Where I am, in Vancouver, as spring approaches, like most of the country we like to get outside. Although our climate is much warmer than most places east of us, it is gross and wet and we rarely find ourselves outside, as much as we like to pretend otherwise on social media. So, the other day it was a beauty and I grabbed my mountain bike and jumped on it, forgetting that it has been nearly six months since the two of us had spent some serious time together. And my ride was amazing. It kicked my ass and I loved it. I literally needed to take two Tylenol in order to go to sleep that night.
It also got me thinking about how much I love the physical challenge of exercise. As much as I do talk about how our clothes fit on bodies, because come on, we all want to feel good in our bodies and in our clothes, for me exercise is about the challenge and the struggle, and not just in the workout itself but throughout my entire day.
Finding the time to work out is a struggle and challenge all on its own. I work in a gym and I know firsthand how hard it can be to fit in the workouts. Some days I just can’t find the time, and that is ok because as prescribed by Health Canada, all we need is 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week to be considered healthy, which equates to 30 minutes 5 days week. So technically we do get 2 freebies. But for me, exercise helps my mental health. It helps me release stress, work through anxiety, and either prepare for the day or decompress before heading home. When I don’t get a workout in, I don’t feel like myself.
Finding the energy to work out is a struggle and a challenge too. As best as I can I try and plan my harder workouts on days where my workload is lighter but even so, some days I’m just wiped and the idea of even changing into workout clothes exhausts me.
Even if you have the time and the energy, figuring out what to do for the workout is also a challenge. Do you rush to a class at a studio down the street or hop on an elliptical for 20 minutes or do a strength workout? To be honest, those are all great options but going into your workout, whatever it may be, with a plan is key.
So how do you find the time to work out? You don’t. You must make it and be smart about the types of activities you choose. I teach a 50-minute lunchtime Pilates class at a busy studio and it is jammed every week because workouts like Pilates or yoga are the perfect workouts to squeeze into a busy day. They challenge you without making you sweat (too much) which means a quick spritz of dry shampoo after the class and you can quickly head back to the office. If you can’t make it to a class, you can always find something similar on YouTube that you can do at home.
You can also choose a workout that is short. I don’t know why we feel as though all our workouts need to be in 30 or 60 minute blocks. Even 10 or 20 minute workouts when life gets busy will suffice. Remember, it is really the consistency that matters so you are better off with a short workout over no workout.
And what about energy levels? How do you convince yourself to work out when you’re tired? Start by trying to keep your energy levels up by staying hydrated and being consistent with calorie consumption. If you know you have a tough workout scheduled that day, fuel accordingly. An after-work workout needs a mid afternoon snack and a morning workout must be followed by a nutritious breakfast. But if you have done everything to stay hydrated and fueled and you are still exhausted, choose a workout that will reenergize you, like a light cardio session with some good music, a quick strength workout, or a flowy movement class. Start out easy, allow the endorphins to start flowing and if things go as they should, your energy levels should pick up and you will finish strong. You never regret a workout, even if it is not your best.
So, you have a grip on those last two points, but when left to your own workout knowledge, or lack there of, what do you do in your workout? If you can, try and hit a class. Allow your brain to shut off and have someone else tell you what to do. Trust me, I do this for a living, and I LOVE classes. I even see my own trainer once a week just so I can have someone push me. If a class doesn’t fit into your schedule then follow this recipe:
-10 minutes of cardio to start: 2 or 3 minutes light running or biking or whatever your cardio option is, then spend the remainder of the workout doing intervals.
-Something as simple as 30 seconds hard, 30 easy will be enough to get your heart pumping, burn some calories and challenge you physically. Just because the workout is short doesn’t mean it has to be easy.
-Next pick 1 pushing exercise, 1 pulling exercise, 1 power exercise, 1 lower body strength exercise and 1 core exercise. You can either do repetitions of 10, 15 or 20 (depending on how light or heavy the weight is) or use time (30, 45 or 60 seconds for each exercise).
Go through all the exercises one time and if that is enough for you then good. Have a quick stretch and head home. Or, if you are feeling energized, take a 60 second break and do it again. Maybe you go through it 3, 4 or 5 times. Either way, push yourself from start to finish of each exercise and you are guaranteed both the physical and mental challenge that makes exercise feel so good.
Here is a quick workout you can do on your own when you are lost for time and energy and just have no clue what to do at the gym. You will need 2 dumbbells and either a medicine ball (that doesn’t bounce) or a slam ball.
Single Arm Press – this pushing exercise is great for upper body strength and core stability. Keep your legs in tabletop and your body still.
Plank Rows - a great pulling exercise that works your back strength as well as your core. Start with your feet wide to help with hip stability (the goal is to keep your hips still as you pull the weight up) but as you get stronger bring your feet closer together.
Dumbbell Wood Chop – this power exercise will work your entire body while also getting your heart rate to its max. Take your time on these. Speed isn’t as important as your power and technique. Stagger your feet and initiate the movement from your back hip. Stop with the weight over your shoulder like it’s a bucket of water that you are throwing. Take your time between throws.
Step Back Lunges – This is one of my favourite lower body strength exercises (placing a pad behind you will allow you to step back and drop your knee right to the ground). Hold a dumbbell in your hand and press it into a shoulder press each time you step back.
Plank Up Downs – a core exercise that works your entire body. Either lead with one arm for half the reps/time then the other or alternate right to left throughout the movement. Either way your legs, arms and abs will hate (but love) you.