When it comes to improving our health and wellbeing, our actions are most often the first place we direct our attention to. We move our bodies, we eat nutritious food, we get more sleep. But if we don’t also address our words, we might be limiting our ability to get wholly healthy. How we speak to ourselves and about ourselves is incredibly impactful on our health. And one word in particular that I want to address today is the word ‘should.’
You’ve probably had it spoken over you a time or two. And you’ve probably spoken it over yourself even more. Here are some ways it may have creeped into your thoughts:
I should exercise more.
I should rest more.
I should only eat whole, organic foods.
I should eat whatever I want.
I should have lost the weight by now.
I should love my body as it is.
I should get 8 hours of sleep every night.
I should get more work done.
I should speak more kindly to myself.
I should look more like her.
I should not care what the scale says.
By placing the word ‘should’ at the front of any of those demands (regardless of the healthiness of the demand itself) there is a level of expectation put on us. And if we are not meeting that expectation, then it pushes us into a pit of shame. I’ve heard it said before like this,
“What makes ‘should’ so complicated is that it’s always attached to someone else’s expectation, someone else’s opinion, and if you don’t happen to agree or if you fail to meet that expectation, that ‘should’ quickly leads you into shame. In fact, ‘should’ is too often just another way of saying, ‘shame on you.’” - Jess Connolly
Whether someone else speaks ‘should’ on us, or we speak it over ourselves, it is most often rooted in the expectations and experiences of someone else. So if we listen to the ‘should’, we might engage in something that is not what is best for us. Or it could make us feel ashamed or guilty if we’re not doing what we ‘should.’ It could leave us feeling worried or afraid that we’re doing it wrong. ‘Should’ places demands and puts pressure on us to do or to be certain things. And when we let that kind of negative narrative lead our actions, then the motives behind them become impersonal and ineffective at best, or damaging and disordered at worst. And that’s never a healthy place to be.
There is not just one way of living. There is not just one way of being healthy. There is not just one way to eat, or to exercise, or to structure your days. You get to determine what is best for YOU. Taking professionals’ advice or instruction is absolutely significant, especially if we are not an expert in a given topic we are trying to engage with. But if anyone is telling you that you ‘should’ do this or you ‘must’ do that in order to live a healthy life, then you can start to question if they are really out for your best, or if they are just trying to push a product or ideal upon you (which unfortunately is all too prevalent in the fitness and diet industry).
So I encourage you to flip the script for yourself. Change your language and change how you process the word ‘should.’ Here’s a few steps you can take to do that:
1. Identify how ‘should’ affects you
It’s helpful to recognize how it impacts us individually, because we all have varying degrees of sensitivity to it. Ask yourself, when I hear or tell myself that I should do something, does it actually motivate me to do it? Or does it just make me feel worse that I’m not already doing it? Does it pump me up to put in the work and follow through? Or does it feel like a weight that I begrudgingly drag behind me as I try to do it? Most often it is an empty motivator and doesn’t help us move along in a sustainable way any further in our health and wellness journey.
2. Get to the root of your ‘shoulds’
Who says you should? Why do you feel like you should? Is the thing you should be doing something you actually want, or is it something that a family member, a friend, a fitness guru, or a salesperson says you should be doing? Because in case you didn’t know, the 71 billion dollar weight loss industry is often out for your money more than it’s out for your health. So consider where the voice is coming from and determine if that voice is actually out for your well being. And if need be, you might need to cut off that voice from having any say in your life.
3. Give yourself a better ‘why’
Doing so will root your actions in something that is meaningful, truly motivating, and healthier for you. Instead of telling yourself “I should eat healthier,” shift it to align with your values and what’s important to you. Something like, “It’s important to me that I take care of my body for my long-term health, so I am going to make some changes to the way I eat,” changes your focus to why eating healthily is important to you and gives you some extra drive to do it in a way that works for you. That is much more effective than doing something because you feel like society thinks you should. Align your purpose with your own values.
4. Replace the demands of ‘should’ with more encouraging phrases
The same author who wrote the quote I mentioned before gave this example: “‘Should’ says You have to do this. You don’t have a choice. And if you fail, then shame on you. ‘Could’ says Well, hey, you have the option to do this. You can weigh it out and decide for yourself.” Another rephrasing you could try is to say “I will” instead of “I should.” Notice the difference these word changes make:
“I should exercise for 30 minutes today” sounds bitter and noncommittal.
“I could exercise for 30 minutes today” sounds empowering and hopeful.
“I will exercise for 30 minutes today” sounds devoted and purposeful.
It is much more motivating and declarative for yourself to speak with positivity. And it can tie it more directly to what matters to you. Therefore, you will be much more likely to follow through with it.
5. Don’t speak ‘should’ over others Most likely, when you start to remove this word from the conversations in your mind, it will start to disappear from your conversations with others too, but it is still significant to be aware of how much you speak it over others. If you catch yourself, apologize and express your sentiments differently. Because imposing your expectations on others can be detrimental to the health of your relationships if you’re not careful. Hopefully, as you make this shift, it changes the way you and your loved ones speak to, and support, each other.
It might take some time to rewire your brain and eliminate this word from your vocabulary, but taking small steps to be mindful about it can surely make a difference. Ultimately I want you to make choices that honor YOUR health. And sometimes that means we address the words that affect us. So what do you say? Is it time you ditch the word ‘should’ from your self-talk altogether?
Written by Kelly Pruim
Last week we shared tips for forming habits that build up into a healthy way of life, but we’re back today with the second side of that same coin: breaking bad habits. Because oftentimes we don’t just have a need for healthier habits - we need to shed the not-so-healthy ones too. And just like it takes practice and repetition to form a new habit, it takes the same kind of discipline to break an old one.
Now ‘bad’ can be a bit of a relative term here. There are plenty of good things that can become bad habits if we fixate on them too much (i.e. tracking macros can be a helpful nutritional habit, but if you get obsessive about it and it’s causing you stress, it might not be the best thing for you). So when we refer to bad habits, we want you to consider what habits you have that are not helping you live the kind of life you want to be living. With that perspective in mind, here are 7 tips to help you break the habits that aren’t helping you live your best life.
1. Understand Your Habit & Its Triggers
There are three primary parts to a habit: the reminder, the routine, and the reward. The reminder, or trigger, is anything that cues your habit to occur, the routine is the action of the habit itself, and the reward is what helps make the habit stick (such as a release of dopamine that makes your brain want to repeat the habit). With these parts in mind, if you can identify the reminder of your bad habit, you are going to be more successful with cutting off the routine of it.
So a good place to start is to take some time to track your habit (anywhere from a few days to a week, depending on the frequency of it). Try not to do anything to interfere with the habit just yet - just seek to understand it. Take notice of the who, what, where, when, why, and how of it.
Who are you around, or who is involved, when the habit happens?
What exactly triggered you to perform the habit?
Where are you when the habit happens?
When does the habit happen? (i.e. what time of day)
Why does the habit happen? (i.e. many bad habits are a way of dealing with stress or boredom)
How do you feel when the habit happens?
As an example, let’s say you want to stop staying up so late. When you start to track your behavior you recognize that you tend to stay up later if you start watching TV when you get in bed. You tell yourself it helps wind you down for the night, but before you know it Netflix’s “Are You Still Watching?” prompt pops up and you’re still awake. It’s very likely that turning the TV on in bed is a trigger for staying up later than you’d like.
By getting to the root of the issue and identifying the trigger, you can better disrupt the habit and avoid it altogether.
2. Make it Meaningful
Just like when you are forming a habit, having a ‘why’ tied directly to the habit you’re trying to get rid of can offer extra motivation to stick with the change in behavior. If you know why you want to stop doing something, it will make the work you have to put in to change worth it. Take some time to consider the benefits of making a change. Equally important, take some time to consider the risks or consequences if you don’t.
Let’s say you want to stop drinking soda. We all know it’s not the best for us, but why does it matter to YOU to drop this habit? Maybe you want to lose weight and halting this habit can help. If you take it even deeper, why do you want to lose weight? Perhaps you are tired of feeling lethargic and you want more energy to play with your kids. Well there you go, now you have your ‘why.’
By rooting your changes in habit to specific and personal reasons, you offer yourself a stronger motivation to stick with them, especially when you are tempted to return to the habit you are trying to break.
3. Remove Your Triggers
Now that you’ve identified the things that trigger your bad habit, and you have some extra motivation to put an end to it, the next step is to remove as many triggers as you can. If you break off the things that cause the habit, you’ll make it easier for yourself to break it.
For example, if the to-go menus on your fridge make you want to order fast food every time you see them, toss them out. If you eat junk food when it’s in the house, offer your stash to a friend or throw it away. If you end up scrolling on your phone every time it buzzes, turn off your notifications. If driving by the coffee shop on the way to work lands you in the drive thru every day, try going a different route. If hanging out with a certain friend always leads to you having too much to drink, take a break from spending as much time with them if they’re not going to be supportive of your habit breaking attempts. Or, when considering that stress is a root cause of many bad habits, put some effort into intentionally alleviating stress in constructive ways to avoid putting yourself in a state of mind that will trigger your habit.
Not all triggers will be removable, but consider what changes you can make to your environment to set you up for success.
4. Replace The Habit With Something Better
In some cases our habits might add some kind of value to our lives (i.e. smoking a cigarette could give you some sense of stress relief), so cutting them out completely feels much more daunting. James Clear, author of the NYT Best Seller Atomic Habits, has said that “If you expect yourself to simply cut out bad habits without replacing them, then you’ll have certain needs that will be unmet and it’s going to be hard to stick to a routine of ‘just don’t do it’ for very long.” So instead, you’ll want to fulfill the need by replacing the habit with something healthier.
To continue with the example of smoking, any time you are triggered to have a cigarette, pop a piece of gym in your mouth or go for a quick walk instead. Having a concrete action to perform in place of the habit you had helps your brain to disassociate with the negative action and replace it with the better one. The more you repeat the new behavior, the more it becomes an impulsive routine (and hopefully a routine that makes you feel better too).
5. Use Accountability
Like so many aspects of our health, accountability helps us get the job done. The thought might cross your mind that if you take on a habit change alone, then no one will see you fail. But the truth is that if you set yourself up with a support system, you increase your odds of success.
If you know someone who might want to kick the same bad habit as you, partner up to do it together. That way you can have someone who understands the tough moments and can celebrate with you in the victories along the way. Plus, having someone who is relying on you and expects you to be better can be a great motivator.
If you don’t have anyone who is trying to change a habit alongside you, you can still confide in a friend about the habit you’re trying to break. That way, they can be a source of encouragement and they can offer gentle reminders to you if they notice you slipping back into old habits. In some cases, you may even consider more professional help for advice or accountability.
As a supplemental form of accountability, leave yourself reminders to keep you focused when you have moments of weakness. Leave a sticky note in the pantry on the spot where you normally kept your sugar fix. Set a timer on your phone when using certain apps so you don’t lose track of time. Or use our free downloadable Habit Builder as a “Habit Breaker” by keeping track of how many days you successfully avoid your former bad habit (plus it has a place on it to write down your ‘why’ to remind you of your ultimate motivation).
6. Embrace Progress Over Perfection
Here’s the thing, slip ups are bound to happen. Especially when you are breaking a habit you’ve had for awhile. So instead of getting defeated and giving up hope that you can ever break this habit when the slip up occurs, plan for it and give yourself grace.
What we mean by plan for it is to consider an action you can take when you do have a slip up that will get you back on track. Maybe you take three deep breaths, you write down your ‘why’ on a piece of paper, or you list off the negative consequences you’ll face if you fall back into the habit. Whatever it takes for you to pause, get back up, dust yourself off, and make a different choice next time.
But ultimately you are going to have to ditch the all or nothing mindset and give yourself some grace. Mistakes happen, so learn from them instead of wallowing in them. If you have a slip up, consider how many days you went prior to that without engaging with the habit and celebrate it! Having one slip up does not take away those days that you were successful. Anything you do that’s more of what you want is good.
7. Be Patient
Just like with building a new habit, breaking a bad habit takes time, effort, and perseverance. And the time it takes will depend on a variety of things including how long you’ve had the habit, the kind of needs the habit fulfills, or your level of support in breaking the habit. So stay the course and keep going. The path may not be linear, and there may be setbacks and adjustments needed along the way, but if you keep working at it, eventually you CAN experience freedom from your vices, once and for all!
We hope these tips leave you inspired to take on the elimination of the habit that has been lingering in the back of your mind while you read this. We absolutely believe you can shed the things that are holding you back from living the life you want. You are strong. You are capable. And you are worth it!
So tell us in the comments, what bad habit are you going to work on breaking first?
Sources:   
Written by Kelly Pruim
With the start of the new year comes the inspiration (or pressure, depending on how you feel about it) to set goals and aim high for change. Now, more than ever probably, we all want to make this year better than the last. But it can be very daunting to change everything all at once. Many people try. But according to some estimates, only 4-8% of people actually stick to their new year’s resolutions, and most people will ditch their resolutions before the end of January. Does this mean that it’s a hopeless pursuit to try to change your life? Absolutely not. It just means that it takes some work to do so.
At Worth the Work Fitness, we believe that quick fixes and short term programs lead to short term commitment. And we see that as a problem, because our health is something that matters for our entire lives. So we try to change the game by focusing on a long term vision. And we do that by helping people create sustainable habits that build a healthy life. But as we mentioned, that takes some work. So today we’re offering up 9 tips that we often use to guide our clients on their journeys to build healthy habits that stick.
1. Give It Significance
As our core values state, when it comes to health and wellness we believe in being fueled by a big picture 'why'. That’s because if you know why you want to do something, it will make the work you have to put in worth it to you. Your ‘why’ gives you the motivation you need to keep fighting if you ever feel like giving up. The same goes for when you’re building a habit. By attaching a ‘why’ behind the habit you are forming, you make it mean more to you. You give yourself more incentive to stick with it.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to exercise every day. Why specifically do you want to do that? Maybe it’s to lose weight. But let’s take it further: why do you want to lose weight? Maybe it’s to have more self-confidence. Well, there you have it. Now you have a ‘why’ that means something far more to you than simply exercising because you think you should.
Note: I want to speak to that last word there: should. I don’t want you to focus on all of the things that you might think you “should” have as habits. Because shame and guilt are empty motivators. But unfortunately, a lot of the health and fitness industry still tries to use them in order to convince you to follow their program or use their products. So be sure to make your ‘why’ something that is important to YOU - not what others think or say you should be doing.
2. Start Small
This is probably one of the most significant tips: don’t try to take on everything all at once. Sure, motivation is high this time of year, and I don’t want to doubt what you are capable of. But oftentimes big behavior changes require a high level of motivation that can’t be sustained. And we’re all about sustainability here. We want to help you not only form healthy habits - we want to enable you to stick to them!
Start by breaking down the overall habit you want to achieve into something so small that you don’t even really need to rely on motivation to get you to do it. Here’s an example: Say you want to eat healthier. Now that’s a very broad habit, and there are a lot of ways to take it on. So let’s break it down. Instead of completely upending your lifestyle and eating only nutritious whole foods at every single meal, every day of the week, think smaller. Start with simply putting an apple in your lunch bag every day. Or aiming to eat one serving of a vegetable at each meal.
Don’t let yourself believe the lie that you’re setting the bar too low. The point is to give yourself some foundation to build on. Once you feel firm about one habit, your willpower and motivation will have increased and you can build the habit further, or you can add another in. Doing it this way makes it easier to stick to your habit over the long haul.
Oftentimes, the more pushback we get on something, the more likely we are to give up on it. Now there is certainly a time and a place for challenging ourselves, but when just starting out on a journey towards healthy living, it's best to make the process easier so you can stick with it. One way to do that is to remove the obstacles that might stand in the way of your new habit.
A common example is laying out your workout clothes at night so that when you wake up in the morning you have already removed the decision of what to wear. Or packing your gym bag and leaving it by the door so it’s already ready to go.
Another way to simplify a habit is by breaking it into chunks. Let’s say you want to meditate for 20 minutes a day because it relaxes your mind and eases your stress. But it’s hard for you to consistently have 20 minutes of uninterrupted time every day. How about instead you break it into two 10 minute segments. Or even four segments of 5 minutes a day. Break it down in a way that works for you and prevents excuses or interruptions from getting in the way of you sticking to it. Then, once you master it, you can build on it.
4. Stack It Up
Oftentimes the best way to form a habit is to attach it to a habit that you already have established - it’s called habit stacking. You take something that is already automatically a part of your day and you add in the new habit you want to build with it so that it can become a natural part of your day as well.
Let me give you a personal example from when I set the goal to drink more water each day. I already had the well established habit of drinking a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, so when I went to turn on the coffee pot, I filled up a glass of water to drink before my coffee was ready. I didn’t change my regular routine. I just added to it. Or here’s another example: you can use the two minutes it takes to brush your teeth to do a quick pick up of a room in your house because that alleviates some of your stress. And, I mean, we all already brush our teeth every day anyways...right??
Many of us already have some semblance of a morning or evening routine in place, so those can be prime spots to try to habit stack. Think about what you already do, and consider how you might be able to group your new habit with it. If you build it into your routine, then it becomes something you do, instead of something you have to do.
5. Schedule It In
Too often we can catch ourselves saying, “I really want to do X, but I can never find the time for it.” We’re all far too busy for our own goods. Instead of sitting back and hoping that the perfect opportunity will scream out at you each day, make it a commitment and make time for it. This is especially relevant for those habits that are a bit more time consuming.
Say you want to work out 4 days a week. At the start of the week put those 4 workouts into your calendar as if they were a meeting and stick to them. Or say you want to get better at meal prepping. Schedule a block of time on your day off to do all of your meal prep at once.
By practicing this you have already made the decision that you are going to do the thing, so all that’s left to do is to do the thing. Stop waiting for your habits to happen. Make them happen.
6. Stay Consistent
Quite honestly, habits can take awhile to really stick (depending on the habit itself of course). But they’re more likely to form faster when we do them more often. This is another reason why it is important to start small. When you are just setting out to form a new habit, focus on building consistency by doing it every day. You can even take it a step further and find consistency in the time of day you do the habit, or in where you do the habit.
For example, if you want to start walking each day, and you usually have a spare 20 minutes after your lunch, schedule in a 20 minute walk (because remember, we put these kinds of things in our calendars now) at 12:30 every day to go walk the same route that you know will take those 20 minutes. After you’ve made a habit of it, you can start playing around with different paths or different times of days to find out what works best for you.
Being consistent with the timing can also make it a little easier to build habits that you aren’t able to do every single day. For example, say you want to workout for 30 minutes three days a week. Try to schedule in those workouts for the same time on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Keep in mind that habits that you try to do every few days are totally capable of being built, but they are more challenging to lock in, so be aware of that and hold yourself even more accountable to stick to it.
7. Seek Accountability
Which brings us to an important aspect of living a healthy life: accountability! If you can’t stick to a habit, it defeats the purpose of setting the goal to do it in the first place. So set yourself up for success and find ways to be held accountable to your habits. This can come in many shapes and sizes:
Set alarms in your phone to remind yourself to do it. Schedule it in your calendar (like we already mentioned). Ask a friend to either check in with you or be the person you reach out to when you feel like quitting. Or, challenge your friend to join in on the habit building by participating in a friendly competition with you. Write down your goal or habit, and your why behind it, and put it somewhere that you’ll see everyday. Whatever holds you to it, do it.
To help with this, we’ve created a very simple tool called the 30 Day Habit Builder. It’s a free download that you can use to write down your habit and your why behind it, and then it gives you 30 days worth of bubbles to fill in or check off and track how many days you complete your habit (because who doesn’t get a slight satisfaction from filling in a bubble?). The goal is to fill in all 30 days, of course, so that by the end of it you will have a well established habit. You can click here to get your own tracker to get started with it now!
8. Stay the Course
Now of course, no one is perfect. There will be bumps. Slip ups will happen. No one sticks to a habit every single day for the rest of their lives flawlessly. In fact it’s much easier to break a habit than it is to build one. But the important part is that when you do slip up, you get back on track and keep going. And you do so as quickly as possible.
My dad often said, just show up and do the best you can each day. There will be days that life gets in the way. But don’t count it all as loss. Research shows that missing your habit once does not have a measurable impact on your long term progress, so when it happens, just show up the next day and do the best you can. Ditch the all-in or all-out mindset and embrace that progress is more important than perfection.
Along these same lines it’s important to remember to be patient with yourself. Sustainability takes time to establish. As you slowly increase your habit, or add more habits into the mix, it can get harder to maintain it all. But if you grow slowly, you will better master your habits and make them second nature, which will open the door for you to grow, or add in more, in an attainable way. So don’t get discouraged if it takes a while. Stay the course, and keep going!
9. Set Your Eyes On the Prize(s)
To help reinforce your habit, it’s significant to recognize the progress you make along the way. Paying attention to changes in yourself, or in your actions, is important. Your health is a lifelong journey, so you want to celebrate all of the little victories along the way. So try to notice when you complete your habit for the first time without even thinking about it. Or pay attention to how completing your habit makes you feel differently than you did before. Recognize what improves in your life as you implement your habit. By pausing to mark these little victories along the way, you can deepen the ‘why’ behind the habit and therefore make it mean more to you. This can inspire you to continue with it even further.
Now that you’ve heard all these tips, are you ready to get to building a new habit? As a reminder, we’ve created this simple tool to incorporate some of these tips and help you successfully build a habit that sticks. Because we believe that a healthy life is built one small habit at a time. So let’s get building!
Let us know in the comments what habit you want to focus on building first this year!
Written by Kelly Pruim and Brett Henderson
So we’ve established that sleep is a vital part to our health, but maybe you're thinking, that information is all good and well, but it doesn't change the fact that I still have a hard time falling asleep; or I still wake up a ton in the middle of the night; or I’m not getting nearly enough sleep and I'm exhausted. If those thoughts are crossing your mind, then this post is for you! We’re going to go through a variety of ways that you can get more, and better, sleep in order to reap the benefits that it provides (as well as avoid the risks that go along with not getting enough of it). It turns out there are a lot of choices we make during the day that impact the rest we get at night, so if we can address those, we can hopefully make some positive changes. Preparation and intention matter in the realm of health and wellness, and sleep is no exception. So let’s dive into some ways we can set ourselves up for a successful night’s sleep.
Because this is our “Exercise AND” series, a significant place to start when figuring out how to get more sleep is to consider how exercise and sleep are intertwined. Most significantly they are connected by the body’s core temperature. Exercise is going to increase the body’s temperature, which then increases alertness and communicates to the body’s internal clock that it is time to be awake. When the body slowly lowers back to its normal temperature range, it is triggered to feel drowsy, which of course is intended to help you fall asleep. When timed out right, then, exercise can help you fall asleep more quickly and hopefully give you a better night’s sleep.
Another connection between the two are those feel-good hormones - endorphins. Among their many physiological functions, endorphins create a level of activity in the brain that can help keep you awake. Then, about an hour or two after exercising, the endorphins will clear out and give the brain a chance to wind down into a more restful state. How often do you have trouble falling asleep because your mind is racing with thoughts? Perhaps exercising can help.
One thing to note, though, is that there is still some debate on what time of day, and what duration, is best to exercise in order to best impact your sleep. There are arguments that say it doesn’t matter when, as long as you do. But considering the impacts that exercise can have on the body, it can very well affect your sleep patterns. This is where it is important to listen to your body. Everyone responds a little differently, so if you are having some trouble sleeping, try to work out at different times of the day to experiment and figure out when might be the best time for you. If working out in the morning makes you crash by mid-afternoon, try an afternoon workout to see if that crash falls more in line with your bedtime. Or if you work out in the evening and feel wired by the time you lay in bed, try doing an earlier workout to see if you feel the same. It might take a little time to find your best rhythm, but doing so can help maximize the quality of sleep you get.
As for duration, studies have shown that even 10-30 minutes of intentional movement a day can make a difference in your sleep quality. Like we recommend in general here at Worth the Work Fitness, consistency is what matters. So find an exercise routine that you enjoy so you are more prone to stick with it.
Just like you budget your money, I’d encourage you to budget your time (in all areas of life, but especially with sleep). By going to bed and waking up around the same time each day, you can set your biological clock and train your body to expect when it needs sleep. So, if you have to wake up by a certain time, calculate 7-9 hours back to determine what time you need to try to go to sleep by, and then stick to it. Do your best to not compromise those hours for more work, studying, socializing, or even exercising. And adults should also try to avoid long naps during the day, especially after 3 p.m. Setting up a sleep schedule might take some trial and error, so approach it with intention to find out what your body needs.
So you set a bedtime for yourself, and stick to it, only to find yourself lying awake in bed because you’re not exactly tired yet; or your mind is still racing with thoughts. To avoid this dilemma, especially if you are trying to adjust to a new sleep schedule, it’s important to take some time to prepare yourself for your entrance into dreamland. By establishing a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine, you can train your body and mind to wind down and enter a better state of calm as you get ready for bed. I’d suggest giving yourself anywhere between 20-60 minutes to wind down for the night. Fill that time with relaxing activities like taking a bath, reading instead of scrolling, listening to calming music, doing some restorative stretching, or practicing meditation. Dimming your lights also cues your body to start melatonin production. But probably the most significant tip we can give: PUT AWAY ELECTRONICS. I say that in all caps, because I often need that reminder myself. I know I’ve given the excuse before that scrolling on my phone helps me wind down, but biologically speaking, it actually keeps us wound up. Both the mental stimulation and the blue light (which decreases melatonin production) can be major blockers for good rest. So it’s best to avoid using your phone, tablet, or television 30-60 minutes before bed.
If you follow a soothing bedtime routine, and you still end up lying awake in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up and do something relaxing to briefly re-stimulate that rest. Just be careful to avoid anything that will busy the mind. If you are still struggling beyond that, look into taking a melatonin supplement to help support your sleep (just consult with your doctor first to determine if this will be a good approach for you).
Tranquil Sleep Environment
It’s not just HOW you go to sleep that matters, it’s also WHERE you sleep. If your bedroom does not foster a place of calm and rest, odds are you are going to have a harder time sleeping. For starters, make sure your mattress is supportive and comfortable for you, and use bedding that feels nice to the touch and keeps you at a comfortable temperature (this varies from person to person, but most people sleep better at a cooler temperature - around 65 degrees). You also want to eliminate as many distractions as possible. Block light with heavier curtains, an eye mask, or simply by turning off lights in your home that shine into your bedroom. Also, if sounds tend to wake you up or keep you awake, drown out noise with a white noise machine, fan, or even ear plugs if you find them comfortable. One more thing you can do is have calming scents in your room, like lavender, which is commonly known for its calm inducing properties. You can diffuse essential oils, or have a spray that you put on your pillow each night.
Healthy Daily Habits
Apart from exercise, there are many other healthy habits that you can practice throughout your day (or avoid) that will support your sleep at night. Getting exposure to sunlight is a key contributor to your circadian rhythm, which ultimately impacts your quality of sleep, so get outside for some sunshine during the day when you can. Cutting down on caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening, will prevent stimulating the brain too late in the day. (Note: As much as you might love coffee, be aware of how much you are relying on it for energy. If you need an entire pot to make it through the day, try cutting back and implementing some of these other recommended tactics to improve your sleep). Try to eat dinner early enough in the evening so that you are done digesting your food by the time you’re ready for bed. And if you must, keep snacks before bed on the lighter side. Reduce your alcohol consumption, especially before bed, to avoid sleep disruptions. While alcohol might make it easier for you to fall asleep, it’s not always the best at keeping you asleep. Similarly, nicotine stimulates the body in a way that disrupts sleep. Smoking is actually correlated with numerous sleeping problems, among many other health issues, so ditching that habit should be a top priority for your sleep and your health.
So all in all, between exercise and practicing other healthy daily habits, setting a sleep schedule, establishing a bedtime routine, and giving yourself a tranquil sleep environment, there are many things you can do to get more and better sleep at night. While there are a lot of tips mentioned here, just like we do with everything in Worth the Work Fitness, we want to help you make small, sustainable changes that lead to a lasting impact. So you don’t have to change everything all at once. Just pick one or two new habits to start with and see how they impact your sleep - both in quality AND quantity.
One final, and significant, thing to note: the topic of sleep is a big one, and it’s too broad to cover everything about it in one blog post. Things like having newborns or young children, being a shift worker, or having a legitimate sleep disorder can all significantly impact all of the approaches mentioned here. So for more information, check out the Sleep Foundation (which is where the majority of this information came from anyways!). And if you try to implement some of these methods and you still have trouble sleeping, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor to explore some options. Like all of the aspects of health, it all comes down to what works best for YOU. So be sure to give your sleep, and yourself, the attention and care that you need.
Sources:      
Written by Kelly Pruim
So far in our “Exercise AND” series we’ve covered some of the biggest aspects that make up our overall health, including nutrition, hydration, stress management, and social support. All of these aspects - and more - are intertwined and work together as building blocks for our health as a whole. While it can be tempting to focus on just one aspect (like exercise), it’s important to not overemphasize some areas, while neglecting others. One area that is commonly neglected is the one that we are covering today: SLEEP. I think we all know that sleep is important. But do we treat it like it is as essential to our health as all of the other aspects? Well, we think it is so essential that we are going to take two posts to cover this topic. Today we’ll be chatting about exactly why sleep is so significant, as well as the risks of poor sleep. Then next week we’ll be offering tips on how to get better sleep. Let’s dive in!
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SLEEP
No matter your age, sleep is an absolute essential to survival. It’s a natural function our body knows it needs. Without it, our bodies will creep into dysfunction. While it is true that babies, children, and even teenagers need more sleep to aid their growth and development, adults still need a quality amount of sleep for their own healthy functioning (usually between 7-9 hours a night). We never outgrow our need for it. Even though it can seem “unproductive” because we’re not actively doing anything, the brain and body are at work to keep all of the body’s systems effectively functioning. Here are just a few ways it does that through the many phases of sleep:
RISKS OF POOR SLEEP OR SLEEP DEPRIVATION
It’s obvious that not getting enough sleep leaves us feeling tired during the day, but the more sleep deprivation becomes a chronic concern, the more your physical and mental health are negatively impacted. Here’s how:
But maybe getting adequate sleep is difficult for you for one reason or another. We’ll be helping you out with that next week when we cover how to get better sleep. See you then!
Sources:      
Written by Kelly Pruim
I’m a firm believer that we are not meant to go through life alone. As humans, we are wired for community. And while how we engage in community can look different for our varying personalities, the universal deep rooted need for it is very real. That’s why it is no surprise that social support plays a significant role in our health and well-being - even when it comes to exercise. But these aren’t the only factors that make up our health. We’ve been covering a variety of the components of living a healthy life in our “Exercise AND” series, and so far we’ve covered nutrition, hydration, and stress management. Today we’re diving into what social support looks like in the context of health, the benefits of having social support on your health journey, and how to better establish your support system so you can keep on living your healthiest life possible.
FORMS OF SOCIAL SUPPORT
When it comes to exercise, a support system and community can take a variety of forms. And the more variations of it you have, the greater support you are going to get. Your social support could look like:
There are all kinds of roles that can be filled in your social support system.
BENEFITS OF SOCIAL SUPPORT IN FITNESS
So let’s say you’ve got one or two of these forms of support. What do they actually do for you? Well, whether you realize it or not, these relationships are actually providing you with a variety of benefits.
The desire for social support, community, and accountability is often what leads so many people to flock to and love group fitness classes. But what happens when going to the gym just doesn’t work for your life? Or if it just doesn’t fit your personality? Working out at home is convenient, but it’s hard to stick with it when you don’t have the face to face interaction that offers a great level of accountability and support. So through Worth the Work Fitness, we try to create ways to have it while still at home. From having your own personal trainer, coach, and accountabilibuddy, to being a part of a Facebook community to connect with others online, you can still experience all of these benefits from the comfort of your home.
TIPS FOR BUILDING SOCIAL SUPPORT
Now, it’s one thing to identify social support, and it’s another thing to tend to and nourish it. Here are some ways that you can find a supportive community, and be a good fitness pal:
Sources     
Written by Kelly Pruim
In a year like 2020, I think it can go without saying that we are all familiar with stress in some way. The number of people who experience stress on a daily basis only seems to be getting higher, and as a result, their health is even more compromised. That is why stress management is such a crucial part of living a wholly healthy life (along with factors like exercise, nutrition, hydration, sleep, social support, stretching, and rest - all of which we are covering in this current blog series). So today we are breaking down how exactly stress affects our bodies, and how exercise, specifically, can help.
First things first, it’s important to know that at its core, stress is not fully a bad thing. Our bodies have been designed to utilize stress in emergency situations for quick responses. By releasing stress hormones (i.e. cortisol and adrenaline) the body is triggered to respond in a variety of ways, such as increasing your heart and breathing rate to get a deeper intake of oxygen; constricting the blood vessels to send more oxygen to the muscles for more strength to take action; producing more blood sugar to give you more energy to respond; and tensing up your muscles to prevent injury .
Stress becomes a concern, though, when it does not dissipate. If we continuously feel stress on a day to day basis, or if we are experiencing stress for long periods of time (a.k.a. chronic stress), it starts to negatively affect our bodies, and puts our health at risk. An article on everydayhealth.com entitled “The United States of Stress 2019” explains it well:
When stress doesn’t let up and is paired with the feeling that we have little to no control over the circumstances that are creating it, that’s called chronic stress. Over and over again, the research points to one key fact: Prolonged or unremitting stress exacts a stunningly toxic toll on the body, brain, mind, and soul. Its ongoing assault wears us down, measurably aging — or “weathering” — our insides, for some of us much more than others."
So before we get into why exercise and stress management go hand in hand, let’s chat first about how exactly this kind of negative stress plays out in our bodies.
EFFECTS OF STRESS
Stress certainly affects us mentally and emotionally, but it also does a lot more to us physically than we might realize. Here are a handful of ways that chronic stress can manifest itself:
It certainly doesn’t help that the worry or discomfort that any of these physical symptoms may raise in us can put us on a cycle of creating even more stress. That is ultimately why chronic stress can be so concerning. And it is why finding healthy ways to manage stress is so incredibly important. There are a variety of approaches to stress relief, and the most successful tactics for each person vary, but a major one that we are going to focus on today is exercise.
HOW EXERCISE HELPS
The interesting thing about exercise is that it essentially imitates the effects of stress on your body, and so it helps your body work through them in an effective way. And considering the many connections the brain has with the body, the better you can make your body feel, the better your mind will feel. Here are some tangible ways that exercise can do that:
EXERCISE AS STRESS MANAGEMENT
Like we said, there are so many ways that you can practice self care and work to manage the stress in your life, but because of the benefits listed above, and because we’re about the kind of work that’s worth it around here, here are some tips for stress management that solely revolve around incorporating exercise more into your weekly routine.
The bad news is, stress is sometimes inevitable. Add in a worldwide pandemic and a divisive election season and it might feel downright unavoidable. But the good news is, there are so many ways that you can work to combat and overcome it. Exercise is just one of them. If that’s a route you are wanting to try to help you relieve your own stress, reach out to us and we’d love to chat about ways we can help you on your fitness journey. And always remember: YOU’RE WORTH IT.
Sources:       
Written by Kelly Pruim
As we established in the first post of our ‘Exercise AND’ series, there is more to living a healthy life than just exercise. While it’s absolutely a significant part of it, it’s not the only part. Things like nutrition, hydration, sleep, self care/stress management, social support, stretching, and rest all together are some of the big areas that can make up our overall health. It’s important to not neglect any of these areas, but it can also feel daunting to take it all on at once. At Worth the Work Fitness, we’re all about making small, sustainable changes for our health and wellness so we can build habits that stick, so we’re spending time breaking down each of these big areas to remind you of their significance, and guide you in ways that you can put in the work to live a well-rounded, healthy life. Today we are focusing on hydration. Strap in folks - we’ve got a lot of great science-y information for you, as well as some great tips for staying more hydrated.
Importance of Hydration
Considering our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water, water is the most important thing for us to intake in order to not just thrive, but to function (apart from oxygen, of course). We have to intake it, because we have to replenish the fluids we constantly lose on a day to day basis through things like skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool. And if you are exercising regularly, you are losing even more. When we work out, our bodies shed water at an even quicker pace because of our faster, deeper breathing and increased sweat production. Therefore, when we are engaging in consistent physical activity, it’s all the more important to replenish ourselves with both nutrition AND hydration. Here’s why:
Does that seem like enough reasons to consume an adequate amount of water? And that's not even covering all of the other not-so-fun symptoms that result from dehydration such as dizziness, headaches, rapid heart rate, and more. It’s obvious from this that whether we keep a healthy level of hydration or not, we can severely impact our overall well being one way or another, especially when we are regularly exercising.
Exercise and Water
As mentioned above, your body loses more water than usual when you exercise, and just how much you lose is dependent on a few things. Your sweat rate, the heat and humidity of your workout environment, what clothes you are wearing, and how intense or how long you are exercising can all impact how much you sweat, and therefore how much water your body is losing. And if your body uses up its store of water it will be unable to cool itself through sweat, and could lead to dehydration and overheating. So if you are engaging in regular, strenuous, physical activity without increasing your fluid intake, you’re headed towards trouble. Therefore it is important to prepare your body by hydrating an hour or two before a workout, maintaining levels by drinking water every 10-20 minutes (or as needed) throughout a workout, and replenishing after a workout.
How Much to Drink
There are a lot of varied recommendations on what is the right amount of water to consume in a day, so it may be best to speak to your doctor to determine exactly how much is right for you, but a good rule of thumb is to cut your weight in half to determine how many ounces you should drink. For example, if you are 180 lbs, you should aim to drink at least 90 oz of water a day. Then if you exercise or exert yourself physically, you should add onto that amount to replenish what you likely lost. Other factors should also be taken into consideration, such as how heavily you sweat, if you are on any medications that act as diuretics, or if you have any medical conditions that require higher levels of hydration such as diabetes, heart disease, or cystic fibrosis.
Also, probably the best indicator of if you are getting enough to drink is paying attention to your urine. Dark, yellow color, and often more odored urine signifies dehydration, while pale, clear, and odorless urine means you’re doing well.
What To Drink
There are of course a variety of ways to consume fluids for hydration, but it is imperative to realize that not all varieties are the same. We’ve talked a lot about water, because it is hands down the best thing for you to drink in order to stay hydrated, and obtain the many benefits listed above. While we’re not going to tell you to swear off any particular drinks, we at least want you to be informed about the effects some can have on your body so that you make the best decision for you.
In some cases, it can be beneficial to hydrate after a workout with a sports drink to replace electrolytes that are also lost through sweat. This is especially beneficial for those who are doing high intensity exercise in very hot weather. But this is a category of fluids that should still be handled with caution as many sports drinks are high in calories because of added sugar or high levels of sodium. Some also contain caffeine, which has a diuretic effect on the body and can lead you to urinate more, which defeats the purpose of trying to hydrate. So pay attention to nutrition labels, serving sizes, and ingredients if you choose to hydrate with these kinds of drinks.
We also encourage you to be weary that fruit juices or sugary drinks, like soda, can be hard on your stomach - especially if you are dehydrated. And it’s also important to recognize that alcohol consumption can interfere with muscle recovery from exercise and negatively affect a variety of aspects of your performance, so be mindful of these things when choosing what to pair with your meals. Or, if you’d like to indulge yourself, be sure you’ve gotten enough water in throughout your day and consider these drinks as a treat, not a form of hydration.
Tips for Drinking More
So with this information overload of all things hydration and water, let’s make this a bit more practical. Because it goes beyond just knowing WHY hydration is important. It’s also a matter of making proper water consumption a habit in your life, which is where many people tend to struggle. Contrary to popular belief, simply feeling thirsty is not the best indicator for your need for water, because typically that's a sign that you are already dehydrated, so don't wait around just to drink when you feel thirsty. You want to be proactive about staying hydrated all throughout the day, so here are a few tips to help you do just that:
Sources:       
Written by Kelly Pruim
I know what you’re thinking. These ‘before and after’ pictures are out of order, right? The middle picture is supposed to be the ‘after.’ Well, it was my ‘after’ picture 2 years ago. The picture on the right is what I currently look like. You might say, “But Brett, I don’t understand. You’re a trainer. Aren’t you supposed to always look like the guy in the middle?” I used to think that too, because honestly, that’s what we’re told to believe. But through my journey I’ve realized that the level of work and dedication it takes to not only get the body in the middle, but also maintain it, isn’t sustainable for me - and it isn’t even remotely fun.
So how did I go from the left, to the middle, to the right?
I was the guy on the left up until about 9 years ago, and I was miserable. I ate whatever and whenever I wanted (mostly favoring fast food) and my version of exercise was getting off the couch to grab more ice cream. As a result, I hated how I felt. I hated how I looked. I had no energy; no self-confidence. And I was far from who I wanted to be.
When I finally decided enough was enough, I committed to making changes in my life so that I could leave this version of myself behind and never return. I started with at-home workouts, and later started participating in High Intensity Interval Training classes. Along the way I also established healthier eating habits. Slowly but surely, I started to see results. I started feeling better about myself and my body, so much so that I wanted to help others feel the same way, so I became a fitness trainer. After several years of hard work, the guy on the left became a stranger to me.
Then, in 2018 some coworkers and I decided to undergo a nine week transformation challenge to try and get in the best shape of our lives. I ramped up my workouts and buckled down on my nutrition more than ever before, and by the end of the nine weeks I became the guy in the middle. I succeeded in the goal of getting in the best shape of my life. But there was one major problem: I was miserable. Not the same kind of miserable as the guy on the left, but miserable nonetheless.
I was happy with my body, sure. But I hated the process and all of the work it took to get it. I was working out two to three hours a day, six days a week. I felt the need to add on to the HIIT workouts I loved with extra cardio training that I despised. I tracked every single thing I ate. I deprived myself of many of the foods I enjoyed because they were “bad.” I drank nothing but water. There were absolutely no cheat days to enjoy a few slices of pizza. No beers with the boys while watching football. No ice cream outings with my family. And any time I was craving something or was tempted to veer off my plan, I told myself “it’s just nine weeks.” I was disciplined and I was seeing results, but I wasn’t having any fun. More importantly, I was missing out on the things in life that mattered more to me. All of the extra time I put into working out kept me away from spending time with family and friends. And even if I did have the time to join in for some fun activities, I was so fixated on sticking with my nutrition plan that I couldn’t even fully enjoy myself. I’ll never forget one day about halfway through the challenge when I was with my family on a hot summer day. We had just finished a round of golf, and my wife and step-kids wanted to stop and grab a snow cone to help cool down. They all ordered their treats and I ordered a large water. I remember sitting there miserably thinking to myself, “This is ridiculous. Why am I drinking water while they’re enjoying a snow cone?” But I continued to tell myself “It’s just nine weeks. Suck it up, and gut through it, and then you can eat some treats again.” I was willingly suffering through the process of getting the body I thought I wanted, and thought I needed in order to be a fitness professional, but I realized through it that the work I was putting in wasn’t worth it to me.
There had to be another way. There had to be more than being all-in or all-out. There had to be a happy medium between being a couch potato who eats fast food and ice cream all the time, and being uptight about working out constantly and eating vegetables with every meal, because neither side of the spectrum was proving to be enjoyable for me.
It was then that I decided that I would rather cut myself some slack to eat the right stuff most of the time and exercise often enough for me to look like the guy on the right, rather than kill myself to look like the guy in the middle. And to be honest, I feel just as good now as I did then, but I’m much, much happier. I’m still disciplined with my food, and practice moderation. I still exercise regularly. I’m still gaining strength. But now I do it in a way that allows me to live my life without constantly worrying about what I’m eating and how I’m going to maximize my gains each day. The work that I put in now feels so much more worth it to me. If I don’t do anything, I go back to the misery of the guy on the left, and I know I don’t want that. But I also don’t want to put in so much work, that I’m stressing myself out about doing everything perfectly. One guy was all-in and the other guy was all-out. And both weren’t very happy. I’d rather live in the gray and do the right stuff most of the time. It’s just taken me all this time to figure out exactly what balance of that works for me.
Now don’t get me wrong, in order to achieve results, there is hard work to be done and sacrifices to be made. You’re going to have to cut back on processed sugar. You’re going to have to replace soda with water. You’re going to have to stop eating out as much and put more thought into your meals. You’re going to have to push through workouts that challenge you. You’re going to have to put in some work. But my goal is to help people figure out what kind of balance works for them, and is in line with their overall goals. That’s the biggest key to sticking with it over the long-run. And isn’t that what’s worth it in the end?