Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sleep, Exercise, and Motivation...A Few Things I Learned from Andy Core

THE EVERYDAY HEALTH AND WELLNESS CONFERENCE
Do you sleep with your pets?  Do you get enough sleep?  What's the first thing you should do when you wake up in the morning?  Odd questions, yes. But these are some of the topics that were discussed this past weekend at the Everyday Health and Wellness Conference in Fairfax, VA.  The very first speaker was Mr. Andy Core.  Andy is an author and speaker and he happens to hold a master's degree in the science of human performance.  With his advanced education and 15 years of experience, Andy is no dummy.  He is a talented and engaging individual who taught me quite a few things pertaining to sleep, exercise, and motivation.  This post contains a little bit of everything.  Wanna hear about it?  Keep reading...

PHYSIOLOGY DRIVES PSYCHOLOGY
After Andy started his presentation by having us all do a little chicken dance, he explained the correlation between our actions and our environment.  It's the idea that physiology drives psychology.  Ever feel like the good gets better or the bad gets worse?  That's behavioral momentum.  Everything we do creates energy and that energy builds, and builds, and builds.  But what role does your environment play?  Well, it would be difficult to live a healthy life if you allow negative environmental factors to control you, right?  Ever try to sit down during a family meal while you're on a "diet"?  You're sitting there sipping your veggie juice while the rest of the family devours a full 5-course meal?  Not easy, eh?  You may be asking yourself, "Why am I doing this to myself?"  But, let's assume you are currently looking to improve your health. Ask yourself, "Why do I (or, why do I want to) practice healthy living?"  If you become more present in your environment and more loving with the people in your life, you become more connected.  That's the reason you practice healthy living.  That's physiology driving psychology.  But you may be saying, "where's my motivation?"  Well, more on that in a minute.  First, let's talk about getting our Zzzz's.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP
Did you know that if it takes you less than 15 minutes to fall asleep at night, you may be chronically sleep deprived?  Sleep deprivation is the fastest way to break you down and sleep can be just as important as nutrition because it affects you on a cellular level.  Andy offered a few tips on how to optimize your sleep and says, quite frankly, "no kids, no pets, no spouse!"  Yup, that's right...put your kids in their own rooms, pets in their own beds, and your spouse sticks to his or her side!  I think it's obvious that having your own personal space while you're sleeping will provide a much more restful experience than if Rover's paw is resting on your forehead.  Now, we've all heard that we should be getting 6-9 hours of sleep per night.  But, Andy points out that what's more important is how we feel in the morning.  If you wake up and feel regenerated, then you probably had a good amount of sleep. Conversely, if you're pushing the snooze button on your alarm, perhaps hittin' the sack a little earlier at night is in order.  By the way, according to Andy, you should NEVER HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON!  What about bedroom temperature?  If you're like me, you like the room to be warm.  If it's not, I will pull out a sweatshirt, some sweatpants, and a pair of thick socks.  But, if you're like my husband, a t-shirt and shorts is all you need, regardless of how cold it is.  So, what is the optimal temperature for sleep?  Andy says around 67 degrees.  With me so far?  Great, let's move on to that motivation stuff that I mentioned earlier.

EXERCISE AND MOTIVATION: WHERE DO WE FIND IT?
Do you think it's easier to exercise 3 days per week or 5 days per week?  It's actually easier to workout 5 days per week because it allows your internal motivation to build.  3 Days per week could be considered too sporadic and perhaps make an exercise regimen too challenging with which to adhere. What are some of the biggest motivators to exercise?  You may be surprised to learn that one reason is how you feel after you exercise.  To quote Andy, "Positive motion creates positive emotion."  You feel good after an effective workout!  Of course, seeing changes in our bodies can be quite powerful.  If you're reaching for a fitness goal and you actually see progress, you're more likely to stick to your exercise program.  Another big motivator?  Socialization. Go grab yourself a workout buddy because having one increases your exercise frequency and consistency.  Oh, and Andy wants you to make sure that your workout buddy is mean.  Yeah, mean.  They have to be the one to bluntly tell you that you can't quit or cut back.  Motivating one another can really help in terms of sticking to an exercise regimen.

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU SHOULD DO IN THE MORNING?
Okay, so let's say you're like me and you like to workout early in the morning. You may be asking yourself, why am I doing this?  Why am I getting up so early to workout?  What is driving me to exercise in the morning?  You may have your own personal reason for doing so but what is the first thing you should do when you wake up in the morning?  When Andy asked this question to the conference attendees, I thought, "that's easy, you should go to the bathroom!"  Apparently, that is not the correct answer.  There's something you should even before you venture into the bathroom.  Do you know what it is? Should you run to the kitchen and get that pot of coffee going?  No.  Should you start thinking of all the things you need to accomplish on that day? Nope. The first thing you should do upon waking in the morning is have a reflective positive thought on why it is that you are exercising and living healthy.  You have to connect with why you are getting up and working so hard.  Andy says, "serve, not shine."  Think about how you serve and who you serve.  That should be your first thought in the morning.  I can personally say that thinking of my young children who depend on me every day is a very motivating reason to stay healthy and master those early-morning workouts.  Take a moment to think about what drives your actions.  Why do you do the things you do?  If you workout daily, think about what drives you to do so.  If you're not working out as much as you'd like, think about what's keeping you from doing so.

WHAT IS THE BEST EXERCISE YOU CAN DO?
Toward the end of Andy's speech, he demonstrated some basic functional exercises and someone asked him what the BEST exercise is. I think it goes without saying that the best exercise you can do is the one that you WILL do. Same goes for time-of-day.  The best time to exercise is when you will do it most often.  That may be mornings for some people or lunch breaks for others.  However, research shows that morning exercisers are more successful with sticking to their exercise regimens than those who do not workout in the morning.  For me, I find that when I exercise early in the morning, I eliminate the opportunity for any distractions to get in the way.  These distractions would normally have a negative impact on an afternoon or evening workout. Some distractions may even prevent me from working out at all!  Andy suggested that we should be aiming for 60-90 minutes of exercise per day.  If that sounds too daunting to you, think smaller scale because he can't get to 60 minutes without doing 20 minutes.  In other words, start somewhere and take baby steps.  Stick to it and it will take over!

CHANGE YOUR DAY, NOT YOUR LIFE
I learned a lot listening to Andy Core and I'm intrigued to learn more about the benefits of sleep.  I've always been fascinated with exercise motivation and I look forward to sharing Andy's wisdom with my clients.  Andy has a new book coming out soon.  It's entitled Change Your Day, Not Your Life.  It sounds like a fascinating read and I'm interested in learning more about some of the things that he touched on during his speech (like how a 3pm snack is the most important meal of the day - not breakfast).  I found Andy Core to be entertaining and insightful.  If he's ever speaking in your area, I highly advise you to attend that event.  You can check out his speaking schedule on his website at www.AndyCore.com.

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