September is the ‘new January’: The Fresh Start Fitness Challenge

Forget about January, for many of us, September is the month to get back on track with our health and fitness goals. The kids are back in school, summer barbecues and parties are a thing of the past, and New Year’s Eve parties (and little black dresses!) are only a few months away!

It’s the perfect time to commit to getting to the gym more regularly and making healthier choices in the kitchen.

Welcome to the Fresh Start Fitness Challenge!

fitknitchick fitness challenge

Each Sunday during the month of September, I’ll be posting a series of fitness and health challenges to be completed over the following week. Join in, comment on your successes (and near successes!) and be entered to win an 8-Week Fitness Coaching Package ($150 value), courtesy of me, fitknitchick.

Every comment you leave gives you one entry in the draw (I’ll give you specific directions about WHERE to comment as we get closer to the start date). The winning comment will be chosen randomly at the end of the month and the winner contacted via e-mail to arrange initiation of our coaching relationship.

What does the Fitness Coaching Package consist of?

  • An initial interview to discuss your personal fitness and nutritional goals (preferably via Skype, but possibly telephone or in person if the winner is local)
  • Two workout plans; one to start and a second, follow up plan, 30 days later
  • Menu tips and suggestions (I’m not a registered dietician, so meal planning is outside of my scope of practice)
  • Weekly check-ins via email
  • Menu and workout tracking tools to help with adherence and consistency

Make sure you subscribe to my blog (up near the top, on the right…) and ‘like’ my Facebook page to keep up with the challenges, comments and chatter.

What are YOUR biggest health and fitness challenges right now?

Tell me why YOU need to join the Fresh Start Fitness Challenge?

 

Fitness Friday: time to change up that 15 minute workout!

Two weeks ago I posted a quick and dirty, 15-minute workout that I challenged you to find the time to do in your busy day. Every body’s got 15 minutes to spare, right?

If you’ve followed my suggestion and done the workout three times a week, your body should be ready for a bit of a change. Change is a good as a rest when it comes to fitness!

This week, I’m upping the ante by adding 5 minutes to program. No groaning. If you do the workout three times a week, all we’re talking about is 1 measly hour of 168 hours in your week. Your health and well-being is worth at least that much.

So here’s the plan. There are 9 exercises in the circuit. Set your timer for 9 cycles of 45 s of work and 15 s of rest. After a quick warmup (light calisthenics, walking up and down the stairs in your house, jogging in place), perform all 9 exercises in a row. Each exercise is performed for 45 s with 15 s rest between exercises.

 

When you finish the last exercise, take a 1 minute break. No more, no less. Time it to make sure. Re-start your timer (same cycle as before) and repeat. Got an extra 10 minutes to kill? Go again!

Yesterday’s post is being featured in today’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest. Please follow this link to read some wonderful essays about beauty!

Disclaimer: These workouts may or may not be for you, depending on your age, weight and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before you begin a new exercise program.

January exercisers; slow and steady trumps fast and furious

Whether you’re new to exercise, or simply returning to it after a two-week, two-month or two-year hiatus, it’s important to pace yourself and be realistic in your expectations of what your body is capable of.

All too frequently, I see new (and returning to the flock) exercisers start out with a bang, only to lose their momentum after a few short weeks. In their enthusiasm (and sometimes desperation) to shed weight, gain strength and get healthy they run too far, lift too heavy, workout too frequently and attempt exercises far too challenging for their current fitness level. Unable to maintain their new routine, due to time constraints or injury, they decide that alas, this isn’t the year they’ll get in shape and stop exercising all together.

When I start training a new or returning client, I give them a program that I know they’ll feel successful doing. Something that will challenge them, but not too much. For example;

I also give them the following advice;

  • Go slow. Less is more. Start with 15-20 minutes, 3 times a week. Leave your body wanting more. Not being able to comfortably sit on the toilet for a week is not the sign of a good workout.
  • Warm up before you workout. Light calisthenics, stair climbing and walking will all warm up your muscles, lubricate your joints and gradually elevate your heart rate. Warm ups are great for injury prevention and will make the remainder of your workout more enjoyable.
  • When weight training, start with body weight, full range of motion exercises. Pay attention to form. Don’t sacrifice good body mechanics for the sake of a few more reps or a slightly increased load. Progress comes with time.
  • Limit the number of exercises you perform. Having to learn more than 5 or 6 new exercises at a time is a recipe for disaster. Instead, focus on getting really good at a few. You’ll be doing longer, more complicated programs before you know it.
  • Stretch after every workout. Slowly, lengthen each of the major muscles you worked. Hold stretches for 15-30 seconds each. Don’t bounce; ballistic stretching often leads to injury. Stretching helps to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Most gym-goers don’t stretch nearly enough (guilty as charged…).

And finally,

  • Congratulate yourself for starting and sticking with your fitness goals. Before long exercising will be a much anticipated part of your day! Really!

When you first started, how many days did you exercise each week?

After a break, how many workouts does it take to get back into a groove with exercise?

New to fitness? Preparation is your key to success

Congratulations!

You’ve decided to start the journey towards health and wellness by beginning to exercise; a decision to invest in yourself and your future. Perhaps the most important decision you’ll make this year (or ever, for that matter). Even better, you’re not waiting until January 1st to start; this isn’t a resolution, it’s a lifelong commitment.

But where to begin? How often should you exercise? How hard? What type of exercise should you be doing? All good questions. And there are tons of great resources out there that can help you answer them.

Rather than focus on the logistics of your new exercise program, however, I’d like to talk about preparation. Psychological preparation. Preparation for success, of course, but for setbacks as well.

Understanding yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your fears,  motivations and expectations and most importantly, what ‘fitness’ means to you is a great way to ensure success. The more you know about yourself, the easier it will be to create a fitness program that you’ll stick with. A fitness program that will become a way of life.

Some things to think about before you set foot in the gym;

1) What does fitness mean to you? Is it about aesthetics? Strength? Endurance? Flexibility? Is it a particular number on the scale or your annual blood tests? Is it a feeling? Write out your definition of fitness. Doing so will help you clarify why you want to get fit and help to determine the types of exercise most likely to bring you closer to your goals.

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2) What types of activities do you enjoy? It may sound simple, but if you hate running, don’t buy a treadmill. If you can’t stand being in a weight room, don’t buy a year’s membership to one. If you don’t love (or at least like) what you’re doing, you won’t do it. Period. Save yourself the money and the inevitable feeling of failure. Make a list of activities you like. Think outside the box. Be unconventional (hula hooping, pole dancing). Most activities that require physical exertion can be turned into exercise if you increase the intensity.

3) Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Extroverts get energized by being in the company of others. Introverts need time on their own. Choose activities that fit your personality type. Group fitness classes are great for extroverts. Trail running and cycling can be done alone. If you’re an introvert who hates dancing, don’t sign up for Zumba; I can guarantee you won’t get through the session.

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4) What type of day is your energy highest? Lowest? When choosing an activity, think about when, during the day, you’ll be doing it. If you’re a morning person, take advantage of your early-in-the-day energy and schedule your exercise for then. Sometimes our preferred activity type conflicts with our daily energy level peak; sure, you’d love to get to that cardio kickboxing class, but it runs at 8:30 in the evening and you’re usually passed out on the couch by 9. Take a pass on it and find something that words with your early bird nature. Perhaps a 6 am spin class?

5) What will you do if you can’t do your scheduled workout? Plan for setbacks. No matter how diligent you are with your planning, at some point, something’s going to happen to make you miss your workout. Traffic, sick kids, cancelled class, power outage at the gym. Having a backup plan for those unexpected events will help keep you on track (as well as providing a bit of cross training). If you usually go to the gym or an aerobics class, make sure you have a set of weights and an exercise DVD at home for those days you just can’t get there. A little bit of exercise is better than none at all.

6) How quickly does your enthusiasm and motivation for new things wane? Know your own ‘reward schedule’; how often you need to be reminded of why you’re doing this, how frequently you need a pat on the back to keep going, at what interval you need a little external validation for all your hard work (for me, it’s a trip to Lululemon every 2 or 3 months for a cute new outfit). Daily motivational quotes and inspiration boards (like my Pinterest ‘Fitness Inpiration’ board) can serve as ‘pep talks’ to keep you moving forward towards your goals.

7) What type of support would you benefit from? Nobody can do this on their own. Everyone needs some sort of support to keep them accountable and on track. Try an on-line support group (Spark People or My Fitness Pal). Use Facebook to meet up with other like-minded individuals. Read fitness and nutrition blogs for inspiration (check out FitFluential Inc.’s Ambassadors for ideas). Enlist the help of a fitness friend. Hire a personal trainer.

Now that you’ve done the mental work, you’re well on your way to fitness success!

Need some suggestions for putting it all together? Feel free to comment below.

Sometimes new things are hard

If you’ve ever left one of my group fitness classes feeling frustrated because you couldn’t follow me, I apologize.

As hard as I try to keep my classes ‘all levels’, sometimes I forget that you’re brand new to step class OR you just had a baby OR you’re overweight and self conscious about exercising in public OR the moves are too physically challenging for you OR it takes you a while to learn new choreography.

Maybe none of the above apply to you and sometimes new things are just hard.

Yesterday, I tried a new (to me) style of yoga; hatha flow. I’ve been attending regular hatha classes for a month now, and think that I’m doing okay with the basic poses (if you’ve been silently watching me from the back row, please don’t shatter my confidence by saying anything to the contrary).

I no longer have to look at the instructor when asked to move into downward dog, plank pose, cobra, child’s pose, or warrior I, II or III. Not to say that I don’t need some reminders about form ;) , but I’m at least feeling competent and able to keep up with the rest of the class.

Not so yesterday. While the poses were the same, the speed with which we moved between poses was not. Nothing was held for more than a few seconds (this is actually not a bad thing; nothing worse than poses that are held for what feels like an eternity!). The instructor was fabulous at describing the poses and correcting mistakes, but spoke quickly and too softly for me to hear over the background music. Regular participants were able to follow, but I spent much of the class craning my neck to see what I was supposed to be doing. I left feeling more harried and less relaxed than when I arrived. Precisely the opposite effect I expect yoga to have.

Despite not ‘getting my peace on’ for the day, the class made me stop and think about what it must feel like to be a newcomer in my classes. Yes, sometimes new things are hard, but my job is to make you feel like you had a successful workout, regardless of your fitness level and past experience with exercise.

As much as I encourage new exercisers to enjoy themselves and not get too hung up on the patterns, I understand the desire to ‘get it’, to be able to participate fully and feel good about your effort at the end of the class and how easy it is to get frustrated when you can’t follow along.

I will certainly try hatha flow again; there’s nothing I love more than a physical challenge! Please make sure you rise to the challenge too and come back and see me in step class.

Sincerely,

Your recently ‘enlightened’ instructor

Have you ever left a group fitness class frustrated and angry?

Did you go back?