Fitness & Wellness Corner – February 2019

Too Many Tabs Open: Managing Decision Fatigue

Figure 1: Spongebob Image (The Lady Edison, 2017)

Ever had that bright shining moment when you’ve been running non-stop and you just let someone have it? Yea, I know, we’ve all been there. Not our finest hour, but we’re human and well, it happens. It’s almost inevitable, because “no matter how smart or diligent we are, our ability to make decisions eventually runs out” (Oto, 2012). We call this phenomenon decision fatigue. It is the idea that one’s ability to force oneself to do difficult things, whether that is applying self-control or self-discipline, draws upon a certain limited resource inside of us. When we’re forced to make tough decisions, it calls upon that resource and when our self-control runs low, we tend to start making poor decisions (Oto, 2012).

So why does this happen?

Despite the shortage of a full scope of psychological or neurophysiological understanding behind decision fatigue, there are a few theories:

Ego Depletion was coined by Dr. Roy Baumeister in the late 1990s, and emphasizes the willpower and ability to control your immediate desires. The theory says that “as human beings- endowed with independence and free will- we are frequently faced with a choice between obeying our basic, low-lying orders (eating a piece of cake, sleeping in, venting our anger), or suppressing them with higher-order, more responsible choices favoring long-term benefit (eating healthy, going to work, biting our tongue)” (Oto, 2012). The skill of weighing options and managing priorities is fairly unique to humans and is known as executive function. The ego depletion theory shows us that when we have to perform this feat of weighing decisions, it starts to drain us.  We’ve spent some of our internal energy on the decision making process and as that level decreases, the power of our executive function diminishes along with it. Simply put, we become far less able to override any of our basic desires and our decision making abilities inevitably suffer (Oto, 2012).

It’s important to recognize the realness of decision fatigue and the implications if has for us. We all occasionally make bad decisions when we’re running low on energy, patience, steam, you name it! We collectively believe that if we’re good at what we do, we’ll automatically do a good job, but research may suggest otherwise (Oto, 2012). Being able to identify characteristics of decision fatigue is key.

  • Self-control- the motivating fuel by which you direct your actions and thoughts. When you make yourself do something you’d rather not, you tax your supply of self-control. Next time you have to commit to a decision, you have less in the tank to draw upon (Oto, 2012).
  • Mental energy- most decisions and tasks requiring self-control will drain your reserves of mental energy. The more high stakes or complicated a decision is, the more energy it will consume (Oto, 2012).
  • Rest- Your tank of self control can be replenished by adequate rest. Even something as short as a 10 minute break between tasks can renew your performance output (Oto, 2012).
  • Eating- The impact of decision fatigue can be reduced or eliminated with the consumption of food. Some studies have shown that any intake of glucose can help replenish and restore your ability to make decisions (Oto, 2012).

My parents told me that every decision has a consequence, some far greater than others, but regardless, there was always an outcome that needed to be considered. Ohhhh if I could only give my 16 year old self some advice, probably could have saved myself some “talkin’ to”! When we’ve exhausted our “decision making tank”, we tend to:

  • Avoid unnecessary decisions, a.k.a. procrastinate! If we don’t have to make a commitment right then, we won’t (Oto, 2012).
  • Choose the easy road out. If we can “do nothing”, we’ll likely take that path. If a decision is marked with difficulty, complexity, or hardship, we’re unlikely to pick it. If we potentially have to sort through multiple options, we’re more inclined to pick the first thing that comes to mind or choose arbitrarily (Oto, 2012).
  • Choose based on immediate motivations, such as fatigue or hunger and neglect the long-term or difficult to observe consequences (Oto, 2012).
  • Make decisions based on “rules of thumb” or inappropriately simplified algorithms, rather than thinking through the full breadth of the problem (Oto, 2012).
  • Behave impulsively and neglect our inhibitions (Oto, 2012).

So what do we do? How do we combat decision fatigue?

Figure 2: Alice Wonderland (Giphy)
  • Reduce our decision load by creating good habits

Some of the most interesting findings from studies on decision fatigue are the types of people that manage it best. Individuals who were successful in conserving willpower the longest and maintaining the highest quality in their decision making weren’t doing it by being “tougher”, adhering to higher principles, or demonstrating stronger character, they simply set themselves up to minimize the amount of self-control they’d have to exert. They planned ahead with schedules, lists, finished to-do’s, and handled problems BEFORE they escalated. They were able to reduce the amount of decisions they would have to make by creating good habits (Oto, 2012).

If actions are habits, they do not drain our self-control. “Thoughtful and complex analyses require investment from our internal reserves, but rote memorization and execution requires none” (Oto, 2012). Transitioning more of our daily activities into a routine, something you do without fail or debate every time, the more mental energy you can conserve. It may seem like you’re making more unnecessary work for yourself, but you’re cutting out the burden of having to constantly weigh risks and benefits. Don’t get me wrong, we all need occasional variety, but you are able to control how much of it that you introduce. Keeping a routine helps to make the “easy stuff easy so the hard stuff is possible” (Oto, 2012).

  1. Plan Ahead

A lot of what we encounter is predictable and can be managed. Do the things you don’t like or don’t enjoy earlier in your day. It’s better to complete these tasks before you’ve started running low on self-discipline. Putting them off introduces additional opportunities to not address them at all. Procrastination pushes the harder tasks into the part of the day that is more difficult to push through and can also stack them up so your doing everything at once. Help yourself out! Rather than leaving the hard stuff for the end of the day, get it done early so it’s easier as you become less equipped to deal with unenjoyable tasks or decisions. (Oto, 2012)

  1. Don’t forget to eat!

Nutrition plays a big role in our mood and quality of work. Remember the Hangry article ?!?! Most people should go no more that 4-5 hours between meals. Developing a healthy eating pattern will help balance out your blood glucose levels so you avoid sharp peaks and steep drops. We want to avoid the roller coaster effect!

  1. Know when you’ve reached your limit

Keep a check on your mental state. Know when you need to bow out to avoid burnout. If you don’t have the capacity to engage, it’s ok to say “no” and table for another time (Oto, 2012).

Let’s be real, sometimes our decision-making abilities falter. Creating good habits may seem slightly mundane, but if we are able to relegate our mental busywork to a solid routine, we free up space to be able to deal with true challenges (Oto, 2012).

Resources:

Oto, Brandon. (2012). When thinking is hard: managing decision fatigue… EMS world. 41. 46-50.

Figure 1: The Lady Edison. (2017, February 21). Spongebob Image [Digital Image]. Retrieved January 24, 2019, from http://www.theladyedison.com.au/blog/what-to-do-when-your-brain-has-too-many-tabs-open.

Figure 2: Giphy. Alice Wonderland GIF [Digital Image]. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://giphy.com/gifs/bored-alice-in-wonderland-meh-ZXKZWB13D6gFO.

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This blog post was written to provide educational information only. This article should not be used as a substitute or a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions or concerns about your personal health, you should always consult with your physician. It is recommended that you consult with your physician or health care professional before beginning any fitness regimen to determine if it is suitable for your needs. The use of any information provided by this article is solely at your risk.

2018 December Dash Recap

Talk about mental toughness, phew!!! Who said you couldn’t run 4+ miles?!

We at Yates Field House wanted to thank everyone who participated in our second annual December Dash. You were truly an inspiration to us all!

We sincerely appreciate your contribution of non-perishable food items that will be donated to Capital Area Food Bank. As this is the season of giving, we truly cannot express the amount of gratitude we have for your support and provision in times of need to our local community.

We are already planning our 3rd Annual December Dash for next year and we hope to see you there…running the appropriate distance, of course!! Be sure to stay up-to-date on our Facebook page to get the latest news and information!

In the meantime, check out some pictures from the event below!

Fitness & Wellness Corner – January 2019

Keeping it Simple- Steps to Stick To It in 2019

Liz Greenlaw, Yates Field House Health & Wellness Coach

Although we may eat and drink our way through the days between Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, we wake up on January 1st with every intention of doing things differently for the rest of the coming year…

But, by the second or third week of January, you may have noticed one of two things: You’ve either a) formed some new, sustainable habits that excite you or b) completely ditched your unrealistic resolutions.

In years past, I have started January off with a thorough to-do list of all my hopes and dreams that I wished to accomplish in the coming year. While this process seemed very efficient, it quickly became quite daunting and stressful. And to be honest, it didn’t always help me to accomplish my goals. As much as I enjoy checking items off my “to do” list, sometimes just reading through the remaining tasks led me to focus not on what I had accomplished, but on what I had failed to accomplish. It also pulled me out of the moment and into a state of future anxiety…

Do you find yourself in the same boat? Or maybe you find yourself still worrying about “rollover resolutions” from last year? Don’t get stuck on old resolutions that didn’t work out. Instead, focus on moving forward and making new resolutions that stick! Here are 3 ways to help you shift your mindset in order to set yourself up for success in 2019…

1)    Don’t just “resolve” … COMMIT to something:

To actually stay on track, we need to change the language around our goals and shift our brains to a different way of thinking. Instead of saying, “I would like to,” or “I will try,” make stronger statements to yourself. For example, “I WILL do X, Y & Z in the New Year” creates a different sense of urgency and develops a deeper sense of commitment. To practically apply this idea, you might put some money down to keep you committed. Or, maybe you schedule specific events into your calendar that will serve as milestones.

Commitment entails saying “no” to certain actions and behaviors that don’t align with our goals, so that we have more space in our lives to say “yes” to those things that do align.

2)    Make it CONCRETE:

Write down your aspirations and goals and put them in places where they’ll be seen each day. Those daily visual reminders go a long way in keeping our priorities top-of-mind. The saying, “Out of sight, out of mind” is so true! If you aren’t looking at your goals daily, writing them down and visualizing them as if you have already achieved them, you will never move forward with inspired action towards them. Then, they soon become something that seems hard – something you procrastinate about – and soon those “resolutions” are just a thought of the past.

Research on follow-through shows that it primarily comes down to the written answers to 4 questions: What? When? Where? How?  For example: On Monday and Friday at 6pm I will exercise with a trainer at the gym, and on Wednesday at 5:30pm, I will sprint the hill to the top of campus for 10 minutes after a warm-up.

3)    Create CONSISTENCY:

To reach the goals and intentions that you set for 2019, find ways to consistently remind yourself of what they are. How do you do this? Find an accountability partner (or two!) that will check in with you to see how you’re doing with your goals. This is a great time to seek out a Health & Wellness coach, who can help you map out a plan of all the action steps you need to take, and who will help to create a consistent measure of accountability.

It’s proven that social support has a positive impact on a person’s overall well-being and longevity. Having someone who sticks by your side while you tackle tough goals can build up your confidence and change your life for the better.

Rarely is it a good idea to go wild with New Year’s resolutions. Rather, diligent focus on goals will carry you much farther. Clearly articulated, compelling goals are the key to continual and gratifying progress.

Need some coaching guidance and accountability? We’re here to help! Our Health & Wellness Coaching program, Well Within, is designed to transform your approach to wellness and help you form smart, attainable healthy lifestyle habits that will make you feel great all year long! It’s never too late to start, and it’s not too late to create the life that you are rightly deserving of!

 

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This blog post was written to provide educational information only. This article should not be used as a substitute or a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions or concerns about your personal health, you should always consult with your physician. It is recommended that you consult with your physician or health care professional before beginning any fitness regimen to determine if it is suitable for your needs. The use of any information provided by this article is solely at your risk.

Fitness & Wellness Corner – December 2018

Yates has Boxing!?
John Liuzzi, USA Boxing Certified Coach and Yates Group Fitness Instructor
first in a series

And it’s part of group fitness? Yes and yes! But what’s even cooler is that it has a connection to Georgetown’s storied boxing history.

While most people know Yates has a large variety of excellent group fitness courses, they’re often surprised to learn that includes boxing instruction. And to answer the immediate question that usually comes up: yes, we’ll teach you how to actually fight.

The classes are designed to replicate the training you’d get if you walked into an old-school boxing gym and told the grizzled trainer with the ancient sweatshirt “I wanna learn to box!” We do use a group format at first, as everyone needs to get the fundamentals down – how to stand, move, punch, etc. But once you start to get it, you’ll work first in smaller groups and then individually to refine and advance your technique, just like in a real boxing gym.

That means the first few sessions aren’t really much of a workout. But as any of our advanced students can tell you, the workload rapidly increases as you progress from learning the technique to actually applying it, whether on the heavy bag, with a partner working the punch mitts, or even sparring in the ring. Until you’ve tried it, you won’t believe how tiring it is to hit something continually for up to 3 minutes (amateur rounds are 2 min long, so we train for 3).

We’ll teach you everything you need to know, from the ground up: offense, defense, ring tactics, and fight strategy. We focus on fundamentals, so wherever your boxing journey takes you, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals. As this is Georgetown, be careful you don’t get us started talking about boxing history, classic ring literature, or philosophical views on the sweet science…

And if you’ve actually boxed before, you’re more than welcome too…you can skip the basics and get right to the workout. We do our best to find appropriate sparring matches too – so whether you’re a returning student from a previous year, or a former golden gloves competitor looking to keep your hand in the game as you now focus on more scholarly pursuits (yes, this actually happened), we’ll try to make sure you get the ring time you want.

So what about that connection to Georgetown boxing history? Two words: Tom Quinn.

Tom (C’55) worked with Yates to ignite a boxing renaissance at Georgetown at the turn of the century, and it’s been going strong ever since. Right, right, but does it really matter who did it? Yes…it does. Go to McDonough Gymnasium and inspect the trophy cases – you’ll immediately see why.

Keep your hands up!

John Liuzzi, USA Boxing Certified Coach and Yates Group Fitness Instructor

Fitness & Wellness Corner – November 2018

Dark Gray background with a navigation symbol on the left. Mint green text reads, Let's Take This Outside. Exercise, That Is. By Christie L. Simoson, Assistant Fitness Director

It’s that time of year again! Our outside workout regimens are becoming harder to attain due to the temperature creeping lower and lower. You may be the type of person that has a shiver automatically run down your spine when just THINKING about going outside in the cold. But guess what, it doesn’t have to be quite that bad, so long as you know how to properly dress for the occasion. So how should you dress in order to exercise outside in the winter, you may ask?

First, we’ll explain the why. Why is it important to dress appropriately? In relation to our topic today, I will give you a scenario: Imagine you are outside walking to your car (you parked pretty far away). In this scenario, it is cold outside, and you are losing body heat. This is where your body’s safety gear kicks in and says (not literally, of course), “time to rev up the heat in here!”  In order to produce heat, one’s body does so through muscle activity. If you are not doing enough of it (i.e. exercising), your body will initiate involuntary muscle activity, such as shivering (Carlson, 2012, pg. 8). However, once your body temperature drops to a certain number, the shivering ceases and you are well on your way to hypothermia. Hypothermia is the lowering of the core body temperature to below 95 degrees Fahrenheit (Carlson, 2012, pg. 10). This can occur any time in environmental conditions that are colder than internal body temperature. Symptoms of hypothermia include: shivering, pale skin, and bluing of the lips, hands, and feet (McGill, 2019, pg. 165). Additional signs of hypothermia include stumbling or decreased coordination, fatigue, drowsiness, impaired judgement, and lack of self-concern (Carlson, 2012, pg. 10). This leads us back to why it is so important to dress smart! Now, how do we do this? Let’s start at the top!

Background has little gray and purple winter hats. Text in the foreground says, "Wear Headgear"

Seeing that your head is actually a place in which your body extracts heat, wearing a hat allows you to keep the heat in your body. You also may experience a discomfort of breathing in cold air because it is just ‘too cold’. Well, that just may be the case! Your lungs appreciate warmer air, as this improves humidification which reduces the irritation cold air causes (Carlson, 2012, pg. 10). This cold air issue can be easily resolved by wearing a piece of fabric like a mask or scarf over your mouth and nose; the breath you exhale is warming this area, and the fresh oxygen will in turn be warmed prior to entering your body. This eliminates the uncomfortable feeling of breathing in cold air all together.

Magenta background with an illustration of a shirt, jacket, and coat. Text says, "Layer Up"

…but in a smart way. Think about this: when you exercise, your body’s safety mechanism from overheating is to sweat. Your body pulls the heat from under your skin, creating sweat droplets on the surface of your skin to cool you off, which then evaporate (Roy, 2013, pg. 3). You may be thinking, “but it’s cold outside, I’m not going to sweat.” Well, that can be a false statement, as you can still sweat outside in the cold. Tying it back together, imagine you begin to sweat while exercising, but you are wearing layers of clothing which trap those sweat droplets in, in turn making your clothing a little damp; we all know this is not a good thing in the winter. This is why it is important to continue to wear clothing with ventilation and wicking material during the winter months. To break it down, I suggest wearing first a wicking layer to extract the sweat, followed by an insulation layer to trap in the warm air, and then lastly, a wind and rain repellent layer (which can be removed if it is not raining or windy out). In regards to types of fabric, I suggest synthetics (i.e. polypropylene) for the wicking layer, a fleece or synthetic for the insulation layer (NOT COTTON), and then a shell layer that will allow sweat out, and prevent wind or moisture from seeping in (Carlson, 2012, pg. 9).

Lastly, try wearing darker clothes. On the opposite side of what they say to do in the summer, feel free to wear clothes which will attract sunlight. While we do encourage you to wear a bright/reflective vest or strap for safety reasons, wearing a darker color underneath can help absorb the sunlight.

Background contains winter gear icons including mittens, socks, and earmuffs. Text in foreground reads, "Wrap Up The Extremities"

Gloves, mittens, and socks, OH MY! Be sure to at least cover your ears if you are not willing to wear a hat. When you are very cold and have hypothermia, your body will warm what it deems necessary to survive. In extreme cases where an individual may be stuck in the cold for a very long time, your body experiences vasoconstriction, which is when the body reduces the blood flow to the surface tissues under the skin, in turn retaining heat (Morrison, 2010, pg. 47). Vasoconstriction causes the blood to circulate the warm blood around the vital organs, leaving your extremities to get cold. This is why you typically see frostbite on an individual’s hands, feet, nose, and ears; your body knows that these tissues are not vital, so the warm blood is focused on the center of your body, where organs such as your heart, lungs, liver, etc. are located. Wearing warmer socks with a thin wool component help keep your feet dry and warm. This will help prevent those awful foot blisters we all strongly dislike as well. In sum, always cover your extremities to keep them warm!

Mint green background with three illustrated pairs of sunglasses. Text reads, "Other Tips"

Don’t forget about sunscreen and sunglasses. If your face is uncovered, those delightful rays of sunshine can still cause damage to your skin. Be sure to keep it protected. Also, the winter months are typically very bright due to the white snow. Add a little dampness to the mix, and you have yourself what I like to call snow blindness (yes, it’s a thing). Sunglasses can help reduce some of those glares and even reduce vision-related headaches due to these reflections, ensuring you can fully see where you are stepping so you do not injure yourself (Bird, 2013)! Lastly, I advise you to bring a cell phone along for the run. It may be rare for an individual to get stuck in the cold due to an injury while exercising, but guess what? It happens!! Keeping a cell phone on you will allow you to make that urgent phone call if something were to happen in which you needed assistance right then and there, or if you come across another individual who was injured and has been exposed to the cold for quite some time.

Background contains icons illustrating winter gear including sunglasses, mittens, hats, socks, earmuffs, and jackets. Text in foreground reads, "Wrap It Up".

In summary, the proper way to dress in the cold in preparation for exercise is to wear a hat, gloves, warm socks, and to wear appropriate layers. Give this piece of advice a try, and let me know what you think! I promise it makes a difference and will maybe even get you to enjoy exercising outside when the temperature drops.

 

References:

  1. Bird, C. (2013, December 26). Why Wearing Sunglasses in Winter Is Important. Retrieved from https://www.sweye.com/blog/general/why-wearing-sunglasses-in-winter-is-important/
  2. Carlson, M. J. (2012). Exercising In The Cold. ACSMs Health & Fitness Journal,16(1), 8-12. doi:10.1249/fit.0b013e31823cf99b
  3. McGill, E. A. (2019). Principles of Group Fitness Instruction (2nd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  4. Morrison, G. (2010). Exercise in the Cold. ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal,14(6), 47-49.
  5. Roy, B. A. (2013). Exercise and Fluid Replacement. ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal,17(4), 3.

 

This blog post was written to provide educational information only. This article should not be used as a substitute or a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions or concerns about your personal health, you should always consult with your physician. It is recommended that you consult with your physician or health care professional before beginning any fitness regimen to determine if it is suitable for your needs. The use of any information provided by this article is solely at your risk.