Barriers, Road Blocks…and Breaking them down! (Series, Part 1)

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This is going to be a series of posts on common barriers which may get in the way of improving our health…and strategies to break them down! Please engage with me and send me topics you have experienced to be barriers; I only have my own perspective so I’d love to hear your experiences as well. Topic number 1 is going to be money, and resources…here we go!

Money, money, these days everything costs money! Living healthy is no exception; ultimately, making life style changes requires you do some things differently…exercise, what you eat, where you go, professionals you hire, and a lot of these changes can cost more money than you currently budget towards a healthier you. Like any organization or business, how you budget your own money tells a story about your priorities. I am not saying that some of this stuff is not outrageously expensive, just to be mindful of the resources you have available, how you currently allocate them, and what your priorities ultimately are.

Here is the bottom line, you can make meaningful lifestyle changes to improve your health which cost you NOTHING. Here are a few examples:

  1. Do you currently exercise? If no, use a step counter that we all have on our smart-phone, and see how many steps you take in your normal daily routine. Once you have a baseline, make time each day for 15 minutes of additional walking. Look how much more physical activity you will do in one week, and it cost you nothing!
  2. Do you eat snacks, processed food, or candy? If yes, limit yourself to only one day per week when you can have these foods as a treat. You just made a healthy lifestyle change, which cost you nothing (and maybe saved you some money)!

Granted, the examples I outlined may appear simple. There is more to improving one’s health than taking more steps, and cutting back on the sweets; but, ultimately, there are a lot of little things (such as the examples above) which can add up to make a big difference if we commit to them. Execution of the overall plan may be simple, but not easy (or everyone would do it).

I once heard a college classmate say “how much does a pushup cost, what about a sit-up?!?” Point taken for sure, however a pushup is another example of something which is simple, but not easy to perform properly without proper instruction and baseline core strength. If you are confident in your pushup game, it is a great exercise to add to your routine which you can do just about anywhere with no equipment. If you have never done a pushup, this might be any area you consider investing some resources on proper instruction.

I want to break out some major areas which can be cost barriers to health and fitness, and expand on how we can prioritize them based on flagging as essential (must spend), non-essential, or optional (could be essential, depending on goals):

–          Food/Drink: In general, organic, non-GMO, less processed, fresher foods tend to cost more than the inverse food types of processed junk. We could do a whole post on reasons why this is, but the short reality is this can be a financial barrier to making healthy choices. I plan to blog more on making good food choices at a later date, for now I will say that this gets an essential flag to invest some resources here. Consider the following basics:

o   Drinking clean water: Most people reading this have access to clean drinking water. It may be worth investing some of your budget in a means to make it even cleaner or buying distilled water, to eliminate some impurities from tap/well water: https://www.epa.gov/ccl/types-drinking-water-contaminants

o   Less processed food is healthier…even if you are not buying non-GMO organic foods due to budget constraints, making food choices that are fresher (not pre-packaged), and have short ingredient lists that you can read and understand will benefit you.

o   If budget is a consideration, doing your own meal shopping and prep will help you control factors related to health and your budget (as opposed to buying lunch or other meals out).

–          Apparel: There is no way around this, you can’t really exercise in a shirt and tie. What types of activities you are into can determine a lot of your budget for this area. If you are on a tight budget, consider consignment or thrift shop options. Please be careful what you look to save money on… do not pinch pennies with any safety equipment. Even for something as basic as running, spending a little more on the right pair of shoes can help you avoid some nasty overuse injuries, such as tendonitis. Apparel gets an essential flag, with more emphasis on how much depending on the type of apparel and its safety purpose.

–          Supplements/Vitamins: There are many schools of thought on this topic, I think I will make this a later blog post as well. Are there some wonderful products out there that help people meet their goals and stay healthy? Sure. Keep in mind that supplements and vitamins are part of an industry which, like all, needs to make money to sustain. My bottom line, are supplements essential to being healthy? NO. Can they be right for some people? Absolutely. Strictly from a budget standpoint I give this a non-essential flag.

–          Gym memberships: They cost money for sure, some more than others depending on the type of facility and area of the country. Depending on your goals and means, this may or may not be a priority. I personally do not have a gym membership, I have spent a number of years acquiring basic equipment to meet my fitness needs at home. Some people love the sense of community at their gym, and being part of this community is a driving force to their healthy life-style. Make the choice that is best for you. Optional flag, depending on goals and circumstances.

–          Equipment: By this, I mean exercise equipment for your home. This can range from a $15 medicine ball, to a $3,000 treadmill. From a budget standpoint, I give this an optional flag, depending on your goals and routine. You may have a gym membership, and/or meet all of your training needs with body weight exercises and therefore not need equipment at home (for example).

–          Personal Trainers: I always advise anyone who is serious about learning something new to bite the bullet and invest in someone to teach you. For example, if you want to learn the Olympic Weight Lifting exercises (Clean and Jerk, Snatch), don’t try to cut corners and learn from you-tube, that is a good way to make a mistake and drop heavy steel on your head. Bottom line is I give this an optional flag, with strong consideration to make sure you do not cut costs when trying to learn something new. There are two ways I have seen people find success with Personal Trainers:

o   Hire someone for a period of time to get you going on health and fitness in general, or a new exercise. Make it clear that you want to learn how to do this on your own.

o   Hire someone on-going, for the same initial purpose as step one, and then as an on-going support. This option is more expensive in the long term, but some people find it incredibly beneficial to have someone who designs workouts for them, and constantly consults them on progress towards goals, and provides motivation to keep going.

This is not an exhaustive list, but I do believe it covers the basics as far as major categories for health and fitness expenses. As mentioned before, your budget reveals your priorities, so before taking this on, look at the state of your personal budget/cash flow first: https://www.debt.org/advice/budget/ Once you have an idea of where you currently stand, think about how these major categories would fit in.

  1. Food/Drink-Monthly budgeted expense
  2. Apparel- Periodic expense, could come from savings
  3. Supplements- Monthly budgeted expense (or not)
  4. Gym membership- Monthly budgeted expense (or not)
  5. Equipment- Periodic expense, could come from savings (or not)
  6. Personal Trainer- Monthly budgeted expense (or not)

The take-away, to breakdown this barrier you need to examine the extent of how much this topic (money and resources) is a barrier for you. Once you have an idea of resources available to you, and how you could (or could not, right now at least) reallocate them to health and fitness, you have your starting point. The answer may be that you can’t afford everything you want right now, and that’s ok. I want to emphasize again, doing something is better than nothing. If you can’t afford to join a gym right now, start with a no cost option like taking the stairs every day. Set goals related to how much you want to spend on health and fitness, go back to the SMART model if you need to, and you will find a way to prioritize what is important and work towards it.

I hope this was helpful and thought provoking for you, my next topic will be time as a barrier, and how to work through that one and break it down! Have a great week everyone! -Dom

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