My number one feel-good habit is movement. At this point, it’s ingrained in my lifestyle and has major benefits for my mental and emotional well-being in addition to my physical body. This week, I’m sharing what a week of movement looks like for me right now and why!
Strength training has become the foundation for everything. I lead four strength classes per week on zoom, where I do the workout with my clients. This is the only strength training I’m currently doing. I use heavy-ish weights, like 20-25 pound dumbbells, which I’ve built up to over time. When I started teaching this class years ago, I used 8 pound dumbbells and found it difficult to talk and teach at the same time. Strength training helps us increase bone density and allows us to add muscle mass to our bodies and helps us to move well and avoid injury in our daily lives. I look at strength training as playing the long game: more muscle mass helps us to increase our basal metabolic rate, meaning that we burn more calories at rest. While the workout itself may burn a small amount of calories, this is not the benefit of strength training. There have been times in my life when I focused on heavier strength training, and there will be times when I do this again, but for this season, I’m appreciating the convenience and metabolic benefits of my dumbbell based workouts for my strength, body composition and mental health.
I have a goal of hitting 10,000 steps per day. This is less about the exact number, and more about ensuring that my day is full of non-exercise activity. Examples of non-exercise activity are walking the kids to school or to do errands, standing while working or on the phone, fidgeting, doing chores around the house; sitting less and moving more. Over 10 years of working in fitness, I’ve come to realize that many people overestimate the impact of their workouts and underestimate the impact of the rest of the movement that they do throughout the day. Your workout is definitely beneficial and it’s also important to realize how beneficial the rest of your movement is. Non-exercise activity contributes to our total daily energy expenditure, helps maintain cardiovascular health, manage blood sugar and helps maintain body weight.
Cardiovascular activity is the sprinkle on top for me. I have a goal of 150 minutes of activity per week. I find that I get just over half of this from my regular activity: strength training and non-exercise movement. To reach my goal, I ride my spin bike twice per week for about 35 minutes (while watching Netflix, bonus!). During these rides, my focus is to keep my heart rate in zone 2, about 65-75% of my maximum heart rate, for light cardio. Again, I view this as playing the long game: when we train in this zone, we are improving our overall fitness, endurance and performance. Zone 2 training is known to help decrease resting heart rate, blood pressure, improve insulin resistance and increase the number and efficiency of the mitochondria in our cells. Training in zone 2 most of the time also helps our performance when we choose to engage at a higher intensity and doesn’t have the same stressful effects of higher intensity exercise.
I teach one yoga class per week and do one solo practice weekly. I sometimes say that yoga was my first fitness love, but that’s not actually true, it was step aerobics circa 1995. I have done yoga on and off for many years. I decided to do my yoga teacher training in 2021 and have now settled into a routine of twice weekly yoga. I find that the mobility and flexibility components are an excellent balance for the strength training that I do. Also this practice, whether I’m teaching or practicing alone, helps me to be in the present moment. Yoga also helps us to connect with the body and breath and calm the nervous system.
Movement Mindset: What happens if I’m feeling sore and half-ass a workout, or don’t reach a goal or miss a workout? Nothing! It’s what we do most of the time that matters. I never stress about missing a goal anymore. Over time, and many missed goals, I’ve learned that the goals are there to train myself to aim high, and even if I miss them, I’m still better off than not having set those goals in the first place. When it comes to movement: don’t stress about the ideal workout, the best workout is the one that you enjoy and will be consistent with. It doesn’t have to be perfect: something is always better than nothing and done is better than perfect. When it comes to adding something to my routine or making a change, I just choose one thing and focus on becoming consistent with that one thing before adding another: simple can be very effective.