3 Signs You’re Not Lifting Enough Weight

fitness-594143_1280Your fitness plan is (or should be) an ongoing process, not a deadline and strength training in particular is meant to be progressive. The way to build strength is to overload your muscles so they are forced to adapt and get stronger. Sometimes, though we get complacent with our routine. It’s easier to stick with what you know and what you’re comfortable with than to change up what you’re doing. But….if you’re not seeing results or if your strength training plan is stagnant, something needs to change.

Here are 3 signs you need to increase the weight your lifting.

  1. You could lift your current weight forever. If you count your reps to 10 and stop just because you reached 10, you might need to increase the weight. You don’t need to push your muscles to complete failure with every single set but if you get to 10 reps and could probably do 10 more without even blinking, you need to up the weight. Your strength training routine should be challenging and that means you should be lifting a weight that you can only lift 8-12 times with good form.
  2. Your fitness progress has stalled. A plateau in your progress could be due to a variety of reasons so examine your overall routine carefully but one of the possibilities is not enough weight. Your muscles will eventually adapt to whatever stress you put on them and then it will no longer be a stress. If you’re not lifting heavy enough to tax the muscles then they have no reason to grow. 
  3. If you’re just going through the motions. If you’re moving through your workout mindlessly with no need to concentrate on what you’re doing then you may need to increase your weights. If you’re lifting heavy you have to concentrate to use good form and not drop the weight on your foot. So if you make your mental grocery list while squatting, it’s time to reevaluate.

Don’t be afraid of weight people! Jump start your routine with a weight increase.

If you need a strength training plan to get you started, try these.

Happy Exercising!

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Let Go of Food Rules

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“Don’t eat after 8pm.” 

“Eliminate carbs to lose weight.”

“Eat every 2-3 hours.”

There are so many food rules that I’m sure you’ve heard and guess what…most of them you don’t need to follow. The moment we impose rules and restrictions on our food intake, we stop listening to our bodies. I’m not saying you should turn your nutrition plan into a free for all (there are still some recommendations to follow) but you can definitely relax a little and not stress about it so much.

Let’s discuss some of those “rules”…

“Don’t eat after 8pm.” I think a better recommendation would be “Don’t eat within 2-3 hours of bedtime.” If you go to bed at 10pm then, yeah, don’t eat after 8pm. But if your bedtime is midnight then your regular dinner time might be 8pm. We’ll talk about your sleeping habits in another post! Eating too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep by causing heartburn or interrupting the chemical process that helps you feel sleepy so adjust your last meal of the day to accommodate your normal bedtime rather than a set time on the clock.

“You have to eat every 2-3 hours.” You’ve heard the idea that eating every few hours keeps your metabolism running and your blood sugar stable and for many people this might be the right thing for them. For others, it might be too much. You may overeat just trying to fit all your meals in to your day and you could possibly develop insulin sensitivity over time. Three meals a day plus a snack before or after a workout works great for most people. If you like eating every few hours and it’s working for you, then stick with it. But if you feel like you’re forcing yourself to eat all the time, then let it go and just focus on your three squares a day.

“Eliminate carbs to lose weight.” Eliminating entire food groups is a really bad idea. Most people who lose weight on a low-carb or no-carb diet have really lost weight because they’ve cut down on calories and refined foods. I suggest replacing rather than eliminating. Replace refined, “white” foods with complex carbs like brown rice, quinoa and whole grain breads. Fruits and vegetables are also sources of complex carbs, vitamins, minerals and fiber.

“You have to drink 8 glasses of water a day.” This is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. You might need more or less depending on what you have planned for the day. Intense workout in heat and humidity? More water! Rest day on the couch? You probably don’t need 8 glasses. Sipping water throughout the day to stay hydrated is a smart idea rather than guzzling a bottle all at once. If you are drinking water all day then you’re getting enough.

“Don’t eat a lot of fruit because it has too much sugar.” This one makes my head hurt! If you’re worried about too much sugar in your diet, fruit is not what you need to cut out. Work on reducing your simple carbs first. White bread and rice. Cookies, brownies and other pastries. Most breakfast cereals and sweet yogurts and fruit juices. Fruit in whole form has unprocessed sugar along with nutrients and fiber that you don’t get if you eat a candy bar with the same amount of sugar in it.

“You need animal products for protein.” This is another one that makes my head hurt! Protein can be found in many plant foods including vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and some grains like quinoa. Sure, animal products are a more concentrated source of protein but they are not the only source of protein. Many large animals like gorillas are herbivores. They didn’t get to be large because of their LACK of protein. Think about that for a minute. If you don’t want to consume animal products, don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of protein. If you do choose to eat animal products, just choose wisely.

Create a healthy eating plan that suits your tastes, needs and schedule and will help you reach your wellness goals but let go of “rules” that don’t work for you.

Happy Exercising!

P.S.  Did I miss any rules? Let me know some things you’ve always thought you were supposed to follow.

Using a Jump Rope for a Good Workout

There’s nothing so humble as a simple piece of rope. 

But it can do wonders for your fitness if you give it a chance. It’s an efficient, versatile and portable piece of equipment that everyone should have. You can use it at home or when you’re with your kids at the park. Take it with you when you travel and you have no more excuses to skip a workout.

 

Don’t use your kids jumprope out of the toy box. You’ll likely trip and face plant…or worse. But you also don’t have to buy an expensive rope with all kinds of bells and whistles. A simple rope with comfortable handles will do the trick. Plastic or beaded ropes are durable and add a little weight making it easier to turn. A rope with bearings in the handles will make the rope turn more smoothly. To make sure the rope is the correct size, step on the middle of it and with handles pulled up taught, they should reach your armpits.

Consider where you jump as well. Hard concrete or tile surfaces will pound your legs and joints so try to jump on carpet, grass or wood floors. Asphalt is ok but definitely better than a concrete sidewalk.

Simply jumping for 10-20 minutes will give you a great workout if you’re new to jumping rope for exercise. You can work up to longer jumping if you want or do intervals of 1 minute jumping, 1 minute rest. That alone is an excellent cardio workout and can be done almost anywhere.

If you want to get more creative you can add other types of jumping into the mix, such as backward jumps, side to side jumps and single foot jumps.

Jumping rope is commonly a conditioning workout or warmup for many athletes and can be for fitness enthusiasts as well. It’ll get your heart rate up fast and leave you breathless and sweaty in no time.

If you’re in the market for a jump rope, you can find some here.  (This is an affiliate link which means if you buy through the link, I earn money.)

Happy Exercising!

 

Fit Gift Ideas

Black Friday is Coming! Black Friday is Coming!

If you have a fit-minded person in your life (or want to give ideas to others for yourself!) here are a few gift ideas to make fitness a little more fun and effective.

(This post contains affiliate links. That means I make money if you click the links and buy the products.)
  1. For that friend who likes to run with music but you want them to be safe.


AfterShokz Trekz Air Bone Conduction Headphones! These headphones are ideal for runners who like to have motivating music on their run but still need to be aware of their surroundings. The Trekz Air use bone conduction technology that leave your ears open for situation awareness. The music is delivered through your cheekbones! How cool is that?? These headphones are made of durable titanium that provides a flexible, secure fit. You can get up to 6 hours of music on a single charge and they have multipoint pairing with Bluetooth connectivity. So you can connect to more than one device. And they come in multiple colors.

2. For the yogi in your life.

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BodyGood Cork Yoga Wheel Accessory Kit. This kit can help you enhance your mobility, flexibility and strength. The wheel and block are made of natural cork so they’re non-slip, water resistant and naturally anti-microbial. The cotton strap helps you ease deeper into your poses. This kit can help you achieve your zen-like flexibility goals in style.

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3. For the space saving home exerciser.

Kettlebell Kings 10-40 lb Adjustable Kettlebell. A versatile kettlebell that can be adjusted in 5 pound increments for a variety of exercises or fitness levels and it takes up minimal space. Easily adjustable with a locking mechanism that keeps the weights safely in place when in use. No worries about accidentally dropping it on your toe. And Kettlebell Kings offers free shipping which is a great deal because shipping 40 pounds worth of product could set you back a mortgage payment!

4. For the protein drink lover.

BlenderBottle Insulated Steel Shaker Bottle. Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 5.47.42 PM.pngThis insulated bottle keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours. It includes a BlenderBall whisk for mixing smooth shakes on the go and a twist-on cap that is guaranteed leak-proof so you can toss the bottle in your gym bag with no worries. It comes in multiple colors and is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. This is the perfect addition for your fit friend that is always adding something to their drink.

5. For the friend in need of motivation.

51gnZjSdI-L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgNo Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness by Michelle Segar. Most of us know fitness is good for us but we all lack motivation at times. This book can help you change your mindset about fitness and exercise. Michelle Segar is a behavior expert that specializes in motivation and has developed a 4 point program to help you find your motivation for health.

 

Happy Exercising! And shopping!

1-Year Anniversary and 3D Pictures

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This is a post I wrote almost 2 years ago and since its Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I would share it again…

 

The 1-year anniversary of my breast cancer surgery is coming up in a couple days and I’ve been reflecting on the last year and how it all started. With a 3-D mammogram.

Regular mammograms are so important and when I was offered the option to have a 3-D mammogram done, I took it even though I would need to pay an additional out-of-pocket fee for it. My insurance only covered part of the screening. I didn’t really know the difference between a regular mammogram and a 3D one but my very quick and limited research indicated a 3D mammogram created better pictures.

Traditional mammography takes a single picture versus 3D mammography which takes multiple pictures or slices. The multiple pictures are used to make a 3D image that is clearer and easier to read. These images help detect more cancers and detect them early and help doctors see the size of the cancer easier. It also reduces false positives.

A lot of the research on the effectiveness of a 3D versus traditional mammogram is published by companies that manufacture the screening machines and doesn’t necessarily show a huge difference between them. There is some debate that the more accurate, clearer picture may show abnormalities that require further testing thus producing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Here’s some more information about the greatness of 3D mammograms from breastcancer.org

A study looking at 3 years of data on breast cancer screening with 3-D mammograms has found that the benefits of 3-D mammograms last over time.

The study was published online on Feb. 18, 2016 by JAMA Oncology. Read the abstract of “Effectiveness of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Compared With Digital Mammography: Outcomes Analysis From 3 Years of Breast Cancer Screening.”

Benefits of 3D Mammograms Last Over Time

“These findings reaffirm that 3-D mammography is a better mammogram for breast cancer screening,” said Emily Conant, M.D., chief of breast imaging at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who was the senior author of the study. Dr. Conant also is a member of the Breastcancer.org Professional Advisory Board. “These results are an important step toward informing policies so that all women can receive 3-D mammography for screening.”

Based on my personal experience, I highly recommend a 3D mammogram. I was fortunate that my cancer was very small and caught very early. My amazing surgeon indicated that a 3D mammogram was the reason my cancer was caught early. A traditional mammogram may not have caught it and I would have gone a whole year before another screening. In hindsight, the best $50 I EVER spent.

But, sadly, many insurance companies don’t cover the full cost or even part of the cost of a 3-D mammogram. Many women, including me, can afford to pay out-of-pocket fees on top of our insurance coverage to have this more advanced screening but far too many women don’t have that option.

If you have the means, please consider donating to help someone and if you need assistance, here’s a search tool  to help. Please help me spread the word.

*steps off soapbox…

Happy Exercising!

Agility Drills Aren’t Just for Warmup

fullsizeoutput_571Remember the drills your high school coach made you do to warmup before practice? High knee runs, butt kickers, etc.

You can actually use these fun (yes, they can be fun!) drills to put together a cardio workout that you can do anywhere. Instead of slogging away on the treadmill or pedaling to nowhere on a stationary bike, why not get outside and hop, skip or jump your way to a decent workout. Your living room might be tight quarters for this workout but you can do it in your driveway or the park or the local track. Just find a flat surface so you don’t turn an ankle and maybe a few landmarks to work back and forth between like fenceposts or trees.

These drills are often used as a warmup before running to help build strength and balance. Drills like high knees and butt kicks if done correctly are an exaggeration of running form so they can help you focus on good form during the rest of your workout. These are all great benefits so why not get them during your whole workout instead of just in the warmup.

Do a combination of different drills for time or distance and keep it up for 20-30 minutes for a complete cardio workout.

High knee run – Start by standing tall and keeping your chin level and looking ahead instead of down at your feet. Bend your elbows and keep your hands loose. No tight fists! Begin running and lifting your knees so your thighs come up parallel to the ground. Your arms should move back and forth close to your sides. Keep your hands from crossing in front of your body. Land softly on the balls of your feet. You won’t move forward very far with each step but that’s ok. Focus on your form.

Butt kick run – Start in the same position as the high knee run. When you begin running, your knees will barley lift up. Lift your heels as high as you can behind you. Actually kick yourself in the butt if you can! You won’t move forward very far with this drill either, just focus on form.

Power skips – Hopefully you remember how to skip from kindergarten. This drill is just like, only exaggerated. As you push off with your foot, explode up and drive your opposite arm upwards. Land lightly on your feet and continue for a short distance. This is where those landmarks will come in handy.

Carioca – Better known as the grapevine drill. You’ll move sideways in this drill. Again, start by standing tall and looking ahead. Your arms should be slightly out to your sides and will twist opposite your feet to help you keep your balance. 

Hop your left foot in front of your right, hop your right foot out to your right, hop your left foot behind your right and so on. Take it slow at first so you don’t faceplant!

Side shuffle – Just like carioca, you’ll move sideways in this drill too, but there’s less chance of tangling up your feet! Start in a slight squat position with your right hip facing the direction you want to go. Hop your right foot out wide to the right and hop your left foot over to meet your right. Move continuously from step to step until you reach your landmark.

Bounding – Similar to Power Skips but leaping with large steps. The goal is to go far instead of high. Exaggerate your running steps without losing your form and remember to use your arms to help power you forward.

Shake things up a bit and use any or all of these drills to create a fun workout that might break up the exercise routine monotony.

Happy Exercising!

How Do I Start Exercising At Home?

IMG_1192Some people need the accountability of meeting a workout partner or attending a scheduled class or training appointment. Some people aren’t motivated to exercise once they’re home and their couch and pjs are calling to them!

However, many people love the flexibility and privacy of home workouts. And no locker room cooties! That’s reason enough for me!

If you want to workout at home, either full time or as a supplement to your gym routine, it’s not hard to get started.

  1. Make sure you have a dedicated space to exercise. I’m not saying you have to have your own in-house gym room complete with a rubber floor and mirrors but, designating the spare bedroom or the family room or even the backyard if the weather cooperates will help you stay focused. And having a designated place to keep any equipment you have is also a good idea. If you plan on streaming workouts online, make sure you can easily see the screen.
  2. Figure out what you already have available. A set of stairs you can run up and down? A sturdy bench you can jump on? A device to stream workout videos on? Once you know what you have, you can decide what to do with it.
  3. Pick your exercises. A mix of cardio type exercises and strength exercises will make for a well-rounded program. To get you started, pick a variety of exercises from each column below and mix up the order for a great workout. Do each exercise for 1 minute moving through your list. When you’re done, stretch a little or rest 1 minute and go through it again for a longer workout. Do this 3-4 times per week.  

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Alternatively, you can stream an exercise video. Anything from yoga to high intensity interval training. This is a great way to mix it up. FitnessBlender.com has a full library of videos for all kinds of workouts. You can also do a straight cardio workout by going for a run or hike or running up and down your flight of stairs.

4. Finally, if you are interested in getting some equipment, start simple. You can get a very effective workout with just a jump rope and a kettlebell. A resistance band set is portable and takes up very little space and a medicine ball isn’t much bigger than a soccer ball.

That’s all there is to it! Home workouts don’t have to be complicated but they can be powerfully effective…and fun.

Happy Exercising!