Category Archives: Daily exercise options

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!!



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!

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

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 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

Exercise options: keeping them open

Are you able to keep your exercise options open? Do you have enough in your repetoire to be able to switch it up and still feel you have fulfilled your goal for the day?

When you think about your workouts can they be broken down into parts? If you have a limit on your time that doesn’t match the workout, can you select segments of the workout and still perform them safely and effectively?

When choosing to exercise, having options will increase your success at getting it done. Here is my routine from the past week:

Exercise evolution update

I probably spent the last 2 weeks just winging it with very loose structures in place to keep me on track.

Monday: 25 minute walk to and from work only(M-F)

Tuesday: run intervals of 10 minutes interspersed with knee and ankle stretch and strengthening

Wednesday: bike 20 minutes followed by body weight exercises 20 minutes

Thursday: run intervals of 5 to 7 minutes interspersed with knee and ankle stretch and strength with alternate equipment

Friday: I can’t remember. I just did whatever but with intention.

Saturday: online HIIT class

Sunday: Essentrics group class

See previous exercise evolution updates February 12, 2021, December 26, 2020 and November 12, 2020.

Warm up

If you are really not sure where to start begin with warming up. Warming up is the prepatory phase that gets the blood circulating,

What do you do for a warm up? Usually it is something simple, easily attained and does not necessarily require a high skill level. Components of a future workout with the movement simplified and at a lower intensity may do the trick. It may be something that is repetitive like a bike, treadmill, brisk walk or a light jog. It could be done on the spot with progressively larger or faster movements.

Pick something that doesn’t hurt or feel stressful and for the length of time that you like. You can use a song as a point of inspiration.

Keeping your options open

Be spontaneous. If you are wondering it you should exercise, remember you have options. If you don’t think you have many to choose from, do a little research or consult with a professional. Expand your repertoire so you don’t feel stuck and change your mind before you even get changed. Let’s go!

Essentrics with Andrea

Exercise evolution: how to avoid boredom with exercise

It is important to be ready for those times when you are experiencing boredom with exercise. The evolution of your exercise program should allow for variations as needed. I know I am continually evaluating my program and it is always changing. Variety in exercise is important for many reasons.

One reason is to avoid boredom with exercise. Did you ever have a plan to do some sort of exercise, to find yourself saying, “Ugh?! This is so boring!” I know I have, so what do I do? Well , I don’t throw the towel in and use boredom as an excuse to stop but as a reason to be creative or improvise. There are truly a multitude of things you can do to get yourself moving. If you are not up to one thing, try another. Just making some slight changes may be enough to keep you on track. Let me give you an example of how my program has evolved over the last 6 weeks.

Here was my weekly routine 6 weeks ago

Steady state running with one minute “fast pace” every 5 minutes for 6 cycles (30 min) plus lower body stretches 2X

Knee rehab 2X and shoulder rehab1X.

Essentrics(stretch and strengthen no weight) 2X

High rep full body muscle endurance online exercise class 1X

Moderate paced walk 2 times daily for 25 minutes to and from work.

It turns out that this past week was the most varied and challenging to date. I had to depend on my steadfast methods (get changed without necessarily knowing my plan for the day) and assumptions (any amount of intentional movement is better than none) to keep me on the straight but not so narrow path:

This week’s exercise and activity program

Mixed cardio (elliptical and treadmill) moderate intensity (30 min) 1X

Treadmill steady state moderate intensity jog (20 min) 1X

Knee rehab body weight and machine strengthening (30 min) 2X

Alternate knee rehab using different equipment for variety (20 min) 1X

Essentrics practice class (30 min) 2X

Essentrics full class 1hr 1X

Hip and Knee stretches 10 minutes 2X

HIIT online class (1hr) 1X

Upper body bodyweight workout (15 min) 1X

Walks to and from work daily (2X25 min/day) 5X

The mixed bag of goodies was required to avoid boredom with exercise this week. And just for fun, when you add up the time spent, I was moving at least twice the minimum recommended in the Canadian 24-hour Movement Guidelines for Adults aged 18-64 which includes:

Performing a variety of types and intensities of physical activity, which include

  • 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

Want to know where you are are on the exercise and physical activity spectrum? Check out my “Are you evolving as an exerciser” post to see where you fit in.

Start with a thread of exercise. Don’t worry about the end result. Just know that what you give now you will benefit from later. The small parts will make up a whole and and even more. Allow for variety and last minute changes. When you apply yourself to do the simplest of tasks you will soon find yourself at a new level of fitness and abilities. Exercise evolution: one day at a time is all you need to get there.

Let’s GO!

Essentrics with Andrea

Getting motivated to exercise: Strategies to get yourself going

Exercise may not be easy. Getting motivated to exercise may be even more challenging. If you are feeling low on motivation, read on for ways to deal with those pivotal moments. To move or not to move? How do we find just enough spark to get us going on those days where leaving it until tomorrow seems like the best option, even though we know it’s not…

Here are some strategies to get ready, set and go. Run through these options before deciding to throw the towel in:

Turn your excuses upside down

I started evaluating my week thus far and what I had already accomplished. I had done a HIIT run 2 days prior, a weighted workout the day before. I didn’t want to repeat either but I wanted to exert myself beyond a few stretches. I couldn’t use the stationary bike because my right kneecap was still bugging me. I tried to stream a recorded exercise program but it didn’t work. Finding excuses not to exercise comes with little effort. I know the pattern. Give yourself enough time and you can talk yourself out of anything. I flipped the switch and threw the excuses out of the window.

Use music to inspire or improvise

Even though my list of options was apparently limited, I finally decided to look at my playlist for my Sunday’s Essentrics class and made a rough new playlist of songs. Then I improvised. I allowed the music to lead me. I had a loose structure of what I wanted to do, but I essentially allowed myself to “wing it”. If you have exercised before, you can probably string a few activities together to create a workout. If you like music, use it. Everything doesn’t need to be so set and directed. I made it through a workout and didn’t allow the perceived barriers to limit me.

Get your get up on and get over it

One of my colleagues revealed to me one of her ways of getting motivated to exercise. She wears her exercise clothes under her work clothes. One, it’s a constant reminder and two, it eliminates just one more step towards getting started. It’s winter now so the extra layers are possible. Shorts and t-shirt under her pants and whatever she had on top. She left her dress socks on and didn’t bother to change to sweat socks. Her layered get up provided just enough to get over any procrastination and into the exercise arena. My related strategy is to get changed even if I don’t have a plan and then I just get started. No questions asked.

Pick the right duration

The right duration is the one you know you can complete. What is the minimum amount of time required? Do you require a costume change? If you only have a certain amount of time like 30 minutes, make your exercise goal realistic (20 minutes) so you don’t trash it because of apparent time constraints.

Pick the best time of day

If you have committed to starting a new routine, when will you most likely get it done? Be really honest. If you are generally not early to rise, why bother setting the alarm at 5:30 am for a one hour work out. Really? Maybe 30 minutes is more realistic and incorporated into your day just prior, during, or immediately after work or errands. If you like exercising in the evening, maybe commit to an online class or schedule an online workout with a friend. Don’t count on finding that whim to get going later on. If you are saying to yourself, “I’ll do it later”, then do it now.

Try freestyling

Take at least one 15 minute break from whatever you are doing and walk from one end of the building to the other or get outside and go around the block.

Figure out what you like to do and why you are doing it

Increase your success of getting motivated to exercise by finding a form of physical activity that is more than just tolerable. If you really hate lifting weights then find something better for you to do. Do you want to feel fitter, lose or maintain your weight, improve your outlook, or relieve yourself from stress? Do you have a sore neck and back from prolonged sitting? Are you finding it harder to do the things you love because you don’t have the energy or mobility?

Whatever your goals are exercise has a lot of fringe benefits. I have multiple reasons why I exercise. Most of all, I want to move with the same ease as I do now for the rest of my life. Challenging myself on a daily basis makes the process easier. Give yourself a physical activity challenge everyday and “give in” to moving.

Essentrics with Andrea