Our bodies might love the whimsy of summer, but they crave and need routine even more. As we head into the fall season, we are going to be finding a new cadence and rhythm for our hectic lives.
What does this mean for our fitness routine? It means we have an incredible opportunity to ensure we commit time to our health.
We have tapped the knowledge of the experts in the field: those who have spent years not only harnessing the power of exercise in their own lives but helping others create and maintain an exercise routine.
The Fitness Industry Council of Canada is made up of fitness facilities and professionals whose raison d’etre is to help you build exercise into your life. We are here to help Canadians make lasting changes to their physical, mental, and social health.
While going outside for a walk or hike is great, being part of a fitness community provides huge benefits — from accountability and expertise to motivation and being part of a fitness family.
Here are some pro tips to help set you up for a fit fall successfully.
Add fitness to your calendar
We live by our calendars and exercise should be blocked into your busy week.
Consistency matters — and this means putting your clothes out the night before, putting the gym bag in the car, and walking through the gym door.
What’s the best time of the day to work out? Ultimately, it’s whatever is the best time for you given your schedule.
Some believe a morning workout might be better for people who want to “get it out of the way.” Exercise in the morning can boost your mood for the day and improve productivity.
An afternoon or evening workout could also provide you with lots of energy, and makes for a great replacement for other after-work activities, like pouring a glass of wine and lying on the couch to binge-watch a show.
If it fits into your calendar, it’s a good time to work out.
Pro tip: “Most people say, ‘I’d love to spend more time exercising, but I just don’t have the time.’ Realist check: No one has the time,” says Sean Alt, Director of Operations, Innovative Fitness.
“Those that do have the time only do it because they make it a priority and carve the time in their schedule for it. Schedule it into your day.”
Exercise is magical. It can help manage chronic illness, regulate stress levels, and boost your overall mental health. But exercise can be intimidating and walking into a gym even more so.
This is where accountability and support are essential. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to the three closest fitness facilities in your area and book a free trial session — this will help reduce the intimidation factor.
Pro tip: “Stepping into a new gym is almost like your first day of school: you need to get used to the layout, the members, and the feel,” says Carl Ulmer, co-owner of Club 16 Trevor Linden Fitness and She’s FIT!
“A fitness professional can support you by meeting you at the door on your first visit, getting you acquainted, and showing you how to use the equipment properly. After that, you will find no better motivation than the friendly faces you see at the gym. You will find yourself craving that next visit.”
Don’t overdo it
It can feel like a lot of effort to even think about starting again. We know that while a percentage of Canadians maintained their fitness (or improved upon it) during the pandemic, a significant percentage of us lost our habits and our routine.
As you restart, don’t overdo it. While the temptation to “hit the gym hard” will be there to make up for lost time, what you don’t want is to overdo a workout and then suffer the consequences of severe DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), or have such a hard workout that your brain needs convincing to go again.
At my company, LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic, we coach clients to move from No Fit to Low Fit — starting low, going slow, and adding a little at a time. Progress is made in the tiny steps along your health journey, not in the leaps that very often leave us on the ground.
Whether you are starting for the first time or starting again, think about two fitness sessions per week to begin and then build from there. You also do not have to exercise for hours —often a shorter workout will do the trick.
If you already have a fitness level but haven’t been at the gym in a while, think about working with a qualified exercise professional to coach you on how much, how soon, and how intense your workout should be.
Pro tip: “I have always loved fitness, but I must admit that 30-Minute HIIT’s flexible schedule, supportive community, and a high-intensity workout in just 30 minutes allows me to schedule three to four workouts per week in my hectic life,” says Deanna Loychuck, owner 30-Minute HIIT.
“On top of the physical results from the HIIT, I cannot deny that it helps with stress relief, regulates my sleep, and gives me extra energy for my day.”
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Find your “why”
There are both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for exercise, and you can call on both to get motivated to workout again.
The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of exercise weekly at a moderate to vigorous intensity (or 300 minutes at a lower intensity) to prevent and treat chronic illness. Why does this matter? If you have a family history of heart disease or have one of the four major risk factors (which nine out of 10 Canadians shockingly do), the intrinsic motivator — living a longer life — can be enough to jumpstart.
If you suffer from major joint pain from carrying extra weight, or from arthritis, exercise might be the last thing you want to do, and the most essential thing you need to do.
If you suffer from depression, stress, or anxiety, you might find it even harder to exercise. During the pandemic, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, labelled this the “pandemic paradox.” This happens when people know they needed to exercise to improve their mental health, but their mental health prevents them from exercising. It’s a conundrum.
This is where fitness professionals play an essential role: the Fitness Industry has evolved dramatically in the last few years. What might have seemed like an exclusive club of already-fit people working on their abs — the traditional extrinsic motivators for exercise — is a thing of the past.
We heard repeatedly over the last few years from our members how essential exercise, and being part of a community was for mental health.
Pro tip: “Exercise has been a big part of my physical and mental health for many years. My gym workout routine helps improve and regulate my emotional, mental, and of course, physical health,” says Trevor Linden, former Captain Vancouver Canucks and co-owner of Club 16 Trevor Linden Fitness and She’s FIT!
Surround yourself with good people
You will not find a more positive and inspiring group of people than those in your fitness community: apart from the experts whose job it is to celebrate your efforts, you will find kindred spirits in that boutique fitness studio class, or even the head nod on the gym floor as you go in for another set!
If your friend group doesn’t involve people who get excited about exercise, you need to find these people on your own (hint: they are at the gym). We are more likely to continue exercising if our spouse, family members, or friends are there with us. We call these “accountability partners” and everybody needs them.
I founded LIVE WELL with my best friend. We were both on maternity leave and started exercising together.
I knew that I might be willing to let myself down, but I wasn’t going to let her down! This has remained true for the thousands of members we have helped over the years and remains steadfast and true today. Exercise really is better together!
Pro tip: “Finding a community is about accountability and celebrating happiness. When you find your people, you don’t only show up for yourself, you show up for them, too,” says Dominic Desbois, Owner of Spin Society.
“As part of the community, you have the precious gift of being able to turn someone’s day around with a simple smile, high five, or encouragement. And that’s what it’s all about! Find your people, love and support them dearly and they’ll show that same love and support back.”
Exercise will always leave you better than you were before, and it starts and ends with a positive mindset. As you continue along your fitness and wellness journey, remind yourself over and over again that you are stronger than you think.
And then become what you believe.