Tips for becoming an independent exerciser

Before we get to today’s post, I’d like to take a minute and share some exciting news with you all.

As of September 1st, I’m stepping away from my personal training job at the gym. Doing so will allow me to spend more time focusing on my Online Fitness Coaching clients and my monthly 40+ Women’s Training group. Time is truly my most precious commodity and I just haven’t felt like I’ve had as much of it as I’d like to have to give to these strong, focused and committed women.

While I’ll miss my in-person clients, I’m looking forward to having increased control over my schedule and connecting with more women who are truly ready to make change and commit to the exercise, nutrition and mindset habits required to reach their health and fitness goals. 

When I start working with a new personal training client, I’m already thinking about how the relationship will end.

Not because I don’t enjoy the process of helping women learn how to move and feed their bodies, but because my goal is to teach them to do it for themselves. Personal training is expensive and should be viewed as a temporary investment, not a life-long relationship :-)

Just as I expect my children to some day leave ‘the nest’, I expect each client to eventually take charge of their own health and fitness and ‘fledge’; to become an independent exerciser, in their own right.

becoming an independent exerciser

Okay. I’m not quite ready for this one to leave the nest yet…

Tips for becoming an independent exerciser
  • Create a schedule. You might start by scheduling your workouts for the same time as your regular once or twice-weekly personal training sessions. Those days and times are already part of your routine and heading to the gym then will be second nature. If you’ve been doing an extra workout or two as part of your personal training homework, you’re already comfortable with exercising on your own; keep it up. My favourite way to schedule my workouts? An old-school desk calendar.
  • Follow a written program. If your trainer has provided you with written programs during the period of your training relationship, dust them off and re-cycle them. Just because you’ve followed a program in the past, doesn’t mean it won’t continue to benefit you now. Besides, you’ll already be familiar with the exercises and your trainer’s notes will include form cues and the number of reps and sets to be performed. Don’t have an individualized program? Grab the latest copy of your favourite fitness and exercise magazine (print or on-line). The most popular titles all include a workout program of the month. Take it with you to the gym and follow it to the letter.
  • Document your workouts. If you lift it, log it. Keep track of your progress, just the way your personal trainer did. For each exercise, write down the number of reps and sets you performed, as well as the weight lifted. Attempt to progress your workouts every week or two. Add an extra set. Perform a few more reps. Increase your weights. Then, when you stop making progress (or find that you’re tired of the program), grab a new program and begin all over again.
  • Make friends in the gym. Introduce yourself to the woman who always seems to be doing core work at the same time you are. Not only will becoming friendly with your fellow gym-goers help with accountability (you know they’ll ask you where you’ve been if you a miss a workout or two…), they can also be a great source of knowledge and information. Ask them about a new exercise you see them performing. Maybe it’s one you’d benefit from as well. Get them to show you how to use a machine you’re unfamiliar with. Most people are happy to share their knowledge, especially if you ask nicely 😉
  • Set some time-bound goals. Create some goals with a due date. Things you can work towards over the course of a few weeks to a few months. Write them down and include the date on which you’ll re-visit them. Then, re-visit them to celebrate your successes or to give yourself a compassionate, but no-nonsense talking to about how you’ll need to change your approach to reaching the goal for it to manifest.
  • Find a half-way solution. No longer need someone to correct your squat, count your reps and tell you when your Tabata interval is over, but not quite ready to go it alone? Ask your trainer if they’re willing to see you every 4-6 for a program change. That one-hour session may be exactly what you need to keep you moving forward towards full-on independent exercise. Another option? Find an online training community that includes monthly workouts, nutrition support and advice about how to customize the workouts to make them your own. My monthly Online Group Training program for women over 40 is about to start a new 3-month session. Make sure you’re on my email list to be the first to get access to the registration materials.
  • Re-commit to your ‘why’ daily. Remind yourself of why you value exercise. List the benefits that it brings to your life. Think of how you feel when you miss a workout or two. Use your best ‘trainer voice’ to encourage, motivate and support yourself. Focus on developing a positive mindset around exercise; do it because you love your body, not because you dislike it. Above all, mindset is key to becoming an independent exerciser. Think you can do it? You’re right! Think you can’t? You’re probably right too…

Grab a copy of my free 3-book, ‘5 Steps to Exercise Happiness’ if you’re still struggling to find your ‘why’.

Have you made the leap from personal trainer to becoming an independent exerciser?

What’s your best advice for my readers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A 6-exercise, whole-body stability ball workout

I got such great feedback from the three at-home workout videos I created and shared last month that I decided to make another one.

One that requires only a single piece of equipment; a stability ball.

stability ball workout

Don’t forget to ask your children if you can borrow their ‘chair’ for your workout!

Perfect for when you’re travelling to the cottage and don’t want to lug weights or kettlebells with you.

Perfect for those days when you’ve only got 20 minutes to squeeze in a workout.

Perfect for adding a bit of extra core focus to your strength training plan.

Perfect, perfect, perfect!

A 6-exercise, whole-body stability ball workout: Perform 12 repetitions (on each side, where applicable) of each of the following 6 exercises. Rest and repeat once or twice more. Don’t forget to stretch when you’re finished!

If you’ve enjoyed this workout, please take a minute to ‘Like’, ‘Comment’ and ‘Share’. Positive feedback makes the world go ’round!

Disclaimer: Although I am a Certified Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer ;-).  Interested in working with me? Check out the online fitness services I offer. I’d love to work with YOU!

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

 

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?

3 weeks to new fitness and nutrition habits | The 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp

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

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

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

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

That’s why I’ve created the 21-Day ‘Re’-Bootcamp. A downloadable, self-paced exercise and nutrition program to help you build new fitness and nutrition habits.

 

new fitness and nutrition habits - fitknitchick.com

 

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

The program is 3 weeks in length and includes:
  • weekly workouts; 2 strength, 2 cardio and one flexibility (each with two different levels of difficulty/intensity; one for beginners and one for intermediate exercisers), illustrated descriptions of all exercises and a blank, downloadable template to record workout details on
  • daily emails; for accountability, motivation and inspiration (it’ll be just like I’m perched on your shoulder encouraging you to re-commit daily)
  • nutritional information; information about healthier food choices, macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats), portion sizes and meal planning (note that this program does not include a personalized meal plan)
  • recipes; some of my favourites as well as links to Pinterest boards I’ve created to support the nutritional needs of regular exercisers
  • a support group; participants can meet and share their experiences with the program in an ‘invite-only’ Facebook group (as this is a ‘stand-alone’ program, I do not offer individualized coaching to participants, but do check into the Facebook group every few days to see what’s happening)

Note that this program is self-paced. No need to wait for an official start day. You start the program when you want, with the first email arriving in your inbox within a day of registration.

RegisterNow

For more information about the program, what past and current participants of my online programs have to say about me and a link to the registration form click through to the following pages;

Questions? Feel free to email me directly (tgrand@telus.net) with any questions or concerns you have about the program.

But please don’t ask ‘will this program work for me’; my standard answer to this question is ANY program will work for just about ANY body, as long as they’re willing to commit to the process…

 

RegisterNow

Body part splits or whole body workouts | the pros and cons

The other day (a very observant) someone asked me why I give most of my clients whole body workouts when they see me performing body part splits.

  • Do I think one type of workout is intrinsically better than the other? (No)
  • Is one ‘harder’ than the other? (Not necessarily)
  • Under what circumstances would I provide a client with a body part split? (Read on…)

body part splits or whole body workouts: which is better? via http://fitknitchick.com

Whole body workouts are exactly what they sound like.

A workout in which all of the major muscles of the body are trained. Whole body workouts tend to focus on compound, multi-joint exercises, exercises which are often described as ‘functional’ in nature (meaning that they mimic the types of movements our bodies were designed to engage in daily). Smaller muscles (think triceps and calves) are trained in conjunction with bigger muscles, rather than via isolation or ‘vanity’ exercises (e.g., tricep kickbacks and seated calf raises).

In contrast, body part splits involve splitting the major muscle groups up and training them on separate days.

Upper-lower splits are common; all of the muscles of the upper body are trained together, with lower body muscles trained on a separate days. Core training can be done on either the upper or lower body day, although most people prefer to train core and legs together to equalize training time across days.

Push-pull, movement pattern splits are popular too; muscles involved with pushing exercises (e.g., chest, anterior delts, quads, calves and triceps) are trained on the same day, pulling muscle (e.g., back, biceps, hamstrings, posterior delts and abs) exercises are trained on another.

Other configurations of body part splits can be created depending on the exerciser’s goals, their desired frequency of training and how much experience they have in the gym. (My last 3-day body part split had me training chest and back on day 1, legs and core on day 2 and shoulders, biceps and triceps on day 3).

Whole body training has many benefits:
  • it’s generally more metabolic in nature than body part splits (i.e., burns more calories)
  • it’s typically a more functional type of workout and can easily incorporate speed, agility and balance training in addition to muscular strength and endurance
  • you don’t necessarily need dumbbells, barbells and a weight bench to get a good workout; Google ‘body weight exercises’ and see how much variety there is
  • missing a workout isn’t as much of a concern when you’re training all muscle groups each time you exercise
The downside of whole body training?
  • workout length tends to be longer than for body part splits, as you’re targeting all of the major muscle groups in one workout
  • you may not be physically able to perform the same workout on two adjacent days (when you train a muscle to near failure or fatigue, it may require 48 hours before it’s ready to be trained again)
  • doing the same workout 3, 4 or 5 days a week can get boring and potentially lead to injury and over-training
Whole body training is perfect for people who…
  • have only 2 or 3 days a week for exercise
  • are new to strength training and need to focus on learning form and creating an exercise habit
  • have weight or fat loss as their primary goal

The majority of my personal training clients fall into the above category, hence the reason why I create whole body training programs for them.

Body part training has many benefits too:
  • workouts can be as short as 30 minutes; great if you’re pressed to find time for exercise in your day
  • there’s adequate time to train each muscle from a variety of different angles; body part workouts typically include 2 to 3 exercises per body part within the same training session (no more having to choose between chest presses and flys)
  • when carefully designed, you can completely rest a muscle group before working it again; for example, an upper/lower split might have you training legs on Monday and Thursday (great for building muscle size as most growth happens during the recovery phase)
  • depending on your body part split, you can train up to 6 days per week (some of us need our daily stress reliever…)
The downside of body part splits?
  • if you miss a workout day, you miss a body part (and may not end up training it again for another whole week)
  • if your goals include fat loss, you may not create enough of a ‘metabolic disturbance’ to see an effect on the scales
  • muscles may be quite sore the day following the workout, especially if you’ve performed 3 or 4 different exercises and worked to fatigue
  • you may need to train 4 or 6 days each week to fit all of your exercises in
Body part splits are perfect for people who…
  • have muscular hypertrophy as their primary training goal
  • prefer more frequent, shorter workouts to less frequent, longer sessions
  • are disciplined enough not to miss a workout (or be able to make it up immediately so as not to leave a body part behind… 😉 )
  • have sufficient experience with strength training to choose appropriate combinations of exercises (and know how many reps and sets of each to perform)

A few of my clients fall into the above category (you know who you are :-) ). Depending on their preference (and their primary hypertrophy goals), I tend to favour upper/lower and push/pull splits.

Body part splits or whole body workouts: what’s best for you depends on…
  • your goals (hypertrophy, fat loss, health, aesthetics, overall fitness)
  • how much time you have available for exercise (both workout length and how many days a week you’ll be training)
  • your experience level (beginners often do better with whole body workouts while more experienced lifters can get great results from body part splits)
  • how much variety you require in your workouts to maintain your exercise habit (note that those following a whole body training style can alternate between 2 or 3 different whole body workouts to keep their interest level and motivation high)
One final thought…

In my own training, I use a mix of the two. Twice a week I participate in whole body training while teaching Bootcamp and Group Step. The three or four days I’m in the gym, my workouts consist of body part splits.

For me, it’s a great balance between hypertrophy training and training for fat loss. It also keeps me from getting bored. And because the strength workouts are each only performed once a week, I only have to write myself a new program once every 2nd month.

Some might argue that by combining the two, I’m undermining the separate effects of each type of training. But experimenting with my body and learning what works best for ME has shown me the exact opposite!

body part splits and whole body training

Body part splits AND whole body training FTW

 

Do you have a preference for body part splits of whole body training?

What’s your current body part split?

What’s the best workout when I’m short on time? | Ask a personal trainer

I get asked a lot of questions about exercise and nutrition.

Questions from my clients, group fitness participants, blog readers and social media followers. Sometimes these questions are of a personal nature and I reply privately. Other times, they’re queries that many of you may also be interested in hearing the answers to.

AskATrainer

Introducing a new, occasional feature on the blog: “Ask a Personal Trainer”.

(** And note, that names have been changed to protect those who don’t want to be ‘outed’ publicly 😉 )

What’s the best workout when I’m short on time? Ask a Personal Trainer
Dear Fitknitchick,
Let me start by saying that I love the free workouts you share on Facebook, YouTube and your blog. I think I’ve tried most of them by now and appreciate the work you’ve done in making them challenging, interesting and not too complicated (I’m not very coordinated…). My absolute favourite is your Whole Body Bosu Circuit Workout. Thanks!

However, sometimes I don’t have time to do the entire workout. My life is super hectic right now with a husband who travels for work, a part-time job of my own, a sick mother who needs my attention and two school age children whose activities take up much of our weekday evenings.

My question to you: if I only have time to do part of a workout, should I cut back on sets and repetitions or only do half of the exercises? Which one is better for my goal of reducing body fat and getting toned muscles? I should add that I can find fifteen minutes of time for exercise almost every day, but realistically can only fit a one hour workout in on Saturday (when my girls are at dance for the entire morning).

Thanks for taking the time to respond (and please keep those workouts coming!),

Anna**

****************************************

Dear Anna**,

And thank you for taking the time to ask a fantastic question! You’re certainly not alone in having limited time to exercise. Major kudos for being consistent with your ‘daily 15’; it’s precisely that consistency that will help you reach your fat loss-muscle building goals!

The most important thing you can do when your workout time is limited is prioritize your exercises. Ensure that the exercises you’re doing are the ones most likely to help you reach your goals.

In your case, I’d suggest choosing compound movements over single joint isolation exercises. That is, make sure you’re getting your squats, dead lifts, pushups and rows done before you consider adding a bicep curl or tricep extension to your workout. Not only will the big movements work more muscle groups, they’ll also burn more calories than the isolation exercises will. Plus, biceps and triceps will get a workout anyways; they help with rows and pushups, respectively!

Since you work out almost every day, I’d consider splitting your workouts up by body part. Concentrate on chest and back on day one (think pushups, chin ups, pull ups and rows), legs and glutes on day two (squat, lunge, dead lift and hip thrust) and arms and core on the third day of your workout week (shoulder press, planks and core rotation).

Then repeat the three workout days so that you’re getting two workouts per body part split each week. You should see good growth with this type of training program, particularly if you’re lifting to near fatigue and progressing your workouts from week to week by increasing the difficulty of the exercise or upping the load you’re lifting.

If you find you’re super pressed for time, choose two or three exercises per workout and aim to perform 2 to 3 sets of 8-10 good form reps of each. Super- or tri-setting them (performing one set of each exercise, back to back, before repeating the mini circuit) will save you the traditional minute between sets, getting you through your workout even faster.

And don’t forget to save a few minutes for stretching at the end. Often, when we’re short of exercise time, stretching is the first thing we drop from our routine. Even 3-4 minutes of post-working stretching is enough to help flush out lactic acid and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.

Let me know if this helps!

Tamara

Have a fitness or nutrition question that needs answering?

Chances are if something’s puzzling you, it’s also puzzling somebody else. Drop me a note in the box below and you may just be featured on the next edition of ‘ Ask a Personal Trainer’.

 

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Online fitness communities provide support, motivation and accountability

Birds of a feather flock together.

online fitness communities

Hoping my friends don’t ‘unfriend’ me for sharing this sweaty post-step-class selfie!

We humans love to hang around with other humans. Many of our waking hours are spent in the company of others. And, no surprise here, the people we spend the most time with have the biggest effect on our behaviour; including our eating and exercise habits.

Find the right circle of friends and you’ll find sticking to an exercise schedule or diet much easier. That’s one of the reasons organized weight-loss groups and exercise classes are so popular and result in better exercise adherence and weight loss.

In addition to the motivation, accountability and support such groups provide, members also benefit from observational learning; we change our behaviour as a simple consequence of watching the actions and outcomes of others’ behaviour.

Monkey see, monkey do.

If she can do I pullup, I can do one too!

Not everyone has access to a local, in-person support group. Some of us live in small communities where such groups don’t exist. Others have difficulty finding a local tribe of like-minded individuals. Often times, group meetings don’t mesh with our work and family schedules.

That’s where online fitness communities come in.

They allow us to connect with like-minded people both near and far.

We can check in when it’s convenient or when we need an extra shot of encouragement and support.

We can access a fitness professional whose interests and experience are similar to our own.

And we can do it all from the comfort of our home (and home gym).

#40plusfitness Monthly Online Training Group

I run a monthly online training group for women in their 40’s and older.

One of the key elements of this program is membership in a private Facebook group. A place where participants meet daily to encourage and uplift one another (as well as to vent and share TMI tidbits about their lives). Many members have commented that, in addition to the workouts I provide, participation in the Facebook group is what’s kept them coming back to the program month after month.

I’ve made some wonderful connections with like-minded (with similar struggles) women. We cheered each other on, laughed at our slips and groaned together about our newly discovered muscles. 

I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed the facebook group, I need more motivation, input and support then I realized. It felt good to hear others with the same challenges..I am NOT alone in this journey…this program was incredible and VERY valuable. Thanks!!

There really are no words to describe the Facebook group…what an awesome group of ladies! The motivation and support I found there was worth the price of admission!! I feel blessed to have been on this journey with each of them.

Thank you Tamara for putting this program together. You have a vey well laid out, very balanced program and I am very happy with my results. The motivation and support you provided throughout this program was amazing! Awesome job!!

This was a great program and I would highly recommend it to friends who are ready to put in the work.

We’d love to have you join us! Make sure you’re on my email list to be among the first to receive details about registration for the spring 2015 session! And as a special bonus, when you enter your name and email address BELOW, you’ll receive a free copy of my e-book “5 Steps to Finding your Exercise Happiness”.

online fitness communities

Looking forward to being a part of YOUR virtual support system!

Kettlebell training for beginners

Let me start with a Disclaimer :)

Although I am a certified Personal Trainer, I am not certified in Kettlebell training. This is important to RKC Kettlebell trainers, but probably not to most people who are simply interested in incorporating kettlebells in their recreational workouts. As always, focus on form before adding load, choose an option that works with your body and if it hurts, stop immediately.

kettlebell training for beginners

Why kettlebells?

If you’re looking for a fun way to add whole body, multi-joint exercises to your workout (and love the idea of burning a ton of calories, often in less time than a traditional strength workout takes), you need to give kettlebell training a try.

Originally developed as a strength and conditioning tool in the Russian ‘strongman’ community, kettlebells first came to the attention of North Americans during the 1980 Summer Olympics. The Russian track and field trained with kettlebells and won all of their throwing events.

Popularized in the late 1990’s in the US by Pavel Tsatsouline (a trainer for the Soviet Special Forces), kettlebells can now be found in most big box gyms and training studios.

Unlike a traditional dumbbell, the kettlebell has a handle. As a consequence, the bulk of the weight is condensed into a central ball, rather than being equally distributed at either end of a fixed rod.

This unique shape allows the bell to become an extension of your body. Held loosely in your hand, the legs, hips and core are required to do more work than the arms, in particular, when performing ballistic exercises like the hip thrust and swing. The handle allows for easy passing between right and left hands, thereby increasing the length of time an exercise can be performed. Transitioning between different movements is easy and fluid, thereby allowing many combination lifts to be incorporating into a single training session.

When done correctly, kettlebell training blurs the lines between strength and cardiovascular training.

Considerations when choosing a kettlebell

Good quality kettlebells are expensive. Given that you really only need two bells to get started (a lighter bell for upper body work and a heavier bell for squats, dead lifts and swings), I recommend investing in the best quality you can afford.

  • Choose metal over plastic. I had a client whose sand-filled plastic bell exploded upon hitting the concrete floor in her basement. Given the relative density of metal and plastic, the metal bell will always be smaller, and thus, easier to handle and control.
  • The more spherical the better. Choose a near perfect sphere with a small, flat bottom. The more expensive bells will retain this spherical property regardless of weight making it easy to progress to heavier bells without having to alter technique.
  • Handle size matters. Look for a handle that’s wider than one hand width and allows you to make the ‘okay’ gesture (thumb over the tip of the index finger) when your hand is wrapped around it. If the gap across the handle is too wide, your transitions will be sloppy. Handles that are too thick will quickly fatigue your grip (see my suggestions for strengthening a weak grip, here).
  • Try before you buy. Make sure you try a kettlebell out before purchasing, to see how it feels in your hand and to ensure that you buy the correct size. Kettlebells are expensive; you don’t want to buy a bell that you’ll quickly outgrow. I’ve found that most of my female clients can start with 4 (9 lb) or 6 (13 lb) kg bells for upper body work and 8 (18 lb) to 12 kg (25 lb) bells for hip hinges, squats and dead lifts.

Tips for incorporating kettlebell moves into your workout

  • Start slow. Kettlebells take practice. Rather than attempting an ‘all kettlebell’ workout your first time out, try adding one or two moves to your regular routine. Continuing adding exercises (or more challenging modifications of the same exercises) as you become stronger and more confident with the bell.
  • Form before load. As with all new exercises and equipment, focus on perfecting your form before you increase the load. Start with a bell that feels a bit light. Concentrate on creating a fluid movement pattern and making a strong mind-to-muscle connection. You’ll be lifting heavier before you know it.
  • Front-load your workout. Place new exercises at the beginning of your workout, before your body and brain get tired and sloppy. Physical and mental fatigue often precede injury.
  • Go bare. If you usually wear gloves when lifting weights, try going without when using kettlebells. I find going ‘bare’ helps me feel more connected to the bell (plus, you’ll develop some awesome-looking callouses…). Some experts also recommending ditching the shoes during kettlebell training. Note that this is probably not an option if you train at a gym or recreation centre (hygiene, you know).
  • If in doubt, ask. As with any exercise tool, the potential for injury is there if you use it incorrectly. Ask a trainer at your gym to observe and critique your form. Practice in front a mirror until you’re used to how each exercise is supposed to feel.

Kettlebell training for beginners: five moves to master

Below is a list of five kettlebell moves appropriate for beginners (but also beneficial to more advanced lifters as well). Watch the linked videos for instructional technique and examples of good form execution of each movement.

  • Hip Hinge. The hip hinge is the foundation of a good swing. Master this movement before progressing to Dead lifts and Hip Swings.

  • Turkish sit up to bridge. Begin by practicing this movement pattern without a bell. Once you’re able to move into and out of the bridge with arm fully extended throughout, add load and progress to a full Turkish Get Up.

  • Goblet squat. A safe way to add load to your beginner squat without having to enter the squat rack.

  • Windmill. An excellent exercise for shoulders, hips and obliques. As with the Turkish sit up, start with body weight only, adding a light kettlebell once you’ve mastered the movement pattern.

  • ‘Clean’. While technically a movement used to safely bring the kettlebell into ‘rack’ position (resting on the outside of the forearm at shoulder height), the ‘clean’ is also an effective exercise in and of itself. Once you’ve mastered this movement, you’ll be reading to add a Shoulder Press from the ‘rack’ position.

Do you have a favourite kettlebell exercise?