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My Top 5 Workouts for Lean Muscle Mass

Fitness has always been a huge part of my life. As a child, teenager and as a young woman I was a national-level competitive dancer. Upon retiring my tap and jazz shoes and my ballet slippers, I began working in the fitness industry and have loved being part of that world for over16 years. I’ve taught a wide variety of classes from Les Mills programs to yoga/hot yoga, pilates, strength training, HIIT and core conditioning.

The fitness industry has been a wonderful place for me to practice and teach my passions for movement, health and wellness. Knowing how to workout out for best results as a woman has been more challenging as we know that this industry and it's standards have been widely researched and geared towards male physiology. Sorry guys, no disrespect. It is just a fact!

Science prefers to study men over women and thus our diet and exercise culture has become a confusing place if you are female, especially if you are a woman in her late 30's early 40's!

While this beloved industry is coming around, historically it has been full of conflicting messages. Some of the ones that are perpetuating are the idea that we should work out hard, eat very little and ensure it happens most of the days of our life to maintain that "magazine worthy physique". These are theories I have grown to disagree with when it comes to exercise, for example:

Myth: Effective workouts need to be long in duration and leave you feeling sore for many days.

Truth: At certain times of the month working out in excess could be doing more damage than good. As women, our hormones fluctuate and during the later portion of our cycle working out hard can actually place us in a position to store fat vs. lose it. If you have Adrenal fatigue or increased stress in your life and then work out super hard, you may actually get the opposite result than the ones you are looking for. Doing more harm than good and leaving you feeling incredibly frustrated.

Myth: The less body fat you have, the healthier you are.

Truth: Health is not a size. In fact: women with body fat percentages less than 18% have troubles with maintaining regular menses (having a regular period). Suffer from mood swings, dizzy spells, chronically low blood sugar, have thyroid dysfunction and even have trouble with recovery and deep restorative sleep and may not be ovulating regularly which can affect fertility and overall health and wellness. As women whether we are looking to get pregnant or not we need to ovulate regularly. It has been proven to be a vital sign!

Myth: You need to be consistent no matter what.

Truth: You need to work out based on: which phase of your cycle you are in, what your body needs. For example, when you are menstruating your body is already working very hard, your hormones are at their lowest levels and thus we need to spend this time slowing down and taking care of ourselves. Having a nap if we are tired mid-day, going for a walk vs. doing heavy cardio, taking a bath or going for a massage. We need to give back to our beautiful bodies.

Here’s the thing, I’m a fan of exercise, but it needs to be the right kind based on your body’s needs. Overall, the benefits of staying active are tremendous.

What I think women could focus on most is: building lean muscle mass.

Why? Benefits of building lean muscle Include:

  • Better functioning metabolism ( increases your ability to use fat for fuel).

  • Better Bone Density as you approach menopause

  • Lowers Stress Response

  • Improves Mood

  • Improves Blood Sugar

  • Help regulate brain chemicals to support deeper restorative sleep

Here are my Top 5 Workouts for Building Lean Muscle Mass.

1. Strength Training or Lifting weights 3-4 days a week for 30-45mins

Why I Love It: Not only does it make me feel strong and confident in my ability to lift my heavy groceries in and out of my car and up my front steps. It enabled me in the ability to carry my child around when he was little without pain.

I can feel the progress I make from one week to the next and see the physiological changes to my body.

This is for you if: You are human! LOL. You don't have to be strong to lift weights, You can start with 1lb at a time. That's the beauty of strength training. The journey begins whenever you decide to start!

2. Yoga/Pilates, 30-60mins 2-4 days a week.

Why I love it: Yoga and pilates is a labour of love for me. As someone who is a go'er and a do'er I can get stressed easily. The best way to combat stress is to slow down and move in ways that combined movement and breathing patterns. Yoga and pilates have a deep focus on the mechanics of breathing and so anytime, anywhere I can practice postures that help me bring my body, mind and soul together.

This is for you if: You are just getting started in fitness, you have injuries that prevent you from lifting weights, you are pregnant or recovering post-partum, or if you are young, old or somewhere in between. Yoga and pilates can be done at any age without fear.

3. Jogging outdoors, a brisk jog or run for 10-60mins 1-2 times per week. (Especially in the follicular phase of your menstrual cycle.)

Why I love it: Jogging/running is a terrific way to get out of your head and into your body. It really helps circulate your lymphatic system as well as your cardiovascular system, you work out a great sweat and burn loads of calories.

This is for you if: You are looking to add something new to your foundational workout regimen, you want to do an activity outdoors, you are looking to participate in a race, challenge.

4. Kickboxing or Shadow Boxing,

Why I love it: Learning the foundations of kicking, punching, disarming/self-defense techniques without having to physically hitting any objects can be really fun! It teaches discipline, techniques of how to kick and punch a non-living object, help release frustration and channel your energy for good. Plus it is a great cardiovascular workout. I feel so strong and powerful!

This is for you if: You have always wanted to try mixed martial arts, karate, taekwondo but are unsure if you will like it. you don't love the idea of running or cycling classes, you are looking for classes to help you feel empowered and strong.

5. Swimming in a lake, pool, or ocean for any length of time.

Why I love it: Swimming is an incredible workout that tones your muscles without straining the joints! Swimming also teaches you how to breathe more effectively which activates your PNS (parasympathetic nervous system). P.S. this helps decrease your stress levels!!!

This is for you if: You have an injury you need to rehab, love the water, feel your nervous system is overactive, you have an Autoimmune disease like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia or Chronic Pain Syndrome and would like to train your muscles without the physical strain to your body.

If you want to give these a try, make sure you listen to your body and talk to your physician if you have concerns before moving ahead.

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Marissa, R.H.N

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