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How Important Is Exercise For Weight Loss?

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Let me start off by saying that I believe strongly in exercise (not surprisingly!).

As a child, my parents kept my sister and I active in our spare time.

I started judo at 8 and then moved on to karate (my lifelong love) when I was 9.

I was a competitive karate athlete for 14 years, traveling the world to train with and fight against the top people in the world.

Weight training became a regular part of my life from the age of 15.

Although I used it to get myself stronger for karate competition, I enjoyed it for its own sake.

I’ve been competing in natural bodybuilding (fitness modelling) since 2013.

Exercise is central to my life.

I understand that not everyone has that experience.

Apart from gym classes at school (I didn’t like them, BTW), many people don’t have a consistent relationship with exercise.

Some people get into exercise in their 30s or 40s, when it’s no longer easier for them to manage their weight.

They go to a chain gym, get assigned a barely-qualified trainer who “puts them through their paces” rather than truly educating them, and often give up because they’re not seeing results.

Some people were active in their youth, but found that their exercise time dropped off when they began a challenging career or had children.

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Many people are concerned they don’t do enough exercise for the sake of their health, or aren’t happy with how hard it feels to keep up with their kids.

But when it comes to weight loss, how much does exercise REALLY matter?

The short answer is “not very”.

The actual calories burned through exercise isn’t as much as you think.

And it’s certainly less than what those cardio machines at the gym tell you.

While some calorie burn certainly happens through exercise, it’s not significant in the average person.

If you’re working out for over an hour 5 or 6 times a week there will be some impact on weight loss (without nutritional change), but it probably won’t be as much as you would like.

The EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) or “afterburn” following exercise isn’t as great as we would hope either.

It may add up to a total of 40 calories in the 24 hours after an exercise session – about half an apple.

The added muscle mass from consistent weight training also doesn’t contribute much to your RMR (resting metabolic rate).

So Why Exercise At All?!

Regular exercise has many other benefits besides weight loss.

Exercise improves your mood and energy levels.

Physical activity reduces your risk of diabetes, many types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

It can help lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar levels, and build bone density.

Exercise also helps you cope with stress.

Since many people eat more (and particularly treat foods that are high in calories) under stress, less stress tends to mean a lower calorie intake.

Exercise can also make it easier to keep your calories under control.

When people are exercising, they’re not sitting on the couch eating bags of chips.

Substituting one behaviour for the other results in a calorie deficit.

When you go to a gym, you’re surrounded by people who have similar goals.

That may inspire you to eat better.

And there’s always that, “I don’t want to spoil what I did at the gym by eating (fill in the blank)”.

Of course, the combination of exercise and nutritional change is most effective.

My Online Coaching clients get a personalized workout program to accompany the nutrition recommendations I give them.

This helps them build the body shape they want (through building muscle), improves posture, and addresses any muscular imbalances that may cause pain or injury.

Weight loss isn’t everyone’s goal anyway.

I find weight training powerful because of the confidence it gives you.

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When you lift heavier weights and improve your strength, you feel better about yourself and your body.

You’re less likely to deal with negative feelings by eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a plate of chicken wings.

Most people change what they’re eating when they start exercising.

They view the two things as associated, so one positive change reinforces the other.

I wouldn’t suggest using this knowledge to skip exercise, but to help you focus on the nutrition side.

And don’t panic if you occasionally find yourself too busy to workout.

If you can’t get to the gym but are more careful about what you eat, then you can lose or maintain your weight.

You CAN lose weight without exercise.

That doesn’t mean you should.

Ivana Chapman

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What Is Online Coaching?

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While most people believe a personal trainer barks orders and counts reps at the gym (NOT an accurate representation of a quality trainer, by the way!), Online Coaching is even less well understood. Even so, Online Coaching seems to have become more popular in the last few years, probably because we seem to be doing everything on our devices. I personally order food, toiletries, birthday presents, clothes, and electronic gadgets online on a regular basis.

In order to clear up the misconceptions, I want to explain what Online Coaching is and how it can help you.

You Do What?!

When I meet people at social occasions, trying to explain my business can be a bit tricky. Some people get it right away, but others say things like,

“So you record videos of yourself working out for people to follow?” or

“You create standard menu plans that you send to everyone?”

In fairness, some online fitness and nutrition programs do work like that.

How effective they are depends on the person, but they miss key elements in a person’s long term success at fat loss.

You’ll have a better understanding of that once you read about how my Online Coaching program works.

With Online Coaching, We Address Three Areas:

1) Nutrition

It’s often said that your diet (I call it a Nutrition Plan!) is 80% of your success with fat loss. Nutrition is very important, that’s for sure, and you can’t out-exercise poor nutrition.

Online Coaching involves complete analysis of your nutrition, including the quantity (in calories and macros) and quality of the food you eat. It’s not always just that you’re eating too much that’s the problem.

We look at what YOUR particular issues are.chicken-snowpeas-plate-online-coaching

Mine is not a one-size-fits-all solution. I don’t force you to do a detox (I’ll teach you why they’re a bad choice) or a put you on a 30-day plan to give up gluten/dairy/starches/sugar and other random things that you probably don’t have to give up. 

You learn how to eat the foods you love and deal with those pesky cravings as you work towards your goal. You’ll change your relationship with food permanently.

2) Exercise

If you’re serious about building a strong, athletic shape, weight training should be the focus of your workouts. Three days a week is the minimum for a real change in your physique, but it doesn’t have to be an hour or more.

Most of my clients fit in 40-50 mins four days a week, but I work with you to create a workout program that works for your schedule. If you can do 3-5 sessions of 30 mins each week, that’s great.

I’ll plan a program that fits into those time limitations.

You’re busy and I want you to make the most of your time in the gym.

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Getting results from weight training comes when you’re consistent, progressive, and push yourself within your limits.

Sometimes I have to encourage clients to push themselves a bit more, but other times it’s about restraining them so that the optimal ratio of growth/recovery is attained. This is especially important in people 35 and over, when recovery becomes more of an issue.

3) Psychology & Mindset

Mindset Coaching will help you overcome psychological barriers to your progress (habits, associations, overcoming negative influences in your life). This is the skill that most personal trainers and online coaches lack, but it’s a key part of my Online Coaching program.

When you change your relationship with food and exercise, you’re on your way to lifelong commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

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I’m at your beck and call for any lifestyle-related questions too. I help you cut through all the nonsense in the fitness and nutrition industry. Whether you want to know about Intermittent Fasting, Crossfit, Paleo, Keto, or whether dairy causes cellulite, I’m ready to give you a science-backed answer.

How Does Online Coaching Work?

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To make things a bit more clear, here’s the step-by-step process you’ll go through with Online Coaching:

1) When you sign on with me, I ask you to fill out a CLIENT INTAKE FORM online.

You’ll give me important details about your lifestyle, including your sleep, work schedule, limitations, health & injury history, nutrition, and workout experience.

2) We Do Your Initial Skype/FaceTime Consult (1 Hour).

We discuss anything of relevance in your Client Intake Form, identify your key challenges and limitations, and you get to express your food and workout preferences.

3) You track what you’re eating with myfitnesspal for 6 days (4 weekdays & 2 weekend days).

This is NOT about trying to impress me.

I just want to see what you’re eating now and what your key issues are.

Many nutritionists do this backwards! They just tell you what to eat without finding out where you’re starting from. This often means that the plan given isn’t going to work for the client long term.

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I make the nutrition changes I give you gradual and sustainable. They work around your special occasions or holidays. It’s not about giving you a meal plan – it’s about teaching you to eat to reach your goals.

4) I provide you with a workout plan for the guidelines you’ve given (days, duration, your ability) in a Google Docs file in our shared Google Drive.

This allows you to record your progress and share feedback with me as needed. I also give you videos with my instructions for all the exercises I give you to do in your Google Drive folder. You can use the Google Drive app to view your program while you’re at the gym.

My exercise library has over 200 different exercises (and growing!).

Workout programs change every 5-6 sessions (most people have a split program, meaning they have 2, 3, or 4 different workouts each week), depending on your experience and personal preference for change.

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5) We do a focussed 30-minute Coaching Call (Skype/FaceTime/phone) session every week (or more or less frequently, depending on your preference).

This call is for accountability and to trouble-shoot any issues you’re having. We talk about your habits and mindset issues you have to overcome.

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You also get:

  • Video feedback of your exercise technique whenever required.
  • 12 educational emails to help you understand key parts of the program and optimize your results.
  • Unlimited email support with any nutrition, training, and psychological issues that come up.

I’m there to support you through any setbacks and help you clear any hurdles that arise.

Benefits Of Online Coaching

You Can Work With A Coach Far, Far, Far Away From You

I live in Toronto and I’ve had the opportunity to work with clients in Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and the UK. Apart from making sure to get our time zones correct for calls, there’s no difference between a local client and an international one.

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The Workouts Fit Your Schedule

If you only have a certain amount of time per week, that’s what we work with.

If you have to travel a lot and don’t always have access to full gym equipment, I’ll design a travel program for you as well. You don’t need to make an appointment to do your workouts. You just fit them into your own schedule.

The Nutrition Coaching Is Comprehensive

Much like going to a nutritionist in person for a consultation and appointments to update your plan, the online nutrition support is complete. Many in-person trainers only mention nutrition briefly while doing a workout with a client. Not only does it dilute the quality of the personal training session, but it doesn’t give nutrition the time and attention that it really deserves.

Psychology and Mindset Issues are addressed as well, particularly when it comes to food. If you don’t change your relationship with food, you will never optimize your results. This is NOT about finding a special diet with mystical unicorn properties…it’s about learning to eat for your goals.

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World-Class Support and Accountability

Real results come from someone qualified looking at your needs and finding ideal solutions for you. When you have guidance from a coach with the skills and expertise to guide you in the right direction, you’re more likely to reach your goal. You’re also more likely to maintain your progress through the rough patches (and there will be rough patches!).

Drawbacks Of Online Coaching

You Don’t Have Anyone With You When You’re Doing Your Workouts

For some people, this is a real problem. They don’t know how to push themselves hard enough to get results or they don’t have the experience to use correct technique. I provide instructional videos for the exercises that I prescribe (as well as answer any outstanding questions) and most people do well with those.

Still, if you’re very nervous at the gym and have a hard time following instructions, in-person instruction might work better for you.

Nobody To Watch Your Technique

Although I offer technique assessment for any exercise you’re given (you submit a video of yourself doing the exercise and I review it) it’s not the same as having someone there to correct you on the spot.

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You Can Skip The Workout And No One Will Know

When I trained people one-on-one in a gym, I knew they were doing the work. Having the appointment with me was the only thing that got some people to the gym. With Online Coaching, you’re on your honour.

Still, given that the majority of the weight loss result happens through nutrition, even an in-person trainer that you train with two or three times a week won’t have control over it.

You need to take responsibility for yourself with both your workouts and with what you’re eating.

Who Will Online Coaching Work For?

If you’re an independent person with some weight training experience under a good coach, or someone who knows their body well and has reasonable coordination, working out on your own isn’t a problem.

I provide detailed videos of all the exercises that I want you to do and if you have any questions you can always ASK ME.

Any time.

You need to be open-minded and willing to make some changes in your life.

Maybe you’re stuck on certain ideas (that being vegan is the best choice, that you only want to do cardio).

In that case, my program won’t work for you.

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If you want the same result, keep doing what you’re doing.

When you want to see changes in your body and your health, you’ll need to make some changes in your lifestyle.

Who Is Online Coaching NOT For?

If you need someone with you at the gym just to make sure you do the work, then Online Coaching won’t be for you. I won’t be there beside you fixing technique or making you do one more rep when you’re feeling lazy.

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Personal Training in a gym environment is very different from Online Coaching.

Some people are very good at motivating people on the spot, a la, “Harder!”, “One more!”, “You can do it!”.

While this style of training can occasionally be useful, it doesn’t do anything to address the underlying issues that are preventing a person from achieving lasting fat loss.

Nutrition is generally 80-90% of the problem and you won’t change that, even if you get a personal trainer to “put you through your paces” three or four days a week.

How Is My Online Coaching Program Different?

I do things a bit differently and I’ll tell you what you need to hear, and not what you want to hear.

I challenge what most people believe about fitness and nutrition. Although I contribute as a fitness and nutrition expert for various media outlets, I’m the first to acknowledge that there’s a lot of misinformation out there.

Clients have come to me with all sorts of incorrect beliefs, most of which I’ve managed (with appropriate scientific evidence!) to clear up for them. In most cases, they breath a sigh of relief that getting lean and healthy isn’t all about juice fasting and arugula salad with beans.

Online Coaching can be expensive, especially with an experienced coach. The sad reality is that most providers don’t provide a cohesive system that encompasses nutrition and training, while addressing psychological factors that prevent you from following through.

I’ll be teaching you how to change your mindset to allow you to get lean and feel strong and healthy.

I don’t just tell my clients what to do, I help them understand “how” and “why” they’re doing it.

Specialized Knowledge

Using my experience with hundreds of men and women just like you, I’ll give you guidelines to follow that make sense for your lifestyle.

If you’re a postpartum mom suffering from diastasis recti or urinary incontinence, I know what exercises you should do and which you should avoid.

Traveling executive? I’ll help you make the right decisions on-the-go.

Eat too much at night? I’ll find a specific solution that works for you.

If you eat under stress or when you’re anxious, I’ll give you tools to deal with your emotions and specific instructions for dealing with food-based issues.

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I started doing Online Coaching over four years ago, just before my son was born. This was after about fourteen years doing personal training in various gyms around the world (Canada, England, New Zealand, Australia).

That experience is valuable, because I’ve dealt with so many different people over the years and spoken to them about the challenges they have to overcome.

I’m often amazed to hear personal trainers with only four or five years of experience deciding they’re bored and want to switch to online.

The years of in-the-trenches work with people is a HUGE part of what gives you the insight you need to give good guidance online. You have less feedback when you’re working online. You don’t see the person you’re coaching at the gym doing the exercises so you need to know what questions to ask and how to give specific instructions that will make things work for them.

I practice what I preach.

I’ve worked through my own issues with food and found a method that works for myself and my clients.

Is Online Coaching For You?

In over two decades as a coach, I’ve developed the tools and flexibility to help you unlock your individual potential, even if thought your peak physical years were behind you.

Being 35 or older doesn’t mean that you have to start packing on the pounds, give up building muscle, or that you can’t get lean and strong.fit-active-couple-online-coaching

Most of my clients are parents between 35 and 48 years old.

They have one or more young children who keep them busy. I also coach a couple of new moms with babies under a year old (one of which started with me at 4 weeks postpartum!), who are managing the early sleepless period of mom life while trying to feel strong and healthy.

I encourage everyone to take things at their own pace.

You don’t have to “get ready” to do Online Coaching.

I take you as you are and get you as quickly and safely to your goals as possible.

lara-mom-daughter-online-coachingMy client Lara, a 38-year-old mom to a 10-month-old girl, says,

The great thing about this program is that it changes the way you think about nutrition and exercise allowing you to make lifestyle changes. If you are busy individual, need support but work well independently and are serious about making lifestyle changes, then this is the program for you!

How Could YOU Benefit?

Online Coaching isn’t just about changing your body with a combination of nutrition and workouts. Changing how you think about food and exercise means a lifelong change in your habits.

When you manage your lifestyle effortlessly, you’ll transform your life.

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Knowing how to eat and work out with maximum effectiveness is a tool that you’ll have to keep in control of your life forever.

Although I start my programs at three months, many people continue for ongoing accountability and support. Others use the tools I’ve given them to keep making positive changes over time.

I’m not the cheapest Online Coach available and I realize that for many people it’s a big financial commitment. What I’m offering is a chance to change your life by helping you change your relationship with food and exercise.

When your life is transformed through Online Coaching, you’ll see the value yourself.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my clients succeed at their goals and achieve happier, healthier lives as a result.

Ivana Chapman

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Exercise For More ENERGY

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A tired father approached me carrying his 10-month-old daughter at the gym the other day.

We chat occasionally at our condo gym, although he doesn’t actually work out there (he takes his daughter downstairs to the common areas near the gym for short walks).

He asked me, like he’d been meaning to do it many times before:

“How do you find the energy?!”

He was referring to my workouts and being able to get to the gym consistently.

I feel like I need to answer that question here too because I know a lot of other parents have the same struggle.

As a parent of two young children, he finds it hard to maintain his old workout routine.

He’s always tired and he’s realizing that his work is suffering, his physical life is limited, and he’s often in a rotten mood.

This is a tough situation.

His infant daughter isn’t sleeping through the night and his kindergarten age son is causing him a lot of stress with his challenging behaviour (as young kids do!).

Sleep and stress exist side by side and the two issues exacerbate each other.

If your situation is anything like this one, how can you find the energy to work out?

It’s tricky, but it can be done.

Now that my son is four, having my sleep interrupted every night isn’t as much of a problem.

But I still vividly recall being woken up three or four times a night for those first couple of years, and still about once a night for the year after that.

And yes, I was able to workout consistently.

I did my first physique competition when my son was nine months old, while still nursing him around the clock.

Was I tired?

Oh yeah.

Did I think I should just “skip it” plenty of times?

For sure.

So why didn’t I?

I did actually.

If I was way too tired to work out, I didn’t work out.

If I really needed the rest then I took it.

Most of the time, when I hadn’t slept as much as I would have liked, but wasn’t completely exhausted, I pushed myself to do a workout.

I nearly always felt better after exercising.

I felt like I’d gained energy, not used it up.

That’s the power of exercise.

Exercise makes you feel energetic.

Exercise makes you feel strong.

Exercise makes you feel healthy.

And that’s very motivating.

Even though you’re tired, you can still do something.

You have to be flexible.

While you might have spent over an hour at the gym before kids, you may only be able to squeeze in a 40 minute workout a few times a week.

That’s fine.

At the moment, because of how busy I am with my business and my family, that’s about all I do too.

I do challenging workouts for a short period of time…then I get outta there.

My gym time helps me to energize and destress from the day.

It’s my “me time” that helps make everything better.

Many people, especially parents, sacrifice too much of themselves for others.

That doesn’t make any sense to me.

The less that’s left of you, the less you have to give to others.

By taking care of yourself you’ll be better at taking care of the people you care about.

You’re less likely to feel frustrated.

You’ll be in a better mood.

Exercise makes you a better person.

Even if you’re tired (and that’s an inevitable part of some periods of your life), you can be a stronger, healthier, happier, tired person.

The first step is just to tell yourself to do it.

Make a plan and stick to it.

A weak workout is better than no workout because it helps you gain and maintain momentum.

Once you realize how much better you feel when you’re exercising you’ll have another reason to do it.

The positive effects will keep you coming back.

You need to start.

Then it’s helpful to have a coach or a group of like-minded people to help you through the setbacks.

Because consistency matters.

The most tired times will pass (eventually!) and having exercise in your life throughout the journey will make them more tolerable.

Take care of yourself.

You’ll be able to give more to others.

Ivana Chapman

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5 Tips For Working Out During The Holidays

Efficient weight training workouts can be a great way to keep lean and beat stress

Somehow the gym isn’t as appealing as usual right now.

It’s clear to me from the dwindling numbers I’m seeing working out in the lead-up to the Christmas/New Year’s break. Sure, some people are on holidays abroad and some are sick (’tis the season!), but most people are finding that they don’t have as much time as usual.

There’s a holiday event happening a few times a week, lots of shopping to be done, and everyone’s rushing to close out the year productively.

The shoppers…oh, so many shoppers!

Working out seems to take a back seat right now.

If you’re serious about getting (and staying!) lean then now is the time to get the momentum going. It may not seem important, and you probably can think of a zillion things you need to do, but hitting the gym could be just what you need when things seems tough.

Get the most from your workouts during the holiday season by following these guidelines: 

1) Keep It Short, If Necessary 

Just because you don’t have an hour, doesn’t mean you should skip the gym. Hitting the gym for just 30 minutes will strengthen your gym habit and give you more energy to deal with the stressful season. Don’t feel like you have to do your usual full-length feature every time you’re in the gym.

Modify your workout so you do shorter full-body sessions that work more muscle groups at once. Compound exercises, like squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, dips, lunges, presses and rows should generally be your focus anyway. Pick 3 or 4 of these exercises and do 3-4 sets, for a decent weights session that stimulates your whole body.

2) Focus On Weights

Maintaining your muscle is important when your time is limited. A weight training workout will help stimulate your muscles to build and strengthen when time is at a premium.

Trying to burn off a few calories with a slow peddle on the stationary bike or cross-trainer isn’t going to be nearly as useful. You need

So push some moderately-heavy weight and get out of there!

3) Do HIIT

High Intensity Interval Training is a great choice when you’re willing to work hard, but you haven’t got the time for a long session. Just 20 minutes can be enough to up your fat-burn for hours afterwards.

HIIT is all about getting your heart rate up, so it really doesn’t matter what activity you do. I’ve always enjoyed skipping and heavy bag sessions (doing rounds of kicking and punching on the bag), but bodyweight exercises like jumping jacks, squat jumps, bodyweight squats, lunges, or burpees (if you’re fit and conditioned!) can be used in various intervals to get your heart rate up and then allow recovery between sets.

Do a 5-minute general warm-up, then do 6 sets of 45 secs of your chosen exercise, with 45 seconds of rest in between each set.

Cardio machines can be used for this purpose as well.

For example, warm up for 5 minutes by lightly jogging on the treadmill, push yourself into a fast-paced run for 45secs, and then walk slowly for 45secs.

Repeat the intervals 6 times for a complete HIIT session.

4) Work Out In The Morning

There are so many things that can take away your attention at this time of year. Hit the gym in the morning before work, if you can, and you’re less likely to find excuses later on.

5) Get Your Sleep

Running around town shopping or going to events can be exhausting. Late nights can suck up your energy for working out and preparing healthy meals.

Try to balance your celebration nights with relaxed early evenings when you allow your body to recover. Try to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night most of the time.

You’re Gonna Make It!

The important thing about this time of year is to remember that it’s not all-or-nothing.

Just because you can’t give training and eating well 100% commitment, doesn’t mean you should give up altogether.

Life’s always busy, so working out and eating never truly gets 100% anyway, right?

A healthy lifestyle is about balancing your priorities on a day-to-day basis.

Exercising and eating well need to fit into your life.

And that life probably includes a few cookies or chocolates at this time of year.

With the right workout strategy you’ll get through the holidays still feeling fit.

Ivana Chapman

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The Best Workout For A Lean, Athletic Body

Yesterday I got randomly asked by someone at the gym about what the best workout is.

You might as well ask, “How long is a piece of string?”

It all depends on who the person is, what genetics they have, what their exercise history is, and what their goals are.

There’s not really one specific workout that will help everyone achieve what they want with their body.

I guess many people are thinking of pre-packaged workout programs like practically every unqualified Instagram fitness “star” offers for about $10 these days.

And I can’t say that those programs are completely useless.

In fairness, I don’t even know much about them.

And when the alternative is sitting on the couch with a pack of Doritos then just about any workout program will do – at first.

And there, you’ll soon see, is the big problem.

While nearly every workout will initially get you a bit leaner and maybe even build some muscle, it’s not long before the benefits diminish and eventually disappear.

There’s also the risk of injury with doing a workout program that isn’t at the appropriate level for you.


Whoa, bud! Are you really ready for that plyo push-up? (Actually HE probably is…)

Doing 20 burpees every other day might work for some highly-trained individuals, but the average person buying into a pre-packaged program will eventually get injured doing excessive amounts of high impact activities that their muscles, joints, and tendons aren’t conditioned for.

This is one of the criticisms of Crossfit workouts.

They may very well be good for people who are already relatively fit, but people are often pushed to do exercises that their bodies aren’t ready for.

That whole, “your grandma can do this” business isn’t reality.

Sure, maybe your grandma is a former professional athlete who’s still working out with vigor in her 70s.

But she’s probably not.

And even most people half her age aren’t prepared for the high-impact challenges that many packaged workout programs advise.

So what’s the one workout that really works for everybody?

Progressive resistance training!

So training with weights, or perhaps even starting with your bodyweight with many exercises, before moving on to heavier weights.

That’s what makes a workout progressive.

And that’s what you want, isn’t it?

PROGRESS.

A complete newbie to exercise will get a benefit from nearly any physical activity.

Hey, if you haven’t exercised for months or years, even yoga or Zumba classes 3 times a week will have you feeling more “toned” and will even get you leaner (more calories out, y’all!).

But after a few months to a year, you’ll find that your progress stops.

What are you going to do then?

More Zumba classes?

I guess that’s an option, but definitely not the right one if your goal is a lean, athletic physique.

I realize that not everyone can afford personal training or an online fitness coach to design a workout program specifically for their strengths, abilities, and goals.

But even a pre-packaged workout program (yes, I do them too!) has to have some allowances for people of varying levels of ability.

Progressive weight training programs offer that benefit because they automatically adjust to the person’s current level of strength and fitness.

One person might do the program with bodyweight squats and the other person might squat 400 pounds.

Squats are on the menu for everyone…at whatever level they’re currently at.

And if someone goes from bodyweight to squatting 400 pounds, that’s an amazing achievement.

Through that process their body changes, adapts, and gets stronger and looks better.

It’s gradual and incremental, but it’s the best method for never-ending improvement.

And taking it one step at a time means that your risk of injury is lower than just bouncing around maniacally from random program to random program.

Progressive weight training offers continuous results.

Who doesn’t want that?

Ivana Chapman

P.S. Yup, I’ve got a workout program that gives you all the weight training guidance (and personal support from me!) you need. Check out the details for Lean365, my online membership program, HERE!

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The Top 5 Lies about Exercise

geeky man wearing headband pulling elastic expander

 “Yeah dude, these bands are the latest thing for getting jacked.”

There’s a lot of BS in the fitness industry and it seems like a “new” sensational workout program is released every day. We always hear that something completely novel is going to revolutionize the way people workout and finally solve this epidemic of obesity and sedentary lifestyles that plagues the developed world.

Yeah, right.

No shake-weight or P90X (version 10 or 11) program is actually going to do that. TRX isn’t a revolution and CrossFit didn’t create anything new (they just packaged it all with fancy marketing and powerful legal representation).

Have you bought into these five lies about exercise?:

1) “Functional Training” with stability balls, Vipr, and clubbells is better than traditional weight training.

The term functional training came from physiotherapy and has been procured by just about any new gadget that gets released into the vastly overcrowded fitness implement market.

Call me old fashioned, but what’s wrong with good ol’ weight training?

Squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, dips, lunges, bench presses, split squats, hip thrusts, chest press, shoulder presses, rows, lateral raises, and bicep curls (to name but a few exercises) build and shape your body to your preference. They make you stronger and – dare I say it – more functional – in that they train you to move in many directions, lift things, as well as push and pull heavy objects.

What could be more functional than that?

Standing on a stability ball and swinging around an Indian club is not functional for any human being I know, yet there’s a “guru” out there that advocates this ridiculous kind of training.

When you’re looking for a training system you want the greatest benefit with the lowest amount of risk, and a progressive weight training program fits the bill perfectly.

2) You need to try the latest “thing”.

No. You don’t.

You need to do progressive weight training consistently at least three (preferably more) times a week. Keep it simple. If you want to use other types of equipment for variety and you enjoy it, go ahead. Just don’t try to convince other people they need to do whole body vibrational training to get lean and fit. It’s just another option.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use stability balls, medicine balls, Vipr, etc., but they’re really just another form of weight training. They’re not inherently better than barbells and dumbbells…they’re just a little different.

3) You need to do “Cardio”

There seems to be no desire so important as the need to do “cardio” in people who are trying to get fit. Usually it’s in a grudging manner and not at all what that particular person really wants to do.

As with functional training, I’m using “cardio” in quotes to refer to the way most gym-goers use it, rather than what it actually is (ie. your heart beating a bit faster for a while). I definitely advocate being active, walking a lot, and playing sports that you enjoy. As for spending hours each week on a cross-trainer or stationary bike…it’s not necessary.

You can be lean and healthy without cardio. Doing too much steady-state long duration cardio can actually eat away at your muscle…and muscle is what keeps your body burning more calories all day long. That’s how you get and stay lean.

It’s not as if those of us training with weights are ignoring our hearts. Do a circuit weight session with a heart rate monitor on and you’ll find that you’re working harder than most of those people spinning their wheels (hehe) on the stationary bike.

4) You need to “confuse” your muscles to get results.

Despite what the creator of P90x would have you believe, muscle confusion is a marketing creation and not actual science. Your muscles respond to progressive overload (increasing resistance over time) and NOT to being tortured to death with repetitive bodyweight movements.

I’m not saying you won’t get initial results. You will. Especially if you’re not currently training and you start working out with bodyweight exercises that challenge you (that’s a good way of starting anyway). If you’re already training with weights consistently you’ll get some results initially too because you’re doing something different than you were before. Change is good…to a point.

You need to change your workout program regularly (maybe every 6-8 weeks for newbies or 3-4 weeks for more experienced trainees) as your body adapts, but not too frequently or your body won’t know how to change. Train progressively by increasing weight and difficulty of exercises gradually. Sets, reps, and rest periods can also be adjusted to stimulate your muscles in a different way and force them to grow. No burpees or various versions of “extreme” jumping around.

5) Doing tons of Abs exercises will give you 6-pack abs.

Many people have reasonable abdominal muscles…they’re just hidden under a layer of fat. Getting rid of that fat, through diet and building overall muscle mass with weight training, will give you the defined look of abs that most people are looking for.

Yes, the abdominals are muscles and need to be stimulated to grow. There’s some work done by the abs with full-body weight training exercises like squats and deadlifts, as well as pushing weight in different directions (like overhead presses). The abdominals function to stabilize you as you move through your day.

Some direct ab work, in conjunction with an equal amount of back training to ensure balance and prevent injury, is useful if you’re lean and looking for a very developed look to your abs. For most people though, lying around crunching instead of doing the hard yards with a solid weight training program and fine-tuned diet isn’t going to help. Crunches are more likely to give you back pain than reveal visible abs.

The Truth

Look no further: the right kind of exercise to get lean and have the body you want is weight training. It doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to feel like an idiot bouncing around or using some strange “modern” gadget. Functional training and muscle confusion are more marketing concepts than anything else. Get your 6-pack abs with weight training and the right diet. It may not seem as sexy, but getting the results you want is what matters, right?

Ivana Chapman 

Is Yoga a Waste of Time?

Is Yoga a Waste of Time?

Hi. My name is Ivana Chapman and today I’m gonna answer the question “is yoga a waste of time”.

Well, that all depends. I’ve done yoga in the past and I do incorporate a lot of yoga let’s say into my stretching exercises at the very end of my work out. However, it all depends on how much time you have. If you’re very, very pressured and you only have three days a week to work out and get that physique that you want and that’s your primary goal is to have a great physique, I don’t think yoga is the way to get you there.

I really think you need weight training to get the muscle where you need it to be and to get that fat burning going. Yoga can be absolutely wonderful for a stress relief and relaxation for increased flexibility, perhaps reducing injuries. It’s also a wonderful balancing exercise for all the hard stuff. So say you’re doing sprinting and weights and martial arts and a lot of heavy stuff and contact stuff or perhaps you’re even in contact team sports, something like rugby or football. Yoga can be a great balance and can give you some recovery from that so mental and physical recovery from those types of activities, but if you’re focused on having a great physique and you’re short on time, really focus on the things that are gonna give you the most bang for your buck so that’s gonna be your weight training. Weight training sessions of maybe 45 minutes 3-4 times a week, that’s the easiest and most efficient way of getting a great physique. So in that case, yoga would be a waste of time. Sorry.

And now if you’re looking to get lean abs, which most of us are, check out my lean abs guide below for plenty of tips and tricks on how to get those abs and keep them there and also check out my website IvanaChapman.com for all things related to health and fitness. See you next time.

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Tips for Coming Back After Injury

injury to knee during tennis

Injuries happen, but how you recover from them makes all the difference.

I’m starting to think that many of my blog posts are written to help me get through my own challenges, or to remind myself about important things about fitness and health.

Ah well. I’m only human.

So I’ll start off this post about injury by telling you that I’m slightly more than six weeks post- hip injury and I’m constantly reminding myself about the points I’m going to share with you.

The Athlete’s Curse

Lest you think this is my first injury (hahahaha), I need to mention that I’ve been an athlete most of my life, first in karate and now in physique competitions. I’ve put my body through some serious tests over the years and here is a list of the injuries I remember having:

Sprained ankles
Hamstring tear
Shin splints
Tennis elbow
Patellafemoral syndrome (knee)
Tendinitis, bursitis and a tear in the shoulder
Achilles tendonitis
Multiple sprained thumbs
Bunions (not sure if those are injuries exactly, but they hurt!)
Enough bruises to last a lifetime

And now what appears to be a pulled tendon of one of the glute muscles that inserts into the SI joint of the spine (probably caused by SI joint instability). It’s amazing I’m still functioning really!

Ask any athlete you know and you’ll probably find a similar laundry list of injuries. It’s part of the reason why I once thought I wanted to be a Physiotherapist. It was only after I did my Sports Therapy Diploma as part of my Sports Science degree that I realised that dealing with injuries daily wasn’t going to be for me.

I’m mentioning all this because it needs to be clear that I know a lot about preventing and treating injuries, both through personal experience and through education, and I still screw it up a lot. Even so, I’m at a point where I’ve definitely learned from my mistakes and I’m trying to do things right.

Hopefully you can benefit from my years of messing things up to get back in shape after your injury.

Here are my six tips:

1) Get Professional Help

Even if you have a good understanding of injuries, it’s important to get an assessment and treatment plan from a qualified and experienced Physio or Injury-focused Personal Trainer or Athletic Therapist. The Physiotherapist will make sure that you’re doing the right exercises and avoiding anything that may aggravate your injury. It’s also important to have guidance as your injury heals to progress yourself at the right pace and with the proper exercises.

Most people make the mistake of stopping all their rehab exercises as soon as their pain goes away, which may lead to re-injury or further muscle imbalances (which could potentially cause another injury. Yikes!).

Follow through with your Physio even when your injury gets manageable, or when you don’t feel anything at all. If you’ve taken time away from certain exercises then you can’t expect to go straight back to where you were, but you’ll get there quicker if you follow the process progressively.

2) Do Your Physio Exercises

The people who go to Physios for treatment, don’t do the exercises that are prescribed, and then complain that the treatment isn’t working, won’t get any sympathy from me. Yes, they’re usually boring and sometimes make you feel weak and feeble, but they’re important.

Even if you get treated by a Physio two or three times a week you need to do daily exercises on your own to heal the injury and get stronger. You need to commit to making yourself better, rather than relying on someone else to massage your injury away a couple of times a week.

3) Be Patient

It’s very tempting to just jump back into your usual workout routine as soon as you feel the injury is better. DON’T! That’s an express ticket back to Injury Town. Your muscles in the area have gotten weaker and they won’t be able to handle the stresses you previously placed on them.

I was doing single leg deadlifts holding about 35-40 pounds in each hand before my hip injury. If I did that now, I would either topple over or manage to pull another muscle that’s become weak through disuse. I’m only using tiny 3 pound weights (just to get used to holding something) and I’m doing the exercise slowly to make sure that I’m contracting the glutes and stabilizing the hips before I move.

Anything else, in my current state, could lead to re-injury.

4) Take the Time to Overcome Muscle Imbalances

Injuries are a good time to assess your whole body and fix things that might not be functioning optimally. Maybe you need to stretch certain areas more frequently, foam roll others, or strengthen areas that have always been weak. When you have an injury, your training becomes limited and many of your favourite exercises won’t be on the menu. Take that extra time to work on other weaknesses.

Also remember that an injury places stress on other parts of the body. Muscles rarely function independently, and an injured area will affect surrounding areas and parts of the body you wouldn’t expect (a sprained ankle can end up affecting your knees, hips or back because it throws your body out of alignment and puts more stress on the opposing side). As your injury heals, strengthen and stretch the other affected areas as needed so that you don’t end up with other problems later on.

5) Come Back Stronger Than Ever

Yes, you will. If you follow the rehab plan conscientiously then you’ll train your body to function better and even out muscle imbalances you have (EVERYONE has them) that may have even caused the injury. Your body will perform at a higher level than before because you’ve dealt with your weaknesses.

Don’t think about where you were before the injury. Work from where you are and focus on your progress. This was a tough one for me because I was getting stronger and building muscle, and after my injury I lost almost 5 pounds of muscle from the glutes/legs, where I’d so painstakingly put it on over the past few months. I keep reminding myself that I’m now performing exercises with even better technique and with more concentrated activation to the areas I want – and the results will surpass what I’ve previously achieved.

6) Learn from Your Mistakes

Remember that sprained ankle you had about 10 years ago that you never bothered to rehab? Does it still ache when the weather gets colder? Thought so.

Do the work now to rehab your injury and you’ll have fewer regrets in the future. The first few weeks after an injury are crucial for recovering fully and without later problems.

My Path

Hopefully those six tips will help you as you recover from your injury. I have to keep reminding myself of these tips regularly. I get frustrated. I get impatient. I wish the injury hadn’t happened.

It’s all normal. I’m now in the capable hands of a qualified Physio, who also happens to be a Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and I’m working with her to get myself back to 100%…and then to get better than ever before. Hopefully you now feel confident that you’ll be able to do that too.

Ivana Chapman 

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Is Your Workout Hard Enough?

man screaming while doing deadlift in gym

You need to push yourself during your workout to get results.

Too many people waste their time at the gym. If you’ve been a regular gym-goer at a commercial gym for a while you’ve seen the real time-wasters:

  • The three 20-something guys who rotate on the triceps pushdown, while simultaneously discussing (in great detail) the latest Arkham video game.
  • The girls who sit beside each other on the recumbent bike, slowly peddling while chatting about what they’re wearing on Saturday night and how fat they think their thighs are when they sit down.
  • The guy who wanders around trying to start conversations with people, most of whom are in the middle of a set and wearing headphones to discourage intruders. After three hours he’s completed about 5 sets – in total – of various random exercises.

NOT Them

I’m not even talking about those people! It’s so obvious they’re not working hard enough that I’m only mentioning them for amusement. Nope, I’m talking about the average person at the gym who “sorta” knows what they’re doing. They have their exercises planned in advance. They know how many sets and reps they’re doing. They’re still not working hard enough! Why?

Rest Periods

Most people don’t pay close enough attention to their rest periods. They may be doing 3 sets of 12 reps, but they don’t think about how much time they leave in between. Rest periods are dependent on your goals (longer rest for strength, shorter rest for hypertrophy or endurance), but many people wander around aimlessly in between sets and waste precious gym time.

How Much Weight?

Many people receive a rude wakeup call when they first work with a trainer who helps them find their natural limits with weights. Many people are doing much less weight than they’re capable of doing. If you’re supposed to do 8 reps, but you’re capable of doing 20 reps of that weight (with good form) then you’re slacking off.  The weight is too light. Doing just those 8 reps isn’t enough to elicit much improvement. And that’s what it’s all about.

Efficiency!

Make the most of your time by working to your maximum capability on the day. Make your workouts efficient by doing the right type of exercise (weight training and/or HIIT) and pushing yourself HARD during your workouts. Now hard is a relative term. If you’ve only been training for a couple of years your level of intensity will be different from an Olympic athlete, but it should be HARD enough for you.

Hard vs. Long Workouts

How hard you workout is inversely proportional to how long you can workout. You can’t train as intensely for three hours as you would for 40 minutes. So, in the interest of fitting your workouts into your jam-packed schedule, doing a 40 minute workout three times a week is way better than doing a lazy three hour workout once a week.

When you hit the gym, work hard. That’s how you get results and make real changes with your body.

Ivana Chapman 

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Create Your Ultimate Body WITHOUT Cardio

fitness couple with weights in gym

A lean, athletic body without cardio? Yes, it’s possible.

Exercise is important. If you’re looking to build an amazing physique then you definitely want to exercise. Most people don’t choose the right type of exercise for their physique goals.

What’s Your Goal?

Do you want a leaner, more shapely body? Want to reveal those arms proudly in a tank top this summer? Get that 6-pack you’ve always wanted?

Skip the cardio and get weight training! Most people get it backwards, thinking that just because they want to be leaner (which will reveal a sexy midsection and make your arms look firm and “toned”) then they need to spend endless hours doing cardio.

Nope!

Excessive cardio could reduce your muscle mass and eventually make it harder for you to maintain your weight or get leaner.

What you really want to do is build muscle in both your upper and lower body so that you can create the body shape you want. You’ll also enhance your body’s calorie-torching capabilities because the muscle you build needs more calories to sustain itself.

I’m not saying that cardio is a complete waste of time. If you’re concerned with your health you should definitely get your heart pumping regularly, but your heart doesn’t care what activity you’re doing, as long as it’s forced to pump blood faster. Doing weight training in circuit-style will get your heart rate up, while also building muscle.

Do What You Love

If you really like jogging, dancing, swimming, cycling, or team sports then, by all means, do those activities for your own enjoyment. Those activities are a great way to get your body moving and feel more energetic. They also allow you to socialize…or spend quality time on your own, if that’s what you prefer.

There are few people, however, that really enjoy endless hours on the stairclimber or stationary bike at the gym. Most people do them because they think they’ll get the result they want (leanness) by doing them. Skip those boring cardio activities and do something you really like as a pastime. I love going for walks outdoors, but I don’t consider it part of my training.

Training is what you do to get the physical result you want.

If a lean, toned physique is what you’re after then weight training fits the bill. Do what you want just for fun, but spend your training time wisely.

Ivana Chapman 

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Why Training Experience Doesn’t Always Matter

woman personal trainer with client in machine

She’s been a trainer for 8 years and still gets every client to use this silly machine.

If you’ve been working out at a gym regularly for five or six years then you’re experienced at weight training, right?

Sure.

Does that mean that you know what you’re doing or that you have a lot of knowledge?

Not necessarily.

What if you’ve been doing the same workout for years and haven’t managed to improve your strength or put on any muscle? That’s a waste of your valuable time. Some people will acquire more knowledge and expertise in three years of weight training than the average gym-goer will after twenty years. It’s about finding the right sources and learning with passion and intensity.

Experience, Not Success

Being experienced, but useless, isn’t helpful. There are plenty of personal trainers who fall into that category. They’re still training people with the stuff they learned from their weekend certification back in January 2007 (Wow! Seven years of experience. Awesome! Was the sarcasm obvious here?). Even worse, they ignore the latest information and stick what they learned years ago. They have seven years of experience doing a very limited amount of exercises and programming in the same way.

Over time, many people get lazy and think that their experience up to that point is enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s always more to learn.

The Blind Leading The Blind

If the only advice you’ve ever gotten about weight training is from other gym-goers with approximately the same amount of knowledge as you, then what you actually know about training is a drop of water in an ocean of fitness knowledge. Hell, I’ve been training with weights for over twenty years and I still feel like my knowledge is only a few drops in a glass of potential information (are you sick of the water analogies yet?).

That’s not to say that you can’t get valuable information from other people in the gym. You can. Just make sure that you chose your sources carefully.

One of my biggest pet peeves in the gym is listening to a guy who’s clearly a novice giving his girlfriend/wife pointers on doing bench presses, tricep kickbacks, and other random exercises that he thinks he knows about. It seems like the ladies assume that he knows something just because he’s worked out a few times.

Stop it. Please.

Gain Additional Knowledge

If you aren’t continually learning something new then you’re falling behind. The fitness and nutrition world moves very fast, and it’s impossible to keep up with everything (even for those of us that try). Learn more. Try different things. Adapt and change.

Experienced Doesn’t Mean Knowledgeable 

Enthusiasm for learning counts for more than just time in the field. Passion for knowledge is vital. Not all elderly people are wise. Many people get through 80 or 90 years of life without experiencing as much as some of us have before we hit 30. You can accumulate a lot of knowledge and wisdom with experience. Or you can learn nothing new and never progress.

Make sure that by the time you’ve been working out for ten years you have all the wisdom that a long period of training implies. Not to mention a body that shows you walk the walk.

Ivana Chapman 

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Why Weight Training IS for Everyone

Woman with muscular body lifting weights

Weight training will get you the lean and toned body you’re looking for.

I’d like to think that the days of weight training being associated with tree-necked bodybuilders and giant-sized powerlifters are over, but sometimes I fear the images won’t die. There are so many benefits to weight training that it’s a shame there are some negative associations with it.

I cringe when I hear women say they just want to get “toned” (add muscle and lose fat and you’ll look “toned”!).

If only I could have shook some sense into the 5’3, 200ish pound woman I overheard at Starbucks, telling her friend she didn’t want to do weights because she would get “too bulky”.

Seriously?!

Her current obese state was already “bulky”, and certainly not in any positive way. I’m sure she’d find that if she started weight training she would actually slim down rather than bulk up her body.

I wish she’d give it a chance. I wish everyone would give weight training a chance.

Strength Training Rules!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a 17-year-old teen or a 72-year-old retiree – strength training is the way to go. I’m not saying that either of those people should be doing maximal deadlifts on a regular basis (unless that’s a goal they set for themselves), but developing strength will benefit everyone.

Keep in mind that, for some populations, strength training can just mean bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups.

Full-body exercises are particularly beneficial for those groups, as they help to develop functional strength (ie. strength for day-to-day life).

Strength training builds bone mass and density.

So unless you want your bones to get porous and prone to fracture as you get older, you’d be well advised to hit the weights regularly.

Let’s not forget that if you build muscle mass then your body will burn more calories all the time. At the same body mass, a body with a higher percentage of muscle and lower percentage of body fat is going to look a lot more appealing.

More “toned”, shall we say?

Don’t Forget to Progress

It’s fine to start off with bodyweight exercises if you haven’t worked out before, are recovering from injury, or haven’t been exercising for a while (Hello – post-partum ladies!). Once your body adapts to the exercise though, you need to add a little resistance (ie. weight) to continue seeing benefits.

Don’t Fear Getting “Bulky”

Don’t fear heavier weights. You need to work extremely hard and eat consistently to put on large amounts of muscle, which may eventually become your goal. You’re not going to “accidentally” put on tons of muscle and get “bulky” (sigh!) without a hell of a lot of work.

The fitness models you see in magazines didn’t get that way by accident. Most of them have been training HARD for years, 1-2 hours a day, 6 days a week to get the amount of muscle they have. And yes, some of them have even taken drugs to enhance their muscular development.

It’s not going to happen with a few weight training sessions a week, even if you try.

Strong Wins

One of the greatest benefits to weight training is how strong it makes you feel. Don’t overlook that key advantage. If you feel physically strong you’ll feel stronger mentally. Nothing beats the feeling of being happy, healthy, and ready to take on the world.

Weight training can be the start of an amazing journey for you. Don’t let preconceived notions stand in your way.

Ivana Chapman

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Ways to Change Your Workout

man lifting barbell in dark gym

Time to change that same exercise he’s been doing for months.

Have you been doing the same old workout for weeks or months?

Does it feel like 8-12 is the only rep range that exists and you’re so bored of goblet squats that you feel like throwing that damn dumbbell across the room?

You won’t get the same result if you keep doing the same thing over and over. Your body adapts and won’t be inspired to continue making progress if you don’t give it a new challenge.

Time for a change!

Many Ways to Change

Let’s start off by talking weight training, because that should be the core of your fitness and physique plan. No other training method or activity gives you the ability to mould your body so precisely.

Try changing:

Your Rep Range

If you normally do sets of 10, try sets of 6 or sets of 15 for a few weeks. You’ll stimulate some different muscle fibres and may push your body through a plateau.

The Number of Sets you do 

Most people do 3 sets of each exercise. I didn’t take a survey or check any research, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. Try changing things up by doing either 2 sets, or 4 or 5 of the same exercise. Some research shows that complete beginners can improve with just one set of each exercise, but let’s hedge our bets and assume that you’ll need at least two. That means you’re forced to come up with a few more exercises for each workout. Or try five sets, in which case you’ll have to drop an exercise or two from your routine.

The Exercises You’re Doing

Duh!

But you’d be surprised at how many people do the exact same exercise for months (or years!) at a time without any variation. Forget squats for a couple of months and focus on deadlifts. Or try Front Squats or Jefferson Squats instead of the standard Back Barbell Squats you’ve been doing for years. There’s and encyclopedia of exercises out there…so do some research or get a professional coach to guide you.

Your Rest Period

Maybe you take exactly 90 seconds between each exercise…or maybe you run right from one exercise to another – circuit-style. Whatever you’re doing, it’s time to mix it up a little. If you give yourself more rest you’re be able to develop your strength, and the result could be gains in muscle. Or maybe you need to condition your heart with shorter rest periods and lighter weights once in a while.

Go Nuts!

Here’s the final change…just go crazy and throw your routine completely out. I mean it. Skip the weights for a week or two and just do some sprint work. Or take some kettlebell classes at the gym. Or even some Zumba or Yoga. Nuts, I know!

Sometimes you just need to shake it up a little bit, for the sake of your body and your mental state. You’ll probably be even more enthusiastic about your weights regime when you get back into it.

Trust me, once in a while, change is good.

Ivana Chapman

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What’s the Least Amount of Exercise You Can Get Away With?

fit man sitting in gym with towel around neck

He’s contemplating whether he’s done enough exercise this week.

It might seem like a strange title for a blog, right? Why would I encourage you to do the bare minimum of exercise when I really want you to do everything according to a plan that I recommend for you?

Let me put it this way. After nearly fifteen years in the fitness industry coaching others to be their best selves, I’ve realized that life doesn’t always follow a perfect plan (in fact, it almost never does!) and even the most well-intentioned clients go astray at some point. They need a simpler way to meet their goals without the hard and fast routine that would normally be required.

Yes, me too!

Ok, I’ll admit that I also have times when I can’t follow that ideal plan that I set up for myself. Life puts all of us under pressure at some point. As a new mom to a sweet, loveable, and very much time-consuming baby named Kai, I’ve realized that it isn’t always possible to do things exactly as I plan every day.

So what can we get away with?

Exercise Minimums and Alternatives

That depends on your goals. If your aim is to be generally fit and healthy, I believe that 3 or 4 days of week of 30 minutes is a bare minimum. That’s assuming you’re moving around a bit during the day too. Even the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150mins of weekly cardio exercise and 2 days of weight training. If you’re looking at the bottom of the activity range, every little bit helps.

Walking a few flights of stairs here and there, doing 20 squats during commercials, or doing butt squeezes while you wait for the elevator may seem like very little but when you compare them to, well, doingnothing then they still win.

Laughable? Or a Smart Solution?

I used to laugh at those “silly” workout routines for moms where the women would lift her baby over her head repeatedly to work her shoulders and triceps muscles. Now I do “Baby Kai presses” while I’m playing with my son and hope that it’s doing me some good. I’ve even managed to do 20-45 minute workouts with my baby son asleep in his carrier on my chest.

Sure, the workout is a lot more limited since I can’t lie down on the ground or on a bench, but I’m convinced that “Baby Kai lunges” (walking lunges with Kai in his carrier) and “Baby Kai step-ups” are helping my legs and glutes stay in shape when I can’t make it to the gym. They’re the ultimate form of progressive resistance too…Kai’s about 16 pounds now and rapidly gaining weight!

I consider those exercise sessions a bit of an add-on to the more serious sessions I spend at the gym. If nothing else, they keep me from feeling sluggish and maintain my enthusiasm for the harder sessions I do when someone else takes care of the baby. They ARE NOT a replacement for the consistent, intense gym sessions that I normally do to build my physique.

But they don’t hurt.

Keeping your Motivation up and Your Mind on Movement

Does it seem lame to you to go 20 push-ups first thing in the morning and again later in the day? Maybe it’s not going to get you a bodybuilder-sized chest, but if the alternative is changing channels on the remote then it’s still time well spent. Every time you do a few bodyweight squats, jumping jacks, or one-legged deadlifts, you’re reminding your body how good it feels to move and encouraging your mindset to be body-focussed.

Don’t ignore this important mental connection.

I know, it’s not the ideal solution. If you want to lose a lot of weight, compete in a physique contest, or have a body that belongs on the cover of a fitness magazine, you need to be doing progressive weight training more than a couple of times a week. Still, given that less than half of people exercise AT ALL, you’re doing better than most if you just throw in thirty minutes of concentrated activity a few times a week.

So let’s make that the absolute minimum, ok? 😉

Ivana Chapman 

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Fitness & Nutrition Concepts I’ve Changed My Mind About

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 When you evaluate new information you often end up changing your mind.

I pride myself on staying on top of things in the fitness and nutrition world – this vast, complicated, controversial world that is constantly changing. In the two decades or so I’ve spent learning about health and fitness, I’ve changed my stance on quite a few things.

Here are a few things I used to believe:

I used to believe…

Low carb diets were dangerous. There was this crazy rumour a decade or so ago that the extra protein you get in low carb diets could be harmful to the kidneys. This seems to have started from a study in patients with kidney disease where it was found that excess protein damaged their kidneys. For the rest of the (non-kidney diseased) population the effect did not occur.

Now I believe…

Low carb diets are perfectly safe and healthy. Most people in the general population can benefit from reducing their intake of carbs, particularly processed sugars and bread.

I used to believe…

Doing cardio daily was the way to optimal fitness.

Now I believe…

The benefits of weight training outweigh those of cardio training and if you have to chose between one and the other then weight training should come first.

I used to believe…

There was one ideal diet for everyone. At one point it was the government guidelines (these have changed in recent years to allow more variation in macro intakes) that were taught to me at University. Then I started to feel that low carb was the right way for everyone.

Now I believe…

There is no one optimal diet for everyone. The success of various diets is dependent on genetics, cultural background, gender, age, health status, and preference. Some people do well with a lot of protein and others less so. Some people can do well on dairy and grains while others won’t.

I used to believe…

Giving someone a good workout was what being a good personal trainer was all about.

Now I believe…

Practically anyone can give someone “a good workout”. Or what feels like a good workout. Just getting someone to break a sweat isn’t the sign of a good trainer. Anyone can say “Do 10 burpees. Do 10 pushups. Do 10 burpees!” and the client will feel like they had a workout.

But what’s the purpose of the program?

Has the client been assessed for strengths, weaknesses, or muscular imbalances?

Is the program progressive?

There’s a lot more to a great trainer than how hard she/he gets you to work out.

What have I learned? 

No doubt when I write a similar blog in five or ten years there will be a lot of things that I will have changed my mind about. New research will be done, I will come into contact with different concepts from new people I meet, and trends and general beliefs will change. I look forward to the possibilities.

Ivana Chapman 

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Yes, You can Skip Cardio!

woman tired on exercise bike

You don’t have to slave away for hours on those boring cardio machines.

It’s still very much in the mainstream health community that it’s essential to do steady-state cardio exercise for health and for fat-burning. If you really enjoy jogging, I say go for it, but if hopping on a treadmill feels like slow torture then there’s no need to make it part of your routine.

You Must Move!

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re desk-bound all day then you owe it to your health to add a little movement to your day. Getting up for at least 10 minutes every hour, to take a bathroom break or talk to a colleague about a project, is vital for keeping your energy levels up during the day. Maybe you even walk up a couple flights of stairs once in a while. Walking should also be a regular part of most days. Add a 20 minute walk every evening after dinner, or a long walk with your family to the park on the weekends.

If you’re looking for serious changes in your fitness or physique though, you need to take it a bit further.

Train for Strength

Strength training is the most important part of your fitness routine, no matter what your age or fitness level. If you’re a beginner or not particularly strong, then strength training can be bodyweight exercises like squats, pushups, glute bridges, and lunges. Anything that is more than what you’ve previously been doing will build strength. As you get stronger, you’ll want to increase the weight that you’re working with. Whatever your workout plan, you want it to be progressive – increasing in weight and difficulties of movement.

Circuit Training

Some people will argue this point, but you can derive the benefits that you associate with “cardio” from an appropriate weight training program. If you move swiftly from one exercise to another without much rest, you’ll keep your heart rate up and give yourself a cardio workout. I’m not saying that’s the way you should always do your weight training (longer rest periods are needed for building strength and increasing muscle size), but if you insist that you need cardio then that’s one way of doing it.

Why Weight Training Beats Cardio

Weight training can shape your body into the sculpture you want it to be. You can make your shoulders look stronger, your arms more firm, and your butt perkier. Cardio helps you lose a bit of fat all over. Truth be told, weight training will help you lose fat too, in a much more efficient way than cardio. By building muscle, you’re building the fat-burning capabilities of your most powerful machine. More benefits for the cost of one. Your body needs to be in motion as much as possible.

Our modern world doesn’t encourage the type of action that’s best for our health and vitality so you need to make a point of moving more often. Both continuous steady-state cardio and weight training can have a place in your training regime. For significant improvements in your physique and health, choose the latter.

Ivana Chapman 

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Stop Wasting Your Time in the Gym!

businessman checking his watch

Your time is precious…make the most of your time in the gym.

There’s a misconception that in order to have a great physique you need to spend several hours every day working out.  Certain goals, such as competing in a professional bodybuilding contest or at the Olympics, require more than an hour or two nearly every day to achieve.

For the average busy executive who doesn’t make a living from athletics, spending hours in the gym every day doesn’t make sense…and only adds to the stress of an already overstretched life. So how often and for how long should you work out?

That depends a lot on your goals. 

If you want to walk around looking like you belong on the cover of a fitness magazine, you’ll need to spend a bit more time than if you’re happy just to pull yourself out of the “overweight” category and avoid a heart attack. If you’re strict and consistent with your diet (yes, that’s hugely important!) and have reasonable genetics, then an amazing physique can be obtained with 4 or 5 gym sessions a week.

We’re not talking 2-3 hour sessions either. Although the levels vary significantly by individual, testosterone (a muscle-building hormone) decreases and cortisol (a stress hormone) increases as a workout progresses.  If you spend too much continuous time in the gym the benefits progressively decrease and you’re less able to keep at the higher intensity needed to produce benefits.

40-50 mins is a great for most people. 

It’s also a lot easier to squeeze into your workday!

So what type of training should you do if you’re limited on time?

Weight training, of course! 

Building muscle means that your body becomes more metabolically active, burning more calories throughout the day no matter what you’re doing.  Exercises that work multiple large muscle groups simultaneously (like squats, deadlifts, or pull-ups) are more efficient at producing physique changes than bicep curls or flys. If you’re going to commit to spending some time in the gym, make sure you’re making the most of it.  Don’t waste your precious time peddling slowly on a stationary bike for hours!

Choose the right exercises and keep your workouts short and intense for the most time-efficient physique improvements.

Ivana Chapman