Archives for May 2017

Fitting in fitness when life is unpredictable

Don’t you love it when everything goes according to plan?

No work dramas, family emergencies or exploding appliances to interrupt the workouts you scheduled for the week.

Great sleep and lots of energy to support your efforts in the gym.

Knees, hips and shoulders that squat, lunge, push and pull with nary a complaint.

If you’re like most midlife exercisers, this ‘perfect’ week is the exception rather than the rule.

Wait for it to appear before you start your next exercise routine or nutrition program and you’re likely to be waiting awhile…

More often, unpredictably is the norm and learning to fit in fitness despite upheaval and chaos is an important strategy to long-term health and wellness.

Here are three approaches to fitting in fitness when life is unpredictable (that is, most of the time…):

Create a ‘flexible schedule’

‘Flexible schedule’. Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But being flexible with your workout plans is the best way to maintain the consistency required to develop a long-term exercise habit.

Embrace all definitions of ‘flexibility’

  • Recognize the potential for interruptions

When you create your weekly workout schedule, look for days when things might not go according to plan. They’re usually pretty easy to spot.

An early morning workout scheduled after a late night work function.

An evening workout scheduled for a night when there are lots of kids’ activities on tap.

A long strength session at the end of a busy week.

Workouts that might be abandoned because life ‘got in the way’.

  • Draft a plan ‘B’

Having a back-up plan in place before chaos erupts reduces the chance that you’ll miss your scheduled workout.

Sub an at-home body-weight workout for your planned gym visit when time is tight.

Reduce your recommended number of sets from 3 to 2 (or even 1; 1 is always better than none).

Walk the track while you wait for soccer practice/swim team/dance class to end.

  • Include a ‘flex’ day

Look to the end of the week and see whether there’s a pocket of time that might work as a ‘make-up’ session. Label it ‘flex’ time and plan on keeping it free just in case you need to squeeze a missed workout in.

Flexing on ‘flex’ day 😉

And if you end up having one of the rare perfect weeks? Use it to catch up on Netflix, do a little knitting or sit in the sun and daydream 🙂

Adopt a ‘me-first’ mindset
  • Stop thinking of self-care as ‘selfish’

Remind yourself that to be able to rock at all the other things you do in life you need to take care of your mind, body and spirit.

Fitness doesn’t just help you reach your aesthetic and body composition goals, it helps to reduce stress, improve sleep, increase creativity and mitigate many of the symptoms of peri-menopause.

All things that will enhance your ability to succeed at life.

  • move fitness and self-care to the top of your ‘to-do’ list

Above housekeeping chores (they never end anyways…)

Before supervising your kids’ homework (teach them to become self-directed learners early…)

Prior to hanging out on Facebook or chillin’ with Netflix on the couch (the best way to tell that you actually have more time to exercise than you think? Look at your internet data usage for the month…)

Scan the horizon for obstacles

Holidays, month-end deadlines, weekend-long soccer tournaments, visiting in-laws; you know that they’re about to happen and are likely to interfere with your exercise routine. Design an alternate course around the obstacle BEFORE it happens and finish the course strong (and consider yourself lucky you’re not a Spartan Race participant; they perform 30 burpees for each missed obstacle 🙂 ).

  • create a plan for navigating them

If the obstacle takes you far from your gym (or home exercise equipment) look for other ways to fit fitness in.

Book a hotel with a proper gym (most hotel websites include photos of their exercise room). Try one of these three minimal-equipment workouts for home or holiday.

Pack your skipping rope and resistance band.

Check out that boutique cycling studio down the street from your daughter’s dance class.

Worry less about getting your usual workout in and more about maintaining your exercise momentum.

  • let go of what you truly can’t control

Sometimes obstacles truly are unpredictable.

Life throws us curves that we never expected and we’re not always in the best emotional place to consider exercise.

Recognize these rare events for what they are. Don’t add guilt to the list of difficult emotions you’re experiencing.

Pay attention to what your body wants. Move in ways that honour and serve you. Trust that you’ll find your way back to fitness again.

  • get back on course as soon as you can

Remind yourself that you’ve been consistent with exercise in the past and are completely capable of returning to that routine again.

Know that the first week or two of exercise after a hiatus will humble you. You’ll feel like a beginner again and experience the same post-workout aches that you did way back at the beginning of your journey.

Be comforted by the fact that delayed onset muscle soreness and cardiovascular de-conditioning will be over soon and that your body will quickly regain any fitness you’ve lost.

And use this period of returning to fitness to remind yourself of the most important reason for sticking with it for the long haul; it’s harder to get fit than to stay fit!



Mobility training for midlife exercisers | what, why and when

You lift weights Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Go to spin class on Tuesday and Thursday. And squeeze in some yoga time wherever you can. You warm-up before you exercise and stretch at the end.

All the things the professionals tell you you should be doing to keep your midlife body healthy, supple and strong.

Yet despite regularly conquering the three main components of a well-rounded fitness program, you still suffer from occasional joint pain and find certain exercises awkward.

In particular those exercises that require good range of motion at the shoulders, hips and ankles (e.g., squats, lunges, dead lifts, shoulder presses, push-ups).

Due to a combination of too much sittingpoor postural patterns, age-related joint deterioration and not enough rest and recovery between workouts, many midlife exercisers suffer from restricted mobility.

That is, they’re not capable of moving their joints through as wide a range of motion as they could when they were younger.

Maintaining good joint mobility is particularly important as we age:

  • It reduces your risk of injury.
  • It reduces minor aches and pains.
  • It improves your athletic performance (both in the gym and while engaging in other non-workout activities like tennis, golf, kayaking and cycling).
  • It enhances your body awareness.
  • It makes the movements of day-to-day life easier and more fluid.

Note that while mobility and flexibility training are related, stretching alone isn’t enough to improve joint mobility.

We stretch to lengthen muscles (preferably by holding static poses after a workout or in a slow, Yin-style yoga class).

We train for mobility to increase the degree to which our joints can move before they’re restricted by the surrounding ligaments, tendons, muscles and nervous system controls (ideally prior to a workout or as a workout, in and of itself once or twice a week).

Recently, I’ve started incorporating more mobility work in my warm-ups.

And on weeks when I’m teaching a lot (or my body just feels tired), I substitute a longer mobility workout for a scheduled strength session.

Already I’m noticing an improved range of motion in my squats (bye-bye ‘butt wink’), better balance in my lunges and an increased ability to stabilize my shoulders during push-ups, chin-ups, bent-over rows and overhead presses.

All requirements for lifting heavier without injury.

Mobility training for midlife exercisers: 5 moves for better all-over movement

Before your next strength training session, perform the following sequence of mobility exercises, one after the other, circuit-style.

Aim for 1 minute of movement per exercise, with 15-30 s rest between exercises. Repeat a second time, then get on with your lift.

  • Body weight squats

Start with feet under hips. Sit your bum down and back as if you were perching over a port-a-potty. Push through the heels to return to standing. Use arms to counterbalance. Work on increasing depth over the duration of the interval.


  • Walk-out plank

Walk hands out into high plank. Retract shoulders, tighten belly and contract glutes to keep your body in a straight line. Pause before walking hands back in towards feet and returning to standing.


  • Lunge plus rotation

Step forward into a lunge. Drop back knee down towards the ground. Place back leg hand on the floor to the inside of the front foot. Extend opposite hand towards the ceiling, rotating to open the chest and the front of the shoulder. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.


  • Lateral bear crawls

Come on to all fours, hands directly under shoulders and knees under hips. Keeping back flat and bum down, walk hands and feet to the right (either a set number of ‘steps’ or using as much space as you have). Switch directions, walking hands and feet back to your starting position.


  • Fast feet in-and-outs

Stand with your feet together. Quickly step right foot out to the right, then left foot out to the left. Step right foot back to start, then left foot back to start. Move as quickly as you can. Switch lead legs half-way through the interval.

Looking for more pre-workout warmup ideas? >> A real-time pre-workout warmup for midlife exercisers

Need some ideas for post-workout stretches? >> Essential stretches for  midlife exercisers

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5 must-have images for your fitness vision board


Visualizing your goals and the path to achieving them is a powerful tool for effecting change.

Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference. – Joel Barker


For many people, creating a physical representation of their goals and the steps they’ll take to get there helps keep them motivated and inspired.

The thing is, so many of the fitness vision boards I come across are full of negative language and unrealistic images.

Language that equates exercise and good nutrition with punishment and deprivation. Phrases that use guilt and shame to goad us into action.

Not to mention that they focus primarily on aesthetic outcomes; washboard abs, ripped delts, glutes of steel and Linda Hamilton arms.

(Confession: Linda Hamilton’s arms did motivate me to start lifting weights ten years ago, but they’re not the reason I continue to do so today 🙂 .)

It’s like the creators of these vision boards skipped Goal-Setting 101. (Making me wonder if they ever attained their goals, or gave up feeling depressed and small when they realized they’d never measure up to the impossible standards they set for themselves).

Goals, and the images we use to represent them need to be realistic, attainable and time-bound.

They should also be couched in positive, can-do language.

They should evoke positive feelings and emotions, inspire us to push through when things get difficult and make us feel capable and strong.

I don’t know about you, but phrases like “sweat like a pig to look like a fox” do nothing for me.

She does have lovely, glossy fur…


Looking to create a fitness vision board that will actually motivate and inspire you?

Try focusing on what you want to feel like, rather than what you want to look like.

Achieve the former and the latter is often a happy by-product!


My 5 must-have images for your fitness vision board


  • a photo of a woman doing something physical that you’d like to be able to do (soon and for many years to come).

For example, a woman crossing the finish line of a marathon, carrying her kayak from the shed to the lake, flipping a monster tire or climbing a mountain with her family. Ideally, she’ll be closer to your age range than your daughter’s ;-). Although photos of women who are older than we are doing the things we long to be able to do can also be a great source of motivation.

successful midlife exercise program

I’ve never flipped a tire. I’d like to flip a tire.


  • a photo of yourself looking happy, proud, content, strong, capable or whatever feelings you associate with reaching your goals

Perhaps it’s an old photo of you and your children. Or the day you graduated from university. Or got promoted. Or completed your first 5K. This photo doesn’t need to be fitness-related. It’s meant to remind you how you’ll feel when you reach your goal.

My first and only 5K. All the sweeter because I did it with Clara


  • a photo of your body (or a part of your body) that you love

This might be a picture of you rocking your favourite jeans (those ones that you know you’ll be able to fit in with a little focused attention on exercise and diet). Or a close-up of your eyes. Or a bicep-flexing pic from Instagram. We’ve all got at least one body part that we adore. Show it (and yourself) some love.

I have great hair. I love my hair. I need to wash my hair more often…


  • a photo of you doing something physically challenging

This needn’t be current, although chances are the feats of physical daring you were capable of in your 20’s and 30’s may not be as easily attained now. Keep it motivating, but keep it real 🙂

I used to be able to do pull-ups. I am working on getting back to this place.


  • words or phrases that focus on positive feelings including self-acceptance, self-improvement, perseverance, resilience and pride

Search for motivating and inspiring quotes online. Notice them when they pop up in books, magazines and newspaper articles. Make them up yourself. Personal mantras can be very powerful.


Here’s what my current fitness vision board looks like.

The perfect blend (for me) of uplifting quotes, photos that make me smile and reminders of why fitness, strength and health are important to me.



Do you have a fitness vision board?

If so, tell me about the images you’ve chosen to help propel you towards your goals.