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Month: January 2017

15 Get-Out-of-Bed Tricks from Fitness Pros

15 Get-Out-of-Bed Tricks from Fitness Pros

Whether you’re an early bird or a ‘wake-up-at-noon’ sort of person, there are times when getting up with the sun to work out can feel far less appealing than burrowing deeper into your bed. That’s why we asked 15 fitness professionals what they do to avoid getting stuck in their sheets when they should be sweating it out. Soak up these creative ways to fight stay-in-bed temptation — and add ‘em to your Pinterest board for when you need extra inspiration.

15 Ways to Get Out of Bed Every Time

1. Post it for the world to see.
“I hold myself accountable via social media. For example, I’ve made it a goal to do weekly morning swim sessions over the winter, so I post an Instagram shot each week when I’ve completed my morning pool workout. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big difference when it comes to getting out of bed for early morning workouts.

 2. Blast those alarms.
“I purposefully have my alarm clock timed so that once I hit snooze three times, my iPhone alarm will also go off. Then, once I have both of my alarms blaring at me, I’m forced to go across the room — I keep my iPhone far from the bed — and shut them off. It wakes me up and gets me out of bed every time.

 

3. Unleash the FOMO.
“I picture my competition rise ‘n grinding, too! Or I think of all of those times I couldn’t work out due to injury or illness, and how I would have given anything in those moments to be able to move my bod! That always gets me moving.” Ellen Wexler, Ironman triathlete and Kona finisher

4. Snap out of it with the right song.
“I like to have a good workout or motivation song play to wake me up. I pick a song that really makes my hair stand up and makes me want to start doing push-ups right there in my PJs.” – Thomas Konefal, DavidBartonGym Astor Place training manager

5. Build a support squad.
“I make my morning workouts by staying accountable to others. If you have a friend who is counting on you, you will be much less likely to cancel. Plus, exercise buddies can make morning workouts so much for fun so that you really look forward to them.” – Bonnie Micheli, co-founder of Shred415  

6. Take it one day at a time.
“Instead of trying to become a morning person overnight, I ease into the morning wake-ups by setting my alarm 10 minutes earlier for a week, then another 10 minutes for a week, and so on until I get to my desired wake-up time. It’s still not easy, I don’t always pop out of bed unfazed by the pre-dawn hour, but it definitely helps.” Sarah Evans, C.P.T., personal trainer and running coach>

7. See it to believe it.
“I do a quick one- to three-minute mediation the night before to prepare my mind to get excited for my morning workout. I visualize the workout, how I’ll feel once I get into it, and the benefits I’ll reap from the workout.” – Christa King, founder of Fitlandia and life coach

8. Cue up coffee cravings.
“I pre-set my coffee maker to go off 10 minutes before I want to get going. It slowly wakes me up with the delicious smell of brewing coffee, which entices me out of bed before my alarm can even go off. Then I swig down a cup of java before hitting my workout! Perfect way to get energized and maximize a morning sweat session.” – Megan Landrum, R.D., C.P.T., personal trainer and co-founder of Zest Nutrition

9. Set up for success.
“I get everything ready the night before so I can sleep in as long as possible and still make it to the gym. The night before, I write out a rough idea of what I am doing training-wise, get my coffee ready to go, select my music, and set out my clothes. I find that if I need to make a bunch of decisions first thing in the morning, the odds of me getting to the gym plummet.”  Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., exercise physiologist.

10. Turn in on time.
“If I’m going to get up early, I know I need to go to bed that much earlier. It isn’t realistic to expect myself to pop out of bed and have an energetic and productive workout after five hours of sleep.” Grant Weeditz, C.S.C.S., trainer Anatomy at 1220.

11. Think about the good day ahead.
“I think about how it’s a new day and a new opportunity to get better. And how mad I’ll be later if I don’t do it.” Melissa Christensen, Ironman triathlete

12. Set your eye on the prize.
“I set rewards for myself. For instance, I’ll tell myself that if I hit all of my morning workouts, then come Sunday I’ll buy that item of clothing I’ve had my eyes on or those headphones I saw someone in the gym wearing and loved.” Nick Hounslow, personality on E!’s Hollywood Cycle

13. Keep the peace.
“My husband kicking me saying, ‘Your alarm keeps going off and is going to wake the kids’ will get me out of bed every time.” Jessica Peltier, Pilates, TRX, and BootyBarre instructor

14. Set a scary goal.
“I am not a morning person by any means. On most days I’m a ‘snooze three times before I get out of bed’ guy, unless I have something to train for. Training for a fight keeps me motivated to get out of bed early. There’s no better motivation than the guarantee of literally getting your butt kicked if you aren’t prepared. That said, not everyone wants to fight. Luckily, events like a 5K or 10K, a triathlon, or a mud race also work.” – Thomas Konefal, DavidBartonGym Astor Place training manager

15. Fork over the cash.
“I sign up for a class that requires payment, so I’m less likely to want to skip it. I also might let the instructor know that I’m coming so someone else expects me to show up.”Nikki Naab-Levy, Pilates and group fitness instructor.

22 Simple Steps to a Healthy, Happy Morning

22 Simple Steps to a Healthy, Happy Morning

It turns out there’s some truth to the idea of “waking up on the wrong side of the bed.” According to research, how you feel at the beginning of the day can have a big impact on how you feel all day long. That’s why we checked with Colette Ellis, stress management coach and founder of InStep Consulting LLC, to find the best way to start your day healthy and happy — even if you aren’t a morning person.

22 Tricks for a Healthy, Happy Morning

Happiness

1. Think positive. “It’s important to listen to your self-talk,” Ellis says. “We all have that little voice! Listen to what it’s saying about you and your odds of achieving your goals.” When you encounter negative thoughts, reframe them to be positive, and those thoughts will manifest into happiness. Spend some of your morning reminding yourself of all the things you’re grateful in your life to block the negative thoughts that might peep in during your day.

2. Practice affirmations. Once you’re working on turning around your negative self-talk, you can go a step further and add positive affirmations to your morning (Trust us, you’ll want to steal all 17 of these!). Ellis suggests writing down your goals, and then imagining how you’ll feel when you achieve them. For example, if your goal is: “I want to eat a healthier, cleaner diet,” turn this goal into a present-tense statement: “I’m eating a healthier, cleaner diet” (as if you’re already accomplishing it), and start each day by reading your new affirmation. Some people benefit from reciting the positive mantra to further reinforce the message.

3. Get centered. Whether you’re new to meditating or a long-time practitioner, meditating for as little as 10 minutes can decrease stress, anxiety and depression and increase positive emotions, says Psychology Today. Want to try it? Visit Headspace for easy guided meditations.

4. Begin mindfully. Even if you can’t make time to sit and meditate, you can always practice mindfulness throughout your morning —

as you shower, brush your teeth, or make breakfast. Mindfulness brings your attention to the present and all the sensations of the moment, Psychology Today reports. “Being more mindful is a way to remain connected to the present and not worry about the future,” Ellis says. “It’s a very effective stress reduction technique.”

5. Connect with loved ones. Rather than rushing through your morning together(ish), take five to 10 minutes to spend quality time with your kids or partner. For example, you could snuggle for a few minutes when you wake your kids, or sit and have a coffee with your spouse. Ellis even suggests that you and your significant other could craft some daily affirmations together. (Two birds, one stone!)

6. Try a wake-up light. If you’re the type to sleep through your alarm on the reg, a wake-up light — which is designed to wake you gradually, as the sun’s light would — could help. There are those who swear by them, in fact.

7. Ignore your phone. Fielding work emails and scrolling through the chaos on your newsfeed is a sure-fire way to create stress for before you’re even out of bed. Instead, challenge yourself to ignore your phone until you’re out the door for the day.

8. Stop hitting snooze. Snoozing several times in the morning may feel like you’re sneaking in extra sleep, but you’re actually just sapping your energy (and time!), according to Greatist. Instead, check out these ways to start hopping out of bed at the first alarm.

9. Make your morning routine a family affair. “It’s important to communicate to your partner or children about your new habits, and let them know why you’ve decided to do take them on,” Ellis says. “This can help avoid potential disagreements if the habits change or when you first interact in the morning.”

10. Wear something that makes you happy. It’s important to throw on something that makes you smile. You don’t have to pull together a runway-ready ensemble, either. Simply choose a hat or scarf you love — something that will make you smile every time you catch your reflection.

Healthy Eating

11. Drink a glass of water. After going eight hours or so without a sip to drink, enjoy a glass as soon as you get up. Staying hydrated helps you feel awake and alert to boot, says A Life of Productivity. Check out some flavor-packed fruit-infused water recipes!

12. Have a sit-down breakfast. You probably already know that dashing out the door and gulping down your breakfast isn’t particularly satisfying, but research even shows that sitting down and eating mindfully can help you enjoy your food more and consume fewer calories.

13. Fuel up. You’ve heard it a thousand times, but it bears repeating. Starting your morning with a healthy, satisfying meal will help you gear up for your day. Do some meal prep every Sunday before your week starts and have breakfasts prepared so you can just grab and go. Consider these 16 brilliant new uses for your muffin tin. Don’t have all morning to whip up something gourmet? Try these 15-minute breakfast recipes.

14. Eat a little something sweet. While you may assume a “healthy” breakfast consists of egg whites and veggies, just a little bit of sugar in the morning helps your brain start firing on all cylinders, according to Psychology Today. So, there might be a case for keeping up that sugar-in-your-coffee habit after all — though just a teaspoon will do!

15. Brown bag it. While you’re in the kitchen making that healthy breakfast, take a minute to pack yourself lunch and a few pre-portioned snacks. When hunger strikes, you’ll be prepared!

Exercise

16. Stretch it out. According to BBC’s Science Focus, that urge to stretch in the a.m. is biological: Stretching helps re-lubricate muscles that have been sitting still all night. Instead of rushing to start the day, give into that urge with these stretches to wake you up.

17. Hit the gym. Want to sleep better at night? Hitting the gym in the morning may do the trick for some, says research. Getting some exercise will also make you feel more energized — and what better way could there be to start your day?

18. Squeeze in a workout. If you can’t make it to the gym, take advantage of the time you spend getting ready to do exercises like calf raises and squats.

Productivity

19. Identify what’s dragging you down. With some obvious but very worthwhile advice, Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project suggests taking some time to identify what’s routinely hanging you up in the morning (say, missing keys). That way, you can actually fix the root issue (like not having a place to keep your keys).

20. Set your daily tasks. On your way to work or as soon as you sit down at your desk, create a comprehensive to-do list so you can stay on-task all day long. While it will inevitably evolve as the day progresses, having a solid reference point to come back to will be 1000 times more productive than, say, checking Facebook.

21. Listen happy. Got a commute? Great! Take that time to jam to music you love or podcasts that make you smile. If you’re in a playlist rut, check out these awesome playlists to accompany your ride (or you run later on!).

22. Hoof it. Research has shown that taking a walk boosts creativity and mood. If you can, reroute your commute so that you can spend more of it walking in the sunshine. If you can’t walk to work, start the day by taking Fido for an extra-long jaunt.

I Tried It: 40 Minutes of Lucid Dreaming

I Tried It: 40 Minutes of Lucid Dreaming

There was a time a few years back when I couldn’t sleep more than four hours a night. I would stay up thinking about work and relationships and looming events. And I’d wake in the middle of the night to the panic of a mish-mash of incomprehensible thoughts — or worse, the jagged whisper of my dad’s last breath. My bed wasn’t a place of restoration — it was a place of unrest. For someone who loves sleep more than hugs, high fives and new kicks, this was source of major distress.

My problem wasn’t uncommon: generalized anxiety disorder. But, like the other 6.8 million Americans with the scarlet “A” stamped across our furrowed foreheads, it was just life. And the plight of restless nights? I was in the company of 50 to 70 million. Thankfully, my sleep habits would slowly improve over time — but I could still count on one terrible, no-good, sub-five-hour sleep at least once a week.

Then, just last month I plopped that normal New York existence into a proverbial blender and pressed “puree.” I was moving to the Wellness-Obsessed Capital of the World: Los Angeles. Despite the immediate assault of sunshine and the purchase of a stupidly expensive new mattress (still worth every penny), I was contending with new work hours, new fears (OMG, driving) and people that seemed so nice (but wait, what’s the catch?). Within two weeks I was Googling day spas, yoga studios and meditation centers like a woman possessed.

That’s when I came across Dream Reality Cinema in Beverly Hills. Not to be confused with your average popcorn-slinging movie theater, this one plays a single film designed to induce “dream meditation.” Think: eyes wide open, in a floating state of consciousness. Once students master that form of zen, they can move on to lucid dreaming, or the ability to stay conscious while dreaming. (Yup, that means you can control what happens in your dreams, Inception style.) And that’s not all: Some believe you can achieve a higher level of thinking, problem solve more effectively, and tap into a greater world of creativity in such a state.

Lucid Dreaming: The Premise

According to the founders, Hungarian philosopher and human cybernetics researcher Sandor Lengyel and physician Emese Toth, MD, the first step to dream meditation requires a bit of guidance. That’s where their 40-minute film comes in, based on 25 years’ worth of studies on dreaming, relaxation and meditative techniques.

As with other forms of meditation, dream meditation taps into your present thoughts, sensations and emotions, but — you guessed it — in a sleepier state (my forte). And while wide-awake meditation practitioners have to deal with physical stimuli around them, dream meditation does two things differently.

First, it removes those outside influences, allowing people to theoretically reach a meditative state more easily. As Lengyel puts it, “Lucid dreaming is the perfect meditation, because there is no way for your conscious mind to interfere with the practice.” Second, it increases the possibility for growth and change, since certain regions of the brain are more active in a dream-like state. (Namely, parts of the visual cortex, motor cortex and motion-sensory areas deep within the brain, according to some sleep experts.)

Dr. Toth explains: “When we are able to live consciously in our dreams, our colorful, real and memorable dream life can develop and become connected with our wakeful life.” All this brain boosting on top of the traditional meditation benefits, like reduced anxiety, improved sleep and increased productivity, to name a few.

What’s more, there’s a healthy dose of Inception to lucid dreaming: “The film [that’s shown in the studio] provides a precisely engineered brain-regenerating program,” says Dr. Toth. More specifically, it flips a switch on natural processes that have otherwise been turned “off” in our heads, such as the ability to think freely and creatively, she says.

This might be explained by the fact that during sleep-mode, the prefrontal area of the brain becomes less active. This is where logical reasoning resides. “[While dreaming], the brain can freely decide what to do and where to take itself…It can behave naturally and unrestricted because nothing forces it to behave otherwise,” Dr. Toth says. What results: Restoration, serenity, invigoration — or, well, whatever your heart (or head) desires.

Dream Reality Cinema: The Experience

On the Uber ride to Dream Reality Cinema, I scrolled through the studio’s testimonials. “Unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before…” “so relaxing…” My driver pulled up to the corner and I hopped out. No fluorescent marquee, but the whitewashed boutique was undeniably 90210-chic.

Inside, I checked in with the receptionist, who escorted me to the two-person cinema room. She invited me to take a seat in a cushy, “zero-gravity” leather chair. (Note to self: BYO meditation date?) It reclined just past 180 degrees, my head a few inches below my feet. My guide requested that my glasses come off. “Sorry, but I’m blind?” “That’s OK,” she said. The super-fancy wraparound specs came on, and she directed my finger to the adjustable focus so even near-sighted folks like me could see.

To start the session, newbie lucid dreamers required a primer. A short, animated introduction video offered a few key tips. The first, “Just let yourself react freely.” Meaning: Do not force yourself to mediate, concentrate or, like this writer did, attempt to take mental notes for her article. When text appears on screen, do not zero in to read the words. Instead, maintain ‘full-screen vision.’ “That is, seeing everything at the same time. As you should do in life, as well,” the creators explain. It was 4 p.m. and my brain-slash-life was already foggy from the day. Focus, Shakeshaft, you cannot write a story about a fancy nap.

What followed was a winding path of visualizations to coax me into the elusive conscious-yet-dreaming state. At one point I was prompted to imagine I was a tiny pebble falling into a vast body of water. I played along. Falling, falling and, sure enough, the rest gets fuzzy. My expertly-crafted sensory experience (just as I suspected) had turned into a warm and glorious slumber. How long was I asleep? Would the receptionist know?

Living in a Dream: The Assessment

During my hour-long session, no, I did not learn how to lucid dream. And I shouldn’t have expected to. Dr. Toth explains that lucid dreaming takes many sessions of practice and self-analysis. Only with continued practice will “individuals learn to remember, control and eventually unlock valuable information stored deep in the subconscious mind.”

As for the claims that dream meditation will normalize sleep or stress disorders? For me, TBD. While I did sleep like a champ that night, the founders emphasize that any long-term improvements will require a lengthier commitment.