The best way to eat and exercise for weight loss | you’re the expert of you

We live in an era of information overload.

Every time we open our e-mail, check our Facebook newsfeed or open Instagram to see what our friends are up to we are inundated with messages (messages that are often conflicting) about the best way to eat and exercise for weight loss and long-term health and fitness.

High rep strength training, cardio intervals, HIIT, Tabata, Crossfit, Bootcamp, Insanity, P90X, 21-DayFix, hot yoga, barre, Piyo, Zumba. What type of exercise should you do to get fit?

Should you follow a low carb diet? Eat paleo? Attend Weight Watchers? Cycle your carbs? Fast intermittently? Exercise on an empty stomach? Stock up on Shakeology?

With so many options out there, is it any wonder that newcomers to exercise (or those returning to healthy living after a hiatus…) have absolutely no idea where to start?

(Indeed, one of the most common responses I get from new newsletter subscribers is “I’m so confused about what I should be doing for exercise and nutrition. Help!”)

If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably tried more than a few of the above approaches. Perhaps you’ve stuck with one long enough to see results. More than likely though, you’ve jumped from program to program, attracted by the ‘next best thing’ and it’s promises of fat loss, muscle gains, more energy, six-pack abs and dropped dress sizes.

I’m going to tell you a secret.

the best way to eat and exercise for weight loss

There’s nothing magical about any of the programs I listed above. (Think about it, if there were, everybody would be doing that program to the exclusion of all other programs and those of us espousing a different approach would be out of business 😉 ).

There is no best way to eat and exercise for weight loss.

Unless you’re a long-time exerciser with very specific performance goals, it doesn’t really matter which approach you take.

Stick with any program long enough and you’re bound to become a fitness success.

the best way to eat and exercise for weight loss

The best way to eat and exercise for weight loss (FOR YOU):
  • It doesn’t really matter what workout program you follow, as long as you follow it consistently. For general fitness improvement, the best thing you can do is find something you enjoy and will do regularly. Take a look at the fittest women you follow on Facebook. Chances are some of them are runners, some are barre fanatics and some lift weights exclusively. There’s more than one path to fitness. Find yours.
  • It doesn’t really matter what diet plan you follow, as long as you follow it consistently. When it comes to eating for health (including weight loss and performance gains), the biggest predictor of success is adherence. Find an approach that you enjoy and can see yourself following for years to come. If it feels too restrictive, it probably is.
  • Own your choices and the consequences. Remind yourself that you have control over every single fitness-related decision you make. Those 24-hours in the day? Yours to spend as you choose. What to put in your grocery cart? Entirely your decision. There’s nobody who can do this for you. The good news? When you’re successful, there’s nobody else to share the credit with!
  • Be wary of whom you trust. Sometimes people have an agenda. Many popular fitness and nutrition programs use network marketers to sell their products. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever worked with a fitness or nutrition coach who’s required (or strongly recommended) that you purchase a particular nutrition supplement through them or had you follow an exercise program that was designed by somebody else. In addition to the money they’re charging you for their services, they’re also earning an income on the product you’ve purchased. Do your research and make sure you’re working with a professional who places your best interests above their bottom line.
  • Be confident in the knowledge that you’re the expert of you. Who’s known you longer than you? If you’ve tried a variety of exercise and nutrition programs, you’ll already know which approaches suit your lifestyle best and are most likely to be sustainable. Pay attention to how your body responds to food and exercise. Don’t be afraid to do things differently than the ‘experts’ suggest. Remember, you’re the expert of you.

Follow the above steps to determine your own unique best way to eat and exercise for weight loss, weight loss maintenance, fitness and general health. Then stick with it, modifying as necessary, for the months and years to come.

Although I offer an online fitness program catering to the specific needs and goals of women in their 40’s and 50’s, my clients don’t follow a cookie-cutter program nor are they required to purchase nutritional supplements to see results. Together, we learn to listen to our bodies and practice ‘being the detective’ to determine our own specific formula for fitness success.

Our 2016 Summer session is scheduled to begin July 1st. Early registration materials will be available mid-June. Add your name to the e-mail list below to avoid missing out!

Using social media as a fitness accountability tool

Social media often gets a bad rap.

fitness accountability tool

I am certainly guilty of this some days…

Parents complain about their teenagers spending too much time on Snapchat. Mom gets angry with dad for constantly checking the hockey scores. Dad wishes mom didn’t feel the need to check in with her Facebook friends before she’s even finished her coffee. Friends tease friends about their habit of uploading food photos to Instagram. Non-users complain about the rest of the world being tethered to their phones.

Technology certainly is not without its drawbacks.

As with everything, however, it’s how you use the tool that matters.

fitness accountability tool

Maybe not the best way to use a megaphone…

My favourite way to use social media is as a fitness accountability tool.

Checking in with friends and clients via Facebook, Instagram, Evernote, Twitter and good old-fashioned e-mail (at least my kids tell me it’s old-fashioned; they never manage to respond to anything I send them…) keeps me accountable to my goals and them to theirs.

Social media sharing is particularly beneficial to those who don’t have a local, in-person group of friends to support their fitness, nutrition and health goals.

Find the right circle of online friends — your own personal support group — and sticking to an exercise schedule or diet becomes easier. Hence the popularity of online weight-loss groups (e.g., DietBet) and exercise programs (my 40+ Fitness Group Training program, for example 😉 ).

Furthermore, research demonstrates that just having a weight-loss or fitness support system in place results in better adherence to diet and exercise and more pounds shed and kept off over the long term.

The following are some of my favourite ways to keep my clients and myself accountable to our fitness and nutrition goals.

Ways to use social media as a fitness accountability tool

  • Facebook: I use both my Facebook business page and my 40+ fitness group page (shh, that’s a secret one) to share workout schedules and planned trips to the gym. Friends and clients often tell me that just seeing my post kept them from bailing on their evening workout. I tell them that it goes both ways 🙂 (sometimes trainers need motivation too…)
  • Instagram: I love to post a quick picture or video of an exercise that I’ve just incorporated in my workout. Hearing other’s comments about the exercise, suggestions as to ways to make it more challenging and even the occasional ‘dang girl, you be strong’ makes me feel good about my accomplishment (and may even motivate a client to challenge themselves a bit more too). Some fitness peeps ‘Instagram’ their meals too, in part to remain accountable to their followers, but also to help motivate themselves and others to make healthy choices on a daily basis. Follow me on Instagram (I almost always follow back) >> fitknitchick_1
fitness accountability tool

Make this move even more challenging by lifting one foot off the bench!

  • Twitter: This “micro-blogging” sits is informal and fast-paced, with nearly instantaneous feedback. Use Twitter to find friends with similar health and fitness goals. Follow links to motivational photos, low-calorie recipes and workouts you can do at home. Tweet when you feel the urge to eat and you’re guaranteed to get a helpful response in a minute or two. And Twitter chats are a fabulous way to connect with an already established healthy living tribe. You can find me on Twitter at fitknitchick_1
  • MyFitnessPal: Although most people think of MyFitnessPal as a personal nutrition diary, it’s also possible to ‘friend’ your friends and encourage their daily food journalling habit. Even better, if you’re willing to make your diary ‘public’, those friends will also have access to the details of your daily eats. My clients tell me how surprised they are to discover that simply knowing I’ll be looking encourages them to make healthier choices in the kitchen.

The key to using social media as a fitness accountability tool?

It’s right there in the name: SOCIAL media! Interact, participate and engage your way to a healthier, fitter you!

Do you have a favourite social media app that helps you with fitness motivation and accountability?

A compassionate approach to exercise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s okay.

I need to take a compassionate approach to exercise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

5 Exercises for a Strong Lower Back

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

exercises for a strong lower back

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

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

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

The most likely culprits?

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

exercises for a strong lower back

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

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

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

exercises for a strong lower back

5 exercises for a strong lower back

Bird dog

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

exercises for a strong lower back

Hip bridges

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

Modified clam shells

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

exercises for a strong lower back

Front plank

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

21DayPlankDemo

Prone chest raise

Lay face down on a yoga mat, with legs wider than hip distance apart and feet flexed. Place hands behind your head, with elbows bent and fingers interlace. Inhale, then exhale as you use your glutes and lower back to lift your chest up and off the floor. Pause at the top before slowly lowering yourself back to the ground. Rest and repeat for a total of 8 to 10 reps. (Once you get good at this one, you can progress to the back extension machine in the gym).
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Of course, don’t forget to book-end your workout with some stretching for those overly-tight hamstrings and hip flexors. You can find sample hamstring stretches here as well as the essential stretches every midlife exerciser needs to be doing here.

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

Ultimate Booty Workouts |How my approach to fitness helped me write a book

Last week marked the much-anticipated (by me at least 😉 ) launch of my new book, Ultimate Booty Workouts. (Confession, for days I’ve been stalking the online sites where it’s selling, waiting for ‘available for pre-order’ to switch to ‘purchase now’, ‘in stock’ and ‘add to cart’)

Ultimate Booty Workouts

It’s out! It’s really out!

 

Funnily enough, the most common question people have been asking me, (after “what’s the best exercise for building a better butt?” (there IS NO SINGLE exercise that’ll do it for you; variety is key) and “is that you on the cover?” (nope; but I did model for the photos inside)) is “how did you find time to write a book?”

How indeed? I have three, busy children. I teach group fitness classes and train clients. I blog, write freelance pieces, shoot and edit YouTube videos and keep up (sort of 😉 ) on social media. I knit, read, watch television and spend time with my husband. I even manage to fit in exercise four or five days a week.

I know this sounds familiar because your plate is just as full (if not more so) as mine 😉

The more I pondered this question, the more I realized that my approach to book writing is essentially the same as my approach to fitness. Make time, break it down, schedule it in and get it done.

Ultimate Booty Workouts: how my approach to fitness helped me write a book

  • choose a time frame with a fixed end date. Last spring, I signed a contract with my publisher promising to produce a 35 000 word text by August 1st. Just knowing that their was a ‘due date’ was an incredibly strong motivator. If weight loss is your goal, determine how long it will realistically take you to lose the weight (aim for 1 to 1.5 pounds per week) and circle the end date on your calendar. For those of you following the program in my book, your end date will be 12 weeks from the day you start.
  • break it down into manageable chunks. Instead of focusing on the end product (which scared the heck out of me), I broke the assignment down into smaller chunks and set mini-deadlines for each.  I focused on tackling one small task at a time, knowing that as long as I stuck to my production schedule I’d meet my goal. The same approach works with diet and exercise. Focus on one day’s meals and workouts at a time. Repeat tomorrow and the day after and the day after… Little by little, you’ll creep towards your goal.
  • eliminate distractions. Ironically, the biggest distraction I faced while writing was social media. E-mails, text messages, Tweets and Facebook notifications were constantly drawing my attention away from the task at hand. I quickly learned that in order to meet my writing goals for the day I needed to work offline and with the ringer on my phone set to silent. Determine what (and perhaps, who) distracts you from eating healthily and sticking to your workout schedule. This might mean cleaning out your pantry and eliminating your trigger foods. Or moving your workout to earlier in the day before others’ needs distract you from your own.
  • enlist support. If you’ve read the Acknowledgments, you’ll know that I depended on the support of many friends and colleagues during the writing process. Some were cheerleaders (thanks Carla and Jody), some were sounding boards (thanks Suzanne, Kymberly and Alexandra) and others stepped up to assume my home (thanks honey) and work responsibilities when I feared I was falling behind. Studies have shown that having a solid support system in place is an important predictor of weight loss success and exercise adherence. Join a weight loss group (either virtually on in real life), find a workout buddy, register for a group fitness program or hire a personal trainer to increase your chances of successfully reaching your goal.
  • prepare for roadblocks and setbacks. Despite having created a detailed writing schedule, I didn’t always meet my mini-deadlines. Children got sick. My husband had to travel for work. Other projects, with more immediate deadlines cropped up. On more than one occasion, I succumbed to Facebook. Rather than stress about what I didn’t accomplish, I focused on what I did manage to get done and recommitted the very next morning to getting back on track. Diet slip ups will happen. You’ll miss a workout now or then. Don’t let feelings of guilt and remorse sabotage you. Tomorrow is another day.
  • celebrate small victories. There were many a day when the promise of “knitting once you have a thousand words written” was a powerful motivator. Celebrate reaching your mini-deadlines with meaningful experiences or gifts. Met your weight loss goal for the month? Enjoy an evening at the theatre with friends. Finished the first phase of Ultimate Booty Workouts? Treat yourself to a new pair of workout shorts.
  • enjoy the process. As wonderful as it is to hold a copy of the finished book in my hand, that feeling of accomplishment and pride lasts only a few moments when compared to the amount of time spent in the process of creating it. Enjoying the process is key to reaching any goal, be it weight loss, improved fitness or your first book.

I’d love to know what strategies YOU use to help you reach a big, long term goal (be it health and fitness or otherwise)

Ultimate Booty Workouts can be purchased online through Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Chapters/Indigo and Barnes & Noble.

 

10 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Results in the Gym

It’s the third week of January (or at least it was when I first wrote this post 😉 )

Congratulations! You’ve been sticking to your new year’s goal of exercising regularly and cleaning up your diet. Three to 4 quality workouts a week and lots of veggies, fruits, lean protein and healthy fats.

Yet why, when you look in the mirror, do you see the very same body that you saw before Christmas staring back at you?

not getting results in the gym

Why are you not getting results in the gym?

1. You haven’t been on your program long enough. It’s simply too soon. You’ve only been working on a new program for 2 or 3 weeks. While you’re probably feeling stronger and most likely lifting heavier weights, you have yet to see that muscle definition you crave and the scale hasn’t budged.

Relax and stay the course. Don’t expect to see bigger guns, tighter glutes or a smaller belly until you’ve been consistently and progressively training for at least 4 to 6 weeks.

2. You’ve been on your program too long. Although this is unlikely to be true for those of you just getting going (see point number 1), if you’ve been exercising regularly for awhile and haven’t changed your routine in a couple of months, you’ve probably stopped seeing results and may even be losing ground.

To continue to make progress, your body needs a change. New exercises, a new ordering of the old exercises, a different body part split, or at the very least, making the old program more challenging. Bodies are inherently efficient (or lazy, as it were), doing as little as they can in an attempt to protect and minimize energy expended.

3. You’re on the wrong program. Enrolling in a zumba class won’t help you build upper body strength. Single joint exercises performed with light weights won’t significantly contribute to weight loss. Matching the program to your individual fitness goals is key to getting the results you want in a reasonable amount of time.

Don’t know where to start? Hire a personal trainer to create a program specifically designed for YOU. (Why not try online personal training?)

4. You’re not lifting heavy enough. If you want to build a stronger, leaner body, you must lift heavy. Not HEAVY, heavy, but HEAVIER than you think. The only way to stimulate muscle growth (and a leaner physique) is to work with loads that are heavier than your body is used to. Hint, if your handbag weighs 10 pounds, bicep curling with 5’s isn’t gonna build muscle.

5. You’re not lifting often enough. You need to train each body part at least once per week to see results. Any less and you’ll be hard pressed to increase the weight on any particular exercise. Weight training is based on the principle of progressive resistance; you need to keep making things more challenging to see changes in your physique. Most beginning lifters find that 3-4 days of strength training per week is ideal.

6. You’re lifting too often. Beware, when it comes to weight training, there IS too much of a good thing. Muscle fibres need time to rest and repair between workouts. That’s when growth occurs. Train too often and you risk injury, fatigue, failure to progress and sometimes even losing ground in the weight room. Overtraining is to be avoided.

7. You’re not eating the right food. Food is fuel, and as such, not all fuels are created equal. You’ve all heard the phrase ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’. It’s true. Your body needs lean protein, healthy fats, lots of vitamins, minerals and fibre and a bit of starchy carbohydrate to function well while you’re training as well as to translate that training into physical change.

8. You’re eating too much food. Even if your diet is ‘clean’, you may still be eating too much. Excess calories are stored as fat, regardless of whether they come from chicken breasts or donuts. Pay attention to portion control and resist the urge to use exercise to rationalize overeating.

9. You’re not eating enough food. It may sound counter-intuitive, but eating too little can be just as detrimental to your fitness goals as eating too much. Your body requires a certain number of calories each day just to carry out it’s basic functions. For most women, this number will be in the 1200-1400 calorie range. Eat less than this, for too long and your body will do everything it can to hold onto those energy stores. Starvation mode is to be avoided.

10. You’re paying attention to the wrong metrics. While the bathroom scale can give you a general indication of your health and fitness level, it is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to measuring progress in the gym. Why? Body weight can fluctuate by up to 5 pounds within a day, depending on when and what you’ve eaten, as well as how hydrated you are and what day of your cycle it is (why do we all jump on the scales first thing in the morning? It’s when we weigh the least!).

Better indicators of progress towards your goals include circumference measurements (abdomen, hips, thighs), body fat estimates, the fit of your clothes (use your favourite skinny jeans!), the weight you’re lifting in the gym, how many good form pushups you can do and how long you can go on the elliptical.

not getting results in the gym

Have you stopped getting results in the gym?

Do any of the items on my list sound like they could be the culprit?

Never fear. Those who add themselves to my e-newsletter list make better progress in the gym than those who don’t! (Actually, there’s no scientific data to back up this claim, but better to be safe than sorry… 😉 )

Review, reflect and move forward | 5 lessons from 2012

My very favourite thing about January 1st? The need for new stationery! (Are you a stationery geek too?)

january goals

A new calendar to keep my family’s activities organized. A new journal for me to write my thoughts and dreams in. My first Fitbook to plan and record my workouts and nutrition.

But before I move forward, I’m taking the advice of my blogger friend Kareen (of iameatingright) and making time to review and reflect on my accomplishments and near accomplishments of the past year.

While these reflections are personal, I do believe that many of you will have had similar experiences and will relate to one or more of them.

1. Make a fitness plan and stick to it. When I look back at the workouts and programs I engaged in throughout the year, I’m struck by how often I changed plans midstream. From whole body metabolic training to body part splits to incorporating yoga and running, I tried to do a lot of different things; none of which I stuck with for long enough to really reap the benefits. I like to think of this as ‘shiny new thing’ syndrome.

I did, however, get to the gym and engage in some sort of exercise 5 days out of 7 almost every week in 2012!

2. Find ways to work around injuries. Way back in July, I strained my intercostal muscles. The recovery and rehabilitation process was long and drawn out. There were a lot of movements that I couldn’t perform pain-free. Although I continued to teach and hop on the Cybex ARC trainer daily, I let my weight training slide. Rather than figure out what I COULD do, I worried a lot about what I COULDN’T. As a consequence, I lost considerable ground in the weight room. And because I didn’t adjust my nutrition to take into account all of those calories I was no longer burning daily, I saw the scale go up (and stay there!).

This experience has made me much more sensitive to my clients’ injuries and has led me to getting more creative with their workouts, so as to keep moving them towards their fitness goals.

3. Acknowledge and accept that the hormonal effects of aging may require you to change the way you exercise and eat. I am 45 1/2. Peri-menopause is part of my daily experience. Mood swings. Food cravings. Hot flashes. All caused by changes in my hormonal profile. Like it or not, my body responds to food differently than it used to. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted without repercussion. Not so now. Same with exercise. In the past, cardio and light weights were enough to keep me lean and strong. Now I find that my body needs heavy weights to maintain muscle mass and keep the belly fat at bay.

Earlier this month I PR’d on three exercises in the same workout; squats, dumbbell bench press and bent over row. I’m excited to keep up the strength training momentum in 2013!

4. Place your own fitness needs before those of others. I spend 15-20 hours per week teaching group fitness classes and training clients. As I look back at my 2012 calendar, I see many, many days when I cut my own workout short or delayed it to a low energy time of day to accommodate a client’s last minute schedule change or to sub a class for a colleague. I put on everybody else’s oxygen masks first.

I will remember and avoid this tendency as I plan my own January workouts.

5. Don’t be afraid of trying something new. Over the past year and a half I stepped outside of my fitness comfort zone more often than ever before! I took a Burlesque class! I tried CrossFit and Trampoline fitness! I made yoga a regular part of my fitness routine!

What shall I try in 2013?

Whether you’re making resolutions or not, I encourage you to watch Kareen’s video and take a few minutes to think back on your OWN 2012. Celebrate your successes, identify areas where you could have done better and make a plan for tackling those aspects of your life in 2013.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and fit 2013! xo Tamara

What was your biggest health and fitness accomplishment in 2012?

How will you improve even more in 2013?

Under Armour ‘What’s Beautiful’ campaign; why I’ll be cheering from the sidelines

Last week I got an email from a friend about Under Armour’s ‘What’s Beautiful’ campaign. She suggested that since (a) I was into fitness, (b) I was already used to writing and photographing and video blogging about exercise and (c) love Under Armour workout gear, entering was a no-brainer.

Haven’t heard about the campaign? According to the website, ‘What’s Beautiful’ is a “competition to redefine the female athlete”;

 

Anyone can enter. You needn’t be an athlete in the traditional sense. Just declare a fitness-related goal and complete the challenges sent to you. You’ll be uploading your progress videos regularly and at the end of the 9-week challenge, three women will be chosen as the new faces of Under Armour.

And did I mention that the winners will receive UA workout wear? Two $1000 winners and one $5000 winner!

I immediately starting racking my brain for a goal worthy of the challenge. Since I already workout 5 or 6 days a week, it had to more than a ‘get to the gym regularly’ kind of goal.

Running a marathon (or a half-marathon or even a 10K) was the first thing that popped into my head. Only one problem; I don’t run. Is completing a 5K in less than an hour epic enough to convince UA that I should be their new ‘face’? Probably not.

How about a triathlon then (maybe a sprint or ‘Try it’ tri?). In addition to being a non-runner, I’m not really a swimmer or a cyclist either (other than indoor cycling; no weather to deal with!). But think about what an incredible story that would make? ‘Non-runner, non-cyclist, non-swimmer trains and completes her first triathlon in only 9 weeks!’ (that’s 9 weeks of training, not 9 weeks to finish the event ; ) )

Perhaps. But I’d need to buy a bike. And a wet-suit. And running gear. Spend upwards of $1000 to win $1000 worth of workout gear. You do the math. Plus, how on earth am I going to fit in 2 runs, 2 cycles and 2 swims each week? I could ditch my clients, but they’d be none too happy about it!

After a week of thinking hard on a goal worthy of the competition, I remembered a recent post I wrote about goals. I confessed that I didn’t really have any long term fitness goals and that I needed to put that on my list of things to do.

Somehow, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. And I’m okay with that. Turns out that I’m not really the type of person who needs a long-term training goal to get her workouts in. Exercising is just something I do daily, like brushing my teeth.

So I’m not entering the competition.

Instead, I’ll be cheering on several of my FitFluential friends from the sidelines. Women who were daring enough to throw their hats in the ring. Click on the names to view their UA profiles and show them some love! With a little luck and determination, three of them could be the new faces of Under Armour!

Under Armour’s ‘What’s Beautiful’ campaign is still accepting challengers. Are you up for it? Declare a goal and get to work!

Have you ever challenged yourself to a longterm fitness goal?

What was it? And how did you stay motivated to see it to completion?

 

Short and long term goals in fitness, knitting (and life)

Believe it or not, I am a knitter. (I know, I don’t look like a knitter. But what does a knitter look like?)

I knit for the same reason I exercise; it relieves stress, it’s a productive use of my time, it teaches me new things and it’s introduced me to many new friends; friends I might not have met otherwise.

There are a lot of similarities between knitting and fitness. I’ve blogged at length about them before here. But one of the most important elements the two have in common is the need for both short and long term goals.

Short term goals hold your interest for a few days or weeks at best. Not too much investment. Easy to forget about once attained. In contrast, long term goals require you to look beyond the immediate and see the bigger picture. More investment, more stops and starts, more satisfaction when you reach them.

My current short and long term goals?

Knitting:

Short term: socks, always socks. I’m currently working on a wild-stripey pair for my 9-year old daughter. Knitting socks for kids has to be about the shortest term project out there. You cast on, knit while watching an episode of House and presto, it’s time to turn the heel. Four to 6 evenings of television and they’re done. Almost instant satisfaction (unless, of course, your child then refuses to wear them because they’re either too pretty or too itchy to come in contact with their foot…).

Long term: a beautiful, flowing, drapey cardigan for me. Garments don’t always have to be long term projects (I’ve knit a chunky weight vest on 6 mm needles in a weekend), but this one is knit in sport-weight yarn (very thin) on 4 mm needles (moderately small) and has a very large, overlapping collar and extension PLUS long sleeves. I’m hoping it will be done in time to wear as an evening cover up come summer… Here’s what it’s supposed to look like

This is what mine looks like right now; still a fair ways to go…

Fitness:

Short term: consistently get to the weight room 3 times a week, yoga and spinning once or twice. Showing up is all that matters for my short term goals. I’ve been tweeting (and will continue to tweet) my #PROOF pics just to stay accountable and motivated.

Long term: other than my super long term goal to do unassisted pull-ups (it occurs to me that if I was being consistent, this would be a short term goal; funny how short terms goals can turn into long term goals, isn’t it?), I don’t really have any. I’m not training for any particular event. I’m not trying to drop weight or body fat (not to say that I wouldn’t love to be a bit leaner, but I’m not really concentrating on it these days).

I think I just added another action item to my short term fitness goal list: identify a long term fitness goal!

I’m keeping my long and short term life goals to myself (for now). Suffice it to say, we’re  all works in progress!

What are your current short and long term fitness goals?

What other areas in your life do you set goals for?