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4 Habits You Need to Know That Will Change Your Life Forever

4 Habits You Need to Know That Will Change Your Life Forever

Ever heard of the phrase “live a life of intention?”  One of the most important times of my life was a few years ago when I realized the success I desired, personally and professionally, would only come once I instituted the habits necessary to reach my goals.

Up until that time I had motivation, but lacked the long-term focus to achieve my goals.  Once I understood keystone habits, I was able to pinpoint the exact skill set needed to reach my goals which allowed me to direct my life in the direction of goal achievement.  According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, understanding keystone habits is essential to making changes that last.  Here is what Duhigg has to say concerning keystone habits:

Keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers. This book’s (The Power of Habit) first section explained how habits work, how they can be created and changed.  However, where should a would-be habit master start? Understanding keystone habits holds the answer to that question: The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.

I call these habits the Pillars of Successful Living and from my experience here are the 4 habits you need to know that will change your life forever:

Live a Healthy Lifestyle

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    I do not know of a habit change that will have more of a positive impact on your life than exercise and healthy eating!  Two years ago my waistline had expanded greatly and I realized I had to get my eating under control.  I made the decision to begin eating healthier meals and walking 2-3 times each day for exercise.  I cleared out my cupboards, began logging everything I ate and closely watched my calories.

    Once I had made the decision to live a healthy lifestyle many other parts of my life began to change.  My mind was more focused.  My confidence grew.  I began to dress and carry myself better.  And most importantly, my body began to feel better. During this transition I learned that I was capable of more which catapulted me toward greater heights.  There is mental power in seeing your pants fitting differently. The confidence one gains from losing weight exceeds any other that I have experienced!

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    Live a Goal-Oriented Life

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      I don’t know any successful people that live their life void of goals.  I do, however, know tons of people that are floundering that have no goals or no life purpose.  Dave Ramsey produced a list several years ago highlighting the key differences between successful and unsuccessful people.  At the top of that list was having written goals and focusing on one single life goal; 67% of the wealthy have written goals and 80% focus on one single goal.  What I learned from this list was invaluable.  I had never been a fan of written goals and I had also always felt like an underachiever.

      I determined that I would choose one life goal, write down my goals and then work diligently until I reached my goal of becoming a full-time writer. I developed the habit of using a 4-item daily To Do list which supported my long-term goals.  Once I wrote down my 6 month and long-term goals, I posted them on my refrigerator so that I would be forced to face them every day. It was a constant reminder to remain focused.  Having a singular life focus and written goals to gauge my success have been one of the most important habit changes of my entire life!

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      Live Debt-Free

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        I do not know of a bigger dream killer than debt.  I was on a camping trip several years ago and a friend of mine was complaining about his job and life in general.  Basically, he felt trapped in a job he hated and believed his dreams were only dreams and not intended for “grown ups.”  It was sad to hear him express how defeated he had become.  I asked him why he didn’t quit his job and find something that contributed to his happiness instead of demoralizing his spirit.  That conversation revealed that he had managed his money irresponsibly, accruing nearly $25,000 in credit card debt, a mortgage he and his wife could barely afford, multiple car payments, a boat payment and many other bills that stretched their bank account to the max.

        The problem wasn’t that he couldn’t find a job that made him happier, the truth was he couldn’t take a job making less money due to his irresponsible spending.  And of the thousands of people that I speak with each year, this topic comes up the most.  What many don’t realize is that paying off debt can be easier than we think, but it will take great sacrifice in lifestyle; sacrifices that most are unwilling to make. But, think of the things you pay for that eat up your money: pay television, coffee shops, multiple car payments, eating out, huge mortgage payments, etc.  If you want to live your dreams then maybe it is time to sacrifice for a few years, pay off the credit card debt and free yourself up to experience work that also brings you joy.

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        Live a Life of Charity

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          When I speak to groups about this topic the most common response relates to donating money, but when I refer to living a life of charity I mean giving of one’s time.  There is no greater perspective changer than to volunteer one’s time working at a local food bank, men’s or women’s shelter, nursing home or orphanage.  In our world, people are becoming more and more suspicious of strangers, fearing that criminals await around every corner.  This is resulting in a society that is becoming more and more selfish and self-focused.  If you want to begin opening up your world and change your life forever, apply to work at a local charity.  It is my belief that until you put the self-focused You in its place and begin focusing part of your life on adding value to the world around you, you will not experience any type of true joy, happiness or fulfillment.

          Living the life you dream of does not happen by chance.  You must determine what it is that you want, develop a plan and then live a life of intention.  It took me many years to understand this concept, but once I bought in to this fact my life began to turn around.

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          I believe it is time for you to stop allowing life to happen to you and begin to design your life in order to aim you in the direction of more personal and professional success. Once you adopt this mindset and focus on these keystone habits you will notice your life slowly begin to change.  And before you know it you will find yourself dreaming while wide awake.

          Featured photo credit: Yoga/TakeBackYourHealthConference via flickr.com

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          Published on August 16, 2019

          15 Strength Training Exercises Specifically for Runners

          15 Strength Training Exercises Specifically for Runners

          When you choose the right exercises, and make strength training a priority, it will have a great payoff to improve your running. Studies have shown incorporating a strength training program to your running routine improves running economy.[1]

          Here are 15 strength training exercises specifically for runners.

          1. Planks

          The plank is a very important core exercise that will help give you more control and balance while running. Having a strong core will also keep you more stable and in control if you have to navigate uneven surfaces.

          The plank is a simple exercise and involved balancing on your forearms and the tips of your toes, so that your back is “straight as a plank”. You want to focus on keeping your abs tight and imagine sucking your belly button up into your spine to have them properly engaged.

          Aim for 30 to 45 seconds for a few rounds. Ultimately, you want to hold them as long as you can with proper form – so every time you perform a plank you want to go a little longer than previous ones.

          2. Side Planks

          The same concept is applied but you are now engaging your core in a different manner and engaging your oblique muscles too. This time, you are going to lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other.

          You will lean on your right forearm and lift your hips off the ground keeping your head lined up with your torso and ankles. Keep your other hand on your hip to help ,and control balance, and focus on not moving or swaying. Keep your abs tight to engage them and hold for 30-45 seconds, or longer if you can.

          3. Clamshells

          For this exercise, you are going to need a simple resistance band. Start with the band wrapped around both legs just below the knee. Your starting position will be on the ground lying on your side with your top hip and shoulder pointing towards the ceiling. Your hips will be on the ground, keep your back straight and your feet together, and lift up with your top knee as far as you can with the resistance.

          Pause for a second at the top and lower back down under control. You can do 10 reps on this side before switching over and doing another 10 reps and aim for 2 to 3 sets.

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          Clamshells are going to help strengthen your abductor muscles giving you stronger hips and more stability while running.

          4. Single-Leg Bridge

          You will start lying on your back with your feet on the ground, shoulder-width apart with knees bent. You will straighten out one leg so it’s out in front of you in the air and lift your body up by pushing with the leg on the ground.

          You want to flex your abs and glutes while pushing upward and try to keep your hips level throughout the motion before returning to the ground. You can also hold your body in the upright position for 5-10 seconds before returning to the ground to get more engagement before switching over to the other leg.

          The single-leg bridge will help strengthen your glutes which are crucial for running power and stride strength.

          5. Standing Calf Raises

          This is a simple exercise but one that is very important for strengthening the calves. The stronger they are, the less fatigue you will experience during running. You will need to find an elevated step or platform for this exercise.

          Stand on the platform with your heels hanging off the edge. Find something stable to hold on to for balance and start by lower your heels down until you feel a stretch in the back of your calves. Then, stand upwards like you are trying to see over a fence. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

          6. Arch Lifting

          You will start out standing with your feet directly under your hips, and this is best done without shoes. You will rotate the arch of your foot upward while keeping your toes and heels in contact with the ground.

          Don’t let your toes tighten and you want to hold for a few seconds at the top before returning to the ground. You can do 3 sets of 10 repetitions and this is going to help strengthen the arches of your feet.

          The stronger your arches are the better it is to keep your running stride strong and prevent less fatigue in the feet.

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          7. Half-Kneel Hip Flexor Stretch

          Strong hips are paramount for running and the hip flexors can easily become strained and overused. This exercise will help to strengthen them and provide more power and stability while running. You will start kneeling with one foot forward and the other knee bent underneath the hip.

          Keep your abs tight, your back straight, and shift your body weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hips. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds before switching over to the other leg.

          8. Alternating Lunges

          These are going to develop power and strength in your quads and glutes to help give you a more powerful stride. You will start standing with your hands on your hips looking straight out in front of you.

          Step forward with your right leg and lower down just before your opposite knee touches the ground. Then, push through your heel to return to the standing position before performing the lunge with your left leg. Alternate between the right and left leg so that each one has done 10 reps and you can perform 3 sets of this.

          9. Jump Squats

          These can be done just with your bodyweight and help to develop explosive power in the lower body. The jump squat is handy for when you have to run hills and need more power for harder stretches of your run.

          The best way is to start in a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart. You will drive through the heels of your feet and explode upwards. As your bodyweight brings you back to the ground, control your weight as you go back into the squat position to fully engage the muscles.

          Make sure not to let your knees move inwards and keep your abs tight, your head up, and your chest out. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.

          10. Skater Hops

          This will help to build leg and core strength, along with improving balance. You will start standing upright but then bending the knees slight like you’re about to sit down. You will then drive off your right foot, jumping a few feet out to the left.

          You will land on your left foot while your right foot swings behind your left leg. Then, drive off the left foot using the momentum of your right foot swinging back to land back on it. You will keep doing these side hops for ten times each leg and the motion should look like a speed skater shifting side to side.

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          11. Bulgarian Split Squat

          This will be similar to the lunges but, will really ramp up the resistance for the quads and is a great strength training exercise for runners. You are going to need an elevated surface or bench to stand in front of. The starting position will be standing upright with your head up and hands on your hips.

          Start with your right foot behind you supported by the bench. You will start by lowering your hips to drops your left leg down to around a 90-degree angle, stopping just before your right knee hits the ground.

          Next, push up through the heel until you are back at the starting position and perform ten reps, under control, before you switch over to the right leg. Perform 3 sets of this.

          To make this even tougher, you can hold dumbbells in your hands hanging at your sides.

          12. Arabesque

          These will help in activating and controlling your hips. You will start off by standing on one leg, hands on your hips, and making sure your hips are level and balanced. You can then put your arms out to the side to give you more balance.

          Start by tipping your torso forward as your non-weight-bearing leg extends out behind you. You can slightly bend your knee to help with control and you want to have your back and extended leg as level as possible. You should end up basically parallel to the floor with your shoulder, hip, and ankle should be in a straight line.

          When you’ve gone as far forward as you can, return to the starting position and perform 8 repetitions before switching to the other leg.

          Perform 2 to 3 sets. These are all about quality over quantity so if you can only do 4 or 5, that’s fine.

          13. Hip Bridge

          This is another great exercise to target the glutes which are the source of your running power. Start by lying on the ground with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Squeeze your glutes and then lift your hips up towards the ceiling.

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          Your hips, knees, and shoulders should be in a straight line. Hold at the top for a second and then lower back down under control. Perform this 12 times and then, you can do 3 sets. If these get easier, you can hold a weight across your stomach for more resistance.

          14. Push-Ups

          A classic exercise, and for good reason. As much as you want to focus your strength training on the lower body, you can’t neglect your upper body. Your arms are helping drive and propel you while running and a strong upper body helps with your overall balance and stability.

          You can start laying facedown on the ground with your palms facing downwards and elbows tucked into your sides. Focus on pushing through the heel of your palms upward, stopping just before your elbows lock out. Lower back down under control and stop just before your chest touches the ground.

          Focus on keeping the elbows tucked into your side and avoid having them flail outwards. You can perform 10 reps for 3 sets of these.

          15. Squat to Overhead Press

          This is a full-body motion that works a majority of muscles, builds power, explosiveness, and coordination. You will need two dumbbells and you will start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, with the dumbbells, held up by your shoulders – palms facing forward.

          Send your hips back and lower down into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you stand up, press the dumbbells overhead and return them to the starting position. Go for 10 reps and three sets.

          The Bottom Line

          As much as you’d like to, you can’t be running all the time. It can lead to overuse, injuries and burnout. The perfect way to offset this is with strength training, making sure you perform your training with proper form and technique, avoiding mistakes which can lead to injury.

          There are many other strength exercises such as the deadlift, which works the back and leg muscles which are vital for running economy improvement and injury prevention.[2] These exercises will make you a more efficient and resilient runner allowing you to improve your distances and times.

          Even if you’ve been against strength training for runners, you can see now how it’s necessary in order to improve your overall running ability and performance.

          Featured photo credit: Stage 7 Photography via unsplash.com

          Reference

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