Everything you need to know to be a fitness success

High rep strength training, cardio intervals, HIIT, Tabata, Crossfit, Bootcamp, Insanity, P90X, 21-DayFix, hot yoga, barre, Piyo, Zumba. What type of exercise should you do to improve your fitness?

Should you follow a low carb diet? Eat paleo? Attend Weight Watchers? Cycle your carbs? Fast intermittently? Exercise on an empty stomach? Stock up on Shakeology?

With so many options out there, is it any wonder that newcomers to exercise (or those returning to healthy living after a hiatus…) have no idea where to start?

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably tried more than a few of the above approaches. Perhaps you’ve stuck with one long enough to see results. More than likely though, you’ve jumped from program to program, attracted by the ‘next best thing’ and it’s promises of fat loss, muscle gains, more energy, six-pack abs and dropped dress sizes.

fitness success

Shhh!

 I’m going to tell you a secret.

There’s nothing magical about any of the programs I listed above. (Think about it, if there were, everybody would be doing that program to the exclusion of all other programs and those of us espousing a different approach would be out of business ;-) ).

Unless you’re a long-time exerciser with very specific performance goals, it doesn’t really matter which approach you take. Stick with any program long enough and you’re bound to become a fitness success.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-hiking-success-happy-woman-mountains-young-female-backpacker-celebrating-mountain-top-fitness-healthy-lifestyle-image47462877

Everything you need to know to be a fitness success

  • It doesn’t really matter what workout program you follow, as long as you follow it consistently. For general fitness improvement, the best thing you can do is find something you enjoy and will do regularly. Take a look at the fittest women you follow on Facebook. Chances are some of them are runners, some are barre fanatics and some lift weights exclusively. There’s more than one path to fitness. Find yours.
  • It doesn’t really matter what diet plan you follow, as long as you follow it consistently. When it comes to eating for health (including weight loss and performance gains), the biggest predictor of success is adherence. Find an approach that you enjoy and can see yourself following for years to come. If it feels too restrictive, it probably is.
  • Own your choices and the consequences. Remind yourself that you have control over every single fitness-related decision you make. Those 24-hours in the day? Yours to spend as you choose. What to put in your grocery cart? Entirely your decision. There’s nobody who can do this for you. The good news? When you’re successful, there’s nobody else to share the credit with!
  • Be confident in the knowledge that you’re the expert of you. Who’s know you longer than you? If you’ve tried a variety of exercise and nutrition programs, you’ll already know which approaches suit your lifestyle best and are most likely to be sustainable. Pay attention to how your body responds to food and exercise. Don’t be afraid to do things differently than the ‘experts’ suggest. You’re the expert of you.
Although I offer an online fitness program catering to the specific needs and goals of women in their 40’s and 50’s, my clients don’t follow a cookie-cutter program. Together, we learn to listen to our bodies and practice ‘being the detective’ to determine our own specific formula for fitness success.
If this sounds like a group of women you need to be a part of, consider joining in for the last two months of the current session. Details and registration info can be found here >> #40plusfitness Online Training Program.

 

Three things my Fitbit Charge taught me {sponsored post & giveaway}

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you probably already know that I’m the proud new owner of a Fitbit Charge.

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It was given to me by Telus as part of their #EveryStepCounts campaign (along with a second Fitbit Charge for me to give to one of my readers… more on that later). To be totally honest, I had no real need or want for the device, given that I already possess two perfectly functional (although admittedly, less attractive) pieces of wearable tech.

What did catch my attention was the possibility of winning one of three Samsung Galaxy tablets (thereby making me ‘supermom’ when I gifted my 10-year old son with it on his upcoming birthday). Fifteen bloggers were invited to participate in the campaign, with the three accumulating the most steps over a two-week period claiming the prize. Given that I lead a pretty active lifestyle, I joined in thinking (mistakenly) the whole thing would be a ‘walk in the park’.  Fast forward to the end of the challenge and notice my position on the leaderboard;

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Sixth place and waaaaaay behind the top walkers (and winners; congrats guys!). While sad that I didn’t win the tablet (and scrambling to come up with another idea for a birthday present), upon reflection I realized that I learned three important lessons from the #EveryStepCounts challenge.

Three things my Fitbit Charge taught me
    • I’m a pretty competitive person (for better or for worse). Comparing my progress to the progress of my challengers kept me going on days where I could very easily have chosen to pass on an after dinner walk. For the first week, I hovered around the third place mark, neck in neck with another blogger. Every time I saw her cumulative step count surpass mine, I hustled to get more steps in. Even when this meant passing up mother-daughter time, an evening out with friends or a strength training workout (this is probably the only time in my life where I prioritized cardio over weights…). About half-way through the challenge I realized that obsessing about steps was undermining my every-day approach to health and fitness, hence the 6th place finish (and the DOMS I’m still feeling from my first day back on the strength training floor…).
    • I am not nearly as active as I think I am. Given that I teach (and participate in) several group fitness classes each week, hit the gym another 3 or 4 times for my own workouts and am on my feet most of the day with clients and children, I assumed that my activity level would be fairly high. I very quickly discovered that without hitting the treadmill at the gym for a 45 minute walk before I started work AND heading out again in the evening for a neighbourhood stroll, I’d barely make my 10K daily step goal. This realization made me wonder how many steps people who work in more sedentary jobs get in a day. And how on earth the leaders in this challenge were racking up so many steps (I’m thinking treadmill desks?).
    • I long to live in a more pedestrian-friendly community. My family lives in suburbia. While I’m grateful for the home and property we’ve been able to purchase, there are no services or amenities a walk-able distance from our home. All three of my children need to be driven to school. The gym where I work, as well as coffee shops, grocery stores and the public library are all 4 km away. The #EveryStepCounts challenge made me realize that I do very little walking other than for the explicit purpose of taking a walk. My husband and I are about 10 years away from our youngest child leaving the nest. We’ve already starting talking about what we’d like our life to be like then. Living closer to amenities, in a more pedestrian-friendly community is top of the list. Someplace where it’s easy to get 10K+ steps a day, just by going about your neighbourly business.

Now for the giveaway.

Telus has generously offered to send one of my Canadian readers (apologies to my US friends) their very own Fitbit Charge.

Enter by telling me, in the comments section at the bottom of the page, how many steps you THINK you get in a day, then completing the Rafflecopter entry form below.

I’ll be closing this giveaway at 12 am PST Monday, February 23rd, 2015. The winner will be notified via email (so make sure you leave one) and will have until 5 pm PST Tuesday, February 24th to respond (otherwise, I’ll choose another winner). Your Fitbit Charge will be shipped directly from Telus, once I’ve handed over your contact info.

Wishing you all the best of luck! And looking forward to hearing what your Fitbit Charge teaches you!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Body part splits or whole body workouts | the pros and cons

The other day (a very observant) someone asked me why I give most of my clients whole body workouts when they see me performing body part splits.

  • Do I think one type of workout is intrinsically better than the other? (No)
  • Is one ‘harder’ than the other? (Not necessarily)
  • Under what circumstances would I provide a client with a body part split? (Read on…)

body part splits or whole body workouts: which is better? via http://fitknitchick.com

Whole body workouts are exactly what they sound like.

A workout in which all of the major muscles of the body are trained. Whole body workouts tend to focus on compound, multi-joint exercises, exercises which are often described as ‘functional’ in nature (meaning that they mimic the types of movements our bodies were designed to engage in daily). Smaller muscles (think triceps and calves) are trained in conjunction with bigger muscles, rather than via isolation or ‘vanity’ exercises (e.g., tricep kickbacks and seated calf raises).

In contrast, body part splits involve splitting the major muscle groups up and training them on separate days.

Upper-lower splits are common; all of the muscles of the upper body are trained together, with lower body muscles trained on a separate days. Core training can be done on either the upper or lower body day, although most people prefer to train core and legs together to equalize training time across days.

Push-pull, movement pattern splits are popular too; muscles involved with pushing exercises (e.g., chest, anterior delts, quads, calves and triceps) are trained on the same day, pulling muscle (e.g., back, biceps, hamstrings, posterior delts and abs) exercises are trained on another.

Other configurations of body part splits can be created depending on the exerciser’s goals, their desired frequency of training and how much experience they have in the gym. (My last 3-day body part split had me training chest and back on day 1, legs and core on day 2 and shoulders, biceps and triceps on day 3).

Whole body training has many benefits:
  • it’s generally more metabolic in nature than body part splits (i.e., burns more calories)
  • it’s typically a more functional type of workout and can easily incorporate speed, agility and balance training in addition to muscular strength and endurance
  • you don’t necessarily need dumbbells, barbells and a weight bench to get a good workout; Google ‘body weight exercises’ and see how much variety there is
  • missing a workout isn’t as much of a concern when you’re training all muscle groups each time you exercise
The downside of whole body training?
  • workout length tends to be longer than for body part splits, as you’re targeting all of the major muscle groups in one workout
  • you may not be physically able to perform the same workout on two adjacent days (when you train a muscle to near failure or fatigue, it may require 48 hours before it’s ready to be trained again)
  • doing the same workout 3, 4 or 5 days a week can get boring and potentially lead to injury and over-training
Whole body training is perfect for people who…
  • have only 2 or 3 days a week for exercise
  • are new to strength training and need to focus on learning form and creating an exercise habit
  • have weight or fat loss as their primary goal

The majority of my personal training clients fall into the above category, hence the reason why I create whole body training programs for them.

Body part training has many benefits too:
  • workouts can be as short as 30 minutes; great if you’re pressed to find time for exercise in your day
  • there’s adequate time to train each muscle from a variety of different angles; body part workouts typically include 2 to 3 exercises per body part within the same training session (no more having to choose between chest presses and flys)
  • when carefully designed, you can completely rest a muscle group before working it again; for example, an upper/lower split might have you training legs on Monday and Thursday (great for building muscle size as most growth happens during the recovery phase)
  • depending on your body part split, you can train up to 6 days per week (some of us need our daily stress reliever…)
The downside of body part splits?
  • if you miss a workout day, you miss a body part (and may not end up training it again for another whole week)
  • if your goals include fat loss, you may not create enough of a ‘metabolic disturbance’ to see an effect on the scales
  • muscles may be quite sore the day following the workout, especially if you’ve performed 3 or 4 different exercises and worked to fatigue
  • you may need to train 4 or 6 days each week to fit all of your exercises in
Body part splits are perfect for people who…
  • have muscular hypertrophy as their primary training goal
  • prefer more frequent, shorter workouts to less frequent, longer sessions
  • are disciplined enough not to miss a workout (or be able to make it up immediately so as not to leave a body part behind… ;-) )
  • have sufficient experience with strength training to choose appropriate combinations of exercises (and know how many reps and sets of each to perform)

A few of my clients fall into the above category (you know who you are :-) ). Depending on their preference (and their primary hypertrophy goals), I tend to favour upper/lower and push/pull splits.

Body part splits or whole body workouts: what’s best for you depends on…
  • your goals (hypertrophy, fat loss, health, aesthetics, overall fitness)
  • how much time you have available for exercise (both workout length and how many days a week you’ll be training)
  • your experience level (beginners often do better with whole body workouts while more experienced lifters can get great results from body part splits)
  • how much variety you require in your workouts to maintain your exercise habit (note that those following a whole body training style can alternate between 2 or 3 different whole body workouts to keep their interest level and motivation high)
One final thought…

In my own training, I use a mix of the two. Twice a week I participate in whole body training while teaching Bootcamp and Group Step. The three or four days I’m in the gym, my workouts consist of body part splits.

For me, it’s a great balance between hypertrophy training and training for fat loss. It also keeps me from getting bored. And because the strength workouts are each only performed once a week, I only have to write myself a new program once every 2nd month.

Some might argue that by combining the two, I’m undermining the separate effects of each type of training. But experimenting with my body and learning what works best for ME has shown me the exact opposite!

body part splits and whole body training

Body part splits AND whole body training FTW

 

Do you have a preference for body part splits of whole body training?

What’s your current body part split?

10 ‘crunch-free’ exercises for a stronger core

Physiotherapists, kinesiologists, strength and conditioning coaches and pelvic floor specialists are all in agreement; regular and excessive performance of sit-ups and abdominal crunches can place un-due stress on the lumbar spine, exacerbate tight hip flexors and lead to destabilization of the pelvic floor.

Just what we fabulous over-40 women need right? Lower back pain, poor posture, urinary incontinence and pelvic organ (i.e., vaginal) prolapse (as if hot flashes, muscle loss and menopot weren’t indignities enough…).

Still not convinced to give sit-ups a rest (or at least downplay their role in your workouts)?

What if I told you that sit-ups and crunches will only lead to a visible ‘six pack’ if you’re able to get your body fat percentage down into the mid-teens. (For reference sake, female body builders are around 10-12 %.)

And that they won’t really improve your athletic performance or prevent those injuries caused by the activities of every day life?

Suddenly crunches aren’t sounding all that great, are they?

Try working the muscles of your core the way nature intended them to be used; as spinal stabilizers (both with and without movement), spinal flexors and extenders and rotational powerhouses.

Below you’ll find 10 of my favourite “crunch-free” exercises for a stronger core; two for each of the five primary core functions.

Choose one exercise from each category. Hold the static stabilization move as long as you can, then perform 8 to 10 repetitions (on each side, where applicable) of each of the other four exercises, one after the other, circuit-style. Beginners may find one round challenging enough. More advanced exercisers can repeat a second and even a third time.

10 ‘crunch-free’ exercises for a stronger core

Static stabilization:

1. Plank: Planks can be performed on forearms or hands (aka ‘high’ plank) and from knees (less challenging) or toes (more challenging). When holding a plank, concentrate on bracing through your midsection, squeezing your glute cheeks tight, pulling shoulders back and down and maintaining a straight line from your knees (or heels, depending on the variation) to your neck. If your lower back starts to curve or your shoulders creep up towards your ears, come on down. Never sacrifice good form just for the sake of extending your plank another few seconds.

Plank options - exercises for a stronger core

 

2. Resistance band anti-rotation hold: Loop a resistance band around a pole, post or other sturdy, vertical support. Stand at 90 degrees to the anchor point, feet shoulder width apart and with a slight bend in your knees. Grab both handles of the band in your hands, extend arms in front of you at belly button height and step away from the post to create resistance on the band. The greater the resistance, the more you’ll be working your anti-rotation muscles. Concentrate on keeping your torso upright, without leaning in towards the post. Hold for as long as you can. Switch sides and repeat. You can perform a variation of this exercise on a cable and pulley machine, using a standard D-ring and adding as much weight to the stack as necessary to generate an appropriate resistance on your obliques.

Dynamic stabilization:

3. Walk-up-walk-down plank: The exercise can be performed on the floor or with hands placed on either a weight bench (less challenging) or the dome side of a Bosu (more challenging). Come into forearm plank position, on either knees or toes. Bracing through your midsection, ‘walk’ your hands, one at a time, up until you’re in a high plank position. Without rotating through your torso, ‘walk’ your hands, one at a time, back down into forearm plank. Continue ‘walking’ up and down, alternating which hand you’re leading with.

'Walking' plank - exercises for a stronger core

4. Side plank and row: Loop a resistance band around a pole, post or other sturdy support at floor level (I’ve used the leg of a heavy sofa, in a pinch). Come into side plank, with either your legs fully extended and stacked one on top of the other (more challenging) or with knees bent and feet behind you (less challenging), forearm on the floor, with elbow directly under your shoulder  Make sure you’re far enough from your anchor point that when you grab the handle of the resistance band and extend your arm directly out in front of you, there’s already considerable resistance on the band. Maintain a perfect side plank (shoulders stacked one on top of the other, hips stacked one on top of the other, lower hip up and off the floor) and row the handle of the band in towards your underarm. Slowly return to starting position and repeat, making sure that you’re not giving in to the urge to rotate the upper body towards the anchor point. Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other. This exercise can also be performed on a standard cable and pulley machine, using a D-ring and with the cable set at the lowest position.

Flexion:

5. Stability ball roll-in or pike: Come into a high plank, with hands directly underneath shoulders and feet resting atop a stability ball (make this exercise a little easier by placing the ball under your shins or even your thighs). Keeping upper body stationary, roll ball in towards your chest, either bending at the knees (a roll-in’) or keeping legs straight and lifting hips up into an inverted ‘V’ (pike). Return ball to starting position and repeat.

Stability ball roll-in - exercises for a stronger core

6. Lateral trunk flexion: Start by standing with feet hip distance apart holding a dumbbell, kettlebell or weight plate in each hand, down by your sides. Hinging at the hip, lean upper body down and to the right, feeling a pinch between rib and hip. Engage through your core and use the muscles on the opposite side of your body to pull yourself back up to the starting position. Concentrate on slow, controlled, full range of motion movements, resisting the urge to lean forward or backwards.

Extension:

7. Prone chest raise: Lay on your mat, face down, with arms at your sides, hands directly underneath shoulders. Spread your legs slightly, placing the tops of your feet firmly on the mat. Take a deep breath as you tighten your quads and glutes, lifting your chest up and off the floor with the muscles of your lower back. Avoid pushing with your hands and hyper-extending the back; you needn’t lift more than six inches off the floor to feel the effects of this movement. Slowly lower yourself to the ground, pause and repeat.

Prone chest raise - exercises for a stronger core

8. Back extension machine: Position yourself over the back extension machine, such that the cushions rest just below your hip bones. Lock your heels under the foot rest. Placing hands across your chest (or holding a weight plate at chest level, for more challenge), relax your calves, hamstrings and glutes as you bend at the hip to lower your upper body towards the floor. Engage the muscles of the lower back to lift your torso just high enough that your body forms a straight line from the back of your ankles to the back of your neck. Avoid lifting more than 10 degrees about 180; hyperextending the back can lead to rapid fatigue and injury.

Rotation:

9. Medicine ball diagonal rotation: Start by standing with feet slightly wider than hip distance apart, toes pointed forward or a little bit out. Holding a medicine ball (or dumbbell if you don’t have access to a ball) between your hands, bend slightly at the knees and rotate your torso to the left. Energetically lift the ball diagonally across your body, from outside the left knee to above and beyond the right shoulder. Pivot on the left foot and rotate the torso as you do so. Return to the starting position and complete all reps before switching sides. The focus of this move should be on the upwards phase of the lift.

10. Russian twist on the ball: Start by coming into ‘table-top’ position on a stability ball; your head and shoulders will be resting on the ball, feet will be on the floor with knees bent and hips pressed up towards the ceiling. Holding a single dumbbell between your hands, extend arms directly up and over your chest. Rotate arms and torso down to the right, shifting your weight so that the ball rolls under the right shoulder.  Brace your core and return arms and weight to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating until all repetitions have been completed. Concentrate on keeping your arms long and holding the weight as far from your body as you can. Beginners should limit their range of motion until they become confident in their ability not to fall off the ball.

Russian twist on the ball - exercises for a stronger core

The above essay is part of YakkaFit’s monthly “10 on the 10th” blog link-up series. I’m looking forward to seeing what my fellow bloggers came up with this month!

I regularly share fitness tips, exercise tricks and nutritional information with my readers and blog subscribers. Get on the list, avoid FOMO (‘fear of missing out’) and grab a copy of my FREE e-book (“5 Steps to Exercise Happiness”) by leaving your name and email below.

Tips for choosing a sports bra that fits

Disclaimer: The following is a sponsored post. Classic Shapewear compensated me for sharing my thoughts about what to wear under workout clothes. The pseudo-scientific poll results and tongue-in-‘cheek’ comments are entirely my own ;-)

Next to sweaty machines, dirty change rooms and grunting men, the number one complaint women have about exercising is undergarments that get in the way of a good workout.

Last week, I asked my Facebook community to share their biggest exercise undergarment pet peeves:

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Their five main exercise undergarment concerns?

  • Comfort; they want their workout bras to be comfortable enough to wear all day, without constricting underwires or straps and bands that ‘dig in’ (as someone who teaches a class, then runs off to train clients, grocery shop and pick up kids from school, all without showering or changing clothes, I completely agree with this).
  • Compression; compressive enough to keep ‘the girls’ from bouncing during cardio and the glutes looking tight (long after the dead lift muscle pump has worn off), all while remaining comfortable and without generating ‘uni-boob’.
  • Coverage; bras need to be high enough both in front, to avoid ‘show and tell’ during bent-over exercises and spinning class (as a former spin instructor, I can attest to the ‘eye full’ that well-endowed, front row participants proffer during hovers and forward-leaning drills) and under the arms (nobody likes ‘side boobage’). Cups need to be thick enough to hide cold-temperature induced ‘head lights’.
  • Creep-resistant; workout underwear needs to stay put. ‘Whale-tail’ and ‘creeping crotch’ get in the way of a good workout (note that regardless of the undergarments you choose to sport, there may still be the odd ‘creep’ that finds you irresistible ;-) ).
  • Cost; although we all know that ‘you get what you pay for’, spending a ton of money on an article of clothing that nobody ever sees (outside of the locker room, that is) is tough for many. Finding a well-fitting, reasonably-priced workout bra with a long lifespan is akin to winning the lottery.
  • Cute; just because they’re covered up doesn’t mean women don’t want to feel pretty and confident and sexy in their sports bras and thongs!

Choosing a sports bra that fits

The relative importance of the above five issues depended, in part, on the respondent’s ‘endowedness’. No surprise, bigger-breasted women cared most about compression and coverage, while those of us with a ‘little less to cover’ wanted things to be cute and comfortable.

Given the variability in women’s individuals needs and the wide range of exercise bras and panties available, I thought I’d share a list of tips for choosing a sports bra that fits both your body and workout type.

Tips for choosing a sports bra that fits:

Small cup sizes and/or low impact workouts: Compression bras can work well for women with A or B cups, in particular when participating in low impact exercise activities, including yoga, weight training and indoor cycling. The higher the impact, the more likely you’ll need to switch to a full-encapsulation model (each breast rests in a separate ‘cup’). Strap thickness is primarily based on comfort. The less the straps have to support and the lower the impact, the thinner they can be.

Medium cup sizes and/or moderate impact workouts: Women with C cups may need to choose bras with individual cups, regardless of the intensity of their workout. Most women in this size range make two mistakes when it comes to purchasing a sports bra; they choose a cup size that’s too small and a band that’s too loose. Together, these contribute to excessive bounce and ‘spillage’. For a better fit, try going up a cup size and down an inch or two in the band. If you can pull the band out more than an inch from your chest, it’s still too big.

Large cup sizes and/or high intensity workouts: If you’re a D or larger and plan on performing squat jumps and burpees without giving your fellow gym-goers a show (or knocking yourself out…), full-encapsulation plus size bras are your friends. Choose a wider strap to help distribute the weight of ‘your girls’ and a model that has a clasp in back. Clasps allow you to tighten the strap, giving you an individualized fit and better control.

Do you have any funny workout undergarment stories to share?

A favourite brand that fits perfectly with your body type?

Please leave me a comment below about your experience with ‘floppy female parts’ and exercise!

Disclosure: I have an Affiliate Marketing relationship with the sponsor of this post. When you click on one of the above links and make a purchase from their website, I receive a small referral fee. Thanks for the cup of coffee ;-)

Not your usual New Year’s Resolution post | fitness goals with soul

This is not your usual New Year’s Resolution post (and not just because it’s the third week of January…). No resolutions will be made. Nor will there be any mention of S.M.A.R.T. goals.

In my experience, most resolutions and fitness goals tend to be superficial, guided by ’needs’, ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ (“I need to lose 20 pounds”) rather than a true understanding of what will really make a difference in the goal-setter’s life and how they’ll feel when they finally achieve them (“I’ll feel strong and self-confident and know that I can tackle any problem life throws at me”).

I call this ‘finding your why’ (and have written an e-book that just might help you find yours; download your free copy here) and encourage my clients to dig a little deeper and uncover theirs when setting new fitness goals and intentions.

Recently, I attended an all-day workshop based on Danielle Laporte’s best-selling book, The Desire Map: A guide to Creating Goals with Soul.

 

The book is based on her experience helping life-coaching clients and entrepreneurs find clarity around the question “how do I want to feel in my life?”.

She argues that what we’re all really striving for is more ‘good’ feelings and that knowing how you want to feel is the most powerful way to achieve your life goals and dreams. Sure, resolutions and goals and intentions are fine, but marry them to the feelings you’d like to experience and the sky’s’ the limit.

You’re not chasing the goal, you’re chasing a feeling you hope reaching the goal will give you ~ Danielle Laporte

The book outlines a series of exercises designed to help the reader ‘get clear’ on those feelings they want to experience (their ‘Core Desired Feelings’) in five areas of their life, one of which is Body & Wellness (and includes things like fitness, food, rest and relaxation, mental health and movement). Part of the process is winnowing the list of CDF’s down to just three (three! I started with a list of 20!) and exploring what one might do (i.e., create an action plan) to experience more of those feelings on a daily basis.

I could write a novel about the workshop I attended and how I came up with my three Core Desired Feelings. But because this is a fitness website and most of you won’t stick around for more than about 800 words ;-) I’ll limit this post to sharing my ‘feeling words’ with you, explaining how they’re relevant to my fitness goals and talking a bit about how I intend to get more of those feelings in 2015.

WARNING: The following is a bit more ‘touchy-feely’ than most of the posts on this site. Tread lightly :-)

Appreciation: Working in this fitness industry, it’s easy to get sucked into comparing yourself with others. There will always be people who can run faster, lift heavier, do more pushups and look better in a bathing suit than I do. I need to practice appreciating my current level of fitness. Allowing myself to feel good about what’s going well, rather than focussing on what still needs work. That doesn’t mean being complacent and ‘settling’. It just means “meeting myself where I’m at”.

Connection: While it may sound strange given that I work in a social fitness environment (and that I’m always encouraging others to ‘find their tribe’), I don’t have a fitness tribe of my own. When I exercise with friends, I’m the ‘trainer’. When I participate in other instructors’ group fitness classes, I’m a colleague. When I exercise on my own, I’m trainer/friend/colleague/gym staff. I want to feel like I’m part of a group. People who are all looking to inspire, motivate and support one another to achieve more. I experienced this sense of connection and community several years ago when I trained at another facility. I’m looking into going back.

Ease: While fitness is already a habit for me, there are still some road blocks preventing me from making the process simple and automatic. This year I’m looking for ‘ease’. Not to be confused with ‘easy’, ease is all about reducing the activation energy required to make things happen. That means working on a program that’s designed specifically for me, perhaps by another trainer at the facility I mentioned above (personal trainers need personal trainers too). It also means creating a workout schedule for myself that’s impervious to my clients’ requests for extra sessions or changes in their training times.

fitness goals

We created a ‘Core Desired Feelings’ memento by choosing one charm to represent each of our stated Core Desired Feelings.

 

And because the best way to get more of the feelings you want is to create those feelings in others, I’ll also be focusing on mirroring Appreciation, Connection and Ease;

  • Although feel very appreciative of my clients and class participants, I need to verbalize that appreciation more by letting them know that I value their energy, enthusiasm, perseverance and presence in my life.
  • I want to create more of a feeling of connection in my group fitness peeps by ensuring that everybody feels welcome in my classes. I’m going to focus on learning new participants’ names and expanding my circle of focus within the class to include participants I don’t already know well (Krys and Linda, that means you’ll be off the hook…).
  • Creating a feeling of ease for others by providing simple and clear cut instructions and meeting my clients where they are, not where I think they should be.
Now it’s your turn.

I challenge you to identify 2 or 3 feelings around fitness and health that you’d like to experience more of in 2015.

What will you do to get them? How might they help you achieve the goals and resolutions you’ve set for yourself?

Disclaimer: I have an Affiliate Marketing relationship with Amazon.com. That means that if you click on the text link below the image of the book “The Desire Map” and feel compelled to purchase your own copy (which I highly recommend, Affiliate Relationship or not), I’ll receive a small fee. It’s very small and doesn’t affect your purchase price at all. Thanks for your support!

Exercise for women over 40 | three key strength moves

With age comes wisdom, confidence and beauty (or so we’d like to think…)

exercise for women over 40

Wisdom, confidence and beauty; we’ve got it in spades!

For many women, the 40’s are a magical decade. Our confidence increases. We care less what the neighbours think. We have our own sense of personal style. And we’re more than happy to speak our minds (sometimes too loudly, according to our children…).

While we may be more comfortable in our own skin, often times that skin doesn’t look or feel the way we wish it did.

Seemingly overnight we find that the workouts that kept us fit and energized in our 20’s and 30’s no longer have the same effect. That our bodies take longer to recover from the dietary indulgences of vacation. That keeping up with our kids (and perhaps grandkids) is more exhausting than it used to be. And while the spirit is willing, our joints just can’t handle those ‘balls-to-the-wall’ high intensity moves during each and every workout (hello injuries and the resultant unplanned breaks from exercise…).

What’s a 40+ ‘girl’ to do? Why exercise smarter, not harder.

Include the following three exercises in your thrice-weekly strength workouts to feel and look better, without having to give up the occasional glass of wine or slice of cheesecake!

Three exercises every woman over 40 should be doing (and why)

1. Hip hinges

Hip bridges, hip thrusts and dead lifts are your body’s best friends. They strengthen your largest muscle groups (the hamstrings and gluteals) without the knee pain many experience when squatting and lunging. Strong glutes and hamstrings can improve your posture, reduce lower back, hip and knee pain, and even reduce that stubborn middle-of-the-body ‘menopot’.

exercise for women over 40

Setting up for a barbell dead lift

Even better? Because muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does, increasing lower body muscle mass via hip hinge movements can accelerate fat loss and help keep it off. Try single leg versions of the above exercises to further challenge your balance; another key component of fitness that tends to decline with age.

2. Push-ups

Looking to increase your upper body strength, tighten your core and tame that back-of-the-arm wobble? Drop and give me 10. When performed properly, a push-up does more than just work the chest. It’s a whole body exercise that requires the coordinated efforts of your arms, shoulders, chest, abdominals, back (both upper and lower), gluteals, hamstrings and calves.

exercise for women over 40

Push-ups from knees (top) and toes (bottom)

Try varying your hand placement (narrow, wide, staggered) and angle of incline (hands on the wall, hands on a bench, toes on a bench) to increase the dimensionality of the exercise. Concentrate on maintaining perfect plank alignment (flat back, tight belly and bum) and increasing the depth to which you can drop before adding more reps. Muscle range of motion shrinks as we get older; don’t hasten it by doing only half the exercise ;-)

3. Rows

Combine hours of sitting with excessive front of the body loading (I mean boobs, which, by the way, are a load that gets closer to the floor as we age…). Throw in a past pregnancy or three. And mix with a whole lot of mid-life stress. The perfect recipe for rounded shoulders and forward leaning posture.

Strengthening the upper back is key to standing tall and resisting the effects of gravity. Upright rows, bent-over rows, cable and pulley rows, plank rows; all are great exercises for offsetting our body’s increasing tendency to pitch forward as we age.

exercise for women over 40

Single arm bent-over row

Concentrate on maintaining a flat back (chest out, shoulders back and down), an engaged core (think “tighten your corset”) and a long neck (draw your shoulders down and away from your ears) as you pull the weights towards your body and squeeze your shoulder blades together in the middle of your back.

Putting it all together

Regardless of which variation of the three movements you decide on, aim for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions of each. Choose a weight (or modification) that challenges you, while allowing you to just complete each set without compromising your form.

Throw in 10 to 15 minutes of cardio intervals (machines are fine, but body weight calisthenics like jumping jacks, jump squats, fast feet on the stairs and burpees can be done just about anywhere) and finish with a slow, static stretch. (Try the stretches in this post >> Essential stretches for mid-life exercisers)

Then get out of the gym and get on with the rest of your day. It’s gonna be awesome!

Do you have a favourite exercise for women over 40 that didn’t make my list?

What is it and how has it benefited you?

The science of creating new health and fitness habits

hab∙it; n. 1. actions that are triggered automatically in response to contextual cues that have been associated with their performance; 2. an established disposition of the mind or character; 3. customary manner or practice

Behavioural change is hard.

So hard, in fact, that there’s an entire sub-discipline of psychology devoted to studying how best to develop new habits (as well as eventually ridding ourselves of the old).

What those studies tell us, in a nutshell, is that we’re doing it all wrong. Making grandiose resolutions, setting unattainable goals and generally, adopting an ‘all or nothing’ mindset. A mindset that ultimately leads to yo-yo dieting and empty February gyms.

If you’re looking to increase the odds of making those new health and fitness habits ‘stick’ try the following:

 

new health and fitness habits

1. Choose a single, small habit to adopt. Practice it daily until it’s no longer a chore. This might take a week. It might take a month. Commit 100% to it’s practice. Remind yourself that you can do anything for a week or two. Once you’ve mastered it, choose another single, small habit to adopt. The trick is to retain the first habit while cultivating the second. And so on.

2. Associate that habit with contextual cues. Do it at the same time of day. Or in the same place. Use something to trigger it’s occurrence. For example, set your workout clothes out the night before. Put them on as soon as you get up. The clothes are your contextual reminder to head to the gym.

3. Reward yourself immediately. Humans are driven by positive rewards. The more immediate the reward, the stronger its effect on the likelihood that you’ll repeat the behaviour. Note that this doesn’t mean you need to buy yourself a pair of Fluevogs every time you successfully hit the gym.  Try creating a ‘star’ chart. Once you’ve earned 10 stars, treat yourself to something special; a book, a manicure, movie night with a friend. Just make sure the reward doesn’t undermine the new habit; i.e. a piece of chocolate cake isn’t a great reward for successfully eating 5 servings of fruit and vegetables ;-)

4. Regularly reflect on your progress and adjust your approach, if necessary. For example, if eating 8 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is the habit you’re trying to create, yet after a week or two of practice you only ever manage to eat 5, change your target habit to what you’re capable of repeatedly doing. Chances are those 5 servings are significantly greater than the 1-2 you were eating before. And once you’ve mastered this simplified version of the habit you’ll be ready to tackle the habit in its entirely.

5. Share your practice with others. Tell people what you’re intending to do and why. Enlist their support. Find an accountability tribe (in real life or online) and check in daily. Research shows keeping behavioural change a secret significantly reduces the likelihood of the new health and fitness habit ‘sticking’, thereby accounting for the popularity and success rates of group weight loss programs and exercise classes.

These are the exact same approaches I share with my personal training clients and the foundation of an all new online group training program I’m excited to share with you.

 

Introducing  ‘8-Week Healthy Habits Bootcamp’

 

A two-month program to help you start (or get back to) daily exercise and adopt a handful of new health and fitness habits.

Included in the course are:

  • 8 weeks of workouts, nutrition tips and mindset challenges
  • Twice-weekly coaching emails to inspire, challenge and educate
  • Membership in a private Facebook forum for motivation, accountability and support
  • Access to a members-only exercise library containing demonstrations of all exercises and exercise modifications
  • Unlimited e-support via Facebook (for queries of interest to the group) and e-mail (for questions of a more personal nature)
  • Workouts are individually customizable, with exercise modifications appropriate for beginners, advanced-beginners and intermediate exercisers and for both gym-goers and home-exercisers alike (note that I don’t provide custom programs for participants, but instead, teach you how to choose the appropriate level of each exercise for your goals, fitness level and abilities)
  • Optional one-on-one fitness coaching via e-mail, Skype or telephone (for added accountability, additional exercise modifications and video critique of form; not included in the cost of the course)

Click here for more details about the program, a link to the registration form and A’s to all of your Q’s.

 

Are there any particular new health and fitness habits you’re looking to adopt in 2015?

My favourite posts of 2014

This year, I’m doing something I don’t normally do over the Christmas holidays.

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No, not Christmas baking. That’s definitely a NORMAL Christmas-time activity at my house!

I’m taking a two-week hiatus from training clients, teaching classes, designing programs and creating new blog content. Two-weeks to recharge and relax and recover from a super busy and fulfilling fall.

I want to take a moment and thank you for visiting and commenting and sharing my content. It may sound cliche, but it really does make me happy when you tell me I’ve written something that inspires and motivates and educates you.

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My SUPER HAPPY face!

Since they’ll be no new blog posts until January the 6th, I leave you with my favourite posts of 2014. Regardless of whether you’re a new reader or a long-time supporter of this site, you’re sure to find something worth reading (or re-reading) below.

Something in the list tickle your fancy? Use the ‘sharing’ buttons at the bottom of the post to email, Tweet or share on social media with your own friends and followers.

Because I’m incapable of completely unplugging ;-), we can still stay in touch over the holidays via Facebook and Instagram. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a joy-filled New Year!

Fitknitchick’s favourite posts of 2014

  1. Tips for getting through the January gym rush (arm yourself with coping strategies now)
  2. Four benefits of Turkish Getups (I’m still working on these; tough little buggers that they are)
  3. Tips for preventing workout-related injuries (2014 has been an injury-free year for me, in part, because I’ve started taking my own advice…)
  4. Easy ways to add balance training to your workouts (as we get older, balance training becomes even more important)
  5. Five steps to a successful ‘pantry’ raid (perfect for helping you clean out the fridge and re-stock after the holidays)
  6. Tips for breaking through strength training plateaus (even though you’re probably not plateauing at anything right now, other than Christmas baking, Pin this one for future reference; it’s a great post)
  7. Make your own meal plan: benefits of a boring diet (I crave boredom in my diet by the end of holidays and vacations…)
  8. Kettlebell training for beginners (did you get a kettlebell for Christmas? There are lots of tips to using them correctly in this post)
  9. Three all-or-nothing healthy mindsets debunked (treating fitness and food in a black and white manner is many of our downfalls…)
  10. Five reasons quick fixes don’t work (they really don’t and you KNOW this already)

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Is your favourite 2014 fitknitchick.com post on the above list?

If not, leave me a comment below telling me which of the 75+ posts I wrote this year resonated most with you (and why)!