One of the best ways to stay committed to working out is to find a group, gym, or club that’s a good fit for you.
How do you do that? Here are a few things to consider.
Know some one who does a little bit of lots of activities? Running, cycling, weight lifting, and martial arts, for example? Or some one who focuses on an activity you may want to try? See if they have any suggestions about how you can get started.
Be a guest.
Most group workouts encourage participants to bring a friend for free. It can be a great way to meet some of the people and to try the workout for free. Most group instructors/ trainers will give you extra attention to make sure you stay safe through the workout and that’s a good thing.
Ask your doctor for a recommendation.
If you’re under doctor’s care, can he or she recommend an exercise program? Yoga, to relieve stress, or water aerobics for low impact activity?
Explore community education offerings.
It’s a chance to try a new activity at very little cost and for a limited time. If you find you love it and want to continue, that’s usually an option.
Try meet ups in your area.
The Meet Up website connects people with the same interests. Read the group description to see what they’re all about. There’s a wide range of groups in most areas, everything from tennis to fitness camp workouts.
Visit local gyms and try group classes.
Most gyms offer a trial membership so you can try a class for free.
Find a group you’re compatible with in these areas:
Find something you enjoy.
Be open to trying different activities. You may find that you like something you didn’t think you would.
Be teachable. You may think of the details as “common sense” but that’s not always the case. Listen, watch, and learn.
Group culture – Every group has its own culture or “vibe”. Find a group that’s a good fit. For example, if you’re a beginner, you may be overwhelmed in a group with very competitive members. She may need a more laid-back group.
Values – Look for a group dynamic that’s in line with your personal values. For example, a “party all the time” culture may not be the best fit for a non-drinker.
These are just a few things to consider when looking for the right exercise group for you.
Find what works for you and helps motivate you to stay committed to your goals.
Today, we continue the series on the benefits of exercise (you can click here to read that post in case you missed it) and specific types of exercises. (Read about Cardio Workouts here and Strength Training here.)
The importance of exercise
According to Harvard Health Publications, guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend a well-rounded plan of “aerobic activity, strength training, and balance exercises.”
What’s balance training?
It focuses on improving and/or maintaining stability (not falling over). Stable movement improve overall mobility.
Some types of training that emphasize balance are:
Various core and agility exercises
Some martial arts practices, such as Tai-chi
Strengthens core muscles
Improves stability and mobility
Requires little to no equipment
Multiple variations of simple movements
Helpful to people at all fitness levels
In-house fitness expert, Mark Montalvo, says this:
“As we age, balance usually decreases resulting in falling or injury…this is why balance training is so important. It develops proprioception, which simply means how we move our bodies through space and time.“
He says effective balance training should be performed in multiple directions of movement, in an unstable environment. It can be as simple as walking on a straight line or standing on one leg.
Complicate that by standing on one leg while throwing or catching a ball.
Must practice good form to reduce risk of injury
Progress is hard to measure
So, everyone can benefit from balance training, no matter the level of fitness. Being able to stay upright and stable will go a long way to keeping you healthy and well.
Remember to check with your health care professional before starting an exercise program. This is especially important if you’re under doctor’s care for a health condition.
I’ve talked about the benefits of exercise (you can click here to read that post in case you missed it) and specific types of exercises. (Read about Cardio Workouts here.)
Today, I’m covering some basic information about Strength Training.
You’ve probably heard you should be doing some sort of strength resistance training.
Many women dismiss the idea because of a pre-conceived notion that “strength training” means bulked up biceps and oversized thighs, and walking around saying (in a deep voice), “I pick things up and put them down!”
But that’s the stuff of comic books and make-believe. Women who “bulk up” put forth tremendous effort, specialized nutrition, and intense training to achieve those results.
Strength Training – What is it and what are the benefits and drawbacks
Strength Training is focused movement of weight.
Benefits of strength training are:
Improves stability and balance
Especially good for women who lose muscle mass more rapidly than men and loss is accelerated with age
Versatile – Can be mixed with many different types of exercises
In-house fitness expert, (my husband) Mark Montalvo, says this about strength training:
“Most women don’t want to do strength training because they don’t want to bulk up. Strength training does build muscle. However, women who build large amounts of muscle mass while lifting weights are usually doing other things to enhance their results.
Strength training is important because it helps reduce body fat and burn calories for longer than just doing cardio or any other type of exercise. It can significantly help in maintaining a healthy weight.
It also helps preserve and build bone mass, which is important as we age. For women in particular, building bone mass helps reduce the onset of osteoporosis.”
Must practice good form to reduce risk of injury
Some people find weight lifting hugely boring – lifting things up and putting them down isn’t very exciting
In order to ensure proper form and technique, you may need a coach or trainer
Most weight lifting will not accelerate the heart rate for prolonged periods of time (anaerobic) so in order to get full-body benefits, you need to incorporate some kind of cardio.
As always, it’s important to check with your health care professional before starting an exercise program, especially if you’re under doctor’s care for a health condition.
The first time I trained for a half-marathon, I thought, “Okay, this is good. I’ll be burning a ton of calories running all these miles and I’ll probably drop a few pounds. Awesome!”
And, yeah, I burned lots of calories, but I didn’t lose weight. Not at all.
The saying goes: You can’t outrun (or out-lift, out-train) a bad diet.
That means, exercise alone isn’t enough.
If you really want results, you need both: regular exercise and good nutrition.
How can it possible that even when you’re burning a lot more calories you don’t lose weight?
One possibility is a phenomenon called “The Halo Effect”
The Halo Effect
In a nutshell, it’s when you think something or some one is so good it’s hard for you to be objective.
When it comes to fitness, the halo effect is:
I work out so I can eat whatever I want.
Sure, I can have dessert and a jumbo margarita! I just ran 10 miles.
I’m running a 5k tomorrow. I can have an extra serving.
The Halo Effect results in a person losing objectivity and allowing herself more high calorie indulgences or “rewards” because she worked out.
Thus the saying: You can’t outrun, out-lift, or out-train a bad diet.
In my experience, nutrition is way more critical in losing and maintaining a healthy weight than exercise, but it’s also the more challenging component.
And, it seems that the nutrition piece becomes even more important with age. You may be thinking, “I used to be able to eat whatever I want and never gain a pound.” [I’ve never said that, personally.]
So how do you do it? What’s the easiest way to get the best results from all your hours at the gym?
Here are a few tips on how to incorporate exercise and nutrition for the best results
Simply put, eating clean means eating whole foods in their most natural form as possible. For example, if you have a choice between an apple, apple sauce, and an apple flavored, gluten-free fruit chew, the apple’s the best choice. Choose minimally processed food with no added sugar whenever possible.
Eat more vegetables
At every meal, have at least one serving of vegetables, and shoot for 2 – 3 servings each meal. Starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes don’t count.
Drink water to stay hydrated
The standard recommendation is to drink half your body weight in ounces every day and even more than that if you’ve been sweating. Adequate hydration improves all bodily functions. Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration which can result in problems such as headaches, constipation, muscle cramps, and more.
Be aware of added sugar in beverages and choose accordingly
Sports drinks, soda, fruit juice, adult beverages, and sweetened coffee drinks often have a ton of added sugar and a ton of extra calories.
Many restaurants now have calories per serving listed right on the menu and others have nutrition information on their website. It’s worth taking a look.
Read labels for ingredients and serving size
When you look for calories on the label, don’t forget to check the serving size.
Over the past few years of working out and finding what works best for me, I discovered that exercise has many benefits but losing weight isn’t one of them. Maybe that’s because of the Halo Effect. I don’t know for sure.
What I know for sure is that making good nutrition choices improves my overall feeling of health, wellness, and fitness. I make my share of bad choices and I’m not anywhere near perfect, but when I do these things most of the time:
Eat my veggies
Avoid added sugar
Pay attention to food labels
I get better results. It’s most likely, you will too.
How about you? Do you agree with the statement: “You can’t outrun a bad diet”? What works best for you?
So, we know exercise is good for us – good for the mind, good for the body.
But what comes to mind when you hear the word “exercise”?
Is it running on a track, doing calisthenics like in gym class, dancing, weightlifting, running a half marathon, walking, yoga, or something else?
According to Harvard Health Publications, guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend a well-rounded plan of “aerobic activity, strength training, and balance exercises.”
Over the next few weeks, I’ll touch on each of these 3 different exercise categories:
Starting with Cardio/Aerobic
Is cardio the same as aerobic exercise?
You’ll hear both terms, but cardio and aerobic workouts are the same types of exercises.
Aerobic literally means “with oxygen”. Cardio (cardiovascular) gets the heart pumping or increasing heart rate.
Activities that get your heart pumping for a sustained period of time, such as cycling, swimming, running, power walking, jump rope, rowing, calisthenics like jumping jacks and running in place, etc.
Usually, you know you’re doing a cardio workout when you’re breathing heavier than normal, but not so heavy that you can’t catch your breath.
Benefits of Cardio
According to Mark Montalvo, a Certified Personal Trainer with more than 25 years experience in the fitness industry (and my husband), one of the primary benefits of cardio is to get your heart pumping.
He says, “Your heart’s a muscle and, like any muscle, you have to work it. The way to do that is by increasing your heart rate and putting a little bit of stress on it. One of the easiest ways to do that is to go for a walk, and what I mean is to intentionally set aside time, 15-20 minutes, to go for a walk that can increase your heart rate, so it’ll get you’re heart pumping.
It’s not just a stroll. You want to move with a purpose as if you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry. Imagine that your bus is at the bus stop and you’re a block away and you’re trying to get there before the bus drives off – that’s the kind of pace your want to have, that hard walk. It’s in addition to the normal walking around you do every day.”
If you’re mostly sedentary now, going for a walk would be a good exercise activity to start because it’s accessible and doesn’t require expensive equipment.
Risks of Cardio
Overuse/Impact related injuries – Repetitive, high impact activities can cause injury. As always, finding equipment, like a suitable pair of shoes, will go a long way in keeping you healthy and active.
No focus on building muscle (aside from the heart) – Cardio works the heart but doesn’t build other muscle groups, not directly anyway. Loss of muscle mass puts women at higher risk for osteoporosis, so it’s important to incorporate strength training with cardio activities.
I’ll be covering strength training and flexibility/balance/core workouts over the next two weeks.
But I think I jumped ahead a little, so today, I’m going to list some of
The benefits of exercise
These are well-documented, research-based benefits … and I can attest to these myself.
Exercise increases endorphins – the “feel good” hormones.
Again, balances hormones and lowers cortisol levels – the “stress” hormones.
Improves brain clarity
In the book Life Reimagined, Barbara Bradly Hagerty spoke with Kirk Erickson, researcher at the University of Pittsburgh who found “nothing will keep you as mentally acute as raising your heart rate a few times a week. Nothing.” Exercise is good for the body and mind.
Physical strength and muscle tone
Movement calls for muscles to flex. Focused movement beyond daily activities stresses muscles and keeps them strong. It’s like most things, use it or lose it.
As we age, we’re more at risk for falling. Regular exercise helps strengthen muscles and bones and improves our ability to balance and recover from near-falls.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to be going through different types of exercise and refer to my on-staff Subject Matter Expert (SME) about the benefits of several types of exercise – what they are and their benefits.
Have you experienced some of these benefits? I’d love to hear what you find to be the greatest benefit. Please share in the comments below.
We’ve learned a lot about the human body and staying healthy over the past 60 years. As a result, we’ve seen changes in public policy, surgeon general recommendations, and what’s considered “healthy”.
This 1949 Camel cigarette commercial claims, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.”
And I love watching The Twilight Zone. That was a show ahead of its time, and a sign of the times as the show’s creator, Rod Serling, regularly appeared with a lit cigarette.
Cigarettes are still around. Many people choose to light up despite the warnings. Some struggle to kick the habit. Still, far fewer Americans smoke in 2017 than did in 1950.
We got the message: smoking’s bad for your health.
(If you smoke and would like more information about quitting, go to smokefree.gov for information, tips, tools, and support.)
These days, the public health warnings have shifted from the dangers of smoking to warnings about health risks of obesity and a sedentary lifestyle:
Obesity is the new smoking.
Sitting too much is bad for your health.
Whether or not you believe the claims, I think most people would agree that eating nutritious food and exercising regularly (specific recommendations vary, but generally agree on moderation, reducing processed foods and more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean meats) are better for your health than not.
Will public health warnings lead to restricted food marketing and regulations on less healthy food, like they did with cigarettes?
Or, you can do what’s best for your health, take care of yourself, and adopt a healthier lifestyle now.
Even without a Surgeon General’s warning.
It’s hard to stay motivated to eat right and exercise. I struggle with it too. It helps to
Look at it as an investment.
Not just for now, but for your future.
Here are 5 reasons it’s a good idea for your future to take care of yourself now:
Feel better now and in the future.
Many health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, are cumulative and progressive. Whatever you can do now to minimize your risk will help your health today and years from now.
Do it for quality of life, not just quantity.
Better to be well and strong enough to do what you love for all your days, rather than being restricted because of your health. Your actions now will help determine whether you’re able to dance with your grandchildren or have to watch from the sidelines.
What if you live to be 90? If you have to worry about whether you’ll fall or if you have limited mobility, you’re more likely to stay home and limit your options for activity. Regular exercise conditions your whole body and improves mobility as you age.
Lower cost of health care.
Who knows what the future will bring in the area of health care costs? It’s expensive to be sick. Eat and exercise to prevent lifestyle-related illnesses. It may prevent you from putting your financial health at risk in the future.
Ingrain good habits.
It’s hard to break bad habits. Think about those cigarette smokers who were killing themselves, but were so addicted to nicotine, they couldn’t quit. Take baby steps and keep it simple. Do what you can to live a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious food and exercising regularly so you can keep those good habits going.
It’s amazing to see characters in old movies and TV shows smoking on airplanes, in elevators and hospitals. Will super huge sodas, extra large cinnamon rolls, and king size candy bars ever be an oddity?
Still, you can’t quite figure out why you can’t get going.
It’s tempting to compare yourself to others, such as some one who seems committed to his or her exercise routines and think, “I could never be that disciplined.”
Or to compare yourself to some one who you think has no other commitments and think, “It’s easy for them because they have lots of time. I have so much stuff going on.”
No matter how it seems, the truth is that most people have to work at staying committed. Simply knowing the benefits of exercise doesn’t make it easy to show up to a work out.
My friend Alice, who has made tremendous progress by staying consistent with her workouts, showed up to a group workout and said, “I don’t want to be here. I don’t feel like working out. I sat in my car thinking about going home.”
“And here you are, Alice! The hardest part is done!” I said.
Alice shifted her attitude and made the choice to get out of her car and join the workout instead of going home. She had worked a full day and she was tired, but she chose to show up.
Why do some people show up and others don’t?
I’ve thought about this a lot. For myself as much as anyone.
These days, I work out consistently, but several years ago I completely quit my gym workouts. I decided they were boring and that life is too short to do something I really didn’t enjoy, so I quit.
It didn’t take long for me to lose my muscle definition and to start feeling like a slug, just kind of blah.
I decided I didn’t like that either. So I had to make a choice. Either find something I like to do and then do it or don’t do it and accept the consequences that brings.
I gradually came around and got moving again.
Now, I work out with my very motivated husband who actually likes working out. He tolerates my grumbling and mad mugs when I feel like I just don’t want to do it.
I can’t think about it too much. I just get my workout clothes on, show up, listen to my body, and stay mindful of my movements.
And then, the workout’s done and I’m almost always glad I did it.
Why do some people show up and others don’t?
It’s physics. A body in motion tends to stay in motion while a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Unless acted upon by an equal or greater force.
What greater or equal force will get you to show up? What will get you in motion and keep you in motion?
Whatever that force is, it has to be bigger than your excuses.
It could be your:
desire to realize the benefits of exercise, such as improved mental clarity
commitment you’ve made to some one else to be there
commitment you’ve made to yourself to be there
some inner driving force
knowledge that you’ll feel better once it’s done
desire to burn off excess calories you’ve consumed
desire to burn off calories you plan to consume
Don’t think about it too much, just start moving and then don’t stop. Take baby steps if you have to and, even when you’re full of excuses, keep showing up. That’s the hardest part.
What is the force that will move you? Or stop you?
The next time you’re getting ready to work out, instead of putting on your workout clothes, grabbing your running shoes, or driving to the gym, get a functional fitness workout by doing that household project you’ve been putting off.
Functional fitness and household projects?
Some household project possibilities: repair a fence, wash windows, mop the floors, clean baseboards, dust ceiling fans, clean a closet, organize the pantry, rearrange your furniture, re-tile the floor, and many more.
Tackling these types of projects not only gives you the satisfaction of checking them off your to-do list, but it’s a great way to get your body moving, to practice one of the main benefits of full-body workouts – functional movement.
Sometimes we don’t even know what we’re getting into.
The little project that grew
Now, let me first say, I’m not big into house cleaning. I figure when I’m dead and gone, no one’s going to be talking about how clean I kept my house. Let’s just say that getting my workouts in is way higher on my priority list than deep cleaning. I strive for tidy, not spotless.
But my husband and I were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the family and we wanted to get our house guest-ready. One of the things I really wanted to do was wash the windows, which were long overdue for a serious washing.
I knew it would be a tricky project. Some of the windows are so high they’re hard to reach even with a 20-foot ladder, so I had no intention of even attempting to do those hard to reach windows.
I decided to do one easy-to-reach window, but once we got started, the small one-window project turned into a we-might-as-well-do-them-all kind of project. Our projected 20-minute project turned into more than 2 hours of going up and down the ladder, scrubbing, stretching, and lifting. It was a full-body workout using core strength and balance.
Through my window washing experience, I experienced firsthand how functional fitness workouts offer major benefits when you need to get stuff done. DIY, of course.
What’s Functional Fitness?
When we started the window-washing project, we hadn’t planned on it taking hours. But when we saw what a difference it was making, we were determined to do as much as we could. Sure, we were tired, but our windows looked amazing. We still had lots of cooking, setting up, and prepping to do for our holiday meal and would be working for hours. Endurance training helps condition for those days when you have a long, physically demanding to-do list.
Working out regularly helps improve balance and improve functional fitness in every day movement. Especially as we age, balance becomes more critical. Older people have a higher tendency to lose balance, putting us at higher risk for injury by falling down. Working out regularly helps improve balance and is great for every day movement, like walking, and when tackling home improvement projects.
An easy way to increase core strength is to keep proper body alignment. Stand up straight, instead of hunched over, and keep shoulders up back and down. Engaging abdominals and maintaining good posture is a simple way to build core strength so that you’re better able to move well, protect your back, and improve balance.
Lifting and moving things like furniture or boxes, carrying grocery bags, carrying a child, or any number of things we do every day require strength. Strength training can mean lifting weights or using your body weight, such as doing push ups, sit up, and squats.
An often overlooked component of a workout is regular stretching. Stretching every day helps keep your muscles engaged and your joints limber. It’s an important aspect of functional movement of all kinds.
Functional fitness is exactly what it sounds like – moving your body efficiently for whatever purpose you desire, for whatever you want to do.
Take care of your body so that you’re able to continue to enjoy independence, strength, and mobility for life. And you’re better able to get stuff done!
I’d love to hear your experiences with functional fitness and household projects. Feel free to share in the comments.
Millions of Americans struggle with obesity and the numbers continue to rise. Weight-related illnesses come at a high cost to a person’s health and add up to billions of dollars a year in health care. Many people know they should, but it’s so difficult to get motivated to lose weight.
The struggle is real.
Lose weight. It’s a common New Year’s resolution, but it stays on the list year after year, so that it becomes better suited for a “Wish List”.
Why is it so hard to get motivated to lose weight? What’s that trigger point when we know it’s time to get serious about weight loss, exercise, and healthy lifestyle?
The “Aha moment”. That moment of clarity, when the motivation, belief, and decision to make a change happen all at once.
The motivation to lose weight is different for everyone.
It could be:
Something the doctor says
Something a loved one says
Threat of being on medication and don’t want to be on medication
Threat of being on medication and can’t afford medication
Worrying about breaking chairs because of weight
Worrying about not fitting in chairs
Not recognizing yourself in pictures
Being scared straight by life-threatening emergency
Not being able to find clothes that fit
Seeing relatives suffer from weight-related illnesses and knowing that’s the path you’re on and deciding you want to get off that path
Sometimes it’s enough to get started.
What makes it last?
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
When I first started my career in education, I observed teachers in the classroom. I visited public high school classrooms and it was immediately apparent that some students weren’t into school. (I know. Shocking!)
They were often unmotivated to complete assignments, participate in discussions, stay awake in class, or even show up.
I visited a Senior English class that was reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – not an easy read by any means, but interesting and entertaining if you can de-code it.
They didn’t want anything to do with Chaucer or his tales.
How do you get people to do something they don’t really want to do? How do you keep them motivated?
The discussion in my education classes and amongst my future teacher friends often centered around the best ways to motivate students.
Motivation is either intrinsic or extrinsic.
Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It’s motivation/movement/action that comes from the simple desire to do something, to reach a personal goal or expectation. It’s the understanding and desire to do well and meet or exceed expectations or goals.
For those high school seniors struggling to de-code Chaucer, few students were intrinsically motivated to make an effort.
Extrinsic motivation means motivation from outside of self, such as for a reward.
Extrinsic motivation is more of a “What’s in it for me?” type of motivation. Getting a homework pass for getting a perfect attendance in class for example. Store rewards and frequent customer programs motivate customers to buy more by offering free merchandise/shipping if you spend a set amount.
The million dollar question for me as a teacher was how do I get students to want to learn? How can I motivate students to learn?
The reality is you can’t make some one do something they don’t want to do.
It’s always a choice.
Those kids reading Canterbury Tales had to muster the motivation to pay attention and de-code the work, not just the language, but the historical context and social norms of the time that make it true, entertaining and still worth a read hundreds of years later.
Reading Chaucer is not easy. Neither is losing weight.
When it comes to our health, we have to be just like those kids in school. We have to want to do it. We have to get motivated to lose weight. Our reasons will differ, but ultimately, we have to see a benefit and decide that it’s worth the effort.
What are some motivators?
Extrinsic motivation alone doesn’t have long-lasting results. Rewards programs for exercising and losing weight are marginally successful.
Many companies offer employees incentives for exercising, tracking steps, reaching 10,000 steps a day, and monitor their activity. Some participants cheated in a major way with these programs. One guy put his step tracker on a ceiling fan.
Some step trackers have an accountability opportunity by creating a community in which you compete with others to get steps, track food, etc. If you’re a competitive person, this may work well for you. Keep it going.
Remember intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. A weight loss challenge or contest can be great motivation to get started. To keep it going for life, it’s got to be something deeper.
When you’re ready, take action.
Success is the accumulation of the daily habits that may seem insignificant by themselves, but over time these small actions add up to results. And then:
Set a goal.
1 pound a week doesn’t sound like a lot, but slow and steady over time tends to lead to more successful weight maintenance.
Believe you can.
Believe you’re worth it.
Be patient. You didn’t get to where you are overnight. You won’t get to where you want to be overnight either. A quick fix doesn’t last. Most of the time it doesn’t work either.
You’re not a child and no one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. You may be subject to consequences for inaction/actions, but ultimately, you still have a choice, even if you choose to do nothing.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that the most important thing is that you feel strong, positive, and well, so you’re able to live your best life.
If you feel uncomfortable in your own skin because of your weight, weight-related health issues, or fitness level, then it’s time for a change.
You can do it!
What do you think? What affects your motivation to lose weight? Positive or negative?