Vacation Goals

Vacation: 7 Ways to Plan Your Way to Relaxation

Sounds counterintuitive I know, planning to relax. Afterall, a vacation is supposed to be “time off” and a reset for our overworked brains and bodies. And yet…doesn’t if often seem like we come back more tired physically than when we left?!

Often mentally we are able to recharge and refocus. But, physically, our bodies can be just as beaten up from a vacation as when we left. If not more so.

So, what can we do? First, let’s define the goal of the vacation - is it to:

  • Recharge and relax?
  • Visit family?
  • Sightsee and learn about new culture?
  • To accomplish a bucket list goal... Mt. Kilimanjaro anyone?

Take note which of these ideas seem relaxing to you and which seem mentally or physically challenging (or both).

Challenges tend to add stress, not relieve it.

If you want to come back from vacation both mentally and physically rejuvenated, (and that’s not what you are currently getting out of your travels) you are going to have to plan differently.

To help and support you in planning an actual relaxing vacation, here are some of our top tips for what to take into account so that you’ll be able to relax, have a little adventure, and come back with a full tank of gas-in you!

Don’t workout.

To workout or not workout, that is the question. As long as you make a solid commitment with yourself to get back into your exercise routine when you are home, my advice is to skip the workouts. You are going to walk a lot more than normal on most vacations, or if you are just relaxing on the beach, you’ll swim a bit. If you really must workout, try something different than normal like a yoga class on the beach, or a bike / walking tour of the area. The point is to recharge from your routine life, not engage in it while away.

Take your pillow.

Pillows and mattresses in most places you stay are going to range from awful to just okay. Even if your hotel has a super fancy mattress the pillows will likely be huge and fluffy which is actually terrible for you neck. Although you can’t transport your bed from home, you can bring a pillow from home that you know is right for you, or a travel size Tempurpedic (my pick while away) which fits nicely in a carry on.

The right tools.

A sleep mask, earplugs, and/or white noise app to play through your phone might help sleep in a new place with uncertain noise and light. I like finding rain storm lists on Spotify.

Sleep in. Duh.

You totally deserve at least a few days to sleep in! Bracket rest days around adventure days so that you get the best of both. When I travel, I usually like to schedule 3-4 half day sight-seeing tours inside of an 8-9 day vacation. I don’t do them on consecutive days and keep other days to light sights. Some days, despite being someplace fantastic like Rome, I still take a 1/2 day to sit in bed and read a book. Again, this is a break from normal life!

Come back early.

After a long flight, schedule a staycation day to recover rather than try to eek out the longest vacation possible. Traveling is tough on the body and arriving home late in the evening only to wake up the next morning and truck off to work is asking a lot of it. Take a day to recuperate and collect your travel photos into a nice post. You’ll thank me on Monday.

Throw money at the travel headache.

How you get there sets the tone for the stay. Travel is usually a lot of headaches. Once you’re there and settle in it’s great, but the trip itself?! Packing, getting to the airport, getting through the airport, being stuck in an airplane seat for a long time, then getting through the other airport and to your lodgings all take a toll and create lots of stress. Give yourself any small favors that you can afford:  taking a taxi to the airport instead of the subway, spending an extra $25 on extra legroom seats if you are tall, arranging for a car to pick you up and take you directly to your hotel from the airport. You won’t be able to take away all of the stressors but every little bit counts!

Get a post trip blues massage.

Of course I’ll say this, but it really does help to book a massage for that staycation day at the end of the vacation to help recuperate and revive. Sure, most people go for the massage at the hotel while on vacation, and we wouldn’t say no to that. However, that one will be completely erased by the stress of the trip back home. Booking yourself a massage after you get back means that you can head into work the next day fully recharged, de-stressed, and ready for action!

Stress Management for Commuting and Conferences: how to make the necessary evils less painful—for your body

Sitting at a desk for long hours in a workplace with poor stress management is probably the number one source of aches and pains for most workers. This professor goes so far as to say it’s the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of kidney disease!

In our last post we covered some tips for setting up your desk at home to create little to no stress.

In this post, we’ll cover stress management tips for what to do when your job requires time outside of the office. For your commutes, off-site meetings, conferences, etc. All that time you spent optimizing your main work area will go out the window the minute you step away from it.

Here are some stress management tips for commuting without injury

First, let’s talk about how you are carrying your stuff around. I’ll admit that the aesthetic options for over the shoulder messenger bags, purses, and briefcases generally look better. However, they are poorly designed from an ergonomics standpoint. Don’t buy into it? Check out this Time article on purses and bags

You’re likely to spend hundreds to thousands of hours hauling your things around. Investing in a good looking rolling suitcase or backpack will save you money in physical or massage therapy later on.

My list of must haves

  • A rolling briefcase/suitcase with a pull out handle (best) or a backpack (2nd best). Hauling your life around in an over the shoulder bag, large purse, or briefcase with just a handle is asking for a shoulder or low back injury.
  • Get both! If you’re carrying enough stuff around to require 2 (or more) bags, get a rolling suitcase and a backpack. That combo will give you the same “carrying real estate” in the most body friendly package.
  • An iPad with a folding bluetooth keyboard and a light folding stand can handle most computing needs outside of the office these days. Unless you are doing heavy duty photography, graphic design, video editing, or crunching vast amounts of data, invest in an iPad. Your shoulders will thank you for losing the extra weight of the laptop.
  • The right footwear. If I had my way in the world, heels would be completely abolished as footwear. They alter your center of gravity, and do all sorts of nasty things to your spine. The long-term impact of wearing heels is a leading factor for back pain, knee pain, and neck pain. At minimum, switch to a comfortable, cushioned, pair of flat shoes whenever you are going anywhere outside of work. That includes the to and from commute as well. This is one of the few instances where carrying the extra weight around is well worth it.

Additional stress management tips

  • Remember to switch sides when carrying your bag. Give the side you “lead with” a rest.
  • Store as many paper files in digital format that you can get away with. Pound for pound digital files weigh nothing. 
  • If you are hauling around gym clothes everyday, do they fit in a rolling suitcase/backpack combo along with all of your work stuff? If not, it might be time to rethink things. The extra bag is undoing many of the health benefits you are getting out of the gym in the first place. Look into a gym close to home instead of near work. Try switching workouts to first thing in the morning (pre-shower). This is often one of those “best is the enemy of good” situations. The gym near work might be nicer, but you would really be better off with a decent one close to home.

Conferences & Meetings are a Pain in the Butt

For off-site meetings and conferences, the main problem is lack of control over your seating and the expectations for how long you’ll have to sit in session.

Meetings in conference rooms usually have better chairs, so that’s a plus. However, if you need to get up and stretch or even stretch at your seat, you’re going to feel a bit weird with people around.

Your best bet is to try the following well ahead of the meeting:

  • Do 5 minutes of stretching before you get to the conference room. You likely won’t have time during the meeting itself. If you don’t have a good place to do that, honestly, use the bathroom.
  • Request that the meeting take 5 minute breaks every hour (at the minimum) to be able to stand up, stretch, walk around a bit, etc. Best is to bake this into the agenda long before the meeting time. If you’re attending someone else’s meeting, you can always request this at the beginning before it starts. If you feel uncomfortable asking, you can always “white lie” and say that you have a medically diagnosed low back injury and your doctor has advised this. The others in the meeting will probably thank you for the reminder for self-care.
  • Can’t do the above either because you won’t ask, or because the request was denied? Take 5 minutes anyway and go to the bathroom every hour.

At the meeting or conference:

  • When you arrive, play with the settings on your chair to adjust the height to a comfortable level. During the meeting, try adjusting the height slightly up or down whenever you get a bit sore. This will make you use slightly different muscles and give the ones you just used a break.
  • If you find that you tend to cross your legs only in one direction, try switching. Between not crossing, and crossing to the other side every 15 minutes or so you may find some comfort. This will help relieve your muscles from getting stuck into a habitual asymmetrical pattern (which leads to a repetitive stress disorder).
  • For the really bold, take your shoes off under the conference table and/or attend meetings with laceless shoes that are easy to slip on and off.

For conferences, try the following tips:

  • Pick a spot towards the back or the outside of the seating rows. You’ll have an easier time moving around and won’t worry as much about disturbing anyone.
  • If you are in a larger group, less eyes will be focused on you. Feel free to practice some in chair stretching during the lectures. We have a number of useful quick tutorials for workplace stretching on our YouTube channel.
  • Check in with yourself during a lecture. Are you really interested in the topic and material or just going through the motions because someone else thought this would be “good for you?” If you feel like you’re getting little out of it, dropping out and getting a quick snack would be a great self-care practice. Check the list of other available opportunities for something more interesting while you’re out! Nothing is more stressful than boredom or feeling like you are wasting your time.

The more you can be a leader in the workplace and make small changes for your own health and stress management, the better you’ll feel. As people start to notice how much happier you seem, the more likely it will be that people will start following along and practicing their own stress management. Hopefully, over time, the whole culture around you starts to shift and you’ll be dealing with far less stress overall.

In our next post, we’ll cover travel tips for planes, trains, and automobiles!

health resolutions that stick in 2018

Health Resolutions for 2018 that Work Because they are Custom Tailored to You

It's 2018! Where did the time go?! Have you made your New Year's health resolutions yet?

In the spirit of a new year, most of us make resolutions about our health. We are going to exercise more, eat better, walk more, sleep better, drink more water, drink less wine, eat less junk, etc.

Some of us do well with these and solidify them as habits that have us feeling happier and healthier on a daily basis. But, statistically, most of us don't!

What gets in the way? All of the excuses:

"It's hard to find healthy food near work...."

"I don't have a decent gym near me...."

"I’m stressed about money

“I can't sleep and I need to fix that first...."

"I sprained my ankle and now can't do my favorite exercises...."

(that one is mine btw)

However, if we go up a level the bigger problem is that we simply haven't developed a concrete personal system for changing habits in our lives yet. Without the confidence that one CAN change habits, it's very unlikely that one WILL change habits.

So, how do we make health resolutions stick?

And the answer is......I have no idea. Or rather, I don't know which specific kinds of support systems will work for you.

I'm not YOU.

But, I can tell you what has helped me. And how I’ve seen clients build the personal power they need to take responsibility for taking action to make their health resolutions stick. Don’t feel like you’ve failed if you hit a few bumps along the way.

Step 1: Rewire your thought process away from "failure."

True change of self and habits is going to involve a decent amount of "fails." This is a simple fact of nature, yet we judge ourselves harshly time and time again.

Example Health Resolution: I am going to wake up at 7 am each morning, meditate for 10 minutes, then stretch for 10 minutes.

You might do well for several days, then go out late one night, and BAM, 7 am shows up and you hit the alarm and go back to sleep.

Your internal monologue goes something like this:

"Argh! I can't believe I did that, I'm such an idiot....I'm never going to make this work. Forget it, I quit."

When this happens, you are making making this a problem with you, when in fact, the issue isn't with you at all. It's with the SYSTEM you thought you put in place. The system didn't account for your late night out for example.

So rather than feel bad about yourself as being flawed or incapable, you can look at the "fail" as an opportunity to update the system in a way that seems likely to improve it, and run the experiment again.

Step 2: Take action again, regardless of breakdowns, with the goal of creating a system, not just one new habit.

We all hear catch phrases like "never quit." But what does it actually mean to quit? One definition is that you stop taking intentional action towards a goal. The important word there is "intentional." Remember, the goal here is not actually to just get this one new healthy habit in place, but to create a system where you KNOW that you can build any new habit that you want.

So getting lucky with a few actions that just happen to work for you on one particular habit might feel great. But luck isn't going to help you build the confidence to tackle other things.

However, if you start getting wins based on YOUR OWN intentional choices and actions, that is going to feel far more powerful and reliable.

Step 3: Track and measure the results of your experiments

If you only had one goal to declare for 2018, declaring that you'll create your own system for personal change that is proven to work for you to change and grow would be an important first goal. This is the "teach a man to fish" part of the old adage. Except you'll be teaching yourself to teach yourself. How's that for "meta?"

Most of us subconsciously avoid tracking and measuring...getting the first batch of results in an experiment back can be a serious blow. You expected to see something like 60-80% on target and you wound up getting 10-30% instead!

Be a scientist who studies yourself until you find a system that works for YOU to produce the results that you want with a high degree of certainty!

In order to create a trustworthy system to track and measure, you'll need to set up several components:

a) What is the data that I'm tracking? This needs to translate to actual numbers. Examples: "How many times this week did I exercise and for how long?" or "How many hours of sleep did I get last night?"

b) How am I recording that data? This needs to be easy to input data into, and to read data when reviewing. Examples: excel spreadsheet, phone app, notebook, etc.

c) How will I review the data, observe results, and adjust my experiment to improve results? I suggest a weekly review for 20-30 minutes to go over the results. Preferably routine, scheduled in your calendar and non negociable except in cases of emergency.

Step 4: Keep going until you are satisfied with your results

Nobody has ever created anything of worth without running into major obstacles. If you attach anything at all to the fact that it's not "easy" (ie "I must be stupid if it's this hard") then you engaging in a toxic form of magical thinking. Every time you hear something like, "the idea just came to me," or "I just did it..." that statement is being filtered. It sounds cool, but doesn't match with what really happened. The reality is that hundreds to thousands of hours of study and hard work came before the inspiration.

But satisfaction is where this gets muddy-satisfied according to whom? Most of us have a broken satisfaction meter. We might objectively be making improvements and growing, but if we are not meeting some outside measure that was set by our parents, siblings, society, friends....enemies, etc., then we don't allow ourselves to feel any satisfaction.

Be willing to give yourself an A for effort, even when you don't get the results you want on the first, third, or thirtieth try. If you keep going, you'll get it. 

Then reward yourself 🙂 (maybe a massage hint hint?)

Step 5: Even when you start getting the results you want, keep evaluating and tweaking your system.

If you've stuck with the first 4 steps of this for several months, you are bound to start seeing the results that you wanted on your health resolutions and are starting to feel pretty good about it. Congrats!

However, don't quit while you are ahead. Even when you find something that works for you, there may be a more efficient, better suited, more satisfying way to accomplish what you want if you keep looking at your system. You never know when some new app or device, or some new book, friend, colleague, class, etc. could add to your system and make it even smoother for you.

Also, if your system is working and you are getting the results you wanted with your first simpler resolution, it's time to test it out on something more challenging!

Health Resolutions that stick: 5 step review

In summary, the 5 steps to creating a personal system for changing habits on health resolutions that will work for you are:

Step 1: Change has obstacles, obstacles involve "fails," rewire your thoughts on these

Step 2: Take action-regardless of inevitable breakdowns, your goal is creating a system, not just mastering one new habit

Step 3: Track and measure results

Step 4: Keep going until you are satisfied

Step 5: Continually tweak the system

Try it out, or as Yoda says, "There is no try. There is only do or not do."

NYC Marathon Recovery

NYC Marathon Recovery

NYC Marathon RecoveryThe 2016 NYC Marathon is less than 4 weeks away...

Is this your first NYC Marathon? Taking on the training and then running a marathon is a big deal. Congrats!

Hopefully, at this point, you are feeling close to ready. However, it's normal to freak out a bit and get worried that you haven't run that many longer runs, and that none of them are a full marathon. Having worked on 100's of runners over the years, we can tell you to trust the process and stick to the training schedule.

Here are a few extra tips to make your first (or seventh...) marathon a great experience instead of a slog.

What to do in the next few weeks to prepare for NYC Marathon recovery

If you are feeling comfortable with the length of runs on you training schedule, great! Keep up what you are doing 🙂

If you are experiencing any consistent pains on your runs, book a massage therapy session and/or physical therapy session to relieve the pain. Mild to medium pain at this point in your training will add up to a real injury on race day. And make your marathon an excruciating experience. It will also mean a lot more work after the marathon to rehabilitate. Often these pains can be dealt with in a few sessions now with a good therapist. Suffering through pain until after the run is playing with fire.  

Some common pain types for runners:

  • runner's knee
  • heel pain and/or foot pain
  • hip pain and/or groin pain
  • shin splints
  • plantar fasciitis
  • neck pain and shoulder pain 

What to do to AFTER for NYC Marathon recovery

Book a post race recovery massage and have it scheduled 2-7 days after the marathon. Your body will be super sore and depleted. If can often take a full 2 weeks to recover and feel normal. A light to medium pressure full body sports massage will help you recover in half the time (or less!). You've put all of these hours into training, run 26.2 miles, raised money, etc. Why not treat yourself to a lot less pain and suffering after the marathon?

If this is your very first marathon, we suggest booking a marathon recovery massage about 3-5 days after. It will take several days for your body to process enough of the lactic acid to where a massage will have you feeling better. If you've run a marathon before, some seasoned runners book a marathon recovery massage for the evening of the race! Others book the next day or the day after that. 

For self-care, drink more water than normal for several days, and eat more protein. You'll need the protein to rebuild torn up muscle tissue. If you get hungry, listen to that and eat something. Take contrast showers....hot, then cold, then hot, then cold. 

Your system will be working overtime trying to heal hundreds of small micro-tears, and trying to flush out way more waste than it's used to dealing with. Trying to live "business as usual" is a asking for grief. Sleep lots. Stretch lots. Don't run for 2-3 weeks! (For realz).