All posts by andreaexerciseblog

Andrea is an fitness instructor, registered physiotherapist, a blogger and vlogger with a goal of motivating everyone to be physically active in their daily life.

Exercise evolution update and VO2 testing

Here is my most recent exercise evolution update and VO2 testing. I haven’t tested myself for many years and I was curious to see if my exercise evolution to date has been sufficient to maintain my cardiovascular fitness.

In short, VO2 is a measure of your cardiovascular fitness. The better your VO2, the more physical activity you can do on any given day, and in terms of longevity, the more you move now will have a significant impact on what you can do as the years progress. 

I assessed my VO2 because I do not do a lot of extended “cardio” sessions. As you will see, my “cardio” efforts are not at a high level, but instead a multitude of moderate physical activities and modest durations. In addition, given my age, there is an anticipated decline every decade in your aerobic capacity starting in your 30’s or 40’s. I plan to be a “mover” for the rest of my life, so having a good aerobic capacity is essential in maintaining an active lifestyle.

The CSEP 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for adults 18 to 64 years, and adults 65+ include the following recommendations when it comes to physical activity:
  • Moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activities such that there is an accumulation of at least 150 minutes per week 
  • Muscle strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least twice a week
  • Several hours of light physical activities, including standing
  • For adults 65+ it was recommended to include balance activities
Here is my exercise evolution update

I have included updated values on time spent at a moderate intensity on a weekly basis (MT) in each activity. Want know what moderate intensity is? See my next blog here for further details on how it was calculated.

Daily walks: 25 minutes each, 8-10 times/week. I am probably moving at a light to moderate pace……no, not really. When tested, I do not reach moderate intensity levels. MT=0

Treadmill jogging: 1 mile @ 5.3 mph 3-4 times/week. MT=40

Hip and knee strengthening plus stretching, abs: 20 minutes 2-3 times/week. Moderate level 12 minutes x 3. MT=36

Essentrics: group exercise class (instructor) one hour 2 times/week: Moderate level 30% of the time MT=40

HIIT style online class: Once weekly moderate level 20 out of 60 minutes. MT=20

Stairs: 3 flights up/down at least once daily(30 sec each). MT=0

Standing: I stand frequently. Sitting much more that an hour at a time gets me fidgeting.

Total time weekly at moderate level or more=136.

I am a little embarrassed in that when I originally wrote this, I estimated 311 minutes/week. I was way off. But good to keep it real and know where there is room for improvement.

VO2 testing and results

I used the Modified Canadian Aerobic Fitness Test (mCAFT). It involves stepping up and down 2 steps(and sometimes one large step if you make it to the final stage), at progressively faster cadences. You calculate your heart rate max and then work through the progressive stages until you reach 85% of your maximum heart rate. Each stage is associated with an oxygen cost. Based on the stage you reach for your age group, you take the oxygen cost and input that into an equation that will give you your aerobic capacity result (VO2).

Well, I did well. I did not make it to the final stage. My perceived exertion by the end was approximately 17 out of 20. Part of the protocol is to check your blood pressure during recovery, which gratefully was better than expected.

So my result was 45 ml/kg-1/min-1 . My health benefit rating was excellent for my age range(50-59) and could be found in the excellent range for 30-39 year old’s. If I had made it to the last stage, my VO2 would have calculated to be 49 ml/kg-1/min-1. I would have then been in the Excellent 15-19 year old group. I will have to look into who the study sample was and how this came to be. In the meantime, I love finding out new info about myself that I can then re-assess at a later date for comparison. There are also other test protocols that I may try at a future date.

Until then, check out my Essentrics with Andrea page if you are thinking about being more active.

Alternatively, you can look at the structure of my current exercise evolution update and substitute your own activities that you currently engage in. You may be surprised as to how much you are doing for yourself.

Lastly, here is one more post on Keeping it real: physical fitness and VO2max. Movement no matter how small still rocks! Are you ready? Let’s GO!

The evolution of a group exerciser

This an updated post from from September 2020

Unintentionally, I have evolved into being a group exerciser.  Maybe I always was one.  Now I identify as one.

There are many benefits of group exercise that can make the effort required seem less daunting and some added benefits that can only be experienced in a group setting. Now with COVID there has been an online boom in options. You can do it anywhere without leaving the comfort of your home or workplace. Gyms re-opening with the possibility of live classes has once again been halted. The livestream/ virtual options can provide many of the same benefits and will get you moving.

Early development as a (virtual) group exerciser

My initial exposure to group exercise was virtually through some old technology called the television. It was The 20 Minute Workout and I always hoped my favorite back up instructor Bess, would be part of the trio.  My primary school friends and I would get together to get a lunchtime workout in.

I was inspired by these aerobic exercisers, their confidence and showmanship.  Their integrated and unique combinations of fitness attire were always fun to decipher.  I was a little young and a bit conservative for the high cut leotards with the g string backs but I really thought these women were amazing.   

Early development as a (live) group exerciser

My first formal in person group exercise experience was at a gym called Lady Fitness when I was about 15.  It was an extension of the Superfitness brand.  I joined Lady Fitness with expressed intent of using the seated inner thigh (adductor) machine. Group exercise wasn’t my initial focus. The inner thigh machine was the answer to all of my problems at that time.  I couldn’t wait to get started.  

In between adductor training sessions, I trialed many of the group classes offered. They were generally “aerobic” with varying levels of difficulty.  I remember being a little judgemental of one of the instructors huffing and puffing during her own workout.  Now I know better that the apparent effort did not necessarily mean lack of fitness.  It was just exertion, physically and vocally. 

Since that time I had tried multiple other gyms and fitness centers but nothing ever really stuck in terms of group fitness. I remained doing mostly what I was used to which included dance, running and team sport. After high school, I continued on the path of running and weight training.

Middle and later development as a group exerciser

My middle stage of development included going back into formal dance training in my late 20’s(I had my midlife crisis in my 20’s). Dance school is almost all group physical activity in often a highly dynamic atmosphere with live musicians. I studied full time for about 3 and a 1/2 years and then tried to make it as an independent dancer for the remainder of a decade. Supporting myself as a dancer did not become a reality but I was sure glad to have had the experiences that I did.

The final stage of my development included an introduction to Essentrics® at a fitness conference. At that point it had been at least 10 years since I had experienced physical group dynamics. It turned out to be a technique that I enjoyed and it piqued my intellectual curiosity. I left the conference fully engaged and ready to go.

The benefits of group exercise

Feed off the energy of the other participants

When I had returned to the dance studio, I realized that I loved being in class. The energy generated by the musicians and fellow dancers was spectacular and so stimulating! Essentrics® classes have also provided me a similar encompassing experience as a group exerciser. Your focus is heightened by the instructor, music and group dynamic.

I can do that too!

It’s so much easier doing intentional movement when there are others around doing the same thing.  This could be a class or even a duo. When I see others exercise, I want to exercise too(or at least think I should be). I think part of the motivation is to match your peers and a little competitive spirit too.

Not enough time? Finances?

Sometimes there is a financial constraint to group work. In the advent of our now not so recent world crisis, there are multiple online options. The cost of online classes may be cheaper than in person.

When it comes to time, the online workout option eliminates more than half of the battle. You are not depending on traffic or the TTC to get you there on time. You can potentially do it at work or home depending on the routine.

Other possibilities may include creating your own group and choosing someone to lead. Use some prerecorded workouts or online applications. If you can get enough people together, you could share the cost of a workout with an instructor you choose.

Watch and follow someone else

I did an online class this morning for $10 with one of my favorite instructors. She has amazing energy, and I can see the other participants (when I choose to). I clear some space, get a mat out, earpods in, runners on, and voila! Instant group fun!

Although there are many recorded options, the benefit of a live stream is that the instructor is actually watching the participants to give modifications and specific cues. You really do feel like a part of a class, and it’s definitely more fun for me than doing my workout solo.

Group exercise

Find your peeps. They are out there. Structure a class into your week and make the commitment. Take advantage of the abundant energy that is already present to get you moving.  There is no time like now. Are you ready?

Please check out my page Essentrics with Andrea if you are interested in online group exercise. For more info check out Essentrics® and Group Exercise.

Are you evolving as an exerciser?

Do you exercise the same way you did 10, 20 or 30 years ago? Has your program evolved into something new? Maybe your program is constantly changing. Maybe your daily physical activity level has taken a steep dive. Maybe you are not even sure what you are capable of doing anymore. Check out the exercise and physical activity spectrum below to assess where you are now and where you would like to go.

Where are you on the exercise and physical activity spectrum?

Option 1A: You have never exercised or paid any attention to physical fitness.

Option 1: You no longer exercise but used to be quite active and competent in your physical abilities. Now you are not sure where you are in your fitness level and you are not sure where to start.

Option 2: You exercise sporadically, in bouts. You get really good at getting started but within a short time things peter out or you hurt yourself.

Option 3: You don’t engage in formal exercise but challenge yourself with the occasional or regular walk, hike or other outdoor activity. The intensity level is more than a stroll in the park.

Option 4: You exercise or move regularly, but switch things up often. You are flexible with the activity you do, and have a lot of options to choose from depending on the day and how you feel. You may work with a trainer that likes to switch things up on you.

Option 5: You exercise regularly and are doing pretty well at what you have always done. You are a clock that doesn’t stop ticking. You are routine to the core.

Things to consider depending on where you are on the spectrum of exercise and physical activity:

Wherever you are on the spectrum, the most important thing is that you decide that you are going to move. Sedentary activities often dominate our current lifestyles and even more so now.

Exercise and physical activity affects the health of not just our cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. Metabolism, digestion, hormones, cognition and emotional health can all be impacted by a lack of movement in our daily lives.

Exercise programs that evolve according to your needs will more likely be meaningful and sustainable. If you are considering something new or are exploring options, check out my online Essentrics® class.

Are you ready? Let’s GO!

Group exercise and Essentrics®

Group exercise and Essentrics® have both been around for awhile. Essentrics® was broadcasted on PBS(Public Broadcasting System) in the late 90’s. It has since become an established brand in the group exercise community.

I was first introduced to it in 2018 at a CanFitPro conference in Toronto. I was lucky to have come across it when I did.

Why did I choose it? I have a background in physical therapy, massage, shiatsu, Pilates and dance. I was an athlete in my younger years as well as having spent multiple hours in the gym. I have dabbled quite a bit over the years with various exercise programs and techniques. So what was it that made me want to know more about Essentrics® and become an instructor?

Accessibility

The program can be modified to suit many fitness levels. There are multiple modifications for each exercise or movement sequence. These modifications may increase or decrease the level of difficulty. Modifications are also provided to increase the safety of an exercise for a specific population.

The movements themselves may not appear that complex or difficult at first sight. Essentrics® gets you to play with the balance of concentric and eccentric muscle contractions. Every time you move a joint, there is at least one muscle that lengthens, and another that shortens. Essentrics® makes use of the coordinated effort of these contractions to strengthen, relax or lengthen certain muscles.

Upper body stretches and arms overhead

I think this is unique to Essentrics®. There are multiple opportunities to work with the arms overhead, which if you don’t do it often, is a challenge. Most of our days are spent with the arms close to the sides of our body.

Large repertoire of exercises and movement sequences

Once you have acquired level 4 instructor certification in Essentrics®, you are allowed to design your own workouts. Essentrics® has hundreds of hours of workout material. They continue to produce new workouts with various featured instructors, each with their own movement style and variations in sequences.

Use of scientific principles and anatomical references

Essentrics® uses some techniques for muscle release that I have learned in the past as a physiotherapist. They educate their instructors on anatomy and get mostly everything right. There is a focus on posture and ideal mechanics. Essentrics® has generally jibed with what I already assumed to be correct.

Music, phrasing and fun

This is probably my favorite element. The use of musical phrasing, different rhythms and styles of music are encouraged in Essentrics®. There is enough room in the technique to capitalize on how music may help one to make deeper mind-body connections. For me, making these connections makes movement way more inspiring, interesting and fun.

Group exercise and Essentrics®

Lastly, Essentrics® was designed as a group fitness class. Check out my post called Group exerciser to see why you should consider becoming (if not already) a group exerciser too. And here is a post on choosing a group exercise class for some tips on how to evaluate what you want and what you need from a group exercise class.

So are you ready? LET’s GO!

Essentrics with Andrea

Exercise evolution update and exercise modification

So its been about 3 months since I last reported my weekly exercise program. I will say the most significant change has been even more flexibility with a few “must do’s” on a weekly basis. I have established some basics that keep any chronic problems in check. Otherwise, its open season and I do what I want. I am constantly modifying my exercise routine as needed and I am constantly evaluating my response during and after exercise. I am not training for anything in particular other than the game of life. Here is my exercise evolution update and exercise modification suggestions.

Exercise evolution update

Still walking daily 25 minutes twice daily on weekdays. I am thinking about the snow pants that will be coming out soon.

Otherwise, I have 4 basic goals this week:

(A) Daily 30 minutes minimum of exercise. This could be a combination of activities to make up the 30 minutes, usually at a moderate level of intensity. This may include weight training, bodyweight training, cardio and Essentrics.

(B) Stretching occurs throughout these activities, but specifically quad and hip flexor stretches 2-3 times per week.

(C) 2 sessions per week of strength exercise for my knees and hips (sometimes broken up into 4 smaller workouts)

(D) And most recent goal of 1 mile of jogging as a warm-up daily Monday through Friday. I am going to measure my VO2 in the next week or so and retest it at a later date to see the impact of this new goal on my cardiorespiratory fitness.

Saturday and Sundays have not changed in their mode but each workout on the weekend has variations on the same theme: Saturday online class HIIT style and Sunday online teaching of Essentrics

Exercise modification

How and why do I make modifications? Modifications could be as simple as doing something slower with fewer repetitions. It may also mean doing a movement in a smaller range of motion. It may be changing your posture and shifting your weight to make something harder or easier.

Why do we need modifications? Because sometimes the game of life varies in its physical intensity. Energy and endurance can vary depending on what you have been doing prior to exercise and how you are feeling that day. If you approach your exercise allowing minor modifications as needed, you may find yourself more inclined and even more successful at fulfilling your basic goals.

Check out the activity guidelines provided by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, and as always, if you are unsure if it is safe to exercise, check in with your healthcare professional for advise.

COMING SOON: VO2 testing and different aerobic exercise modes. What is best for

Essentrics with Andrea

Exercise specificity: What do you need?

When it comes to exercise specificity, start by asking yourself: “What do I want” from my exercise program? Do you want better posture, to be more flexible, to decrease stress levels or improve heart and lung fitness? If you are not sure where to start, and feel there are too many options to choose from, you may want to consult with an exercise specialist to guide you on the path of specificity.

If you can identify activities or tasks that you would like to be able to accomplish or do better, this will help you and your specialist to figure out what will give you the results you want. Exercise may not be the answer to all of your problems, but it is one of the few modalities whose benefits go beyond just physical fitness. “I just want to get fit” is a great goal, but knowing what you mean by getting fit will help you to define and ultimately refine your exercise goals.

Strength,
Endurance,
Cardiovascular fitness,
Joint mobility,
Flexibility, …

What do you want? What do you need?

If you know what your end goal (or intermediate goal) is then it may fall under one or all of the categories listed above.

Here are examples of what each category represents:

Strength: You want to be able to do a push up. You think it would be great if you could do 10 regular push ups.

Endurance: To be able to stand in the kitchen and bake for 2 hours without pain and without feeling exhausted

Cardiovascular fitness: You want to be able to jog a mile and and be able to breathe at the same time

Joint mobility: Making kneeling for short periods of prayer possible

Flexibility: You want to be able to touch your toes from standing

It’s never too late to try something new

Here are examples of what I do for myself to address the above categories:

Strength: lower body “slider’ lunge series as well as lower body weight training.

Endurance: daily walks to and from work. Continuous non stop workouts like circuits or interval training.

Cardiovascular fitness: steady state running on treadmill or outdoors. Alternate stationary cycling. Interval training is also an option here too.

Joint mobility: ankle mobility exercise using a step

Flexibility: Essentrics is an exercise program where I am able to perform many combined movements and sequences which can address flexibility along muscular or fascial “chains”.

Simplifying exercise specificity

Here is an example to pull it all together.

GOAL:

You are recovering from knee replacement surgery. You are 3 months out. In another 3 months time is your grand daughter’s wedding and you want to be an integral part of the ceremony and reception. Standing and walking for several hours at a time is likely. Navigating on uneven ground is a given (it’s an outdoor ceremony on grass). You will be helping with the organization of the reception, which require you to climb a small set of stairs numerous times. You may need to carry some lighter items like wine bottles, if the server runs out.

CURRENT STATUS:

You have already been climbing stairs daily but only once or twice as needed. You still need the railing and sometimes need to use a cane as well. Twice weekly you go out for a walk with your friend Pat. Pat’s pace makes you move a little faster than you would on your own, for approximately 45 minutes. You usually take 2 canes to help you keep up. You don’t spend much time on grass.

PLAN:

Based on this description, you would probably need your exercise routine to focus on lower body endurance for standing, walking and stairs. You likely will have some strength gains to be made, to improve your stair performance and ability to walk safely without support (especially if you need to carry a bottle or two). The other focus may be cardiovascular fitness, so you can last the entire day without feeling significantly tired. This will be important as the wedding day progresses, as your risk of falls on grass is higher than it would be on level surfaces. Your ability to make good choices and move with care will be affected by your energy levels. Check out Keeping it real: Physical fitness and VO2max for more on cardiovascular fitness.

Exercise specificity

So as you can see, there could be many layers to “getting fit” so finding what is specifically important to you will make both the the work of exercise and the gains made from exercise that much more meaningful. And remember, any daily intentional physical activity, like your walks with Pat, will be part of your plan. Take all the help you can get, and start making the changes that will truly have an impact how you live and feel. It’s worth it. So let’s GO!

Essentrics with Andrea

Dabbling to promote exercise program evolution

Dare to dabble

It’s been at least 6 weeks since my last exercise evolution update. One thing I mentioned in my last update was the variation in time spent exercising. I have continued to be biased towards shorter workouts, and combining different short workouts together. But now I am dabbling to promote exercise program evolution. I say dabble because my new exercise choices are outside of what I normally would do. I am committing to the new option for a prescribed length of time at which point I should be able to discern the degree of benefit it provides me.

The danger of the “dabble”.

Sometimes when dabbling you may be trying new activities that your body is not used to. So how do you mediate the risk? By going through the routines initially as an outsider looking in. My suggestion to you is to maintain your “space” by working within your abilities. If you don’t look exactly as pictured, who cares? Be very curious, move slower, smaller, and take advantage of any modifications offered. If you are looking at something that is truly outside of your abilities, then maybe repeat something done earlier in the routine, or just substitute your own movement. Exercise program evolution means more variety, less boredom, and possibly fewer overuse injuries from doing the same thing over and over again.

Tabata yoga

My exercise dabble: “21 day yoga tabata course”.

The course has been more beneficial than I had anticipated. One, as an instructor I like to look at different styles of teaching and presentation. Two, I like to tune in to the anatomical and biomechanical explanations. And three, it has allowed me to reconnect with the benefits of stillness and breath found within a yoga workout.

The tabata part is esentially MIIT(moderate intensity intervals). I don’t think they were sufficient to get the heart rate up to true HIIT(high intensity interval training) levels. See this blog for a further discussion on HIIT or steady state cardio for fat loss.

Here is my exercise evolution update:

Monday to Friday: I walk to and from work (2X25 min)

Monday: Tabata yoga 20-25 min plus steady state jog 25 min

Tuesday: Tabata yoga 20-25 min plus hip/knee strengthening with sliders, leg press, ham curl

Wednesday: Tabata yoga, 2 sessions

Thursday: 10 minute run warm up, Tabata yoga 25 min, interval running on treadmill 20 minutes

Friday: Tabata yoga 25, lower body routine similar to Tuesday

Saturday: HIIT style online class, using bodyweight and resistance bands, 1hr

Sunday: Essentrics full body stretch and strengthening class, continuous movement, 1 hr

Check out where you are on the exercise and physical activity spectrum. We probably have more options now than ever (online, outdoor, indoor gyms) so if you haven’t got started on your goal of daily physical activity, don’t wait any longer.

Essentrics with Andrea

HIIT or steady state cardio for fat loss

HIIT or steady state cardio for fat loss. Which one is better? As summer teases itself in you may feel an urge to get on the exercise train.

High intensity interval training or HIIT

If you do not know what HIIT is, it is exactly how it is described. High intensity intervals are alternated with relative rest or recovery periods. It is repeated multiple times to complete a workout. It could include aerobic exercise like biking or running, and it can also include resistance training, plyometrics or body weight exercise.

In general the effort required during the high intensity phase will range from 80-100 percent of your VO2max, heart rate maximum or maximal power output. The active recovery/rest phase is usually around 50-70%.

Here is some research findings presented by Bryce Hastings a physiotherapist and a presenter at CanFitPro, where HIIT sessions were compared to vigorous steady state cardio.

The HIIT sessions required an activity level where greater than 85% of heartrate (HR) max was achieved. The HIIT subjects demonstrated a higher degree of improvement in VO2 max(cardiovascular fitness), body fat reduction, and triglyceride reduction.

The optimal aggregate amount of time spent over the course of a week in HR max should total 30-40 minutes. So for example, if you do a 30 minute HIIT workout and 15 minutes is spent in HR max, you would need to do this twice weekly to get the 30 minutes.

It was highlighted that in order to participate in this HIIT program, you really need to be in shape already. Given the high level of exertion and higher risk for injury, the above HIIT protocol would not be something for a beginner exerciser.

What if you are a beginner exerciser or recently less active?

So what if you are a beginner exerciser or recently less active? Can you still use and benefit from HIIT? I recently came across a podcast whose guest speaker was Dr. Martin Gibala, described as a world-leader in HIIT research. His perspective included HIIT for beginner’s which included cardiac rehab clients.

It would appear that the term HIIT can be used very loosely to incorporate a larger range of fitness abilities, and hence a wider range of intensities. Other terms like MIIT(moderate intensity interval training) and LIIT(low intensity interval training) are also part of this family of training protocols.

To make it simple, just start with IT(interval training). Essentially, move for a period of time, then move a little harder for a little while, then repeat. Seriously, it’s that simple. As always, if you are unsure if it is safe to exercise, follow up with your health care practitioner.

Interval walking

Interval walking is an example of an activity that could be performed in intervals. Simply, brisk walking could be interspersed with recovery periods at a slower pace. If you have found most of your days are spent sitting this could be a perfect place to start. The degree of effort can be self regulated as well as the distance or duration.

As always, be mindful of where you are on the are you on the exercise and physical activity spectrum. Check out this post Are you evolving as an exerciser to see where you stand on the exercise and physical activity spectrum. If you are not sure if you are ready for exercise or if it safe to exercise, look for activity readiness questionnaires online to guide you or follow up with your health care professional.

Here is some more information that compares lower to moderate intensity workouts and HIIT.

Low to moderate intensity, longer duration exercise

The following info was found in an article in 2013 by exercise physiologist, Len Kravitz called “The Physiology of Fat Loss”:

In a single exercise bout we burn the most fat when exercising at a low to moderate intensity, when oxygen consumption is between 25 to 60 % of VO2max.

EPOC or excess post exercise oxygen consumption (the number of calories you burn after exercise) is higher after HIIT than after longer duration lower intensity exercise.

Weight loss with HIIT or steady state cardio

Whether you choose to do (shorter duration) HIIT or steady state cardio (longer duration with low to moderate intensity exercise), you will contribute to your weight loss goals if everything else is kept contant.

The problem is, we are often are in a big rush to see gains. We choose a level of exercise and/or a reduction in food intake that we can’t sustain. We end up hurting ourselves or feeling rotten. Our efforts at being healthier are at risk of being thrown to the wayside before the benefits are experienced.

I would propose that your desire to increase your daily activity level be addressed independent of any weight loss goals. If you are just starting out on the fitness terrain, work on one thing at a time. Start with activity goals that you can sustain, and as always, start small. Making initial fitness goals that do not include body fat level reduction may help to keep things simple and expectations in check.

Self efficacy and exercise

Once your are on the exercise wagon, chances are you will see changes that will make fat loss goals a lot easier. Develop your exercise habit. This realization that you can succeed at an exercise program can spread into other areas of health. Like making positive food choices more often than not.

Don’t try to do a complete rewiring of all of your (not so good) habits from the outset. Just start rerouting one at a time. Before you know it, you will have transformed yourself into something you may have never imagined. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Let’s GO!!

Essentrics with Andrea

Exercise Evolution Update

Its probably been more than six weeks since I last posted an exercise evolution update. The reason I do this is to provide myself as an example of someone who exercises regularly and constantly switches up the routine. The biggest change has been the duration and frequency of exercise. I released the reigns a little, and I feel just as good as ever. Compare this weekly routine to my last exercise evolution update in the post Exercise options: keeping them open.

My latest routine this week:

Steady state jog on treadmill with some incremental increases in speed: 5.0 mph to 6.8mph 1X per week(30 min)

How did I come up with 6.8 mph? I did a 10k run when I was about 15 years old. My average pace at that time was 8:50 per mile, which translates into 6.8 mph. I am working towards improving my speed without breaking the bank.

Hip and knee rehab exercise both bodyweight exercise and gym machines 2X/week (25 min with warm up)

HIIT (both an online class and personal version) 2X/week(60 and 30 min)

So this HIIT is really more interval training, with work and relative rest periods. I don’t think I am getting my heart rate up past 85% of its max consistently during the work phases, but I make it effortful (probably a 5-6 on a scale of 10). For the relative rest phases I do toning exercises, changing postures in each rest interval.

Essentrics 2X/week (30min to 1hr)

Walks daily 2X 25 minutes

Stretches: I still find static stretches for my quads and hip flexors are essential to maintain the length and flexibility 2-3X/week(15 min)

Frequency and duration

You can see the the majority of my workouts have been 30 minutes. Only 2 of my workouts require one hour. There may be one or more of the above activities in one day. But even if I did a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week, that’s 180 minutes. Check out the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults ages 18-64.

Getting started with my workouts over the last couple of months have been a challenge, in that sometimes I feel like I am starting with the tank half full. Ultimately, these shorter workouts have left me feeling more energized and have reduced my stress levels. I am getting smarter and more in tune with what works best for my body right now.

Is there something you could do right now to stimulate positive physical health? Small commitments to exercise and keeping your options open will help you stay on the path to better health and happiness. You know its worth it, so let’s go!

Essentrics with Andrea

Exercise and mental health

Exercise and mental health are hot topics nowadays with the pandemic. In Toronto, we have started our third round “lock down” and you can’t help but wonder, “when is it going to end?” I have been steadfast in maintaining a physical activity routine despite not finding a strong internal motivation at times. It’s tough to get moving when your mind is filled with stress or worry. On the other hand, there are some who have been able to re-invigorate their programs while working from home.

There are many reasons to exercise or engage in daily physical activity if you are struggling emotionally. Do you need some peace of mind? Maybe “get out” of your head and into your body for a little while?

We have been cooped up for some time and we continue to be asked to limit where we go on a daily basis. Your “live” social sphere may be limited to just a few people. We feel restricted in more ways than one.

Now may be the time to make some breakthroughs on exercise and mental health and make new connections on what you can gain from daily exercise.

Runner’s high. Zen like states. Release after exertion. Coldness converted into warmth. Contraction followed by relaxation. Stiffness transformed into fluidity. Restriction remolded into freedom. Exercise can address mental health on many levels and from different angles.

Here some of the angles I use exercise to transform my personal state of mental health well being.

Mental centering through exercise

When exercise requires you to focus “inside” it may have a calming effect. Taking the time to focus on our inner health using exercise can provide that daily reset, allowing us to cope better with all of the competing demands for our attention.

On a practical level, start with a walk. During the walk focus on your posture and how your feet connect with the ground. As you change your weight from one foot to the other, notice how the energy is transmitted from the ground and through the foot. Next imagine how that energy is transmitted upward through your lower leg and knee. At what point do you feel the front of your thigh or gluteals contract? Can you breath deeply as you lengthen your spine? This could start out as a walking meditation at first, and once warmed up, could end in a brisker walk. Keep it going once you are home with a few stretches that you are already familiar with, allowing yourself to cool down and release.

A lighter note on reducing the mind’s chatter

When using exercise to quiet your mind and to be present, fewer distractions is likely better. If you are exercising with a friend, finding exercise that is intense enough will make talking at a regular rate or volume difficult. This could be a strategy to get you and your friend out of your heads and into your body.

Endorphins

More vigorous or sustained exercise can also lead to the release of endorphins. This can leave you feeling elevated or energized. This is what I work towards when I need a mental break.

Releasing tension that is held in our body

If we sit all the time in a slouched position, there will certain muscles that are tight and others that may be weak or too long. Both can result in muscular discomfort. Now add in some stress or worry. Are your shoulders up to your ears? Teeth clenched? Scrunching your forehead? See if you can find the areas of tension. You may be able to use this information to guide your exercise process by gently contracting then relaxing these areas. With this awareness you may be able to improve your alignment.

Increasing circulation or “flow”

Exercise promotes the stimulation of not just the circulatory system but an increased flow in all of systems that produce energy and discard waste including digestion, respiration, and the lymphatic systems. This enhanced flow decreases stagnancy and improves the clearance of toxins, literally lightening our load.

Our existence and exercise

From a more existential perspective, exercise involves a commitment to the self. It is an acknowledgement of our mortality and the need to address the physical and mental self in order to maximize its wellness and to enhance our ability to experience life.

Get into the exercise arena everyday. Use that arena as your special place where you can re-energize and be in charge of everything that you do. Remember that intentional physical activity(like taking a brisk walk) is just as important as a structured exercise program. If we use physical exercise to center ourselves on a regular basis, it becomes a habit to break up the doldrums. It can become a dependable landing pad that we use to feel more grounded and free, everyday.

Are you ready?

Let’s go!

Essentrics with Andrea