Have you ever noticed that people measure things that matter to them. It doesn’t matter whether we measure things in minutes, repetitions, days, inches, pounds, miles or years, you can be certain that if something is important to a person, they will measure it. It’s just that simple.
Now consider your health and fitness goals. Are you flagging in your resolve to regularly eat healthy and stay active? Then ask yourself, “How am I measuring my progress? What am I tracking or counting?” If you can’t answer those questions using phrases like: I will reach 26% body fat over the next 6 months; or I will eat soup and/or salad for dinner twice a week; or I will do pushups once a day until I can do 10 in a row; then you have most likely not given yourself something measured to work towards.
The trick is to realize that counting, measuring, and tracking is not about the result. It’s about the system, not the goal. Measure from a place of curiosity. Measure to discover, to find out, to understand. Measure from a place of self-awareness. Measure to get to know yourself better. Measure to see if you are showing up. Measure to see if you’re actually spending time on the things that matter to you. James Clear
The genre of your measuring isn’t important. What matters is that you have an idea of what you want to reach, something towards which you must count…something of which you must focus upon…something that no matter how you are feeling on any given day or moment, you know you will certainly work towards completing; remember, if you will just show up and do the work required by your measured plan…day after day, your intentional behavior accumulates in progress; and progress will not disappoint, because it is forward movement towards your measured milestone.
Your success requires only your intention. Be specific about what you want to accomplish. Count on your success…every day…show up and live and act like you mean it! Then don’t be surprised when you arrive at your desired outcome, but rather celebrate your arrival, because your journey of successful accomplishment has just begun…
As a personal trainer specializing in the ‘Over the Hill’ demographic, I’m often asked by my clients what the best exercises are for women of mature years. I used to tell my clients that they should engage in so much aerobic, strength and flexibility training so as to realize continued fitness into their senior years. But I have noticed that most, if not many, of my clients struggle to be physically active regardless of what they know they should be doing.
So I have changed my answer to this often asked question by saying that the BEST exercises for EVERY WOMAN are the exercises WHICH SHE ENJOYS doing…often. For women on the precipice of menopause, a physically active lifestyle is highly protective against the traditional weight gains and muscle losses associated with the menopause years. If middle-aged women who still have regular menstrual cycles or are on hormone replacement therapy can discover or create ways to be physically active during these transitional years before menopause, they can set themselves up for less weight gain and muscle loss during the menopause season. From my personal experience, I would have I have gained my best fitness outcomes (strength/endurance) from adding weight training and high intensity interval training to my exercise regimen. Unfortunately, many women my age shy away from these types of activities and view them as behaviors which only men or elite-athletes engage.
So this is why I standardize my response to that most asked question and resort to the standard conventions for exercise prescription. By this I mean that 2 to 3 days a week should be devoted to strength training together with 3 to 5 days a week of aerobic exercise with a minimum 30 minute duration. Clearly, the key to staying this active is in discovering those activities which provide a measure of fun and enjoyment for you. Remember, if your exercise routine doesn’t put a smile on your face, then your exercise routine becomes a stress inducing activity rather than a health inducing activity.
Finally, don’t discount the value of trying something new when planning your fitness program. You may even want to re-visit exercises or activities you learned to dislike in your youth. When you have a say in how or when you engage in your exercise, you may discover that you could actually enjoy the rigors of team sports or group fitness compared to the requisite ‘gym’ class you were forced to attend during your school years. And if you’re the type of person who enjoys a more social approach to your exercise, then by all means enlist your friends to join you in your fitness endeavors.
You might like to read the brief article about Ms. Willie Murphy (pictured above), a 77 year old grandmother who took up weight training not too long ago. I think her story perfectly illustrates the fact that you are never too old to try something new and get fit too!
As a personal trainer, I often advise my clients to mix up their exercise routines to keep their muscles and their mind challenged. Science has taught us that regular bouts of exercise produce adaptations in the neural connections between our brain and muscles. And we easily recognize these adaptations when we become stronger and have improved aerobic endurance. But even these improvements plateau if we do not mix things up in our activity routines every once in a while.
So how do we overcome plateaus? We overcome plateaus by disrupting our regular routines. Planned, purposeful disruption is strong medicine for creating healthy neural pathways. By adding something new to our exercise or movement routines, we create opportunities for our brains to adapt (reroute and rewrite neural pathways) when we integrate novel movement patterns into our daily activities.
For example, one thing I always suggest my clients do to improve their balance is to switch sides when engaging in routine daily activities. In other words, I encourage them to use their non-dominant hands or legs. If you are right hand dominant, try using your left hand once a day to brush your teeth, write your name or use your computer mouse. Likewise, notice which leg you tend to put into your pants first when you dress…then switch it up once in a while. Making these simple changes recruits and strengthens NEW neural connections.
If switching sides feels awkward or uncomfortable, that is normal, and the
reason we feel ‘off balance’ when we use our non-dominant limbs to do everyday activities is because we have, by years and years of preference, created a strong neural pathway (preference), and this preference is now COMFORTABLE. But from my perspective, comfortable equates to easy which equates to weakness which equates to imbalance; and imbalance is almost always a foundation not only for injury but also for illness. So remember, once in a while, a purposeful disruption needs to be introduced into your day. I hope you will have fun with this and choose to engage in some practical disruption soon. It’s good for your brain. It’s good for your body!
This is the first post in the brain power series. If you want to learn about more ways to improve your brain power, then follow my blog and have notification of my posts sent directly to your email.
Do you find yourself ‘zoning out’ during weight training repetitions or while you’re running for miles and miles on the treadmill? Are you looking for ways to distract yourself from the discomfort of your exercise routine instead of enjoying the physical activity for its own merits? Do you ever reach your fitness goals or do you lose interest or motivation long before a goal deadline? If you have a love-hate relationship with exercise, maybe you should ditch those exercise activities that you hate and start doing those activities you love. There is a strong connection between your mind-body when it comes to the benefits gained during exercise. If we don’t enjoy the activity, it is quite often not going to be beneficial to us. If we are not in-sync (mind/body) during exercise then we are inducing a stress response to exercise that negates any benefits we might otherwise reap from the activity. Instead, take the time to really dig down into your psyche, your memories, your feelings about exercise and consider the ways of moving your body which bring to mind happy thoughts or memories. These remembrances are the keys to identifying those activities in which you can happily engage on most days of the week. There is an oft quoted saying which states that “if we do what we love, we will never work a day in our life.” This same outlook or attitude can be transferred to the fitness activities in which we choose to engage. Once identified, activities that we love to do will seem more like child’s play rather than a prescribed, must-do exercise routine. So before you pickup another dumbbell or drag yourself to another group fitness class, make sure you know, deep down, what really drives you to stay fit; once identified, this knowledge will make reaching your fitness goals a journey you’ll enjoy rather than dread.
You have to fall in love with building the identity of someone who does the work, rather than merely dreaming about the results that you want. In other words fall in love with boredom. Fall in love with repetition and practice. Fall in love with the process of what you do and let the results take care of themselves. James Clear
I have always been intrigued by the ‘Army of One’ slogan. It conjures the image of an individual dressed in military camouflage engaged in military activities without the benefit of doing those activities with the Army of Others. The ‘One’ ideal, it seems, is more adept at preparing an Army of ‘individuals’ to work together rather than training the ‘herd’ to work as an Army. Regardless of whether this ideal works for training soldiers, it has merit when applied to our own individual goals, especially in regards to our exercise or fitness goals. There are myriad plans and trainers to chose from in the current marketplace. Whether virtual or local, the fitness market is flooded with exercise programs that can be trendy or based on solid training principles; it can be difficult to know which activities are safe or worthwhile in which to engage. However, if we employ the ‘Army of One’ mentality to our exercise training, this gives us the freedom to pick and choose the setting, the exercise and the intensity that best suits are current fitness needs. Consulting or training with an exercise professional will almost always enhance your exercise outcomes too. The most important thing to remember is this: if you want to be an Army of One, then you have to train like you have enlisted for service. You must follow up on the commitment you made to yourself, and engage in those activities that will bring you health and vitality each day of the year.
This morning I was considering the fundamentals of strength training and how weight training plans are designed to build strength into our muscles and our physical body. Weight training jargon always uses ‘sets’ and ‘repetitions’ to describe how many times an exercise participant should lift, push or pull a given amount of weight to obtain the desired fitness outcome. In weight training, muscles can be trained for power, or strength or endurance. The amount of weight used and the number of sets and repetitions varies depending on the participant’s goal. For some unknown reason (maybe inspiration?) when I thought about how many sets and repetitions are required to build endurance in our muscles, I immediately thought about a question that St. Peter once asked Jesus: “How many times do I forgive my brother who has wronged me? Seven?” (Matthew 18:21-22). In weight training, seven times (or repetitions) is the range that a participant would use to build power in their muscles: fast, ballistic, scary big muscle power. In a sense, Peter was flexing his big, powerful ‘faith’ muscle by suggesting a forgiveness repetition of seven times. He knew it took a lot of strength to forgive the SAME person, for the same transgression, seven times in a row; but his forgiveness building goal was too short sighted. It was a short term goal that could not overcome a long term problem. Jesus wanted to teach Peter something about endurance, because that’s what a repetition range of seventy times seven will build! Those kinds of repetitions are designed to build stamina into our muscles, wherever those muscles are located, body or soul. Realize this: the weight required to build endurance is LIGHTER THAN the weight required to build strength or power. Forgiveness repetitions are meant to be light enough that you can forgive those who transgress against you many, many, many times throughout the days, weeks, and years of your life. Some heavy forgiveness repetitions are required in every life too, but overall, if we practice high repetitions we lay a foundation to build strength into our muscles as well. So the next time you flex and extend your muscles, think about how this translates into your relationships:
FLEXING = receiving forgiveness ~ EXTENDING = giving forgiveness
Seeking the Illusive Runner’s High? Want to lose fat and build muscle?
Then you need to try High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT.
While it currently might be considered an exercise fad, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has gained merit and momentum in gyms across the country. What is HIIT? It is an exercise format that uses timed intervals for periods of intense exercise together with timed periods of active rest intervals. Often using the principles of circuit training (5-8 different exercises performed in circuit, one after the other) HIIT workouts allow a tremendous about of higher-intensity work to be accomplished beyond what could be accomplished (at the same intensity) in a continuous workout. This translates into several key physiological benefits. First, caloric burn is increased during bouts of high intensity exercise. Second, high intensity bouts of exercise activate fast twitch muscle fibers better than steady state bouts of aerobic exercise. This is especially important to adults aged 40 years and older because as we age these fibers go dormant unless they are actively recruited on a regular basis. And lastly, HIIT does not require special or additional equipment to one’s current exercise routines. Any way you look at HIIT, it increases aerobic and strength fitness levels it a shorter amount of time than a traditional strength or aerobic exercise session.
Here are some safety tips from the American College of Sport’s Medicine when planning your HIIT program:
1. Always warm up before starting intervals and cool down afterward.
2. Be cognizant of your current physical fitness; start conservatively and
gradually progress the work interval intensity.
3. Keep the number of repetitions realistic and gradually build the number
4. Only modify one variable at a time (e.g., increase intensity or duration but
not both at the same time).
5. Set the recovery interval duration and intensity to allow your heart rate to
come down below 110 BPM.
Here’s an on-line link to 7 HIIT training programs: