Privilege

What do I associate with it? I usually touch the wide subject of health when writing. But here I am- sitting in an air conditioned tour bus- visiting the sites of India. Fast back couple of weeks ago: I saw a documentary by Chelsea Handler called: “Hello white privilege my name is Chelsea”. I understood for the first time what people of color mean when they say they are tired of white people asking them for guidance when it comes to reducing racism, appropriation and unjusts in this world. Arround the same time I started listening to the audiobook: “Get out of your mind and into your life”. It is a selfhelp book- an attempt on my part to rid myself of low self worth, low self esteem, a disturbed body image and anxious thought patterns. What started as an attempt to help myself, turned within two chapters into the realization how much of my focus is on myself. I suddenly for the first time understood what it means to have white privilege. There are people in this world with real struggle- real hardships- and here I am listening yet to another selfhelp book because I can’t bear the burdens of my existence. Selfpittying myself- complaining and ungrateful for it all. I would love to tell you that I did take action after that realization but the truth is that I just continued my life as usual. And soon enough my mind focused on itself again- trapped in the same cycle of selfpitty- unable to be greatful for the privileged life I have.

This brings me to today. I’m sitting in a bus that brings me from Agra to New Delhi. I’ve seen a lot during the past few days- driven past shanti towns, ignored relentless merchandise sellers on the street, and left begging children empty handed. Although I felt bad for those fellow human beings I never lost my composure-up untill today that is. Street merchandise sellers are always crowding our bus while we wait for the bus to get going. Although these merchandise sellers are relentless and sometimes even agressive, I always understood why they are doing it. It’s their means to survive and make a living. As I watched them, holding up their merchandise- in the hopes that one of our group members would want to buy one of their items- I locked eyes with one of the sellers and wasn’t prepared for the look on his face. His eyes were desperate and pleading. It shook me up. My heart flooded with emotions- I wanted to buy the items he was holding up off his hands. It all happened quickly. The bus started driving and my husband not understanding what has happened discouraged me. And against my own heart’s better judgment I didn’t act on my impulse to buy the merchandise nor even trying to attempt to explain why I wanted to buy them. I didn’t speak up. It broke my heart and my eyes still flood with tears when thinking about it. The possibility to act in that specific moment has long passed now. But the nagging voice to do good and help people that do not have the same privileges in life as me is louder than ever. I need to start taking real actions that impact the lives of others less fortunate than me. This thought has been in my mind for a long time but to this date I haven’t been able to figure out how to do that. I’ve shyed away from it when ever even the thought of attempting it came to my mind. I’ve waisted enough time pitting myself and finding excuses. It’s time to use the privilege given to me for the good of others.

The time to act is now.

I will have to do some research in order to find causes that I can support. Please comment and let me know what causes you support or if you know of any good causes that need supporting.

I’ll be keeping you updated.

Thank you.

Priorities:

The word priority has been in my head for quite a while now. There are different associations I make with it. When I think of priority setting, time management inadvertently comes to mind. This association was formed by me when listening to Ted talks that discuss time management. The resonating tone of these talks is that time management is a question of proper priority setting.

I’ve been struggling to manage my time properly. For some reasons I don’t have enough hours in a day to fit in my priority list. As I struggled to get a grip on this topic, winter came along. This winter was very hard on my mood and overall energy levels. And during this time I came to the understanding that priorities have to shift sometimes.

Before I explain what I mean by that, I want you to reflect on your own priority setting. How do you prioritize? Life presents us with millions of opportunities. We navigate through life based on the priorities we or others have set for us. We may make decisions based on our dreams and aspirations. We may make decisions based on social norms or values that we formed ourselves or were transmitted to us by our environment. I don’t want to get into a discussion of what’s considered right and wrong priorities in life because each person gets to decide that for themselves. But be mindful of how you prioritize things in your life and why you do it. I also want you to understand that if you don’t make the decision of how you want to prioritize your life yourself, others will prioritize for you.

So how should you choose? When setting your priorities, you have to understand where you are right now, what you want and where you want to be in the future. Based on that, you form your priorities in life. Goal setting and priority setting is one and the same thing- so the process looks the same: If you want to be a dancer, your priority has to be dancing and if you want to eat healthier, a priority might be to learn more about how to cook and make healthy food. Additionally, I think we need to be aware of the fact that life is not always linear and your resources and capacity to follow your goals and therefore priorities may shift from time to time. If you are like me and have several things you’d like to have as a priority, it’s important to understand that you can’t always focus on everything simultaneously. And there are certain priorities that are more important than others. I for example made writing one of my priorities, but when I struggled with my energy levels and mood, I felt the need to take a break from writing and pay closer attention to my core priorities: My work as a personal trainer and my wellbeing. I made a decision but I couldn’t stop beating myself up about it. It was really hard to stop thinking about the fact that I haven’t written in months. I was very impatient and frustrated with myself.

Only now do I realize the importance of having taken a step back. As I went through this down time, I started reading a book that focuses on the Art of Essentialism. It talks about the fact that our society these days favors the tendency to prioritize too much and therefore we tend to spread ourselves to thin and eventually burn out in one way or another. The rule of Essentialism is to prioritize less- not more. And the author talks openly about the sacrifices that need to be made in order to prioritize the essential few from the trivial many.

So what did I learn from this? It is ok and even necessary to eliminate priorities that at this moment no longer serve you. Be aware of what your core priorities are and eliminate everything else in times where it just all becomes too much to handle. I wrote my core essentials down so I can look at them, when I feel overwhelmed. Just because writing is not part of my core essentials, doesn’t mean it will not continue to be an essential part throughout my life. Priority setting sometimes means sacrificing a nonessential item on your list. But know that if you get rid of a priority right now, this doesn’t mean you can’t go back to it when the time is right.

Book Reference: Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less by Greg McKeown.

Periodization

If you’ve been in the fitness world for a while you are familiar with this term. Or maybe your personal trainer used the term when explaining the details of his/her plan to get you in your desired shape. Personally, I stumbled across this term the first time when I was going through my personal training certification. The content given during the certification about the topic was insufficient and confusing to me. I wanted to learn more about it in order to use it for myself and for my clients benefit. Here is a short breakdown of the concept behind periodization:

“Periodization is the division of training periods and the principle of cyclical training where programming variables such as intensity, volume, frequency, rest, and exercise selection among others, are strategically manipulated and varied in order to reduce the risk of injury and maximize sport performance for individual athletes or sports teams.

Periodization takes into consideration the level, training age and genetic predispositions of an athlete in order to avoid overtraining and allow them to peak for one or several competitions. In a periodized training plan, certain time-frames exists for the manipulation of programming variables, these time frames are termed macrocycle, mesocycle and microcycle.

A macrocycle is considered the longest duration of the training cycle, usually several months in length or even a few years. For example, a quadrennial macrocycle describes a 4-year long program used to prepare an athlete or sport team for the Olympic games. A macrocycle is comprised of several mesocycles, which are a few months in length and can be defined as a prepatory, competition or transitional phase. Lastly, mesocycles are further divided into microcycles which deals with training on the weekly-basis.”1

I know it seems highly technical and vague, especially when not in the personal training industry, so why am I telling you this? I’ve been thinking about my blog and its content for a while now and which direction I should take with it. As I was doing that, I started to think more and more of ways to empower my readers and clients to become more knowledgeable about their own fitness routine. I understood the potential of periodization and what it could do for my clients and readers. Below you see how periodization could look like for someone with no to little experience in strength training. For the sake of keeping it simple I will not include aerobic conditioning or stretching into this program. However I will discuss this topic in a later blog article.

Week1-4:
Most people suffer from the same structural conditions. They have rounded shoulders and a hunched over upper back from slouching and sitting all day at their desk. That means their upper back muscles are weak. So the focus is mainly on the upper back. If someone is not able to do a proper row or lat pull down, it’s not advisable to have them do a loaded back rack squat or deadlift. You need upper body strength first. Another focus at the beginning is core stabilization. It’s important to learn how to keep the lower back under control while moving your arms and legs in any exercise.

Example work out:

Row
Step ups
Lat pull down
Glutebridge walking
Dead bug

(3 sets of 12reps to 15reps for each exercise is a great way to start for anyone new to exercise, it needs repetition to master the movement. Try and aim to go to the gym 2-3 times a week, giving yourself at least a day in between the work outs to recover)

Week 5-8
Building up upper body strength continues in this phase. In addition to upper body pulling movements I’m including pushing movements as well as more advanced lower body exercises as upper body strength increases.

Example work out:

Core twists
Kneeling single arm row
Double goblet squat
Straight arm pull downs
Dumbbell bench press
Standing Hip thrusters
Sitting over head press
(Hit the gym 2-4 times per week. You can keep the sets and reps the same as in week1-4)

Again these are just examples of how the first two months can look like when starting out. As you go on and develop general strength you can play with the number of sets and reps depending on your goals. If you want to increase your power, incorporate plyomeric exercises. If you want to focus on muscle endurance increase the sets and reps.
I advise you specifically at the beginning to ask for help. It can be a lot to deal with at first, specifically when correct form and execution of exercises is key. So hiring a personal trainer that educates and corrects you as well as guides you on the way of achieving your goals will not only help you to achieve your goals but will also make you more confident in working out on your own. Only if you’re empowered with knowledge can you make it a sustainable lifestyle with as little as possible injuries along the way.

If you have any questions regarding your exercise routine or want to get started with personal training sessions, feel free to contact me or any of my colleagues at Junction Fitness Hub.

Resources:

1:http://gcperformancetraining.com/gc-blog/periodization101

How to make your new years resolution stick

We are all goal oriented. We all want to have certain things or feel or look a certain way. We want to master tasks and we want to be acomplished. Specifically now that the new year is approaching fast, some might endulge a last time in old eating patterns or habits, already with the mind set on their new years resolution. Here is the thing though: your mind/ ego that focuses on the goal is incredibly unpatient. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have the weight lost on the first day or week you start your new eating and fitness regime? Or if you could right away do the headstand or speak a foreign language perfectly the first time you practice and learn? In our minds we romanticize the desired outcome, but what the mind does not calculate is how much time, practice, devotion and patience it needs to achieve the goal at hand. Thats why new years resolutions are given up usually by the time spring or summer arrives. Yes there are people who stick with it, who push through and actually achieve the goals they’ve set for them selves. How do they do it? Well there might be lots of reasons why, but in this blog article I’ll discuss two particular ideas. One of the ideas is inspired by an article I read myself a few weeks ago. The article describes the idea of not being focused with the end result but rather starting to enjoy the journey itself. I posted the link for the article right below- definitely worth reading!

So again what can we do to make those amazing resolutions stick better? Resolutions need actions, repetitive actions are habits. So the question actually is, how do you make new habits stick? One of the maybe most important ways how to, is by celebrating and enjoying every success that is made to implement the new habit. Guess what- if you love going to the gym or enjoy the process of learning a new instrument chances are great that you’ll show up to the task even when not feeling like it. I’ve been made aware of this particular theory through an habit tracker app. See the brain loves rewards. The reason we cant get rid of “bad” habits like endulging in to much unhealthy food or binge watch tv or 8 hours straight, its because they give your brain some sort of reward. The reason its so hard to form positive new habits is because we force ourselves to do a new habit, literally having to drag ourselves to where we have to be and your brain does not associate it with pleasure. Thats why at the slightest excuse people leave their dear new habit behind just to go back to what gives the brain more pleasure no matter how bad it might be for your overall health and wellbeing. So with that being said, here are my suggestions:

Celebrate every victory. Have fun while doing the new habit – blast your favorite tunes, smile, laugh and dance. Be proud of what you acomplished. Like that, your brain will not only tolerate the new habits, but actually recieves some pleasure out of it and you’ll start looking forward to it. Of course there will be days that will be harder than others then its even more important to celebrate even the smallest victory. And lastly to go back to the article i mentioned previously, fall in love with the process/ the practice. Remind your ego/mind that its all about the journey, if you stick to the path laid out in front of you, you’ll get there sooner or later while appreciating every second of it. So make your resolutions stick, celebrate every victory and learn to love the new habits that come with it.

Resources:

1.Blog article: The Iron Mike rule: The one thing successful people do differently by Mayo Oshin:

https://lnkd.in/gKsUPMr

2.Habit Tracker: Fabulous

My thoughts on self-imposed roadblocks on the way to success.

Success. Everyone wants it in one way or an other. But for some reason some people are better at being successful than others. Why is that? It’s simple: the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is their mind. It has nothing to do with how smart someone is but whether or not there are mental blockages that are holding them back. Imagine that with every step forward you take, there is something inside of you that resists. It is going to be hard to reach anywhere in life if you don’t free yourself of those limiting beliefs. It’s difficult to say where those mental blockages come from or why some people have more than others, but that’s something each person has to ask themselves.

Pre-existing mental blocks end up being self-limiting. These blockages were build up by us as a defence mechanism but most of the time they do us more harm than good. Often, we fail to notice that these blockages guide our behaviours. When we let ourselves consciously or unconsciously be influenced negatively by those selflimiting ideas and feelings, we selfsabotage. Self limiting beliefs like “I’m not good enough” can affect your whole life. They might decide for you what schools or jobs you apply to or what relationships you enter into. But self limiting beliefs can even affect much simpler day to day stuff like for example what you eat or how you work out.

Here is an example for you: You were motivated enough to sign up for a HIIT (high intensity interval training) class but are not quite up to the task when actually doing the class. You take extra water breaks or stop doing the movement correctly because something in your mind resists. There are a number of reasons that can limit the effectiveness of your work out and I will talk about that more specifically in a future blog post. Right now let’s focus on what might happen when your mental blockages take over the work out: They might tell you that the workout is too hard, or remind you how terrible you look after a cardio session- the list can go on. It’s one thing if you have physical limitations such as injuries or getting dizzy, or have other similar warning symptoms like that- I’m not saying that you should stop listening to your body and push towards injury. But listening to your body or your mind shortening the work out for you because of a a mental block are two different things.

Some people are naturally able to push through, but I think most of us struggle and that’s fine, because you can work on that. The first step is awareness. If you don’t realize or don’t want to admit that something is holding you back it will prevent you from exercising your body to it’s full potential and will decrease your potential gains at the gym. That applies not only inside the gym but also outside a gym setting. If you let your mental blocks and fear take control of your actions and interactions you also don’t live to your fullest potential.

For myself, I still experience blockages when it comes to cardio or heavy weight lifting, in so far as I have this strong protection mechanism in me that tells me “you’re not ready yet”. And by the way, that mind block is not only determinating my workout routine but also how I approach life and its challanges. This makes me lean on the safer side rather than overload myself. My responsibility for reaching my goals in the gym as well as outside the gym is therefore to figure out whether or not I’m being overprotective. This process needs good and honest reflection at all times. The same applies to other mental blockages that I noticed whitin myself. Keeping a journal to write down my observations, intentions and progress is a big help. You need to try out what works best for you. It can also help to practice mindfulness to be more aware in general of what’s going on arround you and inside of you. Stay away from distractions as much as possible- if you’re constantly distracted, its hard to build up any self awareness.
See because first you need to be aware of your mental blockages, then you can start thinking how they may affect your life. If you know that you tend to avoid something because it’s hard, start asking yourself why you have such difficulties and start putting yourself more into a situation where you can confront that. But just throwing yourself into an uncomfortable situation is just one step. You need to stay mindful throughout so that not the same fight and flight response gets activated. Understanding where those beliefs and emotions come from is also part of the bigger healing process. It’s great if you learn how to overpower those beliefs and mind blockages but getting rid of them would be much less energy that you need to spend on each day to be successful let alone get by. Working through them can be really hard and might take some time. Some people might require help in form of therapy in order to work through them. But it’s worth it because once you understand where they come and originate from and what triggers them. Once you know exactly what holds you back, you will understand how it is affecting your success and goal achievement in life and you can consciously, and with more ease, work towards your goal achievement and success.

Health, Fitness and Wellness- which path should we take?

There are a lot of opinions out there of what fitness and health should and has to look like. The problem as I see it is that we took fitness and health and associated them with beauty standards. This drove us further and further away from what health and wellness actually mean holistically speaking. Appearance became more important than actual wellbeing. That’s why people starve themselves to reach their goals, and why plastic surgery is booming. Following an ultimate beauty standard pulls us away from our own individual health path. What people don’t understand is that health is and means different things to each individual and therefore a balanced and healthy life style entails different things for everybody. You need to find your own rhythm to sustain the healthiest lifestyle possible. For some that means eating a raw vegan diet and going to yoga every day, for others it’s a ketogenic diet and lifting weights at the gym – to mention two ends of the health spectrums that are out there. The problem is that people look for answers and quick fixes, because they’re confused and have no idea where their healthy balance lies. And the health and beauty industry is more than happy to provide them with their approach to get the fastest results which makes it even harder to find your own way. At the end of the day you need to inform yourself and responsibly decide yourself what to integrate into your life. Health professionals who have your wellbeing firstly in mind will be able to give you guidance and a push into the right direction. But at the end of the day you have to listen to yourself. That means going through a trial and error approach until you figure it out. If you have 3 kids and a job it might be difficult to run to the gym twice a day, like that supermodel who’s regime you heard about. But that only covers the physical aspect of health and wellness. What about your mental and emotional health? What about healthy relationships? I believe that it comes all down to the proper mindset and appropriate goal and priority setting. There needs to be a balance for it all. It took me 23 years to figure out that I had the wrong priorities in life. And don’t get me wrong I sometimes still fall back into those old thinking patterns and I still need to adjust and work on my priorities in different aspect of my life to be balanced. But for most of my life, above everything else, I wanted to be skinny- no matter what. I used to follow a diet that included a tomato for the whole day and nothing else. I never quite managed to reach the desired outcome until now. I wasn’t able to keep my weight down for long periods of time. I felt miserable and desperate to reach my goal to be skinny. I didn’t know at that time what self-care actually means or entails. My self-love was nonexistent at the time. Falling in love and moving for my now-husband to Canada started a whole shift in my thinking. I had to practice self-care if I wanted to maintain this relationship. And now I do it out of love to myself. I still am not perfect but that’s not what self-love and self-compassion is about. What matters is that I made a mind shift. My priority is no longer to be skinny at any price. Although I admit that thought comes occasionally back when I’m most vulnerable. My priority is to be healthy, well and balanced in all aspects of life. That requires honest reflection and staying open to all kinds of feedback, it also requires decision making as well as holding yourself responsible. If being healthy in all aspects of your life is truly your number one goal, then everything else you might hope for will eventually fall into place as well. I try to eat healthy because I know how you fuel your body is important. I try to exercise or move on a daily basis because it keeps your body healthy and strong. I practice mindfulness to watch and calm my mind and thought patterns. The list goes on and I’ve never been in better health or shape than I am right now. Remember quick fixes and solutions go as fast away as they came initially. And if you want health and fitness to sustain, you need to follow your own path and listen to yourself along the way. What use is it to starve yourself to reach your goals, when you know it’s not a sustainable or healthy way to live? Also you don’t have to be on the perfect health path. Life is not black or white and health isn’t either. One healthy choice a day is still better than none. It’s a journey and priorities and circumstances might change but with the right mindset I believe you can always strive and attain your most optimal state of health at any given time. Health and balance is dynamic and always changing according to the circumstances you’re in. I’ve tried out a lot self-care and health practices in the past that didn’t work for me and there will be more trial and errors down the road- I’m sure of that.

Where on your path to health are you? Let me know in the comments below.

My thoughts on change, challenges and growth:

What Will You Do This Month That Will Be Better Than Before?

I recently resigned from my old workplace to start a new position as a personal trainer at Junction Fitness Hub. Before I even started, I received an email from my boss with the statistics for the previous month addressed to all trainers. At the bottom of that email we were asked to reflect and answer this question: What will you do this month that will be better than before? I took a minute to think about it. I realized I couldn’t answer it. I was perplexed and slightly worried. Why was this so hard? A day later I realized what the issue was. I never really asked myself that question before. In fact, I have remained stagnant for a while now.

I reflect and procrastinate on a daily basis but never have I ever asked myself this question so directly. It’s so easy to just go with the flow of daily routine and stay within the boundaries of your comfort zone, where nothing ever gets challenged, as long as you are sticking to the familiar. The problem with this is that you get stuck and stagnant without even noticing. The less you challenge yourself, the less you grow. As Creig Crippen once wrote: “You are being presented with a choice: evolve or remain. If you choose to remain unchanged, you will be presented with the same challenges, the same routine, the same storms, the same situations, until you learn from them, until you love yourself enough to say “no more”, until you choose change.” Not only that, but your mental chatter will remain the same as well and how you respond and react to everything as well.

The reason why it’s so hard to change and stick with new routines or accept and embrace change, is that your mind and body is not used to going beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. It can be difficult to not lose sight of your newly set goals when your mind and body try everything to resist the change that comes with new habits or goals. But the only way to grow is to keep pushing yourself over the boundaries of your comfort zone. I know from my own experience that if you’ve been stagnant for a while it’s even harder to push towards growth. This is why it’s important to not stay stagnant but to work on yourself continuously. It’s like a muscle, the more you use it the better you are able to adapt and grow. But how can we challenge ourselves on a daily basis to facilitate growing and evolving when life is so fast paced and hectic?

Here are some ideas on how to incorporate change into our busy schedules:

  • Ask yourself what will I do better the next time? Without setting goals it’s easy to lose track of what you want to achieve. It doesn’t matter if your goals are personal, health or career related, the key to success is that you set yourself goals that you can achieve and keep you motivated. Even with set goals you can lose track. That’s why it’s important to write them down. Whenever you feel lost and overwhelmed you can look at them and remind yourself of where you want to head.
  • Challenge yourself in your day-to-day routine by changing it up. The possibilities are endless and don’t need to take much time. E.g. Walking a different route when going to work, trying out a new recipe, going for dinner with friends during the week, changing up your workout routine, brushing your teeth with your other hand- whatever your routine, try to change it from time to time. Your imagination is the limit.
  • Interact and speak to people outside your friend circle. It will open your horizon and if you are introverted and feel socially awkward, like me, this is a great one to incorporate.
  • Learn or try something -have new projects. Is there anything you always wanted to learn or do? Why don’t you invest some time in doing that, even if it’s just an hour per week instead of sticking to your normal routine?
  • Work out. This is a big one. A challenging workout will always push you towards your boundaries and you have to mentally decide to push through them. Working out does not only facilitate growth on a physical level through muscle growth and/or increased endurance, but it will also enhance your ability to push through your boundaries outside the gym environment. Not only that but working out on a frequent basis will increase your energy levels. Change and challenges will demand more energy from you than your familiar routines, so the extra energy you get from working out will benefit you in having the endurance to achieve your goals.
  • Knowing and recognizing your limits and start expanding them slowly but continuously. If you never ran in your life, it might be too much to ask yourself to run a marathon tomorrow. It goes back to good goal setting and reflection. Know what limits you have mentally, physically and environmentally and set your goals accordingly and readjust them if you think that’s needed. If you want change to sustain you need to remember that you are in it for the long run. Short term goals are great and give you fast results but try to set long-term goals as well. Start asking yourself, what is it that you want to achieve in life? And how do you get there? Stay open and ready to go for what you want and there is no limit.

How do you challenge yourself? Let me know in the comments section.