Archive | July, 2012

Looking Closer at Habits – Part 4

31 Jul

In our last post, we looked at the Golden Rule of habit change, according to Duhigg. If you can identify the cues and rewards of a habit loop, you can change the routine.

That is the case most of the time. But for some habits there’s one additional, necessary ingredient.

Belief.

To illustrate, Duhigg points to the dynamics of habit change for members of Alcoholics Anonymous. What is it that makes participation in this group such an incredibly successful path to habit change, Duhigg asks.

Summarizing the findings of a group of researchers, Duhigg is worth quoting at length. “It was belief itself that made a difference. Once people learned how to believe in something, that skill started spilling over to other parts of their lives, until they started believing they could change. Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior” (Duhigg, 85).

In short, you need the capacity to believe that things can get better.

When you’re surrounded by people that are walking proof that there is a path to change, it may be easier to believe that things can get better. And therein in lies the power of group dynamics. Even if you don’t believe that you can make a permanent change to your habit patterns, a group has the power to, at times, believe for you or, at the very least, cause you to suspend your disbelief until you actually internalize it.

So how do we practice this? Sometimes the hardest part of changing habits and changing our lives for the better is firmly grabbing ahold of a belief in ourselves and the people around us that change can happen.

At FIT, our goal is to create an environment where we, as trainers, are genuinely optimistic that everyone that walks through our day and commits to their program can experience positive change. And the great thing is that FIT has lots of people that have been training with us for years and are walking proof that progress is possible.

So if even if you’re doubting, tell someone at FIT about the health habits you want to create. We can help you find the resources, the support, and maybe even the belief to make permanent changes.

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Women In Healthcare: Behind the Scenes at FIT

31 Jul

From the outside, we may appear like a competitive bunch.  You will often see and hear bets on sporting events, workout challenges, food challenges and so on.  FIT is a male dominant workforce whose employees thrive off of competition (females included), but behind the scenes at FIT, we are anything but competitive.

I remember when I first started working at FIT (seven years ago), sitting in Thom & Tracey’s office and talking about their philosophy and mission as business owners.  They explained how their goal was to set each and every employee up for success and challenge us all to view ourselves as our own personal business owners.

As RockHealth, a health incubator in SF (where you can currently find me when not at FIT) kicks off XXinHealth to highlight the need for more women to be paving the path and leading healthcare (see movie here), I thought it was appropriate to explain what is going on “behind the scenes” and how FIT’s approach could be the ticket to encouraging others to climb the healthcare ladder.

You know I am a trainer and many of you know about FITBuddies, the special needs programs I run for adults and children with Down Syndrome and Autism.   A couple months ago, I added to the list, and took the leap to lead a healthcare startup focused on improving the collaboration and communication of overall care.  As I drove away from Page Mill after what felt like signing my life away, I immediately called my parents, “It’s official, I am really doing this.”

My Dad’s response, “Congratulations Founder, CEO, Board of Directors!!”

My Mom’s response, “You go girl (her usual) but does this mean you will not be training and working with your buddies anymore.  It is just so great what you do with them and I know you just love helping others.”

My Dad stated what most men would probably pick up on first: the titles.  But my mom reminded me immediately of why I took the leap in the first place.

It is my journey with my buddies and every single one of my experiences, in a variety of health related fields, that has led me to this new adventure.  It started as a doctor’s assistant at the age of fifteen (I hid my age behind scrubs and a mask).  In college, I was the student who felt job experience was more important than the titles after my name and squeezed all my classes into 2 days so I could work four jobs: behavioral therapist for autism, personal aide for a woman with muscular spinal atrophy, hospital aide and trainer.  In my ‘free’ time, I shadowed physical therapists and occupational therapists.  For the past fifteen years, I have submerged myself into the care and management of long-term care in a variety of settings:  hospitals, homes, clinics, schools, gyms, etc.

As we talk about women in healthcare, or the lack thereof, I do not believe it is as much of an issue of men plowing us over
but more so that we aren’t setting women up to take the leap.  In November, I attended StartUp weekend and pitched my idea
to a room of 150 strangers.  I immediately formed a team with 3 other females (I scared a lot of the men off because they said I had a “real” idea).  While I did not move forward immediately after the weekend, this weekend was my “test” leap.

In April, I attended another weekend event, this time focused on health IT solutions and made the decision – it was time to leap.  For most people I think this would usually mean either quiting your job or working on the project behind your employers back out of fear that they would not support a side venture.

In May, I was chosen to attend RockHealth’s XXRetreat highlighting women leaders in healthcare.  The entire day was full of inspirational stories and words of encouragement.  One particular comment struck a chord.  As we began the day, we were told to look around the room full of VC’s, angel investors, CEO’s, entrepreneurs, and inspiring leaders in healthcare .  We were challenged to erase the competitive landscape so often seen in the startup or typical business world and look at each other as support; because in healthcare, competition will not achieve success nor solve any of our problems.

I remember introducing Tracey to some friends shortly after starting at FIT.  I, of course, introduced her as my boss and she quickly corrected me and said, “we’re co-workers.”  From day one,  Thom and Tracey have set up a non-competitive landscape that encourages every employee to move up the ladder and grow as professionals.  They do not look at their employees as ‘potential competition’ but instead spend their time educating and investing in our future as a team and as individuals.  They understand the need for well-educated health professionals is critical.  Not only do they encourage but they support us through these ventures.

I did not quit my job nor did I have to hide a project behind my employers back.  When I approached Tracey in May, she encouraged and supported me in taking the next steps, helping me set up a schedule so I can juggle multiple positions as I move forward.  I thanked her for her support she simply said, “we believe in you.”

In healthcare, women make up a significant part of the workforce but tend to be concentrated in lower level positions.  After fifteen years as a provider, I believe experience in the healthcare field is something you can’t get in a MBA, PHD or MD program.  It is critical that women with experience on the front line are encouraged to take on leadership roles as they truly understand the healthcare landscape.  I am fairly confident if more health focused businesses set up a non-competitive landscape the way FIT has, educating and encouraging their employees to climb the ladder, we would see more women emerge from these lower level positions.

For fifteen years I have watched families struggle as they try to manage long term care.  As a provider on the outside (outside of the doctors office and hospitals), I understand what goes on on an everyday basis and I have to at least try to do something about it.  Thom and Tracey gave me the final big push; they gave me the support needed to scale back from the front line of care (not an easy decision) and the confidence to take the leap from the front line into a leadership role.

I told Tracey I feel like FIT is its own health incubator.  I am not sure whether it is the laid back atmosphere of being in gym shorts and a t-shirt but FIT is a non-competitive atmosphere where many of silicon valley’s VC’s, CEO’s and entrepreneurs frequent and have been more than willing to share information, advice and support.  I am just in the beginning stages (and have a lot of obstacle to overcome – age, gender, etc)  but I can only hope that I am able to support and encourage others the way I have been supported at FIT.

“We are leading healthcare and you should watch and see what we do”

Email Tracey@Focusedtrainers.com for more information about FIT@Work, FIT’s Corporate Wellness Programs.  Follow VidaPost on Facebook and Twitter  and help Jen tackle the communication and collaboration of care.

FIT Says Farewell to Nathan “Bear” Schadle

27 Jul

After our final CrossFit class on Wednesday night, and it was time to lock up, Nathan sat on the bench in the weightlifting area slowly putting away his weightlifting shoes for the last time until Thanksgiving.

“Bear,” as he is affectionately known by the other weightlifters at Barbell Club, graduated  from high school in June and is leaving this week to begin a new chapter in his life at Colorado State University, Colorado Springs.

Why Colorado Springs? Because it’s home to the United States Olympic Training Center.

Let’s back up the story a bit. When Bear first walked in to FIT (back then, he was just “Nathan”) five years ago, he was a scrawny, awkward 12 year-old. Bear had played several sports, but had yet to really find that thing that he loved to do, the thing he could really be good at.

Fortunately for Bear, Rob was glad to have a new, eager member of FIT’s Barbell Club. And fortunately for Rob, Bear was eager to learn and master the snatch and clean and jerk.

Over five years, Nathan transformed into “Bear,” his alter-ego. Bear went from learning how to snatch, clean, and jerk with just a training bar to snatching 110kg and clean and jerking 145kg at at the Junior National Championships. Bear went from learning body weight squats, to squatting 100kg on his 14th birthday, to squatting 200kg on his 18th birthday.

That is what Rob likes to smugly call “decent progress.”

Bear’s tenacity, commitment, and passion to keep pushing the limits has earned him an opportunity to train part-time at the Olympic Training Center with the best coaches, lifters, and resources in the country. The best part is that bear will be able to go to school full time and embrace a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow as a person, not just as an athlete.

Barbell Club will not be the same without Bear, but Rob and the entire staff at FIT wish Bear much success in his adventure in school and weightlifting.

Bear, you will truly be missed.

FIT Makes a Another Memory

23 Jul

On June 1, my nine-year old daughter, Keala, won her school fundraiser at Lakewood Elementary School in Sunnyvale by selling the most  tickets to a San Jose Giants baseball game. This would not have been possible without the generosity of Thom and Tracey, several of my clients and my fellow trainers  for buying tickets to the game – a big THANK YOU!!  Thom and Tracey graciously bought a ticket for every student in Keala’s class and her brother’s, my son, Tristan, kindergarten class. Because of everybody’s contributions, Keala and Tristan had a great time watching the game, eating ribs, and playing various games outside of the stadium.

As the number one seller, Keala received several memorable team-signature gifts: a jersey, bat and ball; and, most importantly, she threw out the first pitch of the game (kept that ball also). In short, the following pictures should speak for themselves:

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As a funny sidenote, because Keala had such a great time, she mentioned she would like to be the number one winner next year, however, her brother has a problem with that as he mentioned he wants to win. I will certainly let you know what is the outcome next year. 🙂

Tune in next year for the update!

Thank you again to ALL!

Looking Closer At Habits – Part 3

19 Jul

When it comes to altering habits, researchers and millions of people know that there is a golden rule:

You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.

The habit loop–cue, routine, reward–can be reprogrammed, but we have to be deliberate about it. However, it is likely that most of us know we have habits that we want to change, but we aren’t fully aware of the cravings that drive our behaviors.

Let’s imagine that I had a job that required long stints of time during the day working at a computer on my desk. At various points throughout the work day (usually late mornings and late afternoons), I would find myself wandering to the break room to snack on the tasty treats that my benevolent co-worker decided to share with us.

Grabbing a snack, I took advantage of chatting with my co-worker about the ball game from last night. Then, after a few minutes, feeling satisfied, I made my way back to my desk.

Now, let us dissect the situation. If I took the time to really take an inventory of what may be driving my craving for a sugary snack in the break room, my motives might be less related to hunger and more related to just sheer boredom. (Remember, this is just a hypothetical)

When I finally realize that the sugary snacks are doing more harm than good, I decide I need to do something about my habit.

But, remember the golden rule: I can’t extinguish my habit. I can only change it.

How? Here’s the key, according to Duhigg.

Identify the cue. Keep the same reward. But insert a new routine.

Here’s what he means. Imagine it’s really a sense of boredom and desire for interaction that’s really the thing driving my craving to leave my desk and head to the break room. The cue is my boredom. The reward is my satisfaction with the brief release from work.

So, to shift my habit, I try a few new routines. The next time I feel bored at my desk, instead of heading straight to the break room, I get up and take a 5 minute stroll outside or maybe I allot myself 5 minutes on the internet to read up on last night’s game on espn.com.

Driven by the same cue, receiving the same reward (satisfying my boredom) does not have to involve indulging daily in sugary snacks.

This all sounds so easy, I know. But believe, the brain can actually be reprogrammed. We just need to know where to start.

My advice?

Step 1: I would start by identifying the habits you wish to change. And then take a serious inventory of when you experience the cravings to satisfy those habits. This will take us one step closer to changing our habits.

 

What’s Step 2? Stay tuned to find out.

USPLA North American Championship Meet Update

17 Jul

Before I (Greg L) walked on to the platform, I chalked my sweaty hands at the bowl. Normally, you don’t need to chalk your hands before a back squat. But this wasn’t just another rep. This was going to be the heaviest weight I’d ever been under.

467.5 pounds.

My adrenaline was racing. The music blaring. Spectators and fellow competitors alike watched closely as I stepped under the bar.

In some of the more surreal moments of my life, time seems to slow down. Everything goes silent. And for a brief moment, my vision funnels down to a singular point of focus.

This was one of those moments. I couldn’t hear my wife or coaches yelling. I didn’t see the spectators or even the head judge sitting only a few feet in front of me making sure my movement met his standards. I could only see the grey and black banner hanging from the ceiling across the room.

I squeezed every single muscle in my body. I fought hard against the enormous weight on my back that was trying to bring me down. And after what seemed like an eternity, I eeked my way through the sticking point to reach the top.

This is the nature of powerlifting. These are the kinds of moments you expect in a meet. And these are the kinds of experiences you have to embrace.

My meet last Saturday was a memorable one. I set a new PR in my squat. I set a new competition PR in the bench press at 308 pounds. Finally, at the end of what was an incredibly physically and emotionally draining day, I hit a new competition PR in the deadlift at 561 pounds.

I also set a PR for my total weight lifted in competition with 1336 pounds–the combination of my highest squat, bench press, and deadlifts.

But what I will relish in most is the sensation of overcoming the “weighty” adversity that day which came in the form of a barbell sitting on my back.

This is why I compete. It helps remind me that I’m strong, that I’m confident. But it also reminds me that I’m human. And being human, I have my limitations.

And there are times when you willingly rush up against those limitations, that you feel the most alive.

FIT’s Rick Fath Wins Bridge to Bridge 10K Swim

12 Jul

When Rick emerged from the frigid Bay water at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, he had a giant smile on his face. With a time of 1 hour and 40 minutes, Rick was the first swimmer to finish the Bridge to Bridge 10k swim last Saturday.

“I swallowed a lot of salt water,” Rick recalls, “But it felt really good to finish. I love the feeling of accomplishment when you fulfill a commitment.”

Rick has been open-water swimming for 12 years and is no stranger to races in through the Bay. In fact, he got started when, years ago, a friend “invited” Rick to do a group swim around Alcatraz. Once Rick got his ‘feet wet’ (pun intended) he began swimming in two to three events a year, including regular trips swimming across the Golden Gate Bridge.

When asked why he enjoys racing, Rick explained, “It keeps me focused and gives me a goal.” Each January Rick looks at his calendar and commits to a few races each year. These races help Rick plan and maintain his training regimen both in the pool and here in the gym at FIT.

For Rick, racing in these events each year is just part of his strategy to staying active and healthy. And who could question the activity level of someone whose swim workouts involve a brisk two or three mile swim? To put that in context (for us non-swimmers), that’s 100 hundred laps in the pool!

Now that may sound daunting even to the most committed weekend warrior, but Rick understands the heart of the matter: “The key is to set a goal. And then to create a plan.” For example, Rick printed swim workouts from a reliable source in order to ramp up for this long swim.

Have a plan. Wise words, indeed.

Moving forward, Rick intends to maintain a similar pattern of competing in two or three races each year, maybe travelling to other locations to race. “I’m always looking for new and fun experiences,” Rick says.

So here’s to you, Rick. Thank you for representing FIT well in the gym and in the water.

FIT Barbell Club Takes Over Redwood Open

10 Jul

Last Saturday, FIT’s Olympic Weightlifting Club sent four members to compete in the Redwood Open osted by Freddie Myles of Myles Ahead Weightlifting Club.

This meet was hosted in a unique venue, a gazebo in the Cotati town square. This set the stage for a very casual, fun environment for families and friends to spend a day cheering on the lifters in the sunshine.

Among the many highlights of the meet, FIT BBC’s newest member, Jen Larson, competed in her first ever Olympic weightlifting meet. Jen was able to successfully complete all six of her lifts. She matched her personal bests in both the snatch and the clean and jerk, totaling 105 kg combined to take 2nd place in the 58kg division.

Mary Wang, a veteran of the FIT BBC, also competed in the 58kg weight class and finished with a snatch of 55kg and a clean and jerk of 68kg, finishing with a total of 123kg to take first place.

Fellow newcomer Nick Steinhillber competed in his second weightlifting meet in the 94kg class. Nick got off to a great start, snatching a new personal best 100kg. He continued strong to clean and jerk 130kg, totaling 230kg for a 2nd place finish.

Then, FIT BBC veteran nathan “Bear” Schadle capped off a long day of competition with a spectacular performance. Bear, weighing 105kg, snatched a staggering 118kg for a new personal best.

Bear nearly followed this up with another PR in the clean and jerk were it not for narrowly missing 147kg. Still, his performance was good enough for another FIT 2nd place finish.

It was a gread day of sun, heavy lifting, and camaraderie. Coach Rob demonstrated his skilled expertise in coaching all the lifters from the morning into the late evening.

If you’re interested in learning the Olympic lifts and training in a team-oriented environment, contact Rob abot FIT’s Barbell Club!

Looking Closer at Habits – Part 2

5 Jul

In our last post we picked apart the pieces of a habit–the gears, so to speak. Turns out there is a powerful habit loop that deeply ingrains habits into patterned behavior. Cue, routine, reward. As we go around and around this loop, the cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and a craving emerges (Duhigg 19).

The key to understanding our habits is understanding how cravings form in our brain and how they influence our behavior patterns. In short, neurological cravings power the habit loop.

We all know cravings. It’s what we encounter when we walk into Starbucks and look at all the tasty treats behind the glass. It’s what we encounter when we catch a whiff of fresh french fries from our favorite fast food restaurant. We even encounter cravings before we head to FIT, anticipating the reward we are going to experience after we finish our workout.

Cravings form gradually so we often don’t even notice them as they take shape in our brains and influence our actions. And we can create new habits by putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward. And then cultivate a craving that drives the loop (Duhigg 49).

Let’s use my obsession with Peet’s coffee as an example of how cravings work. When I see one of my colleagues with a Peet’s cup (the cue), my brain starts anticipating a shot of caffeine (the reward). This anticipation of the reward is enough for me to crave a caffeine rush (even if I just finished a cup of coffee) and the craving grows until I race over to Peet’s to satisfy my desire.

Cravings are not completely deterministic (more on that in the next post), but if I’m not conscious of my cravings for caffeine, I’ll never question why I’m always stopping at Peet’s on my way home.

Understanding cravings also helps us understand exercise habits. Studies show that the overwhelming majority of people who exercise habitually do so because they crave the endorphin rush during a workout or the sense of accomplishment after their performance. These self-rewards are enough to make exercise a habit.

If we want to start a new habit, we must figure out how to spark a new craving powerful enough to drive the habit loop.

So how might this work for me? Last January, I wanted to make sure I got to the gym even after a long day of work. So I started keeping my workout bag visible next to my bedroom door (the cue). When I saw my workout bag, I started to think of the sense of accomplishment I got from my training. And now, even when I think I’m too tired to get to the gym, I look at my workout bag and immediately start craving that sense of accomplishment. That craving is enough to get me off the couch and into my truck to head to training.

Think it sounds too simple? Try it. Think of a habit you want to create. Pick a cue. Pick a reward. And then try it out. You might be surprised at how powerful your brain really is.

Looking Closer at Habits – Part 1

2 Jul

We’re creatures of habit. We all have them. Some good. Some bad.

And if you’ve ever garnered the will power to attempt changing a habit, you know how difficult it is.

But why?

As a staff, we are currently reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. So as I process through Duhigg’s work, I thought I would share it with you in a series of posts.

The logical starting point is to figure out what habits really are. Because if understand what habits are all about, we can better work through re-tuning our bad habits.

With the massive amount of information we need to process from moment to moment, our brains are looking for ways to be more efficient and save effort. Turning certain processes, such as brushing our teeth, into habits allows our minds to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors so we can think about doing more important things, such as that upcoming board presentation.

Our brains will convert sequences of actions into “chunks” to make them automatic. Habits consist of a three-step loop. First, our brains are signaled by a cue, some trigger that puts our brains into automatic mode. Then, there is a routine, a sequence of actions. Finally, there is a reward, and this is what makes our brain decide whether this is worth remembering.

As we rehearse this loop–cue, routine, reward–over and over again, cravings emerge.

Duhigg summarizes why this is important: “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks” (Duhigg 20).

That means unless we actually fight our habits to adopt new patterns, the routines will unfold automatically.

This helps explain why it’s hard for us to change our eating and exercise habits. And most of us probably know this. It’s why we describe changing our diet or exercise program as a “battle” or “struggle.”

But it’s important that we understand the basic components of our habits–the cue, the routine, the reward–so we know how to “fiddle with the gears” of our habits, as Duhigg says.

So, here’s something to think about. This week, pay attention to the habits you have that you would like to change, such as where you go eat on your lunch break. Identify the cue. Notice the pattern of behavior that ensues. And reflect on the reward that you anticipate and enjoy afterwards.

Before we change our unconscious habits, we must first become conscious of the process.