How much exercise is enough?

Today’s post, How Much Exercise Is Enough, is in response to a question posed by one of the members of my Facebook community. (I’m always happy to answer your burning questions about midlife fitness and nutrition too; either here on the blog or over on Periscope, a new live-broadcasting app that I’m testing out Thursday mornings at 8:00 am PT. You can watch it live or in ‘re-runs’ for 24 hours post-broadcast. You can find me at @TamaraGrand).

I frequently share short short (20-30 minute) workouts with my social media followers.

They’re my own preferred way of working out and are the foundation of the types of workouts I create for my clients and online women’s fitness group.

Kathryn asked me about how these types of workouts fit within the government’s recommendation that healthy adults and older adults get 30 (and more recently 60) minutes of physical activity per day; essentially asking how much exercise is enough.

“So just curious – these 20 minute and under exercise work outs – how do they figure in with the 30 minute a day – or now they are saying an hour would be ideal – recommendation? I feel like one minute we’re told that a longer, more moderate work out (like walking) is better and then told that shorter bursts of intense activity are preferred. And just to clarify…the 150 minutes does NOT include strength training or yoga? Thanks, Tamara!”

Because this is a great, multi-part question, I’m going to break it down into three parts; how much, how intense and what types of activities count.

How much exercise is enough?

According to the American Council on Exercise, healthy adults and older adults should aim for 150 minutes of physical activity per week. This recommendation is based on studies showing that adults who don’t meet this level of activity are more likely to be overweight and at greater risk of heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes.

Ideally, those 150 weekly minutes will be broken down into five, 30-minute periods of exercise. Although 10-minute bouts of more intense effort (see below for a discussion of ‘intensity’), spread throughout the day may provide the same effects.

Recent studies suggest that exceeding 150 minutes per week has additional health benefits and that the new target should be closer to 300 minutes of physical activity per week (that’s where Kathryn’s comment about 300 minutes comes from; I love how informed my readers are!)

How intensely do I need to be working?

Kathryn’s question really revolves around the issue of intensity. How intense does an activity need to be to ‘count’?

ACE’s recommendations stipulate that those 150 minutes of physical activity need to ‘moderately intense’ to ‘vigorous’. But was do ‘moderately intense’ and ‘vigorous’ really mean?

The best yardstick for measuring intensity is heart rate. The higher your exercise heart rate, the harder you’re working and the higher the intensity of the workout. Not only do higher intensity workouts challenge your cardiovascular system more than lower intensity workouts (building a stronger heart and lungs is a key component of fitness), they also result in more calories burned, a key consideration if weight loss or weight loss maintenance are your primary goals.

A ‘moderately intense to vigorous’ workout will elevate your heart rate up to somewhere between 60 and 90% of maximum heart rate

MaxHR is most easily estimated by subtracting your age from 220; I’m 48, so my maxHR equals 220 – 48 or 172 beats per minute, resulting in a target exercise heart rate of  somewhere between 103 and 155 beats per minute. You can also use the Karvonen formula if you know your resting heart rate; it’s a bit more accurate, especially for people who are already fairly fit.

What types of activities can I include?

Historically, the above recommendations were made specifically with regards to cardiovascular training, with additional weekly recommendations for strength training and flexibility training.

Hence any traditional cardiovascular-based activity will count towards the 150-minute weekly goal; running, cycling, swimming, rowing, cardio machines in the gym, skipping and calisthenics to name a few.

My favourite cardio/strength machine

Walking may meet the criteria, especially if you walk quickly (like you’re trying to catch the bus at the corner) and your route has hills and other variable terrain.

However, many types of workouts incorporate multiple training elements. For example, while Bootcamp and CrossFit-style workouts typically focus primarily on strength training, because of the way they’re structured they also elicit a cardiovascular response. Heart rates remain elevated throughout the workout, simultaneously strengthening both muscles and the cardiovascular system.

Metabolic strength training, circuit-style weight lifting and power yoga may also ‘fill the bill’. As do those 20-30 minute workouts I share on YouTube, Facebook and here, on the blog.

Focus more on how intense the workout is than whether it’s a ‘cardio’, ‘strength’ or ‘flexibility’ workout when you decide whether to count it towards your weekly physical activity goals.

exercise, how much is enough

Kayaking? When you’re racing your brother, it definitely counts!

A few caveats
  • Exercise intensity is individual. The amount of effort a sedentary, non-exerciser would have to expend to generate the appropriate heart rate effect will be different than that of a long-time, consistent exerciser. If you’re new to exercise, I strongly recommend that you get familiar with your heart rate!
  • Recommendations are only guidelines. Newcomers to exercise shouldn’t feel compelled to immediately reach the 150-minute per week guideline. Start with a frequency, intensity and duration that challenges you, but that allows you to be successful. Build on to it as your strength and endurance increases. I might start a brand-new-to-exercise client with only three 15-minute bouts of exercise per week; woefully short of the government recommendations, but a do-able first step for that client.
  • Just because you exercise intensely for 30 (or even 60) minutes a day, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from more movement. If you spend the rest of your day sitting at your desk or behind the wheel of your car, that 30 minutes of exercise may not be enough to keep weight gain, heart disease and diabetes at bay. Interspersing frequent bouts of low intensity, non-exercise activity throughout your day will elevate the effects of your workouts.
  • Walking has many health benefits. For beginners to exercise, it’s often a workout on it’s own. For the rest of us, in particular, midlife, hormonally challenged women, it’s a great way to reduce stress (and the concomitant production of stress hormone which contributes to midlife weight gain). Think of it as a ‘bonus’. Meet your 30 minute heart-rate accelerating goal, then cool down and relax with a leisurely walk. Combine that with the company of a friend or loved one and you’ve done more than you can imagine for your health!

Here’s a sample of the short, but intense, whole-body, metabolic strength workouts that form the bread and butter of my own, personal fitness regime.

If you like it, please take a minute to share it with your friends (it’s super easy; just click on one of the social sharing buttons at the bottom of the post and presto, you’ve made a difference in somebody else’s life :-) ).

PyramidWorkoutLarge

 

3 whole body, minimal equipment, do at home workouts

Even though I’ve long-since graduated from university, my life still seems to ebb and flow with the academic calendar (I guess that’s what having three school-age children does for you…).

Summer is my time to kick back, take a break from the hectic driving and training and teaching schedule, spend more time engaging in outdoor activities with my kids (when I can persuade them to shut off their computers 😉 ) and focus on some big changes I’ll be making in my work life come September (details coming soon…).

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While cutting back on the time I spend training clients and teaching classes is great for my brain, it does make it a bit more challenging to maintain my usual exercise routine.

You see, my work gym is also my workout gym.

Setting up for a barbell dead lift

Recognize this place?

I typically piggy-back my own workouts on those of my clients. Without clients to see, it’s sometimes hard to work up the motivation to gather my gear, drive to the gym, check-in, walk the gauntlet of friends and clients and people I know and focus on not getting drawn into lengthy conversations or having to re-think my workout because the equipment I planned on using is already in use. All of the things that turn a 30-minute workout into a 75-minute endeavour.

I know you get this; one of the most comment obstacles to exercising isn’t the time it takes to get the workout done, but the extra travel time (and cost) required to train at a gym.

The obvious answer is to exercise at home.

I know that many of you have been successful with this. Personally? I don’t have a great track record with home workouts. I have the equipment (lots of equipment!), but don’t have a dedicated workout space (small house, no basement and not even an empty storage closet to keep equipment organized and together in).

Last week, while filming exercise videos in the carport for my 40+ online women’s fitness group, I had an ‘aha’ moment. (I’ve only been doing this for two years now; not sure why it took me so long to figure out…).

LightbulbMoment

Don’t you love it when fireworks go off in your head? ;-)

Why not use this exact space for my own personal workouts this summer? All I need to do is have hubby install the TRX mount I purchased ages ago, pump up the stability ball and Bosu and purchase a large storage tub to keep it all in (I’m thinking that with 11-year old boys around, the kettlebells will be better off out of sight and out of mind…).

Care to join me?

I’ve created 3 whole body, minimal equipment, do at home workouts.

None of them require a lot of equipment and I’ve designed them around the types of equipment you’re most likely to have (from least expensive to most expensive (and most fun, IMHO)). All three are full body workouts, designed to be done in as little as 20 minutes. Or, if you have more time, string them together, in whichever order pleases you.

Oh and make sure you start with a warmup and finish with a stretch. Here are a couple of my favourites for you to choose from:

 

Workout # 1: When all you have is a resistance band. Perform 15 repetitions of each exercise (on each side of the body, where relevant), rest and repeat once or twice more.

 

Workout #2: Have a stability ball and a set or two of hand weights? Perform 12 repetitions of each exercise (on each side of the body, where relevant), rest and repeat once or twice more.

 

Workout #3: You’ll need a Kettlebell or two for this one (more expensive, but more fun too 😉 ). Perform 8 repetitions of each exercise (on each side of the body, where relevant), rest and repeat once or twice more.

If you enjoyed these do at home workouts, please take a moment to
  • ‘Like’ them and subscribe to my YouTube channel
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P.S. Although I am a Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer (although I could be; check out the online services I offer here). Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Avoiding exercise-induced injuries | ‘Pre’-hab is better than re-hab

Recently, I started asking new newsletter subscribers to share their biggest fitness and nutrition challenges.

exercise-induced injuries

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 injury prevention. For example,

I’m 47 and just started taking jui jitsu classes. What can I do to minimize my risk of injury?

and

At 54, my days of doing air squats and burpees and jumping onto benches are over. My knees just can’t handle the impact and the last thing I want to do is get hurt. Any tips for exercising without getting injured?

As a (newly) 48-year-old woman, thoughts about injury prevention are never far from my mind. Especially when trying a new activity for the very first time.

I’ve had enough of my own exercise-induced injuries (knees and achilles tendon and intercostal muscles, oh my!) to know that ‘pre-hab’ is highly preferable to ‘rehab’.

In general, injuries tend to occur when we do ‘too much, too soon’. Joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments need to be eased into new activities, giving them time to strengthen, learn new motor patterns and increase their range of motion.

Strategies for avoiding exercise-induced injuries

  • Start slow; Even if you exercise regularly, when the activity is brand new to you, pretend you’re a beginner. Follow the FIT (Frequency-Intensity-Time) guidelines of 2-3 times per week, at low to moderate intensity (on a scale of 1-10, 1 being easy, 10 being full-out exhausting, aim for somewhere between 3 and 5), and for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. Leave yourself wanting more (or as my hubby used to say when our kids were little, “quit while you’re still having fun”).
  • Linger with your warmup; A proper warmup goes a long way when it comes to avoiding exercise-induced injuries. Plan on spending a good 10 minutes on whole body movements, paying particular attention to the muscles and body parts you’ll be using during the workout proper. Use your warmup to mimic the activity you’re about to partake in. For example, a tennis warmup might include arm circles, side shuffles and forward and back hops. A warmup for kayaking might include torso twists, ‘air’ paddling and calf raises (if your kayak has a foot-controlled rudder). Warming up for ju jitsu or another of the martial arts? Arm and leg swings and circles, slow controlled punches and kicks and whole-body walk out to planks would be great additions to your warmup. Gradually increase the range of motion that you’re moving through as muscles, joints and ligaments become more fluid. Here are some warmup moves that I like to practice before I hit the weights >>  Pre-strength training warmup ideas
  • Safety first; All exercises and activities have risks associated with them. Building up a solid foundation before you attempt the riskiest version of a new activity is the best way to ensure that you’ll continue to enjoy the activity for a long time to come. That might mean choosing lighter weights, performing the activity on a stable surface, using a limited range of motion until you’re familiar with the movements or making use of supports and props, when appropriate. As you get stronger and your balance and confidence improve, you can relinquish the ‘training wheels’ and take your activity out ‘on the road’.

avoiding exercise-induced injuries

  • Savour stretching; Post-activity stretching can aid flexibility (one of the most rapidly lost components of fitness for us 40- and 50-somethings…), which in turn can help you perform your favourite activities better and with less pain. Focus on the stretching the muscle groups you used most during the activity. Aim to hold each stretch for 15 to 30 s, taking deeper and deeper breaths as you lengthen the muscle and increase the intensity of the pose. Not only can stretching help prevent exercise-induced injuries, it’s a great time to turn your thoughts inward, calm your mind and enjoy a few moments of quiet in your otherwise busy day. Not sure which stretches you should be doing? Check out these two posts for ideas and tips on form >> Essential Stretches for Mid-Life Exercisers and Reasons to Stretch more Frequently (with a Video Guided Stretch)
  • Do different things; Exercise-induced injuries are often caused by doing too much of the same thing. I know that in our excitement and enthusiasm for a new activity, there’s a tendency to want to repeat the activity day after day after day. While repetition helps us get better at things, it can also lead to over-use injuries. Try interspersing your new favourite activity with other sports and types of exercise. You may be surprised to find that gains and improvements in one activity translate into gains and improvements in another. Ideally, your alternate activity will target different muscles groups (for example, running and cycling are both quad-dominant activities; a better alternative for the cyclist would be to hit the pool or the boxing gym). Oh and strength training complements pretty much any activity you can think of. Just saying 😉 .

Of course, getting proper instruction when starting a new activity will ensure that you’re performing the movements properly and with efficiency, both necessary if you want to avoid injury. Sign up for a lesson or two or book a session with a personal trainer to identify your strengths and weaknesses and get a program designed to support you in your new ‘favourite thing’!

Found this post helpful? Learned a thing or two that a fellow newbie to exercise might benefit from?
Why not share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter? (Just click on the social sharing links below). Who knows, one of them might be tempted to join you in your latest recreational pursuit!

 

What new fitness activity are you currently excited about?

Do you worry about exercise-induced injuries?

Fitness and nutrition rules can simplify healthy living

Structure.

 

Some people swear by it and claim that structure is the reason they’re able to consistently exercise and eat well.

Others find that too much regimentation makes them crazy and increases the chance that they’ll fall off the wagon.

Personally, I’m a fan of structure, just not too much 😉

(I’m kind of like Goldilocks; not too much, not too little, it’s gotta be just the right amount).

I find that having a few, key ‘rules’ around fitness and nutrition helps me stay the course when I’m tired, feeling rushed or just plain low on willpower.

My rules are personal to me; there’s a reason for each of them. And when I recite them to myself, they instantly remind me of why I’ve chosen them and how I’ll feel when I honour them.

fitness and nutrition rules

I feel strong, confident and ready to take on the world!

 

Kind of like my reasons for exercising and eating well; linking the behaviour and the feeling that the behaviour gives me is a powerful tool for both creating new habits and sticking to old ones.

In my experience, the best types of fitness and nutrition rules are specific, concise and use positive language.

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or have participated in one of my online training groups will be able to recite these verbatim (perhaps you’ve even adopted one or more of them as your own?).

 

For the rest of you, here are the fitness and nutrition rules that help me re-commit daily to healthy living. There are three of each because, honestly? I couldn’t manage to consistently follow any more :-)

Fitknitchick’s Fitness and Nutrition Rules to Live By

  • Never miss a Monday; I consider Monday to be the start of my exercise week. Getting a great workout in, first thing Monday morning, sets the tone for the next seven days. If Monday was great (and it almost always is, thanks to my dedicated and enthusiastic Monday morning Step class…), I’m more inclined to hit the gym Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Note that I don’t train the same way (or with the same intensity) each and every day; doing so would certainly result in injury or over-training for this almost 48-year old woman.
  • Never take more than two days off in a row; I find that two days of rest and recovery is adequate for my fitness goals. Unless I’m sick (or on vacation), missing a third day makes getting back to the gym a chore. And a fourth? I’m likely write off the rest of the week (I’m still working on my all-or-none mindset…). And I personally find that de-conditioning happens much more quickly now than when I was even five years younger.
  • Just commit to 15 minutes; On days where my motivation is lagging, but I know that a workout is truly what I need to feel better, I tell myself to commit to just 15 minutes. If I’m not feeling it by the end, I’m free to leave and try again tomorrow. Most of the time 15 minutes turns into 30 or 45. And I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve hung up my running shoes early and headed to the coffee shop, knowing that at least 15 minutes was better than nothing.
  • Always eat breakfast; Many years ago, way back when I was in grad school studying animal ecology, I’d head into the lab on an empty stomach. Working long hours with nothing but cafeteria coffee in your belly was a badge of industriousness and honour. Now that my work day is full of movement, fuelling first thing is mandatory. Not only am I not tempted by coffee shop pastries mid-day (okay, I am tempted by them, but I don’t CRAVE them, there’s a difference), my lunch and dinner choices are much healthier than they used to be; proof that positive habits beget more positive habits!
  • Eat protein with every meal; While gram for gram, carbohydrates have the same calorie content as protein, they aren’t nearly as satiating. In part because they are processed more quickly by the body, but also because they trigger an insulin response. Depending on your body’s sensitivity to sugar, that can result in a ‘sugar crash’ and a fairly rapid craving for sweet and starchy foods. And if you’re trying to build muscle (or preserve that which you already have), if you’re not eating protein with every meal, you’re probably not getting enough. Nutritionists recommend that we consume a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound) per day, although there is much argument in the fitness community about whether this is actually enough. I personally, aim for about twice that; it seems to be the best approach to managing midlife weight gain and muscle loss for me. (And I’ve had clients who’ve been extremely successful with this approach as well…)
  • Fuel first, treats second. I love sweets as much as the next person. And if I let myself get too hungry, it’s all too easy to grab a cookie or muffin or protein bar (yes, I consider commercially-prepared protein bars a treat; or an emergency food for times when you’re caught without a healthy, home-prepared snack). I remind myself that sugary-foods rarely satiate and satisfy for long and that if I’m still hankering for one AFTER I’ve eaten my protein-filled meal or snack, I’m welcome to it. When it comes to eating, I don’t believe in deprivation. Making a food off limits only makes me want it more. Moderation is much easier to practice when I fuel first.

Do you follow any of my fitness and nutrition rules?

If so, does it help you maintaing consistency with exercise and healthy living?

Any other fitness and nutrition rules that you’ve adopted? I’d love to hear yours!

Did you find this post helpful? Think that a friend or two of yours might benefit from it as well? Click on one of the social sharing buttons below and be forever in their debt!

TransformAging | An online fitness and health webinar for midlife women

 

fitness and health webinar

I want to continue to age well.

TC_Aging

To look good, feel great and to be able to keep doing all of my favourite activities for a long time to come.

Don’t you? Doesn’t everybody?

The thing is, when it comes to aging well, you need a plan.
  • A plan that incorporates movement and nutrition that’s appropriate and relevant to your midlife needs (hello achy knees and fluctuating hormones…).
  • A plan that’s evidence-based and prescribed by fitness professionals who specialize in the fitness and nutrition needs of midlife women (we’re out there, although you might not notice us because we don’t post six-pack abs selfies).
  • A plan with actionable steps you can start taking today (because who has time to wait until tomorrow?).

Good news!

You’re invited to the first ever TransformAging webinar;
  • Midlife Weight Gain, Hormones, and Menopot: Strategies for Staying Slim Without Losing Your Sanity with yours truly, Tamara Grand, PhD, based on the interview I did last spring for the radio show Voice America
  • Resistance Training: Your After 50 Easy Weight Management Program brought to you by the highly qualified, quite funny, action-oriented, fitness pro, Debra Atkinson
  • Supplementation and Skincare to Transform Aging Inside & Out: What’s Really Needed? by Mo Hagan, an award-winning, internationally known presenter whose passion is elevating baby boomer women (and she just happens to be Canadian too, ‘eh?).

Weren’t able to attend the fitness and health webinar in real time? Or you did, but weren’t able to write fast enough to capture all of the nuggets of wisdom and ‘do-right-nows’ we covered? Want to be able to watch them over and over and over again to reinforce the small steps you’ve taken and keep you moving in the right direction?

You can purchase the entire fitness and health webinar series, for a mere $34.

Click here to purchase and obtain lifetime access to the series >> TransformAging Webinar Purchase

health and fitness webinar

I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I did!

 

 

Training for the status quo | fitness after 40

A couple of weeks ago a fellow gym-goer asked me what I was training for.

She’d noticed that I lift heavy, 3-4 days each week and that I’d been consistently upping my weights, in particular on my rows (not stalker-ish; she’s quite interested in developing her back, so she pays attention to these things).

Was I training for a weight lifting competition? Nope (this made me giggle)

To build bigger muscles? Not particularly (although that Tricep score my Skulpt Aim gave me is bugging me just a bit 😉 )

SkulptAim_May5_2015

I could have sworn my triceps were stronger than this…

To lose weight or lean out? Nah, I’m pretty happy with my body the way it is (i.e., I’m not interested in doing what it takes to drop 3 or 4% more body fat…)

To improve my performance in another sport? Perhaps, if you consider life to be a sport (have you seen my new tag line?)

My lack of appropriate response clearly confused her, so I tried to explain that my primary reason for exercising consistently and progressively is to continue being able to perform all the activities I love, pain-free and for a long time to come.

That is, I train to stay pretty much the way I am. And when I look around at the mostly healthy-looking people in my gym, I don’t think that I’m alone.

I guess you could call it training for the status quo.

Note that this isn’t a case of simply running to stay in place (a la the Red Queen)…

Alice and the Red Queen

“It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”, said the Red Queen to Alice

It’s running to NOT end up in a worse place :-)

Training for the status quo has myriad benefits (especially for those of us who aren’t 20 anymore…)

Why I train for the status quo

  • maintain or increase metabolism; As we get older, muscle mass is both harder to create and harder to maintain due in part to a reduction in the production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. With declining muscle mass comes a reduction in basal metabolic rate. Hence the increased challenge of keeping midlife pounds at bay. Progressive resistance strength training encourages muscle growth and allows me to continue eating (most of) the foods I enjoyed in my 20’s and 30’s without gaining (very much) weight.
  • health is more than how you look; It’s not just what you see that’s important; how things are working ‘under the hood’ is a strong predictor of future health and longevity. Training for the status quo can help improve many of the health markers your doctor is watching; cholesterol, blood pressure, lung capacity, heart rate and stroke volume, to name a few.

Like ‘eating for maintenance’, training for the status quo isn’t sexy.

But it’s a heck of a lot better than the alternative…

Does the phrase ‘training for the status quo’ make you think of a hamster wheel? Or do you see the benefits of exercising simply for the benefits of exercising?

 

training for the status quo

 

6 tips to build your confidence in the gym

Many of the women I teach and train confess to being more than a tad uncomfortable in the gym. Particularly when working out by themselves.

Some common responses to my query as to what, in particular, makes them feel uncomfortable?

  • I don’t know how the equipment works
  • I’m not sure which exercises I should do
  • The free weights section is in the middle of the room; everybody will be watching me
  • I’ll do something wrong and look stupid
  • I’m self-conscious about my body
  • I just don’t feel like I belong in there with all those fit, young people

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Recruiting a friend to be your ‘exercise buddy’ is a great solution (check out these tips for creating the perfect fitness partnership).

However, there will be days when your training partner isn’t available and you’ll be faced with the decision to either ‘go it alone’ or cancel your workout entirely. Choose the latter too often and you’ll be hard-pressed to see the results of your sporadic efforts…

Looking to feel more at home in the weight room? Try the following suggestions to build your confidence in the gym
  • Make a plan. Know exactly what you’ll be doing before you get to the gym. You can find free workouts in books, magazines and websites (here’s a whole page of free workouts I’ve created just for readers like you). Choose one, print it out and pack it in your gym bag to reference at the gym.
  • Choose a quiet time to train. Call or visit the gym in advance to find the least busy time of day to train. At most gyms, early mornings, late afternoons and evenings are when equipment is most in demand. If your schedule allows it, plan for a late morning or early afternoon workout. You’re likely to have the place to yourself (or at the very least, not be surrounded by 20-year old males flexing and grunting and taking selfies 😉 ).
  • Adopt a ‘gradual entry’ approach. Start by tagging 10 minutes in the gym onto your regular group fitness class. Ask your instructor (or the weight room attendant in the gym) for three gym exercises you can do either right before class or immediately after. Once you get comfortable with those exercises (and with the gym itself), add another three exercises to your routine.
  • Carve out a corner. Keep your eye out for less-congested areas of the gym. Collect all the equipment you’ll need for your workout and claim your space. Corners are a great place for people who are concerned about others watching them. Plus, having all of your equipment in one place means a quicker workout.
  • Practice new moves at home. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are with strength training, the first few times you perform a new exercise you’ll always feel awkward and conspicuous (Turkish getups anyone?). Before you debut them at the gym, practice new moves at home and ideally, in front of a mirror. Not only will you improve your form, you’ll also realize that you don’t look nearly as silly as you thought you might.
  • Find a back-up fitness buddy. If you tend to always go to the gym at the same time of day, you’ve likely noticed others that share your preferred workout time. You may even have started to smile or say ‘hello’ to them in greeting. Chances are that at least one of them is feeling exactly the same as you and would appreciate having an occasional workout partner for accountability and motivation.

You’ll never know if you don’t ask. At the very least, you can exercise next to them and pretend that you’re working out together 😉

Have you ever suffered from a crisis of confidence in the weight room?

How did you build your confidence in the gym?

Overcoming obstacles to exercise and healthy eating

One of the favorite topics of discussion in my online women’s fitness training group is obstacles to exercise and healthy eating. It seems like one of us is always struggling with making healthy choices in the face of circumstances, seemingly out of our control.

obstacles to exercise and healthy eating

This is my kind of obstacle course!

Common roadblocks to consistently following an exercise routine and sensible meal plan include (but aren’t limit to…);

  • special events (I can’t say no to cake and wine at my best friend’s birthday party)
  • poor sleep or low energy (the dog was sick and kept me up half the night, I can’t possibly get to the gym today)

The underlying theme being that, anything other than our normal, well-controlled environment tends to result in going off-plan.

The thing is, only rarely are we ever in that ‘normal, well-controlled’ environment.

I don’t know about you, but my life is one big variety show/circus.

Each week is different from the last, presenting it’s own unique set of challenges to stay true to my fitness routines and goals.

It seems to me that rather than creating structure around exercise and nutrition, we really need to learn the dual arts of adaptability and resiliency.

Adaptability is the art of making due with what you have. No access to the gym? Head to the playground. Cable and pulley machine taken? Sub out a similar exercise that only requires dumbbells. Only burgers and fries on the menu? Go ‘bun’-less and ask for extra carrot sticks.

Resiliency is the ability to rebound quickly after a set-back. Beer and chips and s’mores at the weekend’s Cub camp? Eggs and veggies for breakfast on Monday. Back from an ‘exercise-free’ holiday? Schedule your workouts for the next two weeks as soon as you’re back.

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Rebounder fitness is so fun!

There will always be obstacles to navigate. The trick is to remember the end game.

And to remind ourselves that no one can force us to do something we don’t want to do.

In the words of a very wise friend (and member of my online training community);

In the end, the only one who controls my destiny is me

This week, I challenge you to recall these words whenever you find yourself facing an obstacle to exercise or healthy eating. 

Motivating fitness mentors for over-40 females

Last weekend I did a ‘cleanse’.

Not the type of cleanse you’re probably thinking (if you know me at all, you’ll know that ‘detoxes’ and food ‘cleanses’ are not exactly my thing 😉 ).

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A social media cleanse.

As a fitness professional, blogger and freelance writer who’s fairly active on social media, I subscribe to a lot of fitness and nutrition websites. I also  ‘follow’ a ton of Facebook pages and Twitter and Instagram accounts. Mostly to stay on top of the latest research and trends in my field but also because I too, seek motivation and inspiration from other fitness mentors. (Trainers need trainers too, right?).

The thing is, despite the daily deluge of emails and the speed with which my Facebook news stream updates with ‘fresh’ material, only a small proportion of the content delivered to me actually serves its purpose; to educate, motivate and inspire.

Instead, I found myself confused by contradictory and misleading information. Should I run or lift weights if I’m trying to lose weight? fasted cardio; yes or no? 

Overwhelmed by the sheer volume of exercise and nutrition advice. Everybody’s an expert (with or without credentials) and no two experts ever seem to agree…

Shamed and angered by the “what’s your excuse?” memes. If my priorities differ from yours does that make them ‘excuses’?

And weary of seeing photos of chiseled and buff 25-year old abs-in-training for a fitness competition. After three pregnancies, this almost 48 year-old will never see abs like those again and doesn’t believe they have anything to do with her level of fitness or self-worth. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with fitness competitions or bikini shots, if that’s your thing 😉

I realized that much of the content I was seeing was not written with me in mind. An intelligent, educated 47-year old mother of three who works both in and out of the home, enjoys exercise as much as she enjoys chocolate and craft beer and aims to fit fitness into her life, rather than life around the gym…

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Why yes, I did sample them all!

It didn’t address my goals. To remain strong, healthy, vital and energetic and be able to enjoy the physical activities I love for a long time to come. 

It didn’t jive with my fitness philosophy. Find a form of exercise you enjoy and do it consistently and progressively, with just enough intensity to move you toward your goals.

It didn’t support the body image mindset I’ve worked hard to cultivate. Exercise and eat well because you love how it makes you feel, not because you hate the way your body looks.

So I purged. And cleansed. And deleted. And un-followed.

Until I was seeing just the things that lifted me up, made me laugh and generally, reinforced my worldview.

My own personal list of fitness mentors for over-40 females.

Below you’ll find seven of the women that made the cut (there were many more; I’m not that ruthless.. 😉 ). I hope that you find a little motivation and inspiration in this list AND will share your favourite health and fitness mentors in the comments section at the end of the post.

  • Fun and Fit twins Alexandra Williams and Kymberly Williams-Evans – Using wit and wisdom, Alexandra and Kymberly share their life-long love of movement and exercise, uniquely tailored to mid-lifers and baby boomers (AND they teach group step; what’s not to love?).
  • Meg Root of Wellness Feels Good – Meg’s whole-person approach to fitness and wellness and her focus on making small choices to help move you towards your goals resonates with this busy mom (who sometimes is challenged with prioritizing herself…).
  • Go Kaleo’s Amber Rogers – Her tagline says it all, “Sanity in health and fitness”. Strong and outspoken against ‘fitspiration’ photos (#takebackfitspo ), Amber is a woman I’d LOVE to work out with!
  • Josie Maurer of Yum Yucky – Any woman who has four kids, loves to cook, bake and eat and still finds time to create and share fun workouts with her followers is a woman after my own heart. Her Facebook posts almost always brighten my day; thanks Josie!
  • Carla Birnberg and Roni Noone both individually and more recently, as co-authors of the soon-to-be-released book “What You Can When You Can – Healthy Living on Your Terms” – #wycwyc is more than a hashtag, it’s a movement, a mindset, and a lifestyle aimed at harnessing the power of small steps (small but CONSISTENT steps, right 😉 ). And the trailer for the book? Too fabulous not to share…

 

If YOUR list of fitness mentors for over-40 women includes Fitknitchick you’ll want to add your name to my email list. It’s the only way to ensure you never miss a post and stay ‘in the loop’ about my upcoming program offerings!