If you are a runner or an athlete, you have no doubt felt the effects that high impact exercise can have on your joints, muscles and bones after a while. This is why athletes have been making a real movement toward lower impact forms of exercise such as body weight training, swimming, spinning, and even yoga. Sports are hard enough on their joints, they don’t need to be putting extra strain on them off the field, court, ice- whatever it may be. Us every day folk could take a page out of this book too. There are many different forms of low impact exercise that are quite effective and easier on the bod! These types of exercises help prevent injuries associated with traditional, high impact exercise and equipment, and is great for all ages and fitness levels. It can also be beneficial for rehabilitation purposes. Most importantly- despite popular belief, it produces visible results the same way that more traditional, heavy duty exercise does. So put down the bench press and try a different approach. Your joints and bones will thank you, and you’ll be surprised at the results you see!
Body Strength Training
It’s a common misconception that we have to push ourselves on strength building machines and lift heavy weights to build strength and muscle. It’s actually a much better workout to use your body weight and movement to build strength and muscle. Body strength training is a great combo of cardio and strength training, as opposed to weights which only target certain areas to build isolated strength. (Ex. Bicep curls, bench pressing, lat pull-downs, etc.) Another benefit is that because there is no machinery involved, you can transition more rapidly from one movement to another. Circuit training is a popular form of body strength training, which entails progressing through a series of movements such as lunges and knee lifts. This fluid range of motion not only helps with flexibility (allowing your joints to move more freely) but it builds core strength, helps with posture, back strength and endurance, and burns fat like crazy! You will also develop better balance through control and awareness of your body. The best part about this form of exercise is that there is lots of variety in the movements and exercises you can do. You can always switch it up which helps keep you motivated to push your boundaries and break plateaus. Oh, and it’s free and can be done anywhere, anytime… which leaves little room for excuses!
Swimming is often thought of as more of a leisure sport, when it actually works every muscle and offers quite an amazing full body workout! Because water is non-weight bearing, the workout often feels much easier as there is really no strain on the muscles. This is probably the lowest impact form of exercise, so it is particularly good for those already suffering from joint or bone issues, pregnant women, those in rehabilitation, or the elderly. However, it is an excellent alternative from anyone’s regular gym workout as it works both the upper and lower body all at once. Interestingly, as opposed to other forms of exercise, because those carrying a little extra weight tend to be more buoyant, this form of exercise will be less intense for the overweight and probably more intense for those with a lower BMI.
This is where all the runners live- it’s the same intense workout, without the heavy pounding feet on the pavement. Spinning has a lot of the same physical benefits of running- it increases endurance, strengthens legs, and ups your cardio fitness. The difference is that it is done in a controlled environment, and it is low impact and a whole lot easier on your muscles and joints. This form of exercise is great for anyone craving that high intensity workout, but not the achy knees and ankles. It is particularly beneficial for athletes training off season in helping them stay fit, while taking it easy on their bodies that will no doubt take a beating during the next season.
Love that heavy sweat you work up during a serious workout? Hot yoga is no joke, and no- it is not for sissies. While it’s not always the highest intensity workout, hot yoga is known for building incredible core strength and balance, and increasing flexibility and endurance. It also helps with toning and weight loss with regular practice. Being in a 90 plus degree hot room also helps you work up quite the lather, and sweating out all those toxins can be very cleansing and therapeutic! Another known benefit of yoga is that it has positive psychological effects, as it fosters a stronger mind-body connection. Yoga is also a low impact form of exercise that uses only bodyweight and movement to build strength and balance, and really stretches out the muscles. There are many different types of hot yoga, all at varying levels of intensity. (Bikram, Moksha, Vinyasa, the list goes on.) Be sure to check the class descriptions at your local hot studio to see which best suits your needs.
So, next time you hit the gym, will you think twice about picking up the barbells? Ask a trainer to show you some body strength training exercises, you won’t regret it when you’re old and nimble!
Morning Workouts- Early Bird Gets the Worm. September 24 2015
As a non-morning person, I have traditionally struggled to find the motivation to leap out of bed and get my disoriented, grumpy self to the gym. The snooze button and I have become close friends, despite my better attempts to pretend it doesn’t exist. After giving it a chance, however, I’ve started to see the benefits of getting my exercise in at the beginning of my day, as opposed to near the end. Here are the top 6 reasons that starting my day with a workout has officially turned me into a morning person!
It starts your day on a positive note.
Starting your day with exercise gives you a sense of accomplishment that you will carry with you throughout the day. Beginning on a healthy tip inspires you to keep this momentum throughout your day, swaying you toward the salad bar on your lunch break, or giving you a little extra nudge toward taking the stairs over the crowded escalator.
It elevates your mood and productivity.
As Elle Woods in Legally Blonde so eloquently put it- “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Regular exercise has been scientifically proven to have a positive impact on our overall mood and stress levels. Starting your day with exercise will release endorphins, improving your mood throughout the day. Naturally, starting the day energized and alert with a positive mindset will increase your productivity.
It boosts your metabolism.
Often, for those of us too sluggish to give up that extra hour of sleep in the morning to get our bodies moving, our digestive systems tend to be a bit more sluggish. I often didn’t feel an appetite in the morning, and would end up skipping this essential meal and waiting for lunch. Getting your body moving first thing is a great way to work up your appetite for the day’s most important meal. Exercise boosts metabolism, so by getting it in earlier on, you will burn more calories throughout the day. (Especially high cardio or interval training exercises.) Eating a healthy breakfast is also key in getting your digestive system moving and kick-starting your metabolism for the day.
It’s the best time to build muscle.
Our hormones are elevated first thing in the morning, and drop progressively throughout the day. Testosterone, for example, is at its peak level in the morning, and is an essential hormone in building muscle. (Hello, abs!) With proper sleep, the morning is also when our bodies have the most energy and thus the most potential for a productive workout. Also, sweating regularly is great for the skin. Who needs makeup with that post workout glow?
It’s just you and your thoughts... and maybe a few others.
The gym in the morning is a far different vibe than it is after work hours. The snarling guy waiting to use your machine, the girl hogging the mat- these un-pleasantries are far less likely to be an issue in the wee hours of the day. The morning shift at the gym is a much more peaceful, serene experience. You will find yourself far less distracted or intimidated, and have a chance to really escape and experience the therapeutic aspect of exercise. Even if you’re not a gym rat and you prefer to jog outdoors or hit an early yoga class, these spaces will also likely feel much more calm and private earlier on in the day.
It improves your family & social life.
Getting your workout out of the way first thing in the morning is a great way to make sure it actually happens! There are so many distractions that can arise throughout the day- a last minute work assignment, a friend’s get together, a sick child, etc. Hitting the gym before you start your day checks off that box, leaving more flexibility for other priorities throughout your day, such as spending quality time with family and friends.
So before you turn your nose up at the early morning keeners and hit that snooze button, give the morning workout a shot. It might take you a little while to adjust to the new routine, but once you start feeling the positive impact it has on your life, you won’t regret it!
The Importance of Setting Goals July 27 2015
When talking about setting goals, it all really comes down to one main factor- motivation. With anything in life, it is human nature to let things slip or push them off if we don't have any real boundaries, structure, or targets to reach. Setting goals may seem simple, but this process is an essential factor in our success and productivity in all areas. Whether it's forcing ourselves to make it to the gym three times a week, stick to a healthy meal plan, or setting goals for our kids, it is crucial to put these targets in place for ourselves to make it easier to maintain momentum and motivation. An easy way to make sure you stay on top of this is to set aside an hour for yourself every Sunday to write out a list of weekly goals. Try to include one that relates to each compartment of your life, for instance one pertaining to health and fitness, one pertaining to parenting, one for your relationship(s), and of course those pertaining to your career or personal achievements.
Many people don't consider setting goals to do with parenting, but this is an area that we can really let slip if we don't set guidelines and PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! Try making a goal for each week that you yourself have to achieve, for instance "Do 3 different activities with the kids" as well as one for the kids, ex. "Help with the dishes every night" or "Get an A on an assignment." Implementing a star/sticker program can be a great incentive for kids to meet these goals as well. Create a board with each child's name on it, and place a sticker underneath for each achievement attained, working towards a grand prize after a certain number of goals have been met. It's great to train children to become achievement oriented from a young age, as it will set lifelong habits that will translate into a good work ethic later on. (Plus, you'll get a heck of a lot of chores done around the house!)
In Fitness & Nutrition:
This is also an area where it's definitely necessary to set some goals. We are all busy and life does get in the way. Sometimes it's just quicker to grab that cookie and latte on the fly instead of the egg-white omelette you'd planned to prepare for breakfast. Or to skip the gym because something more fun came up. Setting a weekly goal will help you focus and make sure you don't let yourself slip in this area. After all, our health is our most valuable and important possession, without which we could not succeed in all other areas of our lives. A meal plan is a great way to ensure that you stick to a healthy diet (at least most of the time, we're all human!) In your Sunday list of goals, include a weekly plan for at least 2 meals a day. If you work, packing a lunch is a great alternative to the tempting crap that the food courts offer. Once you are hungry, it's hard to use good judgement! Do a weekly grocery shop to ensure you have most of the necessary ingredients to make most of the meals on the plan. This will also create ann incentive to stick to it, as you've already committed. Just make sure to keep things interesting, giving yourself lots of (healthy) variety. For fitness, set some weekly goals that are realistic and attainable. If you like hot yoga, try to attend three classes that week. If you're a gym bunny, set a goal for number of visits to the treadmill.
With the busy hum drum of every day life, especially with young kids in your mix, relationships often start to take the back burner. Whether it's your marriage or even your relationship with your best pal, it's important to set a weekly reminder to pay attention to these important relationships so that you don't wake up one day and realize you barely know each other anymore. I find it helpful to designate one night a week for "date night" and another evening or lunch hour for seeing a friend (better yet, a group of friends so you can squeeze a few in at once!)
So take the time each week to put some targets in place. You'll feel great meeting them, and your life will inevitably be more fulfilled and successful as a result!
No Summer Camp? No Problem. 3 Great Ways to Keep your Kids Active & Entertained this Summer! May 28 2015
It's no secret that once kids reach the age of about ten or eleven, parents start counting the days from Christmas to the joyous weeks in which their children head off to the rural countryside and camp out under the care of a bunch of other overgrown children. However, it's also no secret that these "camps" are becoming more like resorts, and with growing luxuries there are growing costs.
If your kids are sticking around this summer, there are many fun ways you can ensure they have an amazing summer experience without having to send them away for 2 weeks or a month (and pay a hefty cost!) Not only will they have fun, but so will you! You just have to be willing to roll up your sleeves a bit.
1. Plan a Family Camping Trip
No matter where you are, camping is almost always an option. It's not the most appealing activity for some, but there are varying levels to which you can actually take this "roughing it" experience. The benefits of doing something like this as a family, even just for a couple of days, are plentiful. Firstly, you strip away all modern technologies and distractions. No more TV, video games, etc. Sure, they may bring their cell phones.... but they'll eventually die! You'll be amazed at how much more focused and engaged they are without all of these extras to busy their minds. Major bonding potential.
Secondly, they will learn basic survival skills that are quickly being lost on our rapidly advancing technologically dependent society. Kids rarely even know that it's possible to cook without a burner, or boil lake water clean. They'll learn how to pitch a tent, and how to survive a few days without google or a nearby grocery store. Want to go the extra mile? Do a portage! Build up those wiry muscles carrying the canoe from site to site. Here are some of the most notable campgrounds across Canada and the US:
Algonquin Park- Ontario
Bon Echo Provincial Park- Ontario
Aspen Beach Provincial Park- Alberta
Yosemite National Park- California
Olympic National Park- Washington
2. Family Game Night- Active Style
Remember when your parents used to force you to spend an entire night of your week sitting in the living room playing an excruciating game of monopoly so you could spend time "as a family?" This is so not what I am talking about. I'm talking about being the coolest parents on the block. How? By getting a whole bunch of families together for outdoor games and sports one night a week. It will take a bit of planning, but this helps as it ensures that everyone commits and follows through.
Here's how it works. Talk to a few other families (neighbors, friends, etc.) and see if they have an interest in setting up a family game night. Draw up a rough calendar of proposed weekly activities for the entire summer. It helps to involve other families as a) they can help contribute ideas for weekly games, and b) most games are more fun with more people! Also, it makes it more fun for the kids to have their friends around (sorry, mom and dad.) Try to ensure that the teams are divided up by family. This will help you spend time as a family, stay active, and is a great way to teach your kids to work as a team (and to see your family this way too!) Here are a few game ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
Capture the Flag
Clue (murder mystery game)
Classic Carnival Contests (Potato sack jumping, wheelbarrow race, egg in the spoon race)
3. Rent (or Buy) Some Bikes!
Kids love exploring. Biking is a great way to explore new areas. There are so many biking trails available in the most beautiful settings. It's an easy way to travel and see a greater area as opposed to hiking on foot which can be slower and more draining. There are a ton of companies now which rent out bikes by the hour. (ex. Bike Share in Toronto, Citi Bike in NYC) If you're ready to make it more of a regular habit, you can get some great second hand bikes at an affordable cost, just be sure to do your research.
These are just a few of the ways to get creative and keep your kids active and entertained this summer. If you're willing to get a bit down and dirty, you'll be surprised how much fun you can all have together!
Staying Fit as a Busy Working Parent May 22 2015
It's really easy to find excuses not to exercise when you're a parent of young ones working a full-time job. Life gets BUSY. But would you ever deem it excusable to neglect looking after your child for these same reasons? Didn't think so. The first step in the right direction is to start viewing fitness as a necessary part of taking care of yourself. You wouldn't skip a basic necessity of caring for your child, like food, education, or sleep, because you were too busy, would you? So why should your own body get the shaft? I'm not suggesting that every mother or father should make it a priority to resemble a fitness model or have "abs of steel," just that you incorporate fitness as a regular part of your routine to maintain your mental and physical well being. Trust me- your family will thank you for it!
Without regular exercise, we eventually become low energy, burned out human beings (which can equal lacklustre parents and spouses!) Maintaining a regular fitness regimen keeps your metabolism going, your energy levels higher, and your mood elevated. This has obvious benefits for your relationships with your loved ones, and even your sex life. But who has the time or energy to hit the gym after a long day at work, then feeding, bathing and coaxing a bunch of rambunctious kids into bed? It's never going to be super convenient, but here are a few tricks you can use to find the time.
If you're married with young kids and both working full-time jobs, you're just going to have to accept that for the next few years, you will need to rotate the morning and evening shifts. No one loves waking up at 6am to hit the gym before heading to the office for a long day of work. However, once you get there and get going, it's surprising how exerted you feel going into your day. Getting those endorphins going first thing in the morning is a great way to start, hard as it is to get yourself there. This means your spouse takes the breakfast shift with the kids, gets them to school etc. and when you get home that night, you're on deck for dinner, bath, and bedtime while your spouse heads straight to the gym. You'll probably be ready for an early slumber yourself at that point, but it will feel well deserved. The next day, swap. Or, find a similar way to divide and conquer, allowing for balance of responsibility between you.
Single parent? Bite the bullet and hire a babysitter for an hour or two after work to do the dinner shift while you hit the gym. It's a worthwhile investment.
8 Minute Abs, Arms, Legs and Buns.
Are you a stay at home parent with no nanny or assistance? I get it- there's literally no time to hit the gym, at least not on a regular basis. This is where home workouts come in handy. I am going to let you in on a little secret of mine. I swear by these hilarious "8 minute workout" videos (below) that I found online a few years back. Judging by their attire, they must be from the 80's. It amazes me that they're still up but I'm not complaining! If you can get past the funny clothes and hairdos, these videos are super useful and get you toned up in no time. There's one for abs/core, one for arms, one for legs. 32 minutes and Ta Da! Full-body workout. When you put your kids down for a nap, grab your laptop and set up in a room with a little floor space to do your exercises. Not in the napping stage? Set up in a room within sight while they eat their lunch. Or better yet, create an arts and crafts activity (no sharp objects!) that will keep them busy for a half hour. These are only a few examples of the masses of online workout and yoga videos available online. Do some research and find a few that work for you!
Play With the Kids!
Don't underestimate the amount of cardio you actually get running after your little ones. As they get older, continue creating games that involve running, such as a family soccer or baseball game, capture the flag or even scavenger hunts. It keeps you AND your kids active and is a great bonding experience.
Outdoor Workouts- So Hot Right Now. May 07 2015
With spring in the air and fitness rising on the priority meter, (hello, bikini weather) I thought I’d share with you the benefits and multi-uses of Mother nature’s back yard. Outdoor fitness is becoming more and more of a popular phenomenon. From fitness mobs and running groups, to park workouts and TRX training, there are dozens of ways to use the outdoors as your gym, and soak up some vitamin D while you’re at it! Just follow these few easy steps and you’re on your way to an awesome beach bod, and some extra cash for summer fun!
Image Source: http://www.domesticdork.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/NoGymNoProblem.jpg
Cancel your gym membership (for now).
Every spring, I cancel my gym membership. Why? I don’t see the need for a treadmill when I can run outside. I don’t see the need for machinery when I can use the monkey bars at the local playground for chin-ups and other exercises. I don’t need a floor mat when I can use my yoga mat in my back yard to stretch and do ab exercises. Most importantly, I save a solid few hundred dollars, and don’t burn fossil fuels driving to a gym or waste energy on electrically run machinery! Most gyms will offer a 6 month membership. If you can do month to month, even better! Save money, travel time and energy consumption by using the outdoors until the weather no longer permits it.
Join a running group.
Image Source: http://trainingcampsf.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Group_running.jpg
As we’ve discussed before, community is a key element of staying motivated and driving performance when exercising. Most neighborhoods have a local group that gets together a few times a week to run. It’s a great way to meet people, and will keep you motivated to stick to a workout routine.
Use the outdoor elements.
Image Source: http://thefitchronicles.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/pre-beach-workout-photo-51.jpg
Often if you drive past your local park or even the beach, more and more you will see people exercising. Many beaches (south Beach, Miami for instance) actually have designated bars set up designed for strength conditioning exercises! Otherwise, any local playground will have monkey bars and other useful equipment that have multipurpose use, you just have to get creative!
1. Use the stairs. Find a set of three or four stairs (or even a picnic table). Step up 2 stairs with your left foot, then back to the ground with your right. Repeat with the other foot. Then step up 2 with your left, then 2 more with your right, then back. Repeat. Who needs a stair master?
Image Source: http://www.fitnessbyd.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/P1030157.jpg
2. Use the monkey bars. For chin-ups, grab on with both hands, pull yourself up to chin level, release and repeat. You can also use the monkey bars to strengthen your core. Hang on to the bars with both hands, and slowly lift your legs up as far as you can. Hold, and release. Repeat. Or, try any of the exercises above. They're tough, but will give you killer abs!
Image Source: http://redefiningstrength.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/monkey-bar-exercises.jpg
Sweat vs Starve June 29 2014
As summer sets in and the bikinis come out, the whole fit vs. food debate is a particularly hot topic. Well, the science is now showing what most gym-junkies have likely known for years- there really is no debate. “As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise.” These new findings have given me a freeing new perspective on how to approach my own wellness.
Image via: http://www.2ndwindexercise.com/diet-and-exercise-better-together/
For years, I was dedicated gym bunny, obsessed with the “count” that is, how many calories did my workouts burn and could I push myself further, longer or faster to burn more. Yet, I often found it really didn’t make a big difference to my overall bottom (ahem) line. More recently, I’ve focused my energies on balance and fun. I still exercise each day because I’m addicted to the endorphins and it makes me feel mentally and physically great… but I now try to focus on the types of classes, movement, etc. that I really enjoy.
Image via: http://kidsactivitiesblog.com/22571/35-for-10-zumba-fitness-classes-for-mom
This being said, I am more conscious of tracking what and how I eat, and I try to practice the 80/20 rule. During the week I use a mobile app (myfitnesspal, livestrong, weightwatchers are all great) and generally try to stay carbohydrate and dairy free. On the weekends, I enjoy myself. This approach has left me less injured, happier and feeling my fittest ever. So the jury is in for me- “the secret” really is a balance. Oh dear, could balance be my new obsession?
Image via: http://www.healthyfoodhouse.com/what-is-a-balanced-nutrition/