It happens to all of us at point or another. We think we are doing everything right.. exercising and eating as ‘clean’ as we possibly can. But then it happens.. you’re stuck and you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong.
Here are the top 3 reason’s that can stop your progress, and tips on how you can move past them.
1. Not Sleeping Enough
Sleep deprivation can affect your concentration and impair your memory; can make you feel lazy and less motivated (the thought of working out will feel like a major hassle); and affect your performance levels.
Insufficient sleep can also cause you to gain weight over time, by decreasing your body’s levels of leptin- a hormone responsible for making you feel full- and by increasing your levels of ghrelin, which increases your appetite and makes you want to eat more. (according an October 2010 article in the journal “Best Practice and Research: Clinical Endrocrinology and Metabolism.”)
Another downside of sleep deprivation is the affect on your body’s ability to release growth hormone. By not getting enough sleep you are limiting your body’s ability to recover and regenerate cell & muscle tissue.
- ensure you are getting good quality sleep, about 7-9 hours will ensure your body will function at its best.
- avoid high sugar, refined carbs before bed time as this can raise your blood sugar & stress the organs involved in hormone regulation. Have a high protein snack instead.
- avoid screen time exposure 2-3 hours before bed as the blue light emitted from your devices can disrupt your circadian rhythm (if not, consider installing a blue light filter app)
If your brain detects the presence of a threat, whether it’s from a dangerous animal, work, or financial troubles, it will trigger the release of a cascade of chemicals, including adrenaline, CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone), and cortisol. Your brain and body are preparing to handle the perceived threat by making you feel alert, ready for action and able to withstand an injury (fight or flight).
The release of adrenaline decreases appetite as blood flows away from the internal organs and to larger muscles to prepare for “fight or flight.” But once the effects of adrenaline start to wear off, cortisol, (the “stress hormone”) remains and starts signaling the body to replenish your food supply. Today we use up a lot less energy dealing with our stress compared to our ancestors (they had to fight off large animals), yet we are stuck with a neuroendocrine system that didn’t get the memo, so our brain is still going to tell us to reach for that cookie.
Besides fighting off large animals, our ancestors had to worry about famine. Their bodies learned to adapt by storing fat supplies for the long haul. Because of this when we are chronically stressed by life and/or work demands, the excess cortisol in our bodies slows down our metabolism, increasing visceral fat (belly fat). This type of fat releases chemicals triggering inflammation, putting us at an elevated risk for developing heart disease or diabetes. As you can see, chronic stress in our lives takes a major toll on our bodies.
- practice relaxation techniques
- find a quiet space & focus on some deep breathing
- learn how to say no. Distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts” and, when possible, say “no” to taking on too much.
- exercising too much without proper recovery can also impact the body in a negative way. Ensure you allow your body sufficient time for recovery. (Read my post on rest and recovery here).
3. Input vs. Output
By now you should know that your goals (whether its gaining mass or losing body fat) is dependent on whether you are fueling your body appropriately.
If your goal is fat loss then your output (exercise) should be greater than input (food). If you are consuming more than you are burning off, or if the quality of food is poor then you will not lose fat. Be cautious, though, to not restrict your calories too much as this can actually hinder fat loss as well and wreak havoc on your body, especially in women. The safest way to fat loss is learning portion control, eating quality, unprocessed foods, and having a proper weight training program.
If on the other hand, your goal is to gain muscle, then your input (food) should be greater than output (exercise). If you are not eating enough and exercising too much then you will not gain muscle muscle mass.
- for either goal, you should aim for nutritious, unprocessed foods. Include lean proteins, fruits & vegetables (especially greens), and healthy fats.
- limit high sugar, processed foods.
- have a proper weight training and HIIT program to help build muscle.
- be patient, it takes time. If you are gaining or losing too fast, then its likely not happening at a healthy level.. which is not sustainable in the long term.
There are other variables that come in to play, but I believe these are the top ones. Ultimately it comes down to listening to your body. Our bodies will always tell us if something is not working.. you just have to learn to listen.
Happy Training! 😊
“What should I do today?”
“Legs.. I’ll do deadlifts. No, wait..maybe some squats..when was the last time I did squats?”
If you’re deciding what your workout will be as you’re walking into the gym.. then I’m sorry to say.. but
In order to see any results you need to have a structured program. Walking into the gym, let alone trying to reach any goals without a fitness plan, is like trying to drive in a foreign country without a map; you will eventually get somewhere, but where you end up may or may not have anything to do with where you actually wanted to be. Without a proper fitness plan you have no way of tracking your progress, and no way of knowing if you will reach your goals.
The Right Way
Write down your goals. This is the first step to create a fitness plan. Do you want to reach a certain PR in your deadlifts? Do you want to chisel your back? Maybe you just want to feel comfortable on the beach. Whatever your reason is to workout you need a structured fitness plan to get you there. Once you’ve established what you want to accomplish, you need to create a ‘map’ to get you there, these are your short-term goals. Short-term goals are mileposts on the way toward your long-term goal.
- Long term goal: doing 12 unassisted chin-ups
- Short term goals:
- wk 1-4: build muscle strength by doing band assisted chin-ups
- wk 5-8: work on holding your weight- negative chin-ups
- wk 9-12: 3 unassisted chin-ups x 2 sets, 1.5min rest between sets (add 1 set per week)
- wk 13-16: 4 unassisted chin-ups x 3 sets, 1.5 min rest between sets
- wk 17+ : gradually increase reps per set, until 12 straight reps achieved
Establishing a fitness plan eliminates the guess work and tracks your progress. Having a schedule to follow helps eliminate the “I’ll do it tomorrow” thought pattern and holds you accountable. Once you get into the habit of following a plan, you’ll see how easier it is to get through your workouts which in turn helps motivate you to succeed. Also by having a visual record of your progress means you can actually see how far along you’ve come, which is always motivating.
Keep It Simple
It doesn’t need to be fancy (unless that’s your style). Simply having a small journal with your workouts written in them and space to write in reps, sets, weight, is enough. The main point is to make it a habit.
And that goes for any goals in general. The only way to ensure you reach them is by writing them doing, creating a ‘map’ & then following it. It eliminates any guess work, helps you be prepared for any obstacles you may encounter, and serves as a visual record of how far you’ve come and how much closer you are to your end point.
And that’s that.
Happy Training 🙂
I’ve seen it too many times… back when I worked at gyms and still now when I work out at my local commercial gym: alot (not all) of women are neglecting the big old compound exercises. The reasons could be many:
- Lack of knowledge: not knowing how to correctly perform the exercise
- Intimidation: some women feel intimidated walking into the free weights section because of all the testosterone around. I say OWN it.. do your thang girl!!
- Have been misinformed: some women might still believe that these big lifts are just “too manly” for them, totally not the case.
I could continue, but then this would turn into a looonnnggg rant.
Ok, so moving on… these lifts I like to refer to them as the “Build-A Body” group, because when implemented correctly can help ‘build’ your lady bumps and humps 😉 and who wouldn’t want that?!
- The Deadlift: A foundational lift. This exercise mimics everyday movements like bending and lifting (ex: picking up your little one). This one is my ultimate favourite lift. With so many different variations, I incorporate the deadlift in almost every one of my workouts. Muscles worked include:
- entire posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, hips): equals a beautiful backside
- engages your core musculature (internal girdle): a strong core increases overall strength, protects your back, and lets you wear those crop tops without thinking twice
- biceps and forearms: develops your grip strength so you can lift more heavy SH*T!
- Here’s a great article on deadlifting written by Tony Gentilcore (who is only the world’s deadlifting god)
- The Squat: Another foundational lift as you do this movement every time you sit and stand. With many variations to choose from, you can never get bored of this one.
- helps build and shape nice thighs
- helps build glutes
- builds overall strength
- The Hip Thrust: This one is a great glute builder/ isolator exercise. Remember that your glutes are pure muscle and in order to grow them you need to learn to fire the glutes and stimulate them properly using heavier loads, varying rep ranges, etc. You can increase or decrease the intensity level by doing body weight hip thrusts, adding bands, doing singe leg variations.. possibilities are many.
- Pull-ups: This is the ultimate upper body exercise as it builds incredible strength. As a multi joint exercise:
- works & strengthens entire back musculature, shoulders, biceps, grip strength
- creates a tapered effect of the back making your waist look smaller
- different hand positions target the muscles a little differently/ changes difficulty
- Vertical/ Horizontal Presses: These include push-ups & variations (horizontal press exercises); military press, push-press, shoulder press, etc (vertical press exercises). These exercises:
- increase upper body strength (women have less muscle mass compared to their lower bodies.. we gotta work harder at it!)
- work your chest, shoulders, triceps and core
- Band assisted push-ups (beginners)
- Awesome push-up variations (advanced)
- Military Press helps build amazing shoulders
- Push Press helps build raw strength. Improves shoulder stability. And can I just say it look badass when a woman does it!!
So here it is ladies.. a short list of some lifts to definitely include in your training. Don’t be intimidated or embarrassed of walking into that gym and grabbing some iron. Your body will thank you 😉
Happy Training 🙂
In Canada the winter months may seem ENDLESS, the layers of clothes are many and most people tend to go into some type of ‘hibernation mode’ (too much food, too little exercise). More often than not you might have experienced some weight gain. Or you could be in a building phase, which is typical during the winter months, and your intake has purposely been higher & workouts scaled back to allow for some gains/ growth. In either case you will have found yourself to be carrying a bit more cushion than you might like.
At the first sign of spring, the gyms seem to come alive with those looking to perfect their ‘summer body’. The average person will spend hours on end on their cardio machine of choice in hopes of shedding unwanted weight gain and/or reduce their food intake way too much. This will only work against your body by killing your metabolism resulting in little to no change at all.
Here are some tips to help rev up your metabolism so that you can shed those last stubborn pounds and reveal your summer physique.
Better Food Quality. Your meals should consist of nutrient dense, whole foods. Cut out sugar & high processed foods as these do nothing to promote optimal body composition and only put you at risk for metabolic diseases. Be sure to consume a lot of dark leafy vegetables (aim for 1-2 cups per meal), anti-oxidant rich fruits and beneficial fats.
Protein With Every Meal. High-quality, high-protein intake keep you feeling full longer. It also sustains lean mass which in turn increases your metabolic rate (more muscle mass= more calories burned at rest). This is very important if you are trying to lose body fat. Also, don’t make the mistake of cutting calories without increasing protein as this will cause you to lose muscle mass along with fat mass, lowering your metabolism. Include lean red meat, fish, eggs in your meals. A clean, low-carb protein powder can help supplement your diet.
Include 4-5 Days of Weight Training. In order to look lean & tight you need to increase your muscle mass and reduce body fat. To do this you need to make sure you are really stressing out your muscles. Repeated tension or load on the muscles will cause the muscle to adapt and grow over time. Most people don’t lift heavy enough, or they continuously lift for the same amount of high reps and only 3 sets per exercise. Proper stress will only occur if you vary your training; ex: High-volume training (high reps, mod weight), high-load training (4+ sets, 4-6 reps, 85-90% of 1RM), varied tempo. Also be sure to include big compound movements (squats, deadlifts, pulls, presses, chin-ups) as these are multi-joint exercises and recruit major muscles.
Sprints vs. Steady State Cardio. While distance running (steady state cardio) has its benefits (heart friendly), if you are looking to seriously burn off body fat, incorporate sprint training into your workout regime. The high intensity of sprint training causes the same metabolic stress on the body as weight training. Just take a look at a sprinter’s body vs a marathoner. Have you ever seen a sprinter who carries extra cushion on them? Nope, neither have I.
Reduce Stress. High levels of stress from work/ every day life will result in high levels of cortisol being released into the body. This will actually lead to an increase in fat mass especially around your mid-section. Take time to unwind & reduce your stress levels. Meditation, breathing exercises, yoga are just a few ways you can reduce stress levels.
Recovery. Give your body rest. All the hard work you put in the gym, although beneficial, is still a stress placed on your body. Too much of a good thing can ultimately lead to overuse injuries, fatigue and even weaken your immune system. Allow your body time to repair & rebuild, and always listen to your body.
Happy Training 🙂
So you’ve probably heard alot about the different body types and might be confused as to what this all means ( don’t get confused with body shape, ex: hourglass, pear, apple, square..etc).
THE 3 SOMATOTYPES
In the 1940s Dr. William H. Sheldon introduced the concept of body types, or somatotypes. Since then, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and even doctors have used it as an aid in designing effective, individualized fitness plans. The concept is that we all fall into the three categories below (although you can possess attributes of two different categories or even all three). Keep in mind that these are generalizations on basic skeletal somatotypes.
The body type that we are born with is based on an inherited skeletal frame and body composition. Most people are unique combinations of the three body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Some typical somatotype combinations include pear-shaped ecto-endomorphs (thin, delicate upper bodies & high fat storage in the hips and thighs), and apple-shaped endo-ectomorphs (high fat storage in the mid-section & thin lower bodies).
The “I” Type
• Aka: Ectomorph
• Are thin, with smaller bone structures and thinner limbs ( Ex:typical endurance athlete, basketball players, runway models).
• Low body fat & low muscle. They have a hard time gaining mass.
• Have a fast metabolic rate.They’re high-energy and tend to burn off excess calories with near-constant movement throughout the day.
•High tolerance of carbs. Can eat almost anything without affecting their weight.
Nutrition & Training for ” I ” Types
• Higher carbohydrates in the diet + moderate protein + lower fat intake.
• Limit cardio to 1x/ week or even eliminate if possible
• Train each body part 2x/ week
• Vary your rep range. Train in the 5-8 rep range for your compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.), but go up into the 8-15 rep range with smaller muscle groups.
• Ensure proper rest & recovery as this body type can easliy overtrain.
The “V” Type
• Aka: Mesomorph
• Athletic, solid, and strong. Not overweight and not underweight,
• Can gain and lose weight without too much effort.
• Usually have a considerable amount of lean mass (Ex:explosive athletes like sprinters, wrestlers and gymnasts).
• Are built to be powerful machines. Excess calories often go to lean mass and dense bones.
• Tend to be testosterone & growth hormone dominant. If active this type can easily gain muscle and stay lean.
Nutrition & Training for “V” Types
• A mixed diet, with balanced carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
• Cardio should be 3x/ week or less. Mesomorphs will benefit most from HIIT
• Due to rapid adaptation to conditioning, the body should be constantly hit with a combination of slow & moderate exercises, focusing on full ROM with weight training exercises that use fast reps produce good results.
• Hitting compound muscle groups with heavy weights followed by targeted isolation and definition exercises at a mid rep range of 8-12 works well. Legs should be hit with both low and high reps.
The “O” Type
• Aka: Endomorph
• Larger bone structure with higher amounts of total body mass and fat mass. (Ex:Football linemen, powerlifters, and throwers).
• Have the slowest metabolism
• Are built for solid comfort, not speed.
• Naturally less active, which means excess calories are more likely to be stored as fat.
Nutrition & Training for “O” Types
• Endomorphs don’t tolerate carbohydrates well, especially if they are sedentary.
• Do best on a higher fat & protein intake with a lower carbohydrate intake being properly timed (typically post-workout).
• Cardio should be about 3-4 sessions of cardio per week of about 20-30min
• Training should include high intensity exercises with minimal rest periods between sets (60sec or less).
• To achieve maximum muscle mass, push every set for as many reps as possible, increase weight when you can to maximize progressive overload. This will keep you within hypertrophy ranges (muscle building rep ranges) & help you burn off fat & build more lean mass.
So I think I’ve covered the basics. Hope this helps you understand your body so you can adapt your eating and training to best suit your goals.
For more detailed information on nutrition for your body type (which includes some nice infographics) click here.
The good morning is a posteriorly top loaded hip hinge movement that works the whole posterior chain. This compound movement targets the spinal erectors, low back, hips, glutes, and hamstrings. Although often neglected it is an exercise that has many benefits:
▪ Loads the deep core muscles of the lower back
▪ Trains proper hinging and requires proper firing of the glutes
▪ Teaches you to keep the lumbar spine in a controlled posterior tilt as you extend the hips back and bring them forward
▪ Teaches you to firmly ground yourself into the floor and balance your weight from the mid-foot to the heel
▪ Prevents hamstring and low-back injuries (common in those who focus too much on the anterior chain, like quads and abs, and not enough on the posterior chain muscles)
Apart from strengthening the posterior chain, including this exercise in your training will also aid in your squat and deadlift (you will be able to lift heavier ;)).
How To Perform Good Mornings:
○ Place a barbell at shoulder height on a rack
○ Rack the bar across the rear of your shoulder blades, as you would place when performing squats. This is your starting position
○ Slowly, exhale as you bend forward by pushing out your hips behind and torso forward, till you are almost parallel to the floor or when you feel a mild stretch on your hamstrings
○Now, inhale as you go back to the starting position by pushing through your hips and hamstrings
○Keep your back straight and knees slightly bent throughout the motion
○ Wide stance good mornings (targets glutes & hamstrings more)
○ Banded good mornings
》Avoid swinging while going forward or coming back up
》Keep your spine straight and in line with your head throughout the entire range of motion
》The good morning exercise could place excess stress on the lower spine and cause significant injury if done incorrectly. Start with a very low weight slowly work up from there
》Avoid locking out the knees as this places significant stress on the low back
(See how to perform the exercise here)
“If it doesn’t challenge you,
It doesn’t change you.”
So its been been almost a year since I got back into training again after my little guy was born (I took the recommended 6 weeks to recover). I have to admit that I’m not where I thought I’d be.
Due to quite a few pregnancy discomforts (from symphysis pubis dysfunction, to carpal tunnel syndrome, and then mommy thumb post-partum 😩) I lost alot of my strength.
I was quite discouraged (ANGRY) after my first workout post- pregnancy where I
unsuccessfully tried to deadlift at almost my max weight: 135pds (pre-pregnancy: 160pds).
I couldn’t get the bar off ground :oops:.
I drastically reduced my deadlift to a (sad) 50pds. My squat was scaled back to a mere 40pds… pull ups I could no longer do unassisted. Pushups only from my knees.
I had to go back to the drawing board and rewrite my program. My focus would now be to strengthen my severely weakened grip, work on correcting my hip alignment, and further strengthen my core.
I have slowly started to see my strength return. And with that my ‘issues’ are taking care of themselves. Every time I add an extra plate or move that pin further down the weight stack I smile and do the happy dance (in my head of course!).
It’s taken me longer than I initially planned for and I had to create a new program to ‘fix’ myself first, but I gritted my teeth and stuck through it and now I’m seeing results! I have to remind myself that pregnancy is a major change and stress to the body. It took 9 months of growing a baby.. it’s definitely not going to take less than that to return to where I was.
We all experience bumps along the road.. some will be harder to get over, but we shouldn’t let these stop us or derail us.
I know I’m not!
Day 1: 50pds
Day 1: 40pds
Day 1: 120pds
Pushups (from toes)
Day 1: 0
You have an upcoming event and you want to look your best in that new dress.. or maybe you’ve booked a beach vacation and want to feel confident in your bathing suit. Whatever your reason may be, spending 30+ minutes on a boring treadmill (or any cardio machine) may not be the wisest choice.
For those who are familiar with it know that it’s alot more intense than an hour on the treadmill.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is when you alternate between high and low intensity exercise(s) or between high intensity exercise and a short period of rest.
For example, a short sprint up a hill followed by a walk back down is interval training. Or a set of burpees followed by bodyweight rows. Or squat jumps followed by pushups.
The reason why? The bursts of high intensity (such as 10-20 seconds of sprinting) create a metabolic demand in the body that is effective for long-term fat loss. HIIT and heavy weight training create a state of ‘stress’ in our bodies by reducing oxygen supply to tissues, increasing body temperature, reducing body fluids and fuel stores, and causing tissue damage. This chaos prompts the body to create endocrine and defense reactions in order to deal with the problem. Basically the body is forced to adapt.
Benefits of HIIT:
• strengthens the cardiovascular system
• improves carbohydrate & fat metabolism in skeletal muscle
• results in fat-loss without compromising lean muscle mass
• improves strength and power
You end up getting more ‘bang for your buck’, for example 5 minutes of HIIT = approximately 30-45 min of treadmill or elliptical.
If you would like to incorporate HIIT, ensure you do a proper Warm-up & cool-down.
Example of HIIT Workout:
▪2 min Warm-up skipping
》20 seconds fast skipping (high intensity)
》10 seconds slow skipping (low intensity/recovery)
▪ Repeat for 9 intervals (5min)
▪ 3 min cool-down
You can replace the skipping rope with incline intervals on a treadmill or even the row machine
Want to get fancy with your HIIT workouts? Try it with resistance exercises. You can try alternating burpees with pushups… jump squats with inverted rows.. the possibilities can be endless!
One of the adaptive changes our body goes through in order to accommodate our growing baby (and belly) is the separation of the right & left halves of the rectus abdominis at the linea alba; a sheath of fibrous tissue that runs vertically between the right and left abdominal muscles. This usually occurs in the third trimester due to the increase in pressure on the abdominal wall.
Most times it will correct itself after childbirth, but for some women- either due to genetics, pregnancy hormones, rapid or excessive abdominal growth- this condition persists and must be corrected to prevent any further problems.
How to tell if you have diastasis recti:
Your healthcare provider should check for this at your 6 week post-partum checkup. But if this has not been done, here’s a simple way to
check for yourself
If it’s been determined that you have diastasis recti you should avoid:
• Exercises that strain the rectus abdominis such as crunches, bicycles, v-sits, boats & front planks
• Yoga postures that stretch the abs, such as “cow pose,” “up-dog,” all backbends, and “belly breathing.”
• Using the valsalva manuever (this increases intra- abdominal pressure)
• Exercises that cause forceful pressure against the abdominal wall
That being said.. Diastasis recti can be corrected through rehab exercises (and patience). It is important to correct this issue before getting into an exercise routine as you can cause further injury to yourself.
In this video you will find four simple exercises that can help with strengthening the core. The exercises are numbered from left to right:
1. Pelvic Roll: while lying down draw in your belly button towards the spine; roll your pelvis without squeezing the glutes. Hold at the top for seconds. Ensure you keep your belly button towards the spine as you lower your pelvis.
2. Dead Bug: while lying down ensure your belly button is drawn in towards your spine. Extend your arms straight up and raise your legs bending them at 90 degrees. Slowly extend one leg at a 45 degree angle. Return to start & repeat with other leg.
3. Quadruped Alternate Arm/Leg Extension: start on your hands & knees keeping your back flat and belly button drawn in. Extend opposite arm & leg. Hold for 6 seconds. Alternate sides
4. Quadruped Draw-in: start on your hands & knees keeping your back flat. Completely relax your tummy. As you breath in draw in your belly button towards your spine and hold for 10 seconds before releasing.
Do these exercises about 2-3 times a week. Each exercise should be performed 10 -12 times for 3 sets.
If this feels too intense slowly build up to 3 sets.
Ensuring that you address this issue, you will be able to build up the strength in your core which will then allow you to move onto a more intense exercise program (and yes…less boring too! ;))
That’s all for now 🙂