Bosu balance trainer workout and a new Tuesday Trainer video

One of my favourite fitness tools is the Bosu balance trainer.

Essentially, it’s a stability ball, cut in half and mounted on a hard, flat piece of rubber. It can be used dome side up (for beginners) and platform side up (for more advanced and stable exercisers). I like to use it both ways (BOth Sides Up)!

 Bosu group fitness class

Great for challenging your balance and adding a bit of instability to your workouts, I often use it with my clients to improve

  1. knee and ankle strength; just standing on the dome side forces all the little stabilizer muscles surrounding the knee and ankle joints to wake up and turn on (you’ll also feel it in your inner thighs). Try closing your eyes!
  2. balance and kinesthetic sense; knowing where your body is in space (“proprioception”) is helpful for avoiding slips and slides and falls
  3. knee tracking; often knees ‘drop’ inwards or ‘splay’ outwards during lunges due to weak quadriceps. Stationary lunges or squats on the Bosu can help strengthen the vastus medialis and reduce or eliminate the knee tracking problem. Just make sure that knees are staying above the ankles during movement

Balance training is an important part of a well-rounded fitness program. It improves your posture, functionally strengthens your core and adds an interesting challenge to exercises you may already have mastered on a stable surface.

Here’s a sample workout that I’ve done with my weekly Bosu Blast class.

Bosu balance trainer

You’ll need a Bosu balance trainer, some light to moderately heavy dumbbells and a mat. Make sure your running shoes are tightly laced; after a few minutes of marching on the dome, your feet may feel like they’re sliding around in your shoes. And avoid wearing short shorts; during seated Bosu work, they tend to ‘migrate’ upwards (think ‘wedgie’). Enough said.

The workout has 6 parts; I’ll describe the first five (with examples of increasing difficulty) and leave you to stretch on your own!

  1. Balance and proprioception
  2. Dynamic warmup
  3. Speed and agility (cardio)
  4. Strength and conditioning
  5. Core specific exercises
  6. Stretch

Balance and Proprioception

  • standing on dome side; arms at sides or extended out from body or overhead, eyes open or closed
  • 1/4 squat and hold; arms extended at sides, eyes open or closed
  • single leg balance; non-supporting foot touching side of dome, pressed against calf of supporting leg, extended straight out to the side (‘tree pose’)
Dynamic Warmup
  • marching on and off the dome; increasing speed
  • marching or jogging on top of the dome; high knees
  • mini-squat jumps
  • lateral squat (one foot on top, one on the floor beside); up to balance knee
Speed and Agility (perform 30 s of each at high intensity with 15 s rest between)
  • fast feet; marching on an off as quickly as you can with pumping arms; switch lead leg 2nd time through
  • squat or tuck jumps; arms out front or hands behind head
  • tire runs; one foot on dome, one on floor; switch sides 2nd time through
  • Bosu burpees
  • Bosu straddle jacks or straddle squat jacks
Strength and Conditioning (perform 10-12 repetitions of each movement, no breaks between; rest and repeat)
  • dome (or platform) squat with bicep curl to shoulder press
  • platform power pushups (from knees or toes); drop, hold at bottom, slowly push up
  • split lunge with lateral raise (back toe on dome or platform); lift arms as you push up out of the lunge
  • bent over reverse flys (on dome or platform); both arms together or alternate arms with torso rotation
Core (hold static positions for 30 s, perform 10-12 repetitions of movements; rest and repeat)
  • V sit on dome (hands behind for support/knees bent/legs extended/arms across chest/arms extended)
  • Bosu sit to stand crunches; sit low on dome, weight in hands, lean back, curl up and push through feet to stand
  • platform plank tilts; holding handles, plank from knees/toes; alternately press hands down towards floor, pausing to regain balance in the centre before pressing to other side
  • belly on Bosu back extension; hands on floor/feet on floor/hands behind head/feet lifting

Whew! That’s a lot of words to describe a workout. Maybe I should have shot a video? (Do you want me to???)

A big thank you to Lindsay for giving me the idea for today’s post. This week, Tuesday Trainer is all about balance training. Here’s my video contribution:

For more great balance exercise videos head on over to Lindsay’s List!

Do you incorporate balance training in your fitness routine?

Have you ever tried an extreme balance board? Makes the Bosu balance trainer look like a piece of cake!

 

 

A year in review; my favorite blog posts

One of the things I’ve come to love about blogging is how instantaneous creative expression can be. I can be struck with an idea while driving home from work and have a post written up and published within an hour of leaving my shoes at the front door. (Okay, sometimes it takes longer than an hour to get the wording just right and the photos uploaded, but it’s pretty quick, compared with say, writing a book!)

One of the things I don’t like about blogging, though, is how quickly those finely crafted words become last week’s post. Archived and all but invisible to new readers or those who haven’t visited in awhile. You can find them if you search, but most of us can’t be bothered.

I’ve now been blogging for a little over a year and in that time have managed to write upwards of one hundred and thirty posts! So many, that even I can’t remember what they’re all about.

Some were quick, newsy updates. Others were carefully thought out reviews of research papers, books and equipment. My favorites (and yours too, according to WordPress statistics), were those posts that touched on my own personal challenges and included details about my family life and my love of knitting.

Over the next week or so, as I take a break from work and blogging to spend time with family, I’ll be directing you to some of my favorite posts of 2011. (Of course, if the children start to drive me nuts, I’ll most surely drop by to tell you about it!)

I’ll start with these three;

  • thoughts about finding time to exercise (very appropriate for this time of the year); January 15, 2011
  • ideas about time management for fitness professionals (and other self-employed types); April 9, 2011
  • finding the balance between physical activity and creativity; July 15, 2011

Whether you’re reading them for the first time or revisiting a favorite of your own, enjoy! (And to be automatically notified when a new post is up, please subscribe to my blog; see sidebar, bottom right, ‘Email Subscriptions’).

Have a fit and fabulous holiday, from my family to yours!

Tips for a balanced holiday; make less more

I don’t know about you, but this time of the year I’m more likely to feel overwhelmed and on-the-brink than happy and peaceful. Rather than enjoying the holidays, I end up frazzled and worn out and just a little bit depressed come the new year. I love Christmas but I hate what it does to my health and sanity.

It’s nobody’s fault but my own. With some Norman Rockwellian ideal of what Christmas is supposed to look like I over-book, over-plan, over-bake and generally, over-extend myself.

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I forgo trips to the gym for trips to the mall. I feel compelled to make not 3 or 4 types of Christmas cookies, but 7 or 8 (wouldn’t want to forget hubby’s favorites). I get the last minute urge to host a large party with friends and neighbors, kids and all. I menu plan, relying more on traditional (high calorie) recipes than my normal clean eating favorites.

I do (almost) all the present buying for my kids as well as coming up with ideas for gifts for them from aunts and uncles and grandparents. I wrap all the presents and make sure the stocking stuffers don’t get overlooked. I used to write and address all of the Christmas cards (I gave that up a few years ago when I realized that nobody was reciprocating; what’s with that?).

Not this year. This holiday season, I resolve to find balance by making less more.

1) Plan fewer social engagements. Instead of running around from one party to the next, concentrate on those people who’s company you really enjoy. Think of the holidays as a time to re-connect with your closest friends and loved ones, not a time for putting in rushed appearances just because you feel you have to (the realtor up the street’s skating party? not happening this year). Balance ‘have to’ with ‘want to’.

2) Keep meals simple. Maintain the rest-of-the-year focus on lean proteins, whole grains and fresh vegetables. Limit special, high-fat, high-carb dishes to one per meal. Sure, Christmas traditions need to be honored, but not to the extent that your weight is up by 5 pounds come January 1st. Balance indulgences with common-sense eating.

3) Minimize holiday baking. I’m planning to limit my baking to my immediate family’s favorites; shortbread, gingerbread, fruit and nut florentines and ‘Xmas’ M&M cookies (only the red and green ones allowed!). Strike a balance between a little extra holiday baking and over-doing it.

4) Change your exercise schedule to reflect what your body needs. If shopping at the mall makes you yearn for cardio, reduce your weight training workouts and hit the trail. I’ll be dropping a few strength workouts and upping my attendance at yoga class. Relaxation is more important to my mental health this time of the year than lifting weights. Find a balance between activities that help you let off steam and those that nurture and rejuvenate.

5) Take time out for yourself. Having a house full of friends and relatives can be great fun. It can also be exhausting. Remind yourself that you’re not responsible for any one else’s enjoyment of the holidays. Excuse yourself for a quiet cup of tea, a candlelit bath or a half hour of knitting. (Chances are they need a break from you too!) Balance the energy you give to others with that you save for yourself.

Do the holidays energize you or leave you drained of energy?

What advice do you have for holiday over-achievers?

Crows, dolphins and (teddy)bears, oh my!

So I’ve been practicing yoga (semi-)faithfully for about three months now.

Absolutely loving savasana. Slowly getting better at downward dog and warrior. Working on ‘enjoying’ chair and pigeon pose. But up until today, quite terrified of inverted balance poses.

In part because I’m afraid of falling and looking silly but also, because of the little voice in my head that’s been telling me my entire life that I’m not an athlete. (Yes, I know, I lift weights, teach group fitness and indoor cycling and can out-push up my husband, but somehow, I haven’t an athletic bone in my body…)

Fortunately, I usually attend the busy classes, where I’m guessing, there’s just not enough room for ‘new-to-inversions’ yogis. (Imagine thirty-five people attempting headstands for the first time with mats a mere six inches a part; I know, funny, huh?). So although I’ve been challenged by the difficulty of holding my body in contorted positions for long intervals, I haven’t really pushed myself outside of my comfort zone.

Until today.

Maybe it was due to the small class size (there was lots of room between mats for ‘errors’). Or perhaps because a kind, supportive friend (thanks Tracey!) was on the mat next to mine. Possibly it was the instructor; a gentle, nurturing woman who notices and doesn’t hesitate to celebrate our small yogic victories.

Today’s class was full of inversions.

We began with crow pose.

This one, I’ve done before, but only fleetingly. Supporting your weight on hands only, knees balanced on the back of triceps. One leg slips off, try, again. Other leg slips off, try again. After the third try, I usually slip into child’s pose to regroup (and hide my embarrassment).

Today, I hugged my arms and inner thighs towards the midline of my body and managed to hold the pose for what felt like forever (but was probably only 15 seconds…).

We moved on to dolphin,

Source

not difficult on it’s own and really a pose used to transition into the more challenging teddy bear (from dolphin, balance your knees on the back of your triceps, much like crow). Miraculously, I was able to hold and maintain this one for an unbelievable (at least to me!) amount of time.

From teddy bear, the instructor challenged us to begin moving into headstand. Ever so slowly, start to bring the the knees together (holy core strength, batman!), pressing the inner thighs together, inch the feet towards the ceiling. I squeezed and inched, but only managed to make it about a quarter of the way to the top. The instructor cheered me on and I felt victorious as I lowered myself back down on the mat. Next time, half way, I promise!

Source

For the first time in a very long time, I attempted something scary. Nowhere near as often as Lululemon advocates (“Do one thing a day that terrifies you”), but a good start.

So often our fears of embarrassment and failure hold us back. That little voice in the back of our heads that tells us we can’t. “I can’t take a group fitness class, I’m too uncoordinated”, “Weight-lifting? I’d probably hurt myself”, “I’ve tried eating better, but I haven’t got the willpower”.

Tomorrow, apply some mental duct tape to your little voice’s head and do something that scares you (try ‘scares’ before you attempt ‘terrifies'; baby steps). I have no doubt that you’ll surprise yourself. I won’t be surprised; I knew you could do it!

What have you done lately that scares you?

Did you feel elated and powerful afterwards (even if you weren’t entirely successful)?

Midterm report card; making good on intentions?

At the beginning of September I posted a list of my intentions for the month. Things that I wanted to work on and make time for. Goals that pertained to the four most important spheres of my life (in no particular order); fitness, food, family and home.

Well, September has come and gone. What of my intentions? Did I make good? Let’s see!

Fitness: attend 1 yoga class per week, lift weights twice per week

Fitness goals are always the easiest for me to achieve. It probably helps that I work in a fitness facility and am surrounded by people who are making time in their day for exercise (and making me feel guilty when I don’t :) ). I made it to yoga class 6 times this month. A bit more frequently than I originally planned, partly because I found it so enjoyable (challenging too!), but also because my back injury kept me out of the weight room for about ten days and I needed something physical to do to preserve my sanity and help me sleep at night. I did miss a few weight training sessions, but expect to be back on track again this week.

Food: eliminate (once again) all added sugar in my diet, continue experimenting with home made, low sugar versions of my children’s favourite snack foods

Despite finding some great new (to me) clean eating websites (check out the sidebar to the right) and trying half a dozen new recipes, I am not any closer to finding healthy snacks that my children are willing to let replace their old favourites (which, by the way, they’re not getting any more!). I’m not giving up, though. Eventually, they will forget how good ‘rainbow chip’ granola bars taste and start appreciating my efforts. It’s all about re-training the taste buds. My own sweet tooth has been kept in check fairly well, with a few sugary splurges, including dessert night and my healthier version of a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. Always an on-going thing with me…

Family: spend 1-on-1 time with each of my three children, every single day (oh yes, this is meant to be positive interaction time, we have enough of the other…)

I am still struggling to make time during the day to sit down with each child, one on one, for some quality interaction time. I’ve always read to my children before bedtime, and has recently switched from reading storybooks to my youngest two (ages 7 and 9) to longer, more challenging chapter books. We are enjoying a good 30 minutes of reading each evening and this ‘slow down’ time has been good for all of us. (We recently finished ‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar). My oldest son started attending a gifted program at a new school this fall. The downside is, I have to drive him to and from school (we’re cross-boundary, so he can’t take the bus). The upside is, we have a good 30 minutes of interesting conversation every day. I know that he is enjoying it as much as I am. Now if only we could reduce the negative parent-child interactions… (is it only my children who enjoy fighting amongst themselves?)

Home: devote 30 minutes per day to house cleaning (rather than a whole, stressed out day once per month)

Well, I have managed to spend 30 minutes a day on house cleaning chores, however, it doesn’t seem to be making a dent in the state of household affairs. I mean, look at the state of my laundry room (I can’t believe I’m showing you a picture of this mess!).

Perhaps I could combine family time with house-cleaning time, teaching my children the art of taking care of the house while spending quality time with them? Do you think they’ll go for it? I can dream, can’t I?

October is going to be a juggling act for me; my hubby is having surgery on Friday and will be in hospital for approximately 10 days with another few weeks recovery at home before he’s back up to speed. I’m thinking that sticking with these intentions for another month is about all I can handle right now. That, and blogging regularly, of course…

Did September fly by for you too?

Any October goals you’d like to share?

Just breathe, she said; reflections of a yoga newbie

I live a fast paced life. Mornings in my house are a whirlwind. I can usually be found grabbing bites of my breakfast (overnight oats) while simultaneously unloading the dishwasher, feeding the cat, cooking my children’s morning meals (waffles for one, eggs and toast for the other two), packing their lunches (none of them like the same thing), organizing dinner (crockpots are lifesaving) and prepping for a group fitness class or a client.

Within less than two hours of waking up, I’m out the door, dropping a child or two at school before zipping off to work to teach a class (or two), train a client (or three), workout myself and make a quick dash to the grocery store before retracing my footsteps and reversing the morning drill (lunch boxes unpacked, planners scrutinized, forms signed, dinner served, homework supervised and children driven to evening activities and lessons). If I’m lucky, there’s time for knitting and reading (and blogging; feeling a bit guilty here…) before bedtime. (Sound familiar to any of you?!!)

I’m not complaining. I thrive when I’m busy and activity and variety energize me. But, although my body is always tired and ready for sleep, my mind frequently races late into the night. I need a way to quiet my mind so I’m rested and refreshed for the next day’s busy-ness.

Enter yoga.

As I mentioned last week, one of my September intentions is to begin a yoga practice. In addition to helping me find clarity, focus and a quiet(er) mind, I’m hoping it will also help with my self-admitted lack of flexibility. Killing two birds, as it were (although that’s probably not a very yoga-y way to put it…).

Rather than attend a class at the facility where I work (there are lots of yoga classes and great instructors there), I decided to join a studio where (almost) no one knows me as an instructor or personal trainer. Kula Yoga is close to work and home and came highly recommended by several friends. Plus, the first visit is (was) free!

My first class was a 75-minute Hatha practice. I arrived about 20 minutes early to fill out ‘new client’ forms and have a quick peek at the studio. It was bright and airy and had a wonderful view of the mountains.

I panicked every so slightly when shown where to leave my shoes (recall my insecurity about the state of my feet), but a quick look at all of the other less-than-beautiful feet made me feel a tad less self-conscious.

Heather, the instructor, introduced herself and checked in with me throughout the session to offer encouragement and correction (which I needed A LOT of). Her teaching style was welcoming and friendly and she even remembered my name (as an instructor I know how important and difficult it is to do this with each newcomer to your class…).

The focus of the class was breathing. Sounds simple enough. We do it thousands of times a day without giving it any thought. Why is it then, that when someone asks you to pay attention to your breath, if becomes awkward? First slowing down, then speeding up as, in a panic, you feel like you’re running out of air? I can honestly say that my thoughts did not stray from my breath for a single second of that class! No to-do lists. No class planning. No mental knitting (yes, I knit in my head; don’t ask).

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I rocked the balance poses (at last, some concrete evidence of all the functional strength training I’ve done over the years!). I sucked at downward dog and butterfly pose (tight hip flexors and hamstrings; no surprises there). I particularly enjoyed the quiet meditation at the end and think that I may have found a pose I can use to help me defeat my periodic middle-of-the-night insomnia. (Don’t know what it’s called, but learning any new language takes time…)

My second class was taught by Alissa (who recognized me from the days when she worked at our local pharmacy; so much for anonymity!). Hatha again, but very different in focus and feeling than the first class. Both soothing and energizing at the same time.

Click on photo for souce

Alissa spoke less about breathing (which I still tried to focus on, but found difficult to do without constant reminders :)) and more about the heart. Lifting the heart to the sky during lengthening poses (what a wonderful visual cue!). Feeling our energy moving from heart to fingertips as we inhaled and exhaled. (I didn’t see the blue light, but maybe next time?). I found the poses easier to move into with her clear explanations of where to place hands and feet (mine were often far from where they should have been…) and was amazed at what a challenging workout Hatha yoga could be. I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to try another of Alissa’s classes (which she tells me are different every time).

Very different from the fast-paced spinning classes and high energy weight room that I so love, but, I think, exactly what I need to balance out the rapid pace of the rest of my week. Yin and yang. Order and chaos. Yada, yada.

I’ve committed to (and paid for!) one class per week for the next 12 weeks. That’s one intention I don’t think I’ll have trouble fulfilling. As for my goal of spending 30 minutes a day cleaning house? A heck of a lot harder than bow pose! (slinking off to wash the floors now…).

Do you practice yoga?

What’s your favorite discipline?

That elusive balance point

Over the last few years, I’ve discovered that I only really need two activities in my life to keep me sane; exercise and knitting. One keeps my body strong and healthy, the other, my mind.

There is an optimal level of each and sometimes, the perfect balance is elusive.

Last week, while on holiday, I had many hours in the car to spend on my knitting. I knit socks. I knit lace. I worked on a garment. Lots of time to wrap string around needles and let my thoughts drift randomly. My brain relaxed and let go of the usual minutia it likes to bandy about and stress over. Knitting does for me what yoga does for others.

However lovely it was to knit my days away, my body was missing its daily visits to the gym. My legs and lower back were achey; too much sitting in the car and sleeping poorly on soft hotel mattresses, not enough squats and lunges and dead lifts.

This week, I happily returned to work, teaching my usual five classes and eagerly volunteering to sub three extras. I trained as many clients as I could and busily taxied my children back and forth from their various summer camps. Muscles content and tired, I fell into bed each night anticipating a hard-earned slumber only to be kept awake by to-do lists and re-hashes of the day’s petty slights and disagreements.

What did I do wrong?

Not enough knitting.

Next week my work schedule is light and the children need only be taken to the pool for their mid-morning lessons. Time to fit in a run or an at-home workout before and some knitting afterwards.

Source: http://www.medicalscale1.com

It’s an elusive balance, but when I get it right, I am calm, content and unflappable.

Do you struggle with finding balance in your life?

What activities help you feel more balanced and centered?

Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

Confessions of a serial project mom

Psst. Wanna know something? I often bite off more than I can chew and I THRIVE on the challenge of getting things done! I’m never happier than when I’m diving into a new project, be it fitness, knitting, new technology know-how, another certification…

Finishing things up, though, that’s where the real work lies. It’s not that I leave projects languishing (I’m much too Type A for that!), it’s just that my excitement for them fades when the prospect of a new project arises. Sound familiar?

Lately, I’ve been pretty good at getting things done. And to celebrate, I thought I’d bring you up to date on my various projects; knitting, more knitting, career advancement and gulp, bikini body.

First, the pretty pictures (with links to Ravelry pattern pages, for the knitterly among you).

A lovely, merino and cashmere shawl; Wandering the Moors, knit in Saffron Dyeworks ‘Tush’ (I love that name! And it is as soft as a baby’s bottom!).

My daughter’s much-begged-for hoodie (which she has yet to wear; apparently it’s being saved for a ‘special occasion’, which better occur before she outgrows it, or else); Camp Hoodie, knit mainly in Cascade ‘Ultra Pima’.

A pair of silk and wool socks, currently making their way across the country in honor of Mother’s Day; my own basic ribbed sock pattern knit in Adirondack ‘Silky Sock’.

A pretty pink extra large beaded wrap; Rose Lace Stole knit in Jojoland Melody Superwash (I love the long, gradual colour changes in this yarn, and it’s incredibly soft given the nylon content).

And two works-in-progress (I actually started a third since beginning this post, but I haven’t had time to photograph it. Next time.).

Wispy Cardigan, a light weight, shrug-style cardi knit in Indigo Moon Merino. I just know that this will be my go-to sweater this summer. Don’t you think it will look great with jeans and a tank? (I know, not a lot of shaping to see here, yet. Patience, my knitters, patience).

And a super-secret project whose details I must protect until it’s recipient unwraps it (May 26th, but no more clues!). The yarn is Saffron Dyeworks ‘Enya’. The colour is called ‘Frog Blancmange'; don’t you just love it? (I know, lace, on the needles, really doesn’t look like much; just wait until it’s finished and blocked!).

Workwise, I’ve just signed up for an on-line course that’s the first pre-requisite for obtaining my ‘Supervisor of Fitness Leaders’ status with BCRPA. This designation will allow me to become a supervisor of group fitness instructors (and will make it so that I don’t have to teach as many classes a week…). I have a month to complete the course work, fitting it in around all of my other obligations. I’ll let you know how it goes!

As for my fitness and nutrition project (The Last 10 Pounds, remember?), I am happy to report a net loss of 3 pounds (4 lost, 1 found it’s way home). As of today my numbers are;

Weight: 144 lbs
Chest: 36″ (whew, don’t have much to lose up there!)
Waist: 28 1/2″
Abdomen: 30″
Hips/butt: 38″

The only thing that’s changed is the last one; I’m down 1 inch about the hips. Everything else remains the same. (No need for a bikini shot; you’re really not going to see that small of a difference!). On track and reasonable (but not stellar) progress over the last three weeks.

I’d love to see the scale hit (and remain at) 140, but am most interested in seeing change in the mirror (and being comfortable, once again, in a certain pair of jeans…).

I’ve found dialling in my nutrition to be very challenging. I still have a sweet tooth. After school is my ‘danger time’. I have to be very conscious of not finishing off the remainders of my children’s lunches! It’s all too easy to convince myself to have a larger portion on days I’ve done a strenuous workout (the “you’ve earned it” trap).

Initially, I was using My Fitness Pal (a free online food tracking website that also has inexpensive iPhone and iPad applications) to log my meals after I’d eaten them, and sometimes, not until the end of the day. Not so helpful to know you’ve gone over your daily calorie allotment when it’s too late to do anything about it (I’m not purging… if you get my drift).

Screen capture of food diary, MyFitnessPal

Also, since I’m trying to retain, and even increase my lean muscle mass, I need to be certain I’m reaching my protein goals each day. That’s one of the neat things about My Fitness Pal; it calculates daily targets for fats, protein and carbohydrates and compares your daily intake of these dietary components to your targets (you can also override their calculations and insert your own values, but I don’t advise doing so unless you have a good understanding of your body’s nutritional needs). Makes it very easy to see where you’ve made nutritional ‘mistakes’.

Why not use it to see those mistakes before you make them? Why not use the ap as a nutrition planner rather than a nutrition tracker?

For the last week I’ve been doing just that. Each evening, I sit down and ‘create’ my meals and snacks for the following day. Using the daily nutrition option, I can get a preview of what the following day will look like and adjust accordingly.

It takes me about 15 minutes to plan a day’s meals; a little less if it’s time to go shopping (less food in the fridge means fewer options for meals…). But what’s 15 minutes a day if it leads to a leaner, healthier you?

And finally, we have a new addition at our house. Kind of a long term project.

Meet Saffron (name after both her coat colour and my favourite yarn!). She was rescued by one of my clients after being abandoned by either her mother or her owner. I couldn’t resist. Could you?

Pro-D Day; not just for kids!

As a self-employed mother of three working in the fast-paced fitness industry, I was finding it difficult to stay on top of the latest health and wellness news not to mention the newest exercise tool-of-the-month.

Much of the time, I found myself scrambling to prepare a class plan or a client program just a few minutes before the class or training session was to begin. The stack of books, magazines, newspaper articles, fitness DVDs and YouTube videos to watch was ever-growing. The list of client handouts to prepare and photocopy never seemed to get any smaller. Telephone and email inquiries were taking longer to get to. There didn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done, let alone grow my business.

I’m sure this sounds familiar to many of you. The first tasks to be completed are always the immediate ones and those that directly generate income. But what about the ‘behind the scenes’ work? The non-income generating projects and tasks that take your business from good to fabulous?

About three months ago (after complaining to a friend about yet another Pro D Day at home with my children), I realized that teachers have got it all figured out. Take a day each month away from your regular job to work on skills, long term projects and general professional development; the things you can’t possibly accomplish in the little snippets of time available during your regular work day.

I now take the first Wednesday of each month and spend it reading through the references that have piled up on my night table, watching fitness DVDs and online videos and practicing the exercises I want to introduce to my classes and clients. Course work and dropping in on a fitness class at another facility are on my agenda for next month’s Pro D Day.

Last Professional Development Day I generated six weeks of curriculum for each of two different courses in just a single morning, resulting in more polished, professional looking classes and freeing me from the last minute scramble. My handouts are photocopied and organized; no more running to the photocopier minutes before a client arrives! I am consistently returning emails and telephone calls within hours and I have started a fitness and wellness blog (something I never thought I had time for) to make myself more visible in the marketplace.

My practice is growing consistently. My group fitness classes are almost always full with wait lists. I am getting referrals from current and previous clients. But most of all, I feel more focused, less frazzled and more in control of my time.

Professional Development Days; add them to your calendar!