…and enjoy Mindful Exercise!
One of the payoffs of having a husband that travels A LOT is that sometimes I get to tag along. It is a win/win with Mark having company in the evening and I get the space to work without being interrupted by the usual chores of washing, cleaning and cooking.
I have created my own rituals during these times. I google the yoga studios within walking distance of our hotel and their timetables. Each day I choose an exercise option and make that my goal to walk there. Complete with my favourite podcast in my ears, I love exploring new city streets and watching folk go about their business.
Recently, I tagged along to Wellington and found to my delight that our hotel had a beautiful gym facility, complete with PTs running small group options. I turned up for a middle-ageing / gym circuit along with two middle-aged businessmen. It is pretty easy for me to go incognito. Most people don’t guess that I am also a Fitness Professional straight up. Of course, I would have come clean if asked, but only my name was required for me to participate. There was no Health and Registration form. No questions on injuries/health concerns and certainly nothing regarding the state of my pelvic floor or if this workout would be suitable for me.
This blog is not to have a ranty rant at the gym staff at this beautiful five-star hotel. Because I have been to enough gyms to know that this is the standard, not the exception.
And I am perfectly able to modify exercises if needed and move in a way that is suited to my body at that point in my cycle. But it made me think about all the women who do not know. And it is difficult to NOT do something that the Personal Trainer or Group Fitness Instructor is telling you to do. Even more so when you are part of a small group.
So if you do find yourself at a random exercise session, here are my three strategies on when and how to say NO! to your Personal Trainer:
Skill, Not Speed!
It is common for your Personal Trainer to ask (demand) the speed of an exercise. Sometimes you will be put in a competitive environment with your fellow participants or you may be pitted against the clock. Both are fun and or challenging. However, if you are unsure whether the particular exercise might be harmful to you – take your time!
For example, as part of my circuit, I was told to do 50 FAST oblique cycles, which look like this.
This sort of exercise, if you are not used to it, or if you have DRAM (when you have a split in your abdominal muscles as a result of pregnancy) or pelvic floor dysfunction may place a lot of strain on your core unit, which may lead to pain and or dysfunction later.
However, NO exercise is a BAD exercise and all exercises may be damaging if repeated too many times at speed or with poor form.
I am always minimising my personal risk factors of prolapse, I know that performing too many of these at speed, may not be so beneficial for me. So I take my time. And when the PT reminds me that the goal is to go fast to feel the burn, I simply reply:
“I like to go a little slower, just to make sure that I am recruiting the correct muscles.”
This sentence is absolutely guaranteed to get them off your case!
Don’t Count. Concentrate!
My Personal Trainer gave me 50 reps of an exercise to do as part of the circuit. I can guarantee the moment you focus on counting your reps, you absolutely can not concentrate on your form.
Let me share a mindful exercise strategy that I teach all my clients… I call it the OMG! Rule
Perform your exercise with no regard to your reps, instead concentrate on performing the exercise mindfully and correctly. Continue until somewhere your brain and/or body speaks to you and yells “OMG!”
You know exactly what I mean, we have all been there.
But this is not the point that you stop. Instead, you add on 3 more reps, but these are your best yet with even more concentration on your form, exhaling on exertion and activating your pelvic floor.
Rest and repeat. If your PT gives you the look (“Like… why are you stopping?” -look) – you can hand on your heart and say, you are having a break between sets.
Applying this technique means that you will ensure mindful exercise regarding:
- your hormonal response to exercise, which changes during your monthly cycle. Your body will tell you when it needs to have some downtime and when you are totally good to go and push through
- your sleep and stress levels. Exercise always makes us feel better. That is a fact. However, if your cortisol levels are high due to poor sleep or stress, it is essential for you to listen to this and not add extra stress to your body. Especially if fat loss is a goal
- your pelvic floor. When applying this mindful exercise strategy, you can train to your weakest link (and this might change in response to the first 2 points)
This mindfulness technique will stop you from listening to the inner critic that might be telling you that you are lazy or not good enough. Your focus will be working on exactly what you need, right at that point in time.
If you are finding yourself doing a million reps and not getting to the OMG! point – then you need to make the exercise harder – you can add more weight or lengthen the lever (see the next point).
New Takes on the Traditional
I promise you at any circuit type workout you are going to be given one, or any of these:
Although I try not to be judgey-wudgey on exercise – full sit-ups don’t really serve many purposes except to give you a sore back. But still, here I was, being asked to do a whole heap of them… and fast!
But I equally wanted to be in the moment, being a client, being told what to do and having someone else guide me through my workout for the day. And of course, my two friendly gentlemen companions were fully expecting me not to be able to keep up with them at all — insert evil laughter.
You might find yourself in a similar situation – so here are three strategies that you need to keep in your back pocket if you want to do the traditional exercises, but think that the effort might be too much for your pelvic floor
- Exhale on exertion. Always. Trust me on this.
- Keep one leg on the floor when jumping.
- Shorten the lever.
Your body is the lever and the fulcrum is your joint.
Less effort is required if you shorten your level.
For example: for a sit-up or crunch, bring your feet closer to your bottom. And don’t come all the way up. Make sure you exhale on exertion.
Trying new exercise options is fun and I love being random at different clubs/studios or programs. But the most important thing for me is to avoid injury. Injury means I have to stop or slow down my exercise and add the unwanted expense to my budget.
I am sure you feel the same way!
So by using these 3 simple strategies, you can participate regardless of who your trainer is or the exercise option.
Sometimes my blogs really speak to people and I LOVE receiving messages.
I received this text message from a client who I have not seen for MANY years… I asked her if it was ok to share, because I think the message to modify exercises for you (regardless of what other people are doing) is just so important. And judging from the amount of reads and shares of this particular blog… there are others that feel the same way!
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