Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Packing Fitness into your Travel Plans

So, I was recently interviewed for Canadian Living Magazine Online for how to continue a workout routine while traveling.  The article is wonderful, but just because of the layout of the article, I wanted to expand on a few of my quotes and points made in the article...

If you are planning a trip in the next little while (which most people are), here are a few easy things you can do on the road...
  1. No need for equipment...
  • I base entire classes and programs on very little to no equipment. Lack of equipment is the worst excuse for not exercising! As a personal trainer, I have heard a lot of good (and not so good) reasons for people to not include exercise in their daily routines. The toughest to work around is no time... the easiest, is no equipment. There is no equipment required for crunches, push ups, tricep dips, squats, lunges, planks (and their many variations), jumping jacks, burpies, mountain climbers, hip blasters, alternating lunges jumps... should I bother going on? I started Beaches Fitness in my basement. I had a 10 x 10 space and the big gym machine took up 5 x 10 of that (and I have never used that machine much)... I was not left with much room to work in, but I made it work. I still had great results from my clients and I was still able to change their fitness routines up on a regular basis and keep them motivated. There is so much you can do without machines and in very little space! You do not need a lot of space or equipment to get in an effective workout. I have put together plenty of routines for clients to do while they are away for business or pleasure. Some clients are happy to go down to the hotel gym, but others would much rather workout in their hotel room.
  1. Take advantage of what your travel plans have to offer... hotel gym, pool, scenic walks!
  • Hotel gyms are usually wonderful. The equipment is kept clean and in great working order and they are never too busy. If your hotel offers a gym, take advantage of it! Exercising while on vacation will help keep your energy levels up and help burn off the extra caloric intake you may experience at the restaurants or while out on the town! Exercising while traveling for business will also help with the above mentioned issues, but most importantly, it will help manage your stress level and gives you that hour to yourself and away from your work.
  • If you are able to walk places while traveling, do it. Pack a comfortable pair of shoes and plan some extra time to get from your hotel to your destination. This is a great way to see the city, safe some money and get in some much needed exercise. If you are really looking to burn some calories, but are not into the idea of jogging, why not power walk? Just lead with your hips and push your body to walk a little faster than you normally would. You do not need to speed walk or anything, just push yourself forward a little quicker than you normally would. Let your heart rate increase a little and your body will thank you in the long run.
  • Pools are another great perk to staying in hotels – if you like swimming. Swimming is a great low-impact form of exercise. If you really enjoy swimming, do a few laps. Get in your exercise and decrease your stress all while doing an activity that you enjoy!
  1. Pack a gym... that would fit in your purse!
  • For my clients going away on travel, I have put together a travel fitness pack. Packed in one of my Beaches Fitness totes is a resistance band, resistance loop, a Bender Ball and their workout routine.  None of this takes up any room in a suitcase... most women could fit these in their purse. A yoga mat would be nice, but not at all a necessity. A hotel towel can make floor exercises more comfortable than the being directly on the hotel rug. Everyone knows what a resistance band is... a long, flat band that come in different colours. Resistance tubing is also fantastic and I use that for all my classes, but the bands pack up so much smaller, they are great for travel. The resistance loop is a small loop – much like the resistance band, only a little thicker and about 12” long. This small little loop can do so much! Hips, thighs, inner thighs, biceps, triceps, upper back, calves... the list goes on. I use these loops with all my clients and in all my classes. I love them. They pack up so small. I carry at 30 with me to every class and they take up a very small portion of my backpack. There is no excuse for not taking them with you for your vacation or business trip! Last year, this was the only piece of equipment I used for my Stroller Fitness classes. They are a lot tougher than they look! The final piece of equipment I think it terrific for travel is the Bender Ball. This little ball is inflated by a straw in a few seconds and then deflates to be flat again in a few more seconds. There is so much you can do with the Bender Ball, it has become my favorite piece of equipment for my classes and with my clients. It changes core work, helps with lower back issues, creates great stability exercises and also offers great modifications for lower body and upper body exercises! I could design a full body workout with just the Bender Ball! As for the cardio portion of your workout, you could take a skipping rope, if you love to skip and have a place that you are able to do it, why not? Obviously, jogging would be the simplest answer for cardio, but not everyone loves to jog and if you are working all day, most people do not want to go jogging alone at night in a new city. Some great options for in the hotel room are jumping jacks, jogging on the spot, mountain climbers, burpies, hip blasters, or penguin jog (which includes the resistance loop and works your hips at the same time... so wonderful!).
  • Fitness apps on a smart phone can be great. If you can find an app for your phone that will keep you accountable to your workouts, even better. Most people are quick to say, “I will workout tomorrow”. This is very easy to keep doing and in general, tomorrow never actually comes. There is a reason people have more success with a Personal Trainer; yes, we have greater knowledge of how to safely workout and how to see more results, etc, but the main reason people need a personal trainer is motivation. I am not a cheerleader with my clients and I am not a drill sergeant... but, my clients are accountable for their actions. If they have not worked out for 2 weeks and then come back to me, they then need to tell me why they did not workout and they can see the punishment on the scale. I do not need to say anything to my clients to make them feel bad about not working out, they do that to themselves when they find themselves having to explain to someone else why they had no time to workout. Really? Anyone can find 2-3 hours a week to workout. It just needs to take priority over watching “Big Brother” or what ever show it is for that season... believe me, I watch tv, but I have to record it and watch it later. I am a mother, a business owner, and a wife and I still find time to exercise. It is possible.
  1. Make sleeping part of your travel plans.
  • Needing a proper nights sleep is important for everyone. If you are traveling or if you are at home, we should all make sure we get enough sleep. Our bodies need this time to process our day, recover from our day and prepare for the next. Exercise also helps to promote healthy sleep, so it is a great circle... you need enough sleep to make sure you are working out safely and efficiently, but working out will also help ensure you are sleeping soundly. Our bodies and minds go through so much while we sleep, it is imperative that we allow our bodies this time to recoup and prepare.
  1. Include "exercise" in your day to day travel experience.
  • Stuck sitting in meetings all day? Why not walk to and from the hotel? Sitting in presentations all afternoon? Why not do some “Tummy Vacuums” in your seat? Just pull your belly button into your spine, hold for 10 seconds and release. Repeat this 10 times and you have just worked your transverse abdominis, which will help reshape (or maintain) your belly. If you have a day off, why not rent a bike and find some bike trails. Even the most metropolitan cities will have some beautiful bike trails. Any hotel concierge should be able to help you locate a bike rental shop and the bike rental shop will be able to lead you to some great trails. Walking is one of the best ways to experience a new city, so do not be afraid to walk instead of taking transit. You will be thankful in the end and see so much more of the city instead of seeing the underground tunnels!
  1. Indulge yourself, but do not overindulge.
  • Counting calories is never fun, but it is a good idea when you are out of your normal routine. It is really easy to over eat and eat the wrong things while you are away. Why not write down everything you eat? You do not need to track the calories, but writing things down tends to lead people away from poor eating habits. If you feel guilty writing it down, there is a good chance you will not eat it. Going out for the evening and having a few drinks? No problem. Why not have a glass of water between each drink? Not only will it help you drink responsibly, but it will also ward off any hang over you may have. Drinking will increase your calorie count more than most people realize. This does not mean you can not drink, but maybe just limit how much you drink.
  • If you are going out on the town for the day, why not pack yourself a healthy lunch? You will save money and have more control over your portions and will be less likely to over indulge.
Why is it important to continue your workout routine while traveling?

The biggest problem with taking time off from exercise, is the chance that you do not return. It takes 3-6 weeks to get your body into a great workout routine and get yourself motivated to allow yourself the time to exercise. It can take as little as a week to lose that momentum and very quickly end up back where you started... if not worse. As a personal trainer, I have seen this first hand. Clients come in 3 times a week, get themselves in a great routine and are on track to meeting their goals... then they get called away on business and way too soon, their weight is creeping back up on the scale and they get discouraged. This can be a very slippery slope. There are so many reasons why you need to workout 3 times a week (minimum), but the the most important reason is routine and momentum. Do not allow yourself that chance to put it off to tomorrow, why not today? In today's society, it is very easy for people to feel that work is more important than exercise. Really, is your job more important than your health and happiness? Everyone needs to take a look at their own lives and decide where their priorities fall. If your own health and happiness is at the bottom of a long list, there is a good chance you need to take some time and re-evaluate what is important to you in the long term.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Benefits of working out with your baby.

I started working out with my 1st daughter when she was about 3 months old.  We did Stroller Fitness through the summer and then baby & me fitness (with her in a carrier) until she was a year old and I had to return to work.  We both loved it.  She was an active part of my workout and got most of my attention for that hour.  I got a great workout in and did not have to worry about finding someone to watch her.  Plus, if she got hungry, all I had to do was stop and feed her.  It was a group of moms, there was no worry about breastfeeding as needed.

The stroller fitness class that we attended was great.  I signed up for morning classes, so it would get my day started off the right way and it lined up with my daughters morning nap, so she would sleep through most of the class.  She was a pretty easy-going baby, so she was good even if she did not fall asleep.  I have been teaching Stroller Fitness classes myself now for 4 years.  After my 2nd daughter was born, I decided to start offering the classes in my neighbourhood (this is before I moved to The Beaches in Toronto).  She was not as easy-going as my 1st daughter, but she still seemed to be happy just to get out in the fresh air and always enjoyed the stroller ride.  My girls are older now, but they still come with me to a class or 2 each week.  They no longer stay in a stroller, but they are good at staying close by and entertaining all the babies.  I still continue to teach Stroller Fitness classes, even if my own kids are not in strollers, just because I love it. It can be a great workout and it is a great way for the moms to meet some new friends while the kids get a bit of fresh air.

I also offer indoor Mom Fitness classes.  These are great for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.  As my kids got older, I really noticed the lack of classes offered for moms with more than 1 child and for moms with older kids.  These classes can sometime be chaotic, but they are all worth it!  The moms manage to get in a great workout (most days... all kids have their bad days)... and the kids get a chance to have a playdate with the other kids.

So, there are the obvious benefits to working out with your baby... the exercising itself is great, the time with your baby is wonderful...but there is more.  There is the mental benefits that are specific to new moms.  Exercise reduces stress and decreases the chance of post-partum depression.  For anyone that has experienced this or has been close to someone who has, you know how traumatic it can be for everyone involved.  Life with a new baby is filled with stress, sleep-deprivation and loneliness... a exercise can help with all of these, especially one that is geared to new moms. Exercise can actually help mom sleep better!  Plus, if you join a class for new moms, you are sure to meet at least one other mom that you become good friends with.  In my classes, over the past few years, I have seen so many strong friends grow and continue long past the maternity leave.

Babies benefit from the exercise as well.  If it is a class that actually includes the baby in the workout, the interaction is wonderful... it is also a change from the day to day routine.  There were days when my girls were so cranky, I would be going insane... just getting out of the house and getting into a new space where they were getting my attention would be all they needed.  The interaction in these "babies included" workouts builds confidence, self-awareness, human connection and love... all these intimate interactions are vital to your babies emotional growth and development.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Parts of the Body Should You Exercise After Giving Birth?

If you want the simple answer... all of them!  Each area of the body should be exercised, but all in their own way and for their own reasons.

The upper body is important to strengthen, now that you are going to be carrying around an ever-growing baby as well as their car seat, diaper bag and don't forget your purse!  Also very important to strengthen and correct the posture in the upper back for the hours and hours of breast-feeding or bottle feeding.

The core, well, besides the obvious reasons of toning up the stomach muscles that have been stretched and sometimes separated during pregnancy, this is also the fact that the core supports your entire body and weak stomach muscles are going to lead to poor posture and a sore back.  Each case has to be looked at individually though.  After my first pregnancy, I had split my rectus abdominis muscle, this is called Diastasis Recti.  After my second pregnancy, this split was worse.  The muscles were split from top to bottom and I could stick my entire hand in my stomach.  I also had 2 hernia's to deal with.  I could not do any crunches or any other abdominal that required that same action.  But, through research and years of experience, I found the combination of exercises that worked and my muscles are now side by side again.  they will never re-attach without surgery, but as long as I maintain them, you would never know the difference.  If I had gone to a post-partum class or personal trainer that did not know about my issues, I could have done far more damage and possibly strangulated my hernias.  So, again, the exercises for the core section are determined more by the clients pregnancy, delivery and recovery.

The lower body is extremely important to exercise, not only for aesthetics, but also for weight loss in general.  The larger muscle groups require more energy and therefore burn more calories.  The larger the muscle group worked, the more calories burned during a workout.  The more muscle mass a person develops, the faster their resting metabolic rate... so, they will burn more calories at rest than they would if they did not have toned and healthy muscles.

While breastfeeding, the body is still releasing a lot of the same hormones as it did during pregnancy.  One of the main ones being relaxin.  This hormone is intended, by your body, to relax and open the pubic bone in preparation for birth.  But, the hormone can not zone in on just one area and it affects all joints in pregnant women as well as breastfeeding moms. So, the one thing you do need to be careful of is over-stretching.  Stretching is still important, but you have to make sure not to hold the stretch for too long or push too far.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How Soon Can a New Mom Return to Exercise?

Wondering how soon you can return to an exercise program after giving birth?  The standard answer is 4-6 weeks, but research is constantly changing and expanding in the field of pre and post natal exercise.

An athlete, that enjoyed a healthy pregnancy and a complication free, vaginal birth, could return to training after as little as a week.  This is the extreme case, and should only be done under the supervision of a professional.  But, for the rest of us, it all depends on your pregnancy, your delivery and your recovery.  Every woman is different, and so is every pregnancy.  

Generally, after a healthy pregnancy and a complication free, vaginal birth, a new mom can return to exercise after 4 weeks.  After a c-section, the soonest I recommend is 6 weeks.  For both cases, it all comes down to if the doctor or midwife has cleared you for exercise and how you are feeling.  Please, listen to your body!  I offer modifications to all the exercises in my Mom-Friendly Fitness classes, because every case is different and the most important thing to remember is to listen to your body.  I ask that all my moms (well, all my clients), communicate with me openly.  If something feels uncomfortable or hurts, we can always work around it and still get results.  Any trainer should be able to offer modifications, but especially anyone that works with pre and post natal clients.

I have had clients start with me 1 week post-partum, and I have had mothers that have waited well over a year.  Each case, the mom has done what works for her.  The sooner you return to exercise, the easier it will be to loose the baby weight.  It is important for each mom to decide what is best for her physically and mentally.