“Cardio is boring.” It’s one of the most common complaints I hear as a coach. And I get it – by definition, cardio is a movement or series of movements that, when done repeatedly, gets your heart rate up. That’s great for some people. For others, doing the same thing again and again can be boring. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’re looking for something slightly more entertaining to get your cardio hit, consider:
Doing something new
Doing something new requires you to use your brain, especially if the movement is more on the complex side and you actually have to think about what you’re doing. This means that you’ll be thinking about HOW to do the thing, and not the cardio aspect itself. While you’re working to figure things out, you aren’t going to be bored. The caveat is that this new activity that you’ve chosen shouldn’t be TOO hard. If you’re getting frustrated with it (hello skipping ropes double dutch style), knock it down a notch. You’ll get more out of it if you have to think, but not too hard. These variations on standard or traditional “cardio” options will keep your brain more engaged than the standard cardio options:
Swimming a new stroke
Mountain biking, BMX, or other off-road options
Ocean swimming, if you live near open water
Canoeing or kayaking
Doing something that isn’t “exercise”
Whether you are playing on a jungle gym, climbing a tree or jumping on a trampoline, lots of the things we did as kids will give you the cardio workout without the “workout”. As you bounce, swing, and climb around, you use almost all of your big muscles. The more muscle you use, the more your heart has to distribute oxygen and nutrients. Heart rate goes up, cardio training effect is achieved, fun is had – wins all around.
Trampoline park session
Doing something social
Finding a social sport or recreational league can be a great way to tick the “cardio” box without enduring hours of boring work on the treadmill (or whatever your idea of boring cardio is). And these days, there are so many rec sports leagues to choose from. You can form your own team with a group of friends, increasing the enjoyment factor. And if your friends aren’t into it, these days most rec leagues can connect you with a team that needs players. Look for a local indoor sports centre or google recreational sport near me and see what options come up for you.
One last thing to note: Some of the options listed might seem…. crazy. But most clubs will offer a “Come And Try” day, or introductory sessions to give you a taste before you commit. Starting new things as an adult can be daunting, but there is actually a lot of support available. Give it a try and you might even have some fun – the workout is just a byproduct.
PS – For Brisbane locals, here are some good spots to get started:
It’s time to think of massage as more than just a luxury.
Massage therapy has a positive impact on almost every area of health, either directly or indirectly. I see remedial massage clients almost every day, and it’s been roughly three years since I had a client who didn’t actually need treatment. It’s rare enough that I remember him exactly.
Most of us will get some benefit from massage. It directly impacts our neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems, and can have an indirect impact on overall physical and mental health. The most noticeable benefit is decreased pain and discomfort, either overall or in a specific area of the body. Researchers aren’t 100% certain about how massage decreases pain, but believe that it works through thegate control theory of pain. Basically, this theory says that you can override one nervous system signal, like pain, with another signal, like the pressure from massage.
So how does decreasing pain help? Of course, no one likes to be in pain, but less pain also leads to…
Decreased joint pain is one of the major benefits of massage. Joint pain often stems from poor joint alignment, which creates stress on certain areas of the joint. Massage therapy can improve joint alignment by decreasing tension in the muscle and soft tissues. When these tissues are tight or short, they can actually drag the joint out of alignment, creating perfect conditions for joint stress. Tensio in the muscle itself can also cause pain, either locally or as referred pain. Both muscle and joit pain make movement less pleasant, which often leads to avoiding exercise or oter physical actvity. And it’s pretty well established that less exercise means greater disease risk.
Massage therapy can also prevent injury from happening, provided you get regular treatment while you are still feeling good. In fact, most therapists recommend regular (but not necessarily frequent) treatment to help keep the soft tissues pliable and responsive. Your brain gets very good at relaxing the muscles with regular treatment. If your soft tissue is already in good shape, a massage every one to two months will usually be enough to keep your muscles happy.
Better cardiovascular and metabolic health
In addition to getting and keeping you moving better, massage can benefit your cardiovascular and metabolic health in a couple of ways. First, by decreasing muscle and joint pain, you’re better able to move. Any amount of movement or exercise has been repeatedly shown to decrease cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk and increase longevity. Massage can also help the long-term cardiovascular system, with regular treatment shown to decrease blood pressure and heart rate.
Improved rates of healing
Injuries cause pain, physical and mental stress increases, and can take a while to fully heal. Massage can help speed the process of returning to normal. The movement of the soft tissues increases circulation. This is a big help to the physical process as it can bring additional oxygen and nutrients to the healing tissues. Massage also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system – the part responsible for calming you down – which decreases both stress and pain hormones and enhancing immune function.
There are many other benefits that come from regular massage therapy. The most important one – even though it isn’t peer-reviewed – is that at the end, you feel really good! You don’t need a scientist to tell you that’s a benefit!
Short answer: Yes, you can still lift weights if you have tennis elbow – provided you do so in a way that is pain-free.
I’ll provide some options for how to lift weights with tennis elbow towards the end (jump to that section here). Before we get there, I want to give you some insight into what happens when you have tennis elbow.
What is tennis elbow?
Tennis elbow shows up as a small area of pain on the outside of the elbow that gets worse with movement and improves with rest. When it’s severe, even holding a cup of coffee can be painful. The proper name for this condition is lateral epicondylitis, which is 1000% why everyone calls it tennis elbow.
It’s a repetitive strain or overuse injury characterized by changes to the cellular makeup of the common extensor tendon, leading to degeneration. This tendon connects some forearm extensors to the outside edge of the bottom of the humerus (the long bone in the upper arm). Tennis elbow is a type of tendinopathy.
When there is a sudden change in how you use the muscles attached to the tendon, the tendon itself becomes stressed. Tendons have a relatively low blood supply and use only a small amount of oxygen, which makes them able to withstand extended use, but also means that they take a long time to heal.
Despite the name, tennis is not the usual cause of tennis elbow – it only causes about 10% of cases. Any activity that involves repetitive gripping or wrist extension (pulling the back of the hand towards the forearm) or twisting, especially if loaded, can trigger the strain. Muscle weakness in the shoulder and arm can make it more likely to happen, as can smoking and obesity, likely due to their inflammatory actions. Other things that can trigger it:
Poor grip when playing racket sports
Recreational activities like gardening, crafts, and playing a musical instrument
Painting, using a hammer or screwdriver
Repetitive movements for two hours a day or more
Lifting heavy objects, especially with an extended wrist
Wrist positions that can be aggravating include wrist extension and radial deviation of wrist (where the thumb moves sideways towards the forearm).
Radial deviation of the wrist
How to lift weights with tennis elbow
The biggest change to lifting weights with tennis elbow is how you hold the weight. Here are some options for changing your grip when lifting weight to avoid stressing your forearm flexors. You won’t be able to substitute these alternate grip into every exercise, but it will give you more options than simply not lifting weights at all.
No-grip weight lifting technique for front barbell position can be used instead of a high or low bar position on the back of the shoulders.
No-grip weight lifting technique for plate weight. This can be used instead of dumbbells at the sides, or in lieu of a goblet squat.
Once you’re pain free and advancing through your rehab, keep your risk of tennis elbow at lower risk by using a neutral grip. This still can be aggravating if you haven’t advanced far enough into your rehab yet. Check with the clinician you’re working with to see when you can start exercises that require gripping.
Tennis elbow treatment
If left untreated, tennis elbow will likely persist for many weeks or months, though it’s likely it will eventually resolve on its own within one to two years. Conservative treatment – that is, non-surgical treatment – can see this resolve within just a few months. From my experience, with consistent treatment it will slowly get better. And as with most conditions using conservative treatment, your best results will probably come from using a variety of treatment options. Of greatest importance:
Rest in the early stages (first few weeks after first appearance of pain) and avoid activities that make pain worse
Pain management, which can include
NSAIDS like ibuprofen (Neurofen, Advil), naproxen (Aleve), or diclofenac (Voltaren)
Ice after activity
Physiotherapy/Physical therapy, which should include
Isometric and eccentric exercises, which have been shown to promote better tendon healing
Graded exercise is a must with tennis elbow rehab. In other words, there is a specific order in which rehab exercises need to be done to promote healing and prevent further injury. Get professional advice!
Massage or dry needling can help decrease the tension in the muscles attached to the tendon, which can decrease tendon stress. This is a pain-management activity rather than a strict resolution, but is still an important part of long-term recovery.
Treatment options that may or may not be useful (varies per person):
Ultrasound or cold laser treatments can help with pain management, but are unlikely to help long-term recovery.
Cortisone injections may provide short-term pain relief. However, there is a chance that it will make no difference to pain levels, and repeated injections may actually further weaken the tendon.
Platelet-rich plasma injections (PRP), which is an injection of your own blood into the tendon to promote healing.
Forearm compression bands, which place pressure on a point below the tendon, decreasing the stress on the tendon. These may not be useful for everyone, as the pressure may not be enough to relieve pain at the elbow.
Please remember, surgery is a last-resort treatment!
What to avoid
To prevent further strain and overuse of the forearm and elbow:
Avoid moving into the end range of motion with your wrist.
Take frequent breaks if you must do repetitive activities, including sustained gripping.
When lifting heavy items, keep your elbow slightly bent.
Use a two handed grip where possible, if lifting heavy items or using a forceful grip (e.g. tennis racket, golf club).
If a movement or exercises triggers your pain, stop doing it and speak to the clinician you’re working with about this.
If you’re asking about forming healthy habits, my guess is that you are probably less than happy with your current ones. Don’t stress! Most of have a least a couple of things we’d like to change, and we all can totally do it.
So how do you go about making new healthy habits for yourself? There any number of ways to set yourself up with a new habit. Regardless of your method of remembering to do a new thing, here are a few points to keep in mind to set yourself up for success.
One step at a time
When it comes to getting healthy, it’s super normal to want to make a whole bunch of changes all at once. DON’T.
Since your brain is an energy-conserving machine, it likes habits. Your brain cells use a lot less energy to complete habitual activities; it’s essentially on autopilot. On the other hand, every new thing you do requires conscious thought (sometimes a lot of it) and that takes more fuel. It can also be emotionally uncomfortable. This is a double-whammy for your brain. You can make it easier by putting all that conscious thought into getting a single habit set in stone, instead of splitting your attention across a whole bunch of new things.
Be nice to yourself
Setting up a new habit is often a process of “two steps forward, one step back”. This is in part due to your brain’s desire to do the easiest, most energy-efficient things. But it’s also commonly due to life being unpredictable. Sometimes our best laid plans can fall by the wayside when we have to stay late at work or your kid gets sick, or any other number of life curveballs. When this happens, it’s important to be kind to yourself instead of beating yourself up for not sticking with things. You can start again, anytime. Each fresh start – really, each time you stick with your new habit – it will get more comfortable for your brain, and easier to come back to.
Is it this right for you?
If you’re struggling to consistently stick with a new activity, you might want to consider whether this activity is the right one for you at this point in life. Is this new habit going to take too much time? Do you enjoy it (versus feeling like you should do it)? Is it going to give you what you want? Questions like these are important to consider, though it’s also important to remember that there are no wrong answers. Be honest with yourself. And get comfortable knowing that sometimes new habits take some work. If you’re doing it for the right reasons, they’ll be worth it!
I saw this today on a facebook group post that I’m a part of:
Help me! I really, truly, absolutely want to lose weight. I feel like I’ve tried EVERYTHING! Even when I’ve paid for things, I do it for a week…. and lose motivation. Help! What has actually worked for you? I am desperate!
Lots of responses to this post talk about ww (formerly weight watchers), keto diet, things like that. The coolest thing though was almost every single person talking about losing weight as a product of making small, realistic changes they were able to stick with.
For the record, my response: Absolutely 100% on making small, sustainable changes. It’s the consistency – and patience! – that actually gets results. Think you want to eat more veggies? Add a half a cup to one meal a day… It’s the stuff like that that doesn’t make it overwhelming, but you can feel successful with. The body changes will come.
On reflection though, it’s interesting that none of the responses – mine included – addressed motivation. We often look for the “how” and the “what” – and for good reason. It’s actually the easiest part. It’s the “why” that makes us work. (Check out this video for an amazingly simple-but-deep-dive into the psychology of what-how-why.)
What would I reply to this post instead, now that I’ve thought about it? It would probably go something along the lines of…
Part one: Find one or two small changes that are easy to make and easy to stick with. This will give you something to focus on while you focus on part two. Part two: Get honest, if you haven’t already. Why do you want to lose weight? What will it mean for your life? What will losing weight give you the freedom to do, or to be? This bit takes time and some mental effort. That’s why I suggest starting with some small, sustainable changes in part one – to give you time to think, while still moving forward.
For example, I could ask myself “Why do I want to get back into great shape?”. Well, I miss being super super fit. Why do I miss that? I miss being strong and being able to run. Why do I miss those things? I miss being confident in myself and feeling like I could take on the world! I do ok right now, but that feeling was amazing.
To really distill your motivation, you can ask why as many times as you need to. And take your time. This kind of thinking doesn’t often result in clear answers right away. In fact, sometimes you might need to think on it for a few days before you reach an answer that really feels right. It’s worth taking the time though. Once you have an answer, you’re well on your way to staying motivated for life.
I was recently asked my opinion on the best at-home exercise equipment for cardio workouts.
Frankly, I have no great love for cardio machines in general. Unless you’re a hardcore “cardio” lover, I don’t think any single machine is worth purchasing – there are better things you can do with your time and money. (Admittedly, there is an element of personal taste here – I simply get bored using them!)
But you can do cardio at home. It’s a great option, you just don’t need special equipment! My favourite cardio workouts actually require zero equipment. That’s right, none. You see, your own body is a great tool for getting your heart rate up. It is the first and last cardio machine you’ll ever need, regardless of your fitness level. Even if you need to keep your workouts low-impact, your body is still one of the best tools around.
How Does Bodyweight Cardio Work?
A quick overview of aerobic exercise: Your muscles need oxygen to contract, relax, move you around, and otherwise function. So when you exercise in any way, you use more oxygen. Your lungs supply this, but it’s your cardiovascular system that actually transports oxygen molecules to your muscles. The more your muscles contact and move you around, the more oxygen they need. If you maintain movement for more than a few minutes, your body will respond by increasing your breath and heart rate. In other words, you’ll be doing cardio.
Since maintaining any movement for more than a few minutes will start to increase your heart rate, you’re not limited to the traditional “cardio” exercises. Of course, you can go running or go for a walk – those are great options that you can do from home. But if you don’t want to leave the house, there are other options, both high-impact and low-impact:
High Impact Bodyweight Exercises For Cardio
Any variation on jumps or hops will quickly get your heart rate up, giving you a cardio workout with no equipment needed. You’ll find many of these options in high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and they can definitely be hard. Some exercise options are:
Low Impact Bodyweight Exercises For Cardio
Lots of bodyweight strength or resistance training exercises can increase your heart rate into the “cardio” zone. You can tailor them to your own abilities and fitness levels, and modify to keep them pain free to get a good workout with minimal stress. Some great options are:
Prisoner squats to a bench or chair
Pushups, or incline pushups on a table or countertop to make it a little easier
Stair steps or step ups
Of course, any exercise can and will get your heart rate up and give you an aerobic workout, if you structure the workout well. If you want to combine the high- and low-impact options you can. I always recommend alternating exercises that are harder-easier-harder-easier, so that you can keep yourself moving as continuously as you can. And of course, this advice is general and you should always talk to your doctor if you are looking to start exercising for the first time. Lastly, if something hurts, skip it, try something else, and if needed, get yourself to a good physio or physical therapist!
A great exercise physiology program should match up and work for the person their designed for (that’s you!). The rightexercise physiologist will use the information you provide during your first session to make this happen.
Your doctor might suggest exercise physiology to give you additional support in getting healthy and out of pain. Or, you might decide on your own that you’d like some expert guidance. No matter why you show up, when you do, you’ll probably be asked some key questions. I’d recommend you take some time to consider the following:
Where are your challenges?
To create an effective exercise physiology program, your EP will need to know what your health or injury is keeping you from doing. This might mean asking about what movements are painful, if you’re worried about exercise impacting your health, or what you want to do but can’t. Your answers help your EP plan which movement assessments or tests to include in your session.
Understanding your limits provides the foundation for a good exercise physiology program. My job as an exercise physiologist is to use exercise to help you get better, which means I also have to know where you “aren’t so good”.
What are your goals?
Your goal might be to be pain free, or to improve your general health. You might have a specific “life” goal, like to complete a certain event. Or you might want to get off a certain medication. All of these goals are great.
As an EP, understanding what you want will point me in a certain direction when designing your program. There are many ways to address physical and health limitations. I’m always looking for the exercises that can address both your physical needs and your goals at the same time.
Will this program work for you?
I can design a great exercise physiology program that will both address your limits and your goals. But if you don’t have time for it, it’s not a great program. If you don’t like it, it’s not a great program. And if you can’t do it where and when you want to, it’s not a great program.
For sustainable results, your program has to fit in with your lifestyle, or come close. If you want to make a lot of changes, or big changes, it’s important to create a program that supports this in gradual steps. This can definitely challenge your patience but in the long run makes you much more successful. Part of my role – or any good exercise physiologist – is to help you prioritise these changes and plan how you want to implement them in a way that you can truly see yourself doing.
And its the planning and implementation that ultimately makes or breaks a program. We can collaborate our way to a great list of ideas and steps, but when life gets busy and exhausting, a “what to do now” plan is what helps you stick with it. Small steps, taken often, are what lead to success.
So much more than just “what to do, when to do it”, good health coaching is a collaborative process that helps you get the most out of your lifestyle. (Without making it no fun at all.)
I often joke with my friends about the busy-ness of adult life, and how I wish it were easier. (Honestly, who doesn’t?!) Real life is busy. When we look at something as complex as keeping ourselves in good health, it also becomes confusing.
Our health coaching relies on good science to help us understand how people respond to different approaches to a healthy lifestyle. We weed out the fads and stay current with the “gold standard” in preventative health care. The coaching process translates this information to you, so you don’t have to sift through the internet to learn what might work.
Ultimately, coaching helps you make the best choices. Since so many “healthy lifestyle” approaches work, the key is actually figuring out what works best for you. This means considering what’s realistic, and what’s appealing. The technically-best plan won’t work if you hate it! We make sure the steps fit in with your lifestyle, time, and commitments, so you’re already halfway to winning!
Our other difference is the supportive accountability that we offer. You work together with your coach to set your goals and create a plan to achieve them. You’ll dive deep into the steps, considering different options and thinking ahead to see how they’ll work for you. And your coach will be there to support, troubleshoot, and cheer you on as you get stronger, move easier, and feel better.
Would you benefit from exercise physiology if you’re already training hard? Absolutely! Exercise physiology and HIIT training – like Crossfit, F45, or Beach Body Challenges – are a match made in heaven, and you’ll see it in your results. Here’s three reasons why:
Your technique will be top notch
One of the biggest benefits of exercise physiology is the technique fine-tuning that happens in each session. This isn’t personal training, where we’re here to give you a list of stuff to do and then count your reps (and true that good PTs don’t do that either!).
Instead, exercise physiology is all about your movement and how your body responds to it. An exercise physiologist should spend the majority of your session closely watching how you move, and helping you fine-tune your technique so that the right muscles fire at exactly the right time. This helps minimize undue stress on your joints, muscles, and connective tissues. Of course, we do some stress – just enough that your improve your strength and fitness). If you have a health condition like heart disease, we also watch for signs that you’re working safely and not beyond your health limits.
You’ll stay injury and pain free
Good exercise technique and minimizing undue stress keeps your body happy. If a movement is off-balance, it usually leads to overuse injuries in the long run. This happens through too much load on the wrong structures. If you’ve ever had a meniscus tear or a bulging disc in your lower back, you’ll probably understand what moving just slightly the wrong way feels like: “not good” is an understatement.
“Balanced” movement is simply good exercise technique. This keeps the exercise load in the working muscles (good stress) and not so much on the joints, ligaments, and other anatomical pieces that are along for the ride. In the long term, this means fewer injuries – and only the good, DOMS-y soreness that you get from a solid workout.
You’ll maximize your workout bang-for-buck
Keeping the load in the working muscles means that you aren’t leaking effort. What the heck does that mean? Pain, past injury, and sloppy exercise technique let your stabilizer muscles coast along, so you’re not using all you can. Tightening up your technique turns stabilizers on, and adds more “good” stress without making things harder. You’ll also transfer force more efficiently. This is especially important for power exercises and full body movements. In fact, once you get used to the technique tweaks we recommend, the same workout will actually feel a lot easier. You can lift more and go farther with the smallest changes. Sounds good to me!
One of the reasons I started HealthFit was to help people find ways to make health easier. It’s a pleasure to find likeminded clinics, which is why I’m so excited about joining forces with Urban Well. With a tagline of Simplifying Health and a collaborative approach, it’s a great option for health and exercise coaching, rehab, and preventative health care.
I’ve met tons of clients who struggle to stay as fit and healthy as they would like. As a result, they worry that when push comes to shove, they won’t be able to do what they want to – or have to. My entire health and exercise coaching approach is based in the idea that you don’t have to settle for anything. This means getting clear on your motivation and working with a tailored plan is a powerful place to start. Doing the work in the company of a supportive community is when the magic happens.
Urban Well provides this community in two ways. First and foremost, one of the founding principles of business is a client-centred collaborative plan. That means that the person you see at Urban Well communicates with everyone else on your health care team. Our goal for you is that your whole health care team is on the same page , and it’s less likely that every person gives you 30 minutes of homework to do every day! In addition, the team at Urban Well is always working to build a great community. It’s important that every person who comes through our doors feels supported and encouraged. Through stretching and strength classes, brain and body health workshops, and a great provider team, we hope to connect our clients to others doing the same work. It’s easier to stick with the changes when you’re not alone, and that’s what we are all about.