Category Archives: Exercise

How to Find Your Lost Motivation to Exercise

Last month I came down with a summer cold.

(As an aside, don’t you wish we could all look as healthy as stock photo models do when they’re acting sick? Most of the reason why I’m sharing this particular photo with you is because of how much it amuses me).

My illness was minor even for a cold, but as I was recovering I noticed that my motivation to exercise was not returning like it normally does after I get sick.

I’d stopped blowing my nose and my cough was quickly fading away. Yet I still didn’t have the urge to even do something as simple as take a walk around the block to get back into the swing of things.

If this is something that happens to you as well, keep these tips and tricks in mind the next time your fitness routine is interrupted or you really don’t want to do your usual workout today.

Commit to Five Minutes

I thought this idea was ridiculous the first time I heard it, but it does work. Promise yourself that you only need to move your body for five minutes. If you’re still feeling apathetic or unmotivated at the end of that time span, stop and go do something else with your time without any guilt.

It’s been my experience that this usually doesn’t happen, though. Five minutes is just enough time to begin to enjoy whatever activity you normally do during a workout. Most of the time when I make this bet with myself, I end up doing my full workout anyways. Getting started was by far the most challenging part of the whole routine.

Remember Why You Started Exercising

You might have wanted to grow stronger, gain energy, become more flexible, improve your health, or lose weight. On a more personal level, I love the warm, happy feeling I get from all of the endorphins my body releases after a long, brisk walk. That one factor alone is responsible for at least half of the walks I go on. It feels so wonderful.

Everyone’s reasons for exercising is different, of course, so I can’t possibly list all of them in today’s post. Hopefully the list above gave you a good starting spot if I didn’t mention your favourite ones.

Sometimes it’s an excellent idea to revisit your reasons for exercising and think about how at least attempting to get through today’s workout will help you reach those goals.

Try Something New

Occasionally I lose my interest in working out because I’ve been doing the same thing for too long. A few years ago, I included free dance videos on Youtube in my workout routine. They worked beautifully for about a year, and then my interests shifted to include more weightlifting in my schedule instead.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll never try another dance video again. Dancing is something I’d like to return to one day, although I don’t have any plans to do so at the moment.

Yoga was another activity I tried earlier this year in an attempt to broaden my interests. It turned out to be something that I wasn’t as interested in as I originally thought, but I’m glad that I gave it a try and I am keeping it in mind for the future. I may very well find it better suited for my needs in a year or two.

Make a Smaller Goal

To be completely honest with you, my goal for the first two or three days after my cold faded away was to take walks. I didn’t worry about anything other than walking for about thirty minutes a day, and most of those sessions were broke into smaller segments.

Getting back into a lighter version of my usual routine was the key to returning to the way I normally live. I’m now back to lifting weights regularly, too, and I’m enjoying it as much as I normally do.

Track Your Progress

One of the biggest reasons why I love my smartwatch so much is that it keeps track of all kinds of exercise statistics for me. I get notifications when I reach specific goals and badges if I make enough of them throughout the week.

If you’re motivated by small rewards like these and don’t want to track your own statistics, definitely consider going digital.

With that being said, tracking can be done in many different ways. You could take notes about how many workouts you completed, miles you ran, or pounds you lifted in a Word/Pages document or with an old-fashioned pen and sheet of paper instead.

6 Tips for Exercising Safely Outdoors in Hot Weather

The long, hot, and humid days of July have begun here in Toronto.

If you’ve never been to Ontario at this time of the year, imagine feeling like you’ve stepped into an oven every time you go outside.

The heat can be adjusted to eventually, but the unrelenting humidity in July and August is one of the few things I truly dislike about living in this part of North America. It’s inescapable, and it can make 30°C (86°F) feel like 40°C. (104°F).

Exercising in the depths of summer comes with its own unique challenges. Today I wanted to talk about some of my favorite ways to stay fit when the weather is much warmer than normal.

Take a Hot Bath First

This was by far one of the most surprising tips I discovered while working on this blog post. Last month there was a study published on the effects of taking a hot bath before being asked to exercise in a hot, humid room. The runners who were assigned to this part of the study became acclimated to the heat faster and ran farther than the participants who were cooled down before they ran.

That study reminded me of that old wives’ tale about drinking hot beverages during heat waves to help your body cool down more efficiently. There have been a few smaller studies that showed this was effective, but the data about them was pretty scarce while I was doing my research on this.

Pick the Right Time of Day

As you might have already guessed, I’m not a big fan of heat waves, but there is some relief to be found even in the depths of August if you’re willing to save your workouts for times when the sun is either not shining or is very low in the sky.

Evenings are much more comfortable times for exercising on all but the hottest of days. Once the sun begins to set, Toronto breathes a sign of relief. Our sidewalks and parks become flooded with people and pets enjoying the cooler weather.

Alternatively, early mornings are also a good time to squeeze in a workout because the sidewalks and ground in general have had all night to release the heat from the day before. Sometimes early summer mornings can even feel a little chilly if you head out early enough.

Pick the Right Activity

I’m a fan of street hockey, but it’s not the kind of game I’d want to play on a 40°C day. A walk would be the most strenuous form of exercise I’d feel comfortable doing when the weather was that hot, and even then I’d prefer to do it in the shade or at a cooler part of the day.

You can become dehydrated quickly at those temperatures, so I dial my activity back when it’s that warm outside even if I’m carrying a bottle of water with me.

With that being said, it is safe to exercise in hot weather if you acclimate yourself to it and tailor your workout to your age, fitness level, and weather. The article I just linked to was talking specifically about jogging, but the general principles of it can be applied to any other form of more strenuous exercise as well.

Stay Hydrated

Am I the only person who sometimes forgets to drink enough water on hot days?

One of the biggest dangers of exercising outdoors at this time of the year – other than getting a sunburn, if you’re fair-skinned – is accidentally becoming dehydrated. It can happen faster than you might think if it’s very humid outside or if the hot weather has dampened your urge to eat and drink like it does for me.

My parents live in the desert Southwest, so they are accustomed to bringing a bottle of water from home wherever they go. I’ve been thinking about getting into this habit as well this summer.

There are public drinking fountains in Toronto, but there aren’t as many of them as I’d like to see and there are barely any of them in our parks at all. Carrying my own water is something I need to do if I’m going to be spending time outdoors in July and August.

Wear Breathable, Comfortable Clothing

The other day I was browsing through a rack of workout clothing. I was surprised to see how many of the pieces were made from fabric blends that included rayon or polyester.

Synthetic fabrics like these are good for chillier seasons, but they’re the last thing I’d ever want to wear when the weather is hot and humid because they don’t absorb sweat or breathe the same way that cotton does.

I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do at this time of the year is wear anything that’s going to make me perspire even more than I already am.

Pace Yourself

Listening to your body is always a good idea, but it’s even more important when you’re pushing yourself more than normal.

Skipping or shortening one workout isn’t going to have an effect on your longterm fitness goals. It’s much more important to stay safe than it is to ignore potentially dangerous symptoms like dizziness if your regular workout is too much when the weather is hotter than usual.

 

How to Encourage Someone Else to Start Exercising

No, this post isn’t about cajoling, bribing, manipulating, or otherwise pushing people to do what you want if – or even because –  it will be good for them in the longterm.

Not only is this kind of behaviour completely ineffective, it’s also destructive regardless of whether it’s happening between friends, relatives, or romantic partners.

The decision to change one’s habits for the better is something that every adult has to decide to do for themselves.

I won’t lie to you. It’s difficult to make big, permanent lifestyle changes. The only way these changes will stick is if the person who is trying them is genuinely committed to the process.

With that being said, there are a few things you can do if there’s someone in your life whom you wish would start exercising for the sake of their own health.

Be a Good Example

I walk briskly for about an hour every day. I also lift weights and occasionally dance or do yoga as well. When I invite someone to do something active with me, it’s always for activities that I’ve already been doing and deeply enjoy.

If you want your loved one to start taking better care of themselves, showing them how it can be done is one of the best things you can do. Words are cheap. Months or years of quietly demonstrating how to fit exercise into your life is a much better motivator from what I’ve observed.

Ask Them About Their Goals and Interests

One of my neighbours regularly goes to the gym, and his hours of weightlifting have changed his physique in all kinds of healthy ways.  I’ve been quietly impressed with how dedicated he is to growing stronger and building some serious muscle.

Feeling better was one of my biggest goals when I first began exercising again regularly a few years ago. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was tired of feeling rundown. While I definitely wanted to lose a little weight at the time as well, having more energy, sleeping better, and eventually not getting sick as often were what kept me going before the numbers on the scale started to budge.

If you can figure out what your loved one would like to change about their life and what kinds of exercise they do (and don’t!) like, you’ll be able to suggest some routines that would help them reach those goals.

Keep It Fun

One of the things I love the most about living in Toronto is how easy it is to walk everywhere. Everything I could possibly need or want is within walking distance of my house: grocery stores, salons, movie theatres, parks, medical clinics, museums, and the library. I could easily go weeks without needing any form of transportation other than my own two feet when the weather is mild. Sometimes my spouse and I entertain ourselves simply by taking a long walk when we don’t know what else we’d like to do.

Of course, not everyone lives in a neighbourhood like this one. I’ve lived in suburban and rural places in the past, and I know how much that can affect someone’s daily routine.

The basic principal remains, though. Exercise doesn’t have to be something you tack onto the end of your day. There are many different ways to weave it into your routine in all kinds of fun ways if you think creatively about it. For example, I have a relative who lives so far out in the country that there aren’t any pizza places that will deliver food to them. One of the things her family likes to do is walk half a mile or so down the road to visit another relative of ours every day.

Even small amounts of exercise like that can really add up by the end of the day or week, and they won’t feel like work if you’re doing them to get to somewhere fun.

Back Off

This is by far the most important step in the process.

Adults have the right to run their own lives however they see fit. Once they know that you’re interested in working out with them, it’s up to them to decide when and whether this might take place.

Think of it the same way you do when you give a gift to someone. Once you’ve handed it over, what they do with it is something only they can determine. They might use it forever. They might use it someday when they’ve realized how valuable it is. Alternatively, they might decide it isn’t the right thing for them and never use it at all.

It’s okay to invite them to do a specific activity every once in a while, but that’s as far as I’d go unless they’ve asked you to invite them to work out more often than that. Let them think about it. They’ll either decide to take you up on your offer or they won’t.

Either way, it’s out of your hands now.

When Is It Time to Move Up to a Heavier Set of Weights?

I’ve been asking myself this question over the past week or two. Since I work out at home instead of going to the gym, I try to be very mindful of what equipment I buy and when I buy it. My tiny apartment can only store so many items at once!

The last set of weights I bought also turned out to be a little too heavy for me at first. I ended up switching between them and my previous set of weights for a week or two depending on which part of my body I was using and how my form was looking.

It’s been my hope that I’ll be able to avoid this next time by spending extra time with my current equipment as I wait to grow slightly stronger.

There are a few different signs I look for when I’m deciding when to move up to a heavier set of weights versus when I should stick with my current set of weights and focus on adjusting my form for the time being.

Let’s go through them one by one.

Sign #1: My Workouts Are Getting too Easy These Days.

While there are still a couple of moves in my routine that I find a little challenging, most of them are fairly easy these days.

I’m not breaking a sweat as quickly as I was when I first moved up to this set of weights. I’m also not needing or wanting to take the breaks I sometimes incorporated into the workout the last time I did it with a heavier set of weights.

My endurance has definitely increased since then, so I would agree that my workouts have become too easy.

Sign #2: It’s Been a While Since I Felt Sore the Day After a Workout.

No, I don’t believe this is the only or the best indication of a good routine, but it can be one sign that you’re pushing your body enough to become stronger without risking injury.

This might sound odd, but I actually like the feeling you get the day after a tough, new workout. Even if your muscles aren’t necessarily suffering from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), you can often feel them contracting and relaxing in ways that might not have felt so obvious last week or last month. Certain movements remind you that you need to use your arms, abs, or legs for them even if you’re not generally consciously aware of that fact.

If you do have DOMS, some of those movements are slightly uncomfortable or harder to perform than normal. If you’re not, you still often pay attention to your body in ways that are easy to miss on an ordinary day.

It has been a while since I felt this way after lifting weights. I hope my next adjustment is easier, but I’m also curious to see what will happen this time  when I move up to heavier weights. Does a body eventually get so used to lifting progressively heavier stuff that it no longer feels as sore when it’s asked to do something slightly harder than it was doing last week?

Sign #3: When I Finish a Routine, I Still Have Plenty of Energy Left Over

This is by far the biggest sign that I need to move up to a heavier set of weights. It’s one thing to have a little bit of strength left after a workout, but I’m at the point now where I’m not feeling all that challenged. I could easily do some more reps with the weights or add in more pushups if I’m doing bodyweight exercises that day.

Based on my answers to these three points, it definitely seems to be time to get some new equipment.

How about you? What other signs do you look for when you’re decide if it’s time to use heavier weights?

The Strangest Songs to Get Stuck In Your Head During a Workout

I don’t actually listen to music when I workout, so it’s odd to see how often strange songs get stuck in my head while I’m walking or lifting weights.

Some of the songs I’m about to share with you today have powerful memories behind them that help to explain why my brain likes to dredge them up from the past when I’m least expecting it. If they are connected to such a thing for me, I will tell you all about it.

Other songs aren’t so fortunate. I honestly don’t know why I remember some of them. Maybe one of you will have a theory for me!

All I know is that my brain is pretty good at doing this. From what I’ve read, the same can be said for many people. Today I’d love to know what random songs pop into your mind when you’re working out. After you finished reading this post, come over to Twitter and tell me all about it. Let’s commiserate on the weirdest songs we’ve ever started to think about while exercising.

Jubilate Deo” is a song that my choir director had us practice regularly for the one year I reluctantly sung in my high school choir in order to fulfill the arts and music credit I needed to graduate.

There were a few songs he taught us during that year that I found myself enjoying at the time. This was not one of them, so I have no idea why I still remember the lyrics and melody so well.

Bloodhound Gang’s “The Bad Touch” has a funny story behind it.

My mother didn’t say a lot about the music my siblings and I listened to when we were teenagers. We were given a lot of freedom to decide which artists, bands, and genres of music we liked, especially once I was in my later teens and my parents relaxed their rules about these things even more than they had a few years before then.

With that being said, mom did have a vendetta against this particular song. I remember her giving us a friendly speech about sex being something more than rutting like animals. She was miffed by the idea that anyone would put that kind of a message into such a catchy tune.

I don’t know how she’ll react to this, but still think of her every time I hear this song. Although it is weird to have that memory suddenly pop up when I’m lifting weights or following a dance video on Youtube. A small part of me still expects her to start reading the lyrics once again and explaining why she doesn’t approve of them. Ha!

Justin Bieber’s “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever

There are three things I find strange about this:

  1. No offence to anyone who loves it, but I am not a fan of Justin’s musical style in general.
  2. Justin sang a Christian worship song in a secular concert to fans who had no idea what was happening.
  3. The beat of this song is far too slow for a workout.

I could understand getting this song stuck in my head when I’m mediating, relaxing, or trying to go to sleep. The fact that it generally only happens during workouts is quite the mystery.

Beyonce’s “Resentment.”

I am a fan of Beyonce’s music in general, but once again this isn’t a song that works well for something vigorous like a workout. It’s slow, heartbreaking, and has nothing at all to do with raising your heart rate or becoming more energetic.

If only my brain would decide to fixate on something fun like “Single Ladies” instead. At least that song has an uptempo beat you can dance to!

Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink’s  “Worth It.”

I have never liked this song. The few times I’ve heard it have been in circumstances where I couldn’t get away from it.

So why does my brain insist on bringing it up when I hit my stride on a long, brisk walk? There are dozens of other songs with similar beats that I’d be much happier to discover have become stuck in my head.

I sincerely don’t understand how the human mind works sometimes. If it were up to me, nobody would ever get a song stuck in their mind that they disliked, and they’d never think about slow songs when they were exercising or fast songs when they were trying to go to sleep.

If any of these songs are now stuck in your head, my apologies. I hope they wiggle their way free soon.

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