Here are five steps to energizing your workouts in these refreshing spring months…
With spring comes new energy, which makes it an even better time than January to boost your exercise. Along with cleaning closets, window dressings, and garage shelves, it’s also the perfect opportunity to scrub up your fitness program.
Here are five steps to energizing your workouts in these refreshing spring months…
Simply toss your so-called “reasons” why to skip your workouts out with the rest of your winter blahs. Or figure out how to overcome them. Check out this previous blog post, three ways to make sure your workout actually happens.
Amalgamating fitness and friendship is a no brainer. Accountability skyrockets, because “I don’t feel like it” sounds silly when you say it out loud to your workout buddy. Plus, both physical activity and time spent with a friend stimulates the release of feel-good chemicals endorphins and serotonin, which research correlates with weight loss and overall health.
Our bodies are very good at adapting to physical challenges, expending the least amount of energy as necessary. As we settle into this path of least resistance, our fitness levels and motivation fizzle. Freshen up with innovative equipment and workouts to move your body in fun and results-oriented ways.
Even if your athletic shoes look fine, you can’t see the midsole. A deteriorated midsole does little to protect against the stress and impact of exercise on your entire skeleton. How often you need new shoes depends on usage, but don’t hold back your mileage to save a few dollars. Get new shoes each spring with the goal of wearing them out. Up-to-date clothing is not completely necessary, but retail therapy can be a fun way to boost your motivation to exercise.
Sure, you can exercise indoors. But why? Longer days and warmer weather require you to simply lace up and go get some vitamin D. Amazing workouts can happen with just a patch of grass, perhaps a hill, and a picnic table.
Each new season is an opportunity to revisit, tweak, or set new fitness and wellness goals. Here’s one that might sound familiar: "I just want to get toned."
Unfortunately this simple statement is rooted in misconception, which doesn’t say much for its attainability. There is no such thing as toning our muscles. Tone is a state of partial muscle contraction at rest. All muscle has tone all of the time. It’s the reason we don’t fall over while seated or standing during our daily activities.
The statement "I just want to get toned " has nothing to do with tone. The speaker usually means two things.
Let’s clear up this mess and dispel a few myths so that you can get down to the business of improving your physical fitness level for overall health.
Myth #1: Spot reduction is possible
Spot reduction is the hope of burning fat from a certain part of the body by performing a strength training exercise using that specific body part. Spot reduction is 100% impossible, despite every issue of every fitness magazine in every supermarket lineup splashing spot reduction promises on its front cover. Ab crunches do not whittle your waistline. Jane Fonda-style leg lifts do not trim your thighs. It’s basic physiology. Your body’s fuel of choice for all strength exercises is carbohydrates, not fat.
So how do we burn fat? A combination of cardiovascular and strength training. Cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging, cross-country skiing, and rope jumping, get into the body’s fat stores once carbohydrates aren’t enough. However, you cannot control where in the body the fat comes from. For example, jogging uses the legs, but leg fat isn’t necessarily the fuel used. Don’t give up your strength training just yet. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. More muscle in your body means more calories burned while exercising and at rest. More muscle means more fat burned during your cardiovascular exercise. Strength training is an essential component of all weight loss endeavours.
Myth #2: Lifting heavy weights will make me bulky
Bodybuilders lift very, very heavy weights for very, very few repetitions (6 or less). This results in muscle hypertrophy (bulkiness). If you lift a weight so heavy that by repetition number 6 your limb almost falls off, and you have a genetic predisposition to bulking up, yes, you may get yourself some muscle hypertrophy. But otherwise, no.
Testosterone is the hormone makes hypertrophy happen. Some females have more testosterone than other females, but in general females have very little testosterone compared to men. On the opposite end of the spectrum, lifting very light weights for many repetitions (more than 25) will not cause a training effect and may actually stress the joints. So, not only is this a waste of time, it can be harmful.
For whatever exercise you are doing, a sufficient weight load will cause complete fatigue after 8 to 15 repetitions. Fatigue means that you can’t perform another repetition without sacrificing technique. This 8-15 repetition range will result in muscular strength and endurance without hypertrophy.
Remove the notion of "I just want to get toned" from your vocabulary. Engage in whole body strength training and regular cardiovascular exercise. Challenge yourself to lift challenging weight loads with good technique for 8-15 repetitions, 1-3 sets for all major muscle groups. Better yet, get some help from a certified personal trainer to make sure that your valuable time spent at the gym is taking you on a direct path to your fitness and wellness goals.
Sometimes our brains go into overdrive and can prevent us from actually getting the job done.
Nike got it exactly right when they launched their Just Do It slogan way back in 1988. Just three words that sum up the how and what of exercise. Just get off the sofa and move your body, because too much sitting is bad for your health. Simple.
Wearable activity trackers, high tech athletic gear and expensive gym memberships are fun but not necessary. You own your body for your lifetime, and it’s your responsibility to keep it in top form. The only thing you really, really need for exercise is your body. It doesn’t even need to be a whole body, as might be the case of paralysis, amputation or other injury.
Exercise is not some grand destination for which to pack our bags, cancel everything else and make extensive travel arrangements. It’s a step-by-step journey. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time. Exercise is waking up each morning and deciding, “What am I going to do today to be active?” And then doing it.
There is a difference between overthinking and planning. A little bit of planning can mean the difference between a workout that happens versus a workout that is missed. Busy schedules, childcare, appropriate training methods and injury prevention are some of the factors to be considered. Planning can help overcome the many excuses and barriers that stray us from exercise. Yet at the same time, we must avoid the trap of overthinking. Reading about exercise isn’t exercise. Watching YouTube videos about exercise isn’t exercise. Thinking of reasons why we can’t exercise is often more exhausting than exercise. Sometimes we need to turn our brains off and let our bodies take over.
It was the 9th of December when someone said to me, “There’s no point in starting to exercise now. I’m waiting until January.” What was so wrong about the 9th of December? And the 10th? Why January? There is nothing special about January. Beginning an exercise program does not require a special day on the calendar.
It’s a sneaky human nature strategy to avoid commitment for risk of failure. If we don’t commit to something, we can’t fail at it. Right? Wrong. Avoiding exercise is actually a commitment to inactivity. Committing to inactivity is a terrible idea. With this you are potentially committing to unfavorable outcomes such as low energy, weight issues, disease and more. Movement is an essential part of daily life, like brushing our teeth and emptying the dishwasher. It’s something we do, because it feels great, and we value the results.
If your brain is on, and you are going to think about exercise, make it count. Two questions to ask yourself... (1) What do I want to do? (2) How am I going to do it?
Like anything, the world of exercise can get intricate and overwhelming. It could be your academic pursuit and lifelong work. It can also be a mere brisk 3km walk on Thursday morning. For the passionate exercise connoisseur who wants more, more, more, the possibilities of advanced training methods and gadgets are endless. For others, simply exhale and simplify. If you’ve got a body, or even just part of a functioning body, you can exercise. Think less, move more.
Sticking to a healthy eating plan and regular exercise routine can be a battle any day of the year. During the holidays, however, festive feasts, willpower-impairing spirits, and tempting chocolate truffles team up to challenge even the most resolute health nut.
Fortunately, holiday weight gain is not inevitable. Follow these tips to thrive during the holidays.
Thanks for stopping by!
We are Anita Parker & Jamie-Dee Marshall - busy moms, fitness trainers, and founders of Fitness Matters.