Focus and Motivation During the Holidays

Focused During Holidays PictureBy: Gerhard de Bruin

The festival tidal wave of Christmas and New Year’s is looming ahead.  Yes, it’s only November, but it’s never too soon to begin planning for the mental onslaught they bring.  The holidays usually bring a host of undesirable consequences – less time training, weight gain, lack of discipline, and diminishing focus.  The typical person develops an iron-willed mantra:

The holidays are a time to relax and let loose.  I’ll get back on track come January.

From parties and family commitments to travelling and tempting meals – it’s no wonder that our clothes start to feel tight during the holidays.  Sadly, most people also lose the motivation to train hard, but it’s important to stay focused on your goals, so when New Year’s hits, you’re already ahead of everyone else.

Follow these strategies on how to stay on track during the holidays.  You must do whatever it takes to avoid going downhill with your training and nutritional goals.  Godspeed, soldier!  You’re going to need it!

1.  Prioritise and Plan

Devise your training schedule at least one month in advance.  Consistency and good time management techniques will bring you victory!  The holidays are an ideal time to stay loyal with your training and diet principles.  Sit down with your coach and outline your goals for the upcoming new year.  Discuss last year’s training and race results – and turn your past shortcomings into future strengths.  Don’t allow travelling to get in the way of exercising either.  If visiting family and friends will steer your training programme off path, create a way to use those travel days as recovery days.  You can afterwards intensify your workout plan to make up for those days.

Handle your time wisely!  Don’t try to be superman/superwoman.  Trying to perform too many tasks at once only brings stress and discouragement.  Wake up early and be realistic with what you can actually achieve within a time frame.  Simply following these tips alone will prevent burnout and loss of focus.

2.  Find Some Training Buddies

While solitary training allows you to press the mute button on the world, exercising with others can simplify your life and make training more enjoyable.  Working out with friends also gives you accountability.  It’s already tough waking up at ungodly hours to train, but you’ll be less likely to skip training knowing you’ve got a pal waiting for you.

Plus, working out with a friend or groups of buddies encourages a more positive mental outlook.  Believe it or not, social interaction and exercise play a pivotal role in the subconscious mind.  Researchers discovered this process called “social facilitation” with cyclists – they cycled faster when racing against someone else versus riding solo.  “The same holds true with runners.  When you run with others, you tend to give more effort,” says Cinda Kamphoff, Ph.D., a sports psychologist.  “You get caught up in the pace, and you might not recognise how fast you’re going.”

3.  Make Sleep a Priority

Lack of high-quality sleep negatively affects your training routine – not to mention your focus.  Sleeping more than seven hours a night helps  you stick to a solid exercise pattern and amps motivation.  Studies reveal that people who sleep more end up losing weight and reaching their goals.

Fatigue and sleep deprivation can easily drain motivation to exercise and even stops you from pushing yourself harder – therefore causing muscle loss and weight gain.  Your appetite grows when you sleep less.  You can’t properly hear the brain telling you to stop eating when you’re exhausted – instead, the signals to eat get louder.

The hormone that suppresses your appetite (leptin) is reduced, and the hormone that increases your appetite (ghrelin) becomes more active (Taheri et al., 2004).  “Hence, you can have a hard time differentiating between being hungry or tired.  In either case, cookies and chocolate can be very tempting,” states Nancy Clark, a board certified specialist in sports dietetics.

I often find myself feeling real tired and hungry at the end of a long training day.  I have to remind myself to get into bed, or else I’ll struggle to keep my weight and motivation in check.

4.  Join a Training Camp

Still need a push to reach your athletic objectives?  Many swear by enrolling in a great training camp.  Working alongside an elite coach might sound too extreme for some, but it’s definitely worth the expense if you require extra motivation, discipline, and are dead serious about taking your athletic performance to the next level.

Training camps during the holidays make a perfect active getaway, especially if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere during December, January, and February.  Warmer climates and professional guidance will fire up your fitness resolutions and encourage you to make better decisions.

In January, DBT Training Camp offers high-altitude training in beautiful Golden Gate, South Africa.  The camp takes care of everything for you, enabling you to gain better focus and best of all, you’ll come out of the camp with an insane amount of motivation to kick start the racing season.

5.  Set Mind-Blowing, yet Realistic Goals

Practice patience to achieve your dreams.  Impatience sets you up for disappointment and hopelessness.  Focus on  your progress rather than solely focusing on your sky-high goals.  That way you’ll discover whether or not your regimen is leading you closer or further away from you goals.

Pinpoint your goals on a regular basis, and understand the series of actions that you’re undertaking to achieve those goals.  The whole process of getting there is imperative, but having an awareness of the “bigger picture” assists you in staying motivated and focused during the fight to achieve your personal goals.

Keep a journal depicting your progress and track your athletic metrics every couple of weeks during the holiday season to remain inspired.

Source:  Taheri, S., L. Lin, D. Austin, T. Young, and E. Mignot. 2004. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body max index. PLoS Med 1 (3): E62.

Original article can be found here

Exercise Gives you More than a Toned Body


By:  Renée Leonard – Stainton

Now, I’m no personal trainer, supermodel, or ripped athlete, but as a Naturopath, I’m constantly reminded about the importance of staying fit, and I know that exercise is absolutely vital for good health.  We all know this, yet excuses like lack of time, energy, equipment and motivation can be given.

Are these excuses valid?  How important is your health?

While the immediate effect of exercise is stress on the body, with regular exercise, the body adapts; it becomes stronger, functions more efficiently, and has greater endurance.

Your whole body benefits from exercise, largely as a result of improved cardiovascular and respiratory function.  Simply stated, exercise enhances the transport of oxygen and nutrients into cells.

At the same time, it enhances the transport of carbon dioxide and other waste products from the tissues of the body to the bloodstream, and ultimately to the eliminative organs.

At some stage, you’ve probably heard about most of the benefits of exercise that I’ve listed below, but I’ve compiled as many benefits on the different body systems that I can think of into one list – definitely the perfect mind/body remedy.

Musculoskeletal System

  • Increases muscle strength
  • Lessens chance of injury
  • Increases flexibility of muscles and range of motion
  • Produces stronger bones, ligaments and tendons
  • Enhances posture and physique

Heart and Blood Vessels

  • Lowers resting heart rate
  • Strengthens heart function
  • Increases blood supply to muscles
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves oxygen delivery throughout the body

Bodily Processes

  • Improves the way the body handles dietary fat
  • Helps lower blood cholesterol
  • Promotes lean body mass; burns fat
  • Prevents osteoporosis
  • Improves immune function
  • Aids digestion and elimination
  • Increases endurance and energy levels

Mental Processes

  • Helps reduce tension and anxiety
  • Improves mental outlook and self-esteem
  • Helps relieve moderate depression
  • Improves the ability to handle stress
  • Stimulates improved mental function
  • Induces relaxation and improves sleep
  • Increases self-esteem

Here are a few tips to creating an effective exercise routine:

  1. Recognise the importance of physical exercise maybe print out the list above and put it somewhere that will inspire/motivate you.
  2. Select an activity you enjoyso many to choose from!  Why not suit your mood and mix it up?  Pilates one day, boxing another?
  3. Exercise frequentlya minimum of 30 minutes at least three times a week is necessary to gain any significant cardiovascular benefits from exercise.  Make sure you do schedule at least one rest day a week though.
  4. Make it funif you can find enjoyment in exercise, you’re much more likely to exercise regularly.  I’m always texting my girlfriends to meet up for a ‘walk and talk’ – it’s by far a healthier habit than a coffee and catch/wine and cheese catch up, which still do happen of course, but at least we’re keeping it balanced!
  5. Vary your routinedoing the same thing every day becomes boring and drains motivation.

Imagine… if the benefits of exercise could be put in a pill, you would have the most powerful health-promoting medication available!  However, natural is always best of course, so your healthiest bet will be to just get-a-moving!  The better shape you’re in physically, the greater your odds of enjoying a healthier and longer life.

In fact, researchers have estimated that for every hour of exercise, there is a two-hour increase in lifespan.  Now that’s definitely a valuable return on investment!

Live well, live long, live naturally!

Renée is a Naturopath with a passion for green living.  
As the creator of the popular blog 'Renée Naturally', she 
shares healthy recipes, credible and well-being information
and sustainable living guidance. Renée also contributes to 
various international magazines, radio shows, and blogs
including Miranda Kerr's 'KORA Organics'.