Coach Anna Geary builds on last week’s workout with part three of your four-week plan, plus she has some motivating thoughts about exercise
When you think about exercise, what feelings arise? Excitement or dread? Too often people engage in exercise for the sole purpose of shedding unwanted body fat.
On my radio show, Supercharged, on RTÉ Radio 1, we spoke about comfort eating and the internal battle we can often face when it comes to food.
One thing we need to do is stop treating exercise as a form of punishment, to alleviate our guilt when we over-indulge in food.
If you haven’t yet set any goals for 2022, maybe building a positive relationship with exercise is what you should choose to do. It’s one of the most important relationships you will have in your life.
The relationship will help you to build confidence and a strong heart (literally). You will improve your self belief and you may even look at your body in a different, more positive way.
You will need to ‘show up’ in this relationship, even on the days you don’t want to. You will need to commit. You will need to be patient. And yes, you will get frustrated and have doubts from time to time. Just persevere, because the rewards will be great.
Here’s the thing about exercise. It contributes much less than you think when it comes to expending energy — ie burning calories.
A great trainer and friend of mine, Niall Barrett, said something to me recently that stuck: “It’s not about the hour in the gym, it’s about what you do with the other 23 hours that really counts.”
When it’s comes to your total daily energy expenditure, exercise only equates to a very small percentage of the total number of calories you burn daily.
First of all, the main chunk of your energy expenditure (calorie burning) is because of your basal metabolic rate. That is the amount of energy you expend just living, for things like the functioning of your internal processes and sleeping.
Next up, we burn calories because of something called NEAT — your non-exercise aerobic thermogenesis. It sounds complicated, but this is simply your daily movement — everything from walking around the shop to cleaning the kitchen, and even fidgeting.
This relates to the concept of getting 10,000 steps daily. The steps don’t have to be completed at a high tempo. It’s just about moving around.
Next up, we burn a portion of our calories when we eat. It’s called the thermic effect of eating. You are burning calories when you are eating calorie It’s happens because we use up energy when digesting our food.
Then lastly comes the energy expended from exercise such as running, spinning, swimming, resistance training.
So if exercise is not the main way to burn our daily calories, why do we often insist on doing exercise that we don’t enjoy? Because we are convinced it’s the only way we can burn calories and drop weight.
Yes sometimes people have jobs that are more sedentary than others, so they need to do more planned exercise to balance things out, but my point here is don’t choose your exercise based on only burning calories.
When it comes to exercise, seeing progress is key. Progress, as I mentioned before, is the antidote to feeling demotivated.
Weight loss shouldn’t be the only barometer used to measure progress when it comes to exercise. Why? Because there are so many variables that affect what we weigh on the scales such as our water intake, the time of day we weigh ourselves, our menstruation cycle and stress levels. Other important measures are things like the quality of sleep, your mood and your strength. Use these instead.
1) Exercise because it’s good for your mental health and because it improves your sleep and your mood.
2) Exercise to build muscle tone, to help you to feel stronger and more powerful.
3) Exercise to feel fitter and faster, and to reduce your stress levels.
4) Exercise to improve your cardiovascular health, and for the release of endorphins (happy hormones).
We need to set a good example for young people. We need them to see us celebrating what our bodies can do through exercise. Our bodies are instruments, not just ornaments.
We need to switch our mindsets and remove the negative connotations often associated with exercise. So rather than saying, ‘Ugh, I’ve got to do it’, why not challenge your thinking and remind yourself, ‘I get to do it!’
There are so many different ways to exercise. Try out lots of activities and find something you enjoy.
I have played camogie for years and it will always be my passion. But in 2021, I took up boxing and reformer Pilates locally in Kildare. I adore them both for stress reduction and as a form of mindfulness.
Every week we aim to target our upper body, lower body, core (abs) and cardiovascular fitness. If you have dumbbells or a kettlebell you can incorporate them in too. Remember, your body is also a weight, so you will still get a challenging workout without equipment. I do recommend investing in dumbbells or a kettlebell. If in doubt, keep the weight light.
For the workout:
Five minutes, five exercises.
Beginner: 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
Intermediate: 40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest.
Advanced: 50 seconds work, 10 seconds rest.
One minute per exercise, that’s five exercises in five minutes. Do as many reps as you can in the ‘working time’, then rest. Take a few minutes to warm up your body first. This is important for injury prevention. Stick on your favourite tune and dance around the kitchen, or run around your garden a few times.
Do something to R.A.M.P up your body to prepare it for some exercise. The reason for a warm up is to Raise your heart rate, Activate the muscles you are going to use, Mobilise your joint and tendons, and mimic some of the movements are about to do (Potentiation) — so bear that in mind.
Lunges are one of the most effective lower body workout exercises, working your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles; while your abs and lower back are called upon for stability.
⬤ Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at your side, palms facing your body (you can also do without weights).
⬤ Take a large step forward with one leg.
⬤ Keep the majority of your weight on your front foot as you lower your hips, keeping the front foot flat and back heel lifted.
⬤ Descend until your rear knee almost touches the floor and the front knee is stacked above the ankle, creating a 90° angle in both knees.
⬤ Drive through the heel of your front foot and push yourself back up into your starting position. Then repeat on the opposite leg.
Tip: Make sure your lead knee doesn’t go past your toes to avoid overly stressing the joint.
These are great for sculpting and strengthening your shoulders.
⬤ Check your posture — roll your shoulders back, engage your core, and look straight ahead.
⬤ Raise your arms simultaneously just a couple inches out to each side and pause.
⬤ Lift the dumbbells, or water bottles, up and out to each side, keeping your arms almost completely straight, stopping when your elbows reach shoulder-height and your body is forming a “T” shape. Inhale as you lift.
⬤ Pause and hold for a second at the top of the movement.
⬤ Lower the weights slowly (take about twice as long to lower the weights as you took to lift them), bringing your arms back to your sides. Exhale as you lower the dumbbells.
Tip: This exercise fatigues your shoulders faster than you think. If the weights are too heavy you will compromise your technique and end up swinging the dumbbells upwards in a jerking motion, so go lighter.
Following on from last weeks hip hinge movement we can now progress to RDLs (Romanian deadlifts). It is the same movement, using dumbbells/water bottles. This is an important exercise, particularly for women as we can tend to have stronger quads muscles than hamstring muscles. RDLs work your posterior chain, which includes your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.
⬤ Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees soft, holding dumbbells in front of hips with palms facing thighs.
⬤ Keeping your spine in neutral position and squeezing the shoulder blades, start sending the hips back.
⬤ Lower dumbbells in front of shins, keeping them close to the body. Once they pass the knees, do not allow the hips to sink further.
⬤ At the bottom of the movement, maintain a neutral spine and drive through the heels to fully extend hips and knees, squeezing glutes at the top.
Tip: Avoid rounding your back.
Mountain climbers are great to elevate your heart rate, challenge your balance and agility, and get your muscles burning. They can be considered a lower-body exercise, but mountain climbers actually engage the upper arms and core, too.
⬤ Start from a high plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders.
⬤ Drive one knee forward toward your chest while engaging your abs. Alternatively, to make it harder, you can drive your knee in a diagonal direction towards your opposite shoulder.
⬤ Return to your plank position, then drive the knee of your opposite foot upwards (or diagonal). Repeat the movement, alternating legs at pace.
Tip: Make sure your back is straight and flat, not curved or arched and your hips are not raised.
Often when it comes to core work, you might just think about your anterior core (i.e. your six pack) but it’s important to work on your lower back too (part of your erector spinae). This is a vital part of your core as it links to your abdominal and oblique muscles, which stabilises and helps you move your entire upper body.
⬤ Lie face down on your mat with arms and legs outstretched. Your neck should be in a neutral position.
⬤ Exhale as you slowly lift arms, legs, upper back and head off the floor 5/6 inches, or until you feel your lower back muscles contracting. Engage your glutes, your core, and the muscles between your shoulder blades simultaneously.
⬤ Hold this position for a few seconds and exhale as you lower back down.
Struggling with motivation? Consider this. Think about what you consume, not just when it comes to food.
⬤ Think about what you watch
⬤ What you read l what you listen to
⬤ Other people’s energy.
Pay attention to what goes into your body and mind. It can affect you more than you realise.