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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

  • Fear of ‘bulking up’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Fear of injury

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Lack of knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Not everyone loves to exercise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting up for a barbell dead lift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 midlife fitness posts you need to read before January 1st

In a perfect world, we’d all maintain our regular fitness routines and healthy ways of eating through the December holidays.

Nobody would gain an ounce and gyms wouldn’t be any busier January 1st than they were the week before.

Fitness professionals wouldn’t need to launch new programs aimed at ‘resolutioners’ and nobody’d be looking for Boxing Day sales at Lululemon.

In reality, the average North American will have gained 5-7 pounds during the month of December and be looking for ways to take it off and improve their fitness come New Year’s Day.

But starting and sticking with a new fitness and nutrition program is never easy.

Not only does it require persistence and perseverance, but preparation of the mental kind.

If you’re planning on heading back to the gym next week and want to maximize your chances of success, you’ll want to read the following posts. Particularly if you’re a midlife exerciser wanting to avoid injury and frustration because you’re not seeing results as quickly as you’d like to.

Get your mindset right, your expectations in check and you can’t help but reach your goals!

5 midlife fitness posts you need to read before January 1st
  • Create a flexible fitness plan > Given that the gym is likely to be a busy place for the next month or two, give some thought beforehand as to how you might have to adapt and modify your program if space is tight and equipment unavailable. You’ll be less likely to ditch the gym if you have a backup plan in place.
  • Essential stretches for midlife exercisers > Stretching is really just another component of a comprehensive fitness program. Spend as much time stretching post-workout as you do warming up pre-workout. Heading to a group fitness class? Don’t duck out before the instructor finishes with ‘mat time’ 🙂

Need a little help figuring out how to put it all together?

My online fitness program for women over 40 is all set to begin a new 3-month session. Registration is open now, with January 1st programs set to go out December 31st. (Click here for more details about the program, happy client testimonials and a link to the registration form >> 40+ Online Group Registration)

A winning combination of professional exercise instruction, life-stage-specific nutritional guidance, unparalleled group support and accountability and a coach who isn’t shy about challenging limiting beliefs and helping her clients recognize the many positive changes they’re making to their lives.

Walk this way | Tips for creating a weekly walking group

Walking.

One of the simplest ways to start moving towards your health and fitness goals. All you need is a good pair of running shoes. No gym membership required.

weekly walking group

I have another pair that matches these perfectly 😉

In addition to simply getting you moving more, regular brisk walking has many health benefits including:

  • strengthening muscles and bones
  • improving weight loss and weight loss maintenance
  • reducing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke
  • enhancing mood
  • reducing stress and
  • improving sleep

Hmm, these all sound like familiar ‘symptoms’ of perimenopause, don’t they….

Because I like to multi-task, my preferred way of walking is with a group. Combining exercise with the camaraderie of friends (and their canine companions). My weekly walking group gets together nearly every single Friday to chat, walk or hike, confess, listen and lift each other up. Kind of like my beloved group fitness classes.

It’s like a combined workout and therapy session all in one :-). I never fail to leave a Friday hike without a smile on my face and a spring in my step (except for maybe after that epic South Beach hike that was pretty much vertical the entire way…).

Interested in creating your own weekly walking group (or other fitness-themed group if walking’s not your jive)? Here are some tips that have helped our group stick together for over a year now.

Tips for creating a weekly walking group
  • start spreading the word; identity a handful of women who are likely to be interested in regularly getting together to explore the out-of-doors. These might be friends or colleagues or other moms you’ve noticed heading off to walk the dog after dropping kids at school. Initially, I simply created a Facebook post asking if anybody was interested in getting together once a week to walk or hike the local trails. Encourage your friends to ask their friends and so on. This is a great way to meet people you many not yet have crossed paths with.

 

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  • create a virtual ‘meeting’ place to post outing details; for our group, the obvious choice was a private Facebook group (we were already on Facebook and used it regularly), but you might choose to communicate via email or a local ‘Meet up’ website. The important thing is to have a place to share details of upcoming outings that isn’t visible to the general public. Especially if your outings are to places that are remote or ‘off the beaten path’. We also use our Facebook group to RSVP for each outing. That way nobody gets left behind if they’re running a few minutes late 🙂

 

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  • establish a regular schedule; having a regular day and time for your weekly meet up will make it easier to organize, as well as making it more likely that you’ll get a good turn-out. You might decide on the day and time as a group, or include the option that works best for you and a few others in the initial invitation. After a year of walking together, many of the women in my group have started scheduling their other activities around our Friday morning walks.

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  • consider the fitness level of participants; depending on the size of your group, it’s likely that your members will vary in their fitness levels. Take care to consider the fitness level of your participants when choosing weekly outings. While it’s okay to tackle a challenging hike from time to time, know that if every walk is a forced march you’re likely to lose some of your less fit members. Because the focus of our group is on friendship, fun and fitness, we tend to opt for less challenging routes; hikes that allow us to bring the dogs, walk two abreast and chat the entire way.

 

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  • encourage everybody to take a turn suggesting an outing; just because you’ve brought the group together doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for each week’s agenda. Our group takes turns suggesting locations for our weekly hikes. Not only does this keep the group from becoming ‘work’ for you, it also provides the opportunity for members to share their favourite trails; trails that other members of the group may not even be aware of. Though this group I ‘discovered’ a handful of local trails that I’d never stumbled upon before. New trails to share with my family on our weekend walking adventures.

 

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And, unless you don’t mind photos that are slightly askew, you might want to invest in a selfie-stick. Not every great viewpoint has the perfect place to prop your smart phone against…. 🙂

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Create a flexible fitness plan

There’s nothing worse than arriving at the gym, detailed workout plan in hand, only to find the equipment you need already occupied.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of waiting a few minutes for your turn. Or asking the woman resting between sets of lat pulldowns if you can ‘work in’.

flexible fitness plan

She looks super friendly. I wouldn’t hesitate to ask to ‘work in’!

Other days, you can just tell that the guy in the squat rack plans on doing his entire workout there.

And those times when the gym is so crowded there’s no space left to claim? Super frustrating.

For many of us, just getting to the gym is a big deal (feeling a bit of ‘gymtimidation’? Here are some tips for increasing your confidence in the weight room). Having to then figure out what to do in place of the program we’d planned on is enough to discourage us from getting off the elliptical or even starting our workout in the first place.

The best solution to all of the above challenges? Creating a flexible fitness plan.

In this case, ‘flexible’ doesn’t refer to how ‘bendy’ you are (although stretching does need to be a regular part of your exercise routine). Instead, it means being creative and knowledgable enough to modify your program on the fly.

Let me explain.

Olympic bar back squats are the first exercise on your program. But ‘squat rack guy’ is doing five hundred sets of dead lifts there (and then plans of staying put for a biceps workout…). Today, you might substitute another squat for your back squat, looking around to see what other equipment is available to get the job done. Sure, your dumbbell squats might not be as heavy as you’d like, but you can always perform some extra reps or slow the tempo down to achieve the same result. (Need some alternate squat suggestions? Here are a few of my favourite squat variations).

Next you’re headed to the lat pulldown machine. But your gym only has one and it seems like there’s always somebody sitting on it. You can perform the same exercise on a cable and pulley machine or by wrapping a band around the chin-up bar and banging out a few assisted pull-ups. (Here’s a short video demo of band-assisted pull-ups).

flexible fitness plan

I’m still working on these. They’re one of my ’50 before 50′ goals

The key is to know which muscle group(s) a particular exercise is working and being armed with a few alternatives before you get to the gym.

Not sure what to substitute? If you’re working with a trainer, ask her for exercise alternatives (I give my 40+ Online Fitness clients a choice of three moves per exercise; moves that often include different equipment, as well as different levels of intensity). If not, find an online resource (I like Bodybuilding.com) or a book (Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises illustrates dozens of variations of the ‘big’ lifts) and do a little research.

Other suggestions for creating a flexible fitness plan?
  • alter the order of your exercises; just because back squat is the first exercise in your program doesn’t mean that you always need to start with it.

While your trainer (or program writer) had a good reason for placing it there, switching up the order of exercises from time to time won’t hinder your progress. Better to do those squats later on in the program (even if it means your legs have been pre-fatigued by another exercise and you don’t add as many plates to the bar) than to skip them entirely.

You may notice that certain exercises become more (or less) challenging when you vary their order in your workout. Personally, I enjoy it when I feel an exercise a little bit more than usual 🙂

  • switch up cardio and strength workouts; if you perform cardio and strength workouts on separate days, substitute one for the other on a day when either the cardio machines are full or there’s no room on the weight room floor.

If you perform them both within the same workout, switch the order to maximize your access to the equipment. Although there are circumstances in which the order you perform these components of your workout makes a difference, if your options are ‘reverse the order’ and ‘skip weights (or cardio) entirely’, worry less about the effects of order and more about getting the whole workout done.

flexible fitness plan

My current favourite cardio machine

  • take it to the halls (or track or out-of-doors); many gyms and rec centres have alternate places you can perform your workout. If space is limited in the gym, grab a few pieces of equipment (again, you’ll need to know which exercises to substitute for the exercises in your program that require barbells, cable and pulley machines and the squat rack) and head out into the hall or up to the walking track.

Some facilities will even let you take equipment outside (walking lunges in the parking lot or TRX training at the soccer field, perhaps). Check with the weight room attendant before you make off with equipment though; we want to ensure that your membership doesn’t get revoked…).

  • jump into a group fitness class instead; most gyms offer group fitness and spinning classes in addition to cardio machines and a weight room. Typically, these will be happening at the same times the gym is busy (mornings and evenings are the most popular times for exercise and facilities managers schedule their classes accordingly). If you’re new to strength training, group fitness classes are a great place to start.

Given the popularity of resistance training, it’s a good bet that many of the classes your facility offers will include (or consist entirely of) a strength training component. Turn the frustration of a busy gym into an opportunity to learn some new moves and get instruction on proper form.

While it’s always a good idea to have a written workout plan before you hit the gym, there are days when you’ll need to be flexible to get it done. A flexible fitness plan, as it were!

P.S. I’ve recently made a change to my newsletter frequency. Instead of writing only when I publish a new blog post, I’m challenging myself to share more regularly. Add your name to my newsletter list and you’ll receive twice weekly emails from me. More conversational, off-the-cuff, personal story stuff than I share here, with the goal of engaging more with all of you.

Not on the list? Click this link and watch for your first email from me >> Fitknitchick Email Updates

A pre-workout warmup for midlife exercisers

A proper warmup goes a long way when it comes to making exercise more enjoyable and avoiding exercise-induced injuries. It’s even more beneficial as we get older and our joints require a bit more ‘coaxing’ before they move fluidly through the entire range of motion they’re supposed to.

pre-workout warmup

Yet many of us rush our warmups, hopping on a treadmill for a few minutes, anxious to get to the ‘meat’ of our workout (and be finished and out of the gym sooner).

The best warmups start slowly and end up being almost indistinguishable from the workout itself. (Just ask my Bootcamp class if they can pinpoint the moment we shift from warming up to working out; I bet they can’t 😉 ).

Read through the list of pre-workout warmup benefits below and join me in a real-time warmup by clicking the video link that follows.

Benefits of a pre-workout warmup for midlife exercisers?
  • gradually increasing your breathing rate. Lungs provide oxygen to your muscles. During exercise, muscles increase their demand for oxygen. Gradually increasing your breathing rate will allow you to continue meeting your body’s oxygen demand without the premature accumulation of lactic acid. ‘Feeling the burn’ is great, but not at the beginning of your workout…
  • increasing blood flow to your muscles. Blood carries oxygen from your lungs to your muscles. In order to meet their increased demand for oxygen, blood flow must increase as well. Rhythmic, low intensity movements stimulate the increased flow of blood to muscles and extremities.
  • elevating your heart rate. Your heart serves to pump oxygenated blood from your lungs to the rest of your body. An elevated heart rate is often the most obvious sign that your body is starting to work a bit harder (a light sheen of perspiration is another). Aim to increase your heart rate to 60-65% of your heart rate maximum by the end of your warmup.
  • increasing the temperature of your muscles (especially important in cool weather). Warm muscles are more efficient at contracting than cold muscles. They’re also less likely to be injured. I’ll do just about anything to prevent repeating past injuries, you know?
pre-workout warmup

Apparently, I’ve had my fair share of workout-related injuries…

  • lubrication of your joints. As you begin to move, your brain signals the release of synovial fluid within your joints. This fluid acts like a lubricant, allowing the joints to move more smoothly and through an increasingly larger range of motion. You may notice that it takes a bit longer to warm up those joints now, in midlife, than it did when you were younger…
  • enhancing proprioception and kinesthetic awareness. Proprioception is the body’s awareness of where it is in space. It’s a fundamental requirement of strength training, particularly when you’re performing single-sided and balance exercises.
  • rehearsing the movements that you’ll be performing during the workout itself. Performing body weight versions of the exercises you’ll be doing during your workout proper is a great way to prepare your body for the work to come. Not only does it help to create a mind-to-muscle connection, it also gently stretches the muscles and ligaments around the joint, thereby reducing the likelihood of injury.
Try this real-time warmup with me before your next strength workout (or if you’re entirely new to exercise, let it BE your workout 🙂 ).

tamara_photobin-8-webIf you enjoyed this post, make sure you’re following me on all my social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram are where I spend most of my time, but I occasionally pop onto Twitter as well).

I regularly share motivational, educational and inspirational health and fitness content that’s relevant to women over 40 striving to be the best version of themselves possible.

 

The perfect exercise balance | how to find yours

I run two online group fitness programs that regularly generate email inquiries.

Nearly every would-be participant who reaches out to me wants to know how deviating from the planned workouts and nutrition approach will affect her results. And whether the program will still work for her if she does it a bit differently than everybody else.

This program sounds perfect for me. However, I will be travelling for two weeks in the middle (won’t be able to get to a gym) and also have a Dragonboating competition coming up that I need to practice for. Can I still join in even if I won’t be able to do all of the workouts?

My answer almost always includes the reminder that every single participant in my programs has different goals, different obstacles, comes from a different fitness background and is at a different fitness level.

We are all balancing on our own unique tightropes and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution.

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As such, I design my programs so that each and every member can find her own perfect exercise balance; the frequency, intensity and type of workouts that promote better fitness and health, improved sleep and higher energy levels and can be adhered to for years and years to come.

For some women, that means strength training four days a week.

For others, two days of strength and two days of distance running work.

Still others need a mix of solo gym days, a group fitness class or two and an evening yoga practice.

And I’ve had many clients who regularly substitute family cycles, kayak trips, mountain climbs, golfing and trampoline fun for their workout ‘proper’ without seeing any negative effects on their fitness goals.

The variations are as unique as the women following them.

What isn’t unique is the magic that happens when each finds her own personal perfect exercise balance.

perfect exercise balance

 

All of a sudden, everything becomes easier. Missed workouts becomes less frequent. Movement becomes an integral part of the day. Struggles over finding time to exercise diminish. And ‘have to’ becomes ‘want to’.

The perfect exercise balance: how to find yours
  • choose a program (any program) and get started; finding your perfect exercise balance is a trial and error procedure. If you don’t try (and err), you’ll never know what elements yours needs to contain.

Initially, you’ll want to follow the directions your coach, trainer or group fitness instructor gives you. Pay attention to how it feels to do things their way. Notice any ‘push back’ feelings (for example, ‘you want me to run again tomorrow?’) and contemplate the reasons for them.

Commit to following the program for several weeks, jotting down your thoughts and feelings about the activity itself (you do keep a fitness journal, don’t you?) , your energy levels before and after you perform it and any mental barriers to getting the workout done. Your perfect exercise balance will consist of both things your like to do and things you need to do.

  • modify the program to make it ‘easier’ to follow; by ‘easier’, I don’t necessarily mean less intense 🙂 . Rather do what you need to do to reduce any resistance or barriers you have to following it.

If that means shortening the strength workouts from 3 to 2 sets, so be it. Using the rowing machine for intervals rather than the treadmill, go ahead. Replacing one of your gym session for some time on your yoga mat, relax away. Exercising at home instead of the gym, good for you.

Just make sure the choices and substitutions you’re making are consistent with what your body needs to feel good and your long term goal of integrating regular exercise into your schedule for many years to come.

  • acknowledge that things will change and you’ll need to adjust; just when you think you’ve found your perfect exercise balance, something in your life will change and it will no longer be the combination you need.

Maybe your workout buddy moves away. Or your favourite group fitness instructor goes on a long vacation. Or you experience a tragedy in your life that leaves you craving softer, more gentle forms of exercise.

Rather than feeling discouraged about this disruption to your perfect exercise balance, consider it an opportunity to try something new. Find a new workout friend. Or brave the gym on your own. Try a new instructor’s class. Or join an online fitness group.

When I was too sad to continue training on my own, I joined a strength and conditioning class where I was unlikely to know anybody. Together, the combination of great coaches, not having to plan my own workouts and the camaraderie of small group training helped me to rediscover my own perfect exercise balance.

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Are you ready to find your own perfect exercise balance?

Not sure what components to include and how much of each your body needs to feel good? Looking to connect with like-minded midlife women who are still motivated to work towards their health and fitness goals despite the hormonal challenges of peri-menopause?

I’ve got two great online programs to help.

Fight the Fluff V2.0 is a 12-week, online, gym-based fitness and nutrition program for midlife women who want to build some muscle, lose some fat and have a whole lot of fun. While the program prescribes 3-4 days of strength training and an extra day of cardio, participants are encouraged to find their own best way to implement it.

Whether that means cutting back on strength by a day per week or substituting a group fitness class for one of their workouts, my goal is to help each participant figure out how to make the most of her exercise time. Ditto for the approach we’ll be taking to nutrition.

You can read more details about the program (and the dates of the next session) here >> Fight the Fluff V 2.0.

My Monthly 40+ Fitness Program continues year-round and is always open to new membership beginning the first of each month. The workouts are designed to be performed at home, with very little equipment other than a few pairs of dumbbells, a stability ball, a resistance band and a yoga mat.

It’s a great program for those new to strength training because it includes multiple levels for each exercise AND a private YouTube video library where you can watch me performing (and cueing) each and every exercise.

You can read more details about the program here >> 40+ Fitness Online Training and email me (tgrand@telus.net) directly if you’re interested in joining us next month.

Questions about either program? Hit me up in the comments below or send me an email and I’ll get back to you just as soon as possible.

Seven steps to midlife fitness success

I have a client. Her name is Jill. And to me, she’s the epitome of midlife fitness success.

midlife fitness success

This is not Jill. But it could be. She loves to hike.

She’s not a fitness model.

Although she’s strong, she doesn’t have six pack abs or buns of steel. While she enjoys hiking, cycling and weight lifting, she doesn’t run marathons or do triathlons or spend excessive hours in the gym. While focusing on a mainly healthy diet, she still enjoys marshmallows and chocolate and breadsticks at Ruby Tuesdays.

She possesses all of the characteristics I believe one needs to make fitness a life long habit and is the perfect example for becoming a raging (in the ‘good’ way, not the other, more ‘hormonal’ way) midlife fitness success.

Seven steps to becoming a midlife fitness success

Sself-motivated. Jill has goals and knows why those goals are important to her. She doesn’t need daily reminders to fit her workouts in and plan healthy meals. She’s an independent exerciser who just needs to know that somebody has a long term plan for helping her progress towards those goals and is checking in with her regularly for accountability. I’m happy to be that person for her.

Uunafraid. She’s not afraid of trying new things. Many of us get stuck in a fitness rut. We do the same things over and over again, even if those things don’t seem to be moving us any closer to our goals. In the year we’ve been working together, I’ve given Jill lots of new things to try; new exercises, new ways of putting those exercises together, new ways of approaching nutrition. She’s willingly tackled them all (although she usually has lots of questions about the new approach first, see Ccurious, below…). I love that becoming stronger motivated her to plan and set out on her first solo overnight backpacking trip (too bad about the raccoons 😉 ).

Cconsistent. She rarely misses a workout. Even when she’s on holidays, at the lake or in the midst of the ‘busy time of year’ at work. Sometimes those workouts are shorter than planned, but she knows that doing something is better than doing nothing. She’s also got the longest MyFitnessPal streak I’ve ever seen; over 360 days without missing a log-in!

Ccurious. Jill loves to read about nutrition and exercise. She often emails me with questions about things she’s read. Sometimes I have an answer, other times her query motivates me to do a little research myself. Her inquisitiveness shows me that she takes ownership of her health and fitness; a key component to becoming a long term regular exerciser.

E easy-going. She’s patient and realistic about how long it really takes to see the results of regular exercise and good nutrition. She’s kind to herself when she stumbles and is able to laugh at small setbacks and behaviours that seem hard to change. While her goals are important to her, they aren’t all-consuming. Fitness and nutrition are priorities, but they don’t over-shadow the other priorities in her life (the perfect recipe for making oneself crazy and alienating those closest to us).

Ssnaps back quickly. Jill is resilient. When she gets off track (typically with nutrition, as is the case for most of us), she rebounds quickly. Re-commiting herself to whatever our current nutritional goals are and planning and prepping meals to support those goals. I appreciate her dedication to reducing packaging wherever possible and making things ‘from scratch’ rather than buying ready-made!

Sself-reflective. One of the things I love most of all about Jill is her willingness to self-reflect and anticipate and ask for exactly what she needs. During our bi-weekly coaching calls we often look back on how much has changed over the year we’ve been working together, particularly when it comes to mindset and expectations. We’ve moved from focusing primarily on weight loss (25+ pounds in a year) and muscle ‘toning’ to setting new performance standards on her ‘big lifts’. I’m looking forward to seeing where she’ll go with her (current) 135 pound dead lift!

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of our coaching relationship. I’d like to congratulate Jill for all of the successes she’s had this year and wish her many more in the year to come!

midlife fitness success

Happy Anniversary Jill! Enjoy your cake. Note the serving size and the fruit 😉

Put an end to ‘getting back to fitness’

Starting a new exercise program is hard. Keeping going month after month, harder still. But the most difficult thing of all? Quitting and having to start all over again (and again and again…).

Not only do you recognize how much strength, stamina and endurance you’ve lost (the older you are and less time you’ve been exercising, the faster it all goes away), you also remember how long it took to build it in the first place.

And that realization can be frustrating and demoralizing.

If only people realized how challenging getting BACK to fitness is, they’d be more resolved to MAINTAIN their fitness and ADHERE TO that new exercise program for more than the typical month or two.

getting back to fitness

Rather than ‘getting back to fitness’, we need to find ways to incorporate movement and exercise into our daily lives now and for a very long time to come. Even during those periods of our lives when our motivation to exercise is low and time to work out is scarce.

Tips for putting an end to ‘getting back to fitness’:
  • Underwhelm yourself. Start slow. Slower than you think you’re capable of and slower than the oft-quoted recommendations for weekly exercise; sure 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week is a great goal, but maybe not for those who are currently doing nothing. You can always do more next week or the week after. Set yourself up for success by setting attainable goals. It’s okay to leave your body wanting more.
  • Find something you actually like to do. If you hate spin class don’t book a bike. Forget about what everybody else is telling you the ‘best’ way to exercise is. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do it. Period. Note that movement doesn’t have to be formal exercise for your body and mind to benefit from it. Your muscles don’t know the difference between lifting dumbbells in the gym and hauling dirt in the garden.
  • Identify the time of day when you’re most likely to get it done. Earlier tends to work better for most people. Before willpower and decision-making fatigue set in. Before other responsibilities overwhelm you and crowd out your plans. Planning for obstacles is a key component of developing consistency around exercise. Expect to have setbacks and know, in advance, how you’ll respond to them.
  • Document everything. Not only what you did, when you did it and how long you did it for but also how you felt before, during and after you did it. Your exercise log will allow you to look back and measure progress, as well as showing you the effects of a workout on your mood and mindset. Next time you’re tempted to miss a workout, remind yourself of how good you always feel afterwards. Buy a pretty new journal and a glitter pen if that inspires you.
  • Find someone to do it with. Humans are inherently social. Most of us enjoy spending time with others (or at least a few, well-chosen others). Finding a friend (or friends) to move with helps keep you motivated and accountable. For those of you with very full schedules, think of it as multi-tasking; you can tick ‘get together with x’ and ‘go to the gym’ off your list at the same time. Can’t enlist anybody local? Turn to your virtual friends via social media apps and online fitness communities.
  • Recognize boredom for what it is. No matter how enamoured we are with a new activity, interest often wanes over time. Rather than interpreting that lack of interest as lost motivation for exercise, recognize that it’s simply boredom with your current routine. Find something new that excites you and keeps you moving. Zoned out at Zumba? Try a TRX class. Bored of the bike? Step on the stair master. There are as many unique ways to exercise as there are exercisers.
One of the best ways to GET (and STAY) in shape? Add your name to my Online Course interest list and be the first to hear about upcoming online fitness group programming… The much-anticipated (and re-vamped) “Fight the Fluff” returns in September while the fall session of #40PlusFitness runs from October 1st through December 31st.