Top 10 strategies to energize your fall fitness program



Here we are … summer is winding down, and many people consider September to be a month of renewal: a new beginning, turning over a new leaf, so to speak. The kids are back in school, and it’s now easier to get motivated to get into a routine and take your fitness to the next level. It’s time for you!

Here’s a list of my Top 10 “Fall Fitness Program Guidelines.”

  1. Aerobic exercise: The American College of Sports Medicine recommends aerobic exercise three to five days/week for 20-60 minutes each session to maximize fitness gains and fat loss. If you’re just starting with exercise you may want to take a couple months to progress slowly into this range. Aerobic activities such as walking, running, cycling, swimming, fitness classes, hiking, stairclimbing and rowing will do the trick. These activities expend a lot of energy, and for those of you wanting to lose body fat, this should be the focus of your exercise program. The intensity of your aerobic workouts should be within 5-8 on the 10-point perceived exertion scale. This means you should be able to work up a sweat, feel your heart pumping and be breathing more rapidly. You should also split your weekly aerobic workouts into easy, moderate and hard days to vary the intensity and train all energy systems.

2: Resistance exercise: Regular strength training workouts are critical to maximize fat loss, build bone density, improve posture, develop muscle tone and slow down the aging process. Luckily, you don’t need to spend a lot of time in the weight room. Pick exercises for all the large, major muscle groups and perform just one set of 8-15 reps to fatigue. You should be able to get in and out of the weight room in 20-40 minutes. These short muscle-toning workouts are sufficient to achieve the results you’re looking for.

3: Eat 5 small meals and snacks each day. Studies indicate that when people eat more regularly throughout the day, they are less likely to overeat or indulge in less-healthy choices. Food at regular intervals also maintains a more balanced blood sugar level, which keeps your energy levels higher throughout the day. Try to consume smaller meals or snacks every two to three hours during the day.

4: Drink five 16-ounce glasses of water every day. Our body is 50-60 percent water, and when we are dehydrated, our body and its organs and systems don’t function at their optimal level. This limits your ability to exercise intensely and ultimately, will affect your ability to burn body fat. Many scientists also suggest that headaches, minor aches and pains, low energy, sleeping problems and injuries may be a result of dehydration. Five large glasses of water each day will replenish the fluids you lose throughout the day as a result of normal human respiration.

5: Focus on what you should be eating instead of what you shouldn’t be eating. Ensure you consume five vegetable and three fruit servings every day. Fruits and vegetables are high in nutrients and water content and low in fat and calories. It’s much more difficult to overeat when your diet consists largely of fruits and vegetables. If you fill up on your fruits and veggies, you’re going to have less room for the high-fat, nutrient-poor foods.

6: Practice the 80:20 rule. You can’t expect to be perfect for the rest of your life, and setting these types of high expectations will definitely set you up for failure and feelings of inadequacy. Instead of saying, I’m never going to eat chocolate again, decide that you’ll eat it only once per week. Instead of determining that you’re going to eat perfectly seven days a week, decide that you’ll eat really healthy five days a week and then two days you’ll allow for a few indulgences. This is much more realistic and is something that you can adhere to for the rest of your life. We have to stop thinking “all or nothing.” This just leads to failure and then the resultant binges. Remember that if you want to be 10 pounds lighter 10 years from now, then it’s not what you do over the next six weeks, but rather what you do for the next 10 years! So ask yourself: What type of a nutrition plan can you follow for the next 10 years?

7: Limit your alcohol intake: Alcohol poses a number of problems. It is high in calories and lacking in nutrient value. Some researchers have also suggested that because alcohol is metabolized in the body first, any food consumed in combination with the alcohol will be more easily converted to fat. And finally, and probably most importantly, alcohol reduces your inhibitions. You may be more inclined to indulge or make poor choices because you aren’t able to think clearly or examine the long-term consequences. Of course, since I believe in balance in all things, it’s not necessary to decide to never drink again! But instead of drinking every night with dinner, limit it to a few times per week.

8: Increase your daily activity: Try to think of ways that you can be more active throughout your day without having to actually exercise. The calories expended from walking a few extra blocks, taking the stairs, or performing errands the old-fashioned way really add up. If we could learn to just be more active throughout the day, we wouldn’t have to spend hours in the gym!

9: Try not to eat large amounts of food past 8 p.m. Eating late at night often goes hand-in-hand with high-fat snacks and overeating. Secondly, it never feels good to go to bed on a full stomach! Besides, you’re just going to be sleeping, so what do you need all those extra calories for?

10: Keep an activity and food log. Record your daily exercise and what and how much you eat. Some researchers have found that just the act of recording the foods you eat results in better choices and a healthier diet. Also, by writing everything out, you may also start to notice patterns. For example, you may observe that the days you don’t exercise are also the days you eat poorly. You can then take appropriate action. It’s also a good idea to set daily goals to break the long-term ultimate goal into smaller chunks and to keep your goals in the forefront of your thoughts. Be sure that your goals are behavioral in nature (i.e. drink eight glasses of water, exercise for 30 minutes, eat five small meals) instead of body-focused (i.e. I will lose 1 pound, 10 inches etc.).

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver. She can be reached at or