5 Reasons to swap Yonanas for ice cream

Disclosure: Yonanas sent me this ingenious tool for making ice cream-like desserts at home and compensated me for sharing my family’s enjoyment of it with you. As always, opinions and Pinterest-unworthy photos (other than the first, which was provided by Yonanas) are my own.

Ice cream is a summer staple at my house. Especially when the temperatures are hitting early-August highs before June is even over.

Alas, screaming for ice cream too frequently isn’t part of my midlife fitness and nutrition plan; mix too much refined sugar with declining estrogen and progesterone and you’ve stumbled upon the perfect recipe for ‘menopot’.

Nor it is good for my children‘s waistlines and already-high energy levels :-)

What if you could enjoy the taste of regular ice cream without the refined sugar (and without having to leave home to buy it)? Would you make room on your already-crammed counter for this device? Would you invite your family to join you in creating new favourite flavours?

swap Yonanas for ice cream

Clearly, when Yonanas reached out to me and asked the above questions I said “yes, yes and YES”.

5 Reasons to Swap Yonanas for Ice Cream

  • All the taste and ‘mouth-feel’ of Italian ice cream without the added sugar, fat and calories. A serving (1/2 cup) of my favourite grocery store ice cream brand typically contains 15 g of refined sugar (in the form of granulated sugar and glucose solids), 7 g of fat and 190 calories. While a one-half cup serving of Yonanas Banana and Blackberry ‘ice cream’ contains a similar amount of sugar (14 g, in the form of natural fruit sugars), 0.75 g of fat and 120 calories. For those of you trying to further reduce your natural sugar intake, Yonanas has several recipes for ‘no-banana’ gelatos in the accompanying recipe guide.
  • A fun way to increase your daily fruit intake. Canada’s Food Guide recommends that midlife women consume 7-8 servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Not getting enough? Combine one frozen banana with 1/2 cup of your favourite frozen berries and you’ve got two servings worth of fruit (and all the associated vitamins, minerals and fibre). Note that it’s still best for blood sugar regulation to get most of your fruit and vegetable servings from veggies… (maybe we can add some frozen kale to the mix?)
  • It’s infinitely variable. My family has difficulty agreeing on a single flavour of ice cream. Three are chocolate lovers. One prefers fruit and vanilla varieties. The fifth is never satisfied and always ends up searching the pantry for extra ingredients to top his with (go hubby go!). With Yonanas, you’re only limited by your imagination. We’ve tried half a dozen different fruit combinations and love that the recipe guide includes suggestions for peanut butter and chocolate, cookies and cream and pumpkin (of course, these last three contain refined sugar, making them more similar to daily ice cream than the fruit-only versions). I’ll be sticking to nuts and coconut flakes as my preferred toppings!
swap Yonanas for ice cream

Banana and FREE blackberries

  • A fast, easy way to use up over-ripe bananas. I always over-buy bananas. In part because they are only the perfect ripeness for about 15 minutes (I’m fussy about the texture of my food :-) ), but also because I tend to over-purchase fruit in general (especially this time of the year, when local fruits are in season). Yonanas works best when bananas are ‘cheetah-spotted’; just peel, slice in half and toss in the freezer for 24 hours.
swap Yonanas for ice cream

Alas, this won’t help me use up the 30+ black skinned bananas in my freezer…

  • Much less expensive than ice cream. Our favourite grocery store brand of ice cream costs a whopping $8.99 for a 2 L container (we only buy it when it’s on sale; 2 L doesn’t last very long in a family of 5). Contrast that with the cost of a bunch or two of bananas and a pint of local, in season fruit. Even better if you use the free blackberries and huckleberries your husband collected (for FREE) and froze last summer…(with the oldest child heading off to university in a little over a year, frugality is a must in my household!)

What’s your favourite flavour of ice cream? 

How could you replicate it with the Yonanas frozen dessert maker?

Why healthy eating doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss

I eat fairly healthily.

I try and ‘eat clean’.

I follow the 80/20 rule.

And yet, I can’t seem to lose any weight.

I bet the above sounds familiar. We all know somebody whose body never changes despite their claims of watching their diet and eating ‘healthily’. Heck, you may have even found yourself uttering one of the statements above; I certainly have 😉

In my experience as a personal trainer and healthy living coach, it often comes down to semantics (and of course, implementation…).

One person’s definition of ‘healthy eating’ isn’t the same as another’s. I have healthy (and unhealthy) weight friends who are Paleo. Some who eat low-carb. And others who’ve adopted the ‘Mediterranean’ diet.

The 80/20 rule can be interpreted in so many ways (80% of calories from ‘healthy’ foods, making ‘healthy’ choices 80% of the time, 80% of each meal coming from lean protein and veggies…) as to be almost useless as a guideline to eating for ‘health’, much less fat loss.

And don’t even get me started on ‘clean eating’. While it used to be a useful phrase (back in the day when it was primarily used by people who read and adopted the principals of Clean Eating Magazine), the word ‘clean’ is now fraught with judgement (“if my food’s not ‘clean’, does that mean it’s ‘dirty’?”) and widely applied to anything that’s not processed, regardless of how it’s raised or farmed.

In my opinion, many of us grab onto these terms and use them to identify our nutritional strategy because it makes us feel like we’re doing the right thing. Even if we never force ourselves to specifically define the approach or adhere to it on a daily basis.

Below are five reasons I commonly see ‘clean’ and ‘healthy’ eaters stall in their weight loss attempts. Feel free to add your own in the comments section at the bottom of the post.

5 Reasons Why Healthy Eating Doesn’t Necessarily Lead to Weight Loss
  • Too much of a good thing; Just because you fill your plate with lean protein, minimally dressed veggies and heart-healthy fats doesn’t mean you’ll lose weight. Weight loss depends on energy balance; if you consume more calories than your body expends in a day, you’ll gain weight. Regardless of whether those calories come from a grilled chicken breast or a piece of chocolate cake. Sure avocado and flax seed and coconut oil are all ‘healthy fats’, but add them all to your daily protein smoothie and you’re likely to end up with a super-sized meal rather than a post-workout snack. If you’ve truly managed to eliminate processed food and added sugar from your diet, take a good hard look at your daily caloric intake as compared to your daily metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns in 24 hours). The easiest way to do this? MyFitnessPal. Food tracking may be a bore, but it’s always insightful and a great place to start if you truly want to understand why you’re not losing weight.
  • The devil is in the preparation; What types of methods do you use to prepare your meals? Steaming? Frying? Grilling? Marinading? Do you add dressings and sauces during the cooking process or at the table? It’s all too easy to forget about the tablespoon of oil you sautéed the veggies in. Or the half a can of coconut milk you added to the brown rice. Or the bottled salad dressing you used to coat the romaine lettuce with. Just because these ingredients don’t seem like ‘food’, doesn’t mean they don’t add calories to your meal. Make sure you’re including these extras when you track your food. You may find that they add up to a few hundred calories a day; the calories that make all the difference between losing a 1/2 a pound a week and maintaining your weight.
healthy eating doesn't necessarily lead to weight loss

All I had for lunch was a salad….

  • Out-of-whack macros; Our bodies require three types of macronutrients to function; carbohydrates, protein and fat. According to government nutritionist guidelines, a ‘healthy’ diet will have 45-65% of the day’s calories coming from carbs (preferably complex, like veggies and grains), 10-35% from protein (the leaner the better) and 20-35% from fat (unsaturated are better than saturated and trans are to be avoided altogether). Many midlife women find that aiming for the lower end of the carb range and upping their protein intake accordingly can jump-start a weight loss plateau. Again you’ll need to track what you’re eating now in order to decide how to proceed. And then pay attention and re-evaluate depending on how your body responds to the changes.
  • ‘Treats’*** are no longer treats; I’m all for including occasional ‘treats’ or indulgences in your meal plan. The operative word being ‘plan’. If you know that you’ll be going out for dinner on Saturday night and are likely to join in a glass of wine or a piece of dessert (I always choose one over the other; that’s why you’ll find me looking at the dessert menu before the waiter comes to take our drink order…), plan the rest of your day accordingly. Maybe you eat more veggies for lunch. Or pass up on the afternoon cookie-with-tea. The thing about ‘treats’ is, once they become a mainstay of your diet, they’re no longer ‘treats’. I’ve found that those who self-identify as 80/20-eaters often grossly underestimate their ‘treat’ intake.
healthy eating doesn't necessarily lead to weight loss

Definitely a ‘beer over dessert’ night out…

*** I know that some of you don’t like the word ‘treat’. Or ‘indulgence’. Or ‘cheat’. But whatever you call it, we all know that we’re talking about the same thing; foods that shouldn’t be part of our daily nutrition plan because they don’t meet our health and fitness goals. The end.***

  • You’re easily swayed by product labels; When I asked the members of my Facebook page for their definitions of ‘healthy’ eating, nearly every single response included reference to reducing one’s reliance on packaged and processed foods. Even the ones whose labels include the words ‘healthy’, ‘low-fat’, ‘no added sugar’ and ‘whole grain’. Especially the ones whose labels include the words ‘healthy’, ‘low-fat’, ‘no added sugar’ and ‘whole grain’. Almost all the respondents emphasized the importance of eating foods that still resembled the way they’re found in nature. Food companies are in the business of selling food. They understand that consumers care about their health. They’ve found ways to package and market their products to make them appear more health-giving than they actually are. Cereal and yogurt companies are particularly clever in this regard. Pay attention to the ingredient lists and the nutrition information, not the large font superlatives on the packaging.

Do you follow any of the nutrition approaches mentioned above? Clean eater? Healthy eating? 80/20 advocate? 

Has your approach helped you lose weight (or maintain significant weight loss)?

If so, why? If not, why not?

 

 

 

 

 

3 whole body, minimal equipment, do at home workouts

Even though I’ve long-since graduated from university, my life still seems to ebb and flow with the academic calendar (I guess that’s what having three school-age children does for you…).

Summer is my time to kick back, take a break from the hectic driving and training and teaching schedule, spend more time engaging in outdoor activities with my kids (when I can persuade them to shut off their computers 😉 ) and focus on some big changes I’ll be making in my work life come September (details coming soon…).

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While cutting back on the time I spend training clients and teaching classes is great for my brain, it does make it a bit more challenging to maintain my usual exercise routine.

You see, my work gym is also my workout gym.

Setting up for a barbell dead lift

Recognize this place?

I typically piggy-back my own workouts on those of my clients. Without clients to see, it’s sometimes hard to work up the motivation to gather my gear, drive to the gym, check-in, walk the gauntlet of friends and clients and people I know and focus on not getting drawn into lengthy conversations or having to re-think my workout because the equipment I planned on using is already in use. All of the things that turn a 30-minute workout into a 75-minute endeavour.

I know you get this; one of the most comment obstacles to exercising isn’t the time it takes to get the workout done, but the extra travel time (and cost) required to train at a gym.

The obvious answer is to exercise at home.

I know that many of you have been successful with this. Personally? I don’t have a great track record with home workouts. I have the equipment (lots of equipment!), but don’t have a dedicated workout space (small house, no basement and not even an empty storage closet to keep equipment organized and together in).

Last week, while filming exercise videos in the carport for my 40+ online women’s fitness group, I had an ‘aha’ moment. (I’ve only been doing this for two years now; not sure why it took me so long to figure out…).

LightbulbMoment

Don’t you love it when fireworks go off in your head? ;-)

Why not use this exact space for my own personal workouts this summer? All I need to do is have hubby install the TRX mount I purchased ages ago, pump up the stability ball and Bosu and purchase a large storage tub to keep it all in (I’m thinking that with 11-year old boys around, the kettlebells will be better off out of sight and out of mind…).

Care to join me?

I’ve created 3 whole body, minimal equipment, do at home workouts.

None of them require a lot of equipment and I’ve designed them around the types of equipment you’re most likely to have (from least expensive to most expensive (and most fun, IMHO)). All three are full body workouts, designed to be done in as little as 20 minutes. Or, if you have more time, string them together, in whichever order pleases you.

Oh and make sure you start with a warmup and finish with a stretch. Here are a couple of my favourites for you to choose from:

 

Workout # 1: When all you have is a resistance band. Perform 15 repetitions of each exercise (on each side of the body, where relevant), rest and repeat once or twice more.

 

Workout #2: Have a stability ball and a set or two of hand weights? Perform 12 repetitions of each exercise (on each side of the body, where relevant), rest and repeat once or twice more.

 

Workout #3: You’ll need a Kettlebell or two for this one (more expensive, but more fun too 😉 ). Perform 8 repetitions of each exercise (on each side of the body, where relevant), rest and repeat once or twice more.

If you enjoyed these do at home workouts, please take a moment to
  • ‘Like’ them and subscribe to my YouTube channel
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P.S. Although I am a Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer (although I could be; check out the online services I offer here). Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Avoiding exercise-induced injuries | ‘Pre’-hab is better than re-hab

Recently, I started asking new newsletter subscribers to share their biggest fitness and nutrition challenges.

exercise-induced injuries

Want to see the entire email? Sign up for blog updates and advance notification of new online courses by clicking this image.

 

(Thanks to all of you who’ve responded; it’s been wonderful to get your emails and to have actual conversations with so many like-minded women; the life of a blogger can sometimes be a bit isolating. Not a new newsletter subscriber? Feel free to share your ‘pain points’ in the comments section at the bottom of the page. And you can always, you know, subscribe 😉 ).

One of the most common responses I’ve had to date has been about injury prevention. For example,

I’m 47 and just started taking jui jitsu classes. What can I do to minimize my risk of injury?

and

At 54, my days of doing air squats and burpees and jumping onto benches are over. My knees just can’t handle the impact and the last thing I want to do is get hurt. Any tips for exercising without getting injured?

As a (newly) 48-year-old woman, thoughts about injury prevention are never far from my mind. Especially when trying a new activity for the very first time.

I’ve had enough of my own exercise-induced injuries (knees and achilles tendon and intercostal muscles, oh my!) to know that ‘pre-hab’ is highly preferable to ‘rehab’.

In general, injuries tend to occur when we do ‘too much, too soon’. Joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments need to be eased into new activities, giving them time to strengthen, learn new motor patterns and increase their range of motion.

Strategies for avoiding exercise-induced injuries

  • Start slow; Even if you exercise regularly, when the activity is brand new to you, pretend you’re a beginner. Follow the FIT (Frequency-Intensity-Time) guidelines of 2-3 times per week, at low to moderate intensity (on a scale of 1-10, 1 being easy, 10 being full-out exhausting, aim for somewhere between 3 and 5), and for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Leave yourself wanting more (or as my hubby used to say when our kids were little, “quit while you’re still having fun”).
  • Linger with your warmup; A proper warmup goes a long way when it comes to avoiding exercise-induced injuries. Plan on spending a good 10 minutes on whole body movements, paying particular attention to the muscles and body parts you’ll be using during the workout proper. Use your warmup to mimic the activity you’re about to partake in. For example, a tennis warmup might include arm circles, side shuffles and forward and back hops. A warmup for kayaking might include torso twists, ‘air’ paddling and calf raises (if your kayak has a foot-controlled rudder). Warming up for ju jitsu or another of the martial arts? Arm and leg swings and circles, slow controlled punches and kicks and whole-body walk out to planks would be great additions to your warmup. Gradually increase the range of motion that you’re moving through as muscles, joints and ligaments become more fluid. Here are some warmup moves that I like to practice before I hit the weights >>  Pre-strength training warmup ideas
  • Safety first; All exercises and activities have risks associated with them. Building up a solid foundation before you attempt the riskiest version of a new activity is the best way to ensure that you’ll continue to enjoy the activity for a long time to come. That might mean choosing lighter weights, performing the activity on a stable surface, using a limited range of motion until you’re familiar with the movements or making use of supports and props, when appropriate. As you get stronger and your balance and confidence improve, you can relinquish the ‘training wheels’ and take your activity out ‘on the road’.

avoiding exercise-induced injuries

  • Savour stretching; Post-activity stretching can aid flexibility (one of the most rapidly lost components of fitness for us 40- and 50-somethings…), which in turn can help you perform your favourite activities better and with less pain. Focus on the stretching the muscle groups you used most during the activity. Aim to hold each stretch for 15 to 30 s, taking deeper and deeper breaths as you lengthen the muscle and increase the intensity of the pose. Not only can stretching help prevent exercise-induced injuries, it’s a great time to turn your thoughts inward, calm your mind and enjoy a few moments of quiet in your otherwise busy day. Not sure which stretches you should be doing? Check out these two posts for ideas and tips on form >> Essential Stretches for Mid-Life Exercisers and Reasons to Stretch more Frequently (with a Video Guided Stretch)
  • Do different things; Exercise-induced injuries are often caused by doing too much of the same thing. I know that in our excitement and enthusiasm for a new activity, there’s a tendency to want to repeat the activity day after day after day. While repetition helps us get better at things, it can also lead to over-use injuries. Try interspersing your new favourite activity with other sports and types of exercise. You may be surprised to find that gains and improvements in one activity translate into gains and improvements in another. Ideally, your alternate activity will target different muscles groups (for example, running and cycling are both quad-dominant activities; a better alternative for the cyclist would be to hit the pool or the boxing gym). Oh and strength training complements pretty much any activity you can think of. Just saying 😉 .

Of course, getting proper instruction when starting a new activity will ensure that you’re performing the movements properly and with efficiency, both necessary if you want to avoid injury. Sign up for a lesson or two or book a session with a personal trainer to identify your strengths and weaknesses and get a program designed to support you in your new ‘favourite thing’!

Found this post helpful? Learned a thing or two that a fellow newbie to exercise might benefit from?
Why not share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter? (Just click on the social sharing links below). Who knows, one of them might be tempted to join you in your latest recreational pursuit!

 

What new fitness activity are you currently excited about?

Do you worry about exercise-induced injuries?

Fitness and nutrition rules can simplify healthy living

Structure.

 

Some people swear by it and claim that structure is the reason they’re able to consistently exercise and eat well.

Others find that too much regimentation makes them crazy and increases the chance that they’ll fall off the wagon.

Personally, I’m a fan of structure, just not too much 😉

(I’m kind of like Goldilocks; not too much, not too little, it’s gotta be just the right amount).

I find that having a few, key ‘rules’ around fitness and nutrition helps me stay the course when I’m tired, feeling rushed or just plain low on willpower.

My rules are personal to me; there’s a reason for each of them. And when I recite them to myself, they instantly remind me of why I’ve chosen them and how I’ll feel when I honour them.

fitness and nutrition rules

I feel strong, confident and ready to take on the world!

 

Kind of like my reasons for exercising and eating well; linking the behaviour and the feeling that the behaviour gives me is a powerful tool for both creating new habits and sticking to old ones.

In my experience, the best types of fitness and nutrition rules are specific, concise and use positive language.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or have participated in one of my online training groups will be able to recite these verbatim (perhaps you’ve even adopted one or more of them as your own?).

 

For the rest of you, here are the fitness and nutrition rules that help me re-commit daily to healthy living. There are three of each because, honestly? I couldn’t manage to consistently follow any more :-)

Fitknitchick’s Fitness and Nutrition Rules to Live By

  • Never miss a Monday; I consider Monday to be the start of my exercise week. Getting a great workout in, first thing Monday morning, sets the tone for the next seven days. If Monday was great (and it almost always is, thanks to my dedicated and enthusiastic Monday morning Step class…), I’m more inclined to hit the gym Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Note that I don’t train the same way (or with the same intensity) each and every day; doing so would certainly result in injury or over-training for this almost 48-year old woman.
  • Never take more than two days off in a row; I find that two days of rest and recovery is adequate for my fitness goals. Unless I’m sick (or on vacation), missing a third day makes getting back to the gym a chore. And a fourth? I’m likely write off the rest of the week (I’m still working on my all-or-none mindset…). And I personally find that de-conditioning happens much more quickly now than when I was even five years younger.
  • Just commit to 15 minutes; On days where my motivation is lagging, but I know that a workout is truly what I need to feel better, I tell myself to commit to just 15 minutes. If I’m not feeling it by the end, I’m free to leave and try again tomorrow. Most of the time 15 minutes turns into 30 or 45. And I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve hung up my running shoes early and headed to the coffee shop, knowing that at least 15 minutes was better than nothing.
  • Always eat breakfast; Many years ago, way back when I was in grad school studying animal ecology, I’d head into the lab on an empty stomach. Working long hours with nothing but cafeteria coffee in your belly was a badge of industriousness and honour. Now that my work day is full of movement, fuelling first thing is mandatory. Not only am I not tempted by coffee shop pastries mid-day (okay, I am tempted by them, but I don’t CRAVE them, there’s a difference), my lunch and dinner choices are much healthier than they used to be; proof that positive habits beget more positive habits!
  • Eat protein with every meal; While gram for gram, carbohydrates have the same calorie content as protein, they aren’t nearly as satiating. In part because they are processed more quickly by the body, but also because they trigger an insulin response. Depending on your body’s sensitivity to sugar, that can result in a ‘sugar crash’ and a fairly rapid craving for sweet and starchy foods. And if you’re trying to build muscle (or preserve that which you already have), if you’re not eating protein with every meal, you’re probably not getting enough. Nutritionists recommend that we consume a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound) per day, although there is much argument in the fitness community about whether this is actually enough. I personally, aim for about twice that; it seems to be the best approach to managing midlife weight gain and muscle loss for me. (And I’ve had clients who’ve been extremely successful with this approach as well…)
  • Fuel first, treats second. I love sweets as much as the next person. And if I let myself get too hungry, it’s all too easy to grab a cookie or muffin or protein bar (yes, I consider commercially-prepared protein bars a treat; or an emergency food for times when you’re caught without a healthy, home-prepared snack). I remind myself that sugary-foods rarely satiate and satisfy for long and that if I’m still hankering for one AFTER I’ve eaten my protein-filled meal or snack, I’m welcome to it. When it comes to eating, I don’t believe in deprivation. Making a food off limits only makes me want it more. Moderation is much easier to practice when I fuel first.

Do you follow any of my fitness and nutrition rules?

If so, does it help you maintaing consistency with exercise and healthy living?

Any other fitness and nutrition rules that you’ve adopted? I’d love to hear yours!

Did you find this post helpful? Think that a friend or two of yours might benefit from it as well? Click on one of the social sharing buttons below and be forever in their debt!

TransformAging | An online fitness and health webinar for midlife women

 

fitness and health webinar

I want to continue to age well.

TC_Aging

To look good, feel great and to be able to keep doing all of my favourite activities for a long time to come.

Don’t you? Doesn’t everybody?

The thing is, when it comes to aging well, you need a plan.
  • A plan that incorporates movement and nutrition that’s appropriate and relevant to your midlife needs (hello achy knees and fluctuating hormones…).
  • A plan that’s evidence-based and prescribed by fitness professionals who specialize in the fitness and nutrition needs of midlife women (we’re out there, although you might not notice us because we don’t post six-pack abs selfies).
  • A plan with actionable steps you can start taking today (because who has time to wait until tomorrow?).

Good news!

You’re invited to the first ever TransformAging webinar;
  • Midlife Weight Gain, Hormones, and Menopot: Strategies for Staying Slim Without Losing Your Sanity with yours truly, Tamara Grand, PhD, based on the interview I did last spring for the radio show Voice America
  • Resistance Training: Your After 50 Easy Weight Management Program brought to you by the highly qualified, quite funny, action-oriented, fitness pro, Debra Atkinson
  • Supplementation and Skincare to Transform Aging Inside & Out: What’s Really Needed? by Mo Hagan, an award-winning, internationally known presenter whose passion is elevating baby boomer women (and she just happens to be Canadian too, ‘eh?).

Weren’t able to attend the fitness and health webinar in real time? Or you did, but weren’t able to write fast enough to capture all of the nuggets of wisdom and ‘do-right-nows’ we covered? Want to be able to watch them over and over and over again to reinforce the small steps you’ve taken and keep you moving in the right direction?

You can purchase the entire fitness and health webinar series, for a mere $34.

Click here to purchase and obtain lifetime access to the series >> TransformAging Webinar Purchase

health and fitness webinar

I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I did!

 

 

10 ways to measure progress other than the bathroom scale

Ask a room full of 40 and 50 year-old women what their number one health and fitness goal is and you’re bound to hear ‘lose weight’ more than a few times.

Given that weight loss requires a multi-pronged approach (strength training, cardio, attention to nutrition and of particular importance to those experiencing perimenopausal symptoms, improved sleep and stress reduction), it’s surprising that one of the most preferred ways to measure progress is still the number on the bathroom scale.

Especially when the pounds aren’t falling off as quickly as they may have when you were younger…

While I can’t argue that seeing a smaller number on the scales isn’t indicative of weight loss, there are many other ways to measure progress along the way.

  • Metrics that encourage reflection and celebration
  • Metrics that shift the focus from how you look to how you feel
  • Metrics that emphasize ability and performance

This week, I challenge you to substitute one of the following metrics (brainstormed by me and some very smart members of my Facebook community; you’re welcome to join us!) for your daily (or weekly) weigh-in.

10 ways to measure progress other than the bathroom scale

1. Take circumference measurements; Losing weight via a combination of exercise and attention to nutrition often results in circumference measurements decreasing before pounds on the scale. Especially if your exercise plan includes lifting weights (as it should :-) ). If seeing numbers decrease is a big motivator for you, adding up those inches lost every month or so can be a great way to measure progress. Six inches sounds like way more than 2 pounds, doesn’t it? And because it takes a little more time and effort than simply stepping on the scales, you won’t be inclined to do it daily.

Wendy asks herself “Can I get into pants I could not get into last month, three months ago, last year? Can I zip a jacket/vest?”

2. Estimate your body fat; For most people, losing weight is really about losing body fat (I can’t think of a single client who’s ever asked me to help them reduce their muscle mass…). When fat loss is accompanied by muscle gain, body composition estimates gives us more information about our health than the number on the scale. There are many ways to estimate body fat, some of which require professional help (e.g., callipers, immersion) or specialized equipment (e.g., Skulpt Aim device, see photo below). But if you’re only looking for a ball-park estimate, a simple, online body fat calculator is good enough.

My front and back ‘muscle quotient’, as measured by Skulpt Aim

 

3. Try on your ‘thermometer’ jeans; You know that pair of jeans (or other pants) that, when they fit well, make you feel like the best version of yourself? Use them to measure progress (or to tell you when you’ve fallen off track). Note that these shouldn’t be a pair of pants you wore way back when, before you had three kids and had hours a day to devote to fitness and menu planning. We’re aiming for realistic, attainable goals here ;-).

Heat suggests that once you lose the weight you “buy new, smaller clothes and get rid of the other ones. That’s just giving yourself permission to wear them again later.”

4. Tally up the ‘toonies’ in your workout rewards jar; I like to ‘pay’ myself for every workout I do, saving the money for one or two more extravagant rewards every year. Seeing the coins accumulate in my workout reward jar makes me feel successful and encourages me to get to the gym on those days where my motivation is low.

I seem to be always saving for new shoes…

 

5. Celebrate weight-lifting PR’s; My favourite numbers to keep track of? How many pounds I lift during my a workout. I use the app Strong to record my strength workouts. It has a fun, summary screen that tells you the total number of pounds lifted and reps performed during your workout. The best thing about these types of numbers? You celebrate when they go up!

Kudos to Shayna for “pushing … [her]self a little harder every week at the gym” (and noticing the corresponding changes in her body).

6. Complete a fitness test; Remember those fitness tests you had to take way back in high school? The gym teacher who recorded how many pushups and sit-ups you could do in a row? The stop watch she wore around her neck to time your planks and wall sits? Test yourself monthly and compare your results. Even if your weight loss workout doesn’t specifically include these four exercises, consistent exercise will produce spill-over effects and improvement over time. (Want to improve your pushups? Here are some tips for getting from knees to toes)

Try one of the follow pushup variations. Keep track of how many you can do.

7. Cut your 5K time; Pay attention to how much more quickly you can perform certain activities (and recover from performing them too). Time your runs or your metabolic finishers. Aim to shave a few seconds off each time out.
Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.18.18 PM

In just a month, I shaved a 1.5 minutes off this metabolic finisher!

 

8. Peruse your progress pics; You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. When we’re smack dab in the middle of a weight loss goal it’s sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees. We focus on what’s not changing and fail to see what is. Taking photographs of yourself (or having someone you trust do it for you) is a great way to objectively see the changes in your body over time.

Try wearing the same, form-fitting clothing in each set of photos (one from the front, one from the side, one from the back); it makes it easier to see progress and you’ll have twice the proof when those clothes start to sag and bag…

ways to measure progress

9. Celebrate streaks; Do you wear a pedometer and count your daily steps? Log your food in MyFitnessPal? Attend 6:00 am Bootcamp Monday through Friday? Why not keep track of how many days in a row you hit your goal? Generating healthy habits is the first step towards weight loss and improved fitness. Focus on the small, day to day steps and the bigger goals will follow.

MyFitnessPal loves to announce streaks to your friends...

MyFitnessPal loves to announce streaks to your friends…

 

10. Focus on how you feel; When it comes right down to it, weight loss and fitness improvement goals are about feeling good. We all want to feel healthy, energetic, happy and light in our own bodies.

As Meg says “feeling good is my wellness scale” (see what she did there? ‘wellness SCALE’?).

What’s YOUR ‘wellness scale’? One of the metrics mentioned above? Or something entirely different?
Share your favourite ways to measure progress towards your fitness and weight loss goals in the comments section below.

Training for the status quo | fitness after 40

A couple of weeks ago a fellow gym-goer asked me what I was training for.

She’d noticed that I lift heavy, 3-4 days each week and that I’d been consistently upping my weights, in particular on my rows (not stalker-ish; she’s quite interested in developing her back, so she pays attention to these things).

Was I training for a weight lifting competition? Nope (this made me giggle)

To build bigger muscles? Not particularly (although that Tricep score my Skulpt Aim gave me is bugging me just a bit 😉 )

SkulptAim_May5_2015

I could have sworn my triceps were stronger than this…

To lose weight or lean out? Nah, I’m pretty happy with my body the way it is (i.e., I’m not interested in doing what it takes to drop 3 or 4% more body fat…)

To improve my performance in another sport? Perhaps, if you consider life to be a sport (have you seen my new tag line?)

My lack of appropriate response clearly confused her, so I tried to explain that my primary reason for exercising consistently and progressively is to continue being able to perform all the activities I love, pain-free and for a long time to come.

That is, I train to stay pretty much the way I am. And when I look around at the mostly healthy-looking people in my gym, I don’t think that I’m alone.

I guess you could call it training for the status quo.

Note that this isn’t a case of simply running to stay in place (a la the Red Queen)…

Alice and the Red Queen

“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”, said the Red Queen to Alice

It’s running to NOT end up in a worse place :-)

Training for the status quo has myriad benefits (especially for those of us who aren’t 20 anymore…)

Why I train for the status quo

  • maintain or increase metabolism; As we get older, muscle mass is both harder to create and harder to maintain due in part to a reduction in the production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. With declining muscle mass comes a reduction in basal metabolic rate. Hence the increased challenge of keeping midlife pounds at bay. Progressive resistance strength training encourages muscle growth and allows me to continue eating (most of) the foods I enjoyed in my 20’s and 30’s without gaining (very much) weight.
  • health is more than how you look; It’s not just what you see that’s important; how things are working ‘under the hood’ is a strong predictor of future health and longevity. Training for the status quo can help improve many of the health markers your doctor is watching; cholesterol, blood pressure, lung capacity, heart rate and stroke volume, to name a few.

Like ‘eating for maintenance’, training for the status quo isn’t sexy.

But it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative…

Does the phrase ‘training for the status quo’ make you think of a hamster wheel? Or do you see the benefits of exercising simply for the benefits of exercising?

 

training for the status quo

 

6 tips to build your confidence in the gym

Many of the women I teach and train confess to being more than a tad uncomfortable in the gym. Particularly when working out by themselves.

Some common responses to my query as to what, in particular, makes them feel uncomfortable?

  • I don’t know how the equipment works
  • I’m not sure which exercises I should do
  • The free weights section is in the middle of the room; everybody will be watching me
  • I’ll do something wrong and look stupid
  • I’m self-conscious about my body
  • I just don’t feel like I belong in there with all those fit, young people

confidence_gym

Recruiting a friend to be your ‘exercise buddy’ is a great solution (check out these tips for creating the perfect fitness partnership).

However, there will be days when your training partner isn’t available and you’ll be faced with the decision to either ‘go it alone’ or cancel your workout entirely. Choose the latter too often and you’ll be hard-pressed to see the results of your sporadic efforts…

Looking to feel more at home in the weight room? Try the following suggestions to build your confidence in the gym
  • Make a plan. Know exactly what you’ll be doing before you get to the gym. You can find free workouts in books, magazines and websites (here’s a whole page of free workouts I’ve created just for readers like you). Choose one, print it out and pack it in your gym bag to reference at the gym.
  • Choose a quiet time to train. Call or visit the gym in advance to find the least busy time of day to train. At most gyms, early mornings, late afternoons and evenings are when equipment is most in demand. If your schedule allows it, plan for a late morning or early afternoon workout. You’re likely to have the place to yourself (or at the very least, not be surrounded by 20-year old males flexing and grunting and taking selfies 😉 ).
  • Adopt a ‘gradual entry’ approach. Start by tagging 10 minutes in the gym onto your regular group fitness class. Ask your instructor (or the weight room attendant in the gym) for three gym exercises you can do either right before class or immediately after. Once you get comfortable with those exercises (and with the gym itself), add another three exercises to your routine.
  • Carve out a corner. Keep your eye out for less-congested areas of the gym. Collect all the equipment you’ll need for your workout and claim your space. Corners are a great place for people who are concerned about others watching them. Plus, having all of your equipment in one place means a quicker workout.
  • Practice new moves at home. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are with strength training, the first few times you perform a new exercise you’ll always feel awkward and conspicuous (Turkish getups anyone?). Before you debut them at the gym, practice new moves at home and ideally, in front of a mirror. Not only will you improve your form, you’ll also realize that you don’t look nearly as silly as you thought you might.
  • Find a back-up fitness buddy. If you tend to always go to the gym at the same time of day, you’ve likely noticed others that share your preferred workout time. You may even have started to smile or say ‘hello’ to them in greeting. Chances are that at least one of them is feeling exactly the same as you and would appreciate having an occasional workout partner for accountability and motivation.

You’ll never know if you don’t ask. At the very least, you can exercise next to them and pretend that you’re working out together 😉

Have you ever suffered from a crisis of confidence in the weight room?

How did you build your confidence in the gym?