A compassionate approach to exercise

The response to last week’s post, Returning to Fitness After Loss, was both comforting and overwhelming.

While I read every single comment and email and Facebook post, I found myself unable to respond to them, grief being still so very fresh. Sometimes all it takes is a sympathetic look or a gentle hug to start the tears flowing again.

Thank you all for taking the time to offer condolences, share experiences and suggest ways in which I might use exercise to help heal myself and move forwards, towards a ‘new normal’ with my family.

Some of you shared with me how running or yoga helped you through a period of loss.

Others suggested simply walking in nature as a soothing way to nourish both spirit and body.



A few told stories of stopping exercise and abandoning healthy eating for as long as a year after the death of a loved one. And how they returned once again to fitness, when the time was right.

A close friend suggested an obvious solution to my anxiety about going back to a gym where I know everybody (and even in the absence of personal tragedy, can barely get through a workout without stopping to chat and acknowledge clients, class participants, colleagues and friends…); switch gyms for awhile. Brilliant!

Another friend suggested I just ‘do it’. (No offence, but Nike slogans don’t motivate me at the best of times 😉 ).

Many of you posted variations on the themes of ‘give yourself time’, ‘practice self-compassion’, ‘celebrate the small victories’ and ‘what you can, when you can’. Sound familiar?

Surprisingly, even though these themes focus prevalently in my fitness coaching practice, I’ve failed to apply them to myself. Sometimes the teacher needs to becomes the student.

I took all of your suggestions to heart, but in the end, realized that my biggest challenge right now is to reconcile the fact that what I need exercise for right now, is completely different for the reasons I needed it in the past.

Now is the time for finding joy in movement, feeling better in my body and minimizing the aches and pains that set in when I’m not exercising regularly. Bicep development, bench press PR’s and pull-up progress seem unimportant these days.

And that’s okay.

I need to take a compassionate approach to exercise.

I need to be gentle with myself and avoid comparisons of past progress and goals with where I am right now.

I need to plan a small number of short, weekly workouts and be willing to adjust my schedule depending on how I’m feeling on any particular day. Alas, I still can’t predict how I’ll feel by lunchtime, let alone tomorrow or the end of the week.

I need to keep up the daily walking routine my husband and I have created. Revisiting the paths and trails that Clara loved. These hand-in-hand outings provide the opportunity to talk about how we’re feeling and to shares thoughts and memories our beloved daughter. We recognize that tragedy can destabilize a marriage and are determined that ours remains strong.



I need to let movement soothe me and still the blender of thoughts in my head.

I need to let members of my community share their condolences and sadness with me, knowing that even though it may move me to tears, others are hurting as well and only want to offer comfort and support.

I’m hopeful that by meeting myself where I am, doing less than I think I should and being present in the simple task of moving my body, I’ll be setting myself up for longterm healing and success. (This approach, coincidentally, is what I recommend for anyone just getting started with exercise, or returning to it after a hiatus…).

At least that’s the plan. A compassionate approach towards exercise.

And since it’s always worked for my fitness coaching clients, I’m hopeful that it will work for me, too.





Returning to fitness after loss

On Friday, November 6th the unimaginable happened. My beautiful, smart, funny, quick-witted, caring and joy-filled 13-year old daughter passed away.

Clara lived with pulmonary hypertension (you can read more about her story here); a disease that we always knew would shorten her life. What we didn’t expect was for it to happen at such a young age.

After being admitted to hospital Tuesday with a suspected case of appendicitis. Her condition deteriorated quickly and with each test, the news, and prognosis got worse. An asymptomatic, previously undiagnosed kidney tumour had ruptured and reduced her heart-lung function to the point that the only option the medical team had was to try and stabilize her long enough to remove the kidney. She suffered a cardiac arrest during the cardiac catheterization procedure and never recovered.

To say that my husband, two sons and I are devastated is an understatement. We are gutted and heart-broken and inconsolable, trying to reconcile what’s happened with the future we had envisaged for our family.


Needless to say, exercise and healthy eating have been the farthest thing from my mind.

While I know that movement and energy-giving food will help me to deal with grief, the fact of the matter is, my heart aches, my lungs hurt and my body is incredibly weary right now.

I have very little appetite and am thankful for the friends who’ve stepped up to provide us with hot meals for today and for the freezer. I’m not eating my greens. Or getting enough protein. Remembering to drink water is an issue too.

I had no idea that grief could cause such a rapid loss in weight, muscular strength or fitness.

This week, my husband and I have committed to daily walks around the neighbourhood. Right now, the hills are almost more than I can manage and I have a much better understanding of how Clara must have felt when she accompanied us on walks that were challenging to her heart and lungs.


I’m sharing this here because I know that many of you will have experienced a similarly debilitating grief and have found your way back to fitness after loss.

I would love to hear what helped you regain your physical strength, not to mention your courage to go back into the gym and feel the gaze of people who know your story and may not know whether to approach you or to talk with you about it.

I know that grief has no map and that it may be awhile before I’m able to teach group fitness, blog regularly and support my clients.

But I’m anxious to get back to doing what I do best; motivating and inspiring others to live a life full of movement and health and joy.

And taking care of my boys. Making sure they feel loved and supported as they move through their own experiences with grief and the relatively rare experience of losing a sibling in childhood.

xo ~ Tamara


5 Must-Have Exercise Books For Your Fitness Library

Whether you’re brand new to weight-lifting or a seasoned pro, getting better at your sport often means doing a little research. Spending some time watching exercise videos, or better yet, reading exercise books to learn a new exercise, improve your exercise form or find a new program to follow.

Traditionally, most of the strength training titles published focused almost exclusively on the goals and needs of men. In particular, young, virile, testosterone-fuelled men.

Don’t get distracted…Keep reading!

The needs of women were largely overlooked. Especially the needs of women who aren’t so much interested in getting ‘bikini ready’ (the focus of most fitness magazines) as ‘training for the sport of life’. Getting stronger, yes, but also becoming more capable of doing all the other activities we love, for today, tomorrow and a long time to come.

Fast forward to the mid-2000’s, where strength training titles for females exploded.

About time.

Fitnitchick’s 5 ‘must-have’ exercise books for your fitness library


Women’s Health Big Book of Exercise (2010; Adam Campbell)

A huge tome, not meant to be lugged back and forth to the gym (that would be a workout, in and of itself…), but perfect when you need to look up an exercise or find an alternative version of an old one that you’ve tired of.

The ‘Big Book’ is organized according to body part (Chest, Back, Shoulders, Arms, Quadriceps and Calves, Glutes and Hamstrings, Core and Total Body). For each major muscle group, the ‘main moves’ (that is, the fundamental moves that need to be mastered) are described first, followed by variations of each exercise that can be performed with different types of equipment (body weight, barbells, dumbbells, cable and pulley machines, stability balls and even the TRX suspension trainer).

Each and every exercise is illustrated, with easy-to-follow exercise descriptions and form cues. There’s even a section of ready-made workouts at the back (‘The Best Workouts for Everything’), including workouts for athletes, pre-natal women, body-weight only fans and my favourite, crowded gyms.


The Female Body Breakthrough (2009; Rachel Cosgrove)

One of the first strength training titles specifically aimed at getting regular women into the weight room. In addition to a 16-week, progressive resistance program (a program that I return to whenever I get tired of my own programming and want to follow somebody else’s lead…), Rachel Cosgrove’s book also includes advice about mindset, exercise nutrition, hormones, goal-setting and emotional eating.

The workouts are well-illustrated and there are plenty of testimonials to her approach scattered throughout the book; perfect for those day when you need a little motivation, inspiration and re-assurance that the program works. And for those of us who love it when fitness professionals cite actual research studies to back their claims, a list of references to original research in the fields of physiology, sports medicine and endocrinology.


The New Rules of Lifting for Women (2007; Lou Schuler with Cassandra Forsythe and Alwyn Cosgrove)

Another title dedicated to encouraging women to take strength training seriously (the subtitle of the book; “Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess”…).

This books combines 16-weeks of progressive resistance training with a wealth of information on nutrition and eating for fat loss (including a variety of sample meal plans and recipes to support them).

The workouts are functional in nature (squats, lunges, dead lifts, rows, push ups) are rely heavily on standard weight room equipment (dumbbells, benches, barbells, cable and pulley etc.).

I love that the workouts are fairly simple in their design (typically 5-8 exercises, performed in super-set style) and don’t require more than 40-50 minutes in the gym. All exercises are illustrated with detailed instructions on how to perform them safely and with good form. This is another title that I’ve used extensively in my own training.


Kettlebells for Women (2012; Lauren Brooks)

Ever since I took my first kettlebell workshop, I’ve been enamoured with this relatively new-to-the-big-box-gym-goer tool. I love how it makes me feel strong and capable and bad-ass (despite the wrinkles and grey hairs…).

Because they’re not just simply a ‘weight with handles’, I recommend that all newcomers to kettlebell training either get some in-person instruction or find a good book or video to read and study before they set up for their first swing.

I think Kettlebells for Women is the perfect place to start. Beginning with a brief history of kettlebell training, the author outlines the benefits of using kettlebells (both in addition to and in place of traditional dumbbells and barbells) and provides suggestions as to the weight of bells the user should purchase (or have available to them) to maximize the benefits of her workouts.

The remainder of the book outlines a 12-week progressive resistance program. It includes 15 different workouts (with levels from beginner to advanced) and illustrated explanations of each exercise, including the exercises most frequently associated with kettlebell training; swings, cleans, windmills, snatches and the Turkish Get-Up.

The only downside to kettlebell training? The expense of the equipment. And the more frequently you do the workouts, the more quickly you’ll outgrow your equipment 😉


Ultimate Booty Workouts (2013, Tamara Grand aka Fitknitchick 😉 )

If you’re a relatively new visiter to this website, you won’t know that I published my first ever fitness title a little over a year and a half ago. Although titled ‘Ultimate Booty Workouts’, the book is much more than just an exercise program for building a better butt.

In it, I outline my fitness philosophy for women, including the importance of goal setting, tips for finding motivation, non-aesthetic benefits of strength training, nutrition to support your efforts in the gym as well as tips for measuring progress off and on the scale.

The program itself focuses on the core and lower body (hamstrings, glutes, calves and quads), with suggestions for incorporating upper body training and cardio into the 12-week program. All exercises are illustrated (you may recognize one of the models… hint, hint), as are the suggested warm up moves, stretches and foam rolling exercises. There are even blank workout templates for you to photocopy and take with you to the gym.

Curious as to what it was like to actually write a fitness book AND model for the photo shoot? I shared my experiences here and here, respectively.




Books make great Christmas presents. Especially the last one 😉

Do you have any titles to add to my fitness library?

Any books that have been particularly helpful to you as you progress with strength training?

5 Exercises for a Strong Lower Back

Whether you’re brand new to strength training or have been lifting weights for years, chances are you’ve had some experience with lower back pain. (If you are a newbie, congrats!  Here are some great ‘get started’ with weight lifting posts for you to read).

exercises for a strong lower back

Not the ‘OMG I can’t move my legs’ pain; that’s indicative of a serious injury and needs medical attention stat.

But rather that nagging ache that comes and goes and forces you to take a few days off training, seek some relief on the heating pad and pop an Advil or two before bed.

Most lower back pain is mechanical in nature. Meaning that it’s not caused by injury per se, but  by muscles that are weak, inflexible or out of balance with the muscles around them.

The most likely culprits?

Weak or inhibited glutes, weak abdominals, tight hamstrings and tight hip flexors. The very same muscles that are required to perform the exercises that form the foundation of most strength training programs; squats, lunges, dead lifts and overhead presses.

exercises for a strong lower back

Ineffective recruitment and coordination of the lower body’s ‘power muscles’ increases the stress and force on the lower spine, setting the stage for a variety of conditions ranging from mild muscular strain to ruptured disks.

The good news is, most lower back pain is preventable. Try adding the following five exercises to your regular strength training program to strengthen your lower back and reduce your risk of injury.

The added bonus of a strong lower back? Your’ll likely be able to squat heavier and dead lift more.

exercises for a strong lower back

5 exercises for a strong lower back

Bird dog

Come on to all fours, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Tighten abdominals and simultaneously lift and extend the right arm and left leg so that they’re both parallel to the ground. Keeping hips square and level, hold for 3 to 5 seconds before returning to the starting position. Pause and repeat with the left arm and right leg. Continue alternating until you’ve competed a total of 8 to 10 repetitions.

exercises for a strong lower back

Hip bridges

Start by laying on your back, with knees bent and feet on the floor. Tighten your bum cheeks and belly to lift your torso up and off the floor. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Lower, rest and 8 to 10 times.
exercises for a strong lower back

Modified clam shells

Lay on your side with hips and knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Top knee and ankle should be directly over the bottom knee and ankle. Flex your feet and using the side of the top leg, lift the top leg up to open the hip. Imagine that your bent legs are the top and bottom shells of a clam and your pelvis, the hinge. Slowly lower and repeat. Complete 10 to 12 repetitions on each side.

exercises for a strong lower back

Front plank

Come into forearm plank, on either knees or toes. Forearms will be on the floor, parallel to one another, with elbows directly underneath shoulders. Tighten abdominals and glutes to lift and hold your body in a straight line. Keep shoulder blades retracted to encourage the muscles of your upper back to participate in the exercise. Hold for 30 s. Rest and repeat twice more. (Once your toe plank is solid, you can make this move more challenging by lifting one foot off the ground and turning it into a 3-point toe plank).


Prone chest raise

Lay face down on a yoga mat, with legs wider than hip distance apart and feet flexed. Place hands behind your head, with elbows bent and fingers interlace. Inhale, then exhale as you use your glutes and lower back to lift your chest up and off the floor. Pause at the top before slowly lowering yourself back to the ground. Rest and repeat for a total of 8 to 10 reps. (Once you get good at this one, you can progress to the back extension machine in the gym).


Of course, don’t forget to book-end your workout with some stretching for those overly-tight hamstrings and hip flexors. You can find sample hamstring stretches here as well as the essential stretches every midlife exerciser needs to be doing here.

Just getting started with exercise? Or coming back to it after time off due to injury? My 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp is the perfect, low-intensity, short-duration, whole-body workout program to help get you on track. Click here to purchase and get started today!

5 Signs your Fitness Mindset is Holding you Back

Do you ever find yourself wondering why other women seem to be more successful than you at reaching their health and fitness goals?


Why your best friend can enjoy wine and dessert without ever gaining a pound, while you diligently stick to your lunchtime salad and can’t lose one? Why the woman on the spin bike next to you hardly breaks a sweat during a steep climb, while you’re barely keeping up and there’s a lake under your bike at the end of class? How the woman who’s always in the squat rack at the gym never seems to miss a day of training, while you struggle week after week with consistency?

Chances are your mindset is holding you back. Those unspoken beliefs about yourself, your abilities and your capacity for change.

Wondering if your head is hampering your progress?

Here are 5 signs your fitness mindset is holding you back:
  1. You’re resistant to trying a new approach, even when the old approach isn’t working (what’s that quote about the definition of insanity?)
  2. You use limitations as excuses (time, energy, equipment, injury…)
  3. You have unrealistic expectations and are quick to judge yourself
  4. You’re threatened by other women’s successes
  5. You’ve been convinced by the media that weight loss and muscle gain are easy (lose 10 pounds in a week!)

In my experience, women who make consistent progress towards their health and fitness goals share a few key attitudes;

  • They focus on change and growth, rather than restriction and limitation. Exercise isn’t viewed as simply a way of cutting calories. Food isn’t ‘good’ or ‘bad‘, just a way to fuel your body to perform well and feel good. If the old approach to eating and exercise stops working (as it often does for women in their 40’s), they’re open to exploring new solutions. They see change as potential, not something that threatens and scares them.
  • They concentrate on what they can do, rather than what they can’t. Limitations can either stop you cold or force you to work around them. Whether you’re working through a knee injury, don’t have much time for exercise or are travelling and don’t have access to your regular workout equipment and foods, focusing on the things you have control over and letting go of those you don’t is key to feeling good about the process.
  • They aren’t threatened by the success of other women. Success isn’t a zero-sum game. Just because your girlfriend can squat 100 pounds doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to some day as well. Her victory doesn’t come at the expense of yours. Celebrate the successes of other women and use them as motivation and inspiration rather than letting them trigger thoughts of inadequacy and failure.
  • They don’t expect it to be easy and aren’t afraid of hard work. The biggest myth perpetuated by the fitness and weight loss industry is that results are yours for the taking. ’21 days to a bikini body’, ‘drop 2 dress sizes in a month’, ‘lose 10 pounds in a week’ headlines trick us into thinking that our goals can be met quickly and without very much effort. Expect the work to be challenging, but rewarding. Both during the process and ideally, for the rest of your life.

Remember, you already know everything you need to do to successfully reach your health and fitness goals. Don’t let your fitness mindset hold you back!

Enjoy this post? Make sure you don’t miss the workouts, motivation and inspiration I dish up weekly. Add your name to my blog updates list and you’ll also be the first to hear about upcoming programs and course offerings!

How to become more consistent with exercise

Last spring, I started asking new newsletter subscribers to share their biggest fitness and nutrition challenges with me.

consistent with exercise

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 the challenge of becoming more consistent with exercise. Here’s a sample;

Consistency. Some weeks I am great with exercise…and then I fall off the wagon and don’t work out…!!!

Number one thing I struggle with; consistency.  I work out for four days, quit for two weeks, and back again.  I know I need to develop a real routine…

Biggest struggle is getting my head back in the game…once I fall off the wagon.

You’ve probably experienced the same challenge at some point in your fitness career; post-holiday, post-injury, post-baby… I certainly have.


As a fitness coach, I often share my strategies for improving exercise consistency with my clients; after all, without consistency and progression to your program, you’re unlikely to ever reach your fitness goals.

How to become more consistent with exercise
  • Create a schedule. Take a look at your calendar. Identify two or three chunks of free time in your week. Write the word ‘Exercise’ in pen. Treat this appointment with yourself the same way you treat your appointments with your doctor, dentist and manicurist. You may think I’m trying to be funny. I’m not. Scheduling works. Commit to it for an entire month.

How to get more consistent with exercise via fitknitchick.com

  • Set yourself up for success. Many people undermine their attempts to make regular exercise a priority. They choose activities that they don’t really like. They plan to work out alone even though they require accountability and support. They schedule early morning workouts despite their night owl tendencies. They have unrealistic expectations about how quickly they’re likely to see results. Spend a little time reflecting on what you truly need to successfully stick with your plan. Make sure all the components are in place before you step into the gym (or pool or the spinning studio etc.). Need a little more help with this? Check out the free download below; “5 Steps to Exercise Success”.
  • Anticipate obstacles. The road to consistency is never smooth. Obstacles and road blocks will always be present. The key is to anticipate them and have a back-up plan ready to implement. For example, kids get sick and somebody has to stay home with them. If that somebody is you, how will you make up your missed workout? Can you do something else at home? An exercise DVD? A short, body-weight workout? Is there a ‘flex’ day in your schedule for playing ‘catch up’ later in the week?

How to get more consistent with exercise via fitknitchick.com

  • Celebrate small victories. Most humans respond well to rewards :-) . Keep your motivation up by regularly reflecting on what you’ve done well and treating yourself to something small and enjoyable. A new  headband to keep your hair off your face during workouts. A box of your favourite specialty tea bags. That Kindle title you’ve been dying to read. Or even a simple gold star on your workout calendar. Celebrating small victories takes your mind off the bigger victories that are still off in the distance (and reminds you that you’re making progress, no matter how small).
  • Remind yourself of how hard it is to start all over again. Most of us also try to avoid punishment. Tap into your psyche and remind yourself how difficult it is to get back to exercise after a hiatus. Not just physically, but also psychologically. Our bodies struggle with things they once did with ease. We have to lower the weights, take longer breaks between sets and huff and puff through our step class or run. Maintaining a positive mindset about exercise becomes more difficult with every repetition of the ‘start and stop’ cycle.

Remember that consistency doesn’t happen overnight or without real effort. But once you get there, exercise becomes infinitely easier (at least until you up your weights or your trainer adds burpees to your program 😉 ).

Do you struggle with exercise consistency?

What strategies have you implemented to become more consistent with exercise?

Work smarter not harder | Tips for prioritizing your workouts

In an ideal world, we’d all have time for daily exercise.

prioritizing your workouts

Fitting in all of the recommended elements of fitness (cardio, strength, power, endurance, flexibility, speed and agility and energy system work) wouldn’t be a problem. Seven days times seven hours is lots of time to get it all done.

In reality, most people struggle to find the time to exercise. Work, family, volunteering and life commitments make it a challenge for many.

If I were to tell new clients that they needed to exercise six or seven days each week in order to see results, they’d either abandon our coaching relationship immediately or a few weeks down the road (after attempting to follow my advice and failing miserably).

Instead, I ask them the following questions and set them up for success by designing a plan that fits with their responses:

  • how much time do you have available for exercise (both the total number of days AND the number of minutes per day)
  • how much time do you want to spend exercising (this is typically much less than the total time available 😉 )
  • what is your primary exercise goal (losing weight, gaining muscle and completing your first half-marathon all have very different training requirements)

The less time they have for exercise, the SMARTER we need to be with their workout plans (and of course, the more diligent we have to be about nutrition…).

Given that most of my 40+ female clients are primarily interested in body composition change (i.e., simultaneously reducing body fat and gaining muscle), I make strength training their top priority.

Below you’ll find the starting point for my recommendations, based solely on the number of days each week the client will be working out.

If your goals are more performance-based (for example, training for a full or half-marathon), simply swap the ‘strength training’ workouts for the training mode that’s most relevant to what you hope to achieve.

Tips for prioritizing your workouts

If you’ll be working out 6 or 7 days per week… (make sure you’re not over-doing it and at least one of those workouts is lower in intensity)

  • 3-4 days of strength training (body part splits work well with this time commitment)
  • 1-2 days of long, slow distance cardio (30-60 minutes at 65-75% of max HR)
  • 1 day of HIIT-style cardio
  • 1 day of rest or stretching or restorative-type yoga

If you’ll be working out 5 days per week… (this is my own, personal sweet spot)

If you’ll be working out 4 days per week… (the frequency that most of my online clients adhere to)

  • 3 days of strength training (as above, choose between body part splits and whole-body training) with the addition of a Tabata or HIIT or Metabolic Conditioning-style finisher at the end of at least one of those workouts
  • 1 day of long, slow distance cardio

If you’ll be working out 3 days per week… (I consider this the bare minimum for a regular exercise program)

  • 3 days of whole body strength training, with the addition of a Tabata or HIIT or Metabolic Conditioning-style finisher at the end of one workout AND a short, steady state cardio finisher at the end of another


  • 2 days of whole body strength training, with the addition of a Tabata or HIIT or Metabolic Conditioning-style finisher at the end of one workout
  • 1 day of long, slow distance cardio

If you’ll be working out 2 days per week… (this workout frequency will only yield results for beginners to exercise and help regular exercisers stay consistent while on holiday)

  • You’ll need to fit both strength and cardio into each session; whole body strength plus one HIIT-style finisher and one steady state cardio finisher
  • Plan on increasing this to 3 days per week as soon as possible!
If body composition change is your top priority this fall, you’ll be excited to hear that I’ve launched a brand new program dedicated to helping midlife women build lean muscle while shedding a little body fat.




“Fight the Fluff” is an 8-week online strength and nutrition program, based on the exact same workouts and meal plans that I used myself, when prepping for my first ever fitness photo shoot.

It’s designed for women who are already familiar with basic strength training moves and have access to a full-service gym.

You’ll find all the program details, including the form to register, here >> What’s “Fight the Fluff” about?

Note that registration closes this Thursday, September 9th at 6 pm PST OR when the remaining 9 spaces in the program are filled.

Questions about whether this program is right for you? Feel free to email me at tgrand@telus.net.




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:

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 1.15.06 PM

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


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:

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