at all sorts of destinations, types of holidays and the total costs. You might surprise yourself when studying the types of holidays available. From cruises to coach tours, package holidays to all-inclusive....there are many ways to enjoy a break. If you have the money saved and waiting to book the holiday of a lifetime, there are so many ways to travel the world and experience specialist holidays designed especially for you. If you are on a budget with limited spending money, then you will find all-inclusive deals at most destinations you search for. Even if you are on a very tight budget there are last minute deals or 'accommodation on arrival' holidays. Out of the 52 weeks in the year......2 of these will be on your long awaited break from your every day life. Even on your holiday, an open mindset is imperative, regardless of the amount of money you have paid. I have experienced both ends of the spectrum where travel and holidays are concerned and always approach any travel with my mind totally open to anything that can happen. I have been on cruises where the weather has been diabolical and I spend most of the cruise looking pretty 'green'. However the destinations all but made up for the travel and the plus point... I never gained a pound. The other end of the scale are 'allocated on arrival' holidays. Never and I mean never hope for 'that hotel' that looks 'exquisite' in the brochure, as one of the four properties you could be allocated to, once you arrive. This kind of mindset will set you up for disappointment. I went on my first 'allocation on arrival' holiday at 32 with my friend who was 55 at the time. It was in the height of the summer and the destination was Gran Canaria. We were allocated to the resort of 'Playa del Ingles' in a 'Club 18' property, even though we were 32 and 55 years old. The resort was fully booked and there was no hope of being re-allocated to another accommodation. It was a two week vacation and we just decided to enjoy ourselves......and we did. We taught those youngsters a thing or two....well my friend did for sure. We went on bar crawls, pirate party night cruises, catamaran day trips. We both entered the bikini competition, played beach volley ball, jet skied and sailed on the sunset cruises. We had the time of our lives. Those memories have made me smile for so many fact I still smile now and I am the age my friend was, at the time we took the holiday. 

A holiday is not just a delightful diversion from our everyday life. It enhances both our physical health and mental well-being. It is an experience where we need to have an open mindset to gain happy, fulfilling memories that stay with us for many years to come. These memories will surface when we need to find a happy place and de-stress. 
A holiday or break needs to be affordable, not out of reach causing stress before we have even fully planned the vacation. Search all holiday types and offers with an open mind and start to set a budget so that you can fully enjoy this experience and time away from work and daily commitments. If you have never budgeted before and need a few ideas please see my article What if? That was the Question. There is a section on budgeting with a free download to help you plan a budget and save some of your earnings. 
Now you have read this article and understood the importance of planning a break, holiday or self-care retreat and the good it will do for your own health and well-being........go and search the net, pack your bags and enjoy!

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

What if?.....That was the Question

What if?
2020.....No one saw this coming!! A pandemic...A year we shall all remember for many different reasons. The year that shocked the World and somehow totally changed every country from the 'daily norm' into something completely different. The whole World went into 'Lockdown' and putting aside the awful impact of frightening death toll figures and the nations' health crisis......we have gained some incredibly positive benefits from this year of uncertainty. From the very beginning we panicked as the 'unknown' continued to spread and we were faced with many dilemmas, unpleasant emotions and unanswered questions. 'What if we run out of fresh foods at the Supermarkets'?....'What if the gym doesn't open for months'?......'What if I can't see my family'? We had to learn very quickly, in this world of high stress, multi-tasking, money making, transport dependent society.......that things were about to change drastically!

What can?
The 'positive' was in the question......we changed from..... 'What if'? to 'What can'? 'What can we do with the limited amount of food on the supermarket shelves'? Some great new recipes and home cooked meals began to appear on social media....particularly from men who suddenly found inspiration and a flare for cooking during their time on furlough or working from home ..... the unexpected upside to lockdown. 'What can we do if the gyms remain closed to stay fit and healthy'? A wealth of ideas from fitness professionals on how to workout from home to the considerable health benefits of outdoor exercise with the whole family. 'What can I do if I can't see my family'? Something amazing happened here. We used social media for the good of mankind. We picked up our phones and talked to family, friends and those who were isolated or vulnerable. We became sociable creatures, learning how to interact and care for our family and friends and watching over the elderly and susceptible of our society.

What Did We Learn?
Money is not as important as we thought? We suddenly had to live on less income, learning how to budget, become a lot less extravagant with our purchases and manage our pennies in a very different way to our normal means of spending. We learnt the meaning of time......we suddenly had plenty on our hands and realised that 'time is one of life's precious commodities'. We used time for long chats with distant friends, social media for group chats.......and that all important 'me' time for our thoughts and mindfulness. We appreciated the World where we lived a lot more than we had ever done. We walked and discovered places we normally let pass us by with our over-stressful previous life. We noticed the fresh, less polluted air around us and understood that our transport dependent life was ruining the planet and finally our big lesson.......'take nothing for granted'.

What Should We Do Now?
For the sake of our health and the future of our planet, we should continue our love of the outdoors. With the ever increasing load on our National Health Service, we need to be taking care of ourselves and the responsibility for our own health. We have the great outdoors providing us with places of natural splendour to walk, jog, run, cycle, socialise and to appreciate the beauty all around us. The simple things in life had become lost among the pressures of modern day life, with our pointless worries of earning more, the latest technology, expensive branded goods, and our popularity on social media. By adopting a simpler life we increased our happiness, well-being and peace with many benefits:

  • Walking - Walking is free.  30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of a stroke by up to 40% depending on your pace. It's easy on the joints reducing bone mass loss and the risk of fractures. Weight loss can be achieved with a 30 minute brisk walk burning up to 200 calories. Walking also improves your sleep by reducing insomnia, helps mental health, reduces memory decline and can be a very social activity between friends.
  • Cycling  - During the first month of lockdown the sale of bicycles increase by 60%, according to the Bicycle Association. The 'bike boom' saw the public leave their car keys at home and use their exercise time on their bicycles. Cycling is great for health and fitness. It's low impact but a good muscle workout. Cycling also increases stamina, aerobic fitness and strength. It's a fun way to exercise for the whole family, coasting down hills and being outdoors.
  • Mindfulness and Journal Writing - This is a subject close to my heart. Mindfulness and journal writing are for the greater well-being and improving mental health. But science has now proven that the techniques can increase physical health by relieving stress, reducing blood pressure, chronic pain and gastrointestinal difficulties. I have written a separate article on this subject Stress, Mindfulness and Health Please have a read to discover ways to help with stress and mental health.
  • Crafts and hobbies - More time on our hands, no work, unable to go outside - The most googled topic in March/April, with a 90% increase of average 'monthly search volumes' was 'how to?' searches. The most 'how to?' searches were on gardening crafts, from pot decorating and buntings to decorating and designs, this all being prior to garden centres opening. Our gardens flourished, we became adventurous with our garden designs and spent a lot of our time outside working on our lawns, pots and bedding plants. In fact our gardens became our social meeting places once we were able to meet up with family and friends. A godsend to those who are not so lucky with outdoor space. Many hobbies began during this time as we discovered new skills and flairs that we would never have attempted or known about prior to lockdown. Spending time on a hobby or craft helps reduce stress and improve mental health and well-being. Hobbies can get you out and about, make you feel happier and will encourage you to take a break away from the mundane chores of life.
  • Socialising and less time on phones - Technology has taken over and we spend far too much time on mobiles, computers or watching soaps on the TV. Lockdown brought us together as the restrictions were lifted and slowly we were able to meet up in parks and gardens. We held conversations with family and friends preferring to leave behind the angry 'rants' and dismal news coverage shared on social media. Socialising provides health benefits both mentally and physically. Connecting with family and friends can boost brain health and can lower the risk of dementia. 
  • Budgeting - The most difficult times during Lockdown has been the reduction of income. We had to learn very quickly the valuable experience of budgeting. No longer could we waste food, buy new clothing or purchase goods without a valid reason to do so. A good lesson learnt, as we had become a nation of 'careless spending' instead of 'waste not, want not' There is an art to budgeting and something that we can continue when we return to the new 'normal'. There is a sense of achievement with budgeting, especially if we are focused on saving for something that we long for like a holiday, a spa retreat or a deposit on a house. Budgeting is not as easy as it appears. We need to take into account all our outgoings, any contingencies and unexpected six-monthly or annual bills. These items all have to be implemented into a budget calculated on a monthly or weekly basis (depending on your income/salary). I have attached a really helpful link that will talk you through applying a budget strategy depending on your personal circumstances Free budgeting calculator

Although we are slowly coming out of lockdown and restrictions are being lifted, we need to remember what we have learnt during this unusual time....where time was on our hands and we used it to the good of our health and well-being. This may have been spending quality time exercising with family, walking, cycling, gardening or family hobbies. Maybe meeting up with friends in the park with picnics or socialising in small groups at garden parties. Remember the reduction in stress levels during lockdown or from working at home. Learning these new skills such as meditation, mindfulness or new exercises with home workouts, have played their part in bringing at bit more calm into our fast paced lives. Stress can play havoc with our health and we need to take all the things we have learnt over the last four months and continue to practice with our new ways of life, moving forward into a happy and healthy 'new normal'.


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