Fitness clothes that inspire and motivate | EleVenbyVenus

If you’re a regular to this site, you’ll know that I don’t partner with brands very often.

In addition to not wanting to dilute your reading pleasure with too many ads and sponsored posts ( ;-) ), I just haven’t found very many brands whose mission statements resonate with my own (and that I love enough to happily spend my money on…)

A brand who celebrates women, in all their various sizes, shapes and colours, regardless of whether they’re an athlete, weekend warrior or yogi.

A brand who encourages and empowers us to push past doubts and limitations, not just in sport, but in all aspects of our lives.

A brand whose ambassadors are energetic, compassionate, up-lifting and joy-filled women, many of whom I’m happy to call friends.

A brand who creates refreshingly unique workout clothing that not only functions well during exercise, but makes you feel strong and feminine to boot.

Can you guess which brand I’m talking about? (Hint, I’ve been contributing essays to her blog for about six months now…).

That’s right. I’m now an Ambassador for EleVenbyVenus!

In the words of Venus Williams herself…

EleVenManifesto

 

In addition to working with a fantastic team of fellow Ambassadors (go #teamEleVenByVenus) and having the opportunity to provide feedback on the clothing line, I also get to share something with you.

A discount code.

So you can sample the outfits I’ve been sharing on Instagram for yourself!

Below are four of my current faves; all from her newest collection. Don’t you just love the lavender? And the ruching on the tank tops? So pretty!

Save 10% by adding my special discount code Team11TamaraG  in the coupon code box during checkout. (This discount applies to all new, full-price items; but there are lots of great pieces on sale too, with free shipping on orders over $50).

 

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I’d love to know which pieces excite you! (Note the plural here; so much to love)

And take a moment to share why YOU’RE an ‘EleVen’ too.

 

Disclosure: As part of my Ambassadorship, I also receive a small commission on all purchases made via my site. I consider this a win-win situation; you get great clothes at a discounted price and I get thanked for referring you.

What’s the best workout when I’m short on time? | Ask a personal trainer

I get asked a lot of questions about exercise and nutrition.

Questions from my clients, group fitness participants, blog readers and social media followers. Sometimes these questions are of a personal nature and I reply privately. Other times, they’re queries that many of you may also be interested in hearing the answers to.

AskATrainer

Introducing a new, occasional feature on the blog: “Ask a Personal Trainer”.

(** And note, that names have been changed to protect those who don’t want to be ‘outed’ publicly ;-) )

What’s the best workout when I’m short on time? Ask a Personal Trainer
Dear Fitknitchick,
Let me start by saying that I love the free workouts you share on Facebook, YouTube and your blog. I think I’ve tried most of them by now and appreciate the work you’ve done in making them challenging, interesting and not too complicated (I’m not very coordinated…). My absolute favourite is your Whole Body Bosu Circuit Workout. Thanks!

However, sometimes I don’t have time to do the entire workout. My life is super hectic right now with a husband who travels for work, a part-time job of my own, a sick mother who needs my attention and two school age children whose activities take up much of our weekday evenings.

My question to you: if I only have time to do part of a workout, should I cut back on sets and repetitions or only do half of the exercises? Which one is better for my goal of reducing body fat and getting toned muscles? I should add that I can find fifteen minutes of time for exercise almost every day, but realistically can only fit a one hour workout in on Saturday (when my girls are at dance for the entire morning).

Thanks for taking the time to respond (and please keep those workouts coming!),

Anna**

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Dear Anna**,

And thank you for taking the time to ask a fantastic question! You’re certainly not alone in having limited time to exercise. Major kudos for being consistent with your ‘daily 15’; it’s precisely that consistency that will help you reach your fat loss-muscle building goals!

The most important thing you can do when your workout time is limited is prioritize your exercises. Ensure that the exercises you’re doing are the ones most likely to help you reach your goals.

In your case, I’d suggest choosing compound movements over single joint isolation exercises. That is, make sure you’re getting your squats, dead lifts, pushups and rows done before you consider adding a bicep curl or tricep extension to your workout. Not only will the big movements work more muscle groups, they’ll also burn more calories than the isolation exercises will. Plus, biceps and triceps will get a workout anyways; they help with rows and pushups, respectively!

Since you work out almost every day, I’d consider splitting your workouts up by body part. Concentrate on chest and back on day one (think pushups, chin ups, pull ups and rows), legs and glutes on day two (squat, lunge, dead lift and hip thrust) and arms and core on the third day of your workout week (shoulder press, planks and core rotation).

Then repeat the three workout days so that you’re getting two workouts per body part split each week. You should see good growth with this type of training program, particularly if you’re lifting to near fatigue and progressing your workouts from week to week by increasing the difficulty of the exercise or upping the load you’re lifting.

If you find you’re super pressed for time, choose two or three exercises per workout and aim to perform 2 to 3 sets of 8-10 good form reps of each. Super- or tri-setting them (performing one set of each exercise, back to back, before repeating the mini circuit) will save you the traditional minute between sets, getting you through your workout even faster.

And don’t forget to save a few minutes for stretching at the end. Often, when we’re short of exercise time, stretching is the first thing we drop from our routine. Even 3-4 minutes of post-working stretching is enough to help flush out lactic acid and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.

Let me know if this helps!

Tamara

Have a fitness or nutrition question that needs answering?

Chances are if something’s puzzling you, it’s also puzzling somebody else. Drop me a note in the box below and you may just be featured on the next edition of ‘ Ask a Personal Trainer’.

 

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Prepare to succeed | Tips for overcoming your inner saboteur

When it comes to starting and sticking with a new exercise program, nobody undermines our efforts better than we, ourselves, do.

The most common stumbling block to developing new fitness habits isn’t time or money or access to a gym or clean workout clothes (don’t laugh, I’ve heard this one more than a few times).

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It’s that little voice in our head that tells us “it’s okay to miss a workout” because we’re “tired” or “don’t have time to fuel properly” or “already exercised enough this week” or “can’t find any other time to have coffee with Sally”.

No matter how excited you are to get started with a new program, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually tire of it and start to look for excuses not to exercise. It’s human nature. We love things when they’re shiny and novel. Not so much once the bloom is off the rose.

The difference between people who successfully push through the excuses and under-mining self-talk and those who don’t?

They expect the excuses to happen and plan for how they’ll deal with it when their inner saboteur inevitably shows up.

Tips for overcoming your inner saboteur:
  • bullet-proof your excuses. Know yourself well enough to draw up a list of the excuses you’ll be most likely to use. Draft a response for each excuse. Remind yourself of your ‘why'; the reason you started down this path in the first place. (Not sure what your ‘why’ is? Scroll down to the bottom of this post and grab a copy of my free e-book “5 Steps to Exercise Happiness”. The first step is finding your ‘why’.)
  • adopt a ‘just 10-minutes’ attitude. Tell yourself that when it comes to exercise, something is always better than nothing. Commit to 10 minutes. If, at the end of that time, you really are too tired to continue (or Sally texts you wondering why you’re late for coffee…), finish up and commend yourself for what you did, rather than berating yourself for what you didn’t. Oh, and if that 10 minutes was exactly what you needed to get  jazzed about working out, continue on. Sometimes all you need is a little movement to overcome that activation threshold.
  • create rules around exercise. Decide what your ‘bare minimum’ exercise week looks like. Create rules to maintain this routine. My two exercise rules? “Always work out on Monday” (for me, missing a Monday paves the way for a less-than-stellar workout week) and “Never take more than 2 days in a row off” (I find it incredibly difficult to come back to the gym after 3 days off).
  • enlist an accountability partner. Have a friend or family member who’d be happy to give you a swift kick in the pants from time to time? I know I do ;-). Enlist their help by giving them your workout schedule for the week and asking them to send you a quick text or email when you’re supposed to be heading out the door. Even better? Get them to commit to exercising with you. Promise to support and encourage each other to follow through with the plan, even on days when one of you isn’t feeling it.
  • hire a personal trainer. In addition to teaching you proper exercise form, creating a program that’s individualized for you and progressing that program at appropriate intervals, your trainer won’t allow you to succumb to your inner saboteur. Just knowing that she’s waiting for you at the gym is often enough to overcome the excuses in your head. (And if they’re still hanging around when you arrive for your workout, she’ll be happy to assign a few burpees to help banish them…)

tips to overcome your Inner Saboteur

What excuses does your inner saboteur tempt you with?

Tell me your favourite way to give that negative voice ‘what for’!

Why I don’t want to survive the holidays

The holiday season is upon us.

surviving the holidays

For me, this is what the holidays are truly about.

Every time I turn on the computer I see articles and posts and Tweets about ‘surviving’ it.

Surviving the stress. Surviving the food. Surviving the ‘busy’. Surviving with our waistlines and pocketbooks and sanity intact.

While most of these writers mean well (and are full of tips to help you stay on track with your regular fitness and nutrition plan), I can’t help but feeling sad each time I see the word SURVIVE.

survive the holidays

My ‘sad’ face

To me, ‘surviving’ means barely keeping my head above water. Doing the have-to’s not the want-to’s. Looking to the future in the hopes that it’ll soon be over. A mindset of endurance rather than abundance.

I don’t want to just survive the holidays. I want to embrace them and enjoy the time spent with family and friends. I want to slow down and be more present.

I want to sample the food and drink that only makes an appearance this time of the year. I want to celebrate and sing and dance without worry and guilt and shame.

And without the need to make New Years Resolutions around fitness and food.

I don’t want to survive the holidays. I want to THRIVE through the holidays.

For me, thriving means:

  • sticking to my regular exercise schedule; exercise helps control appetite and stress and often results in better food choices for the remainder of the day. When I exercise, my body releases a flood of endorphins that make me feel happy and at peace with the world.
  • allowing myself to sample seasonal food and drink without guilt and recrimination; reminding myself that wine and sweet treats are available year-round reduces the need to over-indulge during the holiday season. Remember that it’s not the choices you make between Thanksgiving and New Years that make you gain weight, but the habits your adopt between New Years and Thanksgiving… The key word here is ‘sample’!
  • making sleep a priority; with late night parties and social events increasing in frequency it’s easy to let sleep slide. Yet maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is instrumental in keeping mid-life pounds at bay via its effect on your body’s production of stress hormone. Leaving the party early allows me to always enjoy the morning after.
  • not accepting every invitation I receive; there’s nothing worse than attending a social gathering out of a sense of obligation. Going because you feel like you have to not because you want to. For me, limiting my “yes’s” during the holidays ensures that when I do go out my friends and family get to spend time with ‘happy and engaged’ me. And when I’m happy and engaged, I tend to spend a lot less time near the food and drinks table ;-)
I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for ‘thriving’ during the holiday season!

 

 

 

Creating new exercise habits| 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp

Starting a new exercise program is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.

I get it. We all start new exercise programs with the highest of hopes. Hopes that this time we’ll actually enjoy working out. Hopes that nothing will ‘come up’ and get in the way of our workouts. Hopes that that old college injury won’t flare up again. Hopes that finally, this time around, exercise will ‘stick’.

The thing is, hope is not enough.

Sticking with an exercise and nutrition plan requires that you create new habits and develop new mindsets. Healthy new habits to replace the old habits that are no longer serving you. Positive new mindsets that acknowledge the non-scale related benefits of exercise and clean eating.

Habit creation takes time. Experts disagree on exactly how much time, but it seems that at least three weeks of conscientious work are required to turn new behaviours into ‘just another part’ of our regular routine.

Most people who start a new exercise program fail to make it to the third week. Often times, they start off with a bang. Ambitious exercise schedules are created and complete diet overhauls planned. After missing a workout or three and succumbing to an evening of beer and chips they give up, convincing themselves that this wasn’t the right time to start a new program and that next month will be different.

In order to succeed, people needed assistance with consistency, motivation and forming new habits around exercise and nutrition.

In an effort to help, I created the 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp program.

Beginning December 1st and running through to December 21st, it’s the perfect time to get a jump start on your 2015 resolutions.

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The program’s mission? To help both newcomers to exercise and those returning to it after injury, illness or plain old ‘time off’, develop new fitness and nutrition habits. Habits that will in turn, help them in their desire to become long-term, independent exercisers.

The program is 3 weeks in length and includes:

  • weekly workouts; 2 strength and 1 cardio (each with two different levels of difficulty/intensity; one for beginners and one for intermediate exercisers), illustrated descriptions of all exercises and a blank, downloadable template to record workout details on
  • daily emails; for accountability, motivation and inspiration (it’ll be just like I’m perched on your shoulder encouraging you to re-commit daily)
  • nutritional information; information about healthier food choices, macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats), portion sizes and meal planning
  • recipes; some of my favourites as well as links to Pinterest boards I’ve created to support the nutritional needs of regular exercisers
  • a support group; participants can meet and share their experiences with the program in an ‘invite-only’ Facebook group
Frequently Asked Questions:
  • How do I sign up? Click through to the registration page and add your name and email to the sign up form. Easy-peasy. You’ll receive a confirmation email shortly, including a complimentary copy of my e-book, “5 Steps to Exercise Happiness”. Reading it will give you a better understanding of my exercise philosophy and the rationale behind the ‘Re’-Bootcamp program’s design.
  • How much does it cost? Absolutely nothing. It’s FREE. Consider it an early holiday gift, from me to you. You’re welcome!
  • Do I need to belong to a gym to participate? The workouts require minimal equipment. Just a few pairs of dumbbells, a yoga mat, a resistance band and a stability ball. They can be performed at home or at the gym.
  • How much time will the workouts take? Both the strength and cardio workouts can be completed in under 20 minutes. The workouts are purposefully designed to underwhelm you. They are not fancy, but meant to help you create a firm, fitness foundation. A foundation that can be built on once you’ve got consistency nailed down. My goal is to help you create a schedule that you can easily accommodate, leaving you feeling successful and your body wanting more.
  • Will there be other homework? Yes! I’ve sprinkled several tasks and challenges throughout the 21-day program. Most require very little time and of course, the more you put into making change, the more you’ll get out of the program. Expect to spend 5 to 10 minutes each day reading the emails and exploring the resources I’ll be sharing in them.
  • I have an injury. Can I still participate? It all depends on the injury. While I can’t individualize a program for each participant, I can suggest modifications for common limitations. You can ask for help in the Facebook group and I’ll do my best to accommodate. At the very least, you can participate in the nutrition and mindset portions of the course.
  • Why now? Christmas is right around the corner. The program runs from December 1st through December 21st. Smack dab between American Thanksgiving and Christmas. What better time to start creating new habits than the season when we’re all looking for ways to avoid overindulging? Even better? When everybody else is making their New Year’s resolutions, you’ll already have an entire month of new routines under your belt.

Registration is open today through Friday, November 28th at 6:00 pm PST (I need a couple of days to make sure you’re all on the list, receiving my emails and a part of the Facebook group).

Questions? Don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below or via Twitter or email.

 

Tips for getting the most out of your online fitness training program

Online fitness training programs are increasing in popularity. (I know, I happen to run one myself ;) ).

With more people looking to get fit and many not willing to join a gym, they’re a great solution for both beginners to exercise and long-term exercisers alike.

© Alexmax | Dreamstime.com - Laptop 2 Photo

What’s great about online fitness training programs:
  • affordable (often cheaper than in-person training, especially if it’s a group program)
  • possible to choose the perfect trainer for you (you can get a feel for their personality, approach, area of specialization and training philosophy by simply examining their website)
  • workouts can be loosely customized to your fitness level and goals
  • most offer close to 24/7 support via text, email or social media
  • group programs often have the added bonus of a private forum or chat group, for additional motivation and support
The downside to online fitness training programs:
  • there’s nobody waiting for you at the gym to make sure you get your workout done (that means you need to be a fairly independent exerciser if you want to see results)
  • it’s more challenging to get feedback on proper exercise form (although many programs provide video demo’s to help you figure out how to perform the exercises correctly and some trainers offer Skype sessions to correct form in real time)
  • unless you’re paying for one-on-one programming, you’re unlikely to get a completely personalized program
  • many online training programs offer an individualized meal plan service, even though the trainer isn’t nutrition-certified (and may be working outside of their insured scope of practice)
  • you’ll likely underestimate your abilities and progress yourself more slowly than an in-person trainer would (my female clients always underestimate how much weight they can lift by at least 25% and many would happily stick with the same weight for months and months)

In my experience as both a past participant AND provider of online group training services, I’d like to suggest the following tips for making sure you’re getting the full value of your online training experience.

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Tips for getting the most out of your online fitness training program
  • Do your research. Take the time to seek out a program that meets your needs. If the program requires that you have access to a full-service gym but you prefer to work out at home, you’ve already set yourself up for failure. You’re unlikely to become a gym-lover and it’s pretty hard to modify some exercises for the minimal equipment of many home gyms. Likewise, if it’s a weight loss program for beginners, don’t join up expecting hard-core muscle-building workouts.
  • Get to know the trainer. People who offer online fitness training programs typically do so through their websites. Spend some time checking out the information they share, read their About Me page and peruse samples of the workouts they create.  Follow them on social media and don’t be afraid to reach out and interact with them. Most will be happy to answer your questions and provide more information about the services they provide. It may sound obvious, but make sure they’re a certified fitness professional rather than just a fitness enthusiast… (you want a program based on sound training principles, not just a routine that’s happened to work for somebody else)
  • Try out ‘free’ programs before you spend your money. Many online fitness professionals share free workouts, challenges and ‘mini’-courses with their followers. Use these to ‘check out’ prospective trainers and to more clearly determine your needs in an online fitness training program. (See the bottom of this post for an announcement about an upcoming free program I’ll be offering during the month of December).
  • Commit fully. Once you’ve decided on a trainer and a program, clear your calendar and make that program your top priority. Doing the research and spending the money isn’t going to get you any closer to your health and fitness goals unless you embrace the process. Ever heard the quote “you get out of life what you put into it”? Same principle applies.
  • Participate enthusiastically. One of the biggest draws of online group training is the ready-made support group. Many programs include private forums or Facebook groups for participants to ask questions, motivate and inspire one another and share their successes and frustrations. When you ‘lurk’, reading other comments but never joining in the conversation, you miss one of the most powerful tools for effecting change. Public accountability. Chances are if you’re the type of person who’s drawn to an online training group, at some level you recognize that ‘going it alone’ isn’t working for you. In my experience, there’s a direct and positive correlation between the frequency of posting in the group and an individual’s ultimate success with the program.
  • Give feedback and share the program with your friends. Online fitness program developers crave feedback. We need to know what’s working well in our programs and where we could be doing better. Have a suggestion for your trainer? Don’t be afraid to offer it up (but in a positive way; trainers have feelings too ;) ). Love the program? Send your trainer a testimonial for them to use on their website and in promotional materials. And don’t forget to share it with your friends. Many online solo-preneurs rely heavily on personal recommendations.

I’m excited to announce (well, pre-announce…) that a re-vamped version my 10-week online training course for 40+ women will be debuting in the new year (I took all of the great feedback that participants from last year’s sessions gave me and used it to create an even better service for women looking to sail through the perimenopause years). Watch for further information.

I’m also launching a FREE 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp to support those of you looking to jumpstart your fitness habit before the new year. Details coming soon!

online fitness training

Make sure you subscribe to my email list to be the first to hear about both! (You’ll also receive blog updates and occasional tidbits that I’ve found to be share-worthy).

 

Have you ever participated in an online fitness training program?

If so, what was your biggest challenge with the program?

 

 

 

5 reasons quick fixes don’t work

I get it. When we make healthy changes to our diet and start a new exercise program, we want to see results. Sooner rather than later. Next week not next month. And certainly before we go on that beach vacation ;)

As a society, we’re all looking for the ‘quick fix’.

An integral part of my job as a personal trainer is to educate my clients as to why these quick fixes don’t ultimately work.

Notice the word ‘ultimately’.

By ‘ultimately’,  I mean ‘over the long haul’. As in for the rest of your life.

Sure, drastically cutting calories for a week or three might jumpstart your weight loss.

Likewise, joining an online exercise challenge that has you progressing from zero to 100 pushups, pull-ups, squats and crunches in 30 days might be just the incentive you need to head back to the gym.

But what happens at the end of the diet-cleanse-detox-challenge?

Do you maintain the weight loss? Do you stick to your new exercise schedule? Have you suddenly become the type of person who loves to plan and create healthy meals and brags about their PR’s in the gym?

Probably not. (But if you are, CONGRATS! You don’t need to read any further.)

Most of us go back to the exact same pattern of eating and exercising (or not exercising…) as before (and often times before we’ve even finished the challenge…). And sometimes we fool ourselves into doing it all over again because ‘it worked’

Note: if you’re trying the same quick fix over and over again, it’s clearly NOT working for you; it is, however, working for the company or person that you purchased the quick fix from…

That’s because quick fixes may be quick, but they certainly don’t ‘fix’ the underlying problem; our often distorted and unhealthy mindsets around food and exercise.

The best ‘quick fix’?

Starting tomorrow, make one small change in your diet or exercise routine. See if you can sustain it for a week. If so, make another small change in your diet or exercise routine. See if you can sustain both for a week. Repeat over and over and over again until the changes become habits.

It’s not sexy, I know.

But it works. Time and time again.

5 reasons quick fixes don’t work
  • Quick fixes require extreme action. It takes a daily deficit of 750 calories to lose just 1 1/2 pounds a week. Products or programs that promise much more than this require severe caloric restriction. Similarly, going from 0 to 100 pushups/pull ups/squats/crunches requires you to perform pushups/pull ups/squats/crunches daily. More and more pushups/pull ups/squats/crunches as the challenge continues. If you can’t find the time or motivation to make small changes, how can you expect yourself to commit to the extreme action typically required by a ‘quick fix’? Not to mention the metabolic slowdown associated with a low calorie diet or the potential for injury that comes with such a poorly progressed program.
  • Quick fixes prey on insecurities. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about fitness and nutrition. Put three specialists in a room and they’ll all tell you something different. It’s not surprising that many of us feel insecure about our ability to feed and move our bodies in a healthful manner. Quick fixes recognize that we’re unsure of ourselves and love to use emotionally charged ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos to convince us that they know our bodies better than we do.
  • Quick fixes aren’t personalized. We are all unique. A fitness and nutrition plan that works for one person won’t always work for another. That’s why people pay the big bucks (wink, wink) to hire personal trainers and nutritionists to help them achieve their own, unique solutions. Quick fixes are often about making money for the company or individual selling them. Customization takes time and isn’t easily scaled up.
  • Quick fixes don’t educate. I’m a huge believer in education. Want to really change people’s behaviour? Make them understand how current choices are affecting their health and keeping them from reaching their goals. Arm them with information. Explain the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’. Sometimes these lessons need to be repeated several times before the message sinks in. I’ve yet to see a quick fix come with a manual or citation list.
  • Quick fixes aren’t sustainable. While a quick fix might just jumpstart your new fitness and nutrition routine, by virtue of it’s extreme nature, it’s unlikely to be something that you’ll follow for years (or even months) at a time. Taking the time to ‘be your own detective’ and truly figuring out what works best for you is the best way to move towards a healthy lifestyle that you can maintain for the rest of your life.

Have you ever tried a quick fix diet or exercise program? Did it work? Did it help you move forward towards your health and fitness goals? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments section below.

4 exercises that are harder than they look

Have you ever watched someone perform a new-to-you exercise, thought ‘that looks easy’, tried it yourself and utterly failed?

Chances are that it’s not the first time they’ve done it.

As with most physical tasks, it requires practice before a new exercise can be executed fluidly and with apparently little effort. The mind and the muscles need to connect. Assisting and stabilizing muscles need to be woken up and recruited. Range of motion needs to be explored, often a little bit at a time.

The following 4 exercises are harder than my video demonstration of them would have you believe; trust me, I’ve had to work hard to make them look effortless ;)

4 exercises that are harder than they look

1. Bosu sit-to-stand crunch
SitToStand

How it’s done: Start by sitting on the dome side of a Bosu, holding a dumbbell with both hands. Slide down until your bum is just two or three inches from the floor. With knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lean back until the Bosu meets the curve of your lower back. Tighten your abdominals and extend your arms (and the weight) in front of you to pull yourself sitting. Continue on to standing by pushing through the soles of your feet. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position and repeat.

Why it’s hard: The exercise requires you to be able to get up off the floor without using your hands. It requires a strong core and the ability to generate power by the hip flexors.

What it’s good for: Developing a functionally strong core that will allow you to get up off the floor and out of bed for many years to come. Building strong abdominal muscles without putting the lumbar spine at risk.

2. Bosu weighted squat jumps
BosuSquatJumps

How it’s done: Start by standing just behind the Bosu, holding a dumbbell with both hands. Make sure the handles of the Bosu are facing north and south to minimize the risk of landing on one or the other. Extend arms (and weight) out in front at mid-chest height. Bend your knees, hips and ankles and drop down into a partial squat before propelling yourself forward and up onto the dome. Land with knees slightly bent and pause briefly, ‘sticking’ the landing, before stepping back down. Repeat.

Why it’s hard: Jumping onto an unstable surface and stopping requires you to be able to accelerate and decelerate quickly. Extending the arms away from the body forces both the legs and core to do more work. In addition to being physically challenging, this exercise is psychologically challenging for many.

What it’s good for: Building power in the legs, strengthening the deep core stabilizers and improving balance and proprioception (knowing where your body is in space). When done quickly, elevating the heart rate and burning calories.

3. Hamstring curls on the ball
HamCurls

How it’s done: Start by laying face up on the floor, with legs extended and feet resting on the top of a stability ball. Extend your arms straight up over your chest and lift your hips up and off the ground. Dig your heels into the ball and bend your knees and ankles to roll the ball in towards your torso. Roll the ball back to the starting position and repeat, without letting your bum touch the ground between reps.

Why it’s hard: The ball wants to move under your feet. With only your shoulders touching the floor, the muscles of the core and lower body must work together to stabilize you and keep you from rolling off the ball.

What it’s good for: Strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, calves, abdominals and lower back. Improving balance and proprioception.

4. Shifting 3-point plank
3pointplank

How it’s done: Place 2 or 3 light dumbbells (or weight plates) on the floor in a vertical line. Come into a forearm plank such that the weights are directly above your right hand. Keeping back flat and hips facing downwards, use your left hand to move the weights, one at a time, across the mat to just above where the left hand will be when you return it to the floor.

Why it’s hard: When you lift your hand off the ground, your body wants to compensate for the lost support by rotating. Forcing the hips to remain facing downwards requires the obliques and glutes to work harder than they would in a standard plank.

What it’s good for: Improving anti-rotational core strength, learning to engage your glutes and enhancing chest and shoulder stability. I also find that the task of moving the weights makes me forget about watching the clock while I plank ;)

As with all challenging exercises, practice them regularly to improve your execution. Focus on form before increasing intensity, volume or load.

And remember, once you’ve mastered them, others will be copying YOU in the gym (although modelling your workouts on those of your fellow gym-goers isn’t necessarily a great idea…).

 

Have you ever been surprised by how challenging an exercise was?

What was the exercise?

3 ‘all-or-nothing’ healthy living mindsets debunked

We’ve all got that little voice in our heads. The voice that undermines our best intentions and rationalizes the making of poor choices when it comes to fitness and nutrition. The voice that says ‘why bother’ or ‘what’s the point’ or ‘I’ll start next Monday’.

healthy living mindsetsFor many women, that voice reflects an underlying ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset. The attitude that only full-on-balls-to-the-walls effort is worth the time. That small steps don’t matter. That perfection trumps progress.

I’ve heard many variations on this theme from my clients and group fitness participants and have been known, on occasion, to utter the same words to myself

Below, I share the 3 most common examples and the arguments I’ve found to be helpful in moving myself and others past our ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset barriers.

3 ‘all-or-nothing’ healthy living mindsets debunked

This month is crazy busy at home/school/work; I’ll get back to exercise when things slow down.

This mindset is based on the assumption that tomorrow will be easier than today. That you’ll have fewer commitments and responsibilities in the future than you do now. That there’s a ‘perfect’ time to start an exercise program and clean up your diet.

In my experience, tomorrow never comes. The current crisis or workout passes, only to be replaced by another. Next month will be just as busy as this month (know the saying, ‘tasks expand to fill all available time’?) and before you know it, another year has passed without any appreciable progress towards your health and fitness goals.

The perfect time to make change is always right now. The path to progress is many small steps, repeated daily. Start by incorporating just one or two short workouts in your week. No more than 30 minutes and nothing that requires you to get dressed and drive someplace. Maybe all you have time for is a walk at lunch. That’s great. Start small and build from there; that way ‘when things slow down’, you’ll be ready to ramp it up ;)

Check out my YouTube channel for examples of short and efficient workouts you can do at home.

I’ve already derailed today’s healthy meal plan; might as well have another glass of wine/helping of dessert/handful of chips.

This mindset is built on the false premise that your body resets it’s metabolic clock at midnight. That today’s less-than-healthy choices are wiped clean by the act of going to sleep and getting up in the morning. That you won’t feel any worse or any less energetic tomorrow because of your overindulgence. That you can’t ‘eat just one’ and feel satisfied.

It often goes hand in hand with the “I’ll start my diet on Monday” mindset. Post-poning the opportunity to make small, healthy decisions today; decisions that will only become habit if you practice them consistently.

 I don’t have time for an hour-long spin class/bootcamp/gym session today; I’ll make it up later in the week.

A classic example of ‘go hard or go home’ thinking, this mindset is probably the most challenging to overcome. Thanks to the constant barrage of magazine headlines and social media posts encouraging us to work ‘harder-faster-longer-more’ and wondering ‘what’s your excuse’ when we don’t, is it any wonder we doubt the benefits of a mere fifteen minutes of movement?

The thing is, 15 minutes of exercise will always be better than nothing. Better than spending the same amount of time sitting in the car, on the couch or in front of the computer (unless you’re reading encouraging blog posts, like this one…). Find two 15-minute stretches of time in your busy day and all of a sudden you’re fitting in 30 minutes of fitness.

Is your ‘all or nothing’ healthy living mindset holding you back?

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