How do we get more willpower!?
By Forest Melton
I woke up this morning to missed texts from my running buddy Devon, “We’re still meeting today, right!?” Oops! Unfortunately, I’m a failure, and sometimes it feels like my brain has no control in the battle of willpower, especially when my body is fatigued. And apparently this morning my body said, “Nope! I’m on strike, buddy! We’re going back to sleep“. Despite setting 3 alarms, and not recalling ‘snoozing’ any of them, I managed to miss our morning run date. Ironically enough, I’m reading a book by Dr. Kelly McGonigal called “The Willpower Instinct”, and it is awesome. I’m only on Chapter 3 of 10, but so far it’s been a great read! Dr. McGonigal talks about willpower being a muscle you have to train and build through practice. And much like a muscle, things that prevent muscular growth seem to prevent willpower growth.
It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that I had been sleeping for 2 hours when my alarm went off this morning, definitely setting myself up for failure a little bit there. One of the key ingredients in decision making is glucose. With sleep deprivation, the body has a harder time delivering glucose to the brain, which has obvious taxing effects. So, less sleep = less glucose delivery to the brain = less willpower, ouch.
As stated above, with less glucose comes less willpower, and low blood sugar has the same effect as sleep deprivation. When we starve ourselves, less glucose is reaching the brain, resulting in a reduction in willpower. Who knew a well-balanced diet effected so many aspects of life.
One of the most interesting things McGonial covered in this book, so far, was a study out of the University of Sydney where researchers found a ‘wonder drug’ that was massively effective in increasing willpower, the study found that after only 2 months of treatment participants had the following results:
- Improvements in attention and the ability to ignore distractions
- Reduced smoking, drinking, and caffeine intake
- Participants ate less junk food and more healthy food
- Participants spent less time watching tv more time studying
- Participants were saving money and spending less on impulse purchases
- Participants felt more in control of their emotions
- Participants procrastinated less and were less likely to be late for appointments
What in the heck is this ‘wonder drug’ and how do I purchase a life time supply!? …it was actually exercise, weird! Participants only exercised once a week for the first month, and up to three times per week by the end of the study. Exercise has been shown to be the single most effective tool in increasing willpower. Say what!? And you can purchase this ‘wonder drug’ for the low low price of Free!
In conclusion, for all of you, who like me, feel willpower deficient, here are 4 other ways to increase your willpower per Dr. McGonigal’s research.
- Exercise – because duh.
- Sleep – a full night’s rest, but also naps help.
- Meditation – 5 minutes to 20 minutes a day has been seen show immediate and lasting benefits. In fact, studies have shown that meditation creates positive physical changes in the brain (Taren 2013).
- Slow Breathing – in times of stress, consciously slow and deepen your breathing. It physiologically minimizes the fight or flight response, making you less impulsive and more intentional. An instant increase in willpower reserves!
- McGonigal, K. (2012). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of it. New York: Avery.
- Taren, Adrienne et al. (2013) “Dispositional Mindfulness Co-Varies with Smaller Amygdala and Caudate Volumes in Community Adults”. Plos Journal. May 2013.
6 Benefits of Running
It’s National Running Day, and I found this awesome article by Jacquie Cattanach!
Everyone knows that running is a great way to get into shape, but did you know that it can benefit almost every part of your body, as well as lift your mood? Running is incredibly effective at making you healthier in a number of ways. While it may not be everybody’s favorite form of exercise, knowing what it can do for your life just may make you look at running in an entirely new light.
Improve Your Health
Believe it or not, running is actually a great way to increase your overall level of health. Research shows that running can raise your levels of good cholesterol while also helping you increase lung function and use. In addition, running can also boost your immune system and lower your risk of developing blood clots.
For women, running can actually help to lower your risk of breast cancer. It can also help reduce the risk of having a stroke. Many doctors today recommend running for people who are in the early stages of diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis, and it is proven to help reduce the risk of having a heart attack. By helping the arteries retain their elasticity and strengthening the heart, your chances of suffering a heart attack can be significantly reduced.
Running is one of the best forms of exercise for losing or maintaining a consistent weight. You will find that it is a leading way to burn off extra calories and that it is the second most effective exercise in terms of calories burned per minute, following only after cross country skiing.
Boost Your Confidence
Not all of the benefits of running are physical. Running can provide an noticeable boost to your confidence and self-esteem. By setting and achieving goals, you can help give yourself a greater sense of empowerment that will leave you feeling much happier.
Stress can actually cause a number of health and mood problems. It can also diminish appetite and sleep quality. When you run, you force your body to exert excess energy and hormones. Running also helps to reduce your chances of developing tension headaches.
When you are depressed, the last thing you likely want to do is to get up and go for a run. Yet you will find that after only a few minutes of running, your brain will start to secrete hormones that naturally improve your mood. In fact, there are few things in the world that can better or more rapidly treat depression than exercise such as running.
It may seem surprising to learn all of the different ways that running can improve your health, but the truth of the matter is that these are only a few of the many benefits that it can offer to your body. Running really is incredibly beneficial to the body, mind, and spirit, and you will find that even short runs can leave you feeling more energized, more focused, and better able to enjoy all that life has to offer.
…obviously these are also benefits of general exercise. Happy Running!
10 Tips For Your Best Workout
For the City Gym Boys, looking good is only part of the fitness equation. Though their brawn undoubtedly fueled the success of their popular beefcake calendars in the late 1990s, Charles LaSalle and his team are equally dedicated to curbing the obesity epidemic among today’s youth and adults.
Working with the Boys & Girls Club of Harlem, Dr. Oz’s Health Corps, The American Diabetes Association and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, the health and fitness mentors conduct challenges designed to teach students how to make staying fit fun.
“The single greatest contributor to America’s sorest shame is that we’re a nation that no longer moves,” LaSalle says in his new book Get A Bangin’ Body, a how-to manual on conveniently and inexpensively building a body you love — no calorie-counting required.
LaSalle lives (and works out) by the philosophy that “It’s not what you eat, it’s what you do,” and shares his best advice on how to get moving with these ten time-tested tips.
TEN TIPS FOR YOUR BEST WORKOUT
- FUEL UP: Try not to eat a meal within three hours of your workout. You will not have the energy to work out if your body is still digesting your most recent meal. It’s better to be a little hungry — you’ll end up getting a better workout, and you’ll burn more body fat.
- WARM UP: Make sure your muscles are warmed up before you start exercising. Do at least ten minutes of cardio activity to get your circulation going. Cold muscles are more likely to get injured.
- LIMIT REST PERIODS: Rest periods between sets should be as short as possible — just long enough to bring your heart down a bit and for the muscles to recover. This is not phone time or socializing time. If you’re able to maintain an elevated heart rate by keeping your rest periods as brief as possible, your body will go into fat-buring mode while you’re also building muscles.
- KNOW YOUR MUSCLES: Always be aware of the muscles that you’re working when performing an exercise. For example, if you’re doing dips, know that you’re working your triceps.
- ISOLATE: Try to isolate the major muscle that is being worked during the exercise. For example, if you’re doing push-ups, make sure your chest is doing most of the work. It’s important to connect your brain to the muscle being worked.
- PRACTICE GOOD FORM: Good form is extremely important for getting good results and avoiding injuries. It requires more focus and energy, but you’ll see the results.
- CONTROL YOUR PACE: Use a nice, controlled pace — about four seconds each way — for your positive motion (the “hard” part of an exercise) and negative motion (the “easy” part of an exercise). This will allow you to maximize your workout time and will result in much faster and better physical changes.
- EXHALE ON THE HARD, INHALE ON THE EASY: Exhale on your positive (“hard”) motion. This will result in the air filling your lungs naturally as you perform your negative (“easy”) motion. Good breathing is as important as good form. Your muscles and brain need oxygen to perform.
- FEEL THE BURN: The longer you keep the muscle under stress, the better and faster your body will change. Endure the burn for as long as possible without giving up physically and mentally. Focus on the mental picture of what you want to look like physically and endure the burn.
- CHALLENGE YOURSELF: Your workout should never be easy. Work to muscle failure for every rep of every set, for every workout. Do not hold back for the next set or next workout! You want that bangin’ body today, right? Give your workout all you have today, as if there’s no tomorrow.
Note: Make sure you’re healthy enough to work out. As with any new exercise routine, please consult your doctor before beginning this program.
Reprinted from Get A Bangin’ Body by Charles LaSalle by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright © 2012 by Charles LaSalle.
Why Being Skinny Doesn’t Mean You’re Fit
By Dr. Arthur Agatson from active.com. It’s what I’ve been saying all along! He writes:
Remember when a total cholesterol reading of under 200 was the standard for judging cardiovascular health? Today, of course, we know that it’s the components of cholesterol (LDL, HDL, the size of those cholesterol particles, and triglycerides) that are much more predictive of heart health. Well, our understanding of total weight and its effects upon your heart has evolved in similar fashion. It’s not your total weight but the characteristics of that weight—how much is fat and where it’s deposited—that matter most.
Surprised? Thank the scientists at the Mayo Clinic, who are behind this recent discovery. After comparing various health markers with the weights and body mass index numbers of thousands of adults, they found that more than half of those with normal weights and BMIs actually had “high body-fat percentages as well as heart and metabolic disturbances.” In other words, they had the same risks of coronary disease, diabetes, and other chronic illness as people who weighed much more.
This research, and its sobering implications for millions of Americans, led to the establishment of a new condition called normal weight obesity (NWO). This is more than just the latest fat phobia. It’s worth paying attention to because the accumulation of fat in the body, especially in the belly and around internal organs, causes low-level inflammation that gradually damages tissue and blood vessels. (Think of it as metabolic rust.) So even though your weight or BMI may be within acceptable limits for your height and age, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Do your own analysis, starting with these steps:
1. Stop being preoccupied with pounds. As with total cholesterol, total weight is just one general assessment of your health. Yes, people who are trying to lose weight are more likely to succeed if they weigh themselves often. But seeing numbers that are within a healthy BMI range may actually disguise your heart disease risk. Keep them in perspective.
2. Measure your body fat. For a quick estimate of this key factor, wrap a cloth measuring tape around your naked waist just above your belly button. If your weight is fairly normal but the number you see above your navel is 35 inches or more (40+ inches for men), you may have NWO. For a more exact reading, ask your doctor (or health club) to measure your body fat. This can be done using a variety of noninvasive methods. If it’s higher than 30 percent (20 percent for men), you likely have NWO.
3. Get a blood test. Ask your doctor to order a thorough blood analysis at your next physical. Warning signs of NWO include low HDL (total cholesterol and LDL may be normal), along with elevated triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
4. Target belly fat. If you’re diagnosed with NWO, take aim at visceral fat. Despite how entrenched it may seem, you can lose it. The keys are: Avoid the white stuff (white bread, rice, pasta, and other refined carbohydrates). Add monounsaturated fats, which target belly fat, to your diet. And do interval exercises to burn more fat and strength-training to build lean body mass.
5. Keep tracking fat. Just as you hop on the scale to keep tabs on your weight, do the same with your body fat. Have it measured periodically at your doctor’s office or health club. Or just observe the notches where your belt buckles.
Conversely, if you’re considered overweight by current standards, there may be some good news here. If your body-fat percentage is lower than 30 percent (20 percent for men) and your blood chemistry is normal, then you are among the “fat and fit.” (Many athletes are in this category.) Continue to eat smart and exercise, but accept your body for what it is and know you’re not unhealthy because of it. Feeling fat and feeling healthy are no longer mutually exclusive.
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