One Dumbbell Workout

One Dumbbell Workout

40-Minute One Dumbbell Workout

At the time of writing this blog it is 13 days before Christmas and I just bought our Christmas decoration.

Christmas-Fitness-with-PJ

Yup. A bottle of Carolan’s is our decoration.

Why, you wonder? Well, it’s the only decoration I feel like buying every year.

You see, we don’t own one decoration.

Nada. Nothing.

We had a tree about 20 years ago, when we first got married, but I lost enthusiasm for the whole “decorating” for the holidays after a couple of years and gave away all our ornaments (which were hand-me-downs anyways – cause I was too cheap to buy anything and friends of ours took pity on us and gave us all of their old decorations).

Ever since I gave away the ornaments I haven’t bothered to replace them.

It’s not cause I hate Christmas, either. It’s just simply I don’t want to add anymore stuff to do to my agenda in December.

If I need to get lit up for the holidays I will do so in other ways 🙂

Fitness Christmas Gift Suggestions

A Studio membership. HAHAHAHAHA. I know, total blatant self-promotion. But… we do rock.

Foam roller – so your loved one can save some money on a massage therapist. I dig this one .

This shirt:Funny-fitness-tank-top

A subscription to a meditation app. I love Headspace.

A subscription to a local produce delivery service.

Smartphone running arm band.

Dumbbells… cause who doesn’t love some iron for the holidays.

A TRX.

A cool yoga mat sling.

Cool-yoga-bag-sling-Fitness-with-PJ

A cool workout bag.

funny-workout-bag

A little bling.

Strong-is-beautiful-necklace-Fitness-with-PJ

The coziest sweatshirt ever.

The-Studio-Sweatshirt

 

The Workout

Tools needed: a light, moderate and heavy dumbbell

40-Minute-1-Dumbell-Workout-All-Levels-Fitness-with-PJ

 

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The Most Useless Exercise Ever

The Most Useless Exercise Ever

The Most Useless Exercise Ever

Einstein is quoted as having said that the definition of insanity “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

This quote leads me to beg the question then, why do people still continue to do abdominal crunches and expect a 6-pak and a functional midsection in return?

If crunches were the answer to a toned tummy all of us would have them.

But alas we don’t, do we? Canada is currently sitting at a 54% overweight and obesity rate (Stats Can 2014) – with a lot of that fat around our bellies.

Something is clearly not working with all these crunches that we have been doing.

woman-with-belly-fat

Crunches – why they don’t work

First off, let’s review why abdominal crunches don’t work and are the most useless exercise ever.

Number one: you can’t spot train.

This simply means that you cannot take a certain section of your body, like your abs, and perform repetitions isolating that muscle group in hopes of decreasing the size of that body part.

You can try all you want.

Heck you can even stare at your belly while you are doing your crunches and yell at it – but it still won’t work.

Why?

Well, basic physiology tells us that fat is utilized as a fuel source, and when we need that fuel we start burning it from various locations throughout the body. Not from one certain location.

You cannot burn fat from one particular area.

Instead, you gotta keep working at training your whole body and slowly the fat in the area you want reduced will start to go away (that is, of course, if you are eating properly too).

Number two: flexing forward is kind of a dumb move.

One of the functions of the abdominals is to flex the spine forward. That flexing activity (which is essentially what we do when we perform a crunch or a curl-up) is not functional at all though.

Think about it. How often do you actually roll the spine while on your back, on a day-to-day basis?

I can think of one time and one time only – to get out of bed in the morning.

And, while the thought of perfecting that movement is great, it’s not really what I think a lot of us have in mind when we go to the gym.

The abdominals are actually used (during our waking hours) as stabilizers to the spine.

Now, please I understand that I am being very general here.

What the heck do our abs do?

The abs are also used throughout the day for twisting, bending, assistance on breathing as well as flexing.

But, if you were to break it down percentage wise what the abdominal muscles did during most of their waking hours the clear winner would be stabilizing and assisting our spine and our posture.

Taking that into consideration you can now see why an abdominal crunch will not help us out in daily living and provide even less help in sport.

More preferable exercises are ones that lengthen the body and then use the abdominals to hold that position, such as:

Planks

Push-ups

Boat pose

Mountain climbers

We also need exercises that ask the abdominals to assist in stabilizing the spine such as:

Squats

Deadlifts

Lunges

Pull-ups

Power cleans

And finally, we need exercises in our routine that also engage the rotational and twisting ability of our midsection. These include:

Reverse woodchops

Anti-rotational movements with tubing or the Rip Trainer

Russian twists with the medicine ball – careful with form though!

Med ball throw downs

Side plank tempo drills

wall-climber-2

If want to perform a crunch

If you want to perform the odd crunches in your routine then I recommend the following.

The following ab exercises were tested and rated by the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

They sponsored a study to see which ab exercise fired up the rectus abdominus (the long, flat muscle muscle extending the front of the body), and the obliques (our waist muscles) the best.

For strengthening the rectus abdominus, the 13 exercises were ranked most to least effective:

1. Bicycle maneuver
2. Captain’s chair
3. Crunches on exercise ball
4. Vertical leg crunch
5. Torso Track
6. Long arm crunch
7. Reverse crunch
8. Crunch with heel push
9. Ab Roller
10. Hover
11. Traditional crunch
12. Exercise tubing pull
13. Ab Rocker

For strengthening the obliques, the 13 exercises were ranked most to least effective:

1. Captain’s chair
2. Bicycle maneuver
3. Reverse crunch
4. Hover
5. Vertical leg crunch
6. Crunch on exercise ball
7. Torso Track
8. Crunch with heel push
9. Long arm crunch
10. Ab Roller
11. Traditional crunch
12. Exercise tubing pull
13. Ab Rocker

Why You Shouldn’t Do Abdominal Crunches:

  • Because you curl your upper body forward they reinforce the slumped sitting posture
  • They compress the (lower) lumbar segments
  • Crunches can actually weaken the pelvic floor
  • Because of the forward flexion movement they restrict the excursion of the diaphragm and hamper breathing
  • Can cause shearing strains across the high lumbar segments
  • Crunches, especially legs supported full sit-ups, over use the hip flexor muscles
  • Ab crunches tend to also over use the rectus abdominis muscle at the expense of the obliques and TA (your deep abdominal muscle)

Final thoughts

And last, but not least, if getting rid of that fat is what you really want, then you need to take a long hard look at what you are eating.

Great abs are actually cooked in the kitchen first and then trained hard in the gym second.

 

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5 Natural Remedies for Treating Menopause

5 Natural Remedies for Treating Menopause

5 Natural Remedies for Treating Menopause

Five natural remedies for treating menopausal symptoms.

Menopause. It comes with it’s perks.

No more period! No more buying tampons! No more buying pads! No more menstrual cramps!

But, to get there we have to put up with:

Irregular periods

Hot flashes and night sweats

Sleep problems

Mood changes

Weight gain

Thinning hair and dry skin

Vaginal dryness

Low libido

Now, this doesn’t mean all of us will get the above symptoms, and for those of that do it also doesn’t mean we have take this lying down.

There are natural ways we can manage our menopause symptoms.

(NOTE: If your symptoms are severe, though, you may need HRT. Talk to your doctor or menopause specialist.)

5 Natural Remedies for Menopause

1/ Exercise.

Go figure I would list this as the first natural remedy to menopause. But, it’s also what all the experts recommend as well.

First, exercise releases endorphins, thereby improving our moods.

Second, exercise has a positive effect on cognitive functioning. Helping us through that brain fog that plague so many women in menopause.

Third, exercise lowers blood pressure, improves lipoprotein profile, C-reactive protein and other heart disease biomakers.

Fourth, exercise helps to enhance insulin sensitivity that gets impaired as we age.

And finally, exercise can help prevent weight gain.

This is particularly important for menopausal women as our weight tends to stick to unusual places (hello meno-pod), and our scales refuse to budge.

Which is super frustrating! Isn’t it??

However, one of the reasons that this is so common in menopause is because of our fluctuating estrogen levels.

You see estrogen tends to cause our body to hold onto fat. And then on top of this fat actually produces more estrogen, which then creates even more fat.

Therefore, the vicious cycle continues.

Start adding fitness slowly into your routine.

Add a HIIT, or higher intensity, cardio workout once a week into your routine.

Strength train 2-4 times a week.

If you’re a beginner, get a workout program designed with you (and weight loss) in mind.

2/ Eat well.

What we put in our bodies has a huge impact on our menopause symptoms.

Foods to keep an eye that could trigger your menopause symptoms:

Fatty cuts of meat: for heart health and your waistline

Sugar: for fatigue and weight gain (eliminate completely!)

Refined carbs: mood swings, fatigue and weight gain (eliminate completely!)

Caffeine: hot flashes, increased cortisol levels and sleep problems

Alcohol: hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings, weight gain (eliminate completely! Haha, just joking. Scared ya though, didn’t I?)

Spicy foods: hot flashes

Hot foods: hot flashes

What to eat instead?

Clean sources of protein (such as free-range beef, bison, chicken, turkey, fish, beans and legumes)

Soy: the isoflavones in soy foods are thought to balance the hormones levels. There is research about soy both working and not working (very confusing Mr and Mrs Researchers), as well there are questions about the safety of soy too (in some studies the participants have seen an increase in breast cancer). Experts recommend avoiding supplements, and instead, choose from food sources such as tofu, soy milk, roasted soy nuts or tempeh.

Vegetables: aim for at least a pound a day and make half of that raw. Also please choose green whenever you can – green is the new black.

Fruit: get sugar out of your life and add fruit instead. For weight loss, I would recommend 2 pieces of fruit a day (no more), and earlier in the day when the body processes carbs better.

Complex carbs: oats, brown rice, veggies and fruit, beans, legumes, quinoa, grains and ancient grains

Healthy fats: avocados & avocado oil, coconut oil, organic butter & ghee, extra virgin olive oil, eggs with the yolk, nuts and seeds, and omega-3s

Flax seed: the lignans found in flax seeds are thought to balance our hormones, however according to the Mayo Clinic flax does not provide any benefit from hot flashes. It’s worth a try though. Now, it needs to be pointed out that the study that the Mayo Clinic is referring to used breast cancer patients and all were postmenopausal.

My question: would a woman without cancer, and in peri or menopause see benefits?

I say try it. You have nothing to lose and if flax doesn’t help your menopause symptoms at least you will be giving yourself a good boost of fibre and healthy fats.

3/ Decrease your stress.

Stress can be the culprit behind additional imbalances in hormones and neurotransmitters that affect mood, as well as mental function, thyroid function, digestive function, and especially blood sugar imbalances.

Stress has also been linked to symptoms such as hot flashes and low libido.

In addition, stress can make the body hold onto fat, and create more fat. Since the brain thinks the body is under attack.

Learn to decrease your stress with meditation, yoga or by performing a few deep belly breathes next time you are feeling anxious.

Lie on your back with a book resting on your belly. Inhale deeply and feel the book rise under your belly. Exhale fully and feel the book lower toward the spine.

Repeat for 2-10 minutes daily to improve your vagus nerve function – which can calm an overactive central nervous system.

4/ Acupuncture.

Many women find relief from menopause symptoms with acupuncture.

Even the experts say that acupuncture (as well as hypnosis, meditation and yoga) can help and have good safety records.

This means that acupuncture has worked in women to help relieve the symptoms of menopause and have done so with no risk to our health.

So even if it doesn’t work for you, you won’t put yourself at risk for trying.

On a different note, I personally have used acupuncture in the past for low back pain, and with complete success.

5/ Herbs, supplements and essential oils.

The following natural products are what some women take to help with their symptoms.

However, none have clearly been shown to be 100% helpful. There is also little information on the long-term safety of natural products, and some can have harmful side effects or interact with drugs.

With all that said, I know of a lot of woman who use natural products and with great success.

My suggestion is to discuss using any of these treatments with a menopause specialist, or a naturopath who specializes in women’s health.

Black cohosh – one of the best studied traditional herbs for menopause. Black cohosh seems to work by supporting and maintaining our hormone levels.

Vitamin E – a daily dose of 400 IU could help alleviate hot flashes.

B vitamins – these water-soluble vitamins may help deal with the stress of menopausal symptoms.

Evening primrose or black currant oil – these are sources of essential fatty acids that can help moderate menopausal symptoms.

Dong quai – a herb that could help support and maintain the natural balance of our hormones.

Bottom line

Begin the process of managing your menopause symptoms with tips 1 through 4 first.

None of these have side effects, and each has been researched and shown to help support our bodies – at any time in our lives.

If your symptoms still persist see a menopause specialist, or a naturopath who specializes in women’s health to discuss the use of herbs and supplements, or even HRT.

 

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How To Bounce Back From Failure

How To Bounce Back From Failure

Stopped Working Out? How To Bounce Back.

Having been a trainer for over two decades now (wow, I’m getting old. When the hell did that happen?!), I know there are a lot of people who have a hard time getting fit and losing weight.

In my 20-plus years of being “in the trenches,” I have found that most people can find the energy and enthusiasm to start a fitness plan, or a new eating plan. We make a commitment to ourselves and we start.

No problem.

Where the challenge lies is in staying committed to those goals on an ongoing basis.

I’m Starting… Next Year

Think about how many times you have triumphantly told yourself that “today is going to be the day!”, only to have that same enthusiasm wane as the days pass.

Or, how many of you have promised yourself, “I will start on Monday,” only to have Friday come and everything we promised ourselves, and were kicking ass doing on Monday and Tuesday, is slowly starting to fall to the “not so important anymore” category in our daily lives.

All these broken promises to ourselves can leave us feeling resentful, frustrated and angry with ourselves.

We wonder, why we can’t do this? What’s wrong with me? Will I ever succeed? Ha, trust me, there nothing is wrong with you.

You are human and we ALL fall and slip with our health goals. I even fall prey to this. There are some weekends where pizza, cookies and rum dominate my Saturday and Sunday nights and then Monday comes for me too.

How To Bounce Back 

Now, first off I want you to know that making poor choices with your health, when you promised yourself that you wouldn’t, is not failure. Failure is9, not even recognizing that you need to change your lifestyle.

Ignorance is the biggest indicator to failure.

Whereas admitting that you need to change some (or a lot) of things in your life to feel better, and then falling on your face every so often, is completely, utterly human.

So, what can you do next time you fall off the wagon? You have three choices. You can:

A) Crawl back into bed and throw the covers over your head,

B) Yell and scream and blame everyone else for your slip up

C) Dust yourself off and bounce back

While A can be tempting, and B we may do at times, it’s C that’s the clear winner – dusting ourselves off and bouncing back is the only way to bounce back from disaster and failure.

5 Steps to Bouncing Back

To successfully pick ourselves up takes:

  • Strength from within
  • Support from those around you
  • Responsibility on your part
  • An ability to embrace challenge and change
  • A never-stop-bouncing back attitude

First, strength within happens through self-love. You have to convince yourself that you are worth it, that even if you are starting over again you are still way farther ahead than you would be if you didn’t.

You need to remind yourself that you are making better choices in your life – for your life.

To help accomplish this new love affair with yourself you may need to reframe your thinking. Instead of thinking of exercise as a form of punishment, think of it as a choice you are making because you love your body. Sounds corny eh? But, it works.

Case in point, would you rather do a workout if someone said to you “This is going to hurt like a motha and leave you crippled for days”.

Or, “You are going to feel amazing after this”. Person A would get a punch in the throat, I am positive.

Yet, this is how we talk to ourselves all the time. We either guilt ourselves into doing something, or we take the most negative aspect of it and focus on that.

Your grey matter can play a huge roll on whether or not you put those runners on.

Bounce-back

Second, lean on those around you. Don’t feel like a burden; get help from your family, your social circle and even social media. The more people that know you need help staying on track, the more people can help. And, who knows, maybe one day they may need your help too.

Third, take responsibility for your actions. This is a tough one. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but recognize that you are completely and utterly in control of your actions.

No one is stopping you from exercise (example, you are the one creating the “I am too busy…too tired… too unmotivated…too sore…too old…” excuses that stop you from getting those runners on), and no one is stuffing bad choices down your throat in the form of burgers and beer.

Take responsibility, learn from your mistakes, bounce back up and move on.

Finally, it’s important to embrace the challenges and the inevitable adjustment that has to happen to change the direction of your health.

Don’t put up stop signs (such as “I’m too busy… too tired… too unmotivated…too sore… too old…”). If you want to make a change, start – and then get the hell out of your way and let the changes happen.

Work on those little grasshopper, and then you will find that you can bounce back, come back and live through anything.

 

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Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

So, you’re in your 40’s or 50’s. Congrats, God willing you have reached the midway point of your life.

But, now that you are here does that mean that you need to start training your age, start training with precautions and restrictions because you might break?

First a Funny Story

My loving husband, who is 10 years older than me, gives me a heads up with every passing decade as to what to expect both physically and mentally for the years ahead.

For example, when he turned 30 he enlightened me that my body was going to start to change shape (in case you are doing the math in your head I meet the love of my life when I was 19 years old. 25 years later he’s still with me.).

Sure enough at 30 years my hips grew wider (a lot wider) and things shifted. I was happy though. Prior to that I was kinda built like a boy. Now I had me some curves.

At 40 he then warned me that simple tasks, like getting up and off the floor, was going to start getting harder. As well, things that I completely take for granted now, like reading the small print on food labels, or menus in a dark restaurant, would go the way of the dodo.

On top of that he coached me that I will also experience a big decline in my energy levels and I won’t be able to, nor want to be able to, be in a constant state of motion like I was in my 20’s and 30’s.

Sitting at 44 years now, with 45 staring me in the face, he has been, and is right on target.

About-PJ-Fitness-with-PJ

I’m Old So Therefore I’m Frail

Many people, including loving husband, think that as we age we tend to slow down and do less because of aging. For the most part this is complete and utter BS (sorry loving husband).

Much of the physical frailty attributed to aging is actually the result of inactivity, disease or poor nutrition.

The good news, many of these problems can be helped (or even reversed) by improving lifestyle behaviors, such as exercising on a regular basis and eating a whole food diet.

The Effects of Aging

Aging muscles:

  • Shrink and lose mass with age. This is called sacropenia and it is a natural process, but a sedentary lifestyle will also speed this nasty process up.
  • The number of our muscle fibers decrease as we age, which means that it takes longer to respond in our 40’s and 50’s than it did in our 20’s.
  • The water content of the tendons decrease which makes our tissues stiffer and less able to handle stress.
  • The heart muscle becomes less able to propel large quantities of blood quickly which means that we tire more easily and take longer to recover.
  • Our metabolism slows down (this is how quickly our body converts energy) which means we don’t burn fat like we used to.

Aging bones & joints:

  • The mineral content in our bones decrease (for both men and women) making our bones more fragile.
  • The connective tissue that attaches bones to bones (called ligaments) become less elastic which in turn decreases our flexibility.
  • Cartilage, which provides the cushioning between our bones and in our joints, changes. With these changes comes less water content and a joint more susceptible to wear and tear (ie. arthritis)
  • Our joint motion becomes more restricted due to these changes in our tendons and ligaments making us all around less flexible.

Over 40: 4 Tips On What To Do In The Gym

 

1. Build a fitness base.

If you are just starting a fitness program you need to build a base first. This is extremely important, especially in our later years as it is much easier to get injured and it takes longer to get better when we do injure ourselves.

Why is it easier? You can thank the decreased water in our tendons and ligaments, as well as our restricted range of motion in our joints and our loss of muscles mass and muscle fiber size.

 

My recommendation: perform a strength training workout 3 times a week, 1 set an exercise, and then the next week do 2 sets, the week after add about 10% more weight to what you are lifting and then on the fourth week add another set.

2. Lift heavy.

Once that base is built, or if you are already fit, start lifting heavier but for fewer reps. If your joints and cartilage have already encountered years of wear and tear (which we know that they have by mid-life), and they don’t have the water content that they used to, a weight training program with lots of reps will only inflame the joint further.

Instead, lift a weight that you can maintain good form with, but are starting to crack by the end of your rep range of 12-15.

3. Watch out for long distance, repetitive workouts.

Cross training is your goal in your later years. If you like running, great run but keep the mileage down and perform other activities as well. But, if you run and run and run (or bike and bike and bike, or swim and swim and swim) be prepared to hurt.

Unless you are one of the blessed individuals who can perform repetitive long distance workouts without injury you are going to inflame those joints of yours and send yourself to physio.

In fact, even my younger clients that only ran for their workouts prior to seeing me have a longer history of injuries than those who run as well as lift weights.

And if you are running for weight loss, just stop right now. Cause it ain’t gonna work as well as other forms of exercise will.

4. You ain’t dead yet.

I, personally, know that I could kick my 20-year old’s ass. I am stronger, faster and more focused at 44 than I was at 24.

So, once you have built that fitness base, layered on it for a year I want you to GO FOR IT – cause you ain’t dead yet.

With the advances in nutrition and fitness that we have seen in the last 5 years we can get better and live longer and play just as hard as we did in our 20’s and 30’s.

Keep training everyone.

 

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