Why I don’t want to survive the holidays

The holiday season is upon us.

surviving the holidays

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

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

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

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

survive the holidays

My ‘sad’ face

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

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

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

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

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

For me, thriving means:

  • sticking to my regular exercise schedule; exercise helps control appetite and stress and often results in better food choices for the remainder of the day. When I exercise, my body releases a flood of endorphins that make me feel happy and at peace with the world.
  • allowing myself to sample seasonal food and drink without guilt and recrimination; reminding myself that wine and sweet treats are available year-round reduces the need to over-indulge during the holiday season. Remember that it’s not the choices you make between Thanksgiving and New Years that make you gain weight, but the habits your adopt between New Years and Thanksgiving… The key word here is ‘sample’!
  • making sleep a priority; with late night parties and social events increasing in frequency it’s easy to let sleep slide. Yet maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is instrumental in keeping mid-life pounds at bay via its effect on your body’s production of stress hormone. Leaving the party early allows me to always enjoy the morning after.
  • not accepting every invitation I receive; there’s nothing worse than attending a social gathering out of a sense of obligation. Going because you feel like you have to not because you want to. For me, limiting my “yes’s” during the holidays ensures that when I do go out my friends and family get to spend time with ‘happy and engaged’ me. And when I’m happy and engaged, I tend to spend a lot less time near the food and drinks table ;-)
If you’re looking to thrive this holiday season, why not register for my FREE 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp. Take the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to develop new habits around exercise and food. Habits that will help you thrive well into the new year.

 

I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for ‘thriving’ during the holiday season!

 

 

 

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

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

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

The thing is, hope is not enough.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Click through to register now

 

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

ReBootCamp Header 590

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

 

You can register now by clicking here

 

The program is 3 weeks in length and includes:
  • weekly workouts; 2 strength and 1 cardio (each with two different levels of difficulty/intensity; one for beginners and one for intermediate exercisers), illustrated descriptions of all exercises and a blank, downloadable template to record workout details on
  • daily emails; for accountability, motivation and inspiration (it’ll be just like I’m perched on your shoulder encouraging you to re-commit daily)
  • nutritional information; information about healthier food choices, macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats), portion sizes and meal planning
  • recipes; some of my favourites as well as links to Pinterest boards I’ve created to support the nutritional needs of regular exercisers
  • a support group; participants can meet and share their experiences with the program in an ‘invite-only’ Facebook group
Frequently Asked Questions:
  • How do I sign up? Click through to the registration page and add your name and email to the sign up form. Easy-peasy. You’ll receive a confirmation email shortly, including a complimentary copy of my e-book, “5 Steps to Exercise Happiness”. Reading it will give you a better understanding of my exercise philosophy and the rationale behind the ‘Re’-Bootcamp program’s design.
  • How much does it cost? Absolutely nothing. It’s FREE. Consider it an early holiday gift, from me to you. You’re welcome!
  • Do I need to belong to a gym to participate? The workouts require minimal equipment. Just a few pairs of dumbbells, a yoga mat, a resistance band and a stability ball. They can be performed at home or at the gym.
  • How much time will the workouts take? Both the strength and cardio workouts can be completed in under 20 minutes. The workouts are purposefully designed to underwhelm you. They are not fancy, but meant to help you create a firm, fitness foundation. A foundation that can be built on once you’ve got consistency nailed down. My goal is to help you create a schedule that you can easily accommodate, leaving you feeling successful and your body wanting more.
  • Will there be other homework? Yes! I’ve sprinkled several tasks and challenges throughout the 21-day program. Most require very little time and of course, the more you put into making change, the more you’ll get out of the program. Expect to spend 5 to 10 minutes each day reading the emails and exploring the resources I’ll be sharing in them.
  • I have an injury. Can I still participate? It all depends on the injury. While I can’t individualize a program for each participant, I can suggest modifications for common limitations. You can ask for help in the Facebook group and I’ll do my best to accommodate. At the very least, you can participate in the nutrition and mindset portions of the course.
  • Why now? Christmas is right around the corner. The program runs from December 1st through December 21st. Smack dab between American Thanksgiving and Christmas. What better time to start creating new habits than the season when we’re all looking for ways to avoid overindulging? Even better? When everybody else is making their New Year’s resolutions, you’ll already have an entire month of new routines under your belt.

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

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

Register today through November 28th

 

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

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

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

© Alexmax | Dreamstime.com - Laptop 2 Photo

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

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

OnlineTrainingTrainerTips

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

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

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

online fitness training

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

 

Have you ever participated in an online fitness training program?

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

 

 

 

5 reasons quick fixes don’t work

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

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

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

Notice the word ‘ultimately’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best ‘quick fix’?

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

It’s not sexy, I know.

But it works. Time and time again.

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

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

4 exercises that are harder than they look

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

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

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

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

4 exercises that are harder than they look

1. Bosu sit-to-stand crunch
SitToStand

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

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

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

2. Bosu weighted squat jumps
BosuSquatJumps

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

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

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

3. Hamstring curls on the ball
HamCurls

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

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

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

4. Shifting 3-point plank
3pointplank

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

What was the exercise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter your email address below to receive a free copy of my ‘5 Steps to Exercise Happiness. It’s full of actions you can take today to overcome mindset challenges and move you closer to your health and fitness goals.

 

 

 

 

You can only go so far on your own | the magic of mentors

I like to think of myself as an ‘accidental’ business owner.

Eight years ago, I started working as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer at my local community centre, never thinking that I’d one day be running my own business, let alone a business that required social media savvy, an understanding of marketing, the ability to sell and the confidence to manage the behind-the-scenes workings of a website.

My online business was initially created to fill the needs of my personal training clients.

I created this site in the hopes of providing them with daily motivation and support to sustain their fitness and nutrition momentum between sessions. As my readership grew, I saw the opportunity to build my client base and expand my in-person training business to online training.

I dabbled in one-on-one online fitness coaching for a year or two. But didn’t truly fall in love with online training until I launched my 40+ women’s online group.

Working with groups is my sweet spot. The role of educator and facilitator came naturally to me. And I loved the challenge of figuring out the organizational aspects of designing, launching and delivering an online product.

Many of the skills I’ve acquired are self-taught and I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with other like-minded business women via Facebook forums and social media. I meet with two other motivated and successful online ‘solopreneurs’ bi-weekly to share resources and bounce ideas off of (we call it our ‘Mastermind’ group ;) ).

But what I really need is a local mentor. (Just like personal trainers sometimes need personal trainers, business owners sometimes need the help of other business owners) Someone who’s been where I am now and successfully navigated her business to where I envisage mine (hint, hint, I have several new programs and services that I’m hoping to launch in the months ahead…)

I’d been toying with the idea of seeking out a business coach for a month or two when the following invitation fortuitously appeared in my inbox:

Blogger Invitation: Join us for the 4th Annual Women in Biz Passion to Profit Conference Oct 19 & 20, 2014 in Vancouver

On October 19th and 20th, at the fourth annual Women in Biz Network (WIBN) conference, women from across North America will gather in the beautiful City of Vancouver for two days of networking, learning, and building relationships to help them recognize their business dreams.

Sessions will focus on mentoring (including mentor matching), round table business challenge brain storming, pod casting, building online communities, developing your story, finding your voice, smart business plan expansion planning, breaking through barriers and how to survive the business tug of war and what to do when lost.

Of course I said ‘yes’!

I’m excited to step outside of my comfort zone (and yoga pants; what does one wear to a business conference anyways?), break down some mental barriers and move closer to the business I want to create for you.

Make sure you’re following me on Instagram and Twitter, as I’ll be sharing glimpses of my Passion to Profit experience throughout the day.

Disclaimer: My registration (and that of a friend) were generously paid for by the Women In Biz Network in exchange for sharing the event with my readers. Get more information or register for the event yourself (come find me and say ‘hello’) at  http://www.womeninbiznetwork.com.

Tips for maintaining healthy knees

Knees are complicated joints.

tips for maintaining healthy knees

In addition to dynamically supporting nearly 80% of our weight while standing, they’re responsible for bending, straightening and internally rotating our legs.

Comprised of three major muscles groups (the quadriceps, hamstrings and pes anserine groups) and many ligaments and tendons, knees are inherently unstable and nearly as prone to injury as shoulders.

And they’re only more likely to act up as we agePreventing us from running and cycling and reaching that body-weight-squat goal free of pain.

The good news is, there are steps we can take before knee pain gets in the way of active living.

Pre-hab rather than rehab, as it were ;)

Tips for maintaining healthy knees:

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight. The more you weigh, the greater the pressure on the knees. I’ve had clients who, after losing weight, reported that their knees no longer bothered them while performing squats and lunges. And their after-weight-loss movements were more coordinated and covered a larger range of motion too. Win-win!
  2. Wear proper-fitting and supportive footwear. I’m a firm believer in seeing a specialist when purchasing new shoes for exercise. Knowing whether you pronate or supinate, whether you have a high or flat arch and where, on your foot, you place the bulk of your weight can help determine which shoe is most likely to support you properly during exercise. The better the shoe supports you, the lower the risk of knee and ankle injury.
  3. Increase exercise intensity and duration slowly. Muscles, ligaments and tendons all get stronger in response to progressive resistance training. The key is to go slowly. Whether you’re lifting weights or training for a marathon, allowing your body to adapt to and recover from a new level of stimulus is critical to avoiding injury.
  4. Warm up prior to exercise. Pre-workout warmups have several functions. In addition to preparing your cardiovascular system for the work to come, range-of-motion movements stimulate the release of synovial fluid in the joints. This lubricant makes it easier for muscles, tendons and ligaments to work together once the workout proper has begun.
  5. Strengthen the muscles that support the knee. Try adding the following supplemental exercises to your lower body strength training days. Perform 1-2 sets of 10-12 repetitions of each, preferably after your warm-up but before your first working set or the start of your run.

[Note that the following exercises are preventative in nature. If you’re experiencing knee pain, please see your primary health care specialist for an in-person, hands-on diagnosis and stretch and strength recommendations specific to your injury. Performing the wrong exercises can exacerbate knee pain and lengthen the recovery period.]

Stability ball-against-the-wall squats. This exercise targets the quads, glutes and hams; muscles that must work together to properly flex and extend the knee. Focus on keeping the torso upright, with eye focus forward and shoulder blades down and back. Position your feet far enough from the wall so that when your thighs are in the parallel-to-the-floor position, knees remain back behind your toes. Push forcefully through the heels to return to standing.

Inner thigh ball squeeze. Use an under-inflated soccer or basketball to strengthen the medial (inner) aspect of the knees. You may perform the exercise seated, standing or in conjunction with the ball-against-the-wall squats described above. Place the ball between your thighs, where the femur meets the knee joint. Keeping toes pointing forward (and a slight bend in the knees if standing), engage the inner thighs and squeeze the ball for a count of 10. Release and repeat.

Lateral band hold. Strengthen the lateral (outer) aspect of the knees by wrapping a resistance tube or band around both knees. Make sure that the loop is small enough that you immediately feel resistance on the outside of the legs. Again, this exercise can be performed seated, standing or in conjunction with the ball-against-the-wall squats described above. Place your feet about hip width apart (keep a slight bend in the knees if standing) and engage the outer thighs, pressing both legs outwards against the resistance of the bank. Hold for a count of 10. Release and repeat.

Resistance band leg extension. Use the resistance of the band to increase your quad strength and improve knee stability under load. Start by laying down on the floor, face up, with one leg extended and resting on the floor, the other with knee bent and shin parallel to the floor. Loop your resistance band around the shoe of the elevated foot. Hold the ends of the band at chest height so that there’s very little slack in the band. Flex your foot and press it away from your body, extending the leg as fully as you can against the resistance of the band. Pause at the end of the movement before slowly returning to the start position. Complete all reps on one leg before switching to the other.

If these prevention tips are too late for you and you’re dealing with less than healthy knees, the above exercises may be among those you’re already doing under the watchful eye of your physiotherapist.

Need a few other workout ideas to  keep you feeling fit and energetic while you recover?  Have a look at the exercises I shared here >>> Knee injury? 7 Workout ideas to try while you recover

Essential stretches for mid-life exercisers

If you’re like me (and many of my clients), you’re often so tired (or pressed for time) by the time your workout’s over that you bypass the stretching corner of the gym in your rush to reach the shower (and get on with your over-full day).

stretches for mid-life exercisers

The shower that tempts me to end a workout quickly…

While regular stretching should be a part of everybody’s exercise routine, mid-life exercisers may benefit more than most by spending a little more post-workout time on their mat.

Along with muscle loss, weight gain, declining metabolism and lower bone density, the aging process also bestows upon us the gift of reduced flexibility. Our muscles are no longer able to fully lengthen and thus, prevent our joints from moving through their full range of motion.

In addition to its positive effects on posture, athletic performance, economy of movement, injury prevention and post-workout soreness, maintaining flexibility may also improve short-term memory (a challenge for many perimenopausal women…) and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke (flexibility training reduces arterial stiffness).

Not to mention the deep relaxation that can occur when you still your mind and body.

The most common muscle groups that need attention in mid-life are:

  • hamstrings:
  • pectorals (in concert with the anterior deltoids): frequent keyboarding and texting keep our head, shoulders and chest tilted forward and down.
  • hip flexors: ‘sitting disease’ leaves the hip flexors in a constant, shortened state.
  • neck and top of the shoulders: many of us carry stress along the sides of our n
  • lower back: again, constant sitting prevents us from engaging our core and maintaining a neutral pelvic tilt.

Essential stretches for mid-life exercisers:

All of the stretches below use a stability ball as a prop. Not only is the ball useful for providing support for poses that you can’t quite get into, it’s also a useful tight-muscle-prophylactic. Use it instead of a desk chair to promote proper posture and you’re less likely to suffer from a tight chest and lower back to begin with!

Always perform static stretches after your muscles have been warmed up, either at the end of your workout, or after a hot bath or shower.

Hold stretches for approximately 30 s. When you begin a stretch, you’ll feel your body resist. Heed this message. Relax for a moment before trying to intensify the stretch. Stretches should never be painful or ballistic (bouncing) in nature. If you’re extremely tight, repeat each stretch a second time, always after allowing your muscles to relax first.

  • Supine hamstring stretch. Start by laying face-up on a mat, both feet on the stability ball. Extend one leg straight up towards the ceiling. Flex the foot and use your hands to pull the leg towards your torso. In order to maximize the benefit of this stretch, focus on keeping the knee as straight as possible (without locking it). Repeat on the other leg.
Stretches for mid-life exercisers

Supine hamstring stretch

  • Passive chest stretch. Start by sitting on the ball. Walk your legs away from you until your head and shoulders are resting on the ball. Extend arms and legs, forming the letter ‘T’ with your body. Drop you head back and feel the opening in your chest and front of the shoulders. If you’re worried about falling off the ball, increase your base of support by taking a slightly wider stance with your legs.
stretches for mid-life exercisers

Passive chest stretch

  • Supported hip flexor stretch. Start by kneeling on a mat directly behind your stability ball. Step forward with one foot such that your front knee is bent at an approximately 90 degree angle. Using the ball for support, shift your weight forward, opening up the front of the hip on the back leg. Make sure that your hips are ‘squared'; both should face forward. Repeat on the other leg.
stretches for mid-life exercisers

Supported hip flexor stretch

  • Seated head tilt. Start by sitting tall on the ball. Shoulders should be back and down with abdominals engaged. Feet can be placed as wide as necessary to promote balance. Hands will be placed at your sides. Tilt your right ear down towards your right shoulder. Turn your head slightly to look at your right knee. Keeping your left arm straight and your palm turned down, lift your arm until you feel the muscles along the left side of your neck and top of the shoulder lengthen. If you feel any tingling in your fingers, lower the arm slightly. Hold and repeat on the other side.
  • Child’s pose. Start by kneeling on the mat with the stability ball in front of you. Drop your bum down until it’s resting on your heels (or as close as you can get). Place your hands on the top of the ball, palms down. Move the ball away from your body and lower your head between your straightened arms. Feel the release of tension in the low back, as well as the back of the shoulders and the sides of the body.
stretches for mid-life exercisers

Child’s pose on the ball

Need more stretching ideas?

Here’s a video-guided stretch (for those needing some soothing verbal cueing…)

And some specific stretches for those who sit (or knit) a lot!