Good form in exercise

Good form for the win!

Last week I gave you tips for maximizing the effectiveness of your workouts, and one of them was to make sure you have good form. So why is good form in exercise important? 

This morning I did my Pilates workout with a resistance band, and noticed that the instructor was continually reminding the class of the proper technique. Breathe in when you do this, make sure your abdominals are pulled in, and make sure your back is straight. Why is it important to have good form?

Avoid injury

First, and probably, most important, it’s important to maintain good form in exercise so you don’t injure yourself. I’ve talked about avoiding back pain by tightening my core – there it is. Make sure your back is straight and not twisted? Again, good form. When you’re exercising with good form, you avoid strains, sprains, tears, twinges, and all sorts of nasty things. When you’re doing squats, making sure that you can see your shoelaces when you look down ensures that you’re protecting your knees. And that’s something we all need to keep in mind for our healthy aging.

Focus on targeted muscle groups

When you have good form when you exercise, you know that you’re targeting what you’re supposed to be targeting. You’re using the muscle groups that you’re supposed to be using. And you’ll get the maximum benefit from the exercise. Like this morning, during my Pilates workout, the instructor emphasized during a few of the exercises that the shoulders should be back and down to work them properly. I’ve had experience with shoulder injuries, and the last thing I want is to re-injure the joint. So I made extra sure that I followed the instructor’s direction.

Optimize time

When we really focus on having good form in exercise, we’re truly getting maximum benefit from minimum time. I don’t have time to waste and neither do you! So let’s get strong with good form.

3 Tips for getting the most out of your workout

No one likes to waste time. I certainly don’t. So how can I make sure that I get the most out of my workout? You know that I’m not a fan of exercise at the best of times. So if I’m going to do it, get changed, sweat and get all out of breath, I want to make sure that my time is not wasted. If I’m motivated enough to put some time in and exercise for my healthy aging, I’m going to make sure it’s time well spent. Here are some tips to make sure you’ll be getting the results you want.

First: focus

Make sure you’re being intentional with your movements. It’s really easy to just go through the motions, especially if you’re enjoying the music. So pay attention to what you’re supposed to be doing. If it’s jumping jacks, make sure that you’re landing with bent knees in a squat. That way, you’re working your legs to the max! If you’re doing biceps curls, make sure you’re using the right muscles. If you’re running, tighten your core and hit with your heel, ball, and toe last of all. Be intentional with your movements.

Pay attention to form

The last tip and this one are linked. Make sure your form is on point. If you’re going through the motions with sloppy form, then your workout is for nothing. When you flex your biceps on a curl, you know that the right muscle is being worked. If you’re doing a Pilates workout, make sure that you’re inhaling when you’re supposed to and that your core is tight throughout the workout.

Keep distractions to a minimum

When you get a call, you know how long it takes you to get back to a productive mode? About five minutes. When I’m working out, I don’t have five minutes to waste on getting back into the groove. That’s part of what I use a warmup for. If your phone rings and you’re exercising, ignore it. They’ll leave a voicemail message. Put the dogs in another room. I put my dogs in their crates. (They’re all crate trained and get treats!) They can still watch me, but they’re not in kicking range. Distractions are time-wasters. When you’re not distracted, you’re not able to focus as well as if your full attention is on what you’re doing.

So, even when you’re doing a shorter workout – okay, maybe especially if you’re doing a shorter workout! – you’ll get the maximum benefit from minimal time. And that’s my goal when I’m exercising.

Create a fitness goal to keep you moving

It’s really easy to go through your days on autopilot. Go from one meaningless task to another, not really accomplishing much. Then all of a sudden, it’s bedtime. Time to brush your teeth and have some downtime until you do all the nothingness again tomorrow. Do you ever feel like you’re sleepwalking through your day? I emptied the dishwasher in the morning while I watched the news. And it was basically the same as yesterday’s news. I went to the grocery store yesterday. And it was basically the same items that I bought last week. Are you stuck in a rut too? I want to feel invigorated. And I don’t want to feel like I’m stuck on a treadmill. It may be time to create a fitness goal to keep you moving.

Your new fitness goal doesn’t have to be big

A new goal could inspire you to new heights, new levels of strength, faster speeds. That new goal in one aspect of your life could spark your motivation in others. And your new goal doesn’t have to be a big one. For me, I had a goal of running one tenth of a mile faster than my previous fastest speed for a minute during my treadmill session. And to do that for 4 runs. At first I couldn’t maintain that extra tenth for the whole minute. So I lowered the speed. But then after a walk interval I bumped my speed up that extra tenth again. And kept it there longer. 

That new goal will move you forward in your healthy aging. And when you’re doing something positive for your health, you’re automatically happier and more motivated to keep going.

Invigorated by success!

How did that extra tenth make me feel? Invigorated. By running just that little bit faster, I felt like I was invincible. I felt stronger the rest of the day, knowing that I met a really tough (for me) benchmark. And being successful for one day kept me motivated for the rest of the challenge.

Your challenge:

So, I challenge you to create a fitness goal to keep you moving. Make sure that your goal is specific, with measurement and a timetable. Your goal also should be attainable but not too easy. Write your goal down so that you’ll have accountability, even if it’s just to yourself. I use the worksheet from the “Get It Done” Guide. I print multiple copies of the worksheet – there’s not much on that worksheet. It seems simple, but, boy, is it powerful! 

So, create a fitness goal. You’ll keep moving and be empowered to tackle even more.

Are you lying about your exercise routine?

I’m not on social media much, and when I do feel the urge to see what’s happening, it’s usually on Facebook. I do get lots of emailed newsletters, though, and something struck me this week. One of the fitness platforms I follow did a survey on Instagram and found that, despite the posts showing lots of exercise going on, people lie about their exercise routine. Apparently some people post gym selfies but aren’t really working out. And that makes me sad.

Why aren’t people working out

Why does it make me sad that people lie about working out? Because they’re not really getting the benefits that they could be from exercise. Data collected in a study done by Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention found that people aren’t working out most commonly because of time constraints. Granted, it takes time to go to the gym, change, exercise, change back and drive back to work or home. And sometimes exercise is the least of it. But you can get in a great workout in 20 minutes at home. I know that 20 minutes is about the outside limit for my dogs getting a good nap before they get in my way. If there are kids, you can get your workout in early or late, or when the children are down for naps. The key to having effective short workouts is that you exercise with intensity and focus. 

Lying about your exercise routine hurts you

PS Fit asked its Instagram followers who actually do work out why they exercise. It’s no surprise that many responded that they exercise for their bone health, increased mobility and energy. Many replied that they exercise to benefit their mental health. And still others exercise to increase their resiliency and to provide stress relief.

Why do I exercise?

Besides burning a few calories to justify pizza for dinner, I exercise to be a nicer person. So, I lean into the mental health aspect of exercise benefits. Exercise makes me happier and easier to live with. All of which I want to have continue. 

Don’t lie about your exercise routine. Be honest with yourself above all. If you don’t feel like exercising, as I’ve said, then taking a day off won’t make a whole lot of difference. But, if it becomes more than a day or two that you’re not exercising because you don’t feel like it, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at your routine. See if a different kind of workout might make you happier and more inclined to do it. Because lying about your exercise routine hurts no one but yourself.

Is it okay to hit pause on your exercise routine?

I didn’t feel like running this last Monday, so I didn’t. And the world didn’t end. I had been on my feet almost all of Sunday at our Dog Training Club obedience trial – working, not exactly having a good time with my dog – it was hot, and I just plain didn’t feel like it. I was tired after running errands in the 90 degree heat, and I just decided not to work out. Every once in a while, it’s okay to hit pause on your exercise routine.

It’s okay to hit pause on your exercise routine as long as

As long as you pick right up where you left off.I knew that if I resumed my normal routine the next day I wouldn’t get too sore. If your muscles are screaming after a workout, indirect ice helps to soothe the area, and gentle stretching helps, too. At the start of your exercise habit-building routine, though, the best way to avoid sore muscles is to build your speed and poundage gradually. Likewise, I wouldn’t lose my speed or endurance just by missing one day.

Habits are hard to form

A habit is formed by weeks of focusing on it. An exercise habit is helped along by scheduling and stacking behaviors. If you put your exercise clothes out the night before, you’ll be reminded that you’re scheduled for 8 am to work out, for example. When you’re forming an exercise habit you have to really think about how to incorporate it into your life. And change is not easy.

But established habits are hard to break

But once that habit is formed, like exercise is for me, you feel kind of lost if you don’t do it. Even though I knew that I’d be perfectly fine, I felt kind of guilty about not exercising that day. I had to keep telling myself that I’d put on lots of miles on Sunday, which is usually a rest day for me. And everything would be all right. It’s okay to hit pause on your exercise routine once in a while.

Keep in mind, though, that if exercise is still new to you, that you have to really make an effort to resume your new healthy habit. You’re probably not going to feel guilty, like I did, if you miss a workout. So make sure you schedule your workouts. Not only that, specify the workout that you’ll be doing. And keep that date with yourself. Remember your motivation for starting your exercise program in the first place – your reason for getting healthy and strong.

How to go from “I should” to “I did it”

Do you ever find yourself sitting and thinking to yourself, “I should do …” this or this … and then find yourself dreaming, “If I had this done, then I could …” “If I had exercised more when I was younger, I could play in the backyard with the grandkids.” Guess what? It’s not too late. Here’s how to go from “I should” to “I did it.”

First, be clear to yourself

Know exactly what you “should” do. It’s not enough to say, “I should work out more.” A more clear response is, “I should exercise 4 times a week for 30 minutes.” And a better response would be, “I will run / walk 2 times a week, do strength training twice a week and have active rest days 2 days a week.” That’s a clear response. It gives you the start of a plan.

Know why you “should” do it

This step will ensure that you take the steps needed to go from “I should” to “I did it.” If you really want something – if you really, really want something, then you’ll be willing to go through the planning process, make some sacrifices, and then make it happen. Your motivation must be very clear. And, in our example, those grandkids are growing up way too fast to let any more time slip away.

You’ll start your fitness plan to spend more time with your grandkids. And then add things on. Travel might be an option since your mobility will be better. A new wardrobe isn’t out of the question either, since your clothes won’t fit any longer. 

Plus, all those benefits for our healthy aging that we’ve been talking about, that exercise gives us. You’ll have more energy – I know, weird, isn’t it that expending energy generates energy? But it’s true. Your heart health will improve. You’ll sleep better and your memory will be better too. Solving problems will be easier as your cognition improves. Your balance will be better, so you’ll be more confident when you step out of the house.

Schedule your stepping stones

You can’t go from not exercising to full hour-long (or even half hour) workouts in a week. The best way to make sure you follow through and not quit from the overwhelm is to map out your strategy. Write it down. Go from 10 minutes to 30 over time – but schedule those longer sessions specifically on your calendar.

Keep your appointments to go from “I should” to “I did it.”

And keep those appointments with yourself! When you do, your resilience improves. You’ll prove to yourself that you’re strong and can accomplish anything. You’ll have gone from “I should” to “I did it.”

5 tips for consistent workouts

It’s on everyone’s to-do list, but really shouldn’t need to be. You know that the only way exercise is effective is if it’s consistent. And it’s really important for us, as seniors especially, for our workouts to be consistent. We know that exercise gives us a healthier heart and lungs, it strengthens our brittle bones, and it improves our memory and cognition. But it’s hard to lace up those sneakers a few times a week. Every week. It’s essential for our healthy aging. The motivation is lacking to exercise on our own. I’m busy and so are you. We’ve got stuff to do. But exercise is important, too. So how can we make sure our workouts are consistent? 

This isn’t one of the official “tips,” but first set yourself a fitness goal. If you see progress toward a goal, you start off motivated! For suggestions on setting goals, just download the Get It Done Guide. Easy peasy. Moving on, here are 5 tips for consistent workouts.

Find an exercise program you enjoy

I’ve said it before – if you don’t like an exercise program, then you’re not going to do it. You’ll make excuses and find other things you “need to” do first. I’ll be the first one to say that I run twice a week even though I don’t enjoy it. But I do enjoy the audiobooks I listen to as I run. So, find an exercise program you can live with, and something to help you like it. And be sure that your exercise program has enough variety so you won’t get bored or overwork any particular muscle group.

Schedule your workouts

Now that you’ve found an exercise program that you don’t mind too much, put your workouts on your calendar. And set a reminder for them, plus extra time for changing into your exercise clothes before and a shower after your workout. Google Calendar is versatile and easy to use.

Track your workouts

Write down what you did and how you felt – both before, during and after your workout. You’ll see your progress and that will motivate you to do more. If you’re running on a treadmill, you’ve got the statistics there so copy them down. Your log can be in a journal or just a piece of paper. I recommend actually writing this down so you have something tangible. Follow this link for the Fitness Journal and Tracker.

Find accountability

Exercise with a friend. There’s built-in accountability when there’s someone with you. Cal or messagel a friend after every workout. Commiserate with that friend over how tough the workout was. Accountability keeps us honest. It keeps us coming back even when the workout was brutal.

Don’t overwork

Yes, we want our workouts to be challenging. Because if they’re not then we’re not improving. And that should be everyone’s goal – to improve. But be careful not to overtrain. Know your body. Be aware when something doesn’t feel right. If you’re breathing too hard, slow down. If something hurts, stop. 

With these tips, you’ll be motivated to exercise consistently and you’ll also be on your way to making exercise an unbreakable habit. 

Get it done even with distractions

We’ve all got stuff that has to get done. And we’ve got stuff we want to get done. There are other things that it would be nice to get done. But what if there are dogs running around? Kids underfoot? You have to stir the soup or it will burn. And the phone keeps ringing. Here are 5 tips on how to get it done even with distractions.

Eliminate the distractions you can

Turn off your phone. Put it in another room. You’ve probably heard this before. But you need your phone! Yes, you need it, but you don’t need it all day every day. For the time it takes you to get the non-negotiable thing from your list done, turn it off. 20 minutes, okay?

    Identify your non-negotiable thing that needs to get done

    Make a list – on paper – of 3 things that need to get done today. One is absolutely non-negotiable. It has to get done today. The other 2 should be slightly less imperative. And carry this list with you. Put it in your back pocket and refer to it often. If you don’t know where to start with this exercise, download the “Get It Done” Guide and work through the list.

    How will you benefit from getting these things done?

    Why do you need to get those 3 things done? Will you benefit personally? Will they make your life simpler? If it’s grocery shopping, it’ll sure make getting dinner on the table easier! Or will they enrich you financially? If one of the items is a project for your work or your business, that’s a firm “Yes!” Or will one of the items make the life of a loved one better? 

    Ignore the distraction or deal with it

    About that distraction: if it’s a call you have to take OR ELSE!, then by all means answer your phone. If it’s a friend who you need to talk to but it will wait, then message the friend and ask if you can call back later. A true friend will understand, because there are probably times when they have to get things done.

    Close the door

    Close the door. Or put the dogs in their crates with peanut butter-filled kongs and tell the kids you need 20 minutes of quiet time. Set your timer. You’ll be able to get it done even with distractions. Your mental toughness will carry you through this. Your resilience is improving, and you’ll face the rest of your day knowing that you accomplished something.

      Be Like a Scout and Be Prepared

      No procrastination, for a change!

      I’m writing this article on Tuesday, and (hopefully) it will be posted on Friday. Wait – what happened to procrastination? Doesn’t everyone write to deadline? Well, I don’t usually like to work that way, and especially this week. There’s supposed to be a line of severe thunderstorms passing through my area tonight. When we get those narrow lines of storms, there’s a good chance of damage. A few years ago when one of those straight line storms passed through we were without power for days. So, in case the worst comes to pass, I’ll be like a scout and “be prepared.”

      Be like a scout and be prepared

      Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts about a hundred years ago, said “that all Scouts should prepare themselves to become productive citizens and to give happiness to other people. He wanted each Scout to be ready in mind and body for any struggles, and to meet with a strong heart whatever challenges might lie ahead.” To be prepared for life and live happily and without regret, knowing that you have done your best. That’s what the Scout motto means.

      I can’t do anything about the storms. But I can be proactive and try to think of things I can do ahead of time to get ready in case, for example, the power goes out. Like, write this article. I’ll make sure my phone is charged and have a paperback book ready to be read. We always make sure that there’s plenty of food and water available.

      Meditation for calming

      If you're feeling anxious and stressed, meditation could help.

      I’ll probably do a guided meditation this afternoon to try and calm my nerves. Storms make me anxious, because of all the “what ifs.” And while I try to be as prepared as possible, I know that there’s probably something that I will miss.

      What can you do to get ready?

      You know that life throws a bunch of crap at you every single day. Some storms are worse than others. How can we stay strong and resilient, and be like a scout and stay ready for those disruptive storms? 

      The steps to prepare

      First, know yourself. If you’re generally a nervous person like I am, then take some extra time every day to center yourself. Know that you’re strong, you’re reliable, your family and friends are there for you.

      Then try to think of the projects you’ve got going. What could happen if they were disrupted? If there’s something you can do with those projects to prepare, do it. Or if your action could take multiple days, plan out your strategy.

      My to-do lists are on paper. They’re always with me and staring me in the face, unlike the black screen when my phone’s not on. 

      So, when storms approach, be like a scout and be prepared.

      3 Sure-fire ways to get big goals done

      Why set big goals?

      It’s been all about goal-setting the last few weeks here. If you don’t have goals, then you’ll coast through life. That’s fine unless you want to accomplish anything. If you have dreams about your home, your family, your finances, then you need goals. But why set big goals? Aren’t small ones good?

      Small goals are good

      Of course, small goals are good. They’re what gets us through the day. The small goal of spending 2 minutes training my dog is better than not training him. Or sitting straight in my chair for 2 minutes rather than slumping is good for my posture and my spine. Planning what to make for dinner is certainly a laudable goal.

      But big goals turn the world

      All of the small goals mentioned above could be part of much bigger goals that could help you achieve more. That’s why we set big goals. Setting small, intermediate goals get our big goals done.

      For example, if I train my dog for 2 minutes every single day, then at the end of a week we’ll have the foundations of a remarkable trick. After a couple weeks of training just 2 minutes a day, he’ll know how to retrieve something. At the end of a month I can think about training more behaviors to enter a competition.

      If I sit straight in my chair for 2 straight minutes 3 times a day, my core will be more stabilized. I’ll be walking better. And my balance will improve. I’ll be breathing better, too.

      And if I plan dinners for the family a few days in advance, I can plan my shopping to include more nutritious options. We’ll be healthier and perhaps lose some weight.

      Big goals are more achievable

      When we set big goals and approach them the “SMART” way, they have a better chance of being achieved. Not only that, but Edwin Locke’s famous theory argues that the more challenging the goal, we work harder to achieve it.

      SMART goals

      I set a big goal of holding the "Side Plank Star" pose. It was challenging goal, but with practice it got done.

      That is, in order to have a reasonable chance of success in achieving a goal, it must be Specific, Measurable, Assignable (or Acceptable), Realistic, and Time-based. And studies by Locke and associates have actually found that the more challenging the goal, within reason, the better the chance of succeeding. 

      Big goals build self-confidence

      We need to be working toward meaningful goals. And writing them down helps provide us with a sense of direction and purpose. Plus, the more achievable but stretch-worthy goals we work toward, the more likely we are to build self-confidence, resilience and happiness. All attributes worth striving for.

      So, why set big goals? We need those big goals to move forward in life with assurance and optimism.