Category Archives: Exercise

How I’m Handling My Summer Fitness Slump

I’ve trimmed down everything I wanted to say on today’s post into something that’s shorter than usual. As I’ve said before, I’d much rather stop writing when I run out of content than stretch out my points to fill a predetermined number of words.

This is an interesting time of the year in Toronto. After the generally mild temperatures of April through June, the thermostat and humidity shoot up quickly as June begins to transition into July. Summer might have technically arrived a few weeks ago, but it doesn’t really feel like it until the first heat wave hits.

As someone who doesn’t enjoy heat and humidity, I’ve been struggling to stick to my regular exercise routines this summer. There have been many mornings now when I’ve woken up only to find the temperatures are already in the high 20s Celsius (roughly 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and quickly rising.

I consider myself very lucky to have home air conditioning. When the temperatures and humidity climb so high that our air conditioner can no longer keep up with the demands placed on it, though, it can be tricky to stay motivated to continue exercising. If I’m going to be uncomfortably warm while sitting perfectly still, the last thing I want to do is start doing anything that will make me feel even hotter.

I’m going to be honest with you all here. On those days, the only kind of exercise that’s going on for me is walking. No, it’s not speed walking, either. Sometimes it’s downright slow if the air is extra muggy.

One of the things that irritated me the most about exercising in gym class when I was a kid was our inability to scale activities up or down depending on how we were feeling that day.

Granted, that wouldn’t be an easy thing to do at all while keeping a few dozen kids safe and on track, and I do understand why it isn’t possible to individualize lesson plans for such a large group. Being forced to run outside on uncomfortably warm days did discourage me from seeking out other forms of exercise when I was growing up, though, and I think I’ll always be a little resistant to the idea of doing the same exact workout every time no matter what the weather feels like.

Every Effort Counts

Ultimately, I’ve decided that every effort counts no matter how small it may be. I think it’s better to lift weights for five or ten minutes than not touch them at all, and I’d rather take a walk that was slower than normal than remain seated all evening if it’s too hot to exercise as much as I do when the air outside doesn’t feel like it’s coming from an oven.

Being physically active isn’t an all-or-nothing thing to me. There are definitely days when I push myself to try an entirely new workout routine or go for that extra set of reps before putting my free weights away.

With that being said, there are also occasionally times when I count it as a win if I do anything remotely active at all. I don’t believe that a day or a week of light effort is going to unravel all of the hard work I’ve put into getting back into shape. If anything, it makes me miss my usual routines and hope that the weather changes soon so I can go back to my regular workouts without drowning in perspiration.

How do you stay fit during the summer? What is the weather like where you live right now?

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Why Walking in the Rain Is Underrated

No, this post isn’t a reference to any of the old, classic songs about walking in the rain. I actually hadn’t heard of Johnnie Ray or The Walker Brothers before I googled the title of my post to see what others were saying about the idea of taking a walk on a rainy day.

This past weekend saw Toronto celebrating the end of Pride month with a street festival and series of parades for the LGBT+ community.

The weather at the end of June can be unpredictable here. Usually, it’s hot and sunny during Pride Weekend, but every so often it’s rainy and cool for the festivities. This was one of those years when some people wore light jackets to stay warm and I’d wager that nobody ended up with a sunburn.

Streets that are normally packed with so many people you can barely step a foot in any direction while Pride events are going on were actually half-empty this past weekend. I could walk up and down the street without accidentally being jostled into anyone, and this was even more true once it began raining harder than it had been earlier in the day.

As I wandered around looking at the various booths, I realized just how much I like walking in the rain for a few different reasons.

Moving Slowly, Paying Attention

Cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians generally all slow down when it rains. While Toronto’s streets are looked after pretty well in most cases, rain can make even the nicest street unexpectedly slippery if there’s been a motor oil spill or if it’s precipitating heavily.

My city is normally such a busy, bustling place that I relish it when we all get the opportunity to move a little slower and notice things on a street that I might not have picked up on before. There is something satisfying about exercising your body and mind at the same time through walking and paying closer attention to your surroundings than the average person might on a warmer and drier day.

For example, the sides of certain buildings in Toronto are decorated with massive murals or other works of art. Some of it was either  high-quality graffiti or was specially designed to look like that style of art. Other paintings were probably officially commissioned by the city due to how long they’ve been around and how visible they are from the street.

No matter how long I live here, I continue to be occasionally surprised by the pockets of art that can be found in the most unexpected places. It makes me smile to notice something new while out on a long walk.

It’s Quiet and Peaceful

Rain seems to chase people away from the outdoors more than almost any other type of weather. I understand the desire to stay indoors during a violent thunderstorm, but I’m sometimes surprised by how even a light sprinkling of rain is enough to keep many folks from enjoying a park, Pride festival, or other outdoor activity.

The streets are so much quieter when it’s raining. Areas that are generally quite busy on a clear day are much less crowded on a rainy one. I’ve noticed that the ordinary sounds of city life – from a door slamming to the distant sound of someone loudly listening to their favourite music without headphones – seem to be muted as well.

There is something incredibly peaceful about walking around in such a quiet environment. I don’t normally notice the background sounds of city life unless something incredibly unexpected and loud happens, but it’s refreshing to see just how quiet an area can be when there are fewer people milling around and when sounds seem to carry for shorter distances.

The World Looks Different on a Rainy Day

This might be the fiction writer in me peeking out here, but I’ve long thought that the world looks different from normal when it’s raining outside.

The colour of a building often darkens when its wet. I’ve noticed this the most with structures made from wood, stone, or other natural materials. To make this even more interesting, I’m not the sort of person who typically pays a lot of attention to architecture or design. It’s only when a house or building has had it’s exterior changed in some way that I’ll be more apt to stop, pause, and pay attention to the way it was put together and how it looks different when it’s wet.

Clouds change the way an area looks as well. For example, a thick enough patch of fog can appear to erase buildings entirely. There have been times when I’ve looked out the window and been unable to see what was on the other side of the street due to how foggy it was here in Ontario. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve no doubt seen an occasional reference to this from me. It makes me smile every time it happens.

There’s something a little magical about walking down the street and not being able to see the top of a skyscraper or tree. If the kind of magic that exists in Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings were to suddenly appear in our world, I’d like to think it’s first act would be to play around with what us humans can and cannot see when we’re outside exercising on an overcast day.

Even if you stick to what is currently possible in this world, it’s still cool to notice all of the changes in an area when rain, clouds, fog, and other natural weather phenomena change what we can see, how far we can see, and even how quickly we move.

How do you feel about walking in the rain?

 

 

What Are the Best Forms of Exercise for People Who Dislike Sports?

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve never been into team sports. My interest in fitness didn’t develop until adulthood because all of the physical education classes I took in school were almost exclusively focused on basketball, football, volleyball, kickball, and baseball.

Since I wasn’t an athletic or coordinated kid by any stretch of the imagination, gym class wasn’t a useful or fun experience for me. Every year we played the same sports, and every year I reconfirmed my lifelong disinterest in those forms of exercise.

I’m not going to make assumptions about why – or even if –  anyone who reads this might also dislike sports, but my reasons for feeling that way could be summed up as such:

  1. Competition does nothing to encourage me to run faster or play harder. In fact, it has the exact opposite effect on me.
  2. As someone who didn’t (and honestly still doesn’t) have great eye-hand coordination, I was injured in gym class often enough that I began to negatively associate exercise with the pain I experienced every time I got hurt even though those injuries were always pretty mild.
  3. Sports, and especially team sports, are mind-numbingly boring to me. No offence to anyone who enjoys them, but I’d seriously rather watch paint dry.

One of the nicest parts of graduating college and becoming a full-fledged adult was realizing that I’d never again have to play any type of sport or participate in other athletic competitions.

Luckily, neither of these things are required in order to stay in shape. There are many cooperative and/or solo forms of exercise out there that I won’t be able to cover all of them in this post. What I am hoping to do is give a nice overview of things someone can try if they want to improve their fitness but have no interest at all in individual or team sports of any kind.

I’ve decided to split this list into two categories. The first one can be done without the need to buy, borrow, or otherwise gain access to any special equipment other than the clothing you might need to wear during it.

The items in the second one do require some sort of equipment.

No Equipment Needed

  • Walking (without or without a dog or other furry companion).
  • Jogging
  • Walking or running up stairs
  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Martial arts
  • Parkour
  • Housework (scrubbing the floors or tub, etc).
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Arm wrestling

Equipment Needed

  • Swimming
  • Horseback riding
  • Obstacle courses
  • Skateboarding
  • Weightlifting
  • Gymnastics
  • Rowing
  • Roller blading
  • Geocaching 
  • Gardening and other yard work.
  • Hula hooping
  • Canoing
  • Skipping rope
  • Trampolining
  • Orienteering 
  • Freeze tag and other active childhood games
  • Laser tag
  • Rock climbing
  • LARPing

Ultimately, the “best” options will vary from one person to the next based on your interests and current level of physical fitness, of course, but I think these lists are a great place to start. I know I’m curious to try geocaching and Tai Chi one of these days. LARPing sounds like it might be interesting, too.

Respond

Are you a competitive person? What forms of exercise do you prefer to do? What does your current workout routine look like?

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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!

My First Outdoor Walk This Spring

My first outdoor walk this spring happened this past weekend. Since it isn’t possible to magically transport one’s readers to Toronto to experience this for themselves for half an hour, I’ll tell you exactly what it was like. The wind had a slight cold snap to it, and I shuddered a little bit every time… Read More

Why You Should Take a Minimalist Approach to Replacing Workout Gear

Consumerism is one of the biggest reasons why I’m so selective about which health and fitness sites and social media accounts I follow online. Many of these sites are filled with pictures of people exercising with colour-coordinated outfits and gear. These photos are pretty to look at, but that approach to fitness is also completely… Read More