"Spring forward, fall back" -- that's a great way to remember last weekend's daylight savings time change, but should it apply to your training? It doesn't have to.
Fall doesn't seem like the obvious time to start a training regime, but it also doesn't have to be a time when workouts give way to food and festivities. It starts with Thanksgiving and plenty of pumpkin pie, followed closely by the intake of Halloween candies. And while it's too early to talk about the holidays (I swear I have seen holiday decorations in the stores already!), for many of us it can lead to a downhill slide and before you know it, you're setting your resolutions in January and swearing you will never do it again.
I know it's not easy. I know how it is when the rain is driving in sideways and drumming against the window panes outside, and peeling yourself off the couch seems to take a superhuman effort. It doesn't help that some of our favourite TV shows are starting up again in the Fall, but that's another story.
During these moments of low motivation, it's important to remind yourself that all of your hard work will pay off, and to do this it's all about having a plan that makes sure you will get results from your workouts. I've trained for a number of triathlons and I've found there are three easy ways to a well-rounded workout plan.
The first is core stabilization exercises. These types of exercises work on smaller muscle groups to increase core strength, promote overall balance and reduce overuse injuries that can occur when larger muscle groups are forced to over-compensate for a weak core. One of my favourite core stabilization moves is a little number called The Clam, which works the small muscles in your glutes. It's one of those exercises that doesn't look intense, but when you're doing it you really feel it! Another is bent-knee hip extensions, working the glutes and also the core abdominal muscles to keep you stabilized. You can look up both of these exercises to make sure you have the proper form.
The second -- weight training. Yes, I'm talking to you ladies! It's so important to add weights to your workout if you haven't already. It helps build muscle strength using exercises that target your quads, hams, glutes and core stabilizers. Medicine ball squats are awesome, and so are lunges with dumbbells (you can try walking lunges for some added cardio, or stick to the stationary lunge version). The general rule of thumb when starting out with weights is to always start light and slowly increase the weight as you become stronger. Oh, and always keep in mind that it's quality over quantity -- going slowly with proper form and doing 10 reps is much better than rushing through 20 reps with poor form and running the risk of injuring yourself.
And finally, proper diet and recovery is key. Eating well, hydrating and proper recovery goes a long way to improving your ability to exercise and train hard. Recovery is just as crucial as the workout itself as it allows your body the time it needs to repair. And as for nutrition, it's important to choose foods that have the right balance of healthy fats, contain lean protein and have a moderate amount of quality carbs. Having a solid pre-workout meal will help energize you and prevent muscle loss, especially if you are hitting the gym for a hard session. Examples of good pre-workout meals are a poached egg on whole grain toast, a banana with some peanut butter, or baked salmon over salad greens with some walnuts sprinkled on top.
When it comes to recovery, you need to chow down a mix of carbs and a small amount of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your workout to properly replenish the body's glycogen stores. Some good options are a protein shake with a banana blended in, peanut butter on some rice cakes or crackers, or half a tuna sandwich (using whole wheat bread).
If you follow these three steps, it will set you on the path to success at the gym. Seeing results will help keep you motivated even when the weather outside is less than inspiring. And once you've finished your workout, then you can lie on the couch. I promise you will feel so much better when you're lying there listening to the rain coming in sideways.
Gillian Clayton is the 2012 Ironman Canada Pro Women's Champion and professional triathlete. She is also a Powered by Chocolate Milk athlete ambassador.