Summer

Summer. The time of everlasting daylight, mosquitos and for most, routine turned upside down. Maybe you have (grand)kids who are out of school and need care; maybe you have (grand)kids who now don’t need to be driven to extra-curriculars; maybe you don’t have kids in your life at all. I’d still wager a guess that your day-to-day in July and August isn’t exactly the same as it is during the hum-drum months of November and April.

I don’t know about you, but workout routine is always one of the first things affected by changes in my schedule. And for me, the summer schedule changes so much it puts me in a different time zone.

I’m actually not kidding. I spend a healthy chunk of time every summer at our family cabin on a lake northeast of Toronto. The cabin is on a heavily treed island just over 3 acres in size. I am a lifelong runner and admitted cardio addict. Perhaps you can see my problem: I cannot walk (or run) on water and there is no treadmill (in this rustic little spot that would be the ultimate blasphemy). One summer I was in such withdrawal that my devoted husband ‘cleared’ a ‘trail’ through the forest creating a 200-ish metre trail so I could ‘run’ laps of the island (all terms in quotes used very loosely). It’s pretty much bush-whacking. It’s awful. I’m shocked that I haven’t broken an ankle.
 
My point? It’s easy to obsess over routine, and when we can’t maintain it we beat ourselves up about the fact that we can’t do things exactly the way we do at other times of the year. Why not embrace it instead? See it as opportunity; an invitation to do something different?

In my old age I have become wise (okay, at least little wiser than I used to be). I mostly take the summer off running; I save my ankles from stray roots on the path and let my body recover from the abuse it suffers through the other 10.5 months of the year. Running, as great as it is for producing endorphins and burning calories, also offers a repetitive slamming of feet into concrete that is very hard on the joints. In fact, the majority of my personal fitness program is designed from a Corrective Exercise perspective in order to let fuel my addiction. But I digress …

For me summer has become a time to do other things. I swim. I cycle (on a wind trainer, not on the suspect trail described above). It’s the only time of the year that I do burpees with any regularity. And the change can be good for both body and soul: I used to feel frustrated that I wasn’t working hard enough in my summer workouts. Even after a cross-channel swim (I am on an island, after all) or a 45-minute spin I’d feel like a slacker. As I’m sure you can appreciate, without a training partner, a group fitness instructor or even any real training plan it’s hard to bang out a HIIT style workout solo. And then in another bolt of genius I realized that this is periodization in its essence: summer is when I focus on flexibility and fundamentals. I can feel my chronically shortened muscles lengthen because I have time to do mat Pilates most days. Continuing with some easy cardio maintains a solid aerobic base from which to build when I ramp back up for the next goal.
 
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On top of that, this year I have specifically used some lake time to focus on nutrition. While I do okay getting balanced meals of mostly whole foods on the table the majority of the time, this is different. I’m eating healthy with intention because I have time when I’m not rushing from work to my secondary taxi-driver job delivering kids to and from extracurricular activities. More fruit and veg. Local. Organic. No sugar. Healthier carbs.
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But enough about me. What does this mean for you? Maybe you are a fanatical devotee of Saturday morning spin class, but can’t make it because you’re at the lake or a baseball tournament or a soccer game or …. you get it … fill in your own blanks here. Rather than get frustrated, try something else. Often summer creates gaps in the studio schedule that means you might be able to snag a spot in a usually full class some other time. Unleash on Tuesday nights? Bring it on! Never tried Fitilates? This might be your chance.

If you’re out of the city, there are dozens (okay, probably hundreds) of options away from the studio as well … paddleboarding or kayaking if you’re on the water … walking/hiking/cycling if you’re not. Maybe you haven’t run in years and you think you hate it but then again maybe you’ll like it when it’s not -25 and you’re not on a treadmill staring at the wall. Do. Something. Different.

There’s value in all of it. This summer, be kind to yourself. Keep moving. Put good stuff in to your body. Enjoy the season. It will be over before you know it.

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Shawna Hiley, B.Sc., Ph.D.
CSEP Certified Personal Trainer
NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist

Personal Trainer at Infinite Fitness

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Fitness Fact - Halloween Tricks and Treats!

It's no secret that Halloween weekend usually means eating a year's worth of fun-sized candies and chocolate bars and drinking cocktails with friends at numerous Halloween parties. So, for this week's Fitness Fact Friday, we've chosen to ease your minds about ingesting some goodies and write a post in DEFENSE of cheat meals, cheat days, and, realistically, cheat weekends!

Cheat meals don't have to spell diet disaster. In fact, a well-structured cheat meal can actually help you surmount weight-loss plateaus. The secret, however, is to cheat smart.

As everyone knows, diets are a nightmare, and they don't work. It's always best to strive for a 90/10 ratio of healthy, lean meals to cheat meals, not only to maintain your sanity and happiness, but also because these cheat meals help reset hormones responsible for metabolism and insulin regulation, replenish glycogen for increased energy, and keep calorie-burning and fat-torching mechanisms high.

The science behind using cheat meals as a dietary tool revolves around the same hormones we discussed in the post about sleep: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin, a protein mainly produced by fat tissue, regulates appetite and energy balance in the body. It acts on the brain's hypothalamus to suppress food intake and stimulate the use of energy, or calories. Leptin plays a key role in regulating body weight and fat mass through its stimulating effect on the brain. In fact, studies have shown that within 24 hours of fasting, leptin levels decrease to 30 percent of their normal value.

Ghrelin, a peptide hormone mainly produced by the stomach, is an appetite stimulant that signals the release of growth hormone. Low-calorie diets and chronic exercise have been shown to result in increased ghrelin concentrations, which may lead to increasing food intake and body weight.

In addition to affecting appetite and energy use through leptin and ghrelin, sustained caloric-deficit diets also cause the body to attempt to conserve energy by decreasing levels of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which help regulate and maintain metabolism. Sustained low-carbohydrate diets deplete the body of glycogen stores and can leave you feeling sluggish and weak, which can negatively affect your training performance.

But keep in mind! This doesn't mean that gorging on 10 lbs of treats is beneficial to your fitness. The trick is to continue to keep track of cheat meals (schedule them if you can!) and to choose treats that are as nutritional as possible. Try choosing a few bites of dark chocolate instead of processed chocolates, or choose the protein-rich smoothie we posted earlier in the week instead of ice cream, etc. And if you just can't resist those adorable little candies and chocolates, remember that we're always here for you to burn off a treat or two ;)

Have a safe and spooky Halloween.

(written by Jenaye Lewis)ghosts&pumpkins

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