Category Archives: Fitness

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!

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.

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), 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

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

Sustainable physical activity programs.

Sustainable physical activity programs. What does this mean?

We all move at a level to suit our needs. But our needs can vary and so may our relative physical fitness. Do you want to be a step ahead so you can continue to enjoy all the things you like doing? Have you given up a favorite physical activity because of a lack of fitness?

The beauty of the physical body is it’s ability to heal and adapt, grow and shrink. So you can ask almost anything from it and it will perform. Especially when you help it get there in a sustainable manner.

So what makes up a sustainable physical activity program?

A sustainable physical activity program is one that allows for relative rest.

A) Doing the same thing everyday may produce muscular imbalances. There really is no perfectly balanced program. What we ask of ourselves on a daily basis can evolve and so should our exercise programs. Finding balance is a high order, but we can use our bodies signals to guide the process.

B) Relative rest means that everyday is not a high intensity day. Generally, movement like walking or gentle stretches may be more beneficial on some days.

A sustainable physical activity program is one that is practical/feasible

Time. If you are doing a class that starts at 5pm but you rarely finished before 5pm, this may be a bad way to start. Anticipate your time requirements accurately so you don’t have a built in excuse to not follow through.

Money. You don’t need to join a gym or pay for classes necessarily. Finding free videos on the internet is not a problem. It’s is finding what you want that may be difficult. Take five minutes at lunch each day this week and do a search. Bookmark the site page for later.

Alternately, find an activity that doesn’t require any thought other than getting dressed. Walking is free. Make it more enjoyable by listening to a podcast or to music. Build it into your day, like walking home from work, or take a brisk 15 minute walk at lunch time.

Equipment. If there is a gadget or piece of equipment that inspires you, can you borrow it or get a loaner before investing? Some gyms will bring their equipment to your door. Therabands, mats, weights, and exercise balls are easy to find.

Location. If the class you love is on the other side of town, look locally. Once we can return to gyms and studios easily, check out what is convenient, and even better, walking distance. Jumping in the car to drive to a class may add that extra barrier.

Weather. If you are outdoorsy, hopefully you know how to dress for the weather. Investing in the outerwear that makes sense will get and keep you outside exercising longer and more frequently. This will require a small investment if you live in winter climates.

A sustainable physical activity program is one that has meaning and is enjoyable

For exercise to have meaning you may have to dig deep and remind yourself of at least one positive benefit of having sustained an exercise program on a regular basis for a reasonable duration. Do you have a short term or long term goal? Is it overall fitness and energy levels that you wish to improve? Do you need to improve your health and become less sedentary?

Visualize yourself in the future after having successfully maintained a daily exercise program for a significant duration. How would you look and feel? Does improved physical fitness have an impact on other areas of your life? What would be different from then compared to now?

Increase your enjoyment by partnering up

One way to make it more enjoyable is to do it with a partner. The added benefits of working out with a friend or acquaintance increases the accountability factor. It provides a social interaction that is directed by exercise. Even if you are not doing the same program, can you do it in a similar space or online together? Consider sending an email invite or placing a Facebook post looking for an online partner. You may be surprised who is up for it.

Find a way to evaluate yourself or get some feedback

Can you commit to a group exercise class once a week? Check out the following posts on group exercise and how to choose a group exercise class. And get to know your instructor. Tell them what you like and what is difficult for you. In most cases, they will happily take and give feedback, providing them with an opportunity to show you modifications, progressions, or corrections on your technique. Another way to get feedback is to work one on one with a trainer or other health professional depending on your needs and resources. Your understanding of how to exercise effectively will increase the degree of intention behind each work out, making it more interesting and beneficial.

If pain is not the goal, exclude it

Pick something that you know you can accomplish without injury or pain. If you are laid up for 2 days post workout does this fit in with your goals of being active on a regular basis? If you experience discomfort, can your technique be improved? Maybe you can break the workout down into parts, and gradually add on new material as your fitness improves. If a pain problem persists, check in with someone who you know will be able to answer your questions.

Get in tune with how your body feels

Find something that makes you feel good. Maybe your good feeling doesn’t come until later in the day following a workout. It’s possible that it is the next day when you experience some sort release or positive benefit. Be in tune with your body and make connections with what you do and how it makes you feel. Get hooked on regular sustainable exercise and physical activity. It easier than you think.

Essentrics with Andrea