Archives for May 2015

TransformAging | An online fitness and health webinar for midlife women

 

fitness and health webinar

I want to continue to age well.

TC_Aging

To look good, feel great and to be able to keep doing all of my favourite activities for a long time to come.

Don’t you? Doesn’t everybody?

The thing is, when it comes to aging well, you need a plan.
  • A plan that incorporates movement and nutrition that’s appropriate and relevant to your midlife needs (hello achy knees and fluctuating hormones…).
  • A plan that’s evidence-based and prescribed by fitness professionals who specialize in the fitness and nutrition needs of midlife women (we’re out there, although you might not notice us because we don’t post six-pack abs selfies).
  • A plan with actionable steps you can start taking today (because who has time to wait until tomorrow?).

Good news!

You’re invited to the first ever TransformAging webinar;
  • Midlife Weight Gain, Hormones, and Menopot: Strategies for Staying Slim Without Losing Your Sanity with yours truly, Tamara Grand, PhD, based on the interview I did last spring for the radio show Voice America
  • Resistance Training: Your After 50 Easy Weight Management Program brought to you by the highly qualified, quite funny, action-oriented, fitness pro, Debra Atkinson
  • Supplementation and Skincare to Transform Aging Inside & Out: What’s Really Needed? by Mo Hagan, an award-winning, internationally known presenter whose passion is elevating baby boomer women (and she just happens to be Canadian too, ‘eh?).

Weren’t able to attend the fitness and health webinar in real time? Or you did, but weren’t able to write fast enough to capture all of the nuggets of wisdom and ‘do-right-nows’ we covered? Want to be able to watch them over and over and over again to reinforce the small steps you’ve taken and keep you moving in the right direction?

You can purchase the entire fitness and health webinar series, for a mere $34.

Click here to purchase and obtain lifetime access to the series >> TransformAging Webinar Purchase

health and fitness webinar

I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I did!

 

 

10 ways to measure progress other than the bathroom scale

Ask a room full of 40 and 50 year-old women what their number one health and fitness goal is and you’re bound to hear ‘lose weight’ more than a few times.

Given that weight loss requires a multi-pronged approach (strength training, cardio, attention to nutrition and of particular importance to those experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, improved sleep and stress reduction), it’s surprising that one of the most preferred ways to measure progress is still the number on the bathroom scale.

Especially when the pounds aren’t falling off as quickly as they may have when you were younger…

While I can’t argue that seeing a smaller number on the scales isn’t indicative of weight loss, there are many other ways to measure progress along the way.

  • Metrics that encourage reflection and celebration
  • Metrics that shift the focus from how you look to how you feel
  • Metrics that emphasize ability and performance

This week, I challenge you to substitute one of the following metrics (brainstormed by me and some very smart members of my Facebook community; you’re welcome to join us!) for your daily (or weekly) weigh-in.

10 ways to measure progress other than the bathroom scale

1. Take circumference measurements; Losing weight via a combination of exercise and attention to nutrition often results in circumference measurements decreasing before pounds on the scale. Especially if your exercise plan includes lifting weights (as it should 🙂 ). If seeing numbers decrease is a big motivator for you, adding up those inches lost every month or so can be a great way to measure progress. Six inches sounds like way more than 2 pounds, doesn’t it? And because it takes a little more time and effort than simply stepping on the scales, you won’t be inclined to do it daily.

Wendy asks herself “Can I get into pants I could not get into last month, three months ago, last year? Can I zip a jacket/vest?”

2. Estimate your body fat; For most people, losing weight is really about losing body fat (I can’t think of a single client who’s ever asked me to help them reduce their muscle mass…). When fat loss is accompanied by muscle gain, body composition estimates gives us more information about our health than the number on the scale. There are many ways to estimate body fat, some of which require professional help (e.g., callipers, immersion) or specialized equipment (e.g., Skulpt Aim device, see photo below). But if you’re only looking for a ball-park estimate, a simple, online body fat calculator is good enough.

My front and back ‘muscle quotient’, as measured by Skulpt Aim

 

3. Try on your ‘thermometer’ jeans; You know that pair of jeans (or other pants) that, when they fit well, make you feel like the best version of yourself? Use them to measure progress (or to tell you when you’ve fallen off track). Note that these shouldn’t be a pair of pants you wore way back when, before you had three kids and had hours a day to devote to fitness and menu planning. We’re aiming for realistic, attainable goals here ;-).

Heat suggests that once you lose the weight you “buy new, smaller clothes and get rid of the other ones. That’s just giving yourself permission to wear them again later.”

4. Tally up the ‘toonies’ in your workout rewards jar; I like to ‘pay’ myself for every workout I do, saving the money for one or two more extravagant rewards every year. Seeing the coins accumulate in my workout reward jar makes me feel successful and encourages me to get to the gym on those days where my motivation is low.

I seem to be always saving for new shoes…

 

5. Celebrate weight-lifting PR’s; My favourite numbers to keep track of? How many pounds I lift during my a workout. I use the app Strong to record my strength workouts. It has a fun, summary screen that tells you the total number of pounds lifted and reps performed during your workout. The best thing about these types of numbers? You celebrate when they go up!

Kudos to Shayna for “pushing … [her]self a little harder every week at the gym” (and noticing the corresponding changes in her body).

6. Complete a fitness test; Remember those fitness tests you had to take way back in high school? The gym teacher who recorded how many pushups and sit-ups you could do in a row? The stop watch she wore around her neck to time your planks and wall sits? Test yourself monthly and compare your results. Even if your weight loss workout doesn’t specifically include these four exercises, consistent exercise will produce spill-over effects and improvement over time. (Want to improve your pushups? Here are some tips for getting from knees to toes)

Try one of the follow pushup variations. Keep track of how many you can do.

7. Cut your 5K time; Pay attention to how much more quickly you can perform certain activities (and recover from performing them too). Time your runs or your metabolic finishers. Aim to shave a few seconds off each time out.
Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.18.18 PM

In just a month, I shaved a 1.5 minutes off this metabolic finisher!

 

8. Peruse your progress pics; You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. When we’re smack dab in the middle of a weight loss goal it’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. We focus on what’s not changing and fail to see what is. Taking photographs of yourself (or having someone you trust do it for you) is a great way to objectively see the changes in your body over time.

Try wearing the same, form-fitting clothing in each set of photos (one from the front, one from the side, one from the back); it makes it easier to see progress and you’ll have twice the proof when those clothes start to sag and bag…

ways to measure progress

9. Celebrate streaks; Do you wear a pedometer and count your daily steps? Log your food in MyFitnessPal? Attend 6:00 am Bootcamp Monday through Friday? Why not keep track of how many days in a row you hit your goal? Generating healthy habits is the first step towards weight loss and improved fitness. Focus on the small, day to day steps and the bigger goals will follow.

MyFitnessPal loves to announce streaks to your friends...

MyFitnessPal loves to announce streaks to your friends…

 

10. Focus on how you feel; When it comes right down to it, weight loss and fitness improvement goals are about feeling good. We all want to feel healthy, energetic, happy and light in our own bodies.

As Meg says “feeling good is my wellness scale” (see what she did there? ‘wellness SCALE’?).

What’s YOUR ‘wellness scale’? One of the metrics mentioned above? Or something entirely different?
Share your favourite ways to measure progress towards your fitness and weight loss goals in the comments section below.

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Training for the status quo | fitness after 40

A couple of weeks ago a fellow gym-goer asked me what I was training for.

She’d noticed that I lift heavy, 3-4 days each week and that I’d been consistently upping my weights, in particular on my rows (not stalker-ish; she’s quite interested in developing her back, so she pays attention to these things).

Was I training for a weight lifting competition? Nope (this made me giggle)

To build bigger muscles? Not particularly (although that Tricep score my Skulpt Aim gave me is bugging me just a bit 😉 )

SkulptAim_May5_2015

I could have sworn my triceps were stronger than this…

To lose weight or lean out? Nah, I’m pretty happy with my body the way it is (i.e., I’m not interested in doing what it takes to drop 3 or 4% more body fat…)

To improve my performance in another sport? Perhaps, if you consider life to be a sport (have you seen my new tag line?)

My lack of appropriate response clearly confused her, so I tried to explain that my primary reason for exercising consistently and progressively is to continue being able to perform all the activities I love, pain-free and for a long time to come.

That is, I train to stay pretty much the way I am. And when I look around at the mostly healthy-looking people in my gym, I don’t think that I’m alone.

I guess you could call it training for the status quo.

Note that this isn’t a case of simply running to stay in place (a la the Red Queen)…

Alice and the Red Queen

“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”, said the Red Queen to Alice

It’s running to NOT end up in a worse place 🙂

Training for the status quo has myriad benefits (especially for those of us who aren’t 20 anymore…)

Why I train for the status quo

  • maintain or increase metabolism; As we get older, muscle mass is both harder to create and harder to maintain due in part to a reduction in the production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. With declining muscle mass comes a reduction in basal metabolic rate. Hence the increased challenge of keeping midlife pounds at bay. Progressive resistance strength training encourages muscle growth and allows me to continue eating (most of) the foods I enjoyed in my 20’s and 30’s without gaining (very much) weight.
  • health is more than how you look; It’s not just what you see that’s important; how things are working ‘under the hood’ is a strong predictor of future health and longevity. Training for the status quo can help improve many of the health markers your doctor is watching; cholesterol, blood pressure, lung capacity, heart rate and stroke volume, to name a few.

Like ‘eating for maintenance’, training for the status quo isn’t sexy.

But it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative…

Does the phrase ‘training for the status quo’ make you think of a hamster wheel? Or do you see the benefits of exercising simply for the benefits of exercising?

 

training for the status quo

 

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6 tips to build your confidence in the gym

Many of the women I teach and train confess to being more than a tad uncomfortable in the gym. Particularly when working out by themselves.

Some common responses to my query as to what, in particular, makes them feel uncomfortable?

  • I don’t know how the equipment works
  • I’m not sure which exercises I should do
  • The free weights section is in the middle of the room; everybody will be watching me
  • I’ll do something wrong and look stupid
  • I’m self-conscious about my body
  • I just don’t feel like I belong in there with all those fit, young people

confidence_gym

Recruiting a friend to be your ‘exercise buddy’ is a great solution (check out these tips for creating the perfect fitness partnership).

However, there will be days when your training partner isn’t available and you’ll be faced with the decision to either ‘go it alone’ or cancel your workout entirely. Choose the latter too often and you’ll be hard-pressed to see the results of your sporadic efforts…

Looking to feel more at home in the weight room? Try the following suggestions to build your confidence in the gym
  • Make a plan. Know exactly what you’ll be doing before you get to the gym. You can find free workouts in books, magazines and websites (here’s a whole page of free workouts I’ve created just for readers like you). Choose one, print it out and pack it in your gym bag to reference at the gym.
  • Choose a quiet time to train. Call or visit the gym in advance to find the least busy time of day to train. At most gyms, early mornings, late afternoons and evenings are when equipment is most in demand. If your schedule allows it, plan for a late morning or early afternoon workout. You’re likely to have the place to yourself (or at the very least, not be surrounded by 20-year old males flexing and grunting and taking selfies 😉 ).
  • Adopt a ‘gradual entry’ approach. Start by tagging 10 minutes in the gym onto your regular group fitness class. Ask your instructor (or the weight room attendant in the gym) for three gym exercises you can do either right before class or immediately after. Once you get comfortable with those exercises (and with the gym itself), add another three exercises to your routine.
  • Carve out a corner. Keep your eye out for less-congested areas of the gym. Collect all the equipment you’ll need for your workout and claim your space. Corners are a great place for people who are concerned about others watching them. Plus, having all of your equipment in one place means a quicker workout.
  • Practice new moves at home. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are with strength training, the first few times you perform a new exercise you’ll always feel awkward and conspicuous (Turkish getups anyone?). Before you debut them at the gym, practice new moves at home and ideally, in front of a mirror. Not only will you improve your form, you’ll also realize that you don’t look nearly as silly as you thought you might.
  • Find a back-up fitness buddy. If you tend to always go to the gym at the same time of day, you’ve likely noticed others that share your preferred workout time. You may even have started to smile or say ‘hello’ to them in greeting. Chances are that at least one of them is feeling exactly the same as you and would appreciate having an occasional workout partner for accountability and motivation.

You’ll never know if you don’t ask. At the very least, you can exercise next to them and pretend that you’re working out together 😉

Have you ever suffered from a crisis of confidence in the weight room?

How did you build your confidence in the gym?

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