Tag Archives: Weightlifting

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!

How to Get Back on Track With Healthy Habits

Just about everyone has an off day or even week every once in a while. I recently found myself started straying a little bit from my normally much healthier habits.

Let’s just say that the after-effects of a stomach bug mixed in with the long, dull, dreary days of March did not make me all that eager to eat my vegetables or do my normal workouts even after I started feeling better.

I’m now back into my regular habits after this short break, though.

No matter how long it’s been since you slipped up, you can always recommit yourself to the goals you set for yourself earlier. It’s never too late to try again.

Remind Yourself Why You Made These Lifestyle Changes

Whether you were hoping to build muscle, run faster, lift heavier weights, reduce your risk of certain diseases, or reach some other goal, it’s important to remind yourself why it is you made these changes in the first place.

If you’ve been keeping track of your progress, now would be a fantastic time to look back over your old stats to see how they’ve changed over time.

For those of you who don’t have any statistics yet on anything related to fitness and health, now is the perfect time to change that if you’re interested in keeping track of how you’re doing!

(Maybe I should write a blog post about statistics, fitness, and health at some point in the future. What do you all think?)

Plan Ahead

It’s much easier to get back into healthier habits if you put some thought into your daily routines ahead of time.

For example, this might involve making sure your gym bag is packed with clean clothes and ready to go the night before you were planning to go back to the gym, setting an alarm to remind you to meditate at a certain time each night, or running to the grocery store to stock up on healthy food before your stomach becomes as empty as your fridge is.

Will it save time? In some cases it might, but in other cases you’ll be doing the same five or ten minutes of prep work regardless of when it happens.

With that being said, the psychological benefits of not having to pause and look for a clean shirt or a specific piece of workout gear can be enormous if you’re already struggling to find the motivation to get back into your old habits. It’s so much easier to start a workout if you can jump into it right away without any delay.

Make It as Easy as Possible

Speaking of healthy eating, I’m just as big of a of planning and prepping meals and snacks ahead of time as I am of making sure that workout gear is always ready to be used.

When I get home from the grocery store, I immediately start washing and chopping the fresh vegetables I bought so that they will be ready for an instant snack the next time I’m hungry.

There’s something about having a few plastic bags or containers filled with ready-to-eat snacks that make me much more likely to actually pick them up the next time I feel hungry.

My meals are often planned in advance, although I do try to include some wiggle room in case someone invites me out for a last-minute dinner or I decide to eat a large plate full of fruit, vegetables ,and one small serving of hardboiled eggs or cold, leftover meat from a previous day instead of a traditional meat and two vegetables dinner.

The nice thing about washing produce in advance is that it makes it so easy to assemble one of these light meals when I’m hungry and at a loss for what to eat. At the most, I might need to wait twenty minutes for my eggs to be ready, and I can nibble on the rest of my dinner during that time.  If everything I want to eat that night has already been cooked or is a fruit or vegetable, I can have a full plate of food ready for me in less than five minutes.

You don’t have to eat exactly the same way I do, of course, but working with whatever your preferring eating style happens to be is going to make it much easier to make healthy choices. A fridge full of nutritious food that’s just waiting to be heated up or eaten cold is going to tilt the odds in your favour.

Take It One Day at a Time

I wish there were a quick-fix when it comes to fitness and health, but there isn’t. Any permanent changes you make to your lifestyle that you want to keep going indefinitely can only begin with the decisions you’re making today. A small shift in your daily routine might not seem that impressive a few days from now when you look in the mirror and can’t notice a single change in your body, but all of those little adjustments can lead to amazing results over a long period of time if you keep pushing forward.

I won’t mention any identifying details about them out of respect for their privacy, but I have multiple friends and acquaintances who have dramatically changed their lives for the better by slowly tweaking what they ate, how often they exercised, and what kinds of exercise they did.

This blog is never going to be the kind of site that encourages all-or-nothing thinking. Getting into better shape is a journey no matter what your current fitness level is in or how long you’ve been pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

No matter how long it’s been since you drifted away from your healthier habits, take it one day at a time. You’ll be back in your old routines before you know it!

The Cold That Stuck Around (Or Why I Haven’t Lifted Weights in Ages)

Every once in a great while, my body meets a cold virus that decides it likes living in my body and becomes reluctant to leave it. I’m talking about the kind of devotion that some people are never lucky enough to experience once in their entire lifetimes. If it didn’t involve so much coughing, I’d be much more willing to feel sorry for those poor viruses who hang around for as long as they do.

I like to blame this on the fact that I didn’t grow up in Canada as well as the fable that I therefore have yet to mingle with some of the more virulent germs floating around up here. When Canadians emigrate to the U.S., I’m sure they’re occasionally just as surprised by our fierce American germs down there. (I will now wait for my mother, who has worked in the medical field for over 20 years and has no doubt forgotten more about these things than I’ll ever know, to shake her head and laugh at the idea of Canadian vs. American viruses.)

For the past few weeks, I’ve had about as much stamina and energy as the sleeping cat in the picture on the left.

There were a few beautiful naps to be had in the early stages of The Cold That Stuck Around™, and I was grateful for every one of them.

After the sneezing, fatigue, and congestion finally began to fade away, I started thinking about weightlifting again. I miss it every single time I have to take a break from it to heal from an injury or illness.

As usual, I waited a couple of days until after my cough finally faded away before tentatively doing a light bodyweight fitness routine that I normally find pretty easy. I was otherwise  feeling well by this point, and I really wanted to get back into my normal routine before the new year.

Something tells me The Cold That Stuck Around™ was expecting this, because I began coughing at the end of that workout. It wasn’t a hacking cough, but it did bother me off and on for the rest of that day.

The next morning I was still coughing, so I took another couple of days off to rest. Yesterday, I decided to try to reach my daily step count goal without doing any weightlifting. Maybe that fairly small amount of exercise would be acceptable while I healed.

I’ll give you the amount of time it takes to read this sentence to guess how that turned out for me.

Yes, I had another coughing fit this morning. It was milder than the last one, but I clearly haven’t shaken off The Cold That Stuck Around™quite yet.

I otherwise feel perfectly healthy. It’s hard to justify the idea of not getting my normal amount of exercise in, but clearly my body isn’t quite ready for that yet.

So now here I am staring wistfully at my weights as I wonder when I’ll get to use them again. In the scheme of things, it is a very minor problem to have. I honestly shouldn’t even be complaining about it at all, but I’m going be very happy when the-virus-that-shall-not-be-named finally wanders away for good and I’m no longer coughing at all. There are many things in life I can be perfectly patient about,  but this isn’t one of them.

I hope that all of your fitness routines are going much more smoothly!

6 Ways to Stay Active While Travelling

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! If any of my readers will be travelling anywhere soon, I hope you have a safe journey.

One of the tricky parts of travelling is figuring out how to adapt your daily routine to all of the new experiences that come with visiting another place.

Between spending hours in airport or bus terminals while waiting for the next leg of the trip to begin and adjusting to a new climate, culture, or time zone, it can be challenging to stick to a fitness routine.

This post is going to talk about how to squeeze activity into whatever kind of trip you may have planned for the future.

Take Advantage of Dead Time

A year and a half ago, my spouse and I travelled to California for a beach vacation and extended family reunion. We couldn’t get a nonstop flight to our destination, so we ended up needing to book a layover. Our first flight took off first thing in the morning, and the second one wasn’t scheduled until the evening. What this meant was that we had several hours of dead time in the middle of the day while waiting for our connecting flight.

It wasn’t enough time to go out and explore the city where our first plane landed, so I walked laps in the airport instead. It wasn’t a challenging workout by any means, but it did allow me to stretch my legs and increase my step count while waiting for the next stage in our journey to begin.

Walking around can also be a more interesting way to pass the time than sitting for hours in the waiting room before you sit for even longer while on the train or bus.

Use the Hotel Gym or Pool

Checking out the hotel gym is a fantastic way to try out new equipment. You might discover that you like running on treadmills or that you prefer free weights to using a cable bicep bar. Alternatively, you might love gym machines and not find treadmills helpful at all. The only way to know is to try them out for yourself.

To give another example of why you should take advantage of these amenities, I love to go swimming. If my apartment building had a pool, I’d practically be a mermaid. You’d better believe that I spend as much time as I can swimming whenever my spouse and I stay somewhere that has one.  I’m not a huge fan of travelling in general, but this is definitely one of the perks of it.

Practice Body Weight Exercises

Body weight exercises don’t require any special equipment. Most of them are easy to memorize, and they can be done in your hotel room or in another small space as well. Due to all three of these benefits, I can’t recommend them highly enough if you’re looking to include some strength training sessions in your routine while you’re away from home.

Some of the exercises in the link above are already part of my strength training routine. The next time I go somewhere far from home, I’m looking forward to creating a hotel-friendly workout that can be done using only my own body as resistance.

Pick Active Entertainment

You don’t have to go to the gym to improve your fitness. There are so many other ways to exercise, and many of them can be valuable forms of entertainment in and of themselves.

Several years ago, I went hiking with my youngest brother and some other relatives while on a family vacation. He was a much more experienced hiker than I was, so we picked one of the easier trails and started walking.

There were many things I loved about that trip, but that hike remains one of my favourite memories from that time period. It had been ages since I’d been surrounded by mountains, and even longer since I’d hiked around in them.

We noticed a few subtle signs of the animals who lived there, from holes in the ground where snakes lived to the sound of birds singing in the bushes. While we weren’t actually that far away from the road, I was slightly surprised by how quiet the world is when you can’t hear any cars driving by or people having conversations just out of earshot. It was an incredibly peaceful experience.

Spending time with my brother was also a blast that day. We’re two of the quietest people in the family, so I relished the chance to listen to whatever he had to say while we hiked.

Playing Counts, Too

One of the things I like the most about visiting my other brother and his family is all of the playtime that happens with them. It’s not limited to the kids, either!

From playing catch with my oldest nephew to going swimming with everyone, we found so many active ways to spend time together that I didn’t bother doing a formal workout on those days.

Running around with them was all the exercise any of us needed. Now that my nephew is a proud big brother, our family reunions are only going to be more active and playful in the future.

Do the Best You Can

I’m going to be completely honest with you here. My workouts vary quite a bit when I’m travelling, and I don’t always meet my fitness goals. Some days could be full of more activity than I’d typically do back home, but others are more sedentary due to the kinds of activities the extended family chose for that particular day.

Vacations are a time to relax in whatever way you see fit. Don’t worry if working out doesn’t fit into your plans for a particularly busy day. Missing one session isn’t going to matter in the long run, especially if that short time away energizes you. I know I miss my workouts when I’m not able to squeeze them in. The longer I go without them, the stronger my urge becomes to get back into old, familiar routines again.

What I Love About Weightlifting

Last Thursday I blogged about the parts of weighlifting that I hate.

Now it’s time to dig into all of the reasons why I love this form of exercise. Today’s post will be longer than the one that was published here last week because there are far more things I enjoy about bodybuilding than there are things I don’t.

If I had known how much I was going to enjoy it, I would have started doing it much sooner in life!

Growing Stronger

I know I’ve mention this several times before in previous posts, but it is incredible to see how much easier all kinds of tasks are when you’re physically capable of lifting heavier loads.

The first time I noticed I was growing stronger happened when my groceries began to feel lighter. Since I don’t own a car, I need to carry home everything I buy. There was a time a few years ago when I had to plan ahead for shopping trips that involved buying a few litres of milk, canned goods, and other items that weren’t light.

Often I would break this errand up into two trips to make it easier on me. If I had several heavy items on my list that had to be purchased immediately, sometimes I’d also need to pause and rest for a minute before picking up my load again.

I slowly became capable of bigger loads over longer distances, though, and now I rarely think about what I’m putting in my shopping cart as far as its weight goes. Unless I’m sick or injured, I can carry home just about any combination of ingredients I might need for my small household.

This spilled over into other ordinary parts of daily life, too, like bringing a bottle of detergent and a large hamper full of a few loads of dirty clothing and from the laundry room. I was always able to lift that stuff, but it definitely feels lighter than it used to.

Having More Energy

When I began working on this post this past weekend, I’d just arrived home from a long, brisk walk outdoors that lasted about an hour. The weather has finally grown cooler here in Toronto, and I was soaking up every bit of mild air I could before I jumped into writing.

There were many things I was hoping would happen when I first began lifting weights, but having more energy wasn’t one of them. In fact, I didn’t think about it much at all back then.

It wasn’t until I began to feel more energetic that I realized how much my life was changing for the better. I was never so tired that I thought something might be medically wrong with me. This was a mild symptom of my fairly inactive lifestyle back then that I didn’t really notice until it began to fade away.

It simply never occurred to me that I could get a burst of energy from exercising or that someday I wouldn’t be so sleepy every night before bed or after a long, brisk walk.

Sleeping Better

Speaking of sleep, it is much easier for me to lie down and get a good night’s rest when I’m in my regular routine of lifting weights.

Exercise in general does wonders for my ability to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night, but weightlifting in particular has had a positive impact on how I feel every night when I go to bed and every morning when I wake up again.

I have no idea why or how this works, but I notice a reduction in the quality of my sleep every time I have to temporarily take a break from lifting weights due to illness or injury. It always feels great to get back into my regular routine and then begin falling asleep quickly at night as a result of that.

Losing Inches

While weight loss was one of my original goals when I first began working out again, I didn’t realize how much my body would begin to change as a result of lifting weights in ways that had nothing to do with how much I weighed.

This is another one of those situations where I wish I’d snapped pictures, taken measurements, and otherwise kept a closer eye on where I started out and what I look like today.

I didn’t need those measurements to start noticing a difference in the way my clothing fit, though. Pants that had been a little tight in the past suddenly began to feel looser even during times when my weight itself wasn’t changing at all. The same thing happened to a few other articles of clothing as well.

A pound of muscle is much denser than a pound of fat. Over time even small changes in what percentage you have of each can lead to big changes in how you look and feel.

As my body fat percentage slowly began to drop, I started to look and feel better in clothing I’d owned for ages.

The interesting thing about this is how my goals have shifted over time. The fitter I become, the bigger my goals become for the future. I rarely think about how much I weigh anymore. There are far more interesting goals to pursue these days.

Reducing the Risks of Certain Diseases

I’m going to be honest with you here. This wasn’t something I thought a lot of about when I first began lifting weights. It’s a benefit that I only realized was happening after I’d gotten into the habit of including this form of exercise in my regular routine and began reading about the benefits of staying active in general.

With that being said, I do have relatives who were diagnosed with certain diseases that have been shown to happen less often among people who lift weights and otherwise exercise regularly. There are no guarantees in life, but I’m glad that I’m helping to reduce my risk of developing these diseases.

Nobody can choose what genetic risk factors they were born with, but you can control many other risk factors like diet, alcohol consumption, and exercise.

Seeing What My Body Is Capable Of

I was never one of those kids who excelled at or looked forward to gym class. The schools I attended focused very heavily on team sports for physical education. While that may have been motivating for students who enjoyed and were good at basketball, football, or volleyball, I sure wasn’t one of them.

One of the best parts of becoming an adult has been gaining the freedom to explore many different types of exercise and discovering what actually appeals to me. It has been especially interesting to see what my body is capable of as far as weightlifting goes.

I never would have imagined that I’d love lifting weights or that I’d become as strong as I have. There are so many goals I still want to accomplish, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ll be able to do next.

If you haven’t begun lifting weights yet, I can’t encourage you enough to give it a try. It is such a fantastic way to get into better shape and, as I hope this post has showed you, the benefits of it can affect so many different parts of your life.

5 Fitness Rules You Should Break

One of the most interesting things about fitness culture is how many different rules there are about what you are and are not supposed to do in order to get healthier. I’ve learned so much about the art of staying fit by listening to what other ordinary people find helpful. There is a lot of fantastic information… Read More