Back into the Fall Routine!

Hello! Cam here. Hard to believe we are into September already!


Now that summer is coming to a close, many of us are thinking, and possibly even craving a bit more structure in our lives. School is back in session, regular scheduled activities are gearing up and if you are like me, maybe you have had your fill of visitors at your house, traveling to visit others or maybe even both!


Personally, I have always enjoyed sitting down in the fall with a calendar and planning out how I would like the next few months to look. I do it until a week before Christmas because it is usually then that the schedule becomes obsolete and then re-surfaces in January. I may be in the minority, but I do prefer the paper calendar for the planning and then putting it into that electronic calendar later, with all the notifications that help you keep yourself organized.


Obviously, there are many ways to approach your personal planning session. Undoubtedly, it will include plotting in all the scheduled things such as work, classes, appointments, and regular activities. It may include creating a ‘to do list’ for all those things you have been putting off since spring, or even before that. Possibly you have come up with a special goal that requires a strategic, structured plan you will need to follow to successfully take those incremental steps that will enable you to ultimately reach it!


Ultimately, it doesn’t matter exactly how come up with your “Back into the Fall Routine” plan. But, if you are going through the process, either formally or informally, this is your chance to try and incorporate some items in your plan that will improve your overall health. I would encourage you to regularly schedule in things that will focus on improving your physical, mental, spiritual, and social health.


There have been many research studies that look at how habits are formed. It isn’t rocket science; you must do things regularly in order for them to become a habit. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you regularly did things that improved all the different components of health without having to convince yourself to do them in the first place? If they were simply part of your structured life, and you regularly did these things simply because that is what you do? Well, it must start somewhere, so why not incorporate these positive health behaviors in this year’s “Back into the Fall Routine” plan.


Regular exercise is one of the most powerful tools we can use to lower our risk of cardiovascular disease. Exercise is the planned, structured, moderate to intense activity that stimulates our bodies to become more fit. This is beyond keeping active throughout the day with things like gardening, housework, or parking further away to increase your daily step count.  It has positive impacts on basically all the modifiable risk factors. It can help us control our blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugars if we have diabetes (or even prevent getting diabetes in the first place). It can be a great way to help manage stress, promote healthy body composition and is a great replacement activity if you are trying to quit smoking. Never mind the fact that exercise makes us stronger and more able to either tackle the challenges that life puts in front of us or enjoy the many amazing opportunities that we may be able to experience if we are physically able to do so.


To be more specific, there are a few components to physical fitness. Aerobic fitness is the body’s ability to use oxygen. This includes our lungs, blood, heart, and muscles to all work together to accomplish this as efficiently as possible.


Muscular strength and endurance is all about function. We lose muscle mass as we age so it is critical that we challenge these muscles regularly to stimulate them to stick around. Stronger muscles allow us to do everything from climbing stairs to doing housework, to lifting our grandchildren. Increasing muscle mass and staying strong is also important to maintain bone density which can help prevent fractures.


Another component of overall fitness is flexibility. Maintaining flexibility is important for a couple of reasons. When muscles are flexible and joints have a full range of motion, we move and function more efficiently. This could be putting on your shoes or swinging a golf club. Good flexibility also helps prevent injuries which would definitely put a damper on things. The combination of muscular strength, endurance and flexibility can contribute to overall balance and coordination which also contributes to function and injury prevention.


When you are making your plan, you should schedule in a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity activity using your major muscle groups continuously on most days of the week. The goal should be 150 minutes of walking, jogging, biking, swimming, paddling, cross country skiing or other similar type activities. You should also plan to do strength training for all the major muscle groups of your body 2-3 times per week. Incorporating stretching to improve flexibility after these workouts so your muscles are nicely warmed up is a great idea.


I think many of us overlook our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It is just as important to schedule time specifically to work on these aspects or our health. There are a multitude of different activities that you can do. If you have not focused on working on these aspects of your health, then I encourage you to try out something new to see if it may work for you. Don’t expect that you will have a life altering experience the first time you try a new activity. You will usually need to stick with it and practice the skills before they become more natural and start to give you some real benefit.


Some ideas that you can try to use to exercise your brain are reading, listening to podcasts, or doing puzzles like crosswords, sudoku or other brain teasers. Maybe you even take on the challenge of learning a new language? Podcasts, audio books and even learning a new language can be done while you are doing other tasks, such as housework or driving in the car which can be very handy and may also make the other tasks more enjoyable.


Mental, emotional and spiritual health are also extremely important. Again, there are many different things you can do. It may be as simple as sitting quietly on a bench in a park. Getting away from the business of life and focusing on something else. Breathing and clearing your mind of the to do list. Even if this alone time is in a place you have been many times before, try and notice something new. And not just notice it, but really examine it. Is it a rock you have never seen before, the sounds of the birds, the smells of the flowers or trees. Whatever it is, examine it and recognize the magic of how it came to be.


A couple of other activities that I might suggest would be meditation and journaling. This might sound like it is something really complicated but it doesn’t need to be. There are many resources out there that help you get started. There are apps you can download that have free guided meditations that you can try. They often have a series that can get you going as a beginner. It may be that you do a morning meditation to get your mindset ready for the day or an evening one to clear your mind before you settle in to bed for that all important restful sleep. You will almost surely find some guided meditations that work for you.


Journaling is also a great way to clear your mind. Simply writing down your thoughts as they come in. This may be about something stressful that is going on in your life, goal setting, or just planning your day. Taking the time to get things on paper can often help us process things differently. It can give us a different perspective to look at things. Also, the act of writing can sometimes just clear the mind so that you don’t have these thoughts continuously spinning round and round. When you journal, you don’t need to follow any rules. It doesn’t need to be in full sentences or in any order at all. It is simply your mind on paper. Some people keep there journals to read later and some throw them away or even burn them when they are done. Whatever works for you is perfect, because it is for you!


I think it is important to recognize that you will often work on more than one aspect of your health at a time. For example, I like to run in trails. It is obviously physical exercise and good for my body! But for me, it is also a time to be alone. I do lots of thinking which often puts my stressors in perspective. Just being in nature is spiritual for me as well. I try to take in the sights, sounds and smells. Listening to the birds, and the trees, while taking in the feeling of the sun, or rain on my skin. I will stop and take in the views the trails offer up to me.


The key is to schedule in time to work on your health. If you don’t actually schedule it in, there is a good chance you may not do the things you need to do. I would definitely encourage you to prioritize the different aspects of your health when you make your “Back into the Fall Routine” schedule this year. Make your schedule realistic and don’t be too hard on yourself. Try a few new things but don’t try and be perfect. Just make you and the many aspects of your health a priority this fall. It will definitely be worth the effort!


So what are your goals are this fall? Tell us about it. Sometimes making that commitment “out loud” by telling someone else, helps to strengthen your resolve in following through!


Have a great day! – Cam

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Shawna Cook

Shawna is a Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine, who has been working in Cardiac Rehabilitation for over 10 years. Her years in the health and fitness field however have spanned over the past 2+ decades. As an elite level athlete she fell in love with understanding the human body, and how the choices she made, affected how it performed. This led to a degree from the University of Winnipeg in the stream of Athletic Therapy, and the passion towards helping others recover from injury and "be their best selves" grew.