Summertime fitness reads to keep you on track

I hope this post finds you happy and enjoying all that summer has to offer.

Not just the holidays and warm weather and sweet treats, but the extra hours in the day. Hours that are just perfect for squeezing in a little exercise.

Whether that’s a formal gym session or some out-of-doors physical activity. All types of movement count when it comes to reaching your health and fitness goals.

As I’m busy doing exactly this for most of the month of July, today I’m sharing with you a handful previously published summertime fitness posts.

If you’re new to my site, you aren’t likely to have discovered them yet. If you’re a long-time reader, consider them a quick refresher course.

Regardless, make sure you’re on my email list so you don’t miss the new posts coming in August >> Subscribe to Fitknitchick updates

Summertime fitness reads to keep you on track

I forward to catching up with you in August!

 

Creating a successful summertime fitness plan

Only a few more days until school lets out around here.

While I love having my kids home for the summer, their schedules can sometimes impinge on my rest-of-the-year fitness routine.

Workouts need to be juggled with family outings and kids’ camps.

Not to mention the challenges that vacations present.

Be honest. Which one would you rather be hanging from?

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, failing to make a plan is akin to planning for failure.

So what can you do to ensure that all of your September to June successes continue through the summer?

Three steps to creating a successful summertime fitness plan
  • Make a schedule. Grab your calendar and box out days you know you’ll either be away from your usual workout space or too busy juggling work, kids and life to squeeze some exercise in.

successful midlife exercise program

Take a look at what remains and pencil your workouts in (it’s actually better if you use pen, pencil is too easy to erase….).

Tally them up.

If you’ve scheduled at least 3 workouts a week for 3 out of the 4 weeks in each of July and August you’re good. Even if this is less than you’re currently doing.

More exercise isn’t always better, especially when it’s keeping you from participating in other activities that energize and fill you up. (Even better when those other activities are physical ūüėČ ).

Go and enjoy your summer knowing that you’ll be maintaining the fitness status quo and will arrive in September without any noticeable loss of strength or endurance.

 If your schedule is looking a bit sparse, read on.

  • Expand your horizons. We all have our preferred place to exercise. Mine is the gym. Others prefer their basement exercise space. It’s easy to think that if we’re not able to access our ‘happy place’, we won’t be able to work out.

While it’s true that there’s ‘no place like home’, there are certainly lots of places that are just about as good.

Most hotels have fitness centres.

While they many not have as much equipment as you’re used to working with, even the most basic hotel gyms tend to have cardio machines and a modest range of dumbbells. (If you’re lucky, they’ll be a stability ball and a bench too.)

My favourite thing about hotel gyms? I usually have the place to myself ūüôā

And of course, there are always body weight workouts in a pinch. Here’s a list of body weight exercises that I like to string together on vacation (especially if I’m not at a hotel and don’t have any equipment to work with) >> Use your own body weight to get strong and lean

  • ¬†Adopt a ‘shades of grey’ mindset. Many of us take a ‘black and white’ approach to fitness and health. If our workouts aren’t long, frequent and exhausting we think “what’s the point”.

If you’ve ever skipped a gym session because you didn’t have an hour and a half free or abandoned a program because you missed the first week your ‘all or nothing’ mindset might be holding you back.

Short workouts are always better than nothing. In some cases, they may actually help you reach your goals more quickly than those which consume the better part of your morning.

You can easily shorten your current workouts by eliminating an exercise or two, cutting back on a set or doubling up on isolation moves.

Find ways to exercise at home, thereby saving travel time (and the ever-present temptation to chat with fellow gym-goers) and money.

Go back to your calendar and pencil in a few more short workouts. Twenty to 30 minute pockets of time are all you need for a whole-body, compound exercise workout, like the one below.

For more short, whole-body workouts you can do at home, check out my free Workout Library >> Fitknitchick’s Workout Library

Still not sure how to structure your summer fitness time? Need ideas for short and effective workouts? Craving the inspiration, support and accountability of others? My 40+ Online Women’s Fitness Group is currently accepting new members for the Summer 2017 Session. Click the link below for program details, participant testimonials and a link to claim your spot today.
Registration closes Wednesday, June 28th at 6 pm PT.

 

Online Fitness Training for Midlife Women – Register now!

 

 

Fitting in fitness when life is unpredictable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Create a ‘flexible schedule’

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

Embrace all definitions of ‘flexibility’

  • Recognize the potential¬†for interruptions

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

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

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

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

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

  • Draft a plan ‘B’

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

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

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

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

  • Include a ‘flex’ day

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

Flexing on ‘flex’ day ūüėČ

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above housekeeping chores (they never end anyways…)

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

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

Scan the horizon for obstacles

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

  • create a plan for navigating them

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

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

Pack your skipping rope and resistance band.

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

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

  • let go of what you truly can’t control

Sometimes obstacles truly are unpredictable.

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

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

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

  • get back on course as soon as you can

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

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

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

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

 

My 40+ Women’s Online Fitness group is gearing up for our Summer 2017 Session.
Three months of workouts (with lots of modifications to truly make the workout your own), nutrition and lifestyle info that’s uniquely¬†relevant to the challenges of the peri-menopause years, a private support and accountability group, as well as bonus holiday workouts and Facebook Live events to help keep you motivated and enthusiastic about exercise even when life is unpredictable.¬†
Invites go out to women on my Course Interest list June 22nd.
Add your name via the form below to ensure you don’t miss out on this incredible program.

Mobility training for midlife exercisers | what, why and when

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maintaining good joint mobility is particularly important as we age:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All requirements for lifting heavier without injury.

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

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

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

  • Body weight squats

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

 

  • Walk-out plank

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

 

  • Lunge¬†plus rotation

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

 

  • Lateral bear crawls

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

 

  • Fast feet in-and-outs

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

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

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

For more great resources, make sure you’re on my email list. Subscribers never miss a blog post and get advance notification about upcoming courses and opportunities! Get me on the list >> CLICK HERE TO¬†SUBSCRIBE

5 must-have images for your fitness vision board

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She does have lovely, glossy fur…

 

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

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

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

 

My 5 must-have images for your fitness vision board

 

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

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

successful midlife exercise program

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

  • a photo of you doing something physically challenging

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Do you have a fitness vision board?

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

4 Strength Training Principles You Need to Know

Confused about how ‘heavy’ you should be lifting?

Wondering why the¬†strength training program you’re following is no longer producing results?

Not sure which exercises to include in your program? Or what order to place them in?

You’re not alone.

While the internet has made information easier to access, when it comes to fitness and healthy living, more info isn’t necessarily better ūüôā

The good news is, answers to the above questions (as well as to most of the questions readers ask me daily) are all based on an understanding of four fundamental principles of strength training:

Below I describe each principle and explain how to make it work for you and your fitness goals.

Principle #1: Muscular Overload

In order to develop muscular strength, one must apply a force greater than that which the muscle is accustomed to

In other words, the weights you lift need to be heavier than your handbag.

Overloading the muscle leads to several physiological adaptations that allow it to grow in size and increase in strength.

Regardless of whether you’re lifting for power (4-6 reps), hypertrophy (8-12 reps) or endurance (15-20) reps, if the weight isn’t heavy enough to nearly fatigue the muscle by the end of the set, it’s not heavy enough to achieve your goals.

While lifting ‘light’ is a good strategy for beginners (whose initial focus should always be on proper execution of the movement) or those rehabbing an injury (and are looking to avoid prolonging it), progressing to an appropriately heavy weight after a week or two is the only way to get stronger.

This principle also explains why ‘body weight’ exercises alone might not lead to muscular gains (or at least continue to lead to muscular gains after your muscles get used to performing the movement without additional resistance; see point #4 below).

Principle #2: Specificity of Training

In order to produce a training effect, exercises should be relevant and appropriate to the goals for which the individual is training

More simply put, you need to match your exercise choice to the desired outcome.

Looking to build stronger legs? Squats, lunges and dead lifts will help; bicep curls, shoulder presses and lat pull downs won’t.

Toe push-ups a goal? Include them in most of your workouts and supplement the chest, shoulders and upper back with incline presses, chest flys and seated rows.

The specificity principle also applies to increasing strength for improving a specific sports skill (e.g., soccer kick, tennis serve, canoeing stroke). In addition to strengthening¬†the relevant muscle groups (e.g., soccer players need to squat and lunge, tennis players should develop their upper backs and shoulders), ‘motor skill’ specificity¬†is also enhanced by practicing the movement patterns specific to the sport.

Note that the specificity principle does not, alas, apply to fat loss. That is, you can’t reduce belly fat by simply performing abdominal crunches (that requires exercising¬†your willpower and strengthening your meal planning skills…).

Principle #3: Exercise Order

In order to ensure proper overload of larger muscle groups, exercise them before smaller muscle groups

A comprehensive strength training program needs to include exercises for all your major muscle groups. But not all muscles have the same capacity for strength and growth.

Smaller muscles tend to fatigue sooner and more easily than larger muscles.

In addition, many large muscle exercises¬†require the assistance of smaller muscles for stabilization and support. Fatigue the small muscle first and you’ll limit its¬†ability to¬†act as an accessory to the larger muscle exercises, thereby limiting your ability to¬†overload the larger muscle group.

Barbell bench press

For example, the bench (or chest) press is often chosen as an exercise to develop the large muscles of the chest. But the smaller triceps muscles are needed to help with extension of the elbow. Perform tricep dips or skull-crushers before your bench press and your pre-fatigued triceps will limit your ability to fully overload the chest.

Principle #4: Progressive Overload

In order to continue getting stronger, you must gradually increase the exercise demand on your body

If you’ve ever lifted weights before, you’ll have noticed that, what was once a challenging weight for an exercise becomes easier over time. That’s because the muscles¬†have physiologically adapted to the load by becoming stronger and better able to endure time under tension.

In order to keep them growing and getting stronger it’s necessary to periodically and gradually increase the load.

This doesn’t mean that you need to choose a heavier weight each and every time you perform your workout (that’s a recipe for injury and over-training). By keeping track of how much weight you lift during a workout, and how many reps and sets of an exercise you’re able to perform with that weight, you’ll know when it’s time to increase the load.

The advice that I give my clients? When you’re able to perform all of your prescribed repetitions of an exercise and feel as if you could knock out an additional 3 or 4 without sacrificing form, it’s time to try a slightly heavier weight. Try the next size up dumbbell or move the pin on the cable and pulley stack one plate down; if that’s too light, increase again until you find an appropriate weight for the exercise.

In general, you can expect to be able to increase weights on an exercise every 3rd or 4th workout. But some muscles are slower to adapt than others and may require more ‘experience’ with an exercise before they’re ready to progress.

Still not sure what you need to be doing?
Looking for an online fitness coach that ‘gets’ the challenges of being a midlife woman?
I currently have space for 3 new clients in my 1-on-1 fitness coaching practice. Once these spaces are full I won’t be accepting new clients until the fall.
You can find all the details about my services (including inspiring testimonials from previous clients) here >> 1-on-1 Fitness Coaching for Midlife Women.
Please scroll down to the bottom of the page and fill out the application to give me a better idea of your goals and struggles. I can’t wait to hear from you!

 

 

Why many mid-life women don’t lift weights | overcoming common objections

Despite understanding the myriad benefits of strength training, many midlife women still aren’t lifting weights.

While cardio workouts¬†and yoga classes are important components¬†of a well-rounded midlife fitness program (I do both and encourage my clients to do so as well), they just don’t stimulate muscle growth, enhance metabolism and slow bone density loss the same way a good old-fashioned weight lifting session¬†does.

In my experience, the objections women typically have to strength training can be grouped into three categories; worries about ‘bulking up’, fear of injury and a simple lack of knowledge about where to start and how to progress their workouts.

Below I’ve expanded on these three objections and made some suggestions for overcoming them.

Read, comment, share and meet me in the weight room ūüėČ

 

Why many midlife women don’t lift weights: common objections and how to overcome them

 

  • Fear of ‘bulking up’.

The word ‘bulky’ means different things to different people. Suffice it to say, the word is rarely used as a compliment.

Many women aren’t interested in developing the physique of either a body builder¬†or a power lifter¬†and believe that this is what will happen if they lift weights.

Most would prefer the ‘fitness model’ physique and don’t understand that the women in fitness magazines have to lift weights (and lift ‘heavy’)¬†to get that look.

By ‘heavy’ I mean choosing a weight that allows you to perform only 8 to 12 good form repetitions before your muscles fatigue. (Read more about choosing the right weight for you here >> How much weight should I be lifting?)

Depending on the exercise, your fitness level and your experience with strength training, ‘heavy’ might be 5, 10 or 50 pounds. It’s all relative.

Midlife women have to work hard in the gym to build visible muscle mass, let alone ‘bulk up’. I regularly lift ‘heavy’ and have never been referred to (at least to my face. ūüôā …) as ‘bulky’.

  • Fear of injury

While strength training does have a risk of injury (let’s face it, any form of physical activity can lead to injury if you’re not careful…), the primary reason to lift weights at midlife is to create a body that’s more resistant to injury during every-day-living, as well as during the pursuit of all the other physical activities we love.

The key is to go slow. Start with simple movements with little to no load. Body weight exercises are a great place to begin.

Learn proper form. Read a book, watch a video or hire a coach (I currently have room for two new clients in my online coaching practice) if you need help. Watch yourself in the mirror. Create a strong mind-to-muscle connection.

Progress when your body is ready to. You’ll know it’s time to choose a heavier weight or a more challenging version of the exercise when you could easily perform a bunch of extra repetitions without losing form or feeling tired.

Always warm-up before you begin lifting. Spend time practicing the movements you’ll be doing in the workout. Cool down and stretch when you’re done.

And make sure you’re getting adequate rest between sets and sessions.

  • Lack of knowledge

If you’ve never lifted weights before, the gym can be an intimidating place.¬†There’s lots of strange-looking equipment.¬†And depending on where you work out, the sex-ratio in the free-weights section of the room may be heavily male-biased.

Remind yourself that we all start as beginners. And the only way to progress beyond your beginner status is to begin ūüôā

For many women, group fitness classes are the perfect place to start their strength-training journey.¬†Choose a class that includes a strength component (for example, bootcamp, body sculpt, lift and pump etc.) with an instructor who looks like she lifts weights. Pay attention to the form cues she gives you and don’t be afraid to approach her after class with your questions. Many of us relish the opportunity to turn other women on to strength training ūüôā

Hire a personal trainer for a few sessions. She’ll help you figure out where to start, create a program that’s specific to your fitness level and goals, and tell you how and when to progress your workout.

Hanging with her in the gym will help you overcome those initial feelings of intimidation and start you on your way to feeling ‘at home’ in the gym.

Already have a little experience with strength training? Prefer working out at home? Looking to join a group of like-minded midlife women striving to be the healthiest, happiest and strongest version of themselves possible?
My 40+ Online Women’s Training group is about to get started with a new 3-month program.
Registration for the Spring 2017¬†session opens next week. Add your name to my Course Interest list (below) to ensure you get the details as soon as they’re available (and an early registration offer that I don’t share anywhere else).

 

5 reasons you’re not loving your workouts (and what to do about it)

Not everyone loves to exercise.

Even those of us whose livelihood depends on working out go through periods when exercise is not our favourite thing to do.

Days when¬†we’d rather hit the snooze button than go to the gym.

Weeks where we have to have a stern chat with ourselves before each and every workout session.

There are lots of reasons why you might not be loving your workouts. Here are the five most common and some suggestions for getting past them.

5 reasons you’re not loving your workouts (and what to do about it)
  • You’re new to exercise (or returning from a hiatus). Making change is hard. Especially when that change requires you to move your body in ways it’s not used to. Or carve out time in an already busy schedule.

Newcomers don’t know how good regular exercise feels, so they often give up before they get to the stage of noticing the difference. Remind yourself that change takes time and that often, we might not enjoy the initial stages of developing a new habit.

That’s okay. Try focusing on all the positives that regular exercise brings to your life and trust that it will get easier and more fun if you keep at it.

  • You’ve chosen the wrong mode of exercise (for you).¬†Not all types of exercise are equally appealing to all people.¬†Sure, you can learn to like (and even love) a new form of exercise over time, but choosing a mode of exercise¬†that’s in complete opposition to your preferred form of movement (not to mention your personality) is bound to lead to a lack of exercise love.

Need the accountability and energy of others? You’re probably better off choosing a group fitness class than heading into the weight room on your own.

Prefer the forest to the gym? Take your run out-of-doors to avoid the boredom of the treadmill.

And don’t discount the value of cycling to library or doing your errands on foot. Exercise comes in many different forms and as long a you’re moving your body regularly and at an intensity that’s a little higher than your normal mode of locomotion you’re doing something good for your body. Why not create your own weekly women’s hiking group?

Hiking with friends (and canines) is a great non-traditional form of exercise

  • You’re been doing the same thing for too long. Don’t confuse dislike with boredom. If you’ve been going to the same group fitness class forever or haven’t changed up your strength exercises for a month or two, chances are the reason you’re not loving your workouts is pure and simple boredom. Guess what? Your body is probably just as bored as your mind.

Try switching up the exercises in your workout. Or venturing into a different instructor’s class. (Don’t worry; we never take it personally when our regulars decide to try a new class ūüôā ).

It’s possible that¬†a complete change of venue is what you really need to re-kindle your love of working out.¬†Many gyms and boutique fitness studios offer introductory specials to newcomers. Use this as an opportunity try out that new kick-boxing facility or indoor cycling class for a week or two before committing to a longer term membership.

This is what I did in January 2016. It was exactly what I needed to re-discover my love of movement and weight-lifting (and paved the path for me to return to my first exercise love, strength training for muscle growth).

  • You’re feeling discomfort. By ‘discomfort’ I don’t mean pain. If exercise is painful, you need to stop immediately and make an appointment with your primary health care provider to figure out what’s up and how to fix it.

Instead, I’m referring to that feeling of doing something far enough outside of what you usually do that your brain tries to convince you to stop.

We all like things that are easy for us. Activities that are within our comfort zone. Things that we’re already good at.¬†It’s the reason we push back when our trainer gives us a challenging¬†workout. Or switches the order of our lifts. Or asks us to start our training session¬†with core activation exercises rather than leaving the floor work until the end…

Exercise should push you slightly beyond your¬†comfort zone. If it doesn’t, you won’t get faster, stronger, leaner or healthier.

Identify what’s causing the discomfort. Is it something you can sit with until it goes away? If not, and you’re actively avoiding it, try placing it higher on your priority list and get it done earlier in the workout, day or week.

This is what I’ve done in my own training. I strength train four days per week. The fourth workout of the week focuses on hamstrings and glutes; my least favourite muscles to exercise. Why? Because they’re the weakest muscles in my body and every exercise in this workout is hard for me.

Setting up for a barbell dead lift

After about a month on my current program, I realized that I purposefully placed this workout at the end of the week because it’s the one I’m most likely to blow off. I’ve since moved it to the top of the workout week, getting the discomfort out of the way before I move to the more ‘fun’ workouts.

  • You aren’t seeing results. I frequently hear from women who are frustrated and discouraged because they’re not seeing the results of their exercise efforts. As a consequence, they begin to loathe their workouts, viewing¬†them as a waste of time and not worth doing.

Often this is because the only measure of progress they’re looking at is the bathroom scale.

© Okolaa | Dreamstime.com - Feet On Bathroom Scale With Scared Cute Face Photo

Changing your mindset about exercise is crucial to becoming someone who enjoys working out. Finding other ways to measure progress not only increases your enjoyment of exercise, it also helps you sit with discomfort long enough for the work to become less uncomfortable (and to start seeing the results your desire).

Try taking measurements. Or trying on the same pair of ‘thermometer’ jeans (you know, the ones you can just about get in to…) at regular intervals. Keep track of how many good form toe pushups you can do. Or how much weight you’re squatting. Give yourself a ‘star’ on the calendar for every workout you do and reward yourself at the end of the month for sticking with the program.

Remember that it takes longer to build muscle, lose weight and improve flexibility at midlife. We don’t have all those great hormones working in our favour the way we did in our 20’s and 30’s.

That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, just that we need to be realistic about our expectations, consistent with our routines and more patient with our bodies.

And remember that we’re in it for the long haul, not just to fit into a bathing suit next summer ūüėČ

 

Nutritional strategies for midlife women | simple steps to a slimmer midsection

I struggle with food and the fact that since I have turned 42 my body seems to be gaining fat even if I weight train almost every day and I eat healthy 95% of the time.

I’m 51, peri-menopausal and only in past few months struggling with my weight for the first time since I was a teen. I have gained 12lb in past 5weeks! I’m super healthy with my diet already.

I am 44 pretty much have always worked out, some times more than others. But try to stay on a good path. As of this summer I gained the belly issue, which is driving me CRAZY.

The above are just a sampling of the e-mails I receive every week.

From midlife women who, despite exercising regularly and eating fairly well, can’t seem to shift the extra middle-of-the-body weight¬†that all too often accompanies¬†the fluctuating hormones of perimenopause.

Clearly, we all want to love our bellies¬†once more ūüôā

 

And there are more than aesthetic reasons for wanting to trim belly fat. The deeper layers (or ‘visceral’ fat) are linked to myriad health concerns in peri-menopausal women, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Let’s leave for a moment, the possibility that their diets aren’t quite as ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ as they think (it’s still possible to have difficulty losing weight on a healthy diet) or that the exercise program they’re following isn’t precisely the one their body needs to build muscle and shed fat (remember doing more doesn’t always translate into faster progress towards one’s goals) and instead, talk about the most important places to focus their nutritional attention.

The following five strategies don’t require adhering to any particular ‘diet’ and can be implemented by simply taking the time to analyze your¬†current way of eating¬†(MyFitnessPal is the tool I use with my 1-on-1 coaching clients), noticing where improvements could be made and creating ‘rules’ for implementing those changes on a daily basis.

Recently, I’ve had a client lose¬†4% body fat, 13 pounds and 3 inches around her belly in our first two months¬†of working together, by doing nothing more complicated than reducing alcohol, eliminating her morning¬†‘fancy’ coffee-shop coffee and add an extra serving of protein to her day. Not to mention going from 0 to 10+ good form toe push-ups!

She started¬†a new exercise program as well, but I don’t believe that her short, twice-weekly strength workout has had as much impact on her physique¬†as the nutritional changes she’s implemented; it’s always much harder to change your daily energy budget via exercise than via nutrition.

5 Nutritional Strategies for Midlife Women | simple steps to a slimmer midsection
  • Reduce added sugars

This is probably the single most important dietary change you can make (regardless of whether you’re aiming to tame your tummy or lose weight all over your body).

Midlife hormonal changes make the body more likely to store fat, in particular around the midsection. They also make it more difficult to access this stored fat as fuel during exercise. The combination of higher circulating insulin levels and lower estrogen production encourages the proliferation of fat cells in the belly. You’re not crazy if you’ve noticed a difference in the way your body responds to chocolate cake now, in your 40’s, as compared to your 20’s and 30’s.

For more discussion on the relationship between carbohydrates, insulin and fat loss you’ll want to read this post >> How to eat carbs and still lose weight

Go ahead. Eat the cake. Just not every day.

Registered dieticians recommend no more than 30 g of added sugars per day (note that if you’re using a food tracker like My Fitness Pal to analyze your diet, the daily sugar column may combine both the sugars that naturally occur in many whole foods with the sugars that¬†manufacturers add to them; read your labels to know where your sugar is coming from).

  • Reduce alcohol

In addition to alcohol having more calories per gram (7 cals/gram) than either protein or carbohydrate (4 cals/gram), it is not used as fuel by your body and is immediately stored as fat (see the above comment about sugar). While red wine does have some health benefits, these same benefits can be obtained by eating certain fruits and vegetables.

I’ve personally noticed a big difference in my midsection by simply cutting out alcohol during the week (a habit that’s no longer serving me) and limiting myself to a glass of wine or two on Friday and Saturday nights. Moderation rather than deprivation ūüôā

  • Increase protein

There are three reasons to ensure that you’re getting enough protein in midlife.

(1) Protein ameliorates the effects of carbohydrates on your blood sugar levels, keeping your body from going into fat storage mode.

(2) Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, thereby keeping you feeling fuller for longer and reducing cravings for starches and sweets.

(3) Protein is required to build muscle. Unlike fat, muscle is metabolically active. More muscle means a higher metabolic rate, thereby allowing you to burn more calories (estimates range from approximately 50 to 100 calories per pound of muscle each day), even while at rest.

Note that the standard RDA recommendation of .8 gram per kilogram lean body mass¬†per day may not be enough to have a significant effect on weight loss, especially if you’re also training for strength.

Personally, I prefer to set daily protein goals based on macronutrients in my diet. I aim to get 30% of my daily calories through protein,¬†although I’ll be the first to admit that 135 grams of protein isn’t always easy to pack into 3¬†meals and 1 or 2 snacks.

Struggling for ways to increase your protein intake? Here are some suggestions >> Getting More Protein in Your Diet

  • Increase fibre

Dietary fibre is important for digestive regularity. It helps keep blood cholesterol at healthy levels. It also fills you up. Vegetables and fruits are full of dietary fibre. Not to mention the array of vitamins and minerals they provide.

Aiming for 5-10 servings of fruits and veggies per day will typically provide you with the 25 mg of dietary fibre most nutritionists recommend for midlife women.

Eat a rainbow to ensure you’re getting a broad array of micronutrients too.

  • Reduce processed grains

The more processed the grain, the lower the nutritional value. Compare the protein, fibre and sugar content of a standard piece of white bread (1 g protein, 1 g fibre, 1 g sugar) with that of a sprouted grain bread (4 g protein, 3 g fibre, 0 g sugar). Given the above discussion on the effects of sugar, fibre and protein on middle-of-the-body weight gain, the choice should be obvious. Choose brown over white whenever possible.

Some women find that their bodies no longer tolerate grain-based starchy carbohydrates the way they did in their 30’s. Try substituting sweet potatoes, squashes, beans and pumpkin for breads, cereals, pasta and rice. It may take a week or two before you notice a change in your belly. Pay attention as well to your energy levels to determine whether this is an appropriate choice for you.

Note that this doesn’t mean you won’t ever eat a bagel or enjoy a piece of warm, French bread every again. Only that you’ll need to monitor the effect of these ‘indulgences’ on your body and decide how frequently to include them in your nutrition plan given your health and fitness goals.

Caveat:¬†¬†Know your own body well enough to be able to distinguish between a ‘little belly bloat’ and a more serious, persistent health condition. A swollen or distended abdomen may be an indicator that there’s more than imbalanced hormones going on. See your primary care physician and tell them about your concerns sooner, rather than later.