Category Archives: General

Exercise program design ABC’s

Exercise program design

Let’s talk about exercise program design! When you have decided to exercise, what next? Need a little structure? Check out the following ABC’s of exercise design. Use your current movement repertoire to fill in the blanks.

wArm up

Body of workout/main goal/target area/target activity

Cool down or release

Part A

Warm up:

Start with easy, repeated or rhythmic movements that are gentle and suitable to your current fitness level. To see where you stand on the exercise and activity spectrum, see post Are you evolving as an exerciser?

Your warm up may include using cardio equipment like like a stationary bike or treadmill. Your warm-up could also be components of your main workout done slower in a smaller, gentler range to start.

Use your warm up to transition your mind and begin directing your focus to your body and how it relates to the physical space around you. “Let go” of the tasks that you were recently involved in or one’s that you need to do later.

Vary the intensity, by changing the speed slightly or use progressively larger movements.

These are all options. You can do what works for you. If you are not sure, consult someone who should know how to help you find and narrow down your options.

Part B

Body” of workout/target areas/target activity:

This part of your workout may be where your goals come in to play:

Do you want to get stronger, more flexible, less stiff, have more endurance, better posture, better cardiovascular fitness, or improved balance? Is increasing the amount of movement at a particular joint important to you? Do you need to relieve stress? Check out Exercise specificity: what do you need?

You could focus on a part of your body (upper body vs lower body, back body versus front, arms and legs, spine and core)

You can also look at specific workouts already out there that meet your needs (Pilates, Yoga, Barre, Zumba, HIIT, TRX, Spinning, Interval training, circuit training, Essentrics®, weights).

If you are not sure, talk to someone who should know (family doctor, chiropractor, trainer, physiotherapist, massage therapist, kinesiologist, naturopath, or other health care or fitness professional).

Part C

Cool down or release:

This could be a progressively slower version or less intense version of what you were just doing (you were jogging and now you will walk). Kind of like your warm-up but in reverse.

Often cool downs will include stretches of the muscles that were used in the workout, which could be static or dynamic stretches. A cool down allows the temperature of your body to decrease slowly and if you got your heart rate up, to slow it down gradually and allow the muscles to return to a normal level of circulation.

It may also be the time where you feel the most relaxed and released and if that is the case, go with the flow and stay focused on the here and now.

To stay in the moment, something like diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) can be used to center yourself and release even further.

The ABC’s of exercise program design!

For more information, join me Wednesday mornings at 9:00 on Facebook for an interactive livestream on all topics exercise. If you are interested in trying an Essentrics class, please see my sign-up page. And finally, watch for my fun “shorts” on You Tube!

Are you ready? Get set. Let’s move!

Exercise Evolution Update

Exercise Evolution Update

Before I give you my exercise evolution update, I just to let you know that I am livestreaming weekly on all topics exercise on Facebook!

Join me for “Tea & Exercise: Livestream Chat with Andrea” @andreanunnexercise Wednesday mornings at 9am on Facebook live

There will be a fun physical demo along with a brief chat. Follow my page on Facebook to keep up with future topics and updates!

Update

I haven’t published an exercise evolution update for awhile. The last one was back in January. I have adjusted my routine so I do at least a portion of my workout at lunch, which leaves more time available for other things in the evening.

I have maintained relative consistency in my frequency which, for me, is the most important thing. It’s easier to scale down and then back up versus falling off the wagon completely. I’d rather do a little less to suit my current schedule than nothing at all. Here is my latest weekly routine:

Lunchtime 4x per week: 22 minutes of cardio MT 80 (MT=minutes spent at moderate heart rate intensity. For more discussion on moderate heart rate intensity activity, see Moderate intensity exercise. Where do you find yourself? )

I have monitored my heartrate manually to make sure I get into my moderate heartrate zone, which is above 109 beats per minute.

Daily walks to and from work 25 min each.

Essentrics teaching 1hr 2x/week MT40

Saturday endurance/HIIT class MT 20

2x week weighted workout: leg press and ham curls plus step exercise, 12 minutes. I have not been diligent at keeping my heartrate up, but instead focusing on pain free movement.

2x week sliding lunges plus “glute medius” work in standing and side plank with theraband. Again, heartrate has not been focus but painfree motion and ideal alignment.

This week I developed some new choreography for my classes. This usually takes an additional 3-4 hours of intermittent activity.

So I am just under my the goal of 150 minutes of moderate exercise based on recommendations from CSEP Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults (ages 18-64 years). Now that I have re-assessed, I will figure out where I will make up that extra 10 minutes that I am missing! Keep it real and don’t worry if your routine doesn’t go exactly as planned! Get out into the activity sphere everyday and something will get done! Are you ready? Then let’s GO!

Check out my page Essentrics with Andrea if you are thinking about trying an online class. Join me @andreanunnexercise Wednesday mornings at 9am live on Facebook!

Exercise and injury: We all have our limits

Why do we injure ourselves?

Did we do too much too soon? Did we go beyond our physiological limits? Maybe we have an underlying problem that keeps resurfacing? Maybe there is something going on in our biomechanical bodies that we are not fully aware of or understand. Maybe we have been a consistent exerciser and have been doing the same thing for years? Did you try something new and didn’t really know the basics? Are you a weekend warrior?

Tissue tolerance

Exercise and injury. There are a multitude of possibilities. But I would say in most cases, we have exceeded our tissue’s tolerance. Not a great layperson term, but it kind of summarizes it all into one box.

Our bodies our made of different tissues, and I am speaking very generally from a biomechanical perspective: we have bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, fascia, skin, and nerves that represent the physical entities that make up our musculoskeletal system, the one that moves our limbs, maintains our posture, allows us to move from one place to another, fidget or reposition, and of course carry out out daily tasks(even sedentary ones) as well as exercise.

We exercise to keep this system primed and ready for action. The less we move, the more limited our movement repertoire becomes. By checking in with your body regularly, responding to and modifying our physical routines, we are more likely to get the balance right.

Exercise and injury. Think about the following :

Consistency of exercise (how regularly do you exercise?)

Volume of exercise (number of repetitions or repeated movements in a session or specified time frame, eg. number of steps in a day)

Impact (high or low impact, which one do you do?)

Range (does your flexibility or available joint movement match what is required for your chosen activity?)

Force or strength requirements (are you loading a tissue too little, just right, or too much? It depends on your goals)

Frequency (do you have rest days in between workouts? Do you workout once a week or daily, or work different parts on different days?)

Technique (what are you doing, why are you doing it, and what is the best technique, alignment, speed, rhythm, or range to do it at)

The above list is very generalized, but you can see there are multiple modifiable factors that can affect the tolerance or resilience of our tissues, and in turn, when it results in injury or having “overdone it”.

If you are a high level athlete versus a grandmother who takes care of her grandkids, you will likely have different goals when it comes to your fitness and lifestyle. Try not to compare yourself to others when thinking about what kind of program you should do.

See my blog called Exercise specificity: what do you need? for help in figuring this out.

Let’s be realistic

Exercise and injury do not need to go hand in hand. I think in many cases our ego gets the better of us. Or maybe it’s our memory (or inserted memory, a.k.a. delusion). Our inability to be in the moment with our bodies may result in participating in an activity in a manner that was better suited to a younger version of us, many years or even decades ago. In this case, re-evaluating how you feel during or after your activity of choice may help you refine and remodel the way you do things, matching it more closely to your current abilities or physical capacity.

Training

If you know you are training for a future event which will require a level of fitness that exceeds your current fitness level, educate yourself, use common sense, ask questions and look for advise from those who appear to be successful in the same activity. This may increase your odds of avoiding injury and completing your goal. I think one of the best things you could do is be realistic on time. Give yourself more than enough time to prepare for the event.

Fuel

We know that the resilience of our tissues also depends on the fuel we use to sustain activity and to build and regenerate new tissue. This gets even trickier, as there are so many views on nutrition, and everywhere we look there is advise on how to best address this. Find someone you trust and whose perspective is similar to yours when it comes to food choices. Start with the obvious by making healthy food choices(i.e. avoiding junk food, highly processed food). Eat what you know is healthy more often.

Consistency

Exercise and injury. My last thought is think about consistency. If you only dabble in exercise or in intentional physical activity once in a while, start with one day a week, or one activity that you can do well. Develop a basic schedule that you can stick to. Find a place for it in your calendar and make that the beginning of your “exercise week”. You may find that planting the seed (deciding when, where , what and how) and then cultivating it (completing it at the beginning of your “exercise week”), may result in new “buds” in unexpected areas.

Motivation to exercise

Exercise for the most part should be fun. If you hate it, maybe you are doing the wrong thing. The options when it comes to exercise and physical activity are endless. You don’t need to fit into any mold. If something works for you, stick with it. Then see if there are ways to expand your horizons, and switch it up a bit.

If you really do not know where to start, talk to someone who should know, and don’t feel intimidated. It doesn’t take much to get moving. And once you find the beginning of your path, it could take you anywhere.

It’s OK to “start over” many, many times. Keep at it, and soon you will feel something stick. You’ve got to move, and I have no doubt that you can do it!

Let me help you get started

If you need help, accountability(and I mean this in the lightest sense) or just to know that you are not alone in your exercise journey, join me in September for weekly motivational movement, exercise demos, conversation and fun! It won’t be complicated. Stay tuned!

If you are ready to roll, check out my page, Essentrics with Andrea. It could be your starting point, or maybe it will be something you can try later. In any case, take charge and join my email list. I will send you future blogs and the latest updates on my scheduled livestreams.

Are you ready?

Get set and let’s GO!

Muscle tension

Have you noticed that we use the same words for “good” muscle tension and “bad” muscle tension? What’s the difference?

Here are two types of muscle tension:


1) A muscle has to generate tension to exert force at a joint. This may or may not result in observable movement. This is what we do when we are trying to strengthen or contract a muscle. This type of muscle contractions could be concentric (muscle actively shortens), eccentric (muscle actively lengthens against a load or gravity) or it could be isometric (muscle length is unchanged during a contraction).

2) A muscle that “should” be at rest but is still generating tension and/or movement. This may be the type associated with mental stress. Areas where we may feel this “tension” is the neck, jaw, hands, chest and abdomen. It really could be any muscle. We may tighten the muscles in these areas inadvertently in response to stress.

Either way you look at it, muscle tension is created through muscle contractions, voluntary or involuntary, done consciously or unconsciously.

So why should you care?

Because we have control over both types of tension, even the one that seems to be more “unconscious”. And one of the best ways to learn how to “release” or “exert” muscle tension is through exercise. Exercise helps us to increase our kinesthetic awareness. More simply, exercise can help us feel and understand our bodies better, and become more adept at modifying muscle tension according to our needs.

Even better, if our focus is to “release” tension, there is a reciprocal inhibition of one muscle over another with every muscle contraction. This means, if I want to release tension in my tricep (located on the back of my upper arm) then one way to do this is contract the opposing muscle (bicep) on the front of the arm.

Do you want your muscles to get stronger to improve function or do you need to release and learn how to “let go”?

Probably a bit of both. So why not move with intention at least once daily? This could be a walk, an exercise video, an exercise class virtually or in person, a personal training session, swimming, or multitude of other physical activities. Start with what is familiar and preferably at least mildly enjoyable. Buddy up with someone who is looking to do the same thing.

When you exercise regularly or intentionally move on a consistent basis, you will slowly learn more about your body and how it feels after certain activities. You will become better at determining when a muscle is “on” for the purpose of strengthening, or if it is “on” because of habits that have connected our mind’s stress to a physical response in our body.

If you would like to learn more about your body through movement, Essentrics is a great place to start. Essentrics uses all types of muscle contractions and will help you zone in on areas where you need to release. Check out my page Essentrics with Andrea or check out Essentrics.com for more information.

Let’s MOVE!!



Aerobic exercise mode

What is your preferred aerobic exercise mode? Do you even have one?

If you have decided to improve your cardiovascular fitness (heart, lung and circulatory fitness) what are your options?

Here is a list of 3 groups of exercise, intended to compare energy expenditure(calorie burning) and exercise intensity. If we are improving our aerobic fitness this means we are improving our ability to utilize oxygen. We need oxygen to transform stored energy into a form that our muscles can use to produce movement. When we move, we use calories. The number of calories we use will depend on our exercise intensity and the duration of this intensity. Check out the different aerobic modes of exercise to see what one you most likely would engage in.

(This following info was found in an article by Len Kravitz, exercise physiologist, called “Calorie Burning; It’s time to think “Outside the box” 7 Programs that burn a lot of Calories” and within that article he quotes the American College of Sports Medicine 2006 Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. I like this list of aerobic exercise modes because it is quite simple and to the point.)

Exercise mode Group I

Consistent intensity and energy expenditure that is not dependent on the participant’s skill level, eg. walking, stationary cycling, running, machine based stair climbing and elliptical training

Exercise mode Group 2

Rate of energy expenditure will vary, depending on the person’s performance ability. With higher skill levels, a person can work harder and longer. Examples include group-led aerobics(this is where Essentrics fits in), outdoor cycling, step aerobics, hiking, swimming, water aerobics, and inline skating.

Exercise mode Group 3

Highly variable in terms of energy expenditure, examples include basketball, raquet sports, and volleyball.

Now that you have thought about what is your preferred aerobic exercise mode, now lets look at effort.

Aerobic mode and exercise intensity (light, moderate or vigorous)

You can use the following to assess your exercise intensity:

Talk test (light=talking easy, moderate=short sentences, vigorous=1-2 words only)
Rate of perceived exertion (light=2/10, moderate=3-6/10, vigorous=7-8/10).
Percentage of Heart Rate Maximum (light=57-63%, moderate=64-76%, vigorous=77-95%)
Sweat and heat. When it comes to aerobic activity, heat is one of the by products of aerobic metabolism.

Goals in minutes: 150 moderate or 75 vigorous?

The World Health Organization has made these guidelines for weekly accumulated exercise.

Depending on your mode, you may be tapping into light, moderate or vigorous intensity levels, or a mixture of all three.

For activities in group 1 aerobic exercise mode, using the talk test or rate of perceived exertion is possible and easier than it would be for a variable level of effort. You can modify your workload (speed, resistance, incline on a treadmill) to attain your goal of moderate or vigorous intensity. Some warm up is necessary.

For the group 2 or 3 aerobic exercise modes, it will probably be easier to use a heart rate monitor and app to determine if you are hitting your weekly goals.

As always, you need to check with a health professional first if you have any concerns about exercising as it relates to any current health problems. You can also use something like PARQ Activity readiness questionaire or CSEP Get Active Questionaire to help you figure out if you are safe to exercise.

Aerobic mode

+exercise intensity

+weekly goal

If you have figured out these three things when it comes to your cardiovascular fitness, then now it’s time to put the plan into action.

Here is an example of how I attain my weekly goal of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise:

Treadmill jogging at moderate intensity 12 minutes 4X/week 48

Essentrics 2 x/week 20/60 minutes moderate intensity 40

HIIT style exercise class 20/60 moderate intensity 20

Circuit training leg machines plus bodyweight exercise 12 minutes 4X/week 48 (warm up is treadmill jogging)

Total 156

I will add that I had to recently modify my workouts to attain the 150 per week. I used a HR monitor and app to figure out exactly the impact of my weekly training and noted that the weighted/machine workouts needed higher intensity activities interspersed throughout (like mountain climber, jog on spot, step ups fast pace, and other plyometric type exercises) in order to keep my heart rate up. The pace of the machine exercises had to be sped up a bit as well(more volume in less time).

Does it have to be so complicated?

Of course not! I just like to work out the details and make calculations. You only need to keep it real if you want to have an effect on your current fitness level. Trust me. It is challenging but never impossible. Check out my blog on Keeping it real: Physical fitness and VO2max if you need a little peer support and pep talk.

If you are ready to take another step toward your fitness, check out my page Essentrics® with Andrea.

Until next time, onward and upward!

Moderate intensity exercise. Where do you find yourself?

Moderate intensity exercise. Where do you find yourself? What does it take to accomplish this? My last post on exercise evolution and VO2 testing highlighted how much time I spent at a moderate level of intensity when exercising (MT). The point being was to accumulate 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous intensity level exercise, according to the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines set out by the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiologists for optimal health.

So how do you know if you are working at a moderate intensity? There are several ways to evaluate this. I found a nice chart in the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiologists Physical Activity Training for Health resource manual comparing the following different methods and their corresponding intensity levels.

Talk test:

If I am working at a moderate level I should be able to speak in short sentences only. Talking easily would qualify as “light” intensity.

Perceived exertion:

On a scale of 0 to 10 the moderate level ranges from 3-6/10. I find the scale of 0-10 difficult to discern for myself.

On a scale of 0-20 a score of 14-17/20 is considered moderate. Given my recent VO2 testing, and reaching 85 % of my predicted heart rate maximum, I rated my perceived exertion to be 17/20 in that moment of time. This was quite useful, as I recognize this level of exertion from the exercise that I already do. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, there is no denying it and it can’t be sustained for long periods of time.

Percentage of heart rate maximum

The goal would be 64-76% of your heart rate maximum required to be exercising at a moderate intensity.

Reality check anyone?

I compared my own perceptions of my exercise intensity against an objective measure (percentage of my heart rate maximum). For me moderate intensity is somewhere between 109 bpm(beats per minute) and 129 bpm.

Here is my update highlighting the time spent at a moderate level (MT) of exercise intensity in each activity on a weekly basis.

As you will see, it is significantly less than I had anticipated:

Daily walks: My maximum heart rate during those walks was 105. MT=0 (initial estimate  120 min/week. Whoopsy daisy!).

I re-evaluated the talk test on a second trial, and I wouldn’t say I could talk easily (light intensity), but I did not need to break up my sentences(moderate=”short sentences only”)

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

Hip and knee strengthening plus stretching, abs: 12 out of 20 minutes 2-3 times/week at a moderate intensity. MT=36 (previous estimate 40)

Essentrics®: group exercise class (instructor) one hour 2 times/week. I took some old data from my heart rate monitoring app. 20 out of 60 minutes were at a moderate level of intensity. MT=40 (previous estimate 60 min/week)

HIIT style online class: 1 hour once weekly. 20 out of 60 minutes at a moderate level or more. MT=20 (previous estimate 30 minutes)

Stairs: 2 flights up/down at least once daily. It actually only takes 30 seconds to go up or down, not enough time for the heart rate to change much. MT=0 (previous estimate 21 min/week)

Back to reality

Goal: 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous intensity level exercise

Current time for moderate intensity level activity: 136 minutes per week.

If you look at my previous estimates, you will see how I over estimated my weekly time by more than double! That’s OK. I am still moving a lot. I just need to increase my effort a little bit more, here and there.

So what about my lighter intensity daily walks ? And what about the other 40 minutes of my Essentrics or HIIT classes? Strengthening and resistance training? Stairs?? Shouldn’t they count for something?

Well of course they do! Remember exercise specificity. What do you want and what do you need: improved strength, endurance, cardiovascular fitness, joint mobility and/or flexibility? Maybe you have other reasons to exercise. Check out my post on exercise specificity for further clarification of these terms with some examples provided.

If you are considering getting back into exercise or rounding out your routine, and you want to give Essentrics® a try, check out my Essentrics with Andrea page for more information.

Are you ready to move? OK, let’s go!

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!