Monday, April 25, 2016

FitBit Healthy Habits Challenge!

Since I purchased my new FitBit ChargeHR (I had the FitBit Flex gifted to me previously), I have been diligent about keeping myself a lot more active. Every day is a new opportunity to do better than the day before. While a personal fitness device can be expensive (and a personal choice), in my opinion, it can have a lot of benefits you can use to help you meet your own personal fitness goals. One of my big New Year's Resolutions this year was to be more active than I was in 2015. And, with my fitness device, I feel I can achieve that goal. While you may not choose FitBit, any fitness device that can help you achieve your goals is one worth investing in. Invest in your health.
My FitBit ChargeHR
One thing I personally like about FitBit is some of their initiatives on social media and as an avid follower of them on Instagram and Twitter, I found out about their new Healthy Habits Challenge and I figured "why not"! Each week is a new "theme" focusing on an area of health improvement. Now, while we all have different ways of achieving our goals, each one of us can always do more. And, this challenge is a step in the right direction.
Week 1 - Stress
Day 1: Meditate for 10 minutes. (Monday). This one did not take too much planning honestly. I pulled out my yoga mat, set my phone to airplane mode and put a timer on for 10 minutes. To meditate, go to a room where there is no distractions (I put on Awakening by Venedel). I chose my bedroom as it is the most serene and less "stressful" of all the rooms in my home. In order to meditate, sit comfortably in comfortable clothing, minding your posture, clearing your mind of thoughts, and concentrate on breathing. If your mind goes to wandering to a thought, go back to concentrating on your breathing once again. Repeat as necessary. Side Note: I have to admit I felt really calm and at peace afterwards, especially considering I did this right after work. It is a great way to transition home and allows you to calm your mind and not "bring the stress home".
Day 2: Go for a 15 minute walk outside. (Tuesday). Since I had a cold, I really didn't want to go outside. However, after the walk, I felt so much better. A few minutes of sunshine a day can give you a lot of Vitamin D you need. And, when you go outside, you allow your mind to be free of whatever is in your home or office that brings you stress.
Day 3: Drink a Decaf cup of Tea. (Wednesday). I love tea already- and drink it almost every day so this is a bonus for me. I am a fan of Clipper's green tea and bring a few bags in my purse for trips when I want something other than plain water. I also love their white tea version and peppermint in the winter when I get congested. They have a great line of fair-trade and organic blends. 
Day 4: Listen to music that makes you happy. (Thursday). I find the most relaxing of all music I listen to is my Relxation station on Pandora. However, I usually enjoy listening to soulful blues-style music like Chris Stapleton so for the most part, I switched from my most frequented stations to relxation and jazz. Side Note: I could tell you my mood normally varies while I am working but once I put on actual music (not songs with lyrics), i felt more engaged in my work and it felt smoother. The workday flies if you can listen to music. 
Day 5: Do an "Equal Breathing" Exercise. (Friday). Also known as Sama Vritti, this technique is counting between the time you exhale and inhale. There is a great video explaining it if you would like to learn more about it. While I enjoyed this opportunity to try something new, I personally did not feel that it impacted me as much as morning yoga or meditation. Side Note: I really like the series "conscious relaxation by Rodney Yee. I discovered him in college during one of my required Health courses and fell in love with this routine. It helped me during a lot of stressful times in college and I recommend it to my friends who need time for de-stress. If you are not feeling the 'equal breathing", give his series a try. 
Day 6: Write about your day in a Journal. (Saturday). Normally, I do not tend to journal in an actual book - I have had the unfortunate experience of having my personal thoughts read in the past so I have a personal private blog where I take the time to jot things down at and that is where I put my ideas down. This go round, I wrote about my experiences with my health and my day and just anything that was on my mind at the time. I have always been a person to journal and I find that once I get my thoughts down and on paper, a slight feel of relief to what was on my mind. So, take time to mentally disconnect with the world and reconnect with yourself. I highly recommend this on a daily basis, even if it is for just a few moments. 
Day 7: Take time to socialize. (Sunday). This is simply a no-brainer for me. I feel we need to develop and nourish friendships. We are social beings are even if you have a discomfort with a great deal of social experiences, you can find friendship a great place to find connection and comfort. Whether it be a close friend, family or a group of people with shared common interests, take time to catch up with an old friend, talk about a new book or film that inspired you or just make time for family. It is important to have human interaction- studies have proven we as humans are social beings and need social interaction to survive. Even if you do not know anyone (maybe you have moved to a new city?), donating your time and volunteering has the same effect as well.  
Week 2- Nutrition
Day 1: Add an extra veggie to your plate. (Monday). This is a no-brainer for me. And, I usually do it anyway. I made steak and veggies for dinner. Instead of just having asparagus and green beans, I opted to add a helping of sweet potato as well. It was a truly satisfying dish. 
Day 2: Stock up on healthy snacks. (Tuesday). I love LaraBars. They are super healthy to eat and go for on-the-go boost of energy. Since I will be hiking over the weekend I wanted a few for the trip. I also grabbed a huge container of salt-free trail mix (a favorite of mine!). Additionally, I stocked up on green apples and bananas (since I love both with almond butter). 
Day 3: Drink a glass of water before each meal. (Wednesday). This one is honestly tough for me. I have a difficult time getting my normal 8 glasses of water a day in. I did not do so well at the 2 Nalgene Water Bottle a day challenge. However, I made it through and found that drinking water prior to a meal better allowed my system to digest the meal. You can learn more about water's impact on your body here.
Day 4:  Put your meals on a small plate. (Thursday). This is a practice I have been doing for years. I learned awhile ago that we eat visually as much as we do by taste. Eating is an experience. After reading this study by Cornell University, I have changed to using smaller (appetizer sized) plates instead. Even when dining out, I opt for smaller plate portions instead of larger ones.
Day 5: Keep half of your plate green. (Friday). This one was not too difficult during the workday but by evening I was bound for a girls weekend away for my best girl pal Becky (who I inspired to do Whole30- you can read more about that here). Dinner was a struggle but I kept to my goal and still accomplished it - since we had planned salad with our dinner, I loaded up on salad mix with oil and vinegar dressing.
Day 6: Replace candy or sugary snacks with fresh fruit. (Saturday). This one was not too difficult to do on Saturday since I had planned a good hike with the girls, no one craved a candy bar on or after our hikes. I picked apples and stone fruits that kept the girls nourished and we all knew we could easily carry fruit in our packs over candy anyway!
Day 7: Take note of portion sizes. (Sunday). This is something I am conscious of daily so this part of the challenge was not difficult honestly. I kept to keeping my portions sizes correct. If you struggle with portion sizes, this link is a great visual of what our sizes should be. This article helped me a lot during Whole30.
Week 3 - Sleep
Day 1: Try to wake up at the same time every day without pressing snooze. (Monday). I do not normally press the snooze button and catch more sleep. Normally, I will hit snooze on accident when trying to turn it off. As my phone has become my alarm clock, it has basically changed my snooze button habits. The weekends will make this a tad tricky.
Day 2: Go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual. (Tuesday). I found this to be a lot more difficult as I do not have a set bedtime. I know I should sleep by midnight or so. However, I am by trade a night-owl and often times have difficulty falling asleep without this challenge. I did manage to go to bed earlier than normal, however, I did not fall asleep 15 minutes earlier. Le sigh!
Day 3: Avoid caffeine after 2 pm. (Wednesday). The only caffeine I consume is in my tea normally. As I do not drink sodas and I do not drink coffee that often, this day is the easiest of this week.
Day 4: Make your room sleep friendly by lowering the temps before bed. (Thursday). I actually read this study on sleeping with lower room temperatures and I have noticed better sleep with a slightly chillier room. For this particular night, I lowered the temperature to 65 degrees and I slept wonderfully.
Day 5:  Do some yoga moves before bed. (Friday). I followed this guide from Women's Health on Bedtime Yoga. I had never done bedtime yoga prior to this but I really enjoyed it. I felt a lot more relaxed and ready for bed. This may be the start of doing this on a more regular basis. 
Day 6:  Abstain from alcohol. (Saturday). This one was really difficult - only because I attended a food and wine paring dinner party with one of my very good friends. Having friends who enjoy hosting a monthly dinner party that pairs wine with each dish can make it a bit difficult to enjoy part of the meal when you have to abstain from one part of the meal. However, I made do and I succeeded- even though I did not like it. 
Day 7: Skip all screen time 1 hour before bedtime. (Sunday). This is the hardest for this particular week, considering I normally do a bit of scroll time before bed. And, honestly, I almost forgot this particular day's goal until the evening. But, I did it! (I didn't say I had to like it). I did not notice any difference in no phone versus a night of scroll time before bed affecting my ability to fall asleep or sleep soundly. So, take it as you will.
Week 4 - Fitness
Day 1: Add 1,000 steps to your daily goal. (Monday). My goal is currently 10k steps/day since that is the Surgeon General's recommended daily goal for everyone. Some days I do more, some days I do less, depending on if I am working, running errands, or traveling. (I at least make it my goal for 10 stair climbs a day- as that is a great way to get in shape) During the work week I struggle making the 10K, so this was a true challenge for me from the get go to add an additional 1,000 steps to that goal. Thankfully, I was dog sitting this week, and in having to walk the dog multiple times throughout the day really helped. While you do not need a dog to complete this goal, it has been noted in many studies that having a companion often helps. No pet? Try a close friend or significant other and take a stroll after work and during your lunch break. Side Note: I started this trick where I park further away from the stores I need to run errands in, which makes me walk further. Every step counts, so keep going!!
Day 2: Work out for 10 minutes. (Tuesday). Since I am in the middle of switching gyms, I opted for using my home gym. I did a mix of yoga, light weights and "briskly" walked the dog I am dog-sitting this week. It was a good workout and 10 minutes is really all you need.
Day 3:  Walk/Run 2 miles. (Wednesday). This was super easy to do since I was able to put this in throughout the day. I did a quick walk around the block before work. During lunch, I walked the dog the entire time (I came back to make lunch to eat while I worked). And, in the evening I walked for about 2 hours around the neighborhood. I am thankful for my neighborhood is as beautiful as it is, it makes it easy to see something new.
Day 4:  Do 50 crunches in the morning. (Thursday). I loathe crunches, so I opted to do mine on the stability ball and that helps a ton for me and my back. Try it! 
Day 5:  Work out for 30 minutes. (Friday). This was easy since we left to go hiking for the weekend up in Shenandoah National Park. If you have the opportunity to hit a park, it is by far the best workout you can do! Guaranteed! We ended up camping up there overnight since we wanted to do a hike the next morning! 
Day 6: Stretch at your desk. (Saturday). I was not at my desk, rather on top of a waterfall (more on that soon!) but i did a ton of stretches along the path. It does help with keeping you feeling less stiff throughout the walk. After a 5 mile hike, it is essential!
Day 7: Go for a walk on your lunch break. (Sunday). Since I don't work Sunday, I took the opportunity to walk to the museum to check out a new exhibit. It was the best walk I have had. Culture and fitness - sign me up!

WRAP UP! If you are up for the challenge, I highly recommend it. I found this to really reach a lot of different areas of one's own fitness - both mentally and physically. I feel a lot better after a month. 

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