Tag Archives: fitness

The last minute holiday gift list for gym rats.

fitsantsaDo you have all your holiday shopping wrapped up and ready to go?

No? Neither do I. Let us pause for a moment and thank the shopping Gods for the biggest gift of all: overnight shipping. 

I’ve thumbed through plenty of magazine articles with ideas for fit gifts. Some of them are great – many of them are aimed more at “yoga chicks who like fancy mats” than what I’m into. Fancy mats are cool too. But I’d like to move into some other territory. 

From gym tools and bags to easy DIY treats, I’ve got the gifts to grab this season. 

Gym Tools
These aren’t shiny and pretty, but they are useful. And sometimes that’s the best kind of gift to get:

Slingshot Hip Circle  $25

slingshot-hip-circle

The slingshot hip circle is an odd little tool that may make your glutes scream. I slip it right above my knees and use it for hip thrusts and lateral band walks. The inward pressure of the band encourages you to press back against it. The result is you lighting up your hips and butt like a Christmas tree. You can choose different levels of stretchiness – so pay attention to the details on each band.

 

Serious Steel Resistance Bands – from $10 depending on size
serious-steel

If you work out at a gym without these, quit that gym. Ok, I kid – but these are staple gym tools. If you don’t have any, grab a few to use for everything from assisted chin ups, band pull aparts and banded hip thrusts to pallof presses and triceps press downs. I think I pull one out in every single workout.

Buy a whole set, or pick one that fits the exercise you’d like to do.

Schlep Your Stuff
I really need a new gym bag. Currently I use worn out backpacks and sometimes stuff my gym shoes into my purse. That’s sad. Everyone loves a new bag, especially one of these:

Adidas Squad 3 $45
adidas-squad-3
The colors on this bag make it fun to tote. It also has an outside compartment to isolate your stinky shoes and sweaty clothes.

Lole Deena Duffel $85.99
lole-deena-duffel
This would make a good weekender bag as well as a gym tote. I like that it has plenty of room. Yoga people will appreciate the mat keeper, and it has several pockets for stashing all your random stuff you take to the gym. Plus it’s cute. Cute is good.
Sometimes you should go outside…

Flipbelt $28.99 and up
flip-belt
You know what’s B.S. about tights? They feel so good and yet rarely have pockets. Or pockets big enough to actually hold anything. When I walk outside, I find myself shoving my phone and my keys into my bra. Then I have that weird lumpy boob thing, and a sweaty phone at the end. Did I just overshare? I know someone out there is nodding their head.

This thing is cool. I like that it has a lightweight look to it and isn’t really a fanny pack. Yet it’s totally a fanny pack: just a sleek one for sportsing.

Wearable Safety Lights $19.95
safetylights
My friend Emily jogs in a bright reflective vest for her early morning sessions. I tease her and call her “safety ninja”, but she’s smart: getting hit by a car while on an early morning run, bike ride, or walk is no joke. Plus I think these things would make me feel like a little kid with light up shoes. 

Being able to slip them on to whatever shoes you’re wearing is helpful: if you cycle some days and walk on others, you’ll be set for both. The company sells glow bracelets too and other light up pieces, in case you want to pile it all on and pretend you’re going to a rave during your workout.

Healthy cooking
Everyone likes to eat. And if you eat well, you probably like new cooking inspiration. 

Subscription to Cooking Light $9.95
cooking-light

This magazine has provided me with so many easy and delicious meals over the years that I have to mention it. I appreciate that the mag always provides calorie and macronutrient counts as well as clear cut serving sizes. There are plenty of kid-friendly recipes in each issue too.

The Skinnytaste Fast and Slow Cookbook $18.00
skinnytaste

I’ve been a long time follower of blogger Gina Homolka of Skinnytaste. She’s published a few cookbooks but this is the first I’ve purchased. After cooking many home run hits from the book I can safely recommend that you go out and buy this book – as a gift to a fit-minded friend or for yourself.

Many cookbooks labeled “healthy” don’t provide much detail for the nutritional content of each meal. Homolka does that for every recipe in the book. Nothing in here tastes like “diet” food, and she’s creative without diving into the territory of exotic and impractical. That makes for perfect weeknight cooking.

Eating in the Middle $17.49
eating-in-the-middle
I fell in love with this cookbook. Not just because the recipes are wholesome, satisfying, and creative: but because author Andie Mitchell weaves a narrative that feels so close to home. She struggled with obesity, lost weight, and somehow had to find her own sustainable, middle ground. She doesn’t demonize food nor ignore the importance of nourishing ourselves. She finds the happy place, and it shows in her foods and words.

 

Flavor Kit from Raw Spice Bar – as low as $6/month for 3, 6, or 12 month subscription.
rawspicebar

Raw Spice Bar sent me a flavor kit to try. I received three packages of fragrant, globally inspired spice blends. They came coupled with recipe cards to give me cooking ideas. One of their recipes was a bit of a bust, but the others were outstanding. I’d buy this for just the spice blends and cooking inspiration. It makes for an unusual and healthy gift for anyone who likes to play in the kitchen. Use code FLAVOR6 to get a $5 discount. 

Splurge worthy
Fitbit Charge 2 $129.99
fitbit-charge-2
Verizon sent me this Fitbit Charge 2 to test drive and I have to admit: I was completely prepared to hate it. I get most of my movement at the gym through strength and conditioning work. Using a tool to check calorie burn is short sighted. Goals like building muscle and burning fat have a lot less to do with how many calories you burn in your workout and more to do with the effectiveness of your work and your dedication to your nutrition.

Still, the Fitbit did a few great things for me:

-It showed me that on many days, I sit on my butt way too long before getting out of my chair to move around.

-It helped me see that I wasn’t sleeping all that well at night and gave me a shove to nail down better sleep routines. I’m already sleeping better.

-It created reminders for me with the use of an app that you pair with the phone. I can track my water intake, movement breaks, total steps, and more. I get to decide which things I want to work on and the FitBit reminds me to get on that.

You can check your heart rate, count your calorie burn, and more. The beauty of the FitBit is that you can use it for what helps you, and just ignore the other features. For many of my clients, tracking daily steps motivates them to move more. And I call that a win.

Other cool things: it looks like a sleek watch instead of a clunky sports tool. It also now has interchangeable straps to make it look like a pretty piece of jewelry. I’m a girly girl and stand behind this.

TRX Suspension Starter Kit – $130
trx
If you work out at home, I wouldn’t call this a splurge – I’d call it a smart investment. One of the biggest issues with home-based workouts is needing a ton of dumbbells to get going. It’s also difficult to find exercises to do for the back when you’re without much equipment. The TRX is one of my go-to tools for rowing variations as well as brutal core exercises.

Lululemon Fast as Light Tights – $118
fast-as-light-tight
I will never own enough “pants that aren’t really pants”. There, I’ve said it. I poo-pooed Lululemon for a long time because they’re expensive. But I haven’t found another pair of yoga pants that makes my butt look like theirs do. They have some kind of butt-lifting pixie dust inside them. Now you know the secret. They also last forever and feel comfy all day. Buy some for your best friend or yourself. Unlike some brands, I find that Lululemon runs a bit small, so size up.

Fun and fresh
Not Vodka Water Bottle Mini Bullet 17 oz. $25. 
notvodka

Larger sizes are available too but this smaller one makes a great gift for $25. It’ll keep your water (or notvodka) cold for 30 hours and hot for 12. Non-toxic, non-leaching, BPA free. I own way too many water bottles, but I keep this one with me the most. Mostly because it makes me smile. 

Cozy Leg Warmer by Hansel from Basel, Inc. $48.
cozy-leg-warmer
I have a bunch of crop length workout pants that I normally don’t wear in the winter because I’m a delicate freaking flower and my ankles get cold. Duh, why not wear leg warmers? Plus we can channel the 80’s. These are super luxe, but any pair will do.

Tank tops from Raygun. $21+
sunsoutraygun
This store is a Des Moines original but you can nab their rad clothes and accessories online too. Along with a mind blowing selection of t-shirts, Raygun carries fun tanks and hoodies. Pair with your “pants that aren’t really pants”. 

Homemade and heartfelt. 
Gifts don’t need to make you go broke. Some of the best gifts just require a little effort. Here are a few DIY ideas that won’t make you want to scream at your Pinterest app. 

Sure, you could make soothing salves, bath bombs, and scrubs. But most of us who work out hard also love to eat. So my picks are all things that are things to nibble – low calorie but also slightly indulgent. 

Meringues
meringues

These little clouds are only 8 calories per cookie. WHAT?? And they actually taste good. Make one batch for a friend and another for yourself. You can also easily change up the flavoring by subbing in other extracts. I think almond would be amazing. 

Southwestern Three Bean and Barley Soup Mix
beanbarleysoup-mix

Soup mixes make a pretty looking gift when layered in a mason jar. Yeah yeah, mason jars are so 2014. But they work here. Plus who doesn’t love a dinner that’s ready to go on a cold winter night? 

DIY Protein Puppy Chow Mix
protein-puppy-chow-pinterest

Alright. I’m just going to come out and say that if you put a bowl of the classic peanut butter and chocolate treat known as “puppy chow” in front of me I would demolish it. Why not make this slightly healthier, bro’ed up version – in a portion controlled package? 

Skinny Hot Chocolate
skinny-hot-chocolate

I love the creative smoothie ideas from Dashing Dish, so it’s no surprise that this blogger’s hot cocoa mix is wonderful too. Put this mix into pretty jars and give a toasty gift for a chilly day. 

Raspberry Orange Chia Jam
chia-jam
Chia does amazing things for jam – not only is it packed with fiber and nutrients, it gels up fruit to create a jam-like consistency. This lower sugar jam would make a perfect treat. 

Give back

photo credit: girls on the run

photo credit: girls on the run

One of the best ways to feel the holiday spirit is to make a donation or volunteer for a charity. One of my favorite experiences was coaching with Girls on the Run, an organization that helps young girls build confidence and life skills through weekly activities and running games. 

Have any fit gift ideas or things on your own list? Leave a comment below and share. Happy holidays!

 

Disclosure: a few links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you buy from them, I’ll receive a few pennies from your purchase. This will go straight toward my coffee habit. Thank you! xoxo.

Staying healthy with hotel living – how to stay on track.

hotelroomEver feel like you’re in that weird place that isn’t quite vacation but still manages to launch you completely out of your comfortable routine?

I think we’ve all been there at least once. Having babies, starting new jobs, moving to new cities, getting married, getting divorced.

It doesn’t really matter what it is: it’s not easy to figure out a new normal. But possibly the most frustrating situation for those who want to keep up healthy habits is being away from our cozy, predictable nests. 

home

It might be because we’re on an extended business trip, or we’re moving, like my friend Lexy is doing right now.

She’s a badass working mom who is getting ready to move into a new house. That’s all good stuff except while they’re waiting for their new home to be ready they have to camp out in one of those long-term business hotels. The ones with only a microwave, a mini range, and a fridge.

Her kids love the pool but other than that, it’s a heck of a stressful situation. Have you ever found yourself in a similar place – one where all of your normal routines felt like they’d been blown to bits?

I had an online coaching client whose kitchen burned to ashes. She had to deal with a major kitchen fire and had to figure out how to feed herself and her family for several weeks. Yeesh. 

Life is messy, isn’t it? Lexy asked me if I had ideas for how to make healthier choices while living in her situation. The good news is that there are things that she can do to feel like she’s taking care of her health; things that work for anyone who might be traveling a lot, going through a new job transition with little time to cook, or just having big stuff going on in their lives.

Remember this above all else…
If you’re nodding your head right now, you need to know one big thing. Here it is:

You don’t need to do everything just like you were when you were in your normal routine.

That’s a nearly impossible task, and it sets you up to feel defeated. It’s okay to loosen up your expectations for a time.

steinbeck

Perfect is the enemy of good; it’s so common for people to say “screw it” and just completely abandon eating well and working out because they aren’t able to do what they think they should. So first and foremost, give yourself permission to let go of what your perfect “healthy” routine looks like at home. 

Phew. Feels good, yeah?

Next. Let’s brainstorm some solutions.

Eating Well 
Lexy felt frustrated because of how often they were eating out. I asked Lexy what she thought was going well and she had already come up with some magnificent strategies:

  • Fresh fruits and veggies to keep in the fridge.
  • Family picnics in the park
  • Getting lean protein via deli meats
  • Choosing portable and easy to store fruits and veggies like carrots, celery, grapes, bananas and clementines
  • Chilling out about using some Lunchables for school lunches but choosing the kind with no extra cookies/candy
  • Pre-diced chicken
  • Microwavable veggie/pasta combos
Hell yeah, Barbie Dream Kitchen. The antiquated, politically inappropriate favorite toy of my childhood.

Hell yeah, Barbie Dream Kitchen. The antiquated, politically incorrect yet favorite toy of my childhood.

Lexy mentioned that making salads frustrated her in such a small space, and I don’t blame her. There’s usually an odd assortment of utensils, fewer available bowls, and in short, makes for the opposite of my Barbie dream kitchen. 

Simplicity is your new best friend.
My biggest bit of advice for eating while out of your routine is to do whatever is simple and still healthy. Pick the things that help you meet your goals yet don’t stress you out too much to prepare. And for the love of all that is holy, stay the hell off Pinterest. You’ll just torture yourself. 

Your #1 goal is to make your life as simple as possible. The fancy stuff can wait. 

peepszap

Embrace new ways of cooking:
You might not be able to grill a steak, but you can do a surprisingly large number of things in a microwave besides nuke those bags of vegetables:

1.Boil water(duh)
2. Scramble and even poach eggs
3. Zap a protein mug cake (they’re not great but passable)
4. Cook whole grains like oats, quinoa, farro
5. Steam fish like salmon 
6. Blow up Peeps. (This is a requirement at least once in your life. Clean it up though.)

chicken

Other ideas for “no-cook” meals:

  • Buy rotisserie chicken and a pre-packaged salad kit. Instead of having to chop veggies, you’ll just throw it all together.
  • Tuna + those little guacamole packets = magic. Actually anything + those little guac packets are wonderful. 
  • Use that microwave – but in steps. Nuke some sweet potatoes. Heat up a can of black beans and/or diced protein. Add salsa. Fill your belly. This works with regular old potatoes too and whatever microwaveable veggies you have. Add whatever fixings are easy to use – a little cheese is great.
  • Take advantage of pre-chopped veggies in the supermarket. It stinks to have to chop up things in a tiny space, and if this makes you more likely to actually eat some more vegetables and skip eating fast food, do it.
  • Keep portable and no-prep munchies around. Aside from fruits and veggies, I’ve found it pretty easy to nab Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese and jerky for quick snacks.
  • Oats are easy. For breakfast, oatmeal is easily microwaveable and even comes in disposable containers now if you’re traveling and have no bowls.
  • If your hotel offers a free breakfast, bulk up! Grab a piece of fruit for later. Choose yogurt, hardboiled eggs, and oatmeal over choices like pastries and cereal. 
  • Allow yourself some “pretty good” choices. These might not be your favorite go-to solutions. I don’t love daily protein bars and bottled protein shakes, but this might be a perfect time to keep some available.

Flipping your mindset.
I think the big thing here is to maintain a sense of order. Make a plan ahead of time, just as if you were cooking at home. Is Monday cold cuts night and perhaps Tuesday rotisserie chicken night? Write it down or save it in a file. 

Take more choices out of your life and it becomes easier to choose wisely.

Lexy also shared that she didn’t much she found foods creeping into their hotel room that she never had around at home. Again, loosening our expectations a bit is probably wise for our mental health, and yet it’s easy to see a transition time as vacation.

But if that vacation is 4-8 weeks long, we might begin feeling not so great about what we’re putting into our bodies on a regular basis. Lexy was wise to attempt to curb the creep here.

It’s not vacation. It’s your life – your real life, just in a slightly different spot than where you’re normally at. Vacation mentality won’t necessarily make you feel less out of sorts; it might erode your peace of mind as well as those routines that keep your body and mind humming.

Photo Credit: Minitime

Photo Credit: Minitime

Working out when life is nuts.
Again, doing fitness if you’ve just moved to a new place or are going through a crazy period can feel rough. Don’t have a gym? No biggie. If you’re talking about 3-4 weeks of upheaval, take a deep breath. You won’t lose all your progress.

But I encourage you to do SOMETHING. Every small, positive action reinforces more positive actions that help you care for yourself. Exercise is a huge stress reliever, and if you’re in the weeds, taking 20 minutes to do a very basic workout will go far in helping you feel good. If your hotel has a gym, that’s fantastic, but there are plenty of body weight routines that you could do just about anywhere. Investing in a suspension trainer like a TRX is another wise idea if you’re a frequent traveler.

But really, don’t sweat the details too much. Go for a walk. Just move your body, because it will make you feel like you’re on track. And that thought will piggyback into you doing more things to put yourself on track. 

Here’s a “do anywhere” quick set that will keep you strong and centered: 

Motel Muscle
Instructions: Complete 5 rounds of the following moves, resting when you need to, preferably at the bottom of a set. 

Circuit:
1.5 Bulgarian split squat – 8 reps/leg (all the way down, half way up, down, then all the way back up for one rep.)
Pushups – 8 (add a pause at the bottom if they’re easy for you)
Lateral lunge – 8/side
Russian twists – 8/side

Living in limbo is a weird place. Whether it’s for a week-long business trip or a month-long stop on the way to somewhere else you’d rather be, it’s maybe not what you expected, but you can absolutely still do things that not only help you be healthier but make you feel a little more at home. 

Do you have strategies that have worked well for your own crazy weeks (or months!)? Leave a comment below and share! 

Leaner, stronger, faster – stop majoring in the minors to start making big progress.

photo credit: Central Bike Thai

photo credit: Central Bike Thai

Do you ever major in the minors? Spending too much energy on small details while neglecting the “big rocks” may not only waste your time and energy – it can prevent you from reaching your goals effectively. I also must admit that I’ve done this more times than I’d care to remember. I suppose it’s partly because I’m someone who wants to go all in once I commit to a new goal. I’ve often read every detail, absorbed way too much information, and basically got in my own way.

I did exactly that last year, when I decided to sign up for my powerlifting meet. By nature, I’m not a dabbler: once I decide I’m in, I’m all in, baby. I took mental notes at my powerlifting-focused gym, where veteran, record-winning lifters worked out. I read every damn article I could find on the intarwebz. I hired Jordan Syatt, a top notch powerlifting coach.

He gave me my program, and I followed it. I improved my strength and technique. But still, I spent an inordinate amount of time on things like researching the pros and cons of grip widths, knee sleeves, water cutting strategies for meets, and training schemes. I was, of course, excited about my sexy new sport. But when I asked Jordan if I needed squat shoes for my upcoming meet, he just said this:

“Stop worrying about that stuff and just get strong.”

ermagerd, sherz

He was right. That sucked a little, because I love any form of new footwear. There is a time to consider squat shoes, if we need them. If you dedicate yourself to a new sport or really any health pursuit for long enough, you may reach a point where delving in deeper and refining your approach will benefit you. But like I did, you may be spinning your wheels fixated on minor nuances of your training or nutrition that will make almost no difference in your outcomes if you haven’t first built a firm foundation.

I can recall some instances where friends and clients have got caught in a similar trap with training and nutrition:

  • Buying a $5000 bicycle and aerodynamic wheels that set back their retirement savings yet haven’t dedicated themselves to a consistent, well planned training program for gaining speed. I’d like to thank these guys, however, because I like to make a game out of passing dudes on fancy bikes with aerobars while riding my old steel Bianchi with big, non-aero accessories hanging from it. Am I immature? Probably.
  • Obsessing over losing a few percentage points of body fat to become faster in endurance sports yet haven’t spent any time building muscle to help power their bodies.
  • Worrying about complicated periodization schemes when you learned how to deadlift last month.
  • Investing heavily in a new superfood juice, vitamin supplement, or special powder harvested with the same technique used by ancient Mayans yet haven’t nailed down the basics of eating mostly whole foods in your day.
  • Toying with advanced nutrition strategies like intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets, and rapid fat loss protocols when you haven’t yet figured out how to consistently eat in a way to create a calorie deficit.
  • Researching the ins and outs of nutrient timing but you’re currently not on top of your calories, macronutrient targets, or eating nourishing foods on a regular basis.

These are just a few examples of times when we over complicate things and fixate on the trees instead of the forest. Sometimes it’s because we are excited and want to belong to the tribe. Plus, squat shoes look kind of bad-ass. We read headlines that tout the benefits of a new supplement or training strategy.

But most of the time, getting faster, stronger, and leaner is a lot simpler than we think. What we typically need more of at first is patience, time, consistency, planning, as well as willingness to dig in and do some hard work.

bigrock

So here’s to keeping things simple. Peek at these lists of the major players before you plunge into the fine details.

If you’re a strength athlete:

  • Have you followed a well-constructed training plan for a solid block of time? I’m not talking weeks – I’m talking months of consistent hard work with a plan to see the fruits of your labor.

If you’re an endurance athlete: 

  • Do you include a progressive strength and power training scheme in your yearly sport planning?
  • Are you eating nutrient dense foods for overall performance and health?
  • Do you appropriately fuel your workouts and understand the roles of protein, carbs, and fats in health and your sport?
  • Do you include workouts for endurance, tempo, and power?
  • Have you spent time building your base, and do you know how and when to plan these workouts in the scope of a training year? If not, the aerobars will not help you enough. Hire a performance coach or get mentoring from more experienced athletes in your sport.  

If you’re losing fat:

  • Have you tracked your calories if you notice that you can’t lose weight?
  • Do you weigh your food to see exactly what you’re taking in?
  • How well honed is your understanding of appropriate portions for your body’s needs, and what kinds of foods will keep you full, fueled, and in a calorie deficit?
  • Do you know how to incorporate more whole foods into your diet?
  • Are you getting adequate protein into your days?

If you want to begin lead a generally healthier life: 

  • Are you exercising regularly most days of the week?
  • Do you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains? If so, high five. If not, start working on these habits instead of worrying about minor supplementation or optimal workout designs.

There is a place for using high-level tactics in your training and nutrition. If you’ve put in the time in your sport and want to squeeze out even more improvement, small tweaks to your training, nutrition, and gear can absolutely help you. If you’re already very lean and want to achieve advanced aesthetic goals, you probably need to investigate some advanced strategies for accomplishing your goals.

Just make sure you haven’t skipped over the steps that make the biggest difference for improving your efforts. Work hard, be smart, and keep things as simple as possible.

10 Ways to Find Time for Fitness

timeFinding it hard to squeeze in time for working out? You’re not alone. Lack of time is the biggest barrier to working out that I hear. Everyone is busy. But I have a few solutions for you if you’re game for reading on for just a couple of minutes: a few are tricks. A few are “hacks”. And a few require a bit of a shift in thinking.

Sometimes we legitimately don’t have the time for getting in our workouts. But often, the underlying reasons are more about issues like motivation, excitement, and confidence. What are your real barriers? Start cracking them and you may find that more time appears. Here are a few tips that help you break through your own fitness obstacles.

hitsnooze1. Find the time of day that fits you best. If you commit to early morning sessions and find that you constantly skip your workout, it may be worth considering a new time of day for your sweat session. When I tried to join the “5 a.m. crew” I ended up being less consistent with my workouts. I eventually realized that I do better later in the day, but also have the option to choose a later time.

The early bird really does catch the worm: if you’re a person who thrives on early morning exercise, chances are that you’re less likely to skip workouts. That’s because you get your workout in before anything else unexpected can happen in the day to throw you off schedule. However, if you’re just not a morning person, trying to force this will sometimes backfire.

Tip for trying an early workout: if you’re unsure if the early bird workout is for you, give it 2 weeks to commit to forcing yourself out of bed every day. Getting to bed early the night before helps too. Many clients who now love an early session report that it takes a few weeks of resetting their internal clocks in order to feel ready to spring out of bed to hit the gym.
appointments2. Make it an appointment. Then keep it. Write your workouts on your calendar. Yes, really. Workouts are a firm part of my routine now, but if I don’t have the specific time and dates on my calendar I’m more likely to keep shoving my workout later and later until I either end up skipping it or find myself alone in the weight room at 9:30 pm. Both options are less than ideal.

3. Be flexible. There will be days when the “shit hits the fan”. You get called into work early. A snowstorm hits. You get stuck at work far later than you anticipated.

My kid barfed in my bed at 4 a.m. Monday morning. Yeah, that was awesome. I couldn’t get to the gym, so I had to work out at home. I didn’t get heavy leg work done that day, but I pushed that workout until the next morning and instead did a home-based conditioning workout.
That way, I still squeezed in exercise and felt better. If you commit to moving in some way every day, you may find yourself moving more than if you had a rigid expectations of 4 perfectly-scheduled days of sessions.

A few quick, “do anywhere” workouts are handy to have in your back pocket for days like these. 5-10 minutes can be squeezed into anyone’s day.

4. Value yourself. I have a client who discovered that she regularly missed her workouts because she didn’t see her health as being just as important as the kids, the housework, or the job. She said that it was important to her, but her actions spoke otherwise. Sometimes it takes a shift in mindset to place more importance on ourselves.

5. Be realistic about how much time you have. Ask yourself how much time you actually have before you decide what kind of workout program you do. Serious strength and fat loss progress can be made on a minimalistic routine (like those workouts in my new Strength Challenge for Women. Read on for more info on that). You can train for a 5k without a huge time commitment. But a marathon or a bodybuilding show? That may be a big undertaking.

Moreover, I’ve found that when people set an unrealistic goal for the time spent working out and then fail to meet it, they’re less likely to stick with their activity than people who start with smaller goals and are able to meet them.
6. If you have young kids, make your workout routine family friendly. For many of us, the advice that we have “plenty of time” for TV and Facebook is smug and not very helpful. Yes, we all waste time on stuff. But there are hours in the day where we may have time but are otherwise chained to the house – moms and dads of young kids in particular. The YMCA saved me here with free childcare. Home based workouts are also life savers if you’re routinely stuck at home without much gym availability.

henry handstand
7. But consider letting your kids in on your routine. On days with decent weather, my cardio is often nothing more than playing with my kids in the yard. And that’s okay.  I even made a workout around it last summer. This month, my 10 year old and I have been doing lunges, pushups, and squats every night before he goes to bed. He asked me to do this and it’s become a sort of sweet, if odd, bonding ritual.
8. Take a hard look at your current commitments. Do you say yes to things because it’s hard to say no? Being able to find “balance” is sort of a b.s. idea. Something always has to give. The perfectly clean house. The time you said you’d chair a committee yet now feel overwhelmed by its time involvement. It’s tough to say no. But by saying no to more things, you can say yes to what matters most.
9. Divvy it up – if you’re in the weeds with commitments, you might not be able to instantly disentangle yourself. But finding 2 minutes here and there to do things like dance while doing dishes, squats while holding a baby, or walking from the back of the parking lot to the grocery store adds up to you feeling the physical effects of more movement. This not only helps your health, it motivates you to find even more minutes – even if you need to split them up.

Businesswoman with suitcase in airport
10. Choose activities that fit the available lifestyle you currently lead. Do you travel all the time? If a hotel gym and a treadmill are your most commonly available tools, then spending some time designing a program that fits with these will set you up for more success than trying to constantly retool a program that doesn’t mesh well with your life demands.

There’s no way around some sacrifices having to be made, and a consistent routine requires finding your own drive for wanting to engage in activity regularly. Find things you don’t dread, make your own health a priority, be creative with scheduling, and you’ll have a leg up on making fitness a regular part of your life.

Want to try that challenge I was talking about earlier plus get more tips, workouts and nutrition advice delivered to your inbox? Sign up here and I’ll send you everything you need to get started. It’s FREE!

Help Prevent Shoulder Injuries With This Simple Move

prettyshoulder

There are exercises we do because they make us stronger overall or because they help us move better. We might choose one because we want to build particular muscles for aesthetic reasons. Those are all perfectly legit.

But there are a few movements I include in my clients’ training and my own because they not only help us get stronger – they help our bodies keep from breaking down.

The older I get, the crankier my body seems to become if I don’t give it some TLC on a regular basis. I’ve had shoulder injuries before and they feel terrible. The best advice I can give you is to prevent one from happening in the first place.

Here’s an exercise I keep in my arsenal for shoulder health as well as upper back development: the face pull.

The face pull is a funny name for an excellent movement that helps keep your shoulders functioning well and less likely to become injured. The shoulder joint is something rather miraculous. It’s a ball-and-socket joint and allows us to move in all sorts of directions.
scoi-shoulder
 
However, with all of that movement we can run into trouble if we don’t work on strengthening the muscles that stabilize the joint. And if you’re a gym rat like I am, it also helps balance out all that pressing work we do each week.  
 
The big players in shoulder health are you scapulae – your shoulder blades. They attach at your shoulders and in your rib cage, and you might say they’re kind of a big deal. Many muscles move those big plates on your back, including your rotator cuff muscles, your traps, serratus anterior, and rhomboids. 
 
What you need to know is that it’s not so much just that you’re making those muscles strong to stabilize your shoulder joint: your shoulder blades need to be able to move appropriately in many directions. 
 
Some people talk about just doing more pulling exercises like rows to balance out pressing work. But first of all, I’ve found that my lats tend to do much of the work when I do rows and smaller, stabilizing muscles like my traps, rhomboids, and serratus anterior don’t have to work as hard as they should in order to keep my shoulder blades moving well. 
Additionally, many pulling exercises still call on our scapulae to rotate downward, just like those pushing movements do.  That’s why it’s important to also find exercises that encourage upward rotation as well. 
 
So we do things like the face pull. Want to learn how to do it? Read on.
 

You can do face pulls seated or standing. Seated might be even better, and I’ve seen my own coach, Jordan Syatt, do them this way. But everyone in my gym stole the benches so I had to stand. Jerks

You’ll need a cable machine with a rope attachment for these. Here’s what they look like:​

 

The Beginning of the Pull:

facepull 1

The End of the Pull 
facepull2

Top Tips:

1. Grab the rope with your thumbs up and avoid twisting you arms inward. Your palms will be facing each other. This feels comfier to me and it allows for a greater range of motion. 

2. Set your starting point of the cable at around the height of your head. 

3. Aim to keep your elbows at around shoulder height as you pull back. 

4. I think about letting my shoulder blades pull back here to make the movement happen – not my head moving forward. Watch for the rep in the video where I catch myself doing it. Ooops

 
5. To get this movement to happen more naturally, imagine that you’re pulling the rope apart. 
 
6. Allow yourself time to feel the “squeeze” as you pull back before controlling the movement back to your starting position. 
 
7. While you do this exercise, imagine that you’re keeping your shoulders away from your ears so that you don’t get into a “shruggy” position. 
 

How Much and When to Do Them

This isn’t a “1 rep max” kind of exercise. It makes a good drill or a nice exercise to finish out a workout using relatively light weight for higher reps. 

Try 3 sets of 15-20 reps for stronger back and shoulder muscles that keep your shoulders happy and healthy. 

 
If you’d like to see this move in action, here’s a video demo. Enjoy! 

If you liked this article, I post tons of extra tutorials, articles, and other good bits of info in my  insider newsletter.  Sign up below and I’ll send you my free e-book, Fat Loss on a Budget

Want to Learn to A Move That Summons Strength, Torches Calories, and Builds Your Booty? Start Here.

 

yeahshesquats

Yeah, she squats. 

This saying makes me roll my eyes waaaay back in my head. Mostly because the accompanying pictures of greased up, gratuitous booty pics with heaps of hashtags annoy the hell out of me. #toomanybelfies. (A belfie is a selfie of your butt. My mom reads this blog, and I know she’ll ask. You’re welcome, mom.) 

Don’t get me wrong, hearing about women wanting to strength train gets me excited, and occasionally a little teary eyed. And I can appreciate some junk in the trunk, know what I’m sayin’? In fact, after losing quite a bit of body fat I’ve noticed that I have also lost some mass in the a… well, you know where I’m going. Squats will continue to be part of my plan for getting some more booty muscle to power up my lifting program (and look great in jeans, natch). 

Yeah, squats will help you build “dat ass”, along with an arsenal of other exercises. But more importantly, I want to talk to you about the other reasons that I have nearly all of my clients squat and why you may want to incorporate them too.

Then I’ll show you how you to squat. Let’s do this:

improving my squat

improving my squat

Why We Squat
Here is what happens when you squat: your entire lower half of your body comes to the party. Your hips, butt, and legs all work like crazy. Your core has to get fired up in order to provide you with the stability you need in order to perform the movement. Even your back and shoulders will be engaged and helping you out.

Squatting is what we call a “compound movement”, which just means that many things are working together at once. And the bonus of doing a movement like the squat is that you’ll not only be building some serious muscle, you’ll also crank up your heart rate and get your body burning some serious fat.

Working all those muscles can help you run faster, feel stronger, and move better for everything you do each day. Squatting is a fundamental movement pattern that we use all the time. 

Also, squatting builds that badonkadonk that we were discussing earlier. Strong butts aren’t just nice to look at – they are responsible for keeping you moving well for life


Making squats feel better:

Some clients come to me convinced that they won’t be able to get into a deep squat. Sure, there are some people with pre-existing injuries that may need to alter their movement a bit. And unless you’re competing in a powerlifting meet, you don’t have to worry about your depth hitting below parallel (that’s where your hip crease falls just below your knee at the bottom of the squat).

But most of us can get low.

You know, to the window, to the wall…
 
We just have to fine tune the movement and make it work for us! Everyone’s hip anatomy is unique. We can play with our foot angles and the distance between our legs. We can make adjustments to how we hold the bar on our back. Before we even get there, we can just practice doing a bodyweight squat. 

Squat 101: 5 Tips for Learning to Squat 

  1. Use the rope trick. Imagine that there’s a rope around your waist pulling you back as you sit down.
  2. Your chest stays up:  I should be able to read your t-shirt if it said something on it.
  3. Look down at your feet for a moment – you’ll likely want to have your toes turned out a wee bit. Playing around with your foot position and width of your legs can take a bit of time but it’s worth it to try different positions: chances are, you’ll find one particular stance that makes squatting feel easiest.tripod fot
  4. Use a tripod foot: we definitely want to stay off our toes as we squat, but overdoing it by leaning waaaay back on our heels can backfire. Instead, think about three points of contact on your foot: the balls of your feet near your big toe and “pinkie” toe as well as your heel. If all three of those points stay in contact with the ground, you’ll have optimal grounding of your feet.
  5. Your knees should track in line with your toes.  They shouldn’t be caving inward, nor do you want them to push way outside of the path that your knee takes.Additionally, despite what you may have heard in the past, it’s okay if your knees travel in front of your toes a bit.  It’s the excessive movement of knees in front of toes that can be problematic: this typically happens when people are resting too much of their weight in the front of their foot.


That’s pretty much it for basics– it’s in the details where we can make some big progress. But all in all, the squat isn’t terrible to learn. A good first place to start is with a box:

Squatting to a Box
I start nearly all of my clients squatting to a box.  Using a box set to the lowest position that you feel like you can safely and effectively complete the movement will help you feel a little more at ease getting down into a low position.  It also encourages you to sit BACK as you squat.  This improves positioning, recruits the butt and hamstrings more, and makes our knees feel better.

Also, if you completely sit down on the box and come to a stop, you’ll gain another benefit of building your power in the bottom portion of the movement too.

Here’s a pic of me squatting to a box:

boxsquat784DUSK

From there, the sky’s the limit: goblet squats, front squats, back squats, barbell squats… did you know that many variations of the squat actually exist?

Check a few other flavors:

Goblet Squats

Goblet Squats

Dumbbell front squat

Dumbbell front squat

bottomsquat

Barbell back squat

To put it simply, squatting regularly and with tip-top form will do wonders for your own fitness goals, whether it’s to burn fat, get strong, or just move better for life. Want to see these tips in action? Check out my tutorial here:

Fitting Squats into Your Workouts
If you are looking for a beginner to intermediate program to make your squats more powerful, check out the Unapologetically Powerful from talented strength coaches Jennifer Blake and Jen Sinkler. 

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Jennifer and Jen are wonderful teachers who put the fun into lifting.  They developed this comprehensive workout program to show you everything you know to get a strong, rocking body that looks and feels powerful. Get the program with in-depth coaching tutorials here. 

Have more questions about the squat? Leave a comment below. I lovvvve talking about this move! 

99% Of Women Skip This Exercise – Are You Missing Out On Its Big Benefits?

the bench press

“So how much do you bench?

If you’re a guy who’s into fitness, this is the entry-level question for the bro club; a dude handshake, if you will. But if you’re a woman, you’ve probably never been asked that: mostly because not very many women do the barbell bench press.

However, the dynamic seems to be shifting as more and more women fall in love with how classic strength training moves make them look and feel: powerful, toned, and badass.

Still, the bench press might not be high on your list of priorities: many female clients come to me wanting to shed belly fat, get a juicier looking butt, or even shape up their arms. Yet not a single one has approached me asking for “a firm chest”. But here’s the thing – getting a stronger chest and shoulders via exercises like the bench press will help you accomplish a few different things that I think you’ll appreciate.

Benefits like these:

    • You will be able to more easily lift heavy objects. That’s pretty useful for life.

 

    • It will help you build a more balanced, strong, lean-looking physique.

 

    • By incorporating chest exercises into your overall training, you’ll ensure that you have a balanced routine that prevents injury.

 

    • You’ll burn a ton of calories – the bench press is more of a full body lift than you’d think. Your back, abs, and legs also activate – and that gives you a lot of “bang for your buck” if fat loss is a goal.

 

    • Better posture. You’ll look great just standin’ around and your body will feel good too.

 

  • You’ll feel powerful. The bench press is way more fun than pushups. It just is. Because science.

Here is what getting a strong chest via the bench press will NOT do:

  • Take away your boobs (losing some boobage usually comes from weight loss, not strength training.) You may notice a bit more cleavage though as you develop muscles.
  • Make you look masculine. Nope, not happening. Women just don’t produce the amount of testosterone that men do, and that minimizes the “bulking” effect. It takes a ridiculous amount of effort to become a very muscle-bound looking woman. So if that’s not your jam, you can rest easy.

So you want to bench now, right?

Well, the bench press is easy… and not easy. Yeah, you read that right. It’s easy in that to actually do the movement as you typically seen it done in the gym, it’s pretty straightforward. Let’s tackle the basics first:

Barbell Bench Press – The Easy Part
BENCH PRESS HOW TO

  1. Get a bar set up on the bench press rack. Once you’re strong enough to handle plates, you will add those too.
  2. Lay down on the bench with your eyes lining up under the bar. Put your feet on the ground, or if you’re a shorty, slide some plates beneath your feet.
  3. Grasp the bar at a comfortable width – this takes some time and experimentation to find a good grip width. If you go too narrow, you’ll turn the move into a triceps exercise. If you go too wide, you might wreck your shoulders and actually make the lift harder than it needs to be.
  4. Unrack the bar. Control it as you aim it down to just below your bra line, letting it barely tap your chest. Then push the bar back up. Your elbows shouldn’t be tucked in, nor should they flare way out as you push back up.

Oh, one more thing – keep your butt on the bench the entire time please. Thank you very much.

And you just did one rep. Not so hard, right? It just takes a little practice.

 

The Not-So-Easy Part
Performing an optimal bench press for the sport of powerlifting takes the movement to a new level. If you never plan to compete you don’t have to get too wound up about mastering the finer points of the bench press. Yet, you might want to consider borrowing some of their “secrets” for your own workouts. Here’s why:

A powerlifting-focused bench press technique takes time and patience to improve. There’s no way around that. But even if you don’t plan to become a powerlifter, I find that many of the strategies that powerlifters use in their bench press will help give you a safer, more stable base to work from. You’ll be able to leverage some more weight this way and you’ll also engage more muscles while you work by borrowing some of those powerlifting tricks.

With powerlifting techniques, you’ll work on skills like driving with your legs, engaging your back muscles, keeping your chest as high as possible, and you will even learn to breathe more effectively.

That’s a lot going on, I know.

Bench_FB_Preview_1

If you read my email newsletter about the squat this week, you’ll remember that Jennifer Blake and Jen Sinkler have a free video e-course happening right now. The series is a helpful resource for getting you better at performing the big lifts of powerlifting. Today, they have a bench video to share with you. There’s no way that I can go into all the finer points of making your bench press rock in one post, but they do it for you in their video, “6 Ways to Healthier Shoulders And a Stronger Bench Press”. You can learn more by getting it here.

FYI – again, you definitely DON’T have to be a powerlifter to get something out of these videos.

Jennifer also shares tips for keeping your shoulders healthy while bench pressing – something I can’t emphasize heavily enough. I wrecked my own shoulder by benching without good advice years ago. I wish I’d had this instruction back then. Thankfully, you can learn and develop good habits right off the bat.

Also you’ll get chances to win prizes- some seriously good stuff to be won just from signing up for the free course. Yay for prizes!

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If you watch it, leave a comment and let me know your favorite take away from their lesson. I love talking about bench pressing. (As if you couldn’t tell!)

Happy Lifting!

Amy

Have you grabbed your FREE copy of Fat Loss on a Budget? Plug in your info below and I’ll send it to you immediately.

 

 

Gym Jargon 101

what

Sets. Reps. Load. AMRAP. HIIT. If those words confuse you a little, then sit down and join me for a short lesson in understanding fitness jargon.

Remember when we had no idea what lol, lmao, and brb meant? My kids speak “intarwebz” now. It’s crazy. They actually say “lull” for LOL and “Gee Gee” for GG, a gamer’s phrase that means “good game”. I’m probably already out of the loop with the newest crop of internet acronyms.  Just like understanding  slang thrown around online, it takes time to learn the lingo of any community we join.

Fitness should feel inclusive.  While good gyms and trainers do their best to make newbies feel welcome and successful, we sometimes forget that we were also once new to the gym. Yesterday I started training a client who is fairly new to strength training, and began asking him about his current routine.

“So I’ve been doing 12 sets of everything” he shared. What? Damn, that’s a lot. It made me tired just thinking about it.  But it quickly became apparent that he had swapped the definition of two terms, and it reminded me that those of us who have been gym rats for awhile forget that along with learning how to pick stuff up and put it down, we had to learn the lingo too.

So here we go – here are some basic definitions that will help you know what the heck everyone is talking about.

journal

Reading a Workout
If you’re following a training plan, the instructions for your workout will include important terms to understand as well as knowledge of how to decipher how you complete your exercises.

Reps: This is shorthand for repetitions. Repetition counts refer to the number of times you complete the movement before resting. So if I do 8 squats, I will perform a squatting movement 8 times.

Sets: Remember those 8 reps I just did? That was one set. I may rest, go do something else, or be done if my plan said to do one set. If I have 2 sets, I’ll come back and do my reps again.

Rest: This seems like a no brainer, but rest is often dictated by a plan. “Rest 30 seconds between sets. Rest 2-3 minute between sets”. The amount of rest you take will vary depending on how heavy you’re lifting and what kind of training you’re doing.

For strength training, heavy sets of low reps typically require more rest than lighter sets of many reps. Conditioning workouts like HIIT (more on that later) may program specific working to rest ratios in order to challenge your body in completely different ways.

Rest is important for successful strength training, so if your plan advises you to take it, get a drink and chill out until it’s time to work again.

Tempo: Usually you won’t see these on beginner-focused plans, but it refers to the speed at which you lift and lower the weight.

X: Usually “times”, as in 3 x 5. The confusing part is that one number refers to the reps you do, and the other refers to the set.

The standard way of interpreting these is SETS X REPS. So for 3 x 5, you’d do 3 sets of 5 reps.

Load: How much weight you are lifting. Sometimes also ‘WT‘ used for weight.

AMRAP: Sometimes this term is included in a strength workout but also in conditioning workouts and finishers. (Those terms I’ll explain soon too!) AMRAP is an acronym for AS MANY REPS (OR ROUNDS) as possible. Trainer Jen Sinkler sometimes defines it “as many reps are pretty”, which I adore for the reminder that we want our reps to be tough but stop before our technique breaks down.

fitnessforfatloss

Workout Words
These can be confusing. A lot of trainers don’t even know what metabolic conditioning actually is. Let’s make this less fancy and explain these ideas simply.

Circuit: A group of exercises performed sequentially. Usually you’ll see multiple rounds of circuits indicated. Doing exercises in a circuit is done sometimes to give us more rest between movements without sitting around: we can get more done in less time, though we’ll continue to be working so overall we may be more taxed than if we’re resting between each set. A circuit may have 3 exercises or 8. It’s just a method of pairing exercises for a workout.

HIIT: High intensity interval training. HIIT is a training method that alternates short intense bouts of work with rest or less intense work that helps you recover and get ready to do another interval.  HIIT produces anaerobic conditioning benefits. Your anaerobic system is one of your body’s energy systems and training it helps train qualities like speed and power. It also torches calories. But it’s not necessary for everyone and not always a great fit for beginners.

Metabolic Conditioning: also often called “metcon”. Loosely speaking, this refers to exercise done with multiple muscle groups (often referred to as compound movements) with little rest between exercises in order to maximize calorie burn during and after a workout. It’s often confused with HIIT. There is no set structure of metabolic conditioning other than completing work that creates the effect.

Cardio: Everyone has a different image in their head. Maybe it’s step class. Maybe it’s running. Maybe it’s the thing that some trainer told you you’re not supposed to do because it makes you fat. (It doesn’t). Cardio just refers to work done with the aerobic (oxygen) energy pathway. It’s typically rhythmic in nature and done over a longer period of time than more intense work. “Steady state cardio” often refers to things we do with a steady heart rate over a period of time, like a half hour walk.

Finisher: a short, intense exercise or group of exercises used at the end of a workout. Sometimes this is used for a metabolic effect or just for happy endorphins and because it feels good to sweat.

latz

Body Talk
If you hear a trainer ask you to palpate your gluteus medius, please punch them in the face for me. Or in their gluteus maximus (the butt). Over time, you’ll learn the proper terms for your muscles, but hopefully your training guides explain things in plain English at first. This isn’t an anatomy lesson, but here are some common terms to learn:

Quads:  your quadriceps, a large muscle group that includes 4 big muscles that run along the front of your thigh.

Hamstrings or Hammies: a group of 4 muscles that run along the back of your thigh.

Lats: latissimus dorsi, fancy talk for giant back muscles that run from your shoulder way down to your hip.

Core: a much bandied-about term for the muscles of your torso: in other words, not just your abs, but several muscles play a role, including those lats and your lower back.

Glutes: there are 3 gluteus muscles in your butt, including the largest, the gluteus maximus. Substitute “butt” for glutes and you’ll know what’s up.

Other Mumbo Jumbo

Mobility: Your ability to effectively move or be moved freely and easily.

Dynamic Stretching: a form of stretching where instead of holding a stretch for a longer period, you continue to move, often with a movement that mimics the movements you’ll do during a workout. It’s usually incorporated into a warmup, while static stretching is best done at the end of a training session.

Conditioning: exercise done to increase your energy and performance at a particular task.

brolift

For Fun: Bro Speak

Because I love the bros:

Gym Bro: a dude who lives the gym life. Also called Bruh.

Gunz: Your guns are your biceps. You flex them, especially on Fridays.

Gainz: Gains are what you get as a benefit from training. Otherwise known as improvement.

Swole: Swollen, meaning extremely muscular or buff.

Aesthetics: your physical appearance.

Bulking: gaining weight with the goal of building muscle.

Cutting: losing fat, often with the hope of showing those hard-earned muscles.

‘Mirin: admiring, usually in the form of praising someone’s gainz.

Even Lifting: You regularly lift weight at the gym. If you don’t even lift, you might be in trouble with the bros.

Have a little more understanding now? If there’s a fitness term that still baffles you, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to explain.

If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly guide to training and nutrition, be sure to sign up below to get my free book, “Fat Loss on a Budget”. You’ll be off to a great start!

Fit After 40: The Pros Weigh In On Thriving and Surviving

rustychain

Have you ever brainstormed an idea that you were sure would be a smashing success, only to find that it was actually terrible? This happened when I created a “fit after 40” class, aimed at women I wanted to attract to a gym where I train.

I could see the appeal of creating a small training group of people who were in “the mid”: roughly our 40’s-60’s, a period that I am coming to find as a sweet spot in life.

We’ve got our groove back: many of us have survived the whirlwind of starting careers and sleepless nights with newborns. Those of us who are parents now pack lunches for our brood and send them off for the day. We’re often settled into a more comfortable pattern with our careers, though often have more responsibility.  In essence, we’re probably busier than ever, but we also are more likely to have our shit together.

There are also changes that happen along the way with both our bodies and our mindset that made me suspect that my class would garner interest. We’d have peers going through the same time of life. Participants could get a great workout that was still mindful of joints that were a little less forgiving. Training would be challenging but smartly designed. So when it went up on the roster, I was full of enthusiasm. I told my friends, and I was sure it would be a hit. Until nobody showed up.

My friend Sarah hit on something when she quipped this remark:

“Nobody our age wants to go to a Fit After 40 class. We want to feel like we’re badasses.”

The more I thought about it, I realized she was right. There’s something about things aimed at middle-aged people that irritates me. Even the term middle aged feels blah. The marketing messaging seems to give women matronly and sexless identities.  We’re painted as sensible, turtleneck-wearing soccer moms. We’re less likely to be portrayed as sexy unless it’s in the ‘milfy’ sense. Middle-aged dudes don’t fare much better: they’re stereotyped as pathetically trying to recapture their youth with sports cars and little blue pills.

No mom jeans here.

No mom jeans please.

Maybe that’s okay. I don’t care if my butt looks artfully perky on Instagram. To me, “Netflix and Chill” means I watch a movie and fall asleep halfway through. Put your pants back on.  But still, In reality, we’re still us inside. While I can’t speak for everyone, my 40-60 something peers are feeling strong and vibrant. We care a lot less about what everyone thinks about us: in short, we have fewer fucks to give about things that aren’t really that important, and that leaves us more time to focus on being awesome. We’re ready to go kill it. It doesn’t surprise me that my clients in their middle years have goals like these:

  • Complete a Half Ironman
  • Bench 100 pounds
  • Improve performance for cycling races
  • Perform a pushup from the floor
  • Do an unassisted pullup

I’m 41 now, and when I’m 50, I hope to still be powerlifting competitively like one of my teammates, Terie. She’s a 51 year old powerlifter who believes age is just a number.

I have always had a competitive edge and power lifting is the perfect fit for me at this stage of my life. It’s just me against myself.

Terie Tishim, 51 year old powerlifter

Terie Tishim, 51 year old powerlifter

Some folks work out to have more energy. Others want to lose weight and feel better naked. But in this age group, I have always had several clients who are motivated by wanting to get better. Classes that point out that we’re aging make us feel like we can’t do something that the young woman next to us can do. And the more that I think about it, I realize that this is a ridiculous notion.

We can and should work hard. Many of us haven’t even reached our peak yet. Especially for those of us who weren’t athletes in our younger years, we are often capable of getting stronger than we ever were in our 20’s. We might even be able to run circles around those young pups around us. We just have to be smarter about it, because some things DO change: our joints might be less forgiving. Strength training becomes even more important. Our needs may shift.

I asked some of my own fitness heroes to share their observations of how their own fitness has changed as they’ve aged as well as their insight into training others in our age group. My overarching question was: “does anything change as we age?” Is there even a thing such as Fit After 40?

Managing Time, Minding Our Bodies

photo credit: Cassandra Forsythe

photo credit: Cassandra Forsythe

Cassandra Forsythe, Ph.D., RD, is the co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Women and Women’s Health Perfect Body Diet. She’s an expert in fitness and nutrition, but also has personal insight to share about how her own training has changed with age.

In my experiences personally and professionally, once of the biggest things that has changed is the intensity of exercise. Not that an older woman is unable to exercise as intensely, but our joints aren’t as appreciative of it as they once were. For example, “high knees” and “Jumping butt kickers” are two “warmup moves” that I’ve had to tone down for the enjoyment of myself and others. My back and knees don’t love it any more.

Forsythe also mentioned that she takes more recovery than she used to: in earlier years, she regularly lifted 6 days a week. Now, she feels better lifting 4 days each week while incorporating activities like walking and yoga into her routine.

My clients also note that weight management seems more challenging. Women going through menopause have noted more accumulation of fat around their mid section. Forsythe noted that our lifestyle might play a role in the difficulty. She mentions responsibilities like work and children that may make nutrition take a back seat on our list of priorities.

When you’re younger (and when I was younger), it was much easier to cut out calories and exercise all the time. When we age, other responsibilities take the forefront and body comp is a concern, but much less so.

My takeaway: in the mid, time management becomes more critical for incorporating fitness into our days. Additionally, we are more likely to revise what we see as realistic outcomes from our nutrition and fitness in order to manage the bigger picture.

Accepting Less Control in Our Training Outcomes 

photo credit: Lou Schuler

photo credit: Lou Schuler

Lou Schuler is a journalist and author of many of my favorite books, including his new release, Strong. (I had a chance to read this one, by the way, and it’s absolutely outstanding. Nab it for an excellent, approachable guide for strength training, whether you’re a beginner or more experienced.) Schuler also had some thoughts about how his own training has evolved through the years.

His most interesting observation was about progress no longer feeling linear. After making steady progress on a lift, he sometimes experiences a sharp reduction in strength “almost inexplicably”.

I say “almost” because there’s usually something going in the background — cranky knees, or tight hammies, or a shoulder that’s sore for no apparent reason.

I can relate to him: as I approached 40, the accumulation of events in my life began to reveal themselves as I trained. My labrum tore in my hip. My shoulders protest loudly if I ask too much of them. Schuler noted something similar:

After all these years of feeling like I’m in charge of my body, my body has suddenly discovered checks and balances… I miss my days as a dictator!

So what do we do? Hang it up and go to senior aerobics? Hell no. Not for Schuler, who believes that a lifetime of movement with some aches and pains trumps years of inactivity.

“Rust out or wear out”.

 

photo credit: Nick Tumminello

photo credit: Nick Tumminello

This sentiment was also echoed by the trainer of trainers, Nick Tumminello, who is the author of one of my staple training manuals, Strength Training for Fat Loss. Tumminello is still a young lad in his 30’s but has worked with countless folks in the most popular demographic for personal training: ages 35-50.

I chatted with him about this not only for his experience but because he posted the following on his Facebook wall recently:

When it comes to working with adults, I don’t train them by their age. I train them by their ability.

Tumminello points to the great amount of diversity among us: genetics, lifestyle, and personal history play a much greater role in how our bodies respond to training than how many birthday candles we’ve lit. Just like younger counterparts, we need to base our programs on general guidelines for safety and progression.

Still, Tumminello acknowledges that there are common issues that arise as our bodies age. We are more likely to have previous injuries that may affect the exercises and training strategies that we choose. Many of the common exercises we chose for years may no longer feel so comfortable.

Tumminello’s overarching point is that we need to get creative and, like everyone else, adjust exercises to our bodies. His points make sense to me: does it really matter if you do a conventional deadlift off the floor if it bugs your body? Can you find another hinging movement that creates a similar training effect yet feels good?

I asked him if listening to our bodies is the wisest course of action, but he challenged this phrase: is it really very useful? What does it actually mean? For Tumminello, the idea of listening to your body means finding tolerable movements that you can do, while progressing very gradually. Don’t be afraid to modify exercises and you’ll be able to get (and stay) fit with less risk of injury.

Don’t Train To Be a Hero

photo credit: Bryan Krahn

photo credit: Bryan Krahn

Bryan Krahn knows a little something about getting people fit in our age group: along with fitness writing, he specializes in improving physique and strength for men over 35. Like Tumminello, Krahn also emphasizes the importance of training intelligently.

Everyone suffers joint breakdown as they age. Those who accept that and don’t train to be heroes can avoid most problems. Those who try to bench like they’re 19 again are setting themselves up for a world of hurt.

As I spoke with fit pros, a common thread began to emerge: continue to train, because it’s more important than ever. Don’t be an idiot. Respect what your body needs.

Along with these common themes, fitness after 40 should bring with it the wisdom to appreciate the bigger picture. We are less likely to be chasing six-packs. We’re much more likely to begin to appreciate what fitness can bring us in terms of longevity. As we see our parents age and our more sedentary peers begin to reveal the markers of time, getting and staying fit takes on a new urgency.

Even though my “Fit After 40” class flopped, another women’s strength training group I instruct for a community ed program is flourishing. The only description for the program flyer was “women’s strength training”. And it just happens to be completely populated by women in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. I asked them why they pursue fitness. Aesthetic goals were voiced here and there, but overwhelmingly, women wanted to get strong in order to be able to do all the things we hope for as we age:

  • We want to continue to move well and be able to be active on vacations. 
  • We want to feel strong.
  • We want to live longer. 
  • We want to not only live longer, we want to live better.

The last bullet point is really the rub, isn’t it? Dan John differentiates between “carp level survival”, which sounds pretty grim, and thriving as we pursue longevity.

John is a legendary strength coach, record holding athlete, academic, and author of multiple books, including Can You Go?. He’s the total package of wisdom and experience when it comes to understanding how aging impacts us, and I was lucky enough to chat with him about it.

The Most Dangerous Part Of Dan John’s Day: Statistics, Survival, and Moving Beyond

photo credit: Dan John

photo credit: Dan John

Coach John is a captivating person to speak with: right off the bat, he shook up the way I’d been thinking about staying fit.

Dan John: What do you think the most dangerous part of my day is? 
Me: Uhhhhhhhh…
Dan John: The most dangerous part of my day is when I get into the shower. After that, it’s when I ride my bike to work.

A gifted storyteller, Dan John often makes us consider things differently. If we want to consider purely surviving, our bacon abstinence isn’t really a big deal. For people over the age of 55, the biggest risk faced is breaking a joint like our hip.

We have a statistically better chance of surviving cancer than we do of surviving a break of the hip.

Along with advice like flossing our teeth for better heart health, using movement as preventative medicine is often overlooked as a way to survive. And beyond survival, maintaining a healthy foundation of movement is critical for feeling good too.

Dan John breaks down movement into six categories:

1. Push
2. Pull
3. Squat
4. Hinge
5. Loaded Carry
6. Tumbling

Tumbling? According to him, the sixth movement  is one of the most important things that someone new to exercise should pursue. By tumbling, John means work that teaches us to fall safely. We do Turkish Get Ups, practice safely tumbling (John uses techniques learned from Judo) and balance drills that teach us to safely stumble. Here’s one he showed me:

stumbling

It may seem like an unnecessary exercise if it felt easy, but I can tell you that I get people on the ground and make them get back up. They are often surprised by how challenging it is. One of my long-time clients remarked “how is it that suddenly one day it’s a pain in the ass to get off the floor?”

It creeps up on us. If we keep training this all along, we won’t face unpleasant surprises.

Along with urging us to get down onto the floor more, John puts a high priority on the 5th category: doing loaded carries. Getting good at carrying heavy things doesn’t just make it easier to haul in our groceries. It also increases our work capacity, which in turn, according to John, equals a thriving life.

After focusing on those two movement types initially, we get our squat back. We might start down on the ground on hands and knees, and then progress to the goblet squat, a movement that John popularized and has cleaned up the squatting movement of just about every client I’ve trained. After that, he looks at what we can do and combines the movements. Like other pros suggest, we find what fits us and attempt to get better at it.

Patience is a Virtue

photo credit: James Fell

photo credit: James Fell

I was curious about what James Fell had to say. Fell, a syndicated columnist and author of Lose It Right is a straight shooter who has unique insights into fitness. He’s also ridiculously witty; definitely read his articles on his website, Body for Wife.

Fell believes that the greatest virtue for the over 40 crowd is patience. Lack of patience has long been my achilles heel: it’s brought me not only frustration but injuries that could easily have been avoided if I’d respected my body’s needs. Perhaps the training considerations that we need to put in place as we age aren’t so much a factor of the aging process as they are a consequence of all the dumb shit we did when we were younger: the 15-mile runs I limped through preparing for a marathon at age 21, or the day I decided to do a max rep bench at a blindly optimistic weight, despite having only trained the bench press for about a month. Those were not super ideas.

Regardless, Fell doesn’t take a doom and gloom approach: he points to the benefit of being over 40, when we often have more dedication and focus than we did in our younger years.

The tortoise approach can take someone a long way when they are persistent and keep going towards their goal at a rational pace.

Fell nails it on the head, I think. He sees his fitness goals as not being terribly different than when he was a younger guy: he’s a little less focused on vanity, yet he still wants to look good. Just like most of us. We’re less fixated on our bodies, but we still appreciate what they look like and what they can do. We want to pursue performance, but not at the cost of our well being.

In short, we are badasses. We may have some extra aches and pains but we’re smarter now. We don’t define ourselves by our age, but we can respect the changes that come. When we see the long game, we can win.

Did you dig this article? Sign up and download my FREE book, Fat Loss on a Budget, for a complete nutrition, fitness, and planning guide to losing fat without breaking the bank. 

Think It’s Too Expensive to Get Fit? 3 Tips for Losing Fat on a Budget

Slick ads with pretty gyms that look like country clubs might lead you to believe that a gym membership is completely out of reach if you don’t have a lot of spare cash. The health food section at the store can seem almost comical.  $9 a pound for free range chicken and $4 for a mysterious bottle of juice promising a vague assortment of health benefits? Ain’t nobody got time (or cash) for that. Obviously someone does, but many of us see all of these things and it makes it feel like better health is for other people – people who have more disposable income.

Eating healthier can be very costly if you don't have some tricks up your sleeve.

Eating healthier can be very costly — if you don’t have some tricks up your sleeve.

The reality is that you need none of those things. What you do need are strategies for making healthy choices, a little education on how to make them, and support for your foray into the wild world of getting fit and losing fat. It really is like the Wild West in Fitness Land, and on every corner someone is trying to sell us an expensive solution. Most of them are bogus. The good news is that you’ve come to the right place if you want to get back into the saddle.

You absolutely can reach your fat loss goals without spending a fortune.

Why I’m Writing About Fat Loss on a Budget
I’ve got 4 dudes living under my roof — one husband and three constantly hungry, growing boys. They eat so much food – holy cow! Like most of you, we have many expenses. I don’t remember a time when I could just throw caution to the wind with my spending. That’s a nice fantasy…

dolla dolla bills

dolla dolla bills, y’all

But That’s Not Reality
I was no finance wizard. In fact, I really sucked at managing my money, but we had never been forced to so closely examine our finances. I had to quickly learn to stop spending cash like it was Monopoly money when we found ourselves in a very difficult place. My husband lost his job, I had 3 young kids at home, and our lives were turned upside down.

How I Used My Skills to Pay the Bills… And Get Fit
The funny thing is, the exact strategies that I had to develop to survive the recession ended up helping me get fit.  In fact, I’ll share my top 3 tips here that helped me get fit on a shoestring budget.

TOP THREE TIPS FOR LOSING FAT ON A BUDGET

Tip 1. Be Prepared.
Preparation is everything. Every dinner that you don’t have ready to eat in your house usually means you either:

a) Head through the drive-through (do this often and it’ll likely derail your fat loss goals, not to mention rob you of some nutrients that feed your mojo).

b) Go to the store for a last minute shopping trip, where you’ll not only have to pay whatever asking price the store offers for the ingredients you need; you’ll also probably pick up 5 extra things you don’t really need. I mean, at 5 pm after work, if I see some Oreos as I’m on my way to the meat counter, those babies are probably going into my cart.  

Then this spirals because I’m not only paying too much for dinner, I’m opening a bag of freaking Oreos in the car on the way home. Because I got hangry. Gah! 

c) Say ‘screw it’ and eat the last bit of Lucky Charms. And that’s just sad. Lucky Charms really are magically delicious, but they aren’t a great dinner option on a regular basis. 

Learning to shop strategically and have pre-planned menus will save you a ton of money and help you get lean: but what you’ll also gain is freedom around dinner time. That’s the time of day when most of us would pay good money to be in our house, take our pants off, and relax.

cats never have to wear pants

cats never have to wear pants

Tip 2. Being Frugal is different from being cheap. 
I’m not telling you to never spend money again. In fact, sometimes I spend more for a premium version of a product that really is worth the money. Knowing where to save and where to spend more is a skill to hone. This is true from everything from gym memberships to tennis shoes.

I used to shy away from purchasing certain healthy foods because initially the price tag seemed higher than I was used to paying. Buying more fresh produce seemed like it would wreck my budget.

But in reality, before I shifted my grocery purchases to healthier items, I wasted a lot of money on crackers, chips, soda, and other items that contributed little to my nutritional needs. Reigning in those purchases made more cash available for some more expensive but nutritionally powerful items.

This isn’t an all or nothing proposition, by the way. You don’t need to panic that you’ll lose all your goodies. You will just find that you naturally eat fewer treats when you’re eating for fat loss. You’ll have more available cash for healthy stuff that nutures your nutrition goals when you eat less of the stuff that you used to buy.

Tip 3. Don’t become a potato because you can’t be a ninja.
I lost a lot of my strength and conditioning after I had hip surgery, simply because I was so damn stubborn. I became a couch potato for way too long because I couldn’t do what I considered to be a “real” workout.

potatocat

I also avoided joining a gym for ages because they looked expensive. Yes, the gyms with juice bars, fancy locker rooms, and hot tubs are pretty. But they’re not any better for getting fit than cheaper options.

Home gyms are also completely doable for little cash, and there are many exercises you can do with no equipment at all. Once we stop chasing the idealized vision of a workout, we can begin to make progress.

Have you ever felt like fitness programs were out of reach? We see people on tv or bragging on Facebook about some routine that looks like a hybrid Navy Seal/Circus Performer/Ninja Acrobat workout. It looks a little amazing. But you know you couldn’t possibly do that.

Or maybe you’ve received so much information on what constitutes a “good” workout that you feel paralyzed. While avoiding the workouts we know we aren’t ready for, we give up on movement all together. Yet, if we’d just done something our bodies would thank us.

If you’re currently inactive, forget worrying about the perfect strength routine or completing a 5k. Those are laudable goals. I share beginner-friendly fitness routines here and on my Facebook page. Chances are, you will be ready to kick things up sooner than you imagine. Just remember that when you’re just beginning, it really doesn’t matter what you do. Only that you move.

Even this counts - who remembers how freaking awesome these were?

Even this counts – who remembers how freaking awesome these were?

Dance in the kitchen while you wash dishes. Go for a walk around the block. Sit down on the floor and then get back up. Move your body. It wants you to move it, and the feeling you get from movement will energize you to try more.

Are you into these ideas? I feel so passionately about better health being available to everyone that I wrote a book about it – and I’m giving it away for FREE! I go way more in depth and you can learn all you need to know about losing fat without busting your bank account. 

amydix_cover

Want a complete guide to making this all work?
I’ve been quietly working on my first book like a sneaky squirrel but now I am thrilled that it’s ready to share with all of you! I’ve compiled all the lessons I’ve learned over the years about getting healthier when my bank account is a lot slimmer than my waist line.

If you have found that every attempt to get fit has made a big dent in your wallet, this book will have help for you. 

If you feel like you can’t afford to eat well or lack what you need to get fit, this book  is for you. 

If you have nailed your budgeting but still struggle with successful fat loss, this book will help you find success. 

If you have unlimited amounts of money and don’t have to worry about saving at all, then this book might not be for you. But send me an email and tell me your secret! 😉 

Grab my book today  – it’s FREE! (That definitely fits your budget!) Inside you’ll find all the information to guide you every step of the way, including:

  • An easy-to-understand nutrition manual that will teach you how fat loss works with strategies that will help you learn to eat for your fat loss goals. No crazy diet plans or banned foods!
  • Chapters devoted to my best secrets for shopping and cooking on a shoestring budget – I used to feed 5 people on $75 a week!
  • A complete strength and conditioning program that includes pictures, videos, and tutorials to teach you the basics for using fitness for fat loss.
  • My favorite tips for where to splurge and where to save when shopping for health and fitness items. 

Ready to lose fat and save cash? Register below and your free book will arrive to your inbox shortly.