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Fitness Friday: Something For The Beginner

At this point in my personal training career, I would say the majority of my clients are what I call “beginner exercisers.” I know I post a lot of intermediate workouts on here, but by and large the ones I create for clients are filled with exercises geared towards newbies. Or at least, someone who hasn’t worked out in say… 15-20 years? ;)

I put the call out for Fitness Friday topics this week, and Rhonda fired back with a good one.

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Hi Rhonda, you just described my typical client.

Now, I have to tell you there is a reason why this type of person seeks out personal training if the first place. They’re out of shape, their flexibility is shot, they’ve got an injury, and they’re seriously lacking in the motivation department.

All of the above is best fixed with one-on-one sessions. It allows me to asses your specific needs and build a training plan from there. Because I can’t do that through my blog, I’m going to try to do the next best thing.

The following is a list of exercises that I will typically do for a beginner exerciser in the first session. They’re easy to get in and out of, it works the whole body, and tells me what should be the areas of focus. Plus, they’re all exercises I feel comfortable letting a newb try out on their own as “homework.”

The following is a strength routine you can do 2-3 times a week. On top of this, you should be doing some form of cardio 4-5 days a week for 20-50 minutes. On lifting days, keep the cardio to 20 min, on non-lifting days, make it a little longer. Be sure to allow 48 hours between each strength session to allow for proper muscle repair.

 

Stability Ball Squat
2 sets x 20 reps


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I like this exercise because it automatically puts you in correct squatting form without the use of a machine. It’s supposed to be easier on your knees, but you can always widen your stance to take additional pressure off.

  • Make sure your knees are behind your toes when you lower.
  • Only come down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Push your butt back into the wall.
  • Keep your chest facing the front wall.
  • Push up through your heels.

Lying Hamstring Curl on Ball
2 sets x 12-15 reps


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  • Lay down with your arms at your sides, palms down.
  • Place your ankle on top of a stability ball.
  • Raise your hips so your body is a straight line.
  • Bend your knees into your body using your hamstrings.

Seated Machine Chest Press
2 sets x 12-15 reps. Starting at 10-15 lbs for women, 20-25 lbs for men.


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  • Adjust the seat so the bars are next to your chest – aka the “nipple line”
  • Roll your shoulders back and rest your head against the seat so you’re not tempted to strain your neck.
  • Elbows are slightly below the shoulders.
  • Don’t let your hands come back past your chest, it puts too much weight on your shoulders.

Seated Machine Cable Row
2 sets x 12-15 reps. Starting around 30-40 lbs depending on the machine.


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All machines for this one are slightly different, but the motion and form are always the same.

  • Back is straight, shoulders are back and down away from the ears.
  • Feet resting on pads or edge.
  • Slight bend to knee (but enough room to allow cable to pass)
  • This is a back exercise, so think about pulling the handle in using your back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring your elbows as far back as you can.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press
2 sets x 10-12 reps. Starting around 8 – 12 lbs.

 


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Preferably done standing, but only if you promise me you won’t arch your back. If you suffer from back problems, try these seated on a bench or chair.

  • Don’t arch your back!
  • Dumbbells come above your head, not in front of your face.
  • Shoulders are down the whole time. Locked back into that perfect posture position.
  • Don’t strain your neck, or push your chin forward.
  • Lack of shoulder mobility is a common problem, meaning this exercise isn’t for everyone. Let me know which ways you can’t move your shoulder and I’ll give you an alternate exercise.

Standing Cable Tricep Pushdown
2 sets x 12-15 reps. Starting around 15-25 lbs.

  • Your forearms are the only part of your body moving in this exercise. It’s a single-joint move, meaning the only joint moving is your elbow. Lock everything else into place. The second you fall out of form, readjust or call the set done!
  • Keep your shoulders back and away from your ears.
  • Bring your forearms up to 90 degrees, and then push them down until your arms are straight.

Dumbbell Bicep Curl
2 sets x 12-15 reps. Starting around 8 – 12 lbs.

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  • Another single-joint exercise, your elbows are also the only ones working here, and your forearms are the only body parts moving.
  • Keep those elbows hugged to your sides like your life depended on it.
  • Keep your shoulders back and away from the ears.
  • Don’t let your spine arch backward.

Prone Cobra
2 sets x 30-60 seconds


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Lay on your stomach, hands down by your side, and lift your chest off the ground. This is an isometric back exercise, so you’re just going to hold that position for as long as you can.

  • Face the floor so as not to strain your neck.
  • Keep your toes on the floor.
  • Always be trying to lift your chest higher and higher with each passing second.

Lying Leg Lifts
2 sets x 10-15 reps.


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I often get people to place their hands under their hips for this one to support their lower back. That will help prevent your back from arching when your abs begin to fail. Start with your legs together, toes facing the ceiling. Lower your legs until you feel that pull in your stomach, then bring your legs back up.

  • Try to keep your legs as straight as possible.
  • Motion doesn’t have to be big. Some people only drop their legs a few inches because that’s all it takes to feel the burn!

Ab Roll-Up
2 sets x 10-15 reps.

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Lay on your back with your legs stretched out in front and your arms stretched out on the floor overhead. Using your abs, pull yourself up, moving your arms towards your toes. Then slooowly roll your spin back on to the floor and repeat.

  • Try to keep from using momentum to get yourself up.
  • Remember to engage your core and not your back.
  • Take it slooow on the way down to get more out of this exercise.

Extra Things To Consider:

When going through these exercises, play close attention to your body.  What moves felt particularly hard? What ones felt easy? If you can barely walk the next day, then maybe it’s time to focus a little more on the legs. Or if your back is sore, then start working on not only back exercises but core strength as well.

Always start with lighter weights than you think necessary to get the form down, then move up to challenging weights that have you close to failure. YouTube is your best friend when it comes time to choose more challenging exercises. But the ones above should hopefully just get you in the weight room door ;)

This workout is not meant to get you sweaty and breathless. It won’t aid that much in weight loss, that’s why it needs to be paired with cardio. BUT it will get your basic strength and mobility back. So you can eventually take on more advanced exercises to get that metabolic fire burning ;)

As for cardio and flexibility for this fitness and age group… That’s another post for another day.

Tim Tam Slam

Helloooo!! I feel like it’s been forever since I sat down to write a normal blog. Ohhhh and how normal I’ve been all week. After a long weekend filled with excitement, I’ve been thrown head first into a very busy work week. No complaints though. What else would I be doing with my time? Watching Teen Mom?? I came to Toronto to do things, so doing is what I’m… erm… doing ;)

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Most of my breakfasts this week have been rushed and eaten on the go. Thankfully, near-empty nut butter jars make for excellent portable dishware ;)

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This was my first crack at overnight oats/yogurt in a jar. It had about 2/3 cup yogurt with 1/4 cup raw oats, raisins, coconut, cinnamon, protein powder, and of course the >1 tbsp almond butter left on the sides of the jar.

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I must say, I was not a fan of this. The best thing about oats in a jar is that it melts the leftovers stuck on the side of the jar, thus making it easier to get every last bit. Instead I was just left with chunks of hard almond butter in my yogurt.

This morning, I made sure to put a hot meal in that glass jar.

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What?? Who said oats in a jar is only for nut butters?

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I put a small scoop of PB on the bottom for good luck.

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Then poured in my hot oatmeal and topped with another tiny scoop of PB and blueberry jam for more good luck. Muuuuch better. The fluff got all melty and gave me a sugar jolt with my morning caffeine buzz ;)

Speaking of Fluff, I got word they don’t have the marshmallow treat in Australia. A sin really. So I sent off a jar to Laura to make her life complete, and in return she sent me a package chock full of Australian goodies!! I must share.

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First up – Tim Tams. I’ve heard of the name, but never knew what they were. Until now.

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They’re like a chocolate covered chocolate wafer cookies with a chocolate cream in the centre. Dreeeammy. Laura instructed me to You Tube “Tim Tam Slam.” I did. It was awesome. You can watch it here.

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You will have to excuse the crinkled and open packages. My grubby hands got to them before my camera did!

Next up are Jaffas. 

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They’re kind of like a cross between a Smartie and an orange Skittle. Chocolate with a thick orange flavoured candy coating. Verrrry interesting!

And who can forget…

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Dude, I didn’t know you could get this stuff in a tube!! Or that Kraft made it!

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As the package suggests, Vegemite is a concentrated yeast extract. It smells pretty gross… and squeezes out thick.

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Laura said to use it sparingly as it has a very strong flavour. I put some on my beer bread to pair up yeast flavours. It’s much more salty than I was expecting, but with a sweet undertone? I guess the only thing I could compare it to is soy sauce. We can buy Marmite in Canada, which is similar, but I’ve never had the guts to buy it! I think I might actually acquire a taste for this stuff :)

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Thank you for the goodies Laura!! I <3 you too :)

 

September Goal Check-In

It’s been just over a week since we set our goals for September, now time to check in and see how we’re doing! Keeping you (and me!) in check ;)

1. Get organized. I’m religiously writing everything down in my agenda. It’s hard balancing out the schedules of nearly 20 clients, with a new part-time job, e-mails, blogging, getting a new certification, side projects, workouts, volunteering and a social life! I’m still dropping the ball on a few things though. There are a few items that keep getting pushed over on my to-do list, it’s time to finally cross them off!

2. Professional development. Lookie what I got this week!

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My Nutrition & Wellness Specialist certification manual. This couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’ve been in my new training job for two months now and studying about health and wellness again is injecting more life into my work. Not to mention, teaching me valuable and useful information that I can use in my job.

3. Turn on the oven. I did it once this week with the above beer bread. This week was a bit of a wash with meal planning because of the short week. Next week I’m kicking it into high gear.

4. Love my workouts. Ooohhh Nelly. Yes, I have been totally loving my workouts this week. But my body sure hasn’t been liking them! :P I took Sat/Sun off because of travel. Worked my back/biceps on Monday, then my legs on Tuesday. I was feeling a little sore on Wednesday, so stuck to an (amazing) Ashtanga Yoga class at my gym. Then I got sore. Real sore. For the sake of muscle repair, I took an unplanned rest day today while hobbling around training clients. This new workout split is fun, but kinda killing me. I may have to take it a bit slower!

 

Question of the Day: How are you doing on your monthly goals? Don’t have any yet? Make some!

 

See ya tomorrow for Fitness Friday!

Life in a Jar

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Going through my food photos, I noticed this one from last week that I never shared with you. I swear, it’s not because I am ashamed of it.

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That would be oatmeal in a Fluff jar topped with chocolate peanut butter and strawberries. The fluff melts and becomes a sweet syrup. SO good.

Apparently, oats in a jar continued to be a popular breakfast into this week.

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Either that, or I have a tendency to blow through fluff and peanut butter at the same pace ;)

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One of my pet peeves used to be the hard bits of nut butter at the bottom of the jar, but putting oatmeal in it solves that problem. What’s that purple stuff in there you ask?

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Jam of course!! When you’re out of fluff, jam is the next best thing to pair with PB ;)

This morning I got a grip on myself and ate breakfast out of a bowl.

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Yogurt with protein powder, dry oatmeal, cinnamon, blueberries, almond butter, and the kicker…

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Mint. If I could keep plants in the house without killing them, mint would be my herb of choice. Not just for the mojitos, but it makes for an excellent yog-mess topper!

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In a perfect world, blueberries would also be in season all year round ;)

You may recall that I tried fresh figs for the first time not that long ago, and wasn’t that impressed.

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Well, those were black figs. This weekend I spotted some green figs and decided to give them another try.

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Verdict? Much better! The center was a lot sweeter and more flavourful. Thumbs up!

I may not be baking much these days, but I sure am making lots of summery salads!

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I meant for this to be a quinoa salad, but when I opened my cupboard all I had was pearl barley. I still think quinoa will be better, thus, that’s what I’m putting in the recipe ;)

Hearty Tofu Quinoa Summer Salad

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small sweet potato, cut in 1cm cubes
  • 1 15oz can black beans
  • 1 block tofu, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp dried chilis

Cook the quinoa, sweet potato and tofu in the water for around 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and let chill in the fridge for several hours (one day is best to let the flavours come out!)

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I tossed some of the leftovers with spinach, zucchini, green pepper and tomatoes today for lunch. Yumyum!! I am aalll about the protein packed summer salads these days ;)

Supper wasn’t quite as successful.

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It started good – a Rowe Farms Italian Sausage on toasted rye bread from Brick Street Bread.

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Both are exceptionally tasty, made better only by the addition of ketchup, mustard and sauerkraut.

But then there was this pile of green…

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I normally love piles of green food. I though this frozen broccoli rapini would be no different. For lack of a better word, ick. It was chewy. Could not chew enough to swallow and the taste wasn’t that great. I get rapini is not one of those veggies that freezes well…

 

I also have some big news!!

Two pieces of news actually…

First, I finally picked out something to wear to the Healthy Living Summit Cocktail party.

Yes, this is big news :P

You have no idea how much mental energy I have put towards worrying about this stupid outfit. I am not a fashionista. Apart from whether or not it wicks moisture, I do not care about my clothing to any great extent. I think it comes more from the fact that I’m cheap and can’t bring myself to spend my hard-earned bucks on expensive pieces of material.

I had a few old dresses I thought I could wear to the event, but I didn’t feel right in any of them. And I’m all about feeling good in your own skin. You will have to wait till Friday to see my new $30 dress :)

Also, apparently everyone is wearing yoga pants during the sessions on Saturday. But I haven’t worn pants since I was in Alberta two months ago. I would have to disagree with the Gap and say that I do indeed look good in shorts. Anyone ever do yoga in jean shorts? :P

 

Okayokay, now on to the news that’s actually important…

I’m getting a Nutrition & Wellness Specialist certification!

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a loooong time and the time is finally right. I’m doing it through Can-Fit-Pro, the same as my personal training certification. I’ll be given a textbook and take a weekend of classroom instruction at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition.

Right now, my hands are kind of tied as a personal trainer when it comes to nutrition advice. The new certification will allow me to give nutrition counselling and advising on top of creating fitness programs so my clients will sort of have the whole package. Diet is such a huge part of the fitness and health journey, it’s important that people get some info on that too!

My classes are in September and my exam in October. This is just another part of what will be a long education journey for me, I can’t wait! :)

 

Question of the Day: Are you a fashionista? What’s your favourite piece of fashion advice? One that I always follow is that I never show off my upper and lower parts at once. If I’m wearing a short skirt, then I pick a modest top. If I’m wearing a low-cut shirt, then I’ll go with something longer on the bottom.

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