Archives for July 2015

A 6-exercise, whole-body stability ball workout

I got such great feedback from the three at-home workout videos I created and shared last month that I decided to make another one.

One that requires only a single piece of equipment; a stability ball.

stability ball workout

Don’t forget to ask your children if you can borrow their ‘chair’ for your workout!

Perfect for when you’re travelling to the cottage and don’t want to lug weights or kettlebells with you.

Perfect for those days when you’ve only got 20 minutes to squeeze in a workout.

Perfect for adding a bit of extra core focus to your strength training plan.

Perfect, perfect, perfect!

A 6-exercise, whole-body stability ball workout: Perform 12 repetitions (on each side, where applicable) of each of the following 6 exercises. Rest and repeat once or twice more. Don’t forget to stretch when you’re finished!

If you’ve enjoyed this workout, please take a minute to ‘Like’, ‘Comment’ and ‘Share’. Positive feedback makes the world go ’round!

Disclaimer: Although I am a Certified Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer ;-).  Interested in working with me? Check out the online fitness services I offer. I’d love to work with YOU!

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10 Ways to Overcome Emotional Eating {Guest post}

I have a treat for you today, dear readers. A guest post written by my kind, generous, compassionate, insightful and very smart friend Evelyn Parham. Evelyn and I first met via our blogs. We read, shared and supported one another’s writing. She then joined my online women’s group training program, developed a passion for the emotional side of nutrition and recently obtained her certification as an Eating Psychology Coach. I know that you’ll love her as much as I do!

Have you ever felt sad, stressed, or angry?

What happened when you experienced the emotions? Many of you probably reached for comforting food. There is nothing wrong with eating food to feel good. But eating food for the sake of helping you deal with emotions is not the best way to deal with your emotions.

Emotional eating does not discriminate; it touches everyone. Overcoming emotional eating takes time. Even after learning how to overcome emotional eating, there will be times when emotional eating will pull you back in.

Why? Because you have emotions and you are an eater.

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Here are ten ways to overcome emotional eating.

Overcome Emotional Eating
  • Pay attention to your emotions. Oftentimes emotions get suppressed and suppression leads to you ignoring emotions that get stirred up within you. If you are sad, acknowledge the emotion and take time to deal with the emotion. Dealing with the emotion when you know it is present helps you control emotional eating.
  • Do not eat to fill a void. Emotional eating is when one eats to fill a void, but when you pay attention to your emotions, you are less likely to eat your feelings. A void means there is space for other things to fit in your life. Fill the void doing activities that take your mind off eating food.
  • Be mindful when eating. Take time to enjoy eating. Let your mind engage with the flavor, texture and aroma of the food you are eating. Eat when you feel hungry and stop eating when you feel satisfied. Do not surf the web, watch television or do any other activity besides eating. When you are pre-occupied with other actives besides eating, you will eat mindlessly which can lead to overeating.
  • Stop fighting food or trying to control yourself with food. You need food to fuel your body and when you fight against food, you usher in stress chemistry. Stress impacts your emotional heath and when you are stressed, you eat. Learn to embrace food for what it is, and for what it does for your body. Enjoy food without putting restrictions on yourself.
  • Write in a journal. Journaling is a good way to express yourself. Each time you put any food in your mouth, write it down in your journal. Write down any emotions you are feeling when you eat. Also, document how much food you consume. Journaling helps you pinpoint when you are most likely to eat your feelings.
  • Do not eat anything when you know you are emotional. If you know you are sad, upset, or stressed, do not put any food in your mouth. Do not try to bury your emotions, because eventually they will come out and express themselves in your food choices. Instead of reaching for comfort food, take a deeper look at the emotion you are feeling. Allow yourself time to feel the emotion and work through it without reaching for food to numb your feelings.
  • Slow down while eating and slow your breathing. Eating fast causes stress chemistry to rear its ugly head. Stress chemistry causes lots of things to go awry in your body. Do your best to slow down when you eat your food. One way you can slow down when eating is to slow your breathing. Slowing your breathing calms you down and it also decreases the stress chemistry that happens when you eat fast.
  • Exercise or do movement that you enjoy. Exercising is a good way to work through your emotions. The next time you feel emotional, go for a walk or do your favorite exercise or movement. Exercising or movement is relaxing and when your body is relaxed, your mind is also.
  • De-stress your mind, body and spirit. Take time to de-stress daily. Meditate or spend some quiet time alone. Spend a day getting pampered. Get out and enjoy nature. These are all ways of de-stressing, but the most important thing you can ever do is take time for yourself and be with yourself.
  • Talk to someone about your emotions. Holding in your emotions does more harm than good. It is always a good idea to work through the emotions you feel. Feelings and emotions oftentimes get expressed through food. Talk about your emotions with someone you trust. Opening up to someone helps you uncover and work through the emotions you feel. Never be ashamed to talk it out.
Final Words

It does not matter what emotion you feel, please whatever you do, let it out. Holding in emotions affects your mind, body and spirit. Working through your emotions decreases your need to reach for food to fill the void.

Do not suppress your emotions. Allow yourself time to feel the emotion. Remember, you are an emotional being with feelings. If you feel sad, work through all that comes with feeling sad. Let the tears flow and do not hold back.

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 8.25.38 AMEvelyn Parham, M.S. is a Blogger and Eating Psychology Coach. She helps people live nourished, balanced and whole. Learn more about Evelyn at http://evelynparham.com/about.
Please take a minute to leave a comment or share this post with a friend (via the social media icons below). You never know who you’ll help in doing so!

Strategies for staying slim through midlife

Recently, I participated in the first TransformAging online webinar; a two-day educational series for midlife women interested in improving their health and fitness. I shared many specific tips and tricks for keeping ‘menopot’ at bay.

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Below, I briefly outline what I consider to be the four most important lifestyle strategies for staying slim through midlife and beyond. Want more details? Action items you can implement today? Workouts and skincare tips relevant to your age and stage of life? 

The entire 6-part webinar series is available for purchase; watch, listen, pause and take note of what leading professionals in the field of midlife health and wellness think you should do to make the next half of your life the best half of your life.

Most people gain weight as they age.

On average, we gain about a pound a year during our 40’s and 50’s. (Although this trend tends to reverse after age 65, it’s due not to fat loss, but to loss of muscle mass and bone density; never a good reason to celebrate losing a few pounds 🙁 ).

Midlife weight gain occurs primarily because we (1) become more sedentary with age and (2) have a tendency to eat more calories than we expend, but also, in part, because (3) our bodies produce less of the fat-burning, muscle-building hormones of youth.

Fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels contribute to middle-of-the-body weight gain by (1) increasing the rate at which women store both subcutaneous (below the skin) and visceral fat (the fat that surrounds vital organs deep within the belly) and (2) triggering changes in insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.

Translation: we’re less able to burn fat and more likely to store it, in particular, around our mid-sections.

strategies for staying slim through midlife

If only I’d appreciated 44 a little more…

 

Strategies for staying slim through midlife (and beyond)
  • Strength training reigns: midlife loss of metabolism is largely attributed to a loss in muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active which means it burns more calories at rest than fat.

Prioritizing strength training over other forms of physical activity will not only elevate your metabolic rate, it will also improve bone density, enhance blood sugar regulation, lower stress (see below), make the activities of your daily life easier and give you a leaner, more youthful appearance. Pretty awesome for just 30 minutes of weight lifting, three times a week.

strategies for staying slim through midlife

One of the moves from last month’s 40+ Fitness Online Group Training Program

  • Sugar reduction: with loss of estrogen comes an increased sensitivity to carbohydrates. Your body may not process them as easily as it once did, resulting in those excess sugars being stored as fat.

In addition to lowering your daily calorie count, reducing your intake of added sugars (pretty much any ingredient ending with the letters ‘ose’) and simple carbohydrates (breads, cereals, pasta, white rice) will improve your body’s ability to regulate blood sugars and lower your risk of Type II diabetes. Aim for no more than 30 g of added sugar per day (that’s about 6 tsp).

  • Sleep more: the fluctuating hormones of perimenopause often trigger sleep disturbance. Difficulties falling and staying asleep. Middle-of-the-night insomnia. Early wake-ups. (I know, I’m experiencing them all myself).

Sleep plays an important role in the regulation of several hormone systems. It helps to re-set the hormones responsible for food cravings and feeling of satiety (leptin and ghrelin). It lowers cortisol levels (see Stress less below). It improves blood sugar regulation and hastens muscle repair and recovery. And don’t forget about it’s role in learning and memory. Aim for 7 hours a night, go to bed earlier, if, like me, you’re not able to sleep in.

strategies for staying slim through midlife

I’m faking it here 🙂

  • Stress less: Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in the body. It raises blood pressure, suppresses the immune system, increases the risk of obesity, heart attack and stroke. Not to mention speeding up the aging process. Find ways to incorporate more stress-reducing activities in your day; walking, time spent in nature, reading, meditation, yoga and knitting have all been shown to reduce circulating cortisol levels.

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Combine elevated stress hormone (cortisol) with elevated blood sugars, low estrogen and non-existent progesterone, and you’ve got the perfect ‘menopot’ storm. Not just an annoyance when it comes to buying jeans, but a serious health risk as well!

strategies for staying slim through midlife

Ready to push those storm clouds away?
I’d love to help you individualize and implement the strategies suggested above. Come Septembert 1st I’ll have 3 openings in my One-on-One Fitness Coaching schedule. One of which could be YOURS!
I’m passionate about helping midlife women become the fittest, healthiest and happiest version of themselves possible and I’d love to chat with YOU. 
Click here for more details and to apply to work with me.

1-on-1 Online Fitness Coaching with Fitknitchick

 

 

 

 

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How much exercise is enough?

Today’s post, How Much Exercise Is Enough, is in response to a question posed by one of the members of my Facebook community. (I’m always happy to answer your burning questions about midlife fitness and nutrition too; just drop me a line.)

I frequently share short short (20-30 minute) workouts with my social media followers.

They’re my own preferred way of working out and are the foundation of the types of workouts I create for my clients and online women’s fitness group.

Kathryn asked me about how these types of workouts fit within the government’s recommendation that healthy adults and older adults get 30 (and more recently 60) minutes of physical activity per day; essentially asking how much exercise is enough.

“So just curious – these 20 minute and under exercise work outs – how do they figure in with the 30 minute a day – or now they are saying an hour would be ideal – recommendation? I feel like one minute we’re told that a longer, more moderate work out (like walking) is better and then told that shorter bursts of intense activity are preferred. And just to clarify…the 150 minutes does NOT include strength training or yoga? Thanks, Tamara!”

Because this is a great, multi-part question, I’m going to break it down into three parts; how much, how intense and what types of activities count.

How much exercise is enough?

According to the American Council on Exercise, healthy adults and older adults should aim for 150 minutes of physical activity per week. This recommendation is based on studies showing that adults who don’t meet this level of activity are more likely to be overweight and at greater risk of heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes.

Ideally, those 150 weekly minutes will be broken down into five, 30-minute periods of exercise. Although 10-minute bouts of more intense effort (see below for a discussion of ‘intensity’), spread throughout the day may provide the same effects.

Recent studies suggest that exceeding 150 minutes per week has additional health benefits and that the new target should be closer to 300 minutes of physical activity per week (that’s where Kathryn’s comment about 300 minutes comes from; I love how informed my readers are!)

How intensely do I need to be working?

Kathryn’s question really revolves around the issue of intensity. How intense does an activity need to be to ‘count’?

ACE’s recommendations stipulate that those 150 minutes of physical activity need to ‘moderately intense’ to ‘vigorous’. But was do ‘moderately intense’ and ‘vigorous’ really mean?

The best yardstick for measuring intensity is heart rate. The higher your exercise heart rate, the harder you’re working and the higher the intensity of the workout. Not only do higher intensity workouts challenge your cardiovascular system more than lower intensity workouts (building a stronger heart and lungs is a key component of fitness), they also result in more calories burned, a key consideration if weight loss or weight loss maintenance are your primary goals.

A ‘moderately intense to vigorous’ workout will elevate your heart rate up to somewhere between 60 and 90% of maximum heart rate

MaxHR is most easily estimated by subtracting your age from 220; I’m 48, so my maxHR equals 220 – 48 or 172 beats per minute, resulting in a target exercise heart rate of  somewhere between 103 and 155 beats per minute. You can also use the Karvonen formula if you know your resting heart rate; it’s a bit more accurate, especially for people who are already fairly fit.

What types of activities can I include?

Historically, the above recommendations were made specifically with regards to cardiovascular training, with additional weekly recommendations for strength training and flexibility training.

Hence any traditional cardiovascular-based activity will count towards the 150-minute weekly goal; running, cycling, swimming, rowing, cardio machines in the gym, skipping and calisthenics to name a few.

My favourite cardio/strength machine

Walking may meet the criteria, especially if you walk quickly (like you’re trying to catch the bus at the corner) and your route has hills and other variable terrain.

However, many types of workouts incorporate multiple training elements. For example, while Bootcamp and CrossFit-style workouts typically focus primarily on strength training, because of the way they’re structured they also elicit a cardiovascular response. Heart rates remain elevated throughout the workout, simultaneously strengthening both muscles and the cardiovascular system.

Metabolic strength training, circuit-style weight lifting and power yoga may also ‘fill the bill’. As do those 20-30 minute workouts I share on YouTube, Facebook and here, on the blog.

Focus more on how intense the workout is than whether it’s a ‘cardio’, ‘strength’ or ‘flexibility’ workout when you decide whether to count it towards your weekly physical activity goals.

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Kayaking? When you’re racing your brother, it definitely counts!

A few caveats
  • Exercise intensity is individual. The amount of effort a sedentary, non-exerciser would have to expend to generate the appropriate heart rate effect will be different than that of a long-time, consistent exerciser. If you’re new to exercise, I strongly recommend that you get familiar with your heart rate!
  • Recommendations are only guidelines. Newcomers to exercise shouldn’t feel compelled to immediately reach the 150-minute per week guideline. Start with a frequency, intensity and duration that challenges you, but that allows you to be successful. Build on to it as your strength and endurance increases. I might start a brand-new-to-exercise client with only three 15-minute bouts of exercise per week; woefully short of the government recommendations, but a do-able first step for that client.
  • Just because you exercise intensely for 30 (or even 60) minutes a day, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from more movement. If you spend the rest of your day sitting at your desk or behind the wheel of your car, that 30 minutes of exercise may not be enough to keep weight gain, heart disease and diabetes at bay. Interspersing frequent bouts of low intensity, non-exercise activity throughout your day will elevate the effects of your workouts.
  • Walking has many health benefits. For beginners to exercise, it’s often a workout on it’s own. For the rest of us, in particular, midlife, hormonally challenged women, it’s a great way to reduce stress (and the concomitant production of stress hormone which contributes to midlife weight gain). Think of it as a ‘bonus’. Meet your 30 minute heart-rate accelerating goal, then cool down and relax with a leisurely walk. Combine that with the company of a friend or loved one and you’ve done more than you can imagine for your health!

Here’s a sample of the short, but intense, whole-body, metabolic strength workouts that form the bread and butter of my own, personal fitness regime.

If you like it, please take a minute to share it with your friends (it’s super easy; just click on one of the social sharing buttons at the bottom of the post and presto, you’ve made a difference in somebody else’s life 🙂 ).

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