On weight training and how to avoid getting stuck in the comfort zone

Black and white image of woman weight training / Photo by Derwin Edwards from Pexels
Black and white image of woman weight training / Photo by Derwin Edwards from Pexels

On weight training and how to avoid getting stuck in the comfort zone

If you’ve been lifting weights for a while, you have come to realize that it’s empowering and not intimidating. You have probably seen your form improve and your core stabilize as you pick up new exercises and work through your routine. Weight training in all its forms, whether it’s one-on-training, classes, or free weights, is bound to boost your confidence. Remember the days when you wondered if you could even pick up that 12 lb weight? Well, now you’re busting through those flies and curls while thinking about your shopping list. And your arms and legs keep repeating movement in perfect form. 

Congratulations, you’ve won weight training. It’s time to move up to a heavier weight. Like so many things in life, you don’t win weight training when it gets easier. You lose weight training when it gets easier — and you just stay there. 

The moment your brain leaves your body and you are sailing through your routine, it’s time to take stock and challenge yourself again. Many of us tend to stay in our comfort zone once we’ve accomplished something. After all, it’s called a comfort zone because it’s reassuring. You know you can complete the exercise effortlessly at that weight set … and it feels good. 

However, moving on is essential because if you don’t, you’ll stay static at the same fitness level. Strength training is about increasing resistance to build muscle. As your body adapts to this stress, your muscles respond by becoming stronger. This leads to increased results like lean body mass, decreased fat, and the ability to lift more for a longer period of time. If you stay with your current set of weights, your progress will stall. You will be cheating yourself from the benefits of your efforts. 

How do you know that it’s time to move on? Well, if you’re sailing through reps and lose count because your mind is on what you’re going to watch on Netflix tonight — it’s time to change up your weights. Weight lifting is a mental exercise as well as a physical one. If you aren’t present, it’s time to re-engage and add more resistance.

Another way to figure out if it’s time to move up is by evaluating your last couple of reps. If your first rep and your last rep feel the same, it’s time. Your goal is to be challenged by your last rep, without compromising your form. If you’re working with a trainer, let them know that you can go heavier. Trainers aren’t mind readers but we will probably know if you’re coasting on your routines. 

The time you spend in the gym is your time and needs to be spent efficiently. If you are settling at a level, it’s time to grab the next weight over or split your sets by using a heavier weight for the last couple of reps. It’s not a cliche but what you get out is what you put in. You might feel like a winner when you’re gliding through a workout without much effort and feeling great — so celebrate your accomplishments. And then humble yourself and start all over again.

Why fall is the ideal time to start running

Woman running in fall leaves / Image source: christianacare.org
Woman running in fall leaves / Image source: christianacare.org

Why fall is the ideal time to start running

After a long winter of hiding away indoors, we tend to embrace spring as the start of the running season. However, I think fall is the perfect time for new runners to get started. In fact, fall running has its benefits.

A lot of us want to run but we are intimidated by our own expectations. We tell ourselves that we’re not runners but the truth is that if you can walk…you can run. Of course, some people will not benefit from running but for most of us, the first step towards getting outside is a mental one. We reinforce preconceived notions of what a runner should look like and hold ourselves up against these impossible standards.

However, the fact is that people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities run all kinds of races. From full marathons to triathlons, we need to get over the idea of the runner’s body. Yes, there are athletes that crush a 5K in 15 minutes…but that is the exception. If your legs are short, you are a runner. If your legs are long…well, you’re a runner too. If you ever watch the scores of people crossing the finish line at a 5K fun run, you’ll see all kinds of people celebrating their accomplishments.

Because of the milder fall temperatures, you don’t have to limit your runs to early morning or early evening.

Beginning a running routine is one of those September resolutions that can be part of your reset and re-commitment to fitness and yourself. Running also meditative. Whether you listen to podcasts or music, this is your own time and focusing on your run means shutting off your push notifications and making every breath count. 

Because of the milder fall temperatures, you don’t have to limit your runs to early morning or early evening. A mid-day weekend run is just as effective as a morning one. You can also run for longer without feeling overheated. Layers are your friend so just add or subtract ones as you go. As the seasons change, you can appreciate the beauty of nature and the changing colours. 

Like any new exercise routine, it’s always best to start slow and be careful. There are many walk-to-run apps (many of them free) that will help you overcome your fear of running. They work by dividing up your time into small run segments, followed by larger walk segments. As you progress through the program, the ratios switch and the walks become less frequent. You can repeat a segment as many times as you want. There’s no judgement or expectations. You might breeze through the first three weeks and spend the next six months trying to conquer week four. 

If it’s your mind and not your body that’s keeping you from running, make a commitment to give a simple sport a try that is all about you and your progress. Here are some tips to getting started (link to Running 101 blog) and then it’s up to you to keep on this path. 

Guest blog: three things you need to know about weight management

Salad bowl and measuring tape on woman's waist / Image source: Rawpixel.com
Salad bowl and measuring tape on woman's waist / Image source: Rawpixel.com

Guest blog: three things you need to know about weight management

Rachel Lau, BKin

Since the late 1970s, the obesity rate in Canada has been rising (Government of Canada, 2018). Currently, 2 in 3 Canadians are obese or overweight (Government of Canada, 2018). Physical inactivity and poor diet are the main attributes to the increasing obesity rate (Government of Canada, 2018). Changing one’s behavior or lifestyle is not as easy as pie, which is why I am here to tell you 3 things that you should keep in mind such that you can manage your weight in a healthy and happy way.

1. Adjust the proportion of macronutrients accordingly.

Many people may think that cutting off carbohydrates is the fastest way to lose weight. However, restricting your diet too much may lead to binge-eating, hence weight gain. If you choose to reduce carbohydrates intake, you should add a bit more protein in your diet, such as an extra egg or an extra ounce of meat (Layman et al., 2003). When we consume less carbohydrates, our liver will produce glucose from protein to maintain blood glucose level (Layman et al., 2003). Therefore, modifying the proportion of both carbohydrates and proteins is more effective in managing weight than merely reducing carbohydrate intake.

2. Try to manage your weight in a holistic approach.

While diet is an important factor in managing weight, physical activity also helps to lose weight and enhance health and wellbeing (Government of Canada, 2018). Other than working out at the gym, getting more movement throughout the day can help you adopt an active lifestyle: from standing up more frequently if you have a desk job, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, to spending time outdoors. Managing stress and getting good night’s sleep are also important in managing weight, as these factors affect your hormone regulation, which will also affect your weight (Sapolsky, 2004).

3. There is no ideal body shape to aim for.

Many people think that having a lean or muscular body indicates that one is healthy and fit. In fact, individuals may adapt unhealthy lifestyle behaviors to achieve these thin-ideal body images imposed by social media. In extreme cases, this may lead to the development of eating disorder and depression (Ferreiro, Seoane, & Senra, 2014). Instead of focusing on how our body should look like, we should appreciate what our body can do, and nurture it according to our needs (Alleva, Veldhuis, & Martijn, 2016). For instance, if we feel hungry between meals, don’t be afraid to grab a healthy snack, be it a granola bar or fruit. Focusing on body function will help us feel more satisfied and comfortable with our body, which can promote positive body image, hence mental wellbeing (Alleva et al., 2016).

There are many ways to go about managing weight: adjusting our diet, exercising more often, sleeping at an earlier time, managing stress, etc. The key to successful weight management is to understand your own body’s needs, and consider what we should change to take better care of our body.


Sources

Ferreiro, F., Seoane, G., & Senra, C. (2014). Toward understanding the role of body dissatisfaction in the gender differences in depressive symptoms and disordered eating: A longitudinal study during adolescence. Journal of Adolescence; 37(1): 73–84. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2013.10.013

Alleva, J. M., Veldhuis, J., & Martijn, C. (2016). A pilot study investigating whether focusing on body functionality can protect women from the potential negative effects of viewing thin-ideal media images. Body Image, 17(Complete), 10-13. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.01.007

Government of Canada. (2018). Tackling Obesity in Canada: Obesity and Excess Weight Rates in Canadian Adults. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/obesity-excess-weight-rates-canadian-adults.html

Layman, D. K., Boileau, R. A., Erickson, D. J., Painter, J. E., Shiue, H., Sather, C., & Christou, D. (2003). A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. The Journal of Nutrition133(2), 411-417. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/133.2.411

Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Why zebras don’t get ulcers (3rd ed.). New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Rachel Lau is an associate with Fit After 50. This post originally appeared on their site.


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Recommitting to your goals means recommitting to yourself

Recommitting to goals / Image source: Karl Solano/Pexels
Recommitting to goals / Image source: Karl Solano/Pexels

Recommitting to your goals means recommitting to yourself

While summer isn’t technically over under mid-September, it starts to feel like fall the minute back-to-school sales and Halloween candy fills the aisles at the Supermarket. Fall already? 

Summer has its own rhythm and its own priorities. Whether it’s vacations, camping, socializing, or just general spontaneity, summer may feel a little more relaxed than the schedules we keep for the rest of the year. For some of us, summer may actually be more hectic than the rest of the year. We struggle to cover our colleagues’ vacations and find every weekend occupied with family reunions and weddings. No matter if you’ve had a lazy summer where sleeping in was quickly normalized or a chaotic summer full of deadlines and late nights, you may have had to put your fitness goals on hold to accommodate real life.

It happens but a short detour is not a total derailment. Now that your schedule has settled down, it’s time to start recommiting yourself to your health goals. Here are some ways to prioritize fitness:

 

  • Meal planning. Spend some time on the weekend, or on a quiet weekday, to take care of lunches and dinners for the rest of the week. Making your food, preparing the ingredients, or at least deciding in advance what days are take out/pick up days can help you feel more in control of your eating habits.
  • Carve out some exercise time. You need to schedule in your exercise time just like you would plan a meeting or activity. Without this, it’s easy for other activities and commitments to take precedence over working out. Treat this time as non negotiable and just as important as anything else on the calendar.
  • Take a class. If you sign up for a fitness class, show up — and make sure you are on time and ready to work. Include travel time in your schedule so you aren’t rushing or being overbooked. While a drop-in class is enough motivation for some of us, committing to being on a specific bike or attending a class where your absence may be recognized (either financially or socially) can be extra motivation to make sure we honour our commitment to ourselves. We’ve even launched some great classes at TrainingSpaces, so we hope to see you there. 

It’s time to picture your goal and reassess.  Nothing happens overnight and a fad, crash diet isn’t going to be the solution. Instead, you need a new plan. What’s one thing you can do today that will take you one step closer to your goal? Can you spend five more minutes on the treadmill or add another session to your yoga practice? Is it time to ask for heavier weights that will push you out of your comfort zone and nudge you a small step towards what you want to accomplish. 

The fact is the summer break is just that, it’s a break. It’s a time out but it’s time to re-engage and re-commit yourself. And only you can prioritize you.