Three Fall Fitness Essentials

Old habits die hard, and once again as September pops up on my calendar, new projects spring to mind. I love the cooling breezes, the shrug of my jacket, and the boundless energy that seems to well up this time every year.

Most of my September projects are successful. I can schedule time, and my little guy is back in school and having his own rush of productivity, so there’s lots of opportunity to get stuff done.

Career projects are crucial, of course, but you can do some personal spiffing as well: a new sport, a new exercise regime, some new fitness gear, and a whole new attitude.

Get fit with friends

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In fact, a new fitness attitude can help you with all of your endeavors. Working out regularly will keep your creativity high, your mind calm, and your focus on tasks to be accomplished. There are dozens of studies that back this up. Here are some ideas for inspiration…

Pick something fun

Don’t choose an activity that will just be a slog to you. Think about a type of exercise or sport that you’ve always wanted to try, then take a deep breath and do it! There is no law that says you can’t have fun while you get fit.

Pick something hard

Test yourself a bit; stretch … and see how far your body will go. Push yourself a little bit (just a little bit) beyond your reach and see if you can get there. You’ll have to work at it, plan how you’ll get there, and maybe get some coaching; all of these activities will stimulate your brain and your body and keep you engaged in that thing called life!

Do it with friends

Include your friends on your fitness journey. Find some like-minded individuals to play with. You can cross the finish line together or boogie and giggle in the back of the dance class. You’ll be deepening relationships and expanding the sphere of people you know who are living healthy lifestyles—both keys to longevity.

So what do you want to do this September? What fitness tweak or adventure would you like to take? Share it with us; we’d love to hear.

Holistic Fitness: It’s Not Just Sweat and Weights

I read lots of fitness information, studies, the latest workouts, journal reviews, and so on. I find it rare that people talk about fitness in terms of integrating it into a lifestyle. We are often just looking at evaluating one small piece of a much bigger pie.

I had the opportunity to go to a hiking retreat recently and they looked at the big picture. They wanted us to move, lose weight, and eat healthily, but they also wanted us to address other things such as sleep, stress, spirituality, and community.

Coming back on the plane I felt so, well, balanced. I got it! For a shimmering moment in time the whole concept of wellness was distilled for me. I was going to meditate more, work out with friends, be in bed early, ditch the laptop in the evenings … it was going to be amazing!

The reality is I walked back into a dirty house, an impending dinner party, a family who missed me and wanted me back, and a 56-item to do list for work. Balance? What’s that?

A week later I’m realizing I have to pick a couple of things at a time. I need to get my exercise in, but my downtime too. I need to eat healthfully but I can squeeze in girlfriend time over lunch or a workout. The 56-item to do list got delegated and executed down to 30 or so (still scary), and meditation is haphazard but a work in progress.

A lot of people treat fitness as a short-term fix. If they can just work hard for the next X weeks, they’ll have the body they want and go back to their lives again. It just doesn’t work that way.

If you need to put your life on hold to lose a few pounds you’re doing it wrong and you’re destined to fail.

Instead, look at the big picture, see what you’d like to add into it, and try to slide it in gracefully. You’ll be much more likely to make and keep the change. You might even inspire somebody else to change, too.

What new holistic fitness thing would you like to bring into your life? Do you have a plan to do it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Challenge Your Body: Homemade Bootcamp

As I write this, I’m sitting in the mountains of British Columbia overlooking a crystal-clear lake. The stars at night are so riotous that they absolutely take my breath away.

It sounds idyllic, and it is, but I’m also pretty darned sore from my fourth day of hiking, yoga, weight training, and cardio. I’m at a hiking bootcamp and thoroughly enjoying the experience of having my butt kicked, royally, by a whole team of people who have an ever-so-slightly sadistic glint in their eyes. (Or maybe I’m just imagining that…)


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Sometimes we’ve been doing the same fitness routines for so long that we need to do something, anything, to shake things up. I’m here today to suggest a bootcamp—and you can design your own at home.

This will require some prep work. You’ll need permission from family members to shift your schedule for the bootcamp. Even better, have them join you. You’ll need food prep, and perhaps some fitness or exercise gear. Maybe even a spiffy new pair of tennies to give you a little extra motivation. Plan for just a week of time.

Also, you need to decide how you’re going to bootcamp. Yes, there is the traditional calisthenics in cammo gear in the backyard, but you could also…

  • Design a program with a personal trainer for free weights and cardio.
  • Work with gym staff to use a variety of their equipment and group classes to hit the gym hard.
  • Do a Pilates or Yoga bootcamp where you go in every day for sweat, toning, and relaxation.
  • Head for the hills and hike like a maniac (I’ll have lots of empathy for you…).
  • Take a one-week membership to a boxing club. There’s nothing like skipping rope and thumping objects to torch calories.
  • Whatever else your heart can dream up that involves a lot of moving and a lot of sweat.

When you’ve mapped out a plan, make sure that it’s safe for you to do. The goal is not to end the week with a trip to the emergency room at the local hospital. If you need to check with a doctor, please check with a doctor.

Then, set a date, get excited, get your family and friends excited, and go! Like a horse out of the gate, go for it with gusto, with the fun of adventure, with the thrill to see if you can really do this after all.

Feel yourself overcoming a little fear, and perhaps some sore muscles, and dig deep for the gumption you’ll need to succeed and surprise your family, friends, and yourself.

Sounds exhilarating doesn’t it? It is … trust me, it totally is.

Have you ever tried a week long intense bootcamp of some sort? Does this post inspire you to try one now? Let me know what you’re planning and I can point you to websites and give you some advice if you need it.

Find Your Fitness Flow

If you read the happiness literature and research that’s out there, you’ll quickly notice the word “flow.” It’s used a lot in the quest for bliss. When we are in our happy places, there is flow. The same is true for fitness.

You need to cover the bases of cardio, weight training, and stretching, but there are more ways to do that than fans at a World Cup soccer game. Cardio can be hardcore running or a free-form dance class. Strength training can be traditional weight lifting, or it can be rock-climbing (hauling your body up a cliff is definitely weight training!).

How do you find your fitness flow? Experiment!

Okay, okay, don’t roll your eyes! “Experiment” doesn’t mean signing up for a trapeze class and praying you won’t die (unless you actually think that sounds like fun). It means putting yourself out there and trying different stuff. If something seems vaguely appealing, give it a go. If you suffered through the entire experience, cross that one off your list and try something else.

Think big and little. Running is popular because it’s actually pretty easy to tap into a flow with the rhythm and the scenery breezing by you. But perhaps the focus of a LaCrosse game really jazzes you up. You’ll know you’ve tapped flow when you look up at the clock and the hour has flown by.

Go wild or mundane, it doesn’t matter. It’s your body. What appeals to you? Try it and decide if you want to keep doing it.

For me, flow is a combination of things, and it shifts over time. At the moment I’m digging running, hooping, and Pilates. Sometimes I need something a little more hardcore and I’ll go for Spinning or kettlebells. I do drift outside in the summer and inside in the winter, but the shoosh of my skis on a downhill slope is a glorious thing and I’ll let out a little girl giggle on my first run of the day.

Do you know what gets you into flow? Do you have a sport or fitness activity that you already do? What works for you? I’d love to hear your stories.

How to Actually Start a Fitness Program

Exercise is effortless for some. They glide through parks, down trails, and along to gyms as if they’ve always been that way. A few are, but I’d bet you’d be surprised that a lot of them adopted this lifestyle, and you can too.

Image by Eric Kilby

Inertia is the devil in this case. The first 30 seconds are crucial! You can buy the cute athletic gear, sign up for a class, take the bike in for a tuneup, all to prepare for your fitness launch, but you need to actually get off your butt to initiate the exercise part. And as we all know, your laptop, your TV, or your great read might be a lot more enticing than the sweating, huffing, puffing, and possible pain that await you.

Tips to get started

  • Schedule it. Put it in your calendar at the very least—you’ll feel horribly guilty if you don’t go.
  • Pay someone to train you. If you hire a trainer you’ll get great advice but that’s not why I’m adding this here. A trainer will still charge you if you blow them off (we’re used to this…) so you’re much more likely to go instead of throwing your money out the window.
  • Remember the long term benefits. Exercise is always the long view while the short view is frequently a lot easier and more pleasurable. Like a smoker putting a picture of his kids in his cigarette pack, find a way to remind yourself of the long term benefits of exercise. Maybe a picture of when you were slim and healthy, or a goal dress you’d like to fit into. Perhaps you can find a reward that you earn as you exercise more and more regularly—say a favorite activity for accomplishing ten runs. Besides, you can always watch TV later.

Let me know your thoughts. I’m interested in hearing how you motivate yourself into a fitness plan so you too can be the envy of others as you glide through your workouts!

Should You Do Mind/Body Exercise?

I’m writing this as I sit in a Pilates studio. It’s what I do for a living—teach Pilates—and I love, love, love the work. I’m addicted to it, really. If something happens and I go a week without, my whole body starts to kink up and I get rather cranky. But I’m not like everybody (I write a fitness blog) so I understand that a lot of people have never tried any form of mind/body exercise.

It can seem a little hokey from the outside looking in. Plinky-plink music, soft-spoken voices, woo-woo types stretching languidly. It can’t possibly be useful for the average person, right?

You should try it

Here’s why you should try mind/body movements—anything from yoga to Pilates to tai chi (the big three): you will move your body in ways that your muscles aren’t used to, and you’ll feel so much better when you’re done.

You know that moment when you crash on the couch after a hard day’s work and you’re satisfied and happy and a big ol’ “Aaaah …” escapes your lips? That’s what it feels like right after a mind/body class. The only difference is the next day you’ll notice your butt is a little tighter and your arms a little more sleek.

First, do this

The cheapest, easiest way to start is to search online or through your cable TV provider. There are many options out there on the web or via OnDemand shows for good instructors with good cueing to give you brief ten- to 20-minute workouts. You could incorporate it onto the end of a workout you already do, or you could add it to your morning or evening routine as a way to transition from one part of the day to another.

If you get serious

After you’ve dabbled for a bit, if you’re really enjoying yourself then go and seek professional help. Take a yoga class at a studio or a Pilates mat class at a gym or join a tai chi class. These will cost you a bit, in the neighborhood of US$15 to $25 per class (or free if it’s part of your gym membership), but a good instructor will keep you safe, challenge your body, and push you a little harder than you would have pushed yourself. It’s totally worth the price you pay for the peace of mind and the sculpted body you’ll start to see.

For the hard bodies

For those of you who want the Adonis look, it is possible with mind/body disciplines. You should see the men and women sashaying out of my studio daily: no one thinks that these folks are wusses! That, plus I’d guess 50% of Hollywood does Pilates as part of their fitness regimen. It’s one of the go-to workouts for stars because it works so darned well.

Mind/body movement can be all you do for fitness or it can be part of a blend of different types of exercise depending on your preferences. At a minimum, the cross-training effect will help ward off injury and the Zen moments will help you combat daily stress. So dip your toe in the water and see how it feels. We’re a friendly lot, even though we are a little woo-woo.

Have you tried any mind/body exercise? Tell us about it!

How to Right-Size Your Life

Seize the opportunity! Leave no stone unturned! These have been my mantras for the past three years as I’ve built my social media presence as a fitness expert.

“Opportunities are rare and may not come again,” I would tell myself after someone asked me to collaborate on a project. This would cause me to immediately say yes—to just about anything, really. It was about getting exposure, of course, but it was also brand new to me, and fascinating, and fun, and cool, and … you get the idea.

I realize I’m one of the lucky ones. I make a decent income from social media—enough that my family has some breathing room and we can actually afford to take vacations again. My social media career has also helped my “real” business—my Pilates studio—which has gotten more local press (which means more clients) because of the presence I have online. I am thankful every day for what I’ve built and thankful that people have responded to it so well.

But boy was I burned out

There is always a tipping point, and for me the last straw was when I agreed to take a Director of Social Media job. Here was an opportunity to show the world all I had learned, plus it paid really well. I actually think I did a decent job growing the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers for the client, as well as catching the attention of some stores who later started carrying the product and working some connections for press coverage.

It was definitely working. But my brain was goo. On top of running a studio and a blog, it was just too much. I had to pull back.

Right-sizing my life

The big life lesson that I learned here is that I was given opportunities that I didn’t seek out. I wasn’t looking for a social media job when it was offered to me, but it was so cool I wanted to try it. There were other opportunities like this that I was also saying yes to. But they weren’t in the direction I truly wanted to go.

I’m going to get all “woo woo” on you for a second, so bear with me. I’m in my 40s now and I’ve learned (and relearned) that if you don’t follow your heart, you’re not going to be happy. Yes, you need to make a living, but there are scads of ways to do that and still follow your heart.

Let’s face it: anything you put out there in social media is completely in your control. All you have is your time (hours and hours of time), so why would you spend it creating a persona or going in a direction that isn’t you? You’ll only be a big pile of goo like I was.

I realized my error(s) and started to divest a lot of stuff. I’ve pared my life down to my studio, my blog, and FeelGooder, and I’m feeling out some writing projects that I want to pursue. I’m looking forward to seeing how my career develops and I’m also looking forward to going home tonight and relaxing with my family. Boy will that feel good.

Have you ever had to right-size your life? How did you do it?

Make One Small Change That Matters

The dire warnings keep coming at us: virtually everything we do, it seems, will kill us. Maybe it’s because I’m a fitness blogger and I’m always looking for the research studies to comment on, but in the past six months I’ve seen headlines that tell me…

  • Blogging will kill you.
  • Sitting will kill you.
  • Your diet will kill you.

It makes you want to pull the sheets over your head and quiver—but that’ll probably kill you too. Of course, the irony is none of us are getting out of here alive.

Testing the waters of a lifestyle change is scary. The vegans can seem a bit holier than thou. The gym rats look down their noses at the new pudgy guy. The work/life balance people are impossibly smug (and, I suspect, faking it).

Who needs to walk into all that when all you really want is to feel a little bit, well, gooder?

Of course, the vegans are actually quite friendly, most of the gym rats used to be the new pudgy guy, and … well, frankly, I’m still suspicious of the work/life people…

But these are our fears, projected onto the change we want to make—not the actual situation itself. (Guess I’m still scared of work/life balance eh?)

Pick one little thing

Please don’t fling yourself into a huge, new, unachievable lifestyle. Choose small changes and let them snowball.

When I switched to healthier living, my big first decision was to walk to work. You might think that’s a big deal but I only lived half a mile from my Pilates studio. The decision actually cost me zero time because it meant I didn’t have to search for a parking spot in my busy neighborhood, and I burned an extra 100 calories or so a day.

That’s it. It’s not earth-shattering. It’s just a baby step.

Then I switched to organic dairy, then organic meats, then a little kitchen herb gardening, then training for a 5km run, and so on. All these changes took place over the period of a year, and I barely noticed how much my life had changed. I did notice that I was feeling a whole lot better and sashaying around in jeans a size smaller. My clients noticed my new energy and business actually picked up. (That was a nice bonus!)

What would your first step be? I’m sure something has already popped into your mind. Do that. Don’t think too much, just do that one thing! If it doesn’t work you can always ditch it after a couple of weeks and try something else. Nothing is irreversible here.

Let me know what your first change to healthy living was if you’ve already started—and please share with us what you’d like your next change to be. Be impulsive and just throw it into the comments below. That tiny commitment from your keyboard will help to boost you towards a better life. It might also give others a few ideas…

Body Image as Fitness Motivation

I have a very unscientific study to share with you. I regularly ask clients, friends and occasionally total strangers to think about the happiest times of their life. I pause and give them a second to pick a moment. I wait for the smile to cross their face and then I ask them, what did you look like then?

Almost always the answer is a variation of “the best I ever looked.”

Does happiness make us thin?

My follow-up question is: what did you do for exercise then? I get a barrage of answers, and almost everyone was following some version of an active lifestyle at that time.

But first they were happy. The moving was secondary—it was just part of their lives.

When were you happiest?

Lets use this now. Go back to your happy place and your happy body image. Think about it for a second. Were you in college, running around campus? Were you getting ready for your marriage? Were you starting your first job in a new city, and collecting a circle of friends, hopping from nightspot to party?

You probably weren’t slumped in your seat staring at a computer screen…

The trick is to incorporate a bit of your old spunk into your life, have fun, and get fit while you’re doing it.

Go kayaking with a friend, actually play with your kid when you go to the park, plan a shopping day with a friend in a mall with a lot of schlepping (avoid the food court!). Take a walk with your family after dinner and see who you meet. Rescue a loveable dog. Even if you’re just standing on the sidelines of the soccer game and chatting with the other parents instead of sitting on your backside, that’s an improvement.

There are 168 hours in a week. The two that we spend doing “formal” exercise isn’t going to be enough to counteract the other 166. We have to constantly choose an active lifestyle.

So what would you choose as a talisman reminder of your happiest time? When were you happy and how did you feel about your looks then? How can you get back to that place?

The Perfect Path to Better Health

Image by Thorsten BeckerJanuary is an exciting time for fitness bloggers and Pilates studio owners alike! There’s lots of good energy, and lots of upbeat, hopeful people hoping to make positive changes in their lives. As a person who works in the industry, I love welcoming people into the fold and giving them the tools they need to live even better than before.

There is a pitfall, though: an “it must be perfect” attitude. Size 10 isn’t good enough: it must be a size 4. Pushups from the knees are only for wimps—you must do it from the toes. Not one crumb of “bad food” (whatever that is) has crossed my lips. And so on.

It’s a perfect way to set yourself up for failure.

If you’re on some sort of health journey, you’re thinking about food and fitness. Wherever you were, you weren’t happy about it and you’re incorporating new healthy aspects into your life. This. Is. Gold.

But remember: all the little changes add up. Walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator is great. Signing up for a fitness class once a week is better than doing zero per week. Skipping the cream in favor of skim milk in your coffee. Having a smaller piece of cake instead of a slab.

These little things add up. Is this approach perfect? No. But it’s good enough.

It’s good enough to see gradual weight loss and smaller pant sizes. It’s good enough to feel stronger and have more energy. It’s good enough to want to be more social with friends and family. It’s good enough so that after a while it’s just habit—and then it’s time to add another little change. And that’s where the gold is.

If you just implement one little change per month, imagine how far ahead you’ll be by the end of the year. Here are some ideas…

  • Swap one deli sub for a salad with dressing on the side once per week. Drizzle the dressing lightly.
  • Drag your family to the park one day per week and play with your kids—don’t just sit on a bench.
  • Sign up for yoga with your buddy.
  • Change your protein portions at dinner from eight ounces down to five ounces.
  • Add a vegetable serving per day above what you’re already doing.
  • Buy a fitness DVD and commit to it once per week.
  • Brown-bag your lunch one day per week.

Any of these changes is enough to knock ten pounds off your frame this year if you stick to them. Wouldn’t it be nice to effortlessly lose a dress size this year (about ten pounds)? How about two or three dress sizes? Wouldn’t that be gold?

If you feel like the perfectionism thing has really given you a hard time, just stop, give yourself a mental hug and begin again, fresh, today.

How do you beat yourself up when you’re not perfect? What negative thoughts do you need to delete from your mental loop? What positive things can you say to replace them? Share your stories here.