Archives for November 2016

Creating a successful midlife exercise program | Part 2

Two weeks ago I shared the first six of twelve guidelines that I believe are essential for creating a successful midlife exercise program.

One that you can enjoy today, tomorrow and for years to come. If you missed that post, click over and get yourself up to speed before you continue reading below… there’s nothing worse than only getting half the story 😉

Tips for creating a successful midlife exercise program: Part 2
  • Pay attention to aches and pains. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something might not be quite right. Ignore it and it’s likely to come back and bite you in the butt (sometimes quite literally).

Long gone are the days where ‘working through the pain’ is an indication of your dedication to exercise.

Much of the exercise-related pain mid-lifers feel is joint-related. Knees, hips, shoulders and ankles no longer move as freely, or with as great a range of motion as they used to. And reduced bone density (osteopenia), muscles that are chronically tight and shortened (hello ‘sitting disease’) and previous injuries that may have resulted in compromised movement patterns may also play a role.

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Exercise-related injuries? I’ve had my fair share. And I’ve learned to seek help immediately to minimize my time out of the gym.

Your best strategy is avoid injury entirely. Stop when something hurts. Know the difference between a little post-workout delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and true pain. Seek professional advice to diagnose and treat the problem. And be consistent with any re-hab routines they prescribe.

Note, if you’ve already integrated my first 6 guidelines to creating a successful midlife exercise program into your routine, you’re well on your way to remaining injury-free. You’ll find more suggestions for preventing workout-related injuries here >> Tips for preventing workout related injuries

  • Take the long term view. It’s taken you half your life to get the body you have. There’s no exercise program in existence that will completely change your physique in time for your daughter’s wedding, your 30th high school reunion or your next beach holiday.

Improving health and fitness is a long term, life-long process. Even if you’re incredibly consistent with exercise and nutrition, the physical results of your efforts may not start to be visible for months.

If you’re using pounds lost or circumference measures to access your progress and those numbers don’t change in the first month or so of a new exercise program, you’ll likely get discouraged and give up. Better to pay attention to the myriad other benefits of exercise and solid nutrition; more energy, better sleep, improved libido, positive outlook on life, easier movement during day-to-day activities etc.

I like to describe my fitness philosophy as ‘training for the sport of life’. Challenging my body to move in complex and difficult ways so that I’m capable of continuing to participate in the non-workout activities (kayaking with my kids, hiking with my friends, back-country camping expeditions with my husband) I love for many years to come

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  • Plan for setbacks. When was the last time in your life everything went according to plan? Something always comes up and gets in your way of progress. Like holidays, or birthday dinners out, or a sick husband/child/pet or a busy quarter at work.

Rather than letting these obstacles derail you, expect them to happen and make a plan for how you’ll deal with them ahead of time.

For example, include a ‘flex’ day in your workout schedule. If you have to miss a planned workout, do it on your ‘flex’ day instead. More suggestions for overcoming obstacles while creating a successful midlife exercise program >> Overcoming obstacles to exercise and healthy eating

  • Enlist support. No woman is an island. Just like we rely on family and friends for help in other areas of our life (e.g., raising our children and advancing our careers), we need the support of those close to us when attempting to make healthy changes to our lifestyle.

Some of my favourite support systems?

  1. A good, old-fashioned ‘fitness buddy’. Someone who will go to the gym with you, check in to see that you’re on track with nutrition and support and encourage you when you’re having doubts. Of course, you’ll do the same for her (or him) when she needs it.
  2. Group fitness classes, both small and large. In addition to having a build-in support group, you’ll also get the benefit of having a professional design your workouts. And the positive energy of a good group fitness class just can’t be beat.
  3. Online fitness and support groups. Help is only a keystroke away, any hour of the day or night. One of the most-appreciated elements of the online fitness course I offer is the private Facebook community. Participants check in daily, sharing their successes and frustrations with one another. A perfect accountability tool.
creating a successful midlife exercise program

Friends don’t let friends go to step class alone…

  • Back up your exercise program with a solid nutrition plan. As much as many of us wish it weren’t true, in order to truly see results you need to be working as hard in the kitchen as you are in the gym.

Think about it. You need to spend an hour on the elliptical to expend 600 calories. Bet it doesn’t take you nearly as long to consume a grande pumpkin spice latte and a cranberry bliss bar….

Your body requires high quality carbs, lots of lean protein and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to support your strength training and cardio sessions. Give it what it needs and you’ll not only reach your aesthetic goals more quickly, you’ll also feel a whole heck of a lot better.

Not quite sure what a good midlife diet looks like? >> Hormones and weight gain at midlife: why nutrition matters even more now

  • Make time for rest and recovery. A common response to not getting results in the gym is to go to the gym more often. While this may have worked for you in your 20’s and 30’s, it’s not the best strategy for a mid-life exerciser. Why not?

In addition to increasing your risk of injury (see above), it may also increase your body’s production of cortisol (aka the ‘stress’ hormone). High levels of circulating cortisol, combined with lower estrogen and progesterone set the stage for fat storage, in particular, the middle-of-the-body type. Add in a little insulin resistance courtesy of a high sugar diet and your ‘mummy-tummy’ may turn into full blown ‘menopot’.

Keeping workouts shorter and scheduling rest days between heavy strength days is a smarter way to exercise in midlife. Just think of all the other things you’ll be able to accomplish in your newly found spare time!

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Did I miss something? Something that’s been instrumental to your midlife exercise success?

 I welcome your comments below!

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Creating a successful midlife exercise program | Part 1

This post is the first in a two-part series. Partly because it’s a long one to write (and hence, read…), but also because twelve things is a lot to do at once. I challenge you to start implementing the points outlined below right now, before reading the follow up post and acting on the rest.

It’s a common lament among the 40-plus crowd; weight gain, muscle loss, lack of energy and injuries that just won’t go away.

Even women who’ve exercised for years and long followed sound nutritional practices complain that their trusted routines are no longer working to keep ‘menopot’ at bay.

While it’s true that midlife hormonal fluctuations can negatively effect metabolism, (how your body burns and stores the calories you eat), there are things you can do to mitigate their effects. ‘Tweaks’ you can make to your fitness program that maximize your results (and the likelihood that you’ll be able to keep on exercising safely for years to come).

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Strength training: the secret to midlife fitness success 😉

Below, I share my six of my top twelve recommendations for creating a successful midlife exercise program (you’ll have to come back next time for the remainder).

Note that the general principles are applicable to all exercisers, at all ages and stages of life, even if the specifics are aimed at peri-menopausal women :-).

Tips for creating a successful midlife exercise program
  • Understand your midlife body. Information is power. The more you know about what’s happening to your body, the easier it is to work with the changes rather than against them.

Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone frequently start to decline around age 40. As a consequence, calories are more readily stored as fat, fat is less easily accessed as fuel and muscles become harder to build.

Changing the emphasis of your fitness routine from cardio to strength training may help preserve muscle mass and metabolism, as well as reducing midlife bone density loss.

Get the full hormone story here >> Hormones and weight gain after 40 | The biology of aging

  • Create goals that aren’t just about weight loss. Changing hormones and a slower metabolism means that weight loss won’t happen as easily or as quickly as it might have happened in your 20’s and 30’s. Focusing solely on the bathroom scale is likely to leave you feeling frustrated and ready to give up.

In addition to body composition change goals (weight loss, % body fat), I encourage my clients to also create Habit and Performance goals.

Habit goals (for example, exercising three times per week, drinking 32 ounces daily, eating breakfast every morning, walking for 30 minutes each day) are often the easiest to achieve and make us feel successful and empowered.

Performance goals (for example, running a 5k, doing 12 consecutive toe pushups, squatting your body weight) push us to become ‘more’ and are tangible evidence of improved fitness.

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Four of my ’50 by 50′ goals are Performance-based

And the best thing? When we achieve our Habit and Performance goals, body composition change tends to follow.

Need some help developing your new habit? >> The science of creating new health and fitness habits

  • Get your mindset right. The body achieves what the mind believes. Limiting beliefs and negative thinking will only get you more of the same. Creating a successful midlife exercise program often requires a shift in how we think.

A common midlife mindset around exercise and nutrition is what I call the ‘all or nothing’ approach. As in, ‘If I can’t get a full hour’s workout in, there’s no point in going to the gym’ OR ‘I’ve already wrecked today’s meal plan, might as well have dessert tonight and start again in the morning’.

All or nothing usually leads to nothing. Followed quickly by a feeling of defeat and then actual giving up.

Try these adopting these mindset shifts as part of your new exercise plan. Think of it as fitness for your brain >> Mindset shifts for midlife fitness success

  • Focus less on what works for everybody else and more on figuring out what works for you. Sometimes it feels like everybody else has figured out the key to midlife fitness success but us. Surely, if we do what she’s doing (Crossfit, Pilates, carb-cycling, intermittent fasting, the ketogenic diet or two hours of cardio each day), we’ll get the same results.

The thing is, we’re all unique individuals, with unique goals, fitness levels, hormonal profiles, likes, dislikes and abilities. What’s popular isn’t necessarily the program or plan that will work for you. You may not enjoy it. It may fall out of vogue. You may get injured doing it. Fitness doesn’t need to be fashionable to work.

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While flipping tires may work for her, Crossfit may not be the best workout for you…

It does, however, need to be sane, safe and pleasurable >> Everything you need to know to be a fitness success

  • Harness the power of your calendar. When you schedule an appointment with your dentist or doctor you write in on your calendar. In part, so you don’t forget to go (since they’re nearly impossible to re-schedule promptly…), but also, because you value the service your dentist and doctor are performing for you.

Why not value the service exercise does for you equally?

Making an exercise appointment with yourself indicates that you recognize and value the role of fitness in your life. Make that appointment and keep it. (Again and again and again if you’re serious about making the exercise habit a regular part of your life.)

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Schedule your workouts in pen; so you can’t erase them!

For tips on creating an exercise schedule that works for you click here >> Get out your calendar now

  • Emphasize the warmup and stretch. Now, more than ever, your body needs a proper warmup before you exercise and lots of time for gentle stretching when you’re finished. Not only to prevent injury, but also to counteract our modern sedentary lifestyle and the shortened muscles it creates.

The good thing about warmups and time on your mat? They tend to be more pleasurable activities than burpees or H.I.I.T. :-).

For an in-depth explanation of the benefits of a good pre-exercise warmup (and a link to a real-time video warmup you can follow along with) click here >> A pre-workout warmup for midlife exercisers

Need some suggestions for post-workout stretches? Here are a few of my favourites >> Essential stretches for mid-life exercisers

Click here to read the second post in this series “Creating a successful Midlife Exercise Program: Part 2”. Six more suggestions for helping you start and stick with a fitness program through midlife and beyond…

Have you found an approach to fitness and exercise at midlife that’s working for you?

Have you used any of the above six guidelines to help you create a successful midlife exercise program?

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5 must-have home exercise tools

Many of the women I train work out at home. (And were kind enough to share photos of their workout spaces with us.)

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Wonder what Janna’s thinking about during her workouts? (A fellow beer lover I see 🙂 )

The combo workout-crafting room of my client Nikki (now this is my kind of home gym ;-) )

The combo workout-crafting room of my client Nikki (now this is my kind of home gym 😉 )

 

They find it less expensive, less stressful and more convenient (not to mention less time-consuming) than driving to the gym.

It’s also pretty nice not to have to share a bench with a sweaty dude (unless he’s YOUR sweaty dude and you’re into that…), or fight for access to weights or machines.

 

Darleen may not have an indoor workout space, but she’s done a great job of co-opting the garage…

I’m envious of Robin’s weight and kettlebells stands. Way to keep things organized!

 

The workouts I provide create for my online clients (both 1-on-1 and 40+ women’s group) can all be performed at home, with a minimal amount of equipment, in a fairly small space.

Although having a few more ‘toys’ to play with (and a bit more room to work out in) can help keep exercise fun and variable (see the bottom of the post for more exercise tool suggestions).

Note that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a complete and functional home gym. (Heck, I could create a workout for you with just a one of the items below 🙂 ). The key is to choose versatile pieces that you can upgrade as you get stronger and your need for variety increases.

Looking to create a great workout space at home? Here are five home exercise tools to get you started!

5 Must-Have Home Exercise Tools
  • Dumbbells; you’ll need at least two sets of these (but the more, the merrier) to get started; one ‘heavy’ and one ‘light’ in weight.

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The terms ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ will mean different things to different people. Test them out by finding a weight you can do 10-15 bicep curls with and another than you can perform a similar number of bent-over rows with. These will be your starter ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ sets, respectively.

You’ll buy new, heavier weights as you progress; either gift them to yourself or ask for them as Christmas and birthday presents.

Don’t make the rookie mistake of buying only one set of weights and using them for every single exercise; different muscles differ in their strength and strength potential. Under-tax a muscle group and you won’t see results. Over-tax a muscle group and you’re likely to end up injured. 

  • Stability ball; one of the most versatile tools in your fitness toolbox, the stability ball can be used for core work, to challenge your balance, as a prop for stretching, in place of a stability bench and as a desk chair, when you’re not exercising.

Look for a quality ball. The cheapo ones tend to be made of very thin materials that stretch and pop over time. If you’re tall (> 5’8″, choose a ball that inflates to 75 cm in diameter. If you’re short (< 5’2″), opt for the 55 cm version. Somewhere in the middle? The 65 cm ball will be just right.

  • Yoga mat; it’s always nice to have a cushy surface to do core work and stretch on. Most mats can be stored by rolling them up tightly and stashing them in a closet. Make sure you wipe it down with a soapy cloth from time to time; some fabrics will soak up your sweat and start to smell funky after awhile…

They come in a variety of lengths and thicknesses; it’s best to buy 2 or 3 in varying thicknesses (some distributers sell them as kits to further reduce the cost). The thicker the band, the greater the resistance (and the more effort it will be for you to perform an exercise with it).

Oh and you can skip on the fancy door fasteners sporting goods stores often try to sell you. For most exercises you’ll simply anchor the band with your hand or foot or around a fixed pillar (like the railing in my carport, below) or the handle of a door.

  • Skipping rope; if you don’t have room for a cardio machine (or can’t find it under the heap of laundry it’s attracted), a skipping rope is a great addition to your home gym. It’s inexpensive, fun and portable. Again, something you can take with you on holidays to fit in a little extra cardio or HIIT training.

If you have a few extra dollars to spend, I’d recommend by-passing the plastic versions and splurging on a real ‘rope’ rope. One with weighted handles that pivot at the join. You’ll be surprised at how much better your skipping becomes when you use a higher quality tool.

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Putting together a home workout space needn’t be expensive. Focus on a few varied and versatile tools, learn a handful of ways to use each of them and add new pieces of equipment to your gym (my 2nd tier suggested purchases include Kettlebells, a Bosu, a chin up bar with bands and a TRX suspension trainer…) as you get fitter, stronger and more confident with your training!

Do you have a home gym?

What are your favourite home exercise tools?

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