Category Archives: Exercise

What Cheesy Ghost Movies Can Teach You About Getting (and Staying) in Shape

One of my favourite things to do during a boring workout routine is to watch the kinds of ghost movies on Netflix that desperately try to be scary but end up being predictable and silly instead.

The nice part about these films is that they don’t require your full attention. Paying attention to 80% of the things happening on the screen is more than enough to figure out the plot twists well in advance, so they’re perfect for watching while you exercise.

The other reason why I watch these films is because there are lessons in every single one of them that would honestly work as well, and maybe even a little better, if you applied them to your workout routine instead of waiting until you move into a haunted house or accidentally knock over a gravestone to see how useful they’d be. Figuring out what those lessons are have also provided me endless amounts of entertainment on cardio days.

Lesson #1: Don’t Be Afraid to Take Advice from Others Who Have Already Been There

No one is ever too old to learn something new, and no one is ever too young to teach you something you didn’t know before.

I’m slowly forming a small group of fellow exercise enthusiasts who bounce ideas off of each other and ask for advice when there’s something we find challenging or confusing about our workouts.

Not everyone in this loosely-associated club of sorts practices the exact same routines, but we share enough in common that we can find those areas where we overlap and trade information about what does and doesn’t work.

There have been a few times when I’ve considered something and decided that it isn’t something that I should worry about for a wide variety of reasons, but I always listen to the reasons why someone gives for recommending or not recommending it before making my final decision.

Lesson #2: Always Tie Your Shoes

Have you ever noticed how often characters in horror movies forget to tie their shoes securely? Sometimes they have to do that in order to give a menacing ghost the chance to catch up with them once they run away, but the last thing you want to do while running or walking is step on your own shoelace and trip over your own foot.

I always double-check my shoes and anything else I’m wearing that could potentially cause an accident before I start working out. Sometimes I have even been known to double-knot my laces if I’ll be going somewhere muddy or cold. It isn’t much fun to tie laces when they’re covered in dirt or slush.

Lesson #3: If Something Feels Wrong, Don’t Ignore It

There’s a fine line between pushing yourself to do better and injuring yourself because you overlooked pain while you were exercising.

If a specific move sends a tingle down your spine in a bad way, stop immediately. Most people wouldn’t wander into a dark basement in the middle of the night to investigate a strange noise if their flashlight kept dying at the top of the steps.

Use that same common sense when you’re working out. There will be more opportunities to try that move again  once you’ve gained more experience or moved on to better equipment.

Lesson #4: Some Days Are Going to Suck No Matter What You Do

Just like some houses are so deeply haunted that you won’t ever find enough holy water to cleanse them, some workouts are going to falter for reasons you couldn’t possibly predict or prevent.

For example, I’ve had multiple workouts that were interrupted by fire alarms. Obviously, fire alarms can’t be ignored for all kinds of safety and noise reasons. When that alarm sounds, the only thing you can do is get to somewhere safe and wait for someone to turn it off.

On a less urgent note, there have been times when my workouts were cut short because I was recovering from an illness or injury that turned out to be further back in the healing process than I originally thought it would be. My spirit might be willing to push it to the limit, but my body is a completely different story in that scenario.

Your mental health matters, too. Occasionally I have a day when my workouts are begrudging at absolute best due to other things that are going on in my life at that point. The faster I accept that I won’t be breaking any personal records those days, the faster I can get through the routine and put as much effort into it as I can reasonably manage for that particular day.

Lesson #5: Practice More than One Kind of Exercise

Could you outrun a vengeful spirit? Could you pick up an injured friend and carry them to the car? Are you limber enough to turn to the side, stretch backwards, and unhook your jacket from that rusty nail sticking out of the door before the ghost comes back again?

Obviously these things aren’t literally going to happen, but the failure of many horror movie characters to stay in good shape is a reminder that there’s more than one way to be fit. Ideally, we should all be practicing as many of them as we can.

I have been walking long distances for a decade and lifting weights for a few years now. Yoga is the next form of exercise to check off my list in 2017. I hope I’d be able to do all of the things listed above in an emergency.

Lesson #6: Try, Try Again

Not everything in life happens right away. As I blogged a few weeks ago, yoga wasn’t something I liked the first or even the second time I tried it.

Even now I’m not entirely sure what I think about this form of exercise, but I continue giving it chances to change my mind. Just like it can take horror movie characters more than one visit with a psychic to convince a restless spirit to move onto the next world, sometimes new workout routines need some time to settle into a groove as well.

If you truly don’t like it, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that and moving onto something new.  Don’t assume that your first impression of something will be your last one, though. People’s opinions change every day if they give themselves enough chances to decide what they really think about a specific form of exercise.

Lesson #7: It Never Ends

There will always be something new to learn.

You could always be a little stronger, faster, or more flexible.

Someone else will always need your advice.

There will always be other people who will have good advice for you if you open yourself up to it.

What about the spirits?

Yes, they will always return in the sequel regardless of how well you think you vanquished them at the end of the third act in the original film.

What Will Exercise Routines Be Like in a Hundred Years?

A new fitness fad comes along every decade or so. There were gentle stretching exercises for ladies in the 1910s, twist dances in the 1950s, aerobics videos in the 1980s, and Zumba classes in the 2010s. (If you haven’t seen it already, this video shows 100 years of fitness in 100 seconds).

A hundred years ago, exercise was built into everyone’s day. The vast majority of people didn’t own cars or many other modern conveniences back then. They walked or rode a horse into town, chopped wood, scrubbed their clothing by hand, planted, weeded, and then harvested their crops, preserved food, repaired their wagons and tools, carried buckets of water to the plants and animals under their care, and did many other physically demanding chores from morning until evening.

The First Half of My Prediction

As fossil fuels become far more rare and expensive, humans will start adding some of these activities back into their daily lives in order to save money. Walking a couple of miles to a nearby destination only costs as much extra food as it will take to fill your stomach once you need to eat again. While this has already been a common thing here in Toronto for many years, I see it becoming much more socially acceptable to walk to all kinds of places in suburban and rural communities, too, in the coming years.

Eventually the price of driving to all of those locations is going to be too high to do anything else on a regular basis. As grocery store costs rise, I wouldn’t be surprised if it also became more common for people who own a patch of unused land to start growing and preserving some of their own food again as well.

Exercise will no longer be about purposefully lifting weights or setting aside half an hour a day to break a sweat. People will naturally need to do these things during their daily routine in order to save money or maybe even to survive in general. This is going to change everything from what folks do for fun to how far away from their jobs or schools they’ll be willing to live.

I wouldn’t be surprised if tele-commuting became almost universally available for students and workers alike, especially for those who aren’t able to live closer to town for any number of reasons. Why physically go into school or the office if you can get all of the same information online while saving valuable money and time on the commute?

The Second Half of My Prediction

The other thing I see happening with exercise in the future is it becoming much more technologically-aware. We have just entered the age of digital fitness trackers, and I only see them becoming more important in the future for many different reasons.

Imagine students who are enrolled in online schools getting credit for gym class while they’re digging potatoes out of the garden or wiping off the solar panels next to their house. Some kids would respond much better to this than they would to playing the kinds of team sports that are generally shown as examples of staying active. I know that I would have been much more interested in gym class had I been shown a wider range of ways to stay fit and then been allowed to pick a few that interested me the most. There’s nothing wrong with liking football or basketball, but there are so many other forms of exercise out there!

Think about how much information your family doctor could get about your health if he or she was able to see an average of how many minutes of exercise you’ve gotten per day for the last year as well. Maybe he or she could also see your blood sugar levels, blood pressure numbers, and resting and active heart rates, too. I’ve known people whose blood pressure rises dramatically whenever they have it checked at the doctor’s office because they get so anxious around people in the medical profession. These sorts of changes to the way health data is collected could give doctors a much more accurate picture of how their patients are really doing.

Insurance companies could give discounts to people who agreed to share their activity levels or who showed a steady increase in the number of minutes of exercise they did every week as well. While I would never agree with forcing people to share this kind of information in order to qualify for insurance coverage, it could be a nice incentive for folks who want to save a little cash and begin some healthier habits at the same time.

Will some of these predictions come true far sooner than 2117? I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, to be honest. It will be interesting to see how technology and exercise continue to develop over the next few decades. Only time will tell if I’m right about some, all, or none of the societal changes I think are on their way.

Why I’m Giving Yoga Another Chance

Those of you who have been following me online for a while might remember my previous forays into yoga.

I’ve tried a few different times now to practice this form of exercise regularly. I love the idea of becoming more physically flexible than I currently am. Yoga seems like it should fit in well with my current weightlifting and walking routines.

Why did I stop practicing yoga the first few times I tried it? 

Simply put, I got bored.

Yoga isn’t exciting like lifting weights.

There aren’t many tangible markers of your progress with it like there are when you move up to a heavier set of weights or suddenly find it easier to lift up grocery bags filled with canned goods.

Yoga doesn’t make your pulse race like cardio exercise either. I’ve never felt out of breath while doing it or wondered how much more I should be pushing my heart-rate up before backing off for a while.

The same thing could be said of a lot of things, though.

I lifted weights for quite a while before I saw any big results with them, and I am able to walk briskly and to dance for much longer periods of time than I could when I first got back into regular exercise.

I didn’t see a lot of progress at first when I started studying Spanish either, but that is beginning to change as well. There

Yoga isn’t any different from those things, so I think I’m going to be giving it another try.

How do I hope to succeed this time?

  1. By picking a different introduction to it. Part of my problem was that the first few Youtube series I’ve tried for people who are new to yoga weren’t very interesting. The instructors in them spoke in quiet, monotone voices, and they often moved  from one pose to the next without explaining what they were doing.
  2. By ignoring the little voice in my head that complains about being bored. Sometimes I get bored when I mediate, too, but that doesn’t stop me from plugging away at it. This isn’t a case of me being ethically or physically uncomfortable with what I’m asking my body to do, so I’m going to try to push through my initial reaction to see if I can find the good parts of yoga.
  3. By focusing on the parts of it I do like. One of the reasons why I’m so interested in getting back into this type of exercise is that stretching certain muscles feels really good. I especially like the stretches that involve gentle twisting my calves and lower legs in general in certain directions.That isn’t a part of my body that I spend a lot of time thinking about, but I expect a lot out of it and enjoy being able to flex them.
  4. By trying again if this attempt doesn’t work. While I sincerely hope that this will be the time that this form of exercise starts to feel more exciting to me, I’m also prepared to regroup and try again later if it doesn’t work out.

I will keep all of you updated on my progress.

Things Nobody Told Me About Getting Back Into Shape

I was in great shape in my early to mid-twenties thanks to a physically active job I had back then that kept me running around all day. As my routine shifted over time, though, I found myself gaining weight and losing some of the strength I had built up.

My wake-up call came several years ago when I caught one cold after another. There was a stretch of about four months when I was either coming down with a cold, actively sick, or recovering from a cold. It might have been a string of bad luck, but I took it as a sign that something had to change.

There are some things I learned along the way as I got back into shape that I wish I’d known from day one. Today I’m going to share them with you.

The Beginning is the Hardest Part. 

Starting any new habit is tough. This is even more true when it involves something that leads to sore muscles and moving a body in a way that it isn’t accustomed to moving.

There were a few days early on when I stopped 5 or 10 minutes into a routine and counted that as a workout for the day. The next time I went back to that video or set of exercises, though, I made it my goal to last one minute longer than I had the previous time I’d tried it. I was often able to push through and stick with it much longer than than my original goal had been because almost anything is endurable for another sixty seconds.

It was honestly as much a mental challenge as it was a physical one in the beginning.

Your Diet Matters

What you eat and drink affects how you perform. For example, everyone needs to be careful to consume enough water or other fluids when they’re exercising outdoors in hot or humid weather.

I’ve also found that it’s easier to get through a workout when I’m comfortably full but not overstuffed. A bowl of oatmeal or some hardboiled eggs give me the healthy boost of energy I need to get in that final rep or those last few minutes of cardio.

Yes, I did have to make some changes to my diet in order to get healthier. This isn’t something I spend a great deal of time obsessing over, though, and I still have treats. They’re simply chosen a bit more carefully these days, and I don’t have them as often as I used to.

With that being said…

The Scale Only Tells a Small Part of the Story.

One of the most frustrating things for me when I first started exercising regularly again was not seeing any change in the number on the scale. I wanted to lose some weight, but my results bounced around in the same general area from one day to the next.

What I learned is that the scale only tells a small part of the story. For example, everyone’s weight shifts a little from one day to the next. I’ve had days where I magically “lost” or “gained” 5 pounds or more simply based on when I weighed myself, whether or not I’d eaten anything before stepping on the scale, how recently I’d used the bathroom, and how much salty food I’d eaten in the previous 24 hours.

So now I pay attention to the scale only if the number on it trends up or down for a prolonged period of time. It is one way to keep track of your progress, but there are many other questions that are also important to answer.

Is your clothing getting looser because your body fat percentage is changing even though your weight has remained constant? Do you have more energy? Are you now taking the stairs instead of the elevator sometimes (or usually!)? Have you finally moved up to a heavier set of weights or a more challenging workout in general? Did you finally figure out how to use that complicated piece of gym equipment that you thought you’d never bother trying?

Or, my personal favourites, are you catching fewer colds? Are you recovering more quickly from them? I still get sick a few times a year, but it doesn’t happen as often these days and my colds don’t last as long as they used to.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never been able to get into jogging despite liking the idea of it and trying multiple times to enjoy this form of exercise. I didn’t like how uncomfortable it was to catch my breath after a few minutes of jogging or how jarring it was to my joints.

Obviously, this isn’t true everyone. I have a friend who enjoys jogging so much that they train for and compete in marathons.

I know other people who can’t do any vigorous exercise at all due to certain health conditions that restrict how their bodies are able to move. A few people that I’ve known have noticed a difference in their abilities from one day to the next. Sometimes they have more stamina than I do, while on other days they get worn out easily.

You’re the only person who can figure out what kinds of exercise work best for you. It can take a lot of trial and error, but at some point you’ll find the right activity.

It Gets Better

All of your hard work eventually pays off. My life has changed in many small but important ways since I started exercising again.

The first benefit I noticed was that I was sleeping a little better. I used to have some trouble relaxing and falling asleep, but that started to change for the better once I became more active.

I’m more willing to try new things now than I was several years ago. My confidence that I’ll eventually master them has grown and continues to grow.

My posture has improved. This one is a combination of having a stronger core, feeling better about myself, and having more practice with moving my body in ways it hadn’t moved in quite a while.

I have more energy, too.

Regardless of where you are with your fitness goals, keep plugging away at them. It gets easier as you go along!

 

 

Rest Days Aren’t Optional

It’s been a few weeks since I blogged about fitness. I stuck to my exercise routine pretty well during the holidays. (My diet, though, definitely had more treats included it than normal).

On a recent rest day, I thought about an experiment I did last summer that turned out to be a bad idea.

The Experiment 

You see, I wasn’t satisfied with my progress last summer. I wanted to grow stronger more quickly.

The idea I came up with was to work a different part of my body every day of the week without taking any days off. I thought I might be able to rest my arms while doing bodyweight and free weight exercises to strengthen my legs. If it was successful, it could have been a way for me to build muscle faster than I was currently doing.

It lasted about a week before I ended up pulling a muscle in my back and needing to take time off to recuperate. Luckily, it was a minor injury that only needed time to heal.

Spoiler alert: pulled muscles aren’t fun! Boy, was that a silly thing to do. Instead of growing stronger, I had to stop lifting weights altogether for a week or two while I healed.

Bodies Need to Rest

What I didn’t think about was the fact that weightlifting doesn’t only exercise the one set of muscles that you’re focusing on for a particular workout.

Your legs still need to keep you upright, and your core muscles still need to help you maintain the right form in order to prevent injury and to help you get the most out of your workout. Often your arms also still need to hold the weights or prop up a certain part of your body as well depending on what kind of routine you’re doing.

It is so important to give all of these muscle groups enough time to rest and recover. If one of them is injured or overworked, your entire body will feel the effects of that.

Minds Also Need to Rest

The other thing I noticed during my experience was how mentally tiring it was to lift weights every single day. It was a more subtle effect, but it is something that bothered me a little as I woke up every morning and realized that I needed to strengthen another part of my body.

One of the most interesting things about this effect was that it wasn’t something I’d expected to happen. I was prepared for the possibly that my body wouldn’t like this change for any number of reasons, but I never would have guessed that my mind would also find it difficult.

It turns out that rest days aren’t optional after all. Everyone needs them!

Exercise Gear Shouldn’t Be Gendered

Today I wanted to talk about something that annoys me a little bit every time I go shopping for new exercise equipment. In every store I’ve browsed in so far, there’s been a pastel section for women and a black or grey section somewhere else for men. I haven’t noticed a huge difference in quality between the two sections, although the equipment… Read More

When Exercise Is a Bad Idea

One of the hardest things for me to deal with when it comes to my exercise routine is to step away from it when I’m sick or injured. Why is that, you ask? Well, I don’t want to lose the gains in muscle mass or endurance that I’ve worked so hard for. Logically speaking, I know that… Read More