Archives for June 2016

Customizing online workouts to make them work for you

As a personal trainer and fitness aficionado, I spend a lot of time searching online for workout ideas and new exercise combinations.

I include them in my own workouts, as well as those of my clients.

I have Pinterest boards full of online workouts I’ve pinned for a later day (including workouts I’ve shared here, with my readers. Recognize any of them?).

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The thing is, most online workouts weren’t put together with YOU in mind. Your unique body. Your fitness level and experience. Your performance, aesthetic and lifestyle goals. Not to mention you may not have the equipment required to complete the workout in its entirely.

While they’re fun to do in a pinch (when you’re on the road or ready for a new exercise program) and may have been written by a personal trainer (someone who’s educated in the principles of workout design), chances are, you’ll need to modify most workouts you see online to address your own unique goals and needs.

Common reasons for modifying an online workout (with suggested work arounds) include:
  • arthritis in the hands and wrists: substitute supine bench exercises with dumbbells like triceps skull crushers and bench press for tricep dips and pushups, respectively. If you have access to a Smith machine, try placing your hands on the bar while you perform your pushups (this is also a great way to progress from knee to toe pushups!).
  • ‘achey’ knees that prevent pain-free squats and lunges: substitute supine hip thrusts, lateral band walks and hamstring curls on the ball to effectively target the legs and butt.
  • excess body weight, poor level of fitness or joints that restrict your ability to include high impact moves: substitute high knees walking-in-place for running or jumping jacks; step, rather than jump back into the high plank portion of a burpee; stationary cycling for the upright elliptical and treadmill (of course, losing weight will help reduce the stress of performing these exercises and may be all you need to improve the function and health of the joints 🙂 )
  • not enough time: shorten online workouts by reducing the number of sets by one or the duration of intervals by 25-30%, rather than skipping the workout entirely or by-passing much-needed post-workout stretching
  • limited equipment: substitute dumbbells for kettlebells, sandbags and barbells (you may need to modify the exercise slightly as well); use a stability ball in lieu of a workout bench; many cable and pulley exercises can be approximated with a resistance band; bottles of milk, water and diet pop can also work as hand weights in a pinch!
  • too many reps: lots of online workouts are high volume in nature. Performing hundreds of pushups, squats and crunches isn’t necessarily the best way to improve your fitness level. Reduce the number of reps and perform the exercises with heavier weights than suggested. You’ll not only shorten the workout, you’ll also build strength more quickly (and see muscle development faster).

One of the skills that I strive to teach my group fitness participants and personal training clients (both in person and those who belong to my online training group) is to listen to their bodies.

Pay attention to and avoid movements that cause pain. Choose more challenging versions of an exercise if it feels too easy. Substitute alternative movements for those that don’t serve you, rather than performing them incorrectly or skipping over them entirely.

Always make the workout your own.

Below is a sample of the types of workouts I share with my monthly #40plusfitness women’s online training group (not a member? Registration for the July through September Summer Session is now open You can find more information here >> 40+ Online Fitness Group and a direct link to the registration form here >> Summer 2016 Registration Open Now.

Each exercise has two modifications; one that’s slightly less challenging, one that’s slightly more challenging.

Make this online workout your own by choosing the modification of each exercise that allows you to (just) complete 12 good form repetitions. And feel free to mix and match from the three levels shown; chances are you’ll find some of the middle column options too easy while other will be too difficult.

If you’re brand new to exercise (and/or strength training), one set of each exercise pair is likely enough. More experienced? Need a bit more of a challenge? Try a second (and even a third) time through each super-set.

The key is to listen to your body and work at a level that’s challenging, leaves you feeling like your had a good workout and lets you walk up and down the stairs the next day without too much discomfort :-).

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My clients performed this workout 3-4 times weekly for an entire month. (I gave them weekly progressions, including the plyometric moves between the exercise pairs during weeks 3 and 4. Feel free to include these or not, depending on whether 60 s of jumping jacks, burpees or skipping rope meets your fitness needs and abilities.)

Not sure about the correct way to perform the above exercises?

Take a peak at the Demonstration Videos that I usually only share with my monthly peeps. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video? Closer to a million 😉

Do you regularly perform workouts you’ve found online?

If so, do you modify them to address your own unique fitness goals and needs?

What might you accomplish in a year | my ’50 by 50′ fitness goals

It’s been a long time since I set myself any specific fitness goals.

My primary goal this year was just to get back regular exercise after a post-trauma-induced hiatus from exercise.

I’m happy to say that I’ve more than met that goal. A minimum of 3 workouts per week (most often 5) every single week since January 1st (with the exception of the ten days I spent in Hawaii over spring break).

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By recognizing that I needed a coach of my own (someone else to program for me and keep me accountable; even coaches need coaches 🙂 ) and a supportive community to exercise with (props to my Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday morning Twist buddies), I’m once again feeling strong and capable in the gym. Feelings that often spill-over into the rest of my day and help me manage the sadness and loss that seem to be becoming permeant fixtures of the ‘new’ me.

So what’s next? The prospect of setting new goals in the gym got me thinking about what I’d like to accomplish in other spheres of my life.

What types of experiences would I like to have with my family? How can I create a legacy for my daughter?  How can I give back to my friends and community? Are there areas of personal growth and self-care that need attention? In what direction do I want to take my online business? Are there ‘fun’ things that I think everybody needs to do in life that I still haven’t done? (Zip-lining, anybody?).

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Inspired by a friend’s recent ’40 by 40′ list (a kind of bucket list of things she wanted to experience and accomplish before her 40th birthday), I decided to start my own ’50 by 50′ project.

A list of 50 experiences, goals and accomplishments that I’d like to work through over the next 365 days. (Yep, today’s my 49th birthday). It feels like the right approach to keep me moving forward and creating little slivers of happiness in my life.

At first, the task seemed daunting. I couldn’t think of more than half a dozen items to add to the list.

But when I broke it down into categories (Arts, Crafts and Culture, Community, Friends and Family, Physical Fitness, Indulgences, Professional Accomplishments, Personal Affairs, Books and Movies, Experiences and Travel), I suddenly had more items than necessary (and more things than I could possibly accomplish in one short year).

Note that these aren’t all ‘feel good’ things.

Some are simply tasks that I’ve been putting off for way too long; #40 and #44 respectively, update our wills and paint the inside of the house. Satisfying, yes, but not nearly as exciting as #46, driving in a convertible with the top down or #48, taking a winery tour.

I won’t share my entire list here, it’s very long and has some items that are quite personal and not at all related to fitness, nutrition or health. But I will share with you (for accountability and perhaps, to inspire you to imagine what you might accomplish in a year…) the five that fall under the rubric of fitness and health.

What might you accomplish in a year?
  • perform 5 unassisted pull-ups; currently I can’t even do one, but have been working on resistance-band assisted chin-ups and pull-ups and have a training plan for reducing the resistance over time.

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  • squat my body weight (3 sets of 5 reps at 150 pounds); as I’m neither trying to lose or gain weight (I like to say that I’m training for the sport of life 😉 ), this goal will be fixed.
  • dead lift my body weight (3 sets of 5 reps at 150 pounds); this will be more challenging for me than the squat goal, both because I have some weakness in my lower back and I’m a bit afraid of triggering and old injury. Slow and steady progressions on this one should get me there.
Setting up for a barbell dead lift

Setting up for a barbell dead lift

  • run a charity 5k (preferably for a charity that Clara would find worthy); as many of you know, I’m not a runner. So while I’m pretty sure I could just go out and run 5k, I’d like to do it well and without injury. This will require a bit of training, starting in the fall, once the weather’s a bit cooler. Know of a charity 5K that might be appropriate? I’m open to suggestions!
  • go on a yoga/meditation retreat; while this experience isn’t as purely ‘physical’ as the above four, it still falls within the realm of fitness and wellness. Ideally this will be something local, although I’m always up for a fun travel experience if the opportunity presents itself.

I’d love to know what you’d put on your “50 by 50” list (or “X by X” list, depending on which decade is your next big one 😉 ).