Tag Archives: Injury

The Best Fitness Advice I’ve Ever Received

There is so much conflicting information floating around out there about fitness, nutrition, and various types of exercise. Today I’m going to be talking about the best fitness advice I’ve ever received. I’m not a doctor or other medical provider, so this post is not written in order to give health or medical advice to anyone. It is only meant to share my personal experiences on this topic.

1. Don’t Ignore Pain

There’s a massive difference between  feeling fatigued from a certain type of movement and hurting because of it. Pain is a sign that something has gone or is going wrong. On the rare occasions that I feel this sensation while working out, I stop immediately.

2. Make Healthier Options the Easiest Ones

This is a trick I use for my diet as much, and even more so during the holidays when sweets are everywhere, as I do for my fitness goals.

It’s easy to stick with an exercise routine or a healthy eating plan on a great day when everything goes according to plan. Continuing to do so on days when my plans have been interrupted or I’m dealing with unpleasant surprises that make skipping that workout or ordering in fast food unbelievably appealing is another story.

If I already have healthy leftovers sitting in the fridge, I’m going to be less likely to go out and buy something that won’t provide the vitamins and minerals I need. As far as my fitness goals go, I live in a highly walkable neighbourhood and try to do as many of my normal errands on foot as possible. Those five or ten minute trips add up to a lot of low-impact exercise over time.

3. Pick Activities You Enjoy

For example, I love to go swimming. It’s not an activity I do very often for logistical reasons, but when I do get a chance to swim I’ll happily spend hours in the pool. At times, I’ve even fantasized about what it would be like to be able to sleep while floating in a friendly body of water. (No, this blog is not written by a mermaid, although that might be something a mermaid would write if they actually existed and didn’t know how to sleep in the water since they’d been raised on land).

4. Be Patient

Reaching any fitness goal takes time and effort. I know that I’ve often wished I could build muscle quickly, but that’s not how it works….especially for thin and petite women like me!

5. Create Multiple Backup Plans

A few years ago, I made plans to go on a low-key hike on a specific spring weekend when the weather is generally gorgeous here in Ontario.

Then it rained that weekend. I’m not talking about a light drizzle, either. There were thunderstorms and lightning everywhere.

It happened again on my backup date, and then yet again the next couple of times I tried to reschedule those plans. I don’t remember whether that hike ever happened or not, to be honest with you. What I remember most clearly from that experience is how frustratingly funny it was to see the weather report change to a high risk of thunderstorms on every single day I was hoping to spend some time out in nature.

This is a story I think about when I’m brainstorming various ways to include physical activity in my vacation plans or deciding how to get back into the habit of exercise after an injury or illness. If one idea doesn’t work, I always have two or three alternates tucked into the back of my mind.

6. Stick to the Routine, Including Rest Days 

If it’s a workout day for me, I’m going to be getting that exercise in unless I’m sick, injured, or (very rarely) are travelling and legitimately can’t make my goals that day due to how many hours I’ve spent on an airplane, train, or bus. On rest days, I take things easy no matter how much I’m itching to do something more active with my time than walking or other low-impact forms of movement.

The longer these habits have had to form, the easier I find it to follow the routine. There is something reassuring about always knowing what that part of my day is going to be like no matter what else might be happening before or after it.

What is the best fitness advice you’ve ever received?

My Review of the Challenging Chair Cardio Workout

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post is in no way intended to give out medical advice. Please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before beginning this or any other type of exercise. 

A couple of years ago, I tripped on a slippery set of stairs and sprained my ankle. Luckily, it was a pretty mild sprain that healed well with home treatments, but I remember how bored and frustrated I was with the very limited number of things I could do to burn off energy while it was healing.

This story popped into my mind when I first stumbled across the Challenging Chair Workout a few weeks ago. The vast majority of the workouts out there assume that everyone will at least be able to stand firmly on both of their feet. When such activities aren’t possible due to an injury, it’s so nice to know that there are other options for people who want to keep training to the best of their abilities while they heal.

Before I dive into my review of this workout, let me also note that there is never affiliate marketing in this or any other post on my site. I’m sharing this routine simply because I found it useful and encouraging for the times when it isn’t possible for me to do a regular workout. Hopefully, you’ll think the same thing!

If the embedded link doesn’t work, click here for an alternative link to this workout.

About the Chair Cardio Workout

The video is 27 minutes and 40 seconds long. That time includes a short warmup in the beginning and a cool down at the end, so I’d estimate that it contains about 20 minutes of actual cardio exercise and abdominal work.

You don’t need any special equipment to do this workout. As long as you have a chair, bed, or other sturdy and comfortable place to sit, you’ll be set.

My Review

I believe in being honest and descriptive when you review something. It’s always nice to read other people’s reviews of products or services when they take the time to explain specifically what it was about it that stood out to them. That is equally true for positive as well as negative feedback. Everyone has different tastes, so what was a highlight – or a dealbreaker – for one person might have a completely different connotation for someone else.

The only vaguely negative thing I have to say about this workout is subjective. It simply wasn’t challenging enough for me. I was able to do all of the moves quite well the first time they were introduced, and I had barely broken out into a sweat at all by the time it ended. If I were looking for a replacement for my regular routine while healing from an injury, I’d need to find something more vigorous for my particular needs unless I’d been out of commission for quite a while.

With that being said, this is an excellent choice for beginners or people who have not been able to exercise at all in a long time in my opinion. Everything else I say about it will be positive from this point on.

Caroline Jordan, the woman who created this workout, really knows her audience well. She reminded her viewers multiple times that it was perfectly okay to take breaks, skip certain moves, or change the way they participated for anything that was painful for them. There were several times when she gave specific suggestions on how to modify certain moves to accommodate issues with injuries or flexibility in general. That gave this workout an added layer of depth that made me want to share it with my readers even more.

I adored Caroline’s upbeat attitude. She was positive and encouraging from the beginning to the end. I especially liked the fact that she talked her audience through the faster portions of the routine. She also had all kinds of friendly tips for how to stay motivated when you feel like you’re never going to recover or worry that a certain movement is too hard to do right now.

The lack of background music was a refreshing touch as well. Unless I’m practicing a dance routine or watching a TV show while I do a workout that I’ve already memorized, I prefer silence as much as possible. It’s so much nicer to only be able to focus on the trainer’s voice while I’m trying to copy their movements.

Speaking of movements, there was a decent amount of repetition in this video. Caroline guided her viewers through all of the moves twice. I sure do like it when fitness experts do this. While this routine was a simple one, it’s always nice to try the same thing more than once while you’re getting used to it.

The balance between cardio and abdominal strengthening exercises was handled nicely. I prefer routines that offer a mixture of activities like this. They make it easier for me to remain interested in them as well as to keep going if I find a certain section challenging.

In short, I liked this workout quite a bit. It’s not something I’ll be adding to my current rotation of videos right now because of my current level of fitness, but I will be saving it for reference if or when I ever injure one of my feet again. While I hope that never happens, I’m really glad that I’ll have something to fall back on if I need to stay off of my feet for medical reasons.

Readers, have you ever sprained or broken your ankle? Have you ever done a chair workout? I’d love to hear your stories about those topics.

Health and Fitness at the Dollar Store

One of the biggest misconceptions some people have about getting fit is that it requires a significant investment of money in the beginning if you’re starting out with little to no equipment.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

A few nights ago, I took a stroll around a dollar store to see what kinds of health and fitness items they had for sale there. I jotted down everything I could find that could somehow be connected to this topic, and the list was much longer than I ever would have imagined it would be.

Seriously. I was expecting to find maybe ten things there, but I ended up finding closer to a hundred of them if every category is fully expanded to include every example in them.

This is what they had for sale there:

  • T-shirts
  • Hats
  • Sandals
  • Hair ties
  • Socks
  • Sports bras
  • Ponchos
  • Support insoles for shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach towels
  • Goggles
  • Bug Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • First Aid supplies (bandaids, disinfectant, etc).
  • Plastic and metal buckets of various sizes (for transporting dirty or wet items back home)
  • Reusable plastic water bottles
  • Fishing poles
  • Headlamps
  • Small lanterns (if hiking or camping are on your to-do list)
  • Pet toys (for playing tug-of-war or fetch)
  • Pool toys
  • Toys and games for all ages/abilities (dart guns, dart boards, balls, chalk, jump ropes, etc)
  • Young children’s toys (plastic baseball bats, miniature golf clubs, etc)
  • Balloons (for water balloon fights or other similar games)
  • Beach toys (small shovels, plastic molds for making sandcastles, etc).
  • Frisbees
  • Rainbow flyers
  • Gardening tools (hand rakes, small shovels, etc).
  • Badminton rackets and balls
  • Plastic/rubber balls for other sports
  • Hula hoops
  • Sports equipment (rackets, balls, etc).
  • Yoga mats
  • Kettleballs
  • Resistance bands
  • Exercise wheels
  • Push up stands
  • Stretch bands
  • Roll out exercise wheels
  • Yoga mats
  • Yoga towels
  • Nonperishable, fairly healthy snacks (nuts, beef jerky, bottled water, canned fruit, applesauce.)
  • Many types of large reusable bags (for toting around everything on this list!)

Some of the items on this list did cost more than a dollar, but all of them were very inexpensive in general.

Whether I was planning to hike, swim, build sandcastles play any number of sports, jog, lift weights, stretch, do yoga, garden, go camping, or participate in any number of other activities, there were products for almost every type of exercise one could possibly imagine. I was seriously impressed by their selection.

Why am I recommending checking out your local dollar store if I believe in minimalism and buying quality over quantity?

There are a few reasons why this could be a smart idea under certain circumstances:

Not Everything Needs to be Well-Made in Order to be Useful

Several years ago, I bought a sun hat from the dollar store that suits my purposes perfectly when I want to exercise outdoors on a sunny day. Was it fashionable? Well, only if you’re a time traveller from 1995, but I’m not the kind of person who worries about how trendy I look when I’m working out.

Why spend $60 on something like that if you can spend $2 or $3 instead for the exact same outcome? For the kinds of activities I do, the type of hat doesn’t matter in the least. Anything that shades my face and neck from the sun will be more than adequate for my purposes.

It’s a Low-Cost Way to Try New Activities

For example, I like the idea of playing badminton. Every so often, I toy around with the thought of playing that sport as part of my fitness routine.

As mentioned above, the dollar store carries badminton equipment. While it isn’t made from high quality materials, it would be the perfect thing for me to play around with if I ever decide to finally add this sport to my list of preferred activities.

Spending a few dollars wouldn’t break the bank, and I could  go to a secondhand store or a regular store to find much sturdier equipment if I decided that this was something I wanted to play more than occasionally and my original racket broke.

Speaking of broken items….

Losing or Breaking A New Item Won’t Be So Disappointing

I’m very protective of the few possessions I have that are top-notch. Anyone who wants to borrow them has to earn my trust first, and I’d horribly disappointed if they were damaged, lost, or destroyed in an accident or through someone else’s carelessness. There are certain places that I really wouldn’t want to take those items to due to the risks of them being exposed to the water, dirt, or sand that could ruin them.

The nice thing about dollar store purchases is that you don’t stand to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars if they’re accidentally broken or lost. I wouldn’t hesitate to lend out something like a hula hoop or a pool toy I bought from the dollar store to a friend or relative.

If that item was later returned to me in pristine condition, great! If not, I’ve only lost a few dollars at most. Replacing it won’t hurt my bottom line at all, so I don’t have a problem lending it out or taking it places where the risks of something happening are higher than usual.

What’s At Your Local Dollar Store?

Assuming you live in a part of the world that has dollar stores (or pound shops/variety stores, as they’re sometimes called), what kinds of health and fitness items have you spotted there?

I’d love to compare my list with yours!

Unguided Meditation Update #2

Last month in this series on my experiments with unguided meditation, I mentioned wanting to try sitting up during my sessions. Meditation is something I’d previously been doing lying down due to a minor injury that made sitting in certain positions uncomfortable. Click on the link above if you want a refresher on why I chose that goal.

Before I jump into today’s post in detail, let’s talk about the chairs in my house and how they’re related to this topic. Technically, both of our chairs are actually meant to be used outdoors. They’re not traditional chairs. Think of camping furniture instead of anything you’d find in a fancy dining room.

My spouse and I chose them because they can be folded up and put away when not in use. Since our apartment is a small one, we use the same areas of it for many different activities throughout the week. Anything that can be folded up and put away when not in use is always folded up and put away when we’re finished with it.

These chairs work well for most of our purposes, but they’re not designed for someone to sit up straight and meditate in them.Their backs are soft and flexible, and they mold to your body as you shift position.  In other words, you’re supposed to sit back and slouch in them.

Sitting Meditation

The reason why I went into so much detail about our tiny home and unconventional chair situation is so you could better imagine what meditating while sitting upright is like for me.

I had three options when I started doing it a few weeks ago: sit on a chair that encourages slouching; sit on our wood floor; sit on the bed.

Due to my sore muscles at the time, I chose option three. It seemed like it would be the least likely one to cause me even more discomfort than I was already feeling.

I’m going to be very honest with all of you here. Not all of my meditation sessions have involved sitting up since my last post in this series. In the beginning, that position was simply too uncomfortable on some days. The only way to do it was to lie down.  On other days, I waited until so late in the evening to meditate that I was too tired to do so sitting up.

The general trend in my life has been towards meditating while sitting up and away from meditating while lying down, though. I expect it to continue in the future as long as I can avoid future injuries.

The Results

In my experience, meditating works much better in the sitting position. It’s easier for me to stay focused on the task at hand when I’m sitting up straight. There have been a few times in the past when I accidentally fell asleep while meditating lying down due to how relaxed I was on my soft bed. This isn’t something I’ve come close to experiencing while sitting up.

There’s also something to be said for creating a routine and sticking to the same environment as much as possible from one session to the next. When I sit in a cross-legged position in my quiet room, I know it’s time to relax and meditate. My body has begun to recognize that this is something I only do during that time of the day since it isn’t how I normally sit.

When I was meditating lying down, there wasn’t as much of a difference between that and lying down to go to sleep or to watch a TV show. I like having a sharper contrast between all of those activities.

While I’m still in the early stages of this adjustment to my routine, I’m pleased with how it’s working in general. As I mentioned in the previous section of this post, I am planning to meditate sitting up even more often in the future. It was definitely the right decision for me, although I am glad that meditating while lying down worked for me when I wasn’t able to do this position.

Next Up: Meditating for Longer Periods of Time

My goal for the next month is to begin meditating for longer periods of time. My sessions are only about five minutes long right now. This was a time limit I originally set due to the pain and muscle stiffness that I’d been dealing with earlier this year. Sometimes it was a stretch to even make it that far, to tell you the truth.

Now that I’m doing better physically, I’d like to double that number at bare minimum. If it’s possible, I may even aim for a longer time period than that. I’ll let you know next month.

If you’re a fellow meditator, how is it going for you?

How Meditation Helped Me Soothe a Pulled Muscle

I woke up feeling stiff and sore one day last week. While I’m not still sure what caused it, it hurt to move my head in certain ways when I got up that morning.

A few years ago I experienced a more painful version of this injury after sleeping in an odd position, so this time I didn’t delay in following the home treatments that had worked so well back then.

It was better to treat it immediately than to do nothing wait for it to slowly get worse like it did last time.

The Cycle of Pain and Muscle Spasms

Here’s the problem with this kind of muscle strain: the pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion feed into each other in a cycle that can be tricky to break.

The pain made my muscles in my neck and shoulder tense up and spasm. This was even more true in the evening when I was tired and feeling more sore than I had when the day began.

My muscles contracting made the strain hurt even more because I didn’t have the full range of motion in that part of my body.  Positions that felt good for my muscles could be uncomfortable for my spine, and vice versa.

Not having the full range of motion in my neck and shoulder also made it difficult to truly relax. It was hard to turn my head in certain ways, for example, and sleeping in some positions was simply impossible.

Consciously trying to relax is also hard to do in this situation because I was so focused on how uncomfortable I was feeling.

The Treatment

One of the first things I did for myself after taking some over-the-counter pain relief medication was to find my microwave-actived heating pad. It’s a piece of cloth that’s filled with magical little beads. I don’t know what the beads are made of, but they warm up beautifully  and can be wrapped around any sore part of a body. I especially enjoy the gentle pressure that this heating pad provides since sitting or lying in certain positions were simply not happening for me at that point.

The medicine and heating pad were temporary fixes, though. What I really needed to do was to break the cycle of tension and pain.

That’s where meditating came in very handy. While the heating pad and medicine were doing their work of temporarily making me feel better, I opened up my meditation app and started using a session in it called “Body Scan.”

“Body Scan” is a guided meditation program that begins with asking you to focus on your breathing. After you’ve done that for a minute or two, it has you methodically relax every single part of your body beginning with your scalp and working your way down your body until even your toes have gotten some attention. If you feel any sensation in a part of your body, you’re supposed to take note of it without labelling it as good or bad.

This is a lot harder to do than you might imagine when the sensation in that area is objectively painful! It is an important part of the process, though.

I’d never thought I’d spend so much time thinking about everything from my ears to my fingers to the small of my back, but it really does work if you focus on the speaker’s voice and follow her instructions.

This wasn’t a quick fix. With that being said, it did help me to relax some tense muscles that really needed to be soothed.

Finding Relief

Time is by far the biggest healer of injuries like this, of course, but I also noticed another feedback loop developing that was much more positive than the first one.

Every time I meditated, my muscled relaxed a little more than they had in the previous session.

As they relaxed, my pain levels dropped even after I cut back or  fully stopped using medication and only relied on heating pads for relief.

As my pain levels dropped, I was able to move my head in ways that had been difficult the day before.

As my range of motion slowly improved again, my muscles spasmed less.

I have no idea how – or even if – this would work for more severe or longterm types of pain. It was a nice bit of relief for a temporary injury, though, and I was very grateful for it once I got into the habit of meditating more than once a day during he duration of this injury.

How has meditating improved your life lately?

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,… 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