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…

 

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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?

 

Deloading | what is it and how might it benefit your training?

Body builders do it. So do long distance runners, cyclists and professional athletes of all kinds. Even weekend warriors and recreational athletes can benefit from it.

Benefits of deloading

Deloading: what is it?

Deloading is simply a planned period of recovery from training.

A ‘rest’ or ‘taper’ week. A period of reduced intensity that occurs as part of a well-designed training plan, rather than from boredom or injury or overtraining.

Deloading prepares the body for the increased demand of the next phase of training, be it running a marathon, switching from hypertrophy to power training or being called up to the NHL.

Note that deloading isn’t synonymous with spending a week on the couch.

It can vary from taking a complete break from training (but continuing with activities of daily living, like walking and hiking and kayaking) to switching training modalities (runners might focus on knee and ankle strengthening exercises, body builders might head to the yoga studio, NHL players might head out on the golf course) to simply reducing the frequency, intensity and duration of your usual training sessions (for example, swapping five days of heavy body part strength training for three days of shorter, lighter, whole body exercises).

When I deload, I take a week away from strength training in the gym, but continue to teach my group fitness classes and accumulate my daily 10 000 steps.

Benefits of deloading

  • break through plateaus; runners, swimmers and body builders who taper or deload in the weeks before competitions often go on to PR at the event itself. Studies have shown that deloading can result in up to a 20% increase in strength and power when the athlete returns to regular training. Take a break to get stronger? I’ll take it!
  • create a new workout plan or redefine your fitness goals; often, taking time away from an activity that’s no longer moving us towards our health and fitness goals is exactly what’s required to refocus and redirect. Plan your training in phases and incorporate a period of reflection at the end of each phase.
  • renewed enjoyment of exercise when you return; humans love novelty. Repeating the same activity over and over again often leads to boredom, even with exercise. Taking planned time away from training (ideally, before you’ve lost your enthusiasm for it) often leads to renewed enjoyment upon your return. This is the main reason I cut back my group fitness teaching in the summer. When fall arrives, I’m excited to get back to it and my students know it.
  • spend time doing things that you’re usually too busy for; we’re all busy. Things fall through the cracks. Use the hours that you’d usually be training to get caught up on things that exercise has bumped down your to-do list. Being healthy and fit isn’t just about muscles and speed. It’s also about feeling connected to your family, friends and community. And perhaps, having time to de-clutter your house (my go-to de-training week activity).
  • reduced levels of stress hormone; exercise causes stress on the body. Over time, an excess of stress hormones can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance and weight gain. Studies have shown that regular reductions in exercise intensity can return stress hormone levels to within normal ranges, thereby improving sleep, reducing anxiety, elevating mood and turning weight gain around.

How long should you deload and how frequently should deloads be incorporated in your training schedule?

Deloads are typically a week in duration. But depending on the athlete and their goals, can be as little as 5 days in length or as long as 3 weeks. In general, the more intense your training, the longer (and  more frequent) your deloading period should be. Note also, that older athletes may need to deload more frequently than younger athletes (oh those aching joints…).

If you’re regularly upping the intensity of your training (and you should be; the best way to keep making progress towards your health and fitness goals is to challenge your body regularly with new loads and exercises…), try taking a deload week every 3rd or 4th month.

Keep track of how you feel before, during and after the deload. Did you come back feeling refreshed? Were you stronger upon your return than you thought? Did it leave you hungry for exercise? Any effect on nagging injuries?

And remember; if fat loss is your primary fitness goal, you need to scale back on the nutritional side of things too. Eating for a high intensity training week when you’re deloading is a quick way to put on pounds and make you feel like deloading is the wrong approach for you.

Have you ever deloaded or ‘tapered’ your training?

Did you experience any of the above benefits of deloading? 

What I read on my summer vacation | fitness book reviews

Disclaimer: Ulysses Press sent me a free copy of Special Forces Fitness Training to review here. No other compensation was provided, and as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are all mine.

Way back at the beginning of the summer I shared my summer fitness reading list. The fitness books that I planned on reading over the holidays. Books that might introduce me to new exercises and ideas to share with my clients and readers.

SummerFitnessBooks

I didn’t manage to get through them all.

Alas, the overwhelming urge to re-read the entire Outlander series before the television show debuted got in my way (I managed to get through 4 of the 8 books; well, 5 really, as I read the final book before I started my do-over…).

In my defence, reading about Jamie and Claire’s exploits did make me think a lot about exercise (or at least the strong, lean, muscular body that a “born and bred” Highlander must have given all of the horse-back riding and sword-fighting and caber-tossing and other forms of ‘physical exertion’ they perform…) 😉

But I digress…

Never one to beat myself up for what I didn’t accomplish, I’m sharing my thoughts about the titles that I did manage to finish reading; two are from my original list of five, the third is a bonus.

What I read on my summer vacation: fitness book reviews

1. Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age by Vonda Wright.

Of all the books I unearthed when researching the pitch for my own book on fitness after 40, this one seemed the most promising. Fitness After 40 is written by a female, over-40, orthaepedic surgeon with a specialization in sports medicine and a proven track record with over-40 athletes. Her approach focuses primarily on four components of fitness; flexibility, cardiovascular training, resistance training and equilibrium or balance training. While I found the sections on flexibility and balance training to be universally applicable (and I found several new exercises to share with my clients), the recommendations for resistance training were more ‘gentle’ in nature than those I give even my beginner clients.

Although the book states that it’s written for individuals of all fitness levels, I couldn’t help but feel that much of the book was aimed at ‘elite’ or ‘masters’ athletes. Individuals who have trained hard for years, often at the national level, and required rehabilitation for exercise-related injuries. While a focus on injury prevention is wise when it comes to training middle-aged and older adults, it seems a bit off-putting if one’s goals are to simply increase activity levels in the general population.

Recommendation: Unless you’re an over-40 elite or masters athlete who needs specific information about continuing with your training, borrow this one from the library.

2. Special Forces Fitness Training: Gym-free Workouts to Build Muscle and Get in Elite Shape by Augusta Dejuan Hathaway.

Members of the military’s most elite units need to be in incredible shape. Often times, though, they don’t have access to full service gyms, thereby requiring a strength and conditioning program that relies on minimal equipment and body weight exercises. In Special Forces Fitness Training you’ll find 30 such programs, including whole body workouts (‘King of the Jungle’), workouts that target the upper body (‘Get a Grip’), core workouts (creatively named ‘Core Workout I, II and III) and cardio workouts. They can be performed in isolation, or combined, depending on the time you have available for exercise and your fitness level.

While most of the programs offer direction for multiple levels (Levels 1, 2 and 3), a few differentiate the workload and duration by sex. A minor criticism (and perhaps one that simply reflects different performance standards in the military for men and women), but slightly off-putting when one notes that the recommendation for reps/sets/duration of many exercises is dramatically different for men and women. I have many women clients who are capable of doing the “men’s” workouts… #justsayin

With illustrations for every exercise (including those described in the warmup and stretch sections of the book), Special Forces Fitness Training makes a great resource book for the moderately-fit to advanced exerciser (regardless of whether they’re in the military or not). In particular, for those who work out at home and have limited access to equipment.

Recommendation: If you’re a group fitness or personal trainer looking for bootcamp-style training ideas, buy yourself a copy. It’s great value for the price point.

3. Lose It Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind by James Fell.

Let me start by saying ‘I love James Fell’. He has the very rare ability to read, digest and transform the results of scientific studies for the non-scientific reader all while being witty, self-deprecating, irreverent and ENTERTAINING. He’s not a fan of ‘pseudo-science’, celebrity trainers or magic fixes. In an industry plagued by fear-mongering and false promises, he’s brave enough to admit that weight loss is a long, slow process and that most who try, will ultimately fail. That being said, his approach is sound and easily accessible to anyone who truly wants to improve their health and is willing to do the ‘mindset’ work required to get there. Interested in understanding how brain chemistry, human evolution, cognitive behavioural change therapy and the food industry all conspire to make weight loss hard? This is the book for you.

Recommendation: If you’re tired of dieting, like knowing how your body and brain work and are ready to make a longterm investment in your health, download a copy right now.

Have you read any of the books I reviewed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Any titles I should add to my fall fitness reading list?

 

 

3 Strength-Training Upgrades for Goddesses {guest post}

I’ve got the best surprise for you today.

A guest post from my friend, fellow fitness professional, sister in strength and muscle-builder extraordinaire. Honestly, if you’re a woman looking to build a killer physique,  Suzanne Digre’s (aka Workout Nirvana) your girl.

Suzanne and I met a few years back at a fitness blogger’s conference. We bonded over a glass of wine and have kept in touch ever since via Skype, email and social media. Can you tell that she’s my not-so-secret ‘blogger crush’? 😉

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Let’s say you’ve been designing your own strength-training routines for awhile now, but you still aren’t seeing the results you want. You have a basic knowledge of what to do and you change things from time to time, so why aren’t you getting that sculpted, lean look you want?

As an online coach and trainer I talk to a lot of women who are in your shoes. And I’ve actually been there myself – stuck, frustrated, and almost ready to give up.

So let’s cut to the chase: Exactly how long do you have to stick with weights before you have a masterpiece of a body that could rival a goddess’?

Alright, maybe your aspirations aren’t even that high – you just want more definition in your arms and shoulders and you want to lift and shape your butt. Calves to die for and lovely legs wouldn’t hurt either. And a chiseled back – don’t forget that.

You can have this kind of body, along with strength you didn’t even know you were capable of, all with an effective strength-training program. So today on T’s blog I’m going to give you my favorite tips for upgrades you can start using today.

Upgrade #1: Branch Out

Occasionally a woman will come to me asking for an “exciting” routine that has a lot of “variety.” There’s nothing wrong with variety, but cool-looking exercises aren’t what get you more muscle.

Instead of aiming for novelty, you should rely primarily on foundational muscle-building exercises, like bench presses, squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses. For variety and to hit all the muscles, integrate exercises like these into your muscle-sculpting program:

Upper Body

  • Pull ups (primarily Latissimus Dorsi, and also many other back muscles, pectorals, and arms). Pull ups are hands-down the single best exercise to build muscle in your upper body. If you’re relatively fit and aren’t doing pull ups, you need to ask yourself why. Why?
  • Rows (middle back, Latissimus Dorsi, arms). I’m not referring to cute little combo exercises using your whole body and three-pound weights. I’m talking about cable rows, bent-over rows, and inverted rows and all their glorious variations. They’ll help you get to pull ups faster and get that fabulous V-taper.
  • Rear lateral raise (rear deltoids). One of the least trained areas on a woman’s body, the rear delts need to be isolated to add symmetry to your upper back and shoulders.

Upper body strength exercises

Lower Body

  • Barbell hip thrusts (glutes, hamstrings). Once you’ve mastered the glute bridge and its progressions, it’s time to add weight. Do not fear the barbell hip thrust – it builds your glutes nicely. Plus, who cares if people wonder what the hell you’re doing? You’re a badass woman lifter – own it.
  • Bulgarian split squats (quads, glutes, hamstrings). Also called rear-foot-elevated split squats, this squat variation helps take the load off your back. Plus they’ll increase your strength, size, balance, and hip flexibility.
  • Sumo deadlifts (hamstrings, glutes, middle and lower back, quads, traps). A shorter range of motion makes this deadlift variation a little easier for many women. Sumo’s are fun and build whole-body strength and muscle.

Barbell hip thrust progressions from WorkoutNirvana.com

Upgrade #2: No Tweaky-Tweaky

When you’re not seeing results, you tweak your workouts, right? Change a little of this, add a little of that. Maybe this and that together will do the trick!

Instead, you’ll get better results by simply sticking to the same workouts for 6-8 weeks. I’m not saying to do the same exact workouts week after week – you need built-in progressions, and that happens by increasing the weight.

You can also add variation by using different hand positions, a machine instead of a barbell, standing instead of seated, longer or shorter rests, slower or faster tempo – you get the picture.

If you switch programs or exercises frequently, you will not, and I repeat NOT ever attain gorgeous, cut muscles that scream, I am a goddess!! (And a damn savvy lifter, too.)

Upgrade #3: Aim for Symmetry

I know you’re most likely not a bodybuilder or you wouldn’t be reading Tamara’s blog (no offense T!) {no offence taken; we build bodies here, but focus on fat loss not on big muscles 😉 }. But that does not mean you shouldn’t train all sides of your muscles in a balanced manner.

For example, did you know you have:

  • Lateral, posterior, and anterior deltoids
  • Short and long heads in both your biceps and hamstrings
  • Three heads in your triceps
  • Three distinct gluteal muscles

Training your muscles at different angles helps you build a symmetrical, athletic, and feminine physique. I’m not saying you have to study anatomy to strength train, but if you want standout muscle definition, you need to know the muscles each exercise hits. So when you’re choosing exercises for your workouts, do the extra legwork and know the primary muscles they train.

(Incidentally, on my blog last week I posted photos of my arm before I started training all the angles and after. The difference is a little embarrassing, frankly, but I’m also grateful that I learned the proper way to train!)

There you have it – three of my favorite upgrades for the woman who lifts. Or to be more precise, three upgrades for women who want the sculpted body of a goddess. You can have it, you know.

What are your pain points with designing your own strength training program?

Suzanne Digre of WorkoutNirvana.comSuzanne Digre is a mentor and motivator for women who want to OWN IT in the weight room and beyond. Suzanne’s home base is workoutnirvana.com, where she coaches, blogs, and leads Fierce Definition, an online training program that helps women lifters sculpt muscle definition and a leaner physique. A NASM-certified personal trainer, Suzanne also coaches clients on Fitocracy.com. She’s been pumping iron for over 15 years and never plans to stop. You can follow Suzanne on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Unsolicited advice at the gym | why it’s sometimes better to keep quiet

I love that many people view their gym or workout studio as a community.

That they support and encourage their fellow gym-goers. Share workout tips and tricks. Are quick to offer a spot when need be. Share equipment when it’s busy. Express concern if an exercise looks like it might result in an injury. Offer advice for improving the benefits of an exercise.

However, there’s a fine line between being helpful and being critical.

advice in the gym

Not a kettlebell, not a clear shot. Go ahead. Critique me ;)

Imagine, for example, that you see a woman performing a kettlebell swing.

Based on what you’ve been taught, she’s swinging the bell too high.

You don’t know this woman from Adam. Do you interrupt your own workout to walk over to her and voice your concerns? Telling her why you don’t think she should be performing the movement the way she is? Asking her where she learned to swing like that? Citing your experience to ensure that she understands why your approach is better than hers?

Even if your intent is truly to be helpful, your advice may have other unexpected consequences.

Unsolicited advice at the gym | why it’s often better to keep your comments to yourself

  • people are much more likely to respond positively to unsolicited advice when they know the person offering it. If you see somebody you don’t know performing an exercise you don’t think is safe or effective, a comment from you, a stranger, is unlikely to convince them to change what they’re doing. At best, you’ll have wasted your time. At worst, you’ll have alienated a potential friend and workout buddy.
  • receiving unsolicited advice can be embarrassing. For newcomers to exercise or those who already feel uncomfortable exercising in front of others, having their ‘mistakes’ pointed out publicly can lead to feelings of incompetence and low self-worth. It may reinforce the feeling that they don’t belong at the gym. It may make them think twice about coming tomorrow. Your good intentions may undermine their fitness journey, rather than enhance it.
  • exercise science is not black and white. Even certified fitness professionals don’t always agree on the ‘best’ way to perform a given exercise and frequently admit that what’s good for one person’s body may not be beneficial for another. Sharing your favourite version of an exercise may contradict what her trainer has shown her to be an appropriate movement for her body and fitness goals. Don’t become a ‘my way or the highway’ cliche.
  • if you’re a fitness professional, unsolicited advice may be interpreted as ‘pushy’ or ‘sales-y’. Most people don’t want to be ‘pitched’ when they’re exercising. We all get enough of that via e-mail 😉  (Warning, if you sign up to receive a copy of my free e-book ‘5 Steps to Exercise Happiness’ below, you’ll only receive invites to programs you’ll love)

Have you ever been given un-asked for advice at the gym?

How did it make you feel?