Three mindset shifts for midlife fitness success

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

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

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

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

According to the dictionary:

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

 

3 Mindset shifts for midlife fitness success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindset shift #3: Stop confusing acceptance with giving up

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

4 Stretches for Tight Hamstrings

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

stretches for tight hamstrings

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

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

Hamstrings 101

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

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

stretches for tight hamstrings

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

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

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

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

 

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

If you found this post educational, helpful or entertaining, please consider sharing it with your friends. All you need to do is click one of the social sharing buttons below. 

 

Tips for becoming an independent exerciser

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

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

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

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

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

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

becoming an independent exerciser

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

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

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

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

What’s your best advice for my readers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 :-) ).

PyramidWorkoutLarge

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

and

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

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

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

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

Strategies for avoiding exercise-induced injuries

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

avoiding exercise-induced injuries

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

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

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

 

What new fitness activity are you currently excited about?

Do you worry about exercise-induced injuries?

Fitness and nutrition rules can simplify healthy living

Structure.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

fitness and nutrition rules

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Fitknitchick’s Fitness and Nutrition Rules to Live By

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

Do you follow any of my fitness and nutrition rules?

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

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

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

TransformAging | An online fitness and health webinar for midlife women

 

fitness and health webinar

I want to continue to age well.

TC_Aging

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

Don’t you? Doesn’t everybody?

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

Good news!

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

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

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

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

health and fitness webinar

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

 

 

Training for the status quo | fitness after 40

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

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

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

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

SkulptAim_May5_2015

I could have sworn my triceps were stronger than this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alice and the Red Queen

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

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

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

Why I train for the status quo

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

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

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

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

 

training for the status quo