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