Turns out there’s a difference

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A running group saved my life. (Image credit: Women Running the World)

Three years ago, as I prepared to move to London, I moaned to my husband about what I was going to do there. The move meant giving up my career, my friends, my projects around our new house, my packed fitness class where I got to be a rock star on Saturday mornings.

“Maybe you’ll become an avid runner,” he suggested.

Then we laughed and laughed and laughed.

Let’s back up

We met on a setup: a friend of mine had recently started dating his best friend, and the first time I met her new boyfriend, he said, “You’ve got to meet Chris.” …


Those women in the magazines did a job on my head — after all, I was one of them

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My sordid past, as captured in Oxygen magazine, 2003–2004

The media has changed its tune. First they told me I had to be beautiful and fit. Now they tell me I need to build my self-confidence, regain my self-esteem, and separate my self-image from how my body looks. They insist I need to put aside my own self-loathing not only for my own happiness, but also for the sake of my daughters. And here’s the thing: They’re telling people who have terrible self-image it’s their own fault for not feeling good about themselves. They’re not body-shaming, but brain-shaming. It’s the same message, but in a different package. …


The world’s gone mad, but at least there’s tea

A mug of tea with a tag that says “Kindness is the gift of life”
A mug of tea with a tag that says “Kindness is the gift of life”
Photo by Drew Taylor on Unsplash

Green tea is for the morning.

As the kids make their beds and brush their teeth, I boil the kettle. I start with a cup of flavoured green tea from my growing stash of tins and teas. Dragon Fruit, Berry Blend, Sencha Rose, Mint.

Years ago, way back when I left the house for work, I wanted to pick out a nice green tea to share with my office, “One that’s not bitter, please.” The man behind the counter didn’t glare at me, exactly, but his words did, and his tone was clipped.

“If it’s bitter, you’re doing it wrong.” He said this in French, and it stung. But who has time to boil water and let it cool until it’s ready? …


Here’s what you’re doing wrong with your workouts

A personal trainer kneels beside a man doing pushups.
A personal trainer kneels beside a man doing pushups.
“I’m not paying you to be nice to me!” (Image credit: Jonathan Borba on Unsplash)

“I’ve been working with a trainer for the past six weeks. I see her twice a week for one hour: a ten-minute warmup on the elliptical and then weight training. Two other days, I do cardio: either a half-hour on the treadmill or 15 minutes each on treadmill and elliptical.

“I log all my food. She advised a 20–60–20 ratio of protein-carbs-fat and a goal of 1500 calories. I have a good deficit every day (over 500 calories) but the scale is not budging. I weigh in every week and I lost an initial 2 pounds and that’s it. …


Not least, I’m mourning my second office

A plastic Starbucks cup is in the foreground of a coffeehouse.
A plastic Starbucks cup is in the foreground of a coffeehouse.
Inspiration strikes. (Image credit: Angela Bailey on Unsplash)

Between pandemic fears and homeschooling horrors, only a very few things have remained constant. While I’m fine — we’re all fine — there is so much that I miss, little things that I didn’t know meant so much to me in the before.

People. And solitude.

I had to give up planned visits to my family in Canada, and a selfish vacation in France. I had to give up my running group, and the bootcamps I teach, first due to physical distancing regulations, and then due to my-children-are-always-at-home. …


You can still get a great workout without dumbbells

A group of women perform exercises with resistance bands in a fitness studio.
A group of women perform exercises with resistance bands in a fitness studio.
Keep that core strong! (Image credit: Geert Pieters on Unsplash)

Maybe you’re traveling. Maybe you want to work out at home. Maybe you don’t want to work out at home, but you can’t get to your gym because it’s 2020 and nothing is fair.

Also, because it’s 2020, dumbbells are sold out everywhere. The first wave of lockdowns caused a sudden surge in home exercise equipment purchasing, and suppliers haven’t fully caught up yet.

So, no dumbbells? No problem. You can easily get a full-body workout without any equipment at all, but if you want a bit more than just gravity-based compound exercises, pick up a set of resistance bands. These are like long, stretchy tubes with handles at either end, or long stretchy sheets of elastic. When I started using them (a loooong time ago), they were made of repurposed surgical tubing. …


How to perform the full-body biceps curl for maximum effect

A muscular man in a tank top and baseball cap curls a dumbbell.
A muscular man in a tank top and baseball cap curls a dumbbell.
No, you’re doing it wrong. Put your back into it. (Image credit: Anastase Maragos on Unsplash)

The full-body biceps curl is a powerhouse of a move. When done properly, it’s the only exercise you need at the gym. It works every muscle in your body.*

First, choose your weights. No, not those little ones that anyone can lift. Move down the rack to the Serious Weights for Serious Lifters. Because that is who you are. That’s why you wear a tank top that shows off your guns. That’s why you grunt.

Gripping them firmly enough in your hands that your coveted forearm veins stick out like worms after the rain, take a deep breath and hold it in as you walk to the middle of the weight room, where everyone can see you. …


Got 5 minutes and an outdoor space? Do this

A woman runs across an expanse of fallen leaves.
A woman runs across an expanse of fallen leaves.
Don’t worry. This is just the warmup. (Image credit: Fil Mazzarino on Unsplash)

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor or health professional before trying a new exercise routine.

Quick workouts work. The science holds up.

If you find yourself with an empty field and five minutes on your hands, make the most of it with this challenging, high-intensity workout that will work your heart, lungs and muscles. Warning: this one isn’t for the faint of heart.

Warmup/setup

Place a marker (stick, water bottle, bag) where you are, then jog lightly about 20 meters away (65 feet), flicking your heels up. Place your second marker, then place your hands behind your head and do five squats. …


If the gym isn’t the problem, then…

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Eating better is a great start. Now, quantify it. (Image credit: Ive Erhard on Unsplash)

As I boldly proclaimed in Part 1, I don’t have to watch you train or eat. I know what the problem is: diet and exercise. I stand by that; medical conditions aside, it’s only ever one (or both) of those two things.

Author’s note: consult your doctor or health practitioner before starting or adjusting a fitness and nutrition program.

We looked at your exercise problem already, so let’s focus in on the other reason. While intensity is the number one key to getting results at the gym, nutrition is number one for getting results, period.

You are what you eat

“I log all my food. My trainer advised a 20–60–20 ratio of protein-carbs-fat and a goal of 1500 calories. I have a good deficit every day (over 500 calories) but the scale is not budging. I weigh in every week and I lost an initial 2 pounds and that’s it. Since then nothing has changed — either weight or measurements.”


How much time have you got?

A person presses a button on their smart watch
A person presses a button on their smart watch
On your mark, get set, sweat. (Image credit: Luke Chesser on Unsplash)

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor or health professional before trying a new exercise routine.

No seriously. How much time have you got?

I love to talk fitness, so sit down, this might take a while.

Several years ago, I had a great job with an hour-long lunch break and a gym in the same building. It was a dream, but it was strictly tracked by my boss. My hour also had to include walking to the gym (7 minutes — it was a huge building), getting changed/peeing/filling my water bottle (5 minutes), showering/toweling off/dressing/neatening up (15 minutes), walking back to my desk (7 minutes). That math left me with 26 minutes to work out, maximum, including any “what are you working today” or “how was your weekend/Mondays-am-I-rite?” …

About

Karen Hough

Writer, editor, blogger & fitness nerd ~ BSc. (Hon.) Human Kinetics ~ Aspirational sweatpants ~ Founding Author at Episodic Reading ~ KarenHoughWrites.com

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