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. 

Connected Fitness: It’s trendy, effective (and expensive), but is it for you?​

Wired fitness gear / Image source: Digital Trends
Wired fitness gear / Image source: Digital Trends

Connected Fitness: It's trendy, effective (and expensive), but is it for you?

Peloton. Hydrow. Mirror. FightCamp. Connected Fitness companies are turning record profits as our home-fitness workouts evolve from exercise DVDs, to apps, to machines and devices that promise to track and measure our actual outputs and form. As technology advances, it’s not surprising that home gyms are being reinvented with sensors and live-streamed classes. 

Connected Fitness is defined as any type of exercise machine that is connected to the internet and integrated with a larger platform to either improve or adjust your workout. Depending on the device or machine, you can receive personalized feedback, join a class complete with leaderboards, or track your workout performance and set goals. 

If you are interested in purchasing a Connected Fitness machine, the first thing you need to ask yourself is: can I afford a Connected Fitness machine? With each machine costing upwards of $2000, are you passionate enough about a sport or activity to keep your new smart treadmill from becoming an extension of your drying rack? Many of these machines also recommend that you subscribe to a monthly channel of live streamed or on-demand workouts. However, if you are committed enough to cycling but are boycotting SoulCycle, a connected bike might make sense. You need to do the math before even investigating these machines. Because of their high price tag, these machines are an investment.

I’ve also seen clients express frustration with goals on their wearable trackers not equating to real-world results. Research shows that a third of people who buy fitness trackers stop using them within six months. Just like how your traditional treadmill will tell you that you’ve burned a certain amount of calories, these devices are just estimates.  

If you are attracted to the idea of a connected fitness device, you should also assess your experience with fitness and motivation? Have you always been the kind of person who can fit exercise in their life without much effort, or do you drag yourself to the gym because you have a family reunion coming up? If your fitness routine is built on extrinsic motivation (add link to past blog), the novelty of any new device will eventually wear off. 

A Connected Fitness won’t automatically turn you into an athlete any more than a BowFlex gym or downloading that Couch to 5K app will. While it may be exciting to add a new fitness gadget to your inventory, if you aren’t prepared to actually use it — it’s not worth the hype. 

Martial arts: not just kung fu movies, but a way to fun, fighting, and fitness

martial arts krav maga kick / Image source: martialartsguy.com
martial arts krav maga kick / Image source: martialartsguy.com

Martial arts: not just kung fu movies, but a way to fun, fighting, and fitness

Do you wish you could take down a gang of unsuspecting villains who dare to threaten you as you unlock your car in a dark parking lot? Kicking, punching, chokes, throws…imagine moving through our dangerous world in a bubble of safety.

It’s an appealing fantasy but it’s not the reason why so many adults are flocking to martial arts classes. From Krav Maga to Mixed Martial Arts to Karate, weekly classes offer more than the fulfillment of re-enacting a live action game of Street Fighter. Instead, it’s an opportunity to learn a new skill, increase stamina, build flexibility, and improve discipline. They are gyms, studios, dojos, and spaces around the city where people of all ages and backgrounds come together to sweat it out on the mat and learn about themselves.

Some people come to martial arts to recover from trauma. As a reaction to PTSD, they want to gain some control following an incident that left them shaken and wishing they had acted or reacted differently. Healing begins slowly, one class at a time. Learning small things to protect yourself, and repeating them over and over again, builds muscle memory. It challenges you to think differently about how to keep yourself safe. This little bit of confidence is what some of us need to get back out in the world.

For beginners, starting out can be intimidating. You will see gear bags of equipment, strong men and women grappling on the floor, heavy bags, and fake weapons. However, what you also need to keep in mind is that your instructor had a first day too. He or she arrived at their first class and they slowly (or even immediately) fell in love with this new form of fitness. Many studios offer women-only classes. If you identify as female, this can be a good introduction in an environment that can feel less threatening.

Most forms of martial arts involve increasing levels of expertise. If you commit to this, you will work towards a set goals and mark your progress. The discipline of a curriculum challenges your brain and your body.

If you are looking to martial arts as a form of fitness, you will gain more than losing calories. Most forms of martial arts involve increasing levels of expertise. If you commit to this, you will work towards a set goals and mark your progress. The discipline of a curriculum challenges your brain and your body. 

However if you don’t care about belts or badges, you can also just enjoy pushing yourself in a different kind of way. Being willing to learn, and fail, and try again allows you to celebrate the smallest achievements. When you find your body automatically defending itself against a move, you feel a sense of pride. Being present in a studio unplugs you from constant distractions. You need to pay attention, listen, and try in order to understand the psychology behind the movement. 

As we get older and set in our ways, learning new things can be scary and make us vulnerable. However if you have ever been curious about martial arts, I can’t encourage you enough to shed preconceptions about age, ability, and gender. Instead, embrace the possibilities of what you can achieve and what you can accomplish. You’ll probably surprise yourself.

The future of fitness, explained: the 7-minute workout

7-minute workout GIF / Image source: Greatist
7-minute workout GIF / Image source: Greatist

The Future of Fitness Explained: The 7-Minute Workout

If you love to learn about new exercise and fitness trends, The Future of Fitness explains it to you in a way you can understand and separate the hype cycle from actual results.

Do you remember a couple of years ago when a study published by ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal declared that all we needed was 7 minutes to achieve a host of fitness benefits? Well, it’s been six years since this initial study and short, focused workouts are still popular. We talked recently about Tabatta and HIIT (link to previous Balancing Priorities to Workout) but can you really only exercise for seven minutes and lose weight, improve cardio, build muscle, and be diabetes-free? 

What is the 7-Minute Workout? The 7-Minute workout consists of 12 high-intensity exercises that only use body weight as resistance. You perform each activity at your maximum intensity for 30-seconds and rest for 10-seconds.   

What Do I Need to Do?

All you need to do is find a place where you can do jumping jacks, step-ups, wall sits, and planks without knocking into anything … or anyone. You don’t need extra weights but a chair, mat, and a wall are necessary. You probably also will need a timer to announce the beginning and end of each on or off period.

Does it Work?

What do you want to achieve with your workout? If your primary goal is to lose weight, this isn’t the way to do it. As we’ve previously said, nutrition is primarily responsible for weight loss. You just won’t burn enough calories in 7-minutes — even if you are working to your maximum. However, if you are interested in improving your overall fitness and want a challenge, the 7-minute workout could be for you. 

Should I Try It?

If you have any physical issues, this is not the best way to spend 7 minutes. The fact that you need to push yourself to your maximum means some people might sacrifice form for intensity — leading to more injuries and problems. If  you have joint issues, knee, wrist, or back problems, you need a gentler workout to better support your body. 

I also never recommend depending solely on one form of exercise or fitness routine. You will always need to stretch, lift, and raise your heart rate, so don’t give up your other activities and prioritize this one routine. 

If you know you have good form and are experienced, you may want to try adding the 7-minute workout to your schedule. And if you read the fine print, the authors of the initial study did recommend cycling through the program a couple of times for maximum results. When you’re pressed for time and know you can work to your maximum, there’s no difference between this circuit and other interval training. 

More Information Please!

Try these links and get educated about the 7-Minute Workout: 

Self-care is about self-preservation

Self-care: man receiving aromatherapy treatment / Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels
Self-care: man receiving aromatherapy treatment / Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Self-care is about self-preservation

With all those instagram posts tagged #selfcare and showing lovingly curated avocado toast and bubble baths, it’s easy to mock self-care as a millennial trend. However, the fact is that self-care isn’t just about getting massages and meditating in the sunset.

Self-care is how you take care of yourself. It’s the daily process of making sure you prioritize your emotional and physical needs. It’s how you manage demands on yourself and your time — from work to friends and family to ensuring you get in that workout. It is not selfish. It’s putting on your own oxygen mask before helping those next to you.

Self-care is not just about your mental health. It’s also about caring for your physical self, by eating healthy, taking adequate sleep, caring about your hygiene, exercising regularly, etc.

Sometimes it’s easy to know what we need. However, some of us are so depleted and disassociated from ourselves that we don’t even know where to start. Unless you are really good as establishing boundaries, shutting down technology, and saying “no,” you may need help acknowledging that you need to find time for yourself in your schedule.

Do you regularly:

  • Skip meals when you are busy
  • Use food to cope with stress
  • Cancel workouts to meet work deadlines
  • Automatically say “yes” to requests without thinking about how it will affect your schedule
  • Multitask when eating — working or watching TV, checking emails, or reading
  • Feel guilty if you are not productive

If you’ve said “yes” to any of these, it’s time for you to incorporate self-care in your routine. Easier said than done, right? There are many small ways you can start appreciating yourself immediately. Look for small ways you can include self-care in everyday life.  From getting up a little earlier to go for a run to spending time on the weekend preparing meals, these are not tasks but ways to show you that you value yourself.

We need to condition ourselves to take breaks and moments for ourself. The idea that lunch is for wimps that fuelled the 80s culture should be left in the 80s. Being overscheduled and always on doesn’t lead to more productivity. It leads to burnout, heart attacks, and unhappiness.

Don’t take bad habits on holiday: Three tips to keep vacations good for your health

Holidays can be a chance to enjoy exotic dishes -- better than overindulging familiar not-so-healthy fare.
Holidays can be a chance to enjoy exotic dishes -- better than overindulging familiar not-so-healthy fare.

Don't take bad habits on holiday: Three tips to keep vacations good for your health

This post originally appeared March 18, 2019.

I remember being at an airport a couple of years ago and seeing a sign that made me laugh and think. “Vacation calories don’t count!” it exclaimed. For so many of us, vacations are a break from the routine. This doesn’t just include work but can extend to diet and exercise. We can see vacations as a free-for-all, a magical time period where calories don’t count and exercise is an inconvenience.

I get it. When on vacation, you want to indulge in the things that you normally wouldn’t touch when you’re at home. So how can you find a healthy balance? Here are three things you can do to make the most of your holiday while staying committed to maintaining your health goals:

Avoid the buffet — if possible

Whether you’re at an all-inclusive, on a cruise, or at a hotel, the lure of the buffet is an on-going temptation. Because of the choices on offer, it can be easy to go back and overindulge. But the days of the 99-cent buffet are long gone.  Today, buffets can be just as expensive as eating in a proper restaurant.

If a buffet is your only option, use smaller plates and focus on the foods you will really enjoy. Don’t look at a buffet as a FOMO experience — much of the same food will be available the following day. While there may be slight variations, by day two or three, you will know your buffet’s offerings by heart. Also, take advantage of the chefs to prepare fresh choices.

Eat local

As our world becomes increasingly commercial, it’s not surprising to see a familiar restaurant chain on the main street of your vacation destination. Instead of gravitating towards what you know, a holiday can be the opportunity to try something different and local. Find those little restaurants and eat like a local. This may require venturing off the resort, so get a recommendation from your hotel. People are eager to share their regional cuisine and culture. One of the best Chinese meals I ever had was in Cuba.

Eating local also means eating at different times of day. When in Spain, head out for dinner at 10 PM and don’t be afraid to ask questions as you peruse the menu. Eating is an adventure and while you might not like everything, you’ll definitely come home with one or two unexpected new dishes that you’ll be excited to incorporate into your routine.

Keep active

While you may not want to spend 30 minutes a day of your holiday on the treadmill at the hotel fitness centre, there are many ways to stay active on vacations. If you’re on a city break, walk as much as you can. You’ll see more and uncover hidden gems that you never thought you would experience. Walking immerses you in a new place and slows you down to take in your surroundings.

The same goes for exploring nature. Hiking, rock-climbing, zip-lining, discovering ruins, or paddling a canoe lets you experience different environments and landscapes — and reminds us all why we need to protect these places.

If you’re on a beach vacation, swimming can get your heart rate up. We’re not talking about mindless laps in the pool while dodging an unruly game of Marco Polo. Snorkelling can introduce you to a beautiful undersea world and the strange creatures that live there. Even walking along the beach provides resistance which can turn a leisurely stroll into an activity that raises your heart rate.

A vacation can be a break but it’s not an excuse to return to bad habits and destroy all your good work. By making sure that each indulgence is deliberate and taking the time to get some well-needed rest, you can come back home reinvigorated and ready to commit to yourself.  

Fat-shaming response to Nike’s plus-size mannequins shows just how far we still have to go

Nike plus-size mannequins on display in London / Image source: allure.com
Nike plus-size mannequins on display in London / Image source: allure.com

Fat-shaming response to Nike's plus-size mannequins shows just how far we still have to go

It’s been almost a month since London’s flagship Nike store unveiled its new mannequins. Displayed alongside more traditional ones, the new mannequins showcase Nike’s plus-size clothing line. Nike, unlike a number of mainstream fitness brands, carries a range of sizes from XS (0-2) to XL (14-16). As the average American woman wears a size 16, it is more necessary than ever to provide all body types with stylish, flexible, high-quality exercise wear.

However, not everyone celebrated the unveiling of the new mannequins as a sign of progress, inclusivity, and acceptance of body diversity. In an editorial published in the Telegraph, a columnist berated Nike’s move as delusional. She went on to shame the mannequin and make dangerous assumptions about health. Because I don’t want to contribute to the many clicks this article has already received, I will not directly name the so-called journalist or include a link. If you want to be disappointed in humanity, all you need to do is google “Nike mannequins Telegraph.”

Should we be surprised that this opinion exists? Not really. It’s just one of many negative voices that athletes who do not conform to traditional sizes and shapes have come to expect when they look for clothing that fits properly, offers enough coverage and support, and looks great. From athletic-wear CEOs casually saying their clothing isn’t for all women to incredible female athletes being criticized for what they wear to compete, the athletic-wear industry is a battleground. With the rise of athleisure, casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and general use, it is more critical than ever that companies embrace body diversity if they want to make profits and set trends.

While so many amazing women of all sizes have shattered the assumptions that there is a specific size and shape for an athlete, the idea that only certain types of people should even participate in exercise is pervasive in our culture. Yes, it is changing — but progress is slow.

As much as we may not want to admit it, many of us are still prisoner to this idea that overweight means unhealthy. Our society still looks at BMI as an easy way to classify and put people into groups. We look at the outward presentation of thinness and the numbers on the scale instead (link to How to Measure Your Progress) of celebrating our own accomplishments every time we lace up our running shoes.

The truth is that we all need to stop making generalizations about health and even berating ourselves for what we look like instead of what we can achieve. There are slender people who pass cardio benchmarks effortlessly. However, there are larger people running marathons and achieving the perfect balance of healthy and unhealthy cholesterol. Being limited by out-of-date biases will only keep us hating ourselves and reinforcing negativity. Change is slow, but if we want to all move towards acceptance and kindness, we need to start with ourselves.

Finding motivation for exercise isn’t always easy; ultimately you have to look within

Guy can't motivate himself / Image source: gro.co.uk
Guy can't motivate himself / Image source: gro.co.uk

Intrinsic or extrinsic: finding motivation for exercise isn't always easy, but ultimately you have to look within

There are a million excuses and I’ve heard every single one. There are creative reasons why someone might miss a workout, indulge in mindless eating, or forget their gym shoes. If you show up to your training session feeling like you would rather be somewhere else, the experience won’t be positive. It’s rare that someone drags themselves up the stairs at TrainingSpaces and has a transformational workout.

We all have days where we lack motivation. Whether it’s a rainy day that would better be spent under the covers or a sunny day where you would rather be out on the patio, how can you trick yourself into putting 100% into your workout?

There are two kinds of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic is when we do something to earn a reward or avoid a punishment. Intrinsic motivation is when we engage in a behaviour because we find it personally rewarding. While both types of motivation can be useful in the short term, it’s intrinsic motivation that wins the day when it comes to exercise.

Looking at your routine as a means to an end will not make it stick when things get tough. Financial rewards, promises of new exercise gear, or better abs don’t last. So how can you rewire your brain to look forward to exercise instead of dreading it?

If you want people to mention how great you look because you’re hitting the gym, you’ll stop when the compliments do. When you instead focus on being stronger, improving endurance, or testing your flexibility, every workout is an immediate opportunity for improvement. Running without stopping for an extra minute is something the only matters to you…but it’s a long way from the days when you couldn’t get halfway down the block.

Another tip to increase motivation is to only do things you enjoy. Instead of doing pilates because you read that it helped a celebrity drop weight fast, do it because you like it. There are hundreds of activities out there that can become part of your fitness routine. From swimming to dancing to cycling to powerlifting, all movement is valid. Just because you aren’t drenched in sweat and dying doesn’t mean that you haven’t done something that’s good for your body.

Building motivation can be difficult, but with consistency and patience, you can grow to love your workouts. They are a break from your routine, something just for you, and an opportunity to prove to yourself just how good you can be. Finding those messages within will keep you dedicated and excited for every session.

How Relative Fat Mass Index improves on Body Mass Index as a measure of health

Relative fat mass index is supplanting body mass index as an indicator of health.
Relative fat mass index is supplanting body mass index as an indicator of health.

How Relative Fat Mass Index improves on Body Mass Index as a measure of health

Underweight. Normal weight. Overweight. Obese. These are the four categories the Body Mass Index (BMI) has used in its health assessment.

BMI calculation is based on two metrics: height and weight. Use one of many online BMI calculators and you will receive a number that is meant to indicate your general health. Below 18 and you are underweight. You are of normal weight if your BMI is between 18.5 and 25, overweight if it is between 25 and 30. Anybody with a BMI of 30 or more is obese.

However, more reports and studies are finding fault with BMI as a measure of health. Basing a calculation of health on height and weight alone, BMI doesn’t take into account bone, muscle, or fat proportions. This means that a person with exceptional muscle tone and low fat is more likely to have a higher BMI compared to someone with higher fat and lower muscle tone — because muscle can be four times as dense as fat.

If the BMI is defective, why are we still using it? Is there an easy alternative to the BMI? Yes, and it’s the relative fat mass index (RFM).

Studies have determined that your waist circumference provides a more accurate reading of your abdominal fat and risk for disease than BMI. Based on data from 3,456 patients in the United States, the RFM measurements closely matched those taken by a high-tech DXA body scan, widely considered the gold standard for measuring body tissue, bone, muscle and fat.

To get your new RFM measurement, measure your height and waist circumference, then plug the figures into this formula:
MEN: 64 – (20 x height/waist circumference) = RFM
WOMEN: 76 – (20 x height/waist circumference) = RFM
What’s interesting about the RFM is that weight is not even part of the overall equation. Additionally, there are no strict categories for simple classification.

As doctors and organizations like the American Society for Nutrition and the American Diabetes Association promote waist-circumference measurements as a supplement to, or replacement for, the body mass index, we are starting to rethink the relationship between weight and overall health. So, let’s say goodbye to the BMI and embrace the change that comes with new information that will hopefully lead us towards a more holistic view of wellness.

Celebrating one year of TrainingSpaces

closeup on handle of Inspire functional trainer machine
Before and after
Before and after

Celebrating one year of TrainingSpaces

Where did the time go? It feels like it was only days ago that I was waiting for the equipment to be delivered and putting finishing touches on our website. A year is a big milestone in the life of any business and it’s given me time to think back on everything we’ve achieved — and where we still need to go.

The most stressful part was getting started. I started TrainingSpaces out of necessity. I had spent my entire career as a trainer renting from others and received the sudden news that I could no longer train in my current space. This was a wake-up call. I needed to take the plunge and stop being at the whims of others. Despite the fact I never saw myself running a studio, I needed to do it. Finding a space and negotiating with the landlord and lawyers was incredibly difficult.Once I had signed the lease, I was nervous but relieved. I would finally be the person in charge of my own future and, succeed or fail, these decisions would be mine.

Everything I did was a dress rehearsal for running TrainingSpaces. My experience in a number of unrelated jobs and renting from others helped me figure out how I would behave as a studio owner. I had seen how the mistakes of others led to their downfall — from pure disorganization to communication failures. Those were invaluable lessons and warnings of how not to run a studio and I paid close attention, determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

I needed to be loyal to my vision. Once I had secured my lease, I decided that TrainingSpaces would be a place for trainers. By defining what type of fitness professionals I wanted to attract, I could decide what type of equipment I needed. Even my logo, the kettlebell, encompassed the purpose of my business and my overall brand. This was a place to lift weights and get stronger.

Setting goals is essential. We always talk about fitness goal setting and I had to do the same for my business. I planned out what I wanted to accomplish in increments and made sure my goals were SMART. By doing this, I could evaluate my success against a timeframe and decide if I needed to make changes or maintain my current approaches.

The most surprising thing I’ve learned: I’m constantly cleaning. Running a studio with 13 trainers and their clients, classes, and bodywork sessions requires constant attention. I take pride in TrainingSpaces and want everyone to feel comfortable — so if this means dusting five times a day, I’ll grab the broom and start sweeping.

Future plans and next steps. Because businesses need to change and grow, I’m always thinking about what’s next. Looking at our space, I’m re-evaluating its layout and purpose. Are there ways we can better accommodate all our trainers and clients? There probably are. With expansion, I’m hoping to add more trainers and more classes to the weekly schedules. And this means I’m looking into different scheduling options to make it easier for trainers to book their time.

In the past year, TrainingSpaces has been redefining how we all work out. But it wouldn’t be possible without you — our trainers, our clients, and our readers. So, on behalf of the TrainingSpaces family, thank you for standing by us, training with us, bringing us your ideas and suggestions, following us on social media, and being part of our little fitness revolution.

On to Year Two!