A 6-exercise, whole-body stability ball workout

I got such great feedback from the three at-home workout videos I created and shared last month that I decided to make another one.

One that requires only a single piece of equipment; a stability ball.

stability ball workout

Don’t forget to ask your children if you can borrow their ‘chair’ for your workout!

Perfect for when you’re travelling to the cottage and don’t want to lug weights or kettlebells with you.

Perfect for those days when you’ve only got 20 minutes to squeeze in a workout.

Perfect for adding a bit of extra core focus to your strength training plan.

Perfect, perfect, perfect!

A 6-exercise, whole-body stability ball workout: Perform 12 repetitions (on each side, where applicable) of each of the following 6 exercises. Rest and repeat once or twice more. Don’t forget to stretch when you’re finished!

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!

10 Ways to Overcome Emotional Eating {Guest post}

I have a treat for you today, dear readers. A guest post written by my kind, generous, compassionate, insightful and very smart friend Evelyn Parham. Evelyn and I first met via our blogs. We read, shared and supported one another’s writing. She then joined my online women’s group training program, developed a passion for the emotional side of nutrition and recently obtained her certification as an Eating Psychology Coach. I know that you’ll love her as much as I do!

Have you ever felt sad, stressed, or angry?

What happened when you experienced the emotions? Many of you probably reached for comforting food. There is nothing wrong with eating food to feel good. But eating food for the sake of helping you deal with emotions is not the best way to deal with your emotions.

Emotional eating does not discriminate; it touches everyone. Overcoming emotional eating takes time. Even after learning how to overcome emotional eating, there will be times when emotional eating will pull you back in.

Why? Because you have emotions and you are an eater.

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Here are ten ways to overcome emotional eating.

Overcome Emotional Eating
  • Pay attention to your emotions. Oftentimes emotions get suppressed and suppression leads to you ignoring emotions that get stirred up within you. If you are sad, acknowledge the emotion and take time to deal with the emotion. Dealing with the emotion when you know it is present helps you control emotional eating.
  • Do not eat to fill a void. Emotional eating is when one eats to fill a void, but when you pay attention to your emotions, you are less likely to eat your feelings. A void means there is space for other things to fit in your life. Fill the void doing activities that take your mind off eating food.
  • Be mindful when eating. Take time to enjoy eating. Let your mind engage with the flavor, texture and aroma of the food you are eating. Eat when you feel hungry and stop eating when you feel satisfied. Do not surf the web, watch television or do any other activity besides eating. When you are pre-occupied with other actives besides eating, you will eat mindlessly which can lead to overeating.
  • Stop fighting food or trying to control yourself with food. You need food to fuel your body and when you fight against food, you usher in stress chemistry. Stress impacts your emotional heath and when you are stressed, you eat. Learn to embrace food for what it is, and for what it does for your body. Enjoy food without putting restrictions on yourself.
  • Write in a journal. Journaling is a good way to express yourself. Each time you put any food in your mouth, write it down in your journal. Write down any emotions you are feeling when you eat. Also, document how much food you consume. Journaling helps you pinpoint when you are most likely to eat your feelings.
  • Do not eat anything when you know you are emotional. If you know you are sad, upset, or stressed, do not put any food in your mouth. Do not try to bury your emotions, because eventually they will come out and express themselves in your food choices. Instead of reaching for comfort food, take a deeper look at the emotion you are feeling. Allow yourself time to feel the emotion and work through it without reaching for food to numb your feelings.
  • Slow down while eating and slow your breathing. Eating fast causes stress chemistry to rear its ugly head. Stress chemistry causes lots of things to go awry in your body. Do your best to slow down when you eat your food. One way you can slow down when eating is to slow your breathing. Slowing your breathing calms you down and it also decreases the stress chemistry that happens when you eat fast.
  • Exercise or do movement that you enjoy. Exercising is a good way to work through your emotions. The next time you feel emotional, go for a walk or do your favorite exercise or movement. Exercising or movement is relaxing and when your body is relaxed, your mind is also.
  • De-stress your mind, body and spirit. Take time to de-stress daily. Meditate or spend some quiet time alone. Spend a day getting pampered. Get out and enjoy nature. These are all ways of de-stressing, but the most important thing you can ever do is take time for yourself and be with yourself.
  • Talk to someone about your emotions. Holding in your emotions does more harm than good. It is always a good idea to work through the emotions you feel. Feelings and emotions oftentimes get expressed through food. Talk about your emotions with someone you trust. Opening up to someone helps you uncover and work through the emotions you feel. Never be ashamed to talk it out.
Final Words

It does not matter what emotion you feel, please whatever you do, let it out. Holding in emotions affects your mind, body and spirit. Working through your emotions decreases your need to reach for food to fill the void.

Do not suppress your emotions. Allow yourself time to feel the emotion. Remember, you are an emotional being with feelings. If you feel sad, work through all that comes with feeling sad. Let the tears flow and do not hold back.

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 8.25.38 AMEvelyn Parham, M.S. is a Blogger and Eating Psychology Coach. She helps people live nourished, balanced and whole. Learn more about Evelyn at http://evelynparham.com/about.
Please take a minute to leave a comment or share this post with a friend (via the social media icons below). You never know who you’ll help in doing so!

Strategies for staying slim through midlife

Recently, I participated in the first TransformAging online webinar; a two-day educational series for midlife women interested in improving their health and fitness. I shared many specific tips and tricks for keeping ‘menopot’ at bay.

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Below, I briefly outline what I consider to be the four most important lifestyle strategies for staying slim through midlife and beyond. Want more details? Action items you can implement today? Workouts and skincare tips relevant to your age and stage of life? 

The entire 6-part webinar series is available for purchase; watch, listen, pause and take note of what leading professionals in the field of midlife health and wellness think you should do to make the next half of your life the best half of your life.

Most people gain weight as they age.

On average, we gain about a pound a year during our 40’s and 50’s. (Although this trend tends to reverse after age 65, it’s due not to fat loss, but to loss of muscle mass and bone density; never a good reason to celebrate losing a few pounds :-( ).

Midlife weight gain occurs primarily because we (1) become more sedentary with age and (2) have a tendency to eat more calories than we expend, but also, in part, because (3) our bodies produce less of the fat-burning, muscle-building hormones of youth.

Fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels contribute to middle-of-the-body weight gain by (1) increasing the rate at which women store both subcutaneous (below the skin) and visceral fat (the fat that surrounds vital organs deep within the belly) and (2) triggering changes in insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.

Translation: we’re less able to burn fat and more likely to store it, in particular, around our mid-sections.

strategies for staying slim through midlife

If only I’d appreciated 44 a little more…

 

Strategies for staying slim through midlife (and beyond)
  • Strength training reigns: midlife loss of metabolism is largely attributed to a loss in muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active which means it burns more calories at rest than fat.

Prioritizing strength training over other forms of physical activity will not only elevate your metabolic rate, it will also improve bone density, enhance blood sugar regulation, lower stress (see below), make the activities of your daily life easier and give you a leaner, more youthful appearance. Pretty awesome for just 30 minutes of weight lifting, three times a week.

strategies for staying slim through midlife

One of the moves from last month’s 40+ Fitness Online Group Training Program

  • Sugar reduction: with loss of estrogen comes an increased sensitivity to carbohydrates. Your body may not process them as easily as it once did, resulting in those excess sugars being stored as fat.

In addition to lowering your daily calorie count, reducing your intake of added sugars (pretty much any ingredient ending with the letters ‘ose’) and simple carbohydrates (breads, cereals, pasta, white rice) will improve your body’s ability to regulate blood sugars and lower your risk of Type II diabetes. Aim for no more than 30 g of added sugar per day (that’s about 6 tsp).

  • Sleep more: the fluctuating hormones of perimenopause often trigger sleep disturbance. Difficulties falling and staying asleep. Middle-of-the-night insomnia. Early wake-ups. (I know, I’m experiencing them all myself).

Sleep plays an important role in the regulation of several hormone systems. It helps to re-set the hormones responsible for food cravings and feeling of satiety (leptin and ghrelin). It lowers cortisol levels (see Stress less below). It improves blood sugar regulation and hastens muscle repair and recovery. And don’t forget about it’s role in learning and memory. Aim for 7 hours a night, go to bed earlier, if, like me, you’re not able to sleep in.

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I’m faking it here :-)

  • Stress less: Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in the body. It raises blood pressure, suppresses the immune system, increases the risk of obesity, heart attack and stroke. Not to mention speeding up the aging process. Find ways to incorporate more stress-reducing activities in your day; walking, time spent in nature, reading, meditation, yoga and knitting have all been shown to reduce circulating cortisol levels.

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Combine elevated stress hormone (cortisol) with elevated blood sugars, low estrogen and non-existent progesterone, and you’ve got the perfect ‘menopot’ storm. Not just an annoyance when it comes to buying jeans, but a serious health risk as well!

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Ready to push those storm clouds away?
I’d love to help you individualize and implement the strategies suggested above. Come August 1st I’ll have 3 openings in my One-on-One Fitness Coaching schedule. One of which could be YOURS!
I’m passionate about helping midlife women become the fittest, healthiest and happiest version of themselves possible and I’d love to chat with YOU. 
Click here for more details and to apply to work with me.

1-on-1 Online Fitness Coaching with Fitknitchick

 

 

 

 

How much exercise is enough?

Today’s post, How Much Exercise Is Enough, is in response to a question posed by one of the members of my Facebook community. (I’m always happy to answer your burning questions about midlife fitness and nutrition too; either here on the blog or over on Periscope, a new live-broadcasting app that I’m testing out Thursday mornings at 8:00 am PT. You can watch it live or in ‘re-runs’ for 24 hours post-broadcast. You can find me at @TamaraGrand).

I frequently share short short (20-30 minute) workouts with my social media followers.

They’re my own preferred way of working out and are the foundation of the types of workouts I create for my clients and online women’s fitness group.

Kathryn asked me about how these types of workouts fit within the government’s recommendation that healthy adults and older adults get 30 (and more recently 60) minutes of physical activity per day; essentially asking how much exercise is enough.

“So just curious – these 20 minute and under exercise work outs – how do they figure in with the 30 minute a day – or now they are saying an hour would be ideal – recommendation? I feel like one minute we’re told that a longer, more moderate work out (like walking) is better and then told that shorter bursts of intense activity are preferred. And just to clarify…the 150 minutes does NOT include strength training or yoga? Thanks, Tamara!”

Because this is a great, multi-part question, I’m going to break it down into three parts; how much, how intense and what types of activities count.

How much exercise is enough?

According to the American Council on Exercise, healthy adults and older adults should aim for 150 minutes of physical activity per week. This recommendation is based on studies showing that adults who don’t meet this level of activity are more likely to be overweight and at greater risk of heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes.

Ideally, those 150 weekly minutes will be broken down into five, 30-minute periods of exercise. Although 10-minute bouts of more intense effort (see below for a discussion of ‘intensity’), spread throughout the day may provide the same effects.

Recent studies suggest that exceeding 150 minutes per week has additional health benefits and that the new target should be closer to 300 minutes of physical activity per week (that’s where Kathryn’s comment about 300 minutes comes from; I love how informed my readers are!)

How intensely do I need to be working?

Kathryn’s question really revolves around the issue of intensity. How intense does an activity need to be to ‘count’?

ACE’s recommendations stipulate that those 150 minutes of physical activity need to ‘moderately intense’ to ‘vigorous’. But was do ‘moderately intense’ and ‘vigorous’ really mean?

The best yardstick for measuring intensity is heart rate. The higher your exercise heart rate, the harder you’re working and the higher the intensity of the workout. Not only do higher intensity workouts challenge your cardiovascular system more than lower intensity workouts (building a stronger heart and lungs is a key component of fitness), they also result in more calories burned, a key consideration if weight loss or weight loss maintenance are your primary goals.

A ‘moderately intense to vigorous’ workout will elevate your heart rate up to somewhere between 60 and 90% of maximum heart rate

MaxHR is most easily estimated by subtracting your age from 220; I’m 48, so my maxHR equals 220 – 48 or 172 beats per minute, resulting in a target exercise heart rate of  somewhere between 103 and 155 beats per minute. You can also use the Karvonen formula if you know your resting heart rate; it’s a bit more accurate, especially for people who are already fairly fit.

What types of activities can I include?

Historically, the above recommendations were made specifically with regards to cardiovascular training, with additional weekly recommendations for strength training and flexibility training.

Hence any traditional cardiovascular-based activity will count towards the 150-minute weekly goal; running, cycling, swimming, rowing, cardio machines in the gym, skipping and calisthenics to name a few.

My favourite cardio/strength machine

Walking may meet the criteria, especially if you walk quickly (like you’re trying to catch the bus at the corner) and your route has hills and other variable terrain.

However, many types of workouts incorporate multiple training elements. For example, while Bootcamp and CrossFit-style workouts typically focus primarily on strength training, because of the way they’re structured they also elicit a cardiovascular response. Heart rates remain elevated throughout the workout, simultaneously strengthening both muscles and the cardiovascular system.

Metabolic strength training, circuit-style weight lifting and power yoga may also ‘fill the bill’. As do those 20-30 minute workouts I share on YouTube, Facebook and here, on the blog.

Focus more on how intense the workout is than whether it’s a ‘cardio’, ‘strength’ or ‘flexibility’ workout when you decide whether to count it towards your weekly physical activity goals.

exercise, how much is enough

Kayaking? When you’re racing your brother, it definitely counts!

A few caveats
  • Exercise intensity is individual. The amount of effort a sedentary, non-exerciser would have to expend to generate the appropriate heart rate effect will be different than that of a long-time, consistent exerciser. If you’re new to exercise, I strongly recommend that you get familiar with your heart rate!
  • Recommendations are only guidelines. Newcomers to exercise shouldn’t feel compelled to immediately reach the 150-minute per week guideline. Start with a frequency, intensity and duration that challenges you, but that allows you to be successful. Build on to it as your strength and endurance increases. I might start a brand-new-to-exercise client with only three 15-minute bouts of exercise per week; woefully short of the government recommendations, but a do-able first step for that client.
  • Just because you exercise intensely for 30 (or even 60) minutes a day, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from more movement. If you spend the rest of your day sitting at your desk or behind the wheel of your car, that 30 minutes of exercise may not be enough to keep weight gain, heart disease and diabetes at bay. Interspersing frequent bouts of low intensity, non-exercise activity throughout your day will elevate the effects of your workouts.
  • Walking has many health benefits. For beginners to exercise, it’s often a workout on it’s own. For the rest of us, in particular, midlife, hormonally challenged women, it’s a great way to reduce stress (and the concomitant production of stress hormone which contributes to midlife weight gain). Think of it as a ‘bonus’. Meet your 30 minute heart-rate accelerating goal, then cool down and relax with a leisurely walk. Combine that with the company of a friend or loved one and you’ve done more than you can imagine for your health!

Here’s a sample of the short, but intense, whole-body, metabolic strength workouts that form the bread and butter of my own, personal fitness regime.

If you like it, please take a minute to share it with your friends (it’s super easy; just click on one of the social sharing buttons at the bottom of the post and presto, you’ve made a difference in somebody else’s life :-) ).

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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
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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

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(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!

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