How much weight should I be lifting?

One of the biggest challenges women face when they start a strength training program is figuring out how much weight they should be lifting. (New to strength training? Here’s a list of posts I’ve written to help you get started).

how much weight should I be lifting via

Most err on the size of caution, lifting less weight that they’re capable of either because they fear getting ‘bulky’ or they just don’t realize how strong their bodies actually are (how heavy is your purse? your groceries? your toddler? that giant bag of dog food you carried from the car to the house?).

The thing is, muscles require adequate stimulation to get strong.

They quickly adapt to the loads we lift regularly and stop increasing in size and strength unless we consistently up the challenge (we all hit plateaus from time to time; here are tricks for busting through them).

Given that loss of muscle mass contributes to midlife weight gain, you want to be sure that you’re lifting heavy enough to actually see the results of your efforts in the gym.

Most of the women I work with via my online fitness groups and 1-on-1 fitness coaching program have two primary goals; to build muscle and lose body fat. (If you’re looking for an online fitness coach who specializes in midlife women, I’m your girl and just happen to have two spots opening up in my practice later this month. Click through the link to read about the service and apply to work with me).

As a consequence, I typically program them in the 8 to 12 (or ‘hypertrophy’) repetition range.

That is, I ask them to perform somewhere between 8 and 12 good form repetitions of each exercise in their workout (the exact range depends on what we’re focusing on in each particular phase of their program; lower rep ranges for strength phases, higher rep ranges for muscle building and leaning out).

how heavy should I be lifting via


Because I don’t train my clients in person, I give them detailed instructions to determine whether their weights are heavy enough.

How much weight should I be lifting?

For example, during week 1 of a program that requires a client to perform 10 to 12 dumbbell chest presses I’d ask them to do the following;

  • choose a weight that they think they can manage 12 repetitions with (most will under-estimate)
  • attempt to perform 12 good form repetitions
  • evaluate their performance and adjust accordingly
  • if they managed all 12 repetitions and feel that they could easily have performed at least 4 or 5 more, increase their weight on the next set, attempting to find a weight that they can just reach 12 reps with (I usually recommend increasing weights by no more than 10% at a time; of course, depending on the dumbbell options available to you, this may not be possible).
  • if they were only able to perform 8 good form repetitions, stick with the same weight until they’re consistently reaching the upper value of the repetition range (12 reps) for the required number of sets
  • if they managed fewer than 8 good form repetitions, lower their weight on the next set, again attempting to find a weight that they can just reach 12 reps with

Note that this is a bit of an iterative process. Sometimes it will take you several sets (and more than one workout) to determine your current ‘best’ weight for an exercise.

Think of this period of figuring things out as additional preparation time. You’re teaching your body how to properly perform the exercise and learning how to listen to any messages it’s sending you about joint mobility, range of motion, bilateral asymmetry and weakness.

After several workouts, you’ll probably notice that you’re able to perform more repetitions with the weights you’ve chosen. That’s great! A sure sign that you’re getting stronger. And an indication that you need to progress your workouts.

Rather than simply performing more repetitions with the same weight (remember the number of repetitions you perform is specific to your goals), try increasing your load.

You may find that the new, heavier weight only allows you to complete 6 or 8 or 10 good form repetitions.

That’s okay. Continue with this weight until you can again, perform 12 reps (or the upper limit of your prescribed rep range) for the required number of sets.

A couple of caveats:
  • DON’T try to increase weights on every exercise in your workout at once. That’s a recipe for exhaustion and injury! I typically try to progress 1 to 3 exercises per workout. Some weeks I’m more successful than others.
  • DON’T sacrifice form for reps. Doing extra repetitions with poor form will only slow your progress.
  • DON’T expect gains to be linear. Sometimes a big weight increase will be followed by a month-long plateau. And holidays and illness will frequently force you to return to a lower weight than you’d been lifting previously.
  • DO view lifting heavier as a good thing. Increasing muscle mass and functional strength are important contributors to overall health and aging well!

This post evolved from a recent Periscope broadcast of mine. Click on the image below to watch it where it’s been saved on

How much weight should I be lifting?

Never heard of Periscope? It’s a new social media platform that allows me to interact, in real-time, via video with my followers and clients. My show, “Fit Tips for Midlife Chicks” broadcasts live on M/W/F at 1:30 pm Pacific Time.

To catch the next episode all you need to do is:

  • download the Periscope app on your smartphone
  • log in with your Twitter handle
  • find and follow me @fitknitchick_1
  • open the app M/W/F at 1:30 pm PT and click on the link to my show

Which exercises have you progressed your weights on lately?


The “All you need is a bench (and your smartphone)” Workout

Disclaimer: The post (and the accompanying video workout) was sponsored by Corning® Gorilla® Glass. As always, opinions, errors and bad puns are my own.

There are three things that I never set foot on the gym floor or in the aerobics studio without;

  • A written plan; Whether it’s an outline to a group fitness class, a new program for a personal training client or my own workout for the day, having a plan is key to keeping the intensity up, the chit-chat down and the workout on track.
  • Water; I use workout time to fit in 1/2 to 3/4 of a litre. I sweat a lot when I’m exercising and use rest breaks between sets to rehydrate and stay energized.
  • My smartphone; Used for playing music and timing intervals in group fitness classes, tracking clients’ measurements and appointments and jotting down the reps, sets and loads completed in my own workouts, my phone is never more than an arm’s length away.

bench workout

Given the intensity of my workouts, the hard surfaces I often train on and the record number of people in the gym this time of year, I know that it’s only a matter of time before my phone goes flying off the back of the treadmill, gets dropped mid-burpee or stepped on by the guy on the bench next to me.

bench workout

Since my phone is essentially my brain’s back-up drive, containing not only all of my professional contacts’ information, but the calendars of my husband’s travel schedule and three children’s activities, I do worry about the potential damage such drops might cause. (Although I’m always up for an ‘excuse’ to upgrade my device… 😉 ).

Apparently, I’ve been worrying needlessly.

Turns out that the touch screen on my phone has Corning® Gorilla® Glass; a strengthened material that’s made by dipping glass into a molten salt bath of potassium nitrate. Potassium ions in the salt bath diffuse into the glass, creating a hardened compression layer on the surface. A layer that helps to protect the phone from damage when dropped.

In lab tests, Gorilla Glass 4 survives up to 80% of the time when dropped from a height of three feet (about the distance from the ‘phone ledge’ on most treadmills and ellipticals to the floor) and boasts improved damage resistance against sharp contact (like drops on the concrete in my carport, where today’s workout video was filmed).

The “All you need is a bench (and your smartphone and Gorilla Glass 4)” Workout

Today’s workout requires only that you have access to a bench and a smartphone; the bench for the workout itself and the phone to time your work and rest intervals.

Set your interval timer for 9 rounds of 45 s work and 15 s rest (18 intervals if you’re planning on going through a second time).

Perform AMRAP (as many reps as ‘pretty’) of each of the following exercises in the allocated interval (45 s), rest (15 s) then move on to the next exercise. See the video below for demonstrations of each exercise and my favourite coaching cues.

  • Lateral bench step ups (left foot on bench)
  • Bench push ups
  • Lateral bench step ups (right foot on bench)
  • Bench tricep dips
  • Split lunges (left foot on bench)
  • “Walking” plank
  • Split lunges (right foot on bench)
  • V-sit with leg lifts
  • Box jumps

Always begin each workout with a brief warm up (5 minutes or so of light calisthenics and range of motion joint movements). End with a stretch, focusing on the major muscle groups, including glutes, hamstrings, quads, chest, back and shoulders.


If you’ve enjoyed this workout, please take a minute to ‘Like’, ‘Comment’ and ‘Share’. Positive feedback makes the world go ’round!


Disclaimer: Although I am a Certified Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer ;-). Interested in working with me? Check out the online fitness services I offer. I’d love to work with YOU!

Corning® Gorilla® Glass has been used on nearly 4 billion devices from 40 major brands. Is it on yours? Click here to find out.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Corning® Gorilla® Glass. The opinions and text are all mine.

How to become more consistent with exercise

Last spring, I started asking new newsletter subscribers to share their biggest fitness and nutrition challenges with me.

consistent with exercise

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 the challenge of becoming more consistent with exercise. Here’s a sample;

Consistency. Some weeks I am great with exercise…and then I fall off the wagon and don’t work out…!!!

Number one thing I struggle with; consistency.  I work out for four days, quit for two weeks, and back again.  I know I need to develop a real routine…

Biggest struggle is getting my head back in the game…once I fall off the wagon.

You’ve probably experienced the same challenge at some point in your fitness career; post-holiday, post-injury, post-baby… I certainly have.


As a fitness coach, I often share my strategies for improving exercise consistency with my clients; after all, without consistency and progression to your program, you’re unlikely to ever reach your fitness goals.

How to become more consistent with exercise
  • Create a schedule. Take a look at your calendar. Identify two or three chunks of free time in your week. Write the word ‘Exercise’ in pen. Treat this appointment with yourself the same way you treat your appointments with your doctor, dentist and manicurist. You may think I’m trying to be funny. I’m not. Scheduling works. Commit to it for an entire month.

How to get more consistent with exercise via

  • Set yourself up for success. Many people undermine their attempts to make regular exercise a priority. They choose activities that they don’t really like. They plan to work out alone even though they require accountability and support. They schedule early morning workouts despite their night owl tendencies. They have unrealistic expectations about how quickly they’re likely to see results. Spend a little time reflecting on what you truly need to successfully stick with your plan. Make sure all the components are in place before you step into the gym (or pool or the spinning studio etc.). Need a little more help with this? Check out the free download below; “5 Steps to Exercise Success”.
  • Anticipate obstacles. The road to consistency is never smooth. Obstacles and road blocks will always be present. The key is to anticipate them and have a back-up plan ready to implement. For example, kids get sick and somebody has to stay home with them. If that somebody is you, how will you make up your missed workout? Can you do something else at home? An exercise DVD? A short, body-weight workout? Is there a ‘flex’ day in your schedule for playing ‘catch up’ later in the week?

How to get more consistent with exercise via

  • Celebrate small victories. Most humans respond well to rewards :-) . Keep your motivation up by regularly reflecting on what you’ve done well and treating yourself to something small and enjoyable. A new  headband to keep your hair off your face during workouts. A box of your favourite specialty tea bags. That Kindle title you’ve been dying to read. Or even a simple gold star on your workout calendar. Celebrating small victories takes your mind off the bigger victories that are still off in the distance (and reminds you that you’re making progress, no matter how small).
  • Remind yourself of how hard it is to start all over again. Most of us also try to avoid punishment. Tap into your psyche and remind yourself how difficult it is to get back to exercise after a hiatus. Not just physically, but also psychologically. Our bodies struggle with things they once did with ease. We have to lower the weights, take longer breaks between sets and huff and puff through our step class or run. Maintaining a positive mindset about exercise becomes more difficult with every repetition of the ‘start and stop’ cycle.

Remember that consistency doesn’t happen overnight or without real effort. But once you get there, exercise becomes infinitely easier (at least until you up your weights or your trainer adds burpees to your program 😉 ).

Do you struggle with exercise consistency?

What strategies have you implemented to become more consistent with exercise?

High protein vegetarian mushroom and chickpea curry | A #MeatlessMondayNight recipe

Disclaimer: I created the recipe below as part of Silk’s #MeatlessMondayNight campaign. You can find more meatless recipes and enter for a chance to win at the website, If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that this campaign was a natural fit for me; I already had three cartons of various Silk milks in my fridge when I agreed to write this post :-).

When it comes to building lean muscles, protein is king. Not only does protein aid in muscle repair and recovery, it also keeps you feeling full longer between meals and helps to ameliorate the blood sugar elevation (and subsequent rise in insulin levels) caused by eating carbohydrates on their own.

While consuming adequate protein isn’t hard if you’re an omnivore, vegetarians and vegans often find it difficult to meet their daily protein requirements.

And frankly, I’m often at a loss when it comes to helping my non-meat-eating clients make adjustments to their diets that will support their fat-loss-muscle-building goals.

In order to better help my clients (as well as keeping my grocery bill down; two teenage boys can do some serious damage when it comes to chicken, fish and beef….), I agreed to participate in Silk’s #MeatlessMondayNight challenge and create a protein-rich vegetarian meal to share with my clients, readers (and family).

In order to ensure that the protein component of the meal was complete (read more about complete and incomplete proteins here), I served my Tofu, Chickpea and Mushroom Curry over brown rice, with whole wheat naan on the side, of course (my boys prefer naan bread to forks when it comes to spooning in Thai or Indian food…).

You probably have most of the ingredients for this super easy recipe already on hand; chickpeas, curry paste, onions, garlic, kale (everybody has kale in their fridge, right?).


The surprise addition? Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk in place of cream or coconut cream (my two usual ways of thickening one-pot curry-type meals).

While it failed to win over two of my picky eaters (which isn’t really saying much…foodies they are not 😉 )) my husband and oldest son were happy to have seconds and then to re-heat and eat it again the following night.

Left-overs are a bonus in this busy mom’s books!

Fitknitchick’s Tofu, Chickpea and Mushroom Curry | A #MeatlessMondayNight Recipe


Nutritional Info: Recipe makes 4 portions. When served over 1/2 cup cooked brown rice, each portion contains the following: Calories, 406; Carbohydrates, 57.6 g; Protein, 21.3 g; Fat, 11.8 g. Naan bread is optional and it’s nutritional contribution to the meal will depend on the brand and portion size consumed.

Does your family have a favourite meatless recipe? Please share it (or a link to it) below. I can see making this a regular occurrence at my house thanks, in part, to it’s effect on my grocery budget!

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

Work smarter not harder | Tips for prioritizing your workouts

In an ideal world, we’d all have time for daily exercise.

prioritizing your workouts

Fitting in all of the recommended elements of fitness (cardio, strength, power, endurance, flexibility, speed and agility and energy system work) wouldn’t be a problem. Seven days times seven hours is lots of time to get it all done.

In reality, most people struggle to find the time to exercise. Work, family, volunteering and life commitments make it a challenge for many.

If I were to tell new clients that they needed to exercise six or seven days each week in order to see results, they’d either abandon our coaching relationship immediately or a few weeks down the road (after attempting to follow my advice and failing miserably).

Instead, I ask them the following questions and set them up for success by designing a plan that fits with their responses:

  • how much time do you have available for exercise (both the total number of days AND the number of minutes per day)
  • how much time do you want to spend exercising (this is typically much less than the total time available 😉 )
  • what is your primary exercise goal (losing weight, gaining muscle and completing your first half-marathon all have very different training requirements)

The less time they have for exercise, the SMARTER we need to be with their workout plans (and of course, the more diligent we have to be about nutrition…).

Given that most of my 40+ female clients are primarily interested in body composition change (i.e., simultaneously reducing body fat and gaining muscle), I make strength training their top priority.

Below you’ll find the starting point for my recommendations, based solely on the number of days each week the client will be working out.

If your goals are more performance-based (for example, training for a full or half-marathon), simply swap the ‘strength training’ workouts for the training mode that’s most relevant to what you hope to achieve.

Tips for prioritizing your workouts

If you’ll be working out 6 or 7 days per week… (make sure you’re not over-doing it and at least one of those workouts is lower in intensity)

  • 3-4 days of strength training (body part splits work well with this time commitment)
  • 1-2 days of long, slow distance cardio (30-60 minutes at 65-75% of max HR)
  • 1 day of HIIT-style cardio
  • 1 day of rest or stretching or restorative-type yoga

If you’ll be working out 5 days per week… (this is my own, personal sweet spot)

If you’ll be working out 4 days per week… (the frequency that most of my online clients adhere to)

  • 3 days of strength training (as above, choose between body part splits and whole-body training) with the addition of a Tabata or HIIT or Metabolic Conditioning-style finisher at the end of at least one of those workouts
  • 1 day of long, slow distance cardio

If you’ll be working out 3 days per week… (I consider this the bare minimum for a regular exercise program)

  • 3 days of whole body strength training, with the addition of a Tabata or HIIT or Metabolic Conditioning-style finisher at the end of one workout AND a short, steady state cardio finisher at the end of another


  • 2 days of whole body strength training, with the addition of a Tabata or HIIT or Metabolic Conditioning-style finisher at the end of one workout
  • 1 day of long, slow distance cardio

If you’ll be working out 2 days per week… (this workout frequency will only yield results for beginners to exercise and help regular exercisers stay consistent while on holiday)

  • You’ll need to fit both strength and cardio into each session; whole body strength plus one HIIT-style finisher and one steady state cardio finisher
  • Plan on increasing this to 3 days per week as soon as possible!
If body composition change is your top priority this fall, you’ll be excited to hear that I’ve launched a brand new program dedicated to helping midlife women build lean muscle while shedding a little body fat.




“Fight the Fluff” is an 8-week online strength and nutrition program, based on the exact same workouts and meal plans that I used myself, when prepping for my first ever fitness photo shoot.

It’s designed for women who are already familiar with basic strength training moves and have access to a full-service gym.

You’ll find all the program details, including the form to register, here >> What’s “Fight the Fluff” about?

Note that registration closes this Thursday, September 9th at 6 pm PST OR when the remaining 9 spaces in the program are filled.

Questions about whether this program is right for you? Feel free to email me at




Three mindset shifts for midlife fitness success

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right ~ Henry Ford

When starting a new exercise or nutrition program, most people focus solely on the external behavioural changes they need to make in order to see results.

The number of days they need to work out. How many reps and sets of each exercise they’re expected to perform. Keeping daily calorie intake within a certain range. Drinking enough water. Making sure they’ve packed their gym bag and left it by the front door.

While each of these contributes to success, in my experience, mindset trumps them all.

According to the dictionary:

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.15.06 PM

This is precisely why, in addition to providing exercise and nutrition recommendations to my clients, I also work with them to create mindsets that set them up for success.


3 Mindset shifts for midlife fitness success

Mindset shift #1 : Become the driver of your own health

With all of the conflicting information about exercise and nutrition available to us (not to mention the hundreds of programs out there promising ‘guaranteed’ or ‘money back results’…), it’s not surprising that many people feel overwhelmed and confused about what the ‘best’ fitness and nutrition approach for them might be.

Rather than passively following the ‘program of the week’, choose an activity that you enjoy and a way of eating that you can actually stick with for the long term. When it comes to fitness and health, what matters most is consistency. Do anything consistently and for long enough and you’re bound to see results.

Pay attention to how your body feels and adjust accordingly. Get out of the back seat and become the driver of your own health.

Mindset shift #2: Stop looking in your rear view mirror


Regardless of what we’d like to believe, age changes us all. In many cases for the better; just think how much more confident, resilient and comfortable in your own skin you are now, as compared to the 20-year old version of yourself!

The things we don’t like? Greying hair, wrinkles, memory lapses, muscle loss and fat gain. They’re all part of the natural process of aging.

While we can do things to slow them down (hello exercise and whole foods…), we’re never going to look like our 20- (or even 30-) year old selves again. Expecting to wear the same size jeans  you wore before those three pregnancies is unrealistic (for many of us). As is expecting your 50-year old body to once again weigh what you did in your 20’s.

Instead of comparing your ‘now’ you to a younger version of yourself, look ahead and picture how you’d like the ‘future’ you to look (and feel and perform). Find a same-aged or older role model for inspiration. If she can do it, so can you.

Mindset shift #3: Stop confusing acceptance with giving up

I’ve had potential clients say to me, “What’s the point in exercising regularly and eating better if I’m just going to get old and wrinkled anyways?”

In addition to being a completely defeatist mindset, this attitude ignores all the non-aesthetic benefits of adopting a healthy lifestyle; increased energy, better range of motion, more pain-free days, being able to continue doing all the activities that you love, sleeping better, reducing your risk of cancer and other life-limiting diseases, etc., etc., etc.

Acceptance isn’t the same as giving up. Giving up means that you’ve stopped trying. That you no longer believe there’s room for improvement and that your actions have consequences. In contrast, acceptance allows for the possibility of change. It requires self-compassion, self-awareness and self-love.

The key is to set realistic and relevant goals, goals that will help you reach that ‘future’ version of yourself; strong, healthy and happy!

As we knitters say, aim to be a “work in progress” (WIP), rather than a “finished object” (FO).

Have you experienced a shift in mindset that’s helped you to reach your health and fitness goals?



Suggestions for increasing protein intake | Trainer Tips

IMG_9242Last Friday, in response to a request from one of the women in my online fitness group, I Periscope-d** about protein. Specifically addressing questions about why it’s important, how much active women need and suggesting ways to increase one’s intake.

Alas, Periscope failed me. While a wonderful platform for interacting in real time, it seems to still be rather ‘glitchy’, freezing at inopportune moments and forbidding anyone (me included) from watching the re-broadcast during the 24-hour re-broadcast period.

Today’s post is a re-creation of that broadcast (without the spammers’ comments – hooray and the viewers’ hearts – boo….).

** Haven’t a clue what I’m talking about? Periscope is a new social media platform that allows people to broadcast live from anywhere in the world. Download the free app. Register using your Twitter ID. Search for and follow your favourite social media peeps (you can find me @fitknitchick_1). Turn on notifications to get a message when those you follow are broadcasting live. While a broadcast is happening you can (1) type messages into the text box at the bottom (the broadcaster will see and perhaps respond to them), (2) show how much you love their content by tapping your screen to give ‘hearts’ (kind of like ‘liking’ on Facebook) and (3) share with your friends by scrolling up or left-to-right (depending on your phone) and hitting the ‘share’ button.


When I start working with a new fitness coaching client, I have them track their food. In almost all cases, I find them to be eating too little protein to accomplish their dual goals of building muscle and losing fat.

Helping them to increase their protein intake is often the first step we take together to improve their diet and elevate their energy levels.

Why eat protein?

Protein is one of three classes of macronutrients (the other two being carbohydrates and fats) required by your body to carry out it’s day-to-day functions.

Protein is essential for:

  • the building and repair of body tissues (including muscles, ligaments and tendons)
  • enzyme and hormone production
  • maintenance of a healthy immune system (antibody production)
  • fluid transport balance

It increases feelings of satiety between meals and, unlike carbohydrates, doesn’t elevate blood sugars or trigger the release of insulin into the bloodstream. And with only 4 calories per gram, it’s an efficient way to keep your daily calorie intake in check while supporting muscle growth.

Typical animal-based sources of protein

How much protein do you need each day?

For many years health professionals have recommended that active adults consume 0.8 to 1.0 g of protein per kilogram body weight. That would mean that a 155 pound woman needs somewhere between 56 and 70 grams of protein daily.

(Still doing everything the empirical way? Take your weight in pounds, divide by 2.2 to get kilos then multiply that number by 0.8 to 1.0. Now you’ve got grams of protein per kilograms of body weight :-) ).

Recent research suggests that this may not be enough for exercising individuals because protein can be used as fuel during exercise, particularly when that exercise is relatively high in intensity.

Protein recommendations for athletes are much higher; 1.2 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight (or 85 to 127 g for our 155 pound friend).

For most of us, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. And, as with all things nutritional, it pays to be your own detective (that is, pick a number, aim for it for a few weeks, evaluate whether it’s getting you any closer to your goals and adjust accordingly).

Some obvious, and not-so-obvious sources of dietary protein

Proteins are structural molecules made up of specific combinations of 20 different amino acids, 8 of which cannot be synthesized by the body and must, therefore, be supplied by the diet.

Protein sources that provide all 8 of these essential amino acids are referred to as ‘complete’ proteins.

These would include all of the following animal-based sources of protein (as well as quinoa, a plant-based protein):

  • poultry, fish, beef, pork, bison, shellfish (the foods that we typically think of when we hear the word ‘protein’; 15 to 25 grams of protein per serving)
  • dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese (8 or more grams of protein per serving)
  • eggs and egg whites (7-9 grams of protein per serving)
  • whey protein powder (20-25 grams of protein per serving)

Most plant-based sources of protein are ‘incomplete’ and and include the following (as well as many others):

  • oats, rice, grains and barley (< 8 grams of protein per serving)
  • nuts and seeds (and butters made from them; 3-6 grams of protein per serving)
  • various vegetables including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus and kale (< 6 grams of protein per serving)
  • soy products, including edamame, tempeh and tofu (10 – 30 g of protein per serving)
  • hemp and rice protein powders (12 – 15 grams of protein per serving)
Non-animal protein sources and their protein content per serving

Non-animal protein sources and their protein content per serving

Note that most vegetarian options provide fewer grams of protein per serving than their animal-based counterparts. Combine that with their ‘incomplete’ protein status and it’s easy to see why vegetarians may have a harder time meeting their daily protein requirement than non-vegetarians.

Suggestions for increasing your daily protein intake when you’re on the run

For many of my clients, getting enough protein in the meals they eat at home isn’t a problem.

The challenge comes when you’re out of the house all day and you need some quick sources of protein (ideally, those that don’t require refrigeration) between meals.

My favourites?

  • string cheese (it doesn’t get all melty, like regular cheese, if you leave it in your gym-bag all morning)
  • individual serving tuna cans (just remember to bring a fork and a plastic baggie to put the opened, an often leaky, tin in when you’re done)
  • whey protein in a blender cup (choose one that mixes well with water)
  • edamame (I buy the pre-shelled frozen kind and scoop some into a plastic container before I head to the gym; it’s thawed by snack time)
  • home-made protein balls or energy bites (a Pinterest search should yield you hundreds of recipes in just a few seconds ;- )
  • raw nuts (I always portion these out and pack in their own containers; it’s way too easy to over-consume these calorie-dense goodies)
  • beef, turkey and salmon jerky (I made a rhyme!)

For more portable protein-filled snack ideas, check out this post >> 5 Emergency Snacks, No Refrigeration Required

Do you have a favourite way of increasing protein intake? Something I haven’t mentioned in this post? Or a trick that helps you on those days you’re away from home and eating out of your car?

Please share with my readers by leaving a comment below!

4 Stretches for Tight Hamstrings

Quick. Take 15 seconds and read the questions below. I’ll wait 😉

stretches for tight hamstrings

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of them, chances are you suffer from tight hamstrings.

I say ‘suffer’, because chronically tight hamstrings can lead to a variety of conditions and injuries, including poor posture, lower back pain, knee instability and an increased risk of injury during sports and exercise. There’s even some recent evidence linking longevity to the ability to touch your toes (although I’m sure that there’s more than flexibility affecting this relationship; too much weight around the middle also makes it hard to touch your toes 😉 ).

Hamstrings 101

The three muscles that make up the hamstring complex (the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus are collectively referred to simply as the ‘hamstrings) are located on the back of the upper leg.

They cross both the hip and the knee and as such function to both tilt the pelvis backward (also referred to as ‘hip extension’) and bend (or ‘flex’) the knee.

stretches for tight hamstrings

In weight-bearing exercises (for example, squats and lunges), they also work together with the quadriceps (the large muscles on the front of your thighs) to move the torso up and down.

Common causes of tight hamstrings
  • genetics; general flexibility is determine, in part, by body structure. If you’ve always had poor, all-over flexibility you can blame your parents. That’s not to say you can’t improve on what nature’s given you though. You’ll just need to stretch regularly and consistently (and may never be able to match the performance of your favourite yoga instructor).
  • weak core muscles; like the hamstrings, the muscles of the lower abdomen and back attach to the pelvis. Their job is to tilt the pelvis forward. If either the lower-abdominal muscles or the low-back muscles are weak, they can’t counterbalance the pull of the hamstrings, which will shorten and tighten as they tilt the pelvis backward. In addition to stretching the hamstrings (see my 4 favourite stretches for tight hamstrings, below), you’d also be wise to add some core strengthening exercises to your weekly routine.
  • too much sitting; when you sit for long stretches of time you limit the range of motion through which both the hamstrings and the hip flexors work. As a consequence, the lower back becomes tight, as do the hamstrings and calves. Limiting sitting time, as well as performing full range of motion stretches (see below) will help to combat lifestyle-induced hamstring tightness.
  • previous lower back or knee injury; often, when we injure one muscle, other muscle groups compensate. Sometimes they overcompensate, leading to stiffness, injury or inefficient motor patterns, even after the initial injury has fully healed.
Stretching Tips

When stretching the hamstrings (or any other muscle group), keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • stretching is more effective when muscles are warm (at the end of your workout, after a gentle warmup or after soaking in a hot bath)
  • stretches should be static rather than ballistic to prevent injury
  • stretch only to the point of resistance, never to the point of pain
  • aim to straighten the limb without locking the joint
  • hold stretches for 15 to 30 s, relax and repeat
  • use props (e.g., yoga blocks, straps, towels, door jambs) to support stretches than are challenging for you
  • build stretching into your regular exercise routine (10-15 minutes, 3 or more times per week)
4 Stretches for Tight Hamstrings


Need ideas for stretching the rest of your body? One of the following posts may be exactly what you’re looking for:

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Tips for becoming an independent exerciser

Before we get to today’s post, I’d like to take a minute and share some exciting news with you all.

As of September 1st, I’m stepping away from my personal training job at the gym. Doing so will allow me to spend more time focusing on my Online Fitness Coaching clients and my monthly 40+ Women’s Training group. Time is truly my most precious commodity and I just haven’t felt like I’ve had as much of it as I’d like to have to give to these strong, focused and committed women.

While I’ll miss my in-person clients, I’m looking forward to having increased control over my schedule and connecting with more women who are truly ready to make change and commit to the exercise, nutrition and mindset habits required to reach their health and fitness goals. 

When I start working with a new personal training client, I’m already thinking about how the relationship will end.

Not because I don’t enjoy the process of helping women learn how to move and feed their bodies, but because my goal is to teach them to do it for themselves. Personal training is expensive and should be viewed as a temporary investment, not a life-long relationship :-)

Just as I expect my children to some day leave ‘the nest’, I expect each client to eventually take charge of their own health and fitness and ‘fledge’; to become an independent exerciser, in their own right.

becoming an independent exerciser

Okay. I’m not quite ready for this one to leave the nest yet…

Tips for becoming an independent exerciser
  • Create a schedule. You might start by scheduling your workouts for the same time as your regular once or twice-weekly personal training sessions. Those days and times are already part of your routine and heading to the gym then will be second nature. If you’ve been doing an extra workout or two as part of your personal training homework, you’re already comfortable with exercising on your own; keep it up. My favourite way to schedule my workouts? An old-school desk calendar.
  • Follow a written program. If your trainer has provided you with written programs during the period of your training relationship, dust them off and re-cycle them. Just because you’ve followed a program in the past, doesn’t mean it won’t continue to benefit you now. Besides, you’ll already be familiar with the exercises and your trainer’s notes will include form cues and the number of reps and sets to be performed. Don’t have an individualized program? Grab the latest copy of your favourite fitness and exercise magazine (print or on-line). The most popular titles all include a workout program of the month. Take it with you to the gym and follow it to the letter.
  • Document your workouts. If you lift it, log it. Keep track of your progress, just the way your personal trainer did. For each exercise, write down the number of reps and sets you performed, as well as the weight lifted. Attempt to progress your workouts every week or two. Add an extra set. Perform a few more reps. Increase your weights. Then, when you stop making progress (or find that you’re tired of the program), grab a new program and begin all over again.
  • Make friends in the gym. Introduce yourself to the woman who always seems to be doing core work at the same time you are. Not only will becoming friendly with your fellow gym-goers help with accountability (you know they’ll ask you where you’ve been if you a miss a workout or two…), they can also be a great source of knowledge and information. Ask them about a new exercise you see them performing. Maybe it’s one you’d benefit from as well. Get them to show you how to use a machine you’re unfamiliar with. Most people are happy to share their knowledge, especially if you ask nicely 😉
  • Set some time-bound goals. Create some goals with a due date. Things you can work towards over the course of a few weeks to a few months. Write them down and include the date on which you’ll re-visit them. Then, re-visit them to celebrate your successes or to give yourself a compassionate, but no-nonsense talking to about how you’ll need to change your approach to reaching the goal for it to manifest.
  • Find a half-way solution. No longer need someone to correct your squat, count your reps and tell you when your Tabata interval is over, but not quite ready to go it alone? Ask your trainer if they’re willing to see you every 4-6 for a program change. That one-hour session may be exactly what you need to keep you moving forward towards full-on independent exercise. Another option? Find an online training community that includes monthly workouts, nutrition support and advice about how to customize the workouts to make them your own. My monthly Online Group Training program for women over 40 is about to start a new 3-month session. Make sure you’re on my email list to be the first to get access to the registration materials.
  • Re-commit to your ‘why’ daily. Remind yourself of why you value exercise. List the benefits that it brings to your life. Think of how you feel when you miss a workout or two. Use your best ‘trainer voice’ to encourage, motivate and support yourself. Focus on developing a positive mindset around exercise; do it because you love your body, not because you dislike it. Above all, mindset is key to becoming an independent exerciser. Think you can do it? You’re right! Think you can’t? You’re probably right too…

Grab a copy of my free 3-book, ‘5 Steps to Exercise Happiness’ if you’re still struggling to find your ‘why’.

Have you made the leap from personal trainer to becoming an independent exerciser?

What’s your best advice for my readers?