Category Archives: Exercise

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 different from the way I do it.

This is how my reasoning on the topic goes. If it isn’t missing, broken beyond repair, or otherwise in genuine need of a replacement, why bother matching anything? That doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

Exercise isn’t about looking attractive while you’re working out.  It’s about taking care of yourself and hopefully reducing your risks of many common diseases in the years to come.

Therefore, I replace my gear as it wears out or as I find myself growing strong enough to need, say, a heavier set of hand weights.

It Saves Money and Time

The average store is designed to be as enticing as possible, an this is even more true for stores that are part of a chain or that are run by people who have a lot of experience in marketing . Everything from the background music to the lighting to how the products for sale are displayed is carefully calibrated to squeeze as much money out of the customer base as is possible.

Even people like me who deeply dislike shopping can be swayed by this kind of marketing. While not every impulse purchase is going to turn out to be something that you regret making, you can avoid spending more than you intended to in the first place by only shopping when you genuinely need something and by condensing your trips as much as possible.

Shopping also sucks up a lot of time because it was designed to work that way. There are many stores out there that routinely change where they keep specific items in order to get their customers to look around for a while before they find what they needed. Hopefully, their thinking goes, you’ll find something interesting that you weren’t planning to purchase and add it to your cart while you’re trying to find that one thing you were actually planning to buy.

The best way to win this game is to avoid playing it in the first place.

It Demonstrates Why Quality Is More Important Than Quality

One of the other biggest reasons why I don’t replace my exercise gear regularly is that I do my best to pick the highest quality items I can afford the first time I buy them.

For example, there is a store in my neighbourhood that often has sports bras on sale for $10 or $15. Will they work okay in the short term? Yes, they’d be fine as a short-term solution. With that being said, they’re made of incredibly flimsy material. If I bought one of them it would almost certainly wear out and need to be replaced in six months.

The sports bra I ended up buying three or four years ago cost about $60. It’s barely shown any wear since then, though, and I expect to get several more years of use out of it before I need to begin thinking about replacing it.

Let’s be generous and assume that all of those inexpensive sports bras lasted a full six months each. After ten years, I will have spent between $200 and $300 on them.That doesn’t include the time needed to repair them or to replace them when they finally fell apart.

In the same time frame, I would have spent $120 on the more durable bras. I would have only needed to gone shopping for one replacement in that decade, and I probably wouldn’t have had to spend any time repairing ripped seams or other issues in the meantime.

It’s Environmentally Friendly

Photo credit: Nadine3103.

Buying inexpensive gear doesn’t only hurt your bottom line over the longterm, it also hurts the environment. Reusing and recycling are important steps in the process, but reducing what you consume in the first place is even better.

Why throw away ten used sports bras over a decade if you can toss out one instead? This might not seem like a huge deal when you’re looking at the purchasing decisions of one single person, but it has a dramatic effect on how well our renewable and non-renewable resources are managed when you look at the decisions made by a large group of people.

Every little bit helps.

Incidentally, I am in no way intending to embarrass anyone who can’t afford to pay more upfront in order to save money and renewable resources in the future. Shopping at secondhand stores or swapping with a friend are both excellent ways to cut down on the expense of exercise gear and help the environment at the same time. Do what you can when you can, and don’t worry about the rest if your finances are tight.

It Encourages Problem Solving

Not every problem needs to be or should be solved with money.

When I get the urge to buy something that isn’t a basic necessity like food, I sit with that urge for a while and take note of how often I wish I had bought it.

For example, several years ago I found this plastic reusable water container that could be folded up and put into your pocket when it’s empty. It was nifty.

I came very close to buying it that day, but I decided to keep track of my thoughts about it as I was out and about over the next several months to see how regularly I might have used it.

How often did I wish I had a water bottle when there were no drinking fountains nearby? Well, it turned out that this mostly happened on hot, humid summer days. I can only think of a handful of situations when that device would have been handy to have because of how much I avoid spending a lot of time outdoors during a heat wave. Becoming more familiar with where all of the water fountains near my neighbourhood were located solved 80% of my problem, and always drinking a big glass of water before heading out on those days solved the other 20%.

If I were someone who spent a lot of time far away from public drinking fountains or other sources of free water in the summer, my answer to this question would have been completely different. Due to my current habits, this isn’t a worthwhile purchase for me for the time being. I am keeping that bottle tucked away in the back of my mind if this ever changes, though. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

I would have eventually figured this out if I bought it on a whim, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to learn that lesson that way.

Respond

How often do you replace your workout equipment and clothes? How much, if at all, does it matter to you that they all match? What’s your philosophy on this topic in general?

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!

Should You Exercise Outdoors in March?

If you live in a part of the world where March and the winter season in general isn’t cold, icy, and snowy, this post may not be helpful for you. (Also, I am a little jealous of your tropical or temperate environments at the moment!)

For everyone else, keep reading. I have some questions for you.

Is it a smart idea to exercise outdoors at this time of the year?

What should fitness enthusiasts keep in mind about working out in slippery conditions and when the weather patterns are shifting rapidly as the season changes from winter to spring?

Let’s dig into these questions as well as other some points that everyone should ponder before deciding whether or not exercising outdoors between the months of December and March is a good decision for them.

Your Gear

The right gear makes all the difference in the world when it’s raining one minute, snowing the next, and everything could and probably will freeze into a slippery mess overnight.

Do your shoes have a strong grip?

How warm is your coat?

Does it rain often enough in your community that waterproof gear is recommended?

How easy would it be for you to add or remove layers of clothing during your workout?

Will any of your sports equipment be damaged if it’s regularly exposed to snow, ice, rain, or freezing temperatures?

One of the many reasons why I don’t exercise outdoors during the winter has to do with the type of gear I have. It’s perfect for the other three seasons, but it doesn’t work so well when the ground is covered in snow or ice and with the windchill it feels like -20C outside.

Sure, I could buy shoes and outerwear that’s suited for these conditions, but this isn’t something I’m prioritizing. Indoor workouts suit me just fine for the time being. When my current gear wears out, I’ll revisit this topic then.

Your Current Health and Fitness Levels

I didn’t want this post to make any assumptions about the health and fitness levels of the people reading this post. Several of my friends are living with chronic physical health problems that limit what they’re able to do when they exercise no matter where they are or what season it is. This is even more true for them when there’s an increased danger of slipping on icy surfaces or tripping over piles of snow.

Even as someone who is able-bodied and in pretty good shape overall, I’m still extra cautious on slippery paths due to how many times I’ve sprained my ankles and wrists in the past. My body is strangely good at injuring itself in that way, so I try to avoid hurting myself yet again when I’m outside and the ground is slick.

Your Goals

The kinds of questions you’ll need to ask yourself for this section are going to vary quite a bit based on your interests and current physical abilities. So much depends on what kinds of exercise you’re doing and how much progress you’re hoping to make while the season changes from winter to spring.

All of the types of exercise I do can easily be done indoors, and many of them honestly work much better under those conditions given the part of the world I live in. For example, weightlifting outdoors on a snowy or rainy day honestly isn’t something I ever want to try!

In no way are my fitness goals hampered by indoor workouts. If anything, July and August is the time of the year when I tend to slack off a little in this department due to how muggy it is then and how much I dislike working up a sweat when the hot weather already has me perspiring.

This isn’t true for every sport, activity, or goal, though.

Your Neighbourhood

There are certain practical questions that should be asked before deciding whether exercising outdoors is a smart decision in the area where you live.

How often and how well are the roads shovelled and salted in your community? If you’re a cyclist, how safe would it be for you to ride on them after a big storm?

If there are sidewalks in your neighbourhood, how often and how well are they shovelled and salted? Is there truly enough space for joggers and pedestrians alike there?

Imagine you fell and broke a bone or sprained an ankle while working out. How long would it be before someone noticed that you needed assistance and came to help you?

What have you seen other fitness enthusiasts doing? If other people are exercising outdoors at this time of the year, that’s a good sign.

The sidewalks where I live are sometimes half-covered by mounds of snow that were ploughed off of the road.  At other times our sidewalks do have plenty of space on them to accommodate everyone, but after big storms there really is only enough room for a single-file line of walkers going each direction.

There are people here in Toronto who go out for a jog at all times of the year, but they’re pretty selective about where they go for their runs. I see many more of them once all of the ice has melted away for the year.

Your Personal Preferences

As you may have already guessed, this is something that ultimately boils down to personal preference once all of the practical and safety considerations have been taken into account.

I’m not someone who finds outdoor exercise all that enjoyable, so I’d much rather wait until spring has officially arrived and the sidewalks are free of ankle-spraining debris before I change how and where I workout.

Of course, your mileage may vary. If you love exercising outside, good for you! Come tell me why and how it works for you in the comment section of this post.

6 Things I Wish My Gym Teachers Had Done Differently

The other day I had a conversation with some  friends online about our experiences in gym class when we were growing up. Most of us disliked that class quite a bit growing up, and none of us came away from it with positive feelings about sports or exercise in general.

There were many different reasons for those reactions, but the biggest ones had to do with our  complete disinterest in sports and lack of athletic prowess in general.

This is a real shame. Physical Education teachers have a golden opportunity to show students how to stay fit regardless of how coordinated or athletic they might be. I empathize with how difficult it must be to get kids interested in gym class if they show up already expecting to hate it, but I’d also argue that there are a lot of changes that could be made to the way P.E. classes are run that will make them far more appealing to kids who aren’t athletic and who don’t think of exercise as a fun activity.

Today I’ll be sharing those recommendations. If there are any gym teachers reading this blog, I’d be quite interested in hearing your response to this post. These are the six things that I wish my gym teachers had done differently when I was in their classes.

Explained Why It’s Important to Exercise

My English teachers regularly explained why it was important to know how to write a grammatical sentence or be familiar with certain authors. They used examples like writing a formal letter or understanding certain literary references that the vast majority of adults know.

My math teachers told us how equations helped you save money or solve problems as an adult. They used examples like figuring out how much a sale item will cost after the 30% discount or calculating how many gallons of paint to buy when you repaint your living room.

None of my gym teachers ever made the connection between what they taught in class and what we’d need to know in order to function well as adults. We played endless rounds of basketball, football, volleyball, and other sports without hearing a single word about how exercise strengthens your heart, builds your muscles, burns calories, or reduces your risks of many different diseases.

It was like being given an equation that didn’t make sense and then never being told what the real answer should have been.

Because I said so isn’t a persuasive or helpful response in these scenarios. Kids, and especially teenagers, are smart enough to be told why they’re being expected to do something. It might be a while before they come to fully appreciate these lessons, but I think that explaining the reasons for gym class would go a long way to encouraging reluctant students to change their habits.

Taught Us the Proper Form

I wasn’t the most coordinated kid in the world, so I’m definitely not going to lay all of the blame on the  injuries I regularly received in gym class on the teachers.

There were multiple times when I sprained fingers or got bruised up in gym class.

Yes, some of them were true accidents that could have happened to any child.

With that being said, I do think I would have been injured much less often if we’d all been taught the proper posture for the sports we were playing and if someone had corrected my posture if it still wasn’t right.

This never happened once in all of my years of attending public school. As an adult, I sympathize with my teachers for being responsible for the physical education of so many kids. I don’t think we should expect perfection from teachers in this area, but I do think they should have the support and resources to prevent as many injuries as possible.

Eliminated Dodgeball and Picking Teams

Dodgeball is the only sport I can think of where the purpose of it is to throw balls at people and purposefully hit them. I don’t know about you, but I remember feeling pain when those dodgeballs smacked me. This was not a pleasant experience in any way.

It’s one thing if a small group of friends decide to play this game at recess, but school isn’t an appropriate place to make kids to throw objects at each other.

If it happened in any other context, the kid who threw the object would be sent to the principal’s office and possibly even suspended or expelled for assault.

Picking teams is unnecessary, ripe for bullying behaviours, and a waste of time. It would be so much faster to divide the students by preassigning groups or having them count off (e.g. 1 through 4) so they could quickly be divided into four equal sections.

Spent 1/3 of the School Year on Non-Competitive Sports

Yes, I know that many schools have limited budgets for their physical education departments and therefore can only offer certain types of workouts to their students.

The schools I attended didn’t have anything fancy like swimming pools or tennis courts. We had gyms that always smell faintly of perspiration, plenty of old sports equipment, and far more wrestling mats than we knew what to do with.

With that being said, there are plenty of inexpensive and even free types of exercise out there that don’t require any competition at all.

For example, there would be little to no equipment needed at all for a P.E. teacher to teach martial arts or several different units on various types of dancing. The music for the dance classes could be piped in over the loudspeakers or played on an old boombox. Many types of martial arts don’t require any equipment at all.

Spent 1/3 of the School Year on Individual Sports

One of the reasons why I hated gym class so much growing up is that 95% of the units we did were team sports.

Basketball, volleyball, baseball, football, and hockey might be good workouts, but they didn’t appeal to me in the least. The more I played them, the less open I became to exercising at all.

While I do think it was a good idea to expose kids to team sports, I’d also argue that it’s just as important to show students the many ways they can work out that have nothing at all to do with competition or teams.

There are so many other ways to strengthen your heart and body that could easily be taught to students depending on their ages and what types of equipment are already available at the school: yoga, weightlifting, jogging, bodyweight exercises, and gymnastics to name a few.

The final third of the year could be dedicated to various team sports. Some kids honestly do enjoy those forms of exercise, so I’d be fine with keeping them as a small part of the curriculum.

Occasionally Given the Students a Say

This is by far the biggest change I’d recommend making to the way physical education classes are currently run.

My high school Spanish class was allowed to vote on which pre-approved Disney movie we wanted to watch after we’d studied that language for a while and were reading to start practicing our listening skills in real time.

One of my elementary school teachers regularly let us vote on which pre-approved book to read as a class next. This would be a little trickier to do in high school since certain authors are often required to be taught, but I could see a secondary English teacher narrowing down the choices to two or three Shakespeare plays and then seeing which one their class was most interested in studying over the next month.

Being able to have a say in those classes made me much more interested in reading those books and watching those movies.

There’s no reason why gym teachers can’t offer their students the same choice. Why not let them decide whether they’ll spend the next few weeks playing basketball or learning how to square dance? They’ll be exercising either way, and the fact that the teacher listened to them will mean a lot.

What were your experiences with gym class growing up? What could your P.E. teacher have done differently to get you more involved in that class?

What I Missed the Most About Working Out

Its’s been a long time since my last workout thanks to a stubborn cold I caught weeks ago that only now seems to have faded away for good.

There are many other things in this world I can sit patiently through:  obscure jokes I don’t understand; long lines at Service Canada when I need to update my identification cards; medical tests that require you to remain perfectly still for a certain amount of time; an animal or small child who insists on following the same routine over and over again.

With that being said, I never enjoy being sidelined by an injury or illness that requires me to stop exercising for a while. I’ve been feeling restless this past week as my cough faded away and I slowly healed. It’s hard to stay sedentary during this part of the healing process because of how many different things I miss about my regular workouts when I’m not able to do them.

Today I thought it would be interesting to talk about the three parts of exercising that I miss the most now that I’m poised to finally get back into my regular routines.

Better Sleep

I fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly when I get some form of exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous  workout either. Even something as simple as a thirty-minute walk has a positive effect on how I sleep that night.

Some of my sleeping issues over the past few weeks were definitely related to being ill and would have happened regardless of what else was going on in my life. It’s impossible to sleep through a sneezing or coughing fit, and I slept better once most of these symptoms had gone away.

With that being said, I’m going to sleep even better now that I’m getting back into my normal routine.

A Sense of Accomplishment

There’s an app on my smart watch that gives me regular updates on my fitness and activity goals for the day. When I’m not sick or injured, I make those goals so reliably that I can pinpoint exactly when I’ve been under the weather in the past based on when my stats dip below my goals for those particular days or weeks.

My app gives me friendly notifications when I reach a goal or when I’m close to reaching a specific goal for the day. Seeing those updates not only makes me happy, it gives me a small sense of accomplishment as well. It’s easy to discount all of the other things I accomplish every day as a writer and volunteer because of how abstract many of those goals are, so it’s nice to occasionally be reminded of something I’ve done in a more concrete manner.

A Reason to Watch TV Shows

I’ve spent so much time exercising while watching TV shows over the past several years that it now feels incredibly strange to me to sit or lie down quietly while watching them.

Yes, I watched a few shows every day while I was getting better, but I found it a little more difficult to pay attention to their plots while my body was so still. The healthier I began to feel, the more restless I felt as well. I had the urge go run around outside in the freezing Ontario weather, not lie quietly and watch another episode.

It’s going to be so nice to at least be able to move again while I’m watching TV shows this winter!

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