Archives for August 2016

The perfect exercise balance | how to find yours

I run two online group fitness programs that regularly generate email inquiries.

Nearly every would-be participant who reaches out to me wants to know how deviating from the planned workouts and nutrition approach will affect her results. And whether the program will still work for her if she does it a bit differently than everybody else.

This program sounds perfect for me. However, I will be travelling for two weeks in the middle (won’t be able to get to a gym) and also have a Dragonboating competition coming up that I need to practice for. Can I still join in even if I won’t be able to do all of the workouts?

My answer almost always includes the reminder that every single participant in my programs has different goals, different obstacles, comes from a different fitness background and is at a different fitness level.

We are all balancing on our own unique tightropes and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution.

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As such, I design my programs so that each and every member can find her own perfect exercise balance; the frequency, intensity and type of workouts that promote better fitness and health, improved sleep and higher energy levels and can be adhered to for years and years to come.

For some women, that means strength training four days a week.

For others, two days of strength and two days of distance running work.

Still others need a mix of solo gym days, a group fitness class or two and an evening yoga practice.

And I’ve had many clients who regularly substitute family cycles, kayak trips, mountain climbs, golfing and trampoline fun for their workout ‘proper’ without seeing any negative effects on their fitness goals.

The variations are as unique as the women following them.

What isn’t unique is the magic that happens when each finds her own personal perfect exercise balance.

perfect exercise balance

 

All of a sudden, everything becomes easier. Missed workouts becomes less frequent. Movement becomes an integral part of the day. Struggles over finding time to exercise diminish. And ‘have to’ becomes ‘want to’.

The perfect exercise balance: how to find yours
  • choose a program (any program) and get started; finding your perfect exercise balance is a trial and error procedure. If you don’t try (and err), you’ll never know what elements yours needs to contain.

Initially, you’ll want to follow the directions your coach, trainer or group fitness instructor gives you. Pay attention to how it feels to do things their way. Notice any ‘push back’ feelings (for example, ‘you want me to run again tomorrow?’) and contemplate the reasons for them.

Commit to following the program for several weeks, jotting down your thoughts and feelings about the activity itself (you do keep a fitness journal, don’t you?) , your energy levels before and after you perform it and any mental barriers to getting the workout done. Your perfect exercise balance will consist of both things your like to do and things you need to do.

  • modify the program to make it ‘easier’ to follow; by ‘easier’, I don’t necessarily mean less intense 🙂 . Rather do what you need to do to reduce any resistance or barriers you have to following it.

If that means shortening the strength workouts from 3 to 2 sets, so be it. Using the rowing machine for intervals rather than the treadmill, go ahead. Replacing one of your gym session for some time on your yoga mat, relax away. Exercising at home instead of the gym, good for you.

Just make sure the choices and substitutions you’re making are consistent with what your body needs to feel good and your long term goal of integrating regular exercise into your schedule for many years to come.

  • acknowledge that things will change and you’ll need to adjust; just when you think you’ve found your perfect exercise balance, something in your life will change and it will no longer be the combination you need.

Maybe your workout buddy moves away. Or your favourite group fitness instructor goes on a long vacation. Or you experience a tragedy in your life that leaves you craving softer, more gentle forms of exercise.

Rather than feeling discouraged about this disruption to your perfect exercise balance, consider it an opportunity to try something new. Find a new workout friend. Or brave the gym on your own. Try a new instructor’s class. Or join an online fitness group.

When I was too sad to continue training on my own, I joined a strength and conditioning class where I was unlikely to know anybody. Together, the combination of great coaches, not having to plan my own workouts and the camaraderie of small group training helped me to rediscover my own perfect exercise balance.

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Seven steps to midlife fitness success

I have a client. Her name is Jill. And to me, she’s the epitome of midlife fitness success.

midlife fitness success

This is not Jill. But it could be. She loves to hike.

She’s not a fitness model.

Although she’s strong, she doesn’t have six pack abs or buns of steel. While she enjoys hiking, cycling and weight lifting, she doesn’t run marathons or do triathlons or spend excessive hours in the gym. While focusing on a mainly healthy diet, she still enjoys marshmallows and chocolate and breadsticks at Ruby Tuesdays.

She possesses all of the characteristics I believe one needs to make fitness a life long habit and is the perfect example for becoming a raging (in the ‘good’ way, not the other, more ‘hormonal’ way) midlife fitness success.

Seven steps to becoming a midlife fitness success

Sself-motivated. Jill has goals and knows why those goals are important to her. She doesn’t need daily reminders to fit her workouts in and plan healthy meals. She’s an independent exerciser who just needs to know that somebody has a long term plan for helping her progress towards those goals and is checking in with her regularly for accountability. I’m happy to be that person for her.

Uunafraid. She’s not afraid of trying new things. Many of us get stuck in a fitness rut. We do the same things over and over again, even if those things don’t seem to be moving us any closer to our goals. In the year we’ve been working together, I’ve given Jill lots of new things to try; new exercises, new ways of putting those exercises together, new ways of approaching nutrition. She’s willingly tackled them all (although she usually has lots of questions about the new approach first, see Ccurious, below…). I love that becoming stronger motivated her to plan and set out on her first solo overnight backpacking trip (too bad about the raccoons 😉 ).

Cconsistent. She rarely misses a workout. Even when she’s on holidays, at the lake or in the midst of the ‘busy time of year’ at work. Sometimes those workouts are shorter than planned, but she knows that doing something is better than doing nothing. She’s also got the longest MyFitnessPal streak I’ve ever seen; over 360 days without missing a log-in!

Ccurious. Jill loves to read about nutrition and exercise. She often emails me with questions about things she’s read. Sometimes I have an answer, other times her query motivates me to do a little research myself. Her inquisitiveness shows me that she takes ownership of her health and fitness; a key component to becoming a long term regular exerciser.

E easy-going. She’s patient and realistic about how long it really takes to see the results of regular exercise and good nutrition. She’s kind to herself when she stumbles and is able to laugh at small setbacks and behaviours that seem hard to change. While her goals are important to her, they aren’t all-consuming. Fitness and nutrition are priorities, but they don’t over-shadow the other priorities in her life (the perfect recipe for making oneself crazy and alienating those closest to us).

Ssnaps back quickly. Jill is resilient. When she gets off track (typically with nutrition, as is the case for most of us), she rebounds quickly. Re-commiting herself to whatever our current nutritional goals are and planning and prepping meals to support those goals. I appreciate her dedication to reducing packaging wherever possible and making things ‘from scratch’ rather than buying ready-made!

Sself-reflective. One of the things I love most of all about Jill is her willingness to self-reflect and anticipate and ask for exactly what she needs. During our bi-weekly coaching calls we often look back on how much has changed over the year we’ve been working together, particularly when it comes to mindset and expectations. We’ve moved from focusing primarily on weight loss (25+ pounds in a year) and muscle ‘toning’ to setting new performance standards on her ‘big lifts’. I’m looking forward to seeing where she’ll go with her (current) 135 pound dead lift!

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of our coaching relationship. I’d like to congratulate Jill for all of the successes she’s had this year and wish her many more in the year to come!

midlife fitness success

Happy Anniversary Jill! Enjoy your cake. Note the serving size and the fruit 😉

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