Habits

Getting into new routines involves building new habits. They’re the most effective way, since we, as human beings, are habitual creatures.

Think of a single task that you do on a regular basis. A type of breakfast you eat, or perhaps a daily thing you do. For me, ever since high school, I’ve continually gotten up at the same exact time. 5:30.

This was an unfortunate thing at the time (and I could say something about the school system for having school start way too early but I won’t). It was mainly because over my years of high school, I got up every single day for A-Hour (sometimes called 0-hour). This was because of an early class I wanted to take, and it also assisted in me graduating early from high school. But I digress.

Getting up early over the course of 4 years helped develop my personal habits I have. This at the time was a forced habit, but now, regardless of the day, occasion, or holiday, I always get up at 5:30. Even if I have no alarm set, or intend on not waking up early, I’ll still wake up at that time.

This, as I see it, is a good thing. It allows me to take more advantage of the day, to feel like I have more time, and helps me not have to worry about the times I really do have to get up early. Sleeping in just seems like a waste to me personally.

Applying this

Now why did I give a couple of paragraphs about a high school early wake up time?

It’s because it’s a habit. And when you build up a habit over 4 years, it sticks. Nearly permanently.

Now, health wise, I’m still in the process of developing new habits. It isn’t easy, but there is a sameness to it that once you get going, and keep it up regularly, it becomes second nature to continue doing something.

One more recent habit I’ve gotten into is a regular and planned breakfast every morning.

My daily breakfast consists of plain greek yogurt, mixed with peanut butter, and then stirred in with plain oats. (And sometimes honey).

It’s a simple recipe, but it’s full of protein, it’s filling so I won’t get hungry just a few hours later, and it’s really really good. Peanut butter is just really delicious. Really.

This helped me out in a couple of ways.

1: I was better able to plan. I didn’t have to worry about what I was having for breakfast.

2: I never rushed into having a sloppy breakfast from somewhere. In other situations, I may rush to buy a breakfast from McDonald’s or eat sugary cereal.

3: Habits make it easier to buy. While having a habitual meal for every meal of the day may seem monotonous and make you bored of your food, it helps you shop and know what to buy, which can reinforce those habits.

Building habits in every aspect of your life, and observing your new habits, while trying to observe any old or bad habits, will greater enforce your goals. You’ll be surprised at how you’ll almost subconsciously accomplish things if you build them into a daily, weekly, and monthly routine.

Apps

Your smartphone
can be very useful along any part of your health journey. Having a constantly connected device in your pocket at all times can assist with you tracking your health. Both Google and Apple have built in applications, Health.app and Google Health, that assist in bringing apps together to monitor stats such as your daily calories burned, your weight, the amount of protein you’ve consumed, among a slew of other data. In this post I’m going to cover just a few of the many apps I use to help me live a healthier life.

One of the first apps I used a long time ago to help me get started in my health tracking was an app called Lark. Lark is a free application that acts as a virtual coach, asking you questions throughout your day as a way to gently nudge you into healthier habits. One of the first things I loved about using Lark is it eases you into the process. It will track things that your smartphone can automatically track, such as your activity, when you sleep, and more, and then ask you questions about what you ate, how you feel you did in a workout, or how you feel about a certain activity.

These small, helpful reminders help build habits for you to live a healthier life, without overwhelming you with specific and minute details about your overall health. Read More

Fueling Cardio

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One of the most important things when it comes to exercise is fueling your workout. Being able to tell how your body responds to certain foods, and what types help you perform better is a personal journey that a lot of people go though, since no two people are alike.

A common misconception around ‘health’ and food in general is that for some reason , carbs are a food that make you fat, and your body ‘can’t process them as quickly’. So avoid carbs. Don’t eat them. This couldn’t be more wrong in regards to working out, exercising, and having more energy. Carbs are energy. And they’re really important for helping your body become better and fitter.

Pasta Parties

When I was in high school, I, much to my own resistance, joined the high school swim team. I wasn’t fit by any means, and I was definitely a late bloomer in that my stamina and personal strength was way under the ball compared to other classmates. Regardless, I joined the swim team, went to practice every day, and despite getting really tired, I somewhat enjoyed it. It did have a lot of things I didn’t enjoy, like running bleachers, doing a bunch of pushups, and various other exercises before even getting into the pool. One thing that has stuck with me though, was what we did before every swim meet: Pasta Parties™.

Pasta parties were an event coordinated by our coaches where our whole team would go to a teammates house the night before a meet, and have a potluck event that consisted of every type of pasta imaginable. It was to help us fuel up before the meet, and as I’ve learned later, restore our glycogen stores.

Pasta remains one of my favorite meals to eat nearly daily. It helps prepare me for my morning workout the next day, and also helps in recovery when your body is rebuilding itself from your exercise.

Greek Yogurt

I know this definitely isn’t for everyone, but greek yogurt remains one of my favorite meals to help prepare myself before a workout. It’s full of protein, and there are tons of possibilities in how you can prepare it. My personal favorite, and almost daily breakfast meal,  is:

  1. 3 tablespoons of peanut butter
  2. 1 cup of plain greek yogurt
  3. 1/2 cup of plain oats
  4. a light dab of honey for sweetness.

In the past I’ve microwaved the peanut butter a little bit just to make it easier to mix, but now I generally just throw all these ingredients in a bowl, and mix it up as my breakfast, or quick meal to have before a long bike ride.

Fueling your workout… while working out

On long runs or cycling rides, it’s recommended that you eat while working out if it is any longer than 30 minutes. This means eating at about the 30 minute mark, and then at least once every hour to help your body in continuing to produce the energy that its using.

There are tons of expensive “gels” and “professional fuel” type things that you can eat while on these types of workouts, or if you’re even just at the gym for an extended amount of time. I, however, greatly disagree with spending $10 on the equivalent of a handful of gummy bears.

On the Global Cycling Network, a resource I go to often for everything from bike maintenance to training for long rides, they talk about the use of energy gels. And while they obviously state how useful they are, one thing they recommend is using things like fruit, home made pancakes, and even bonbons and fruit snacks to help fuel your rides. It’s obviously not as glamorous or cool to wolf down a pancake in the middle of the race, but it’s much more feasible, and generally more cost effective than trying to find the perfect Gatorade™® PowerGels or Powerbars.

I personally tend to bring a bag or two of just plain peanuts, a sandwich with peanut butter and honey, and possibly a banana to help fuel myself on these longer rides. I find these items tastier, more filling, and it’s much easier to use what’s around the house then trying to remember to stock up on energy gels.

Weights

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I have to admit, weights was the last thing I wanted to do when I got to the gym. Cardio, spin, running all felt way more satisfying, and didn’t feel like such a hassle or weird as lifting weights around.

Eventually, I realize the need to cross train. Not the crazy gymnastics as others, but just strengthening my body in general. Having more muscle helps your body become better at processing food, and working on muscles in my legs and arms can help you be a better athlete, even if biking and running don’t use those exact muscles.

5 by 5
 

One workout app I started out using was 5×5. It’s a basic workout program and very easily built for beginners. It starts off with 6 different exercises that you can do with simply a bar bell and a weight rack, both tools that most gyms have.
>The StrongLifts 5×5 program consists of two workouts…

Workout A: Squat, Bench Press, Barbell Row

Workout B: Squat, Overhead Press, Deadlift

https://stronglifts.com/5×5/

You start off at a weight that’s comfortable for you, and may seem easy, but the point of doing weights is to slowly build up to a higher weight. If you move too fast you’ll injure yourself.

Weight lifting isn’t something that’s super easy to dive into, and it can be intimidating. The first time I ever tried to venture into the weight section of my gym, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people that seem to be way more decked out than I was in gear, who were throwing around weights like nobodies business, and just in general ‘looking tough’. But one thing that helped me get into it was realizing that at one point, everyone was a beginner. That super toned girl at the gym? She once was a beginner and just getting started. That super ripped guy who looks like he’s about to eat the weight rack? yeah. He once was a little bit scrawnier.

Getting into weights, and finding the right amount of exercises that work for you is part of the learning process in fitness. You know how your body feels after a workout, and figuring that out is important.

Although every single weigh program isn’t instantly for everyone, I think 5 by 5 is a great start for anyone that is wanting to find out what works for them. It’s a great program because it uses basic exercises, allows you to have a structure to your workouts, and builds up your confidence in the simplicity of seeing results.

Results

Seeing the results and progress of those that have figured out what has worked for them, and worked towards a goal, has always been encouraging for me.

Personally, I’m not on a crazy strict plan. I’ve had my weeks or months that weren’t so great. But, along the way, I can definitely tell a difference from where I was just a few months ago. And I definitely see the changes when I look back more than a year.

The best thing about using different kinds of data tracking is seeing the end results. Many fitness apps even have suggestions for taking pictures of your body to allow you to see progress along the way. You’ll never regret taking those photos, especially when down the line you may find yourself amazed at how even though you don’t see it immediately, you end up with better results.

When you are getting started, I’d recommend a few tips.

1 – Take assessment of where you are now. Your current weight is the easiest place to start. Take note of other aspects as well – your current definition, perhaps a few activities you regularly do that seem hard. How much weight you can lift easily. Document these somewhere: written down, in an app, taking pictures, etc. These will be helpful relatively soon, and help you overall

2 – Define clear and concise goals. Maybe you want to run a mile in under 10 minutes. Perhaps there’s a certain weight you want to be able to bench. Or even a goal as simple as hitting that 10,000, 15,000 step goal every day. A clear, concise goal that’s easily memorable, and one you can hold yourself accountable to, will help you better achieve it.

3 – Check in every once in a while. While there are certain apps that can show you fitness tests, I’d recommend going off of those originally defined goals. They are goals you set, so they will be helpful because of their specificity towards you. 

My Observable Results

When I got back into running a year ago, the first thing I saw was being more alert. I didn’t need caffeine to get me through the day, and I was more easily able to focus in classes that I found boring. Through the 3 months I was running, I saw my pace increase.

When I did get into the lull where I couldn’t run, I started going to the gym and try out other exercises because I had seen these results, and I wanted to maintain them.

A year later, after spending a majority of commuting time cycling, taking longer walks, and generally eating better, I can tell the difference. Foods that I may have craved in the past, like junk food, don’t seem as appealing anymore. Making healthier choices is a lot easier, and seeing how I can continue to improve is super simple as opposed to how it once was.

Making sure to measure results and set a clear plan for your personal fitness is one of the best things you can do for your health. What kind of goals do you think you’ll set?

Small Steps

One of the biggest things you can do to help your personal health is just take little steps.

Most of the time – habits build upon each other. These can snowball into a greater sense of personal wellness by finding out how things relate to each other.

I think one of the best things to start out with personal health is just being more aware of what you’re doing every day. Don’t go full out completely tracking calories or running a 5K. Start small: look at the nutrition labels on the majority of things you eat. Try to keep a mental tally in your head about what you’ve eaten, and how much of it you have.

I would suggest using this tool https://tdeecalculator.net. It can help you calculator your “Total Daily Energy Expenditure”. That is, the amount of calories you burn every day. Your body burns a set amount of calories every day, no matter what you actually do. On top of that, there are “Active Calories”, that your body will end up burning when you do any physical activity.

Keeping these in mind and keeping track of how much you eat, at the bare minimum, will help you become more aware of your personal health. Maybe you’ll find out something about your regular meals that you didn’t previously know. Or you may find that you’re not eating enough.

What I’ve done recently is use an app called CARROT Hunger. It’s a fun app with a sarcastic robot that encourages you/pretends to threaten you about your eating habits. In the past I’ve used a tool like My FitnessPal, but I got sick of their slow app, so I switched to this instead.

I’ve found a lot of things regarding my health when tracking calories. Here are just a few:

1: Fruit is seriously the best filler. And it’s super underrated. Often times I may feel like I’m really hungry mid afternoon, but after a banana or an orange I find that I wasn’t all that hungry. A bit of fruit helps boost your blood sugar, and the fiber will help you stay full longer than a less filling food such as chips.

2: There really is an affect on you depending on the category or type of nutrient you eat. You can try this yourself by either eating a protein heavy diet, cutting out carbs for a day, or thing whatever is ‘hip’. Carbs will help you be more energized for a workout, or protein can help you stay less hungry. (One thing to note here – I personally don’t see the point in doing diets such as “NO CARBS EVER AHH” or cutting down on sugar [especially when fruit sugar is perfectly fine]. While these may help you if you’re trying to just cut back on things, what’s more successful is just noticing the calories you eat. Carbs don’t make you more fat than anything else. They just happen to have more calories in general)

3: 2000 Calories is actually a lot of food. If you plan it right. If you eat nothing but chips and microwaveable foods, you’ll find that it doesn’t seem like a lot. But if you focus on things like nuts, fruits, yogurts, etc, you may be more full before you know it.

Where to begin

Look, I definitely was never ever a natural at this. If you saw pictures of me just a few years back, especially near the end of high school, I wasn’t the crazy athletic kid that took an extra PE class. And I wasn’t one to be involved in school sports either. When I first started college I dreaded the idea of anything sports related, and having to do yet another type of exercise class.

That’s the biggest thing with health. We all should take care in measuring it, maintaining it, and keeping it in high regard. But it can seem overwhelming. A task no one really wants to worry about. But, unlike a hobby such as reading, your favorite sports team, or keeping your morning routine simple, health is different – it’s a requirement. If you woke up tomorrow and didn’t eat, you’d feel terrible. And you’d really eventually die if you ate nothing but those nasty little pumpkins things that we get around halloween but during the rest of the year everyone realizes are a terrible idea.

I kickstarted my own personal journey into health about 4 years ago. It never was a single, streamlined process. It had its starts and stops, and times where I thought it was too much to handle, or that microwaveable dinners were cheap and convenient, and dammit I was going to take advantage of the sales Stouffer’s had.

Four years ago I got into running. Mainly because a friend of mine wanted to get back into their running habit, and, being a good friend, I said “Sure, I’ll show up at 6 am and we can go running.”

Running is what started it for me. After you run, you kind of naturally learn towards those 6 eggs or so that you eat afterwards. And while buying eggs you become curious about the avocados, decide to go to a place like Sprouts, and then suddenly you’re making protein smoothies with avocado, blueberries, and about five different types of ‘all natural’ boosters. And when your run and track it, you realize that the bag of chips you’re craving to dig into a good TV show with aren’t really worth it considering how dense they are.

This whole beginning post is somewhat of a self monologue to where and how I got to where I am, and I’ll do my best to more clearly define the actual health habits I have. Know, however, that it could very well be anything, from a new store you find, a type of food you learn to enjoy, to figuring out how many calories are really in that delicious scone at the bakery you frequently find yourself at… health can be something you find yourself focusing on just after one little habit. And that’s a good thing.

Hey there. I’m Kyle

I like to think of myself as a man of many hats, and an amateur at all of them.

Over the past year I really got into continuing a more healthier lifestyle, keeping up an exercise routine, and generally trying to better my self physically. Among the things I’ve done and tools I’ve used are a slew of apps, motivational methods, ideas and ways of thinking, and some gadgets.

I hope to be able to surface a few of those utilities I’ve used personally, to not only keep track of what I have done, but to inspire others who are either in the same shoes as me, or further behind or way ahead. No matter what level you are, or even if you don’t think you can start, I think this will hopefully be a good tool for you.