6 Ways to Make Exercise a Habit

Exercise.

Habit.

Two words that most people don’t see going in the same sentence. How can exercise be something you “just do”? If you’re not one of those people who enjoy exercise (there are more out there than you may think!) how can it ever not be a forced activity in your day?

IMG_2132

I remember when my workout felt like a chore. It was painful to drag myself to the gym (or in front of a P90X video) and get started. Once I did start it was fine, but getting started was the worst part of my day. I would so rather be sleeping, watching tv, shopping, eating, ANYTHING but working out.

But we all know that exercise is good for us. It’s not necessary to workout 7 days a week but according to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, you should get at least 150 minutes per week (source).

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (18-64 years) #
To achieve health benefits, adults aged 18-64 years should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
It is also beneficial to add muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups, at least 2 days per week.
More daily physical activity provides greater health benefits.

So how can you make this a habit; something you just do without thinking about? Here are my 6 tips for making exercise a non-negotiable part of your day:

1. Have a Clear Vision

There is a difference between a goal to lose weight or be fit vs. losing weight or getting fit to reach your goal. I’m not exercising to lose weight or to look good for a specific event. I’m in it for life. I want to feel sexy and confident every day. I want to have energy and regular sleeping & eating patterns.  I want to live long enough to see my children’s, children have children. And I want to be the best possible version of myself so I can be my best for others.

I think being fit and healthy will allow me to be all of these things.

Having my priorities straight is what keeps me going back to the gym day after day. Shallow goals are too easy to make excuses for. For example, I strength train because I want to have functional strength for everyday activities. If my goal was to be able to squat 100 lbs, it would be a lot easier to put that off for another day, and then another…

photo 1

2. Plan Your Week

Every Sunday I take a look at the upcoming week and my work/personal commitments. I schedule my workouts from Monday-Saturday around those plans. For example, on a travel day I may need to work out a little later in the evening or if I have dinner plans with friends, I’ll hit the gym in the morning before work.

I have a to-do list for each day which includes my meals and fitness for that day. It doesn’t always have to be perfect; some nights are busy, canned soup nights (Amy‘s are the best!) and sometimes the best workout I can squeeze in is 30 minutes on the elliptical. Regardless, having a plan keeps me on track.

photo 4

3. Prep The Night Before

If I know I’m taking a yoga class the following day, my mat, towel & yoga bag are sitting by the door. If I’m working out in the morning, I’m sure to have an on-the-go breakfast ready like these vegan overnight oats!

Laying everything out the night before saves a lot of time and stress in the morning. Plus, you will be less likely to forget your socks or headphones and you’ll show up with the right gear! I’d prefer not to do BodyAttack in a Free-To-Be bra 😉

photo 3

4. Choose Workouts You Enjoy

If you hate spin (like me), don’t spin. Just because it’s amazing cardio doesn’t mean its for everyone. I’d rather do 10,000 burpees. If it’s a gorgeous day out and you’re dreading the gym, go for a run outside. When it comes to exercise, there  is something for everyone. Just to name a few:

  • Organized sports – Join a basketball team or a dance club
  • Casual sports – Have a tennis match with your bestie or go snowshoeing
  • Running/walking – Go solo, with a friend, join a running group, or go all out and start marathon training
  • Group fitness classes – Both Les Mills and the YMCA offer something for everyone who thrives in a group atmosphere
  • The gym – TRX, weight lifting, cardio machines
  • Home workout videos – Beach Body videos (i.e. P90X), Jillian Michaels, TIU
  • Online fitness – BlogilatesYou Tube videos

The list goes on…

IMG_2337

5. Commit to Friends

If you tell someone your going to be there, you probably will. When I was in university I always worked out with my friend Britt. I remember a lot of mornings wishing we hadn’t made plans to be at the gym first thing, but I wasn’t about to be the one to back out. Afterwards, I was always SO glad I dragged myself out of bed. Usually once our weekly schedule was set, we rarely missed a workout.

Meeting friends to workout can be a bit of a social thing too. I love having company for a yoga class or a circuit and you wouldn’t believe the cool people you meet through healthy living 😉

photo 1

6. Acknowledge & Celebrate Progress!

Of course doing something over and over will get frustrating if you aren’t seeing any results, but remember your weight is not the only indicator of progress. There are a number of factors that can prove you are making headway:

  • Body measurements
  • Body fat percentage
  • Blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol
  • How your clothes feel
  • Energy levels
  • Strength
  • Endurance

Remember to set realistic, sustainable goals (see #1) and celebrate even the smallest successes! If you beat your 5k time, maybe buy yourself a new pair of running shorts. If you’re at a plateau, reassess your routine and make some changes.

IMG_2968

Exercise needs to be fun and enjoyable or it will never be a habit. It can be all of these things if above all, you want it to be. You need to decide for yourself that you want to live a healthy, active lifestyle; that you want to be fit & healthy and are willing to work for it.

You are the only person who can make those things happen. Not your gym buddy, not your trainer, not Jillian Michaels… YOU! So get out your to-do list, plan your week, and pack your gym bag. There’s no time like the present… 🙂

Here’s to healthy habits!

Liz xo

Fit Friday: Stability Ball Jack Knife

Christmas came early at our house!

IMG_2055 IMG_2057

As much as I love the gym and group-ex classes, sometimes I just like to do my own thing at home. I am especially looking forward to having the weights during the winter months when the last thing I want to do is drive to the gym on a snow day.

I am so super excited about the stability ball because I’ve been wanting to share my favourite fitness moves with the ball for a while now.  I also have some killer core workouts in mind. Stay tuned 😉

Some other recent news:

  • The blog has a Facebook page! This was the last form of social media to connect with the blog. I thought I would like to share my posts through my personal Timeline but I decided I’d prefer to keep them separate. This will allow me to better connect with the blogging community and my FB friends can choose whether or not to follow the page.
  • The polls are now open to VOTE for your favourite VVP Nov 2013 recipes!! If you were a fan of my Spinach & Artichoke Dip, please take a minute to vote for it for best appetizer and I could win one of eight vegan cookbooks. Click HERE to vote now. There is also a Pinterest contest where the recipe with the most re-pins wins $125 in NuNaturals products! You have to re-pin from the VVP November 2013 Pinterest Board. You can re-pin my recipe HERE 🙂

IMG_1829

Now on to some fitness! I love this move because it works almost your entire body: shoulders, arms, upper & lower back, full core, legs… you get the picture. I’ve you’ve been following my posts for a while you know I love multi-tasking moves.

Fit Friday: Stability Ball Jack Knife

AKA: Swiss, Stability, or Exercise Ball Jack Knife or Leg Tuck
Weight/Equipment: Stability Ball
Reps: 3 sets of 15-20

Method:

Get into a high plank position, hands directly under shoulders, with the tops of your ankles flat on the stability ball. You don’t want to be on your toes or your shins.

Nov 18 001

Engage your core and bring your knees into your chest, rolling your feet across the ball. Now you want to be on your toes. Avoid rounding your back since this takes the work out of your core.

Nov 18 002

Return to starting position by rolling your feet over the ball in the opposite direction.

At all times, keep your core and shoulders engaged and your back flat. Repeat 15-20 times as part of a circuit or complete 3 sets during your workout.

For more Fit Friday moves & workouts check out the Fitness Page!

Also, don’t forget to check out the FB page after you VOTE & Pin 🙂

Liz xo

Build Your Own Workout

I always hear people say, “I would work out if someone told me what to do”, or “I’d go to the gym if I had a plan laid out for me”.

If I had the means, I would do this for everyone who asked, but my profession is engineering and not personal training. I usually refer people to my favourite fitness blogs, magazines, or more recently, my own little fitness page.

zoomed

I find it very easy to turn to a fitness blog, find a workout, do some Google searching if I’m unsure of the moves then take it to the gym or my living room. Just the same, there are many days where I throw together my own thing as you can see on the Fitness Page. However, either of these options can still be intimidating if you don’t know where to start.

I thought it might be helpful for some of my readers to have some basic guidelines on how to put a workout together. Like anything else, confidently creating and executing a workout comes down to time and practice. Maybe you don’t know the difference between tricep dips and a triceratops right now, but after a few workouts I promise you will start to remember the moves and get a little more comfortable with strength training. Everyone has to start somewhere!

Build Your Own Workout: Strength Training Basics

Follow the steps below to first determine your fitness level, then choose your focus area and exercises. Remember that what works for one person might not work for another. You can adjust your weight, exercises, reps, sets, etc. to get the most of your routine. If it doesn’t feel right the first time, make some changes and try it again.

byow2

1. Determine your fitness level.

How much weight?: For beginners, start with 5 lb dumbbells and no more than 10 lb barbells. Test out a few reps and increase or decrease as you feel necessary. Remember you can lift heavier for legs & back than you can for shoulders & arms.

How many reps?: The general guidelines are usually 12-15 reps for light-moderate weights or 8-10 for heavier weights. Get to know your body. There is a difference between fatigued muscles and aching joints! You will likely need to switch up your weight from one exercise to the next, depending on the target muscle group. If 8 lbs feels too light but 10 feels too heavy, use 10 and decrease your reps by 2-3. You will get better/faster results by increasing your weights.

How many sets?: Another general guideline is usually 3 sets of X reps for each exercise. You can either a) perform your 3 sets in sequence then move to the next exercise or b) perform 1 set of each exercise then repeat the entire workout 3 times. I recommend no longer than 30 second breaks between sets. If you are using option b), try resting for only 1 minute between each of your 3 rounds.

I always get a better workout the second time I attempt a given routine. Once you get familiar with the moves and your weight preferences it’s much more effective and its fun!

2. Chose two focus areas

Personally, I think it’s more effective to perform antagonistic workouts because you can rest less when alternating between muscle groups. Legs are the exception because you can switch between hamstring and quadricep exercises so its common to dedicate a day to just legs. I’ve provided some examples of common muscle group combinations below:

  • biceps & triceps
  • back & biceps
  • back & chest
  • chest & core
  • legs & core
  • shoulders & back

All to myself

3. Choose your exercises

I provided 8 exercises for each of the focus areas listed above. For combination workouts like chest & back, choose 3-4 workouts per focus area, alternating muscle groups from one exercise to the next. For a single area workout choose 6-8 exercises total. Again, the number of exercises you perform should depend on your fitness level. You can increase/decrease any aspect of the routine to get the most out of your routine.

For any exercises you are unsure of, type them into YouTube and the first link will likely be a short tutorial.

Biceps

  • dumbbell curls
  • barbell curls
  • supinating dumbbell curls
  • hammer curls
  • outward bicep curls
  • bicep rows
  • 21s
  • preacher curls

Triceps

  • tricep dips
  • tricep kickbacks
  • tricep push-ups
  • lying tricep extensions
  • overhead tricep extensions
  • one arm tricep extensions
  • close grip bench press
  • tricep pull-downs

Back

  • lawnmower (one arm row)
  • bent-over dumbbell rows
  • wide grip barbell rows
  • close grip barbell rows
  • seated cable pulls
  • deadlifts
  • dumbbell pull-overs
  • lat pull-down

Chest

  • dumbbell chest press
  • barbell bench press
  • incline dumbbell press
  • wide push ups
  • dumbbell flys
  • cable flys
  • cable press
  • peck deck

Shoulders

  • military press
  • upright row
  • Arnold press
  • standing lateral raise
  • seated, bent-over lateral raise
  • alternating front raise
  • shoulder press machine
  • shrugs

Legs

  • barbell front squats
  • barbell back squats
  • sumo squats
  • split squats
  • step-ups
  • one-legged deadlifts
  • calf raises
  • leg press machine

Core

  • side plank twist
  • stationary mid & side planks
  • wood chop
  • jack knife sit ups
  • Feiffer scissors
  • bicycle crunches
  • Mason twist
  • mountain climbers

zoomed2

Now that the framework has been laid, here are some basic workout examples to help you get started:

Ex. 1: Back & Biceps (4 of each exercise)

Perform 8-10 reps of each exercise with a heavy weight. Repeat entire sequence 3 x through, resting no more than 1 minute between rounds.

  • lawnmower, left side
  • lawnmower right side
  • barbell curls
  • wide grip barbell rows
  • hammer curls
  • deadlifts
  • outward bicep curls
  • lat pull-down
  • 21s

Ex. 2: Shoulders & Arms (4 shoulder exercises + 2 biceps & 2 triceps)

Perform 10-12 reps of each exercise with a medium-heavy weight; each set 3 times, resting 30 seconds between sets.

  • military press (S)
  • dumbbell bicep curl (B)
  • Arnold press (S)
  • lying tricep extensions (T)
  • lateral raise (S)
  • outward bicep curls (B)
  • alternating front raise (S)
  • tricep kickbacks, left and right (T)

Example 2 shows that you that the basics are easily build on. Things start to get really fun when you incorporate moves that work two muscle groups at once, like the swimmer’s press for biceps and shoulders.

I hope this helps some of you get started on your journey to a fitter, healthier you! No need for fancy equipment or expensive gym memberships to get the job done. You are both your own best advocate and your own worst enemy. Choose who you want to be and get your hands on some iron 😉

Happy lifting!

Liz xo

Fit Friday: I’ve Got The Power Walk

Remember when I said 2 strength training sessions per week was one of my goals for September? Well I’ve been sticking to it and I’ve been SORE! But good sore loving it 😉

Yesterday I definitely needed a cardio day but I couldn’t make my usual BodyAttack or Step. I wanted to log at least 50 minutes so I hit the cardio room and here’s what happened:

1. Stairmaster

2. Treadmill

  • 20 minute power walk

Here’s how it ended:

chestsweat

My butt and legs are begging for a yoga day today 😉

Never underestimate the power of a fast, inclined walk!  I used to love running but I can’t get through 10 minutes now without shooting pains in my knees, followed by days of aching. Not worth it 😦 Yesterday my backside was too sore for any resistance cardio (biking, elliptical) so I opted for the power walk. It’s lower impact but still highly effective. I burned a load of calories and worked some muscles I forgot I had!

The 20 minute sequence of incline and speed changes is below in a printable, pin-able, or screenshot-able form. You can always adjust the speed or incline range to suit your requirements but you know what I have to say…

Be sure to challenge yourself 😉

Power Walk

For more Fit Friday fun check out the Fitness page!

Liz xo

Fit Friday: HIIT Me Up

Happy Fit Fri-Thursday 🙂

I’m posting early since I’m heading to Cape Breton tonight and won’t have the best cell service over the weekend. Another surprise: I’ve got a little something different for you this week! Since I’ve done about a month’s worth of exercise moves I figured I’d put together a total body workout. Its a combination of strength training & cardio for some high intensity interval training (HIIT).

I completed this entire workout using 12.5 lb dumbbells so the reps are based on what felt challenging for me. It looked pretty innocent on paper but it was a doozy 😉

Me Gym

If you only have light or heavy weights on hand, adjust your reps accordingly but be sure to challenge yourself. If it’s not challenging you, it’s not changing you!

New to HIIT? A brief lesson: HIIT is a type of cardiovascular exercise that consists of alternating periods of high impact, anaerobic exercise with lower-impact recovery periods. This type of training helps improve athletic ability, boosts metabolism and provides a higher fat burn than any other type of exercise.

Fit Friday: HIIT Me Up

IMG_0405

You will need:

  • 8-12 lb dumbells
  • medicine ball (optional for #11)
  • exercise ball or bench (for #7)

The workout consists of strength training sets followed by a short cardio burst. Perform the cardio intervals as fast as you can and repeat the entire workout 2 times total (3 if you dare!)

  1. 12 squat to overhead press
  2. 12 lunges, left then right leg (24 total)
  3. 20 switch lunges
  4. 20 bent over rows
  5. 12 renegade row push-ups
  6. 12 burpee push-ups (push-up is optional)
  7. 20 chest press
  8. 12 elevated push-up knee tuck
  9. 12 squat jumps
  10. 15 side plank knee to elbow, left then right side (30 total)
  11. 12 leg lifts with weight overhead
  12. 40 mountain climbers

I recommend following with 20-30 minutes cardio of choice!

I’ve included a You Tube link to each move because I realize not everyone has a database of workout moves in their head. Maybe for my next workout I’ll make my own short video to highlight a few seconds of each move. What do you guys think?

Let me know if you give this a go 🙂

Liz xo

Fit Friday: Burpee Push-Ups

TGIF and I’m on VACATION 🙂

It’s short but I know it’ll be sweet! The bf and I are heading the Cape Breton until Monday to visit my family and spend the weekend at their camp on Lake Ainslie. I haven’t been to the camp in 2 years and haven’t been home since Christmas sooo ask me again why I love July?! The cooler is loaded down with lots of vegan essentials as to not stress out my momma (Earth Balance for corn, Yves veggie dogs for roasting, coconut yogurt, Food For Life cookies, and maybe a Mill Street Organic or 6 😉

Lake Ainslie – Summer 2011

Today’s Fit Friday move is one I’ll be taking on the road this weekend so it’s the perfect time to share it with you. Don’t worry there will be lots of modification options at the end. If you want to start putting a routine together here are some more Fit Friday moves to get you started:

The Drinking Bird

Spiderman Push-Ups

Side Plant Twist

Fit Friday: Burpee Push- Ups

AKA: A death sentence 

Weight: Just yourself

Reps: 3 sets of 12-15 incorporated into a circuit or as part of any workout.

Method:

1. Start in standing position then squat to touch the floor.

IMG_0396

2. Jump your feet back into a high plank, engaging your entire core to keep your back flat, bum down.

IMG_0395

3. Perform a triceps push-up

IMG_0401

4. Jump your feet back in then JUMP as high as you can!

IMG_0405

Return to position 1 immediately and repeat steps 1 though 4 in as much of a “fluid motion” as possible.

Modifications: 

  1. Leave out the push-up. A standard burpee does not have a push-up but this is a high-intensity option to push your limits.
  2. Don’t jump to finish the move. Just stand and reach your hands to the ceiling.
  3. Harder?! Add a tuck jump instead of a straight jump to finish! It’ll blow your mind.

Now go get em 😉

Liz xo

Fit Friday: Spiderman Push-ups

Want to work your chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, and entire core all at once? Of course you do! More buff for your buck 😉

FIT FRIDAY: Spiderman Push-Ups

Weight: Just your body!

Reps: 3 sets of 12-15, in sequence or incorporated into a circuit

Method: Start in a high plank position, hands under shoulders, core engaged, making a straight line with your body.

June 2 021

Lower your self into a push-up while bringing your right knee up to touch your right elbow. That’s one rep.

June 2 022

Return to high plank and repeat on the opposite side. Continue for 12-15 push-ups. That’s one set.

Tip: Flex your biceps and core to help keep your butt down. The tendency will be to raise your hips (like a downward dog) but this will take the work out of your core.

In a few weeks you’ll be swinging from the downtown high-rises like its nothin 😉

Liz xo