Saturday, September 5, 2009

Moving Your Body to the Rhythm of the Autumn Season

The energy of the fall season is one of balance. It is a time in nature’s cycle when the earth comes into equilibrium. At the Autumnal Equinox we reach the point in the year where day and night are in equal measure… equal sun and equal moon, equal light and equal dark, and a balance of yin and yang; feminine and masculine energies.

Autumn is also a time of creativity. All around us Mother Nature is painting brilliant images of honey, gold, and fiery reds that light up when touched by the sun. The natural world around us becomes a canvas filled with dancing light in a rich spectrum of colors.

I have created a system of intuitive fitness that merges us into the harmonic flow of each season. This deepens our connection to both our bodies and the natural world. There is additional benefit in applying a seasonal approach to exercise. Our movement stays fresh. We work with, rather than against, the natural flow and order of things. We feel more supported and grounded. Our training becomes periodized and this allows us to engage our interest so exercise does not become stale, while safeguarding against injury and overtraining syndrome.

With the energy of the season being about balance, the strength training we will be focusing on during the months of September, October, and November will carry a heavy influence of core work and balancing strength-building exercises.

The core is the center of your body… your powerhouse. If your core is weak, the rest of your body will be compromised. I appreciate the symbolism of core training for this time of year. It’s about returning to your center. Resistance or strength training qualifies as any activity where your body is required to move against the resistance of weight. Most people think of weight lifting when they consider starting a strength training program. While it is a viable option, it is not the only one. I encourage you to bring some creativity into your strength training by exploring other forms of muscle-building activity. The following is a list of balancing strength exercises for you to experiment with. See what rings your bell. You may choose to incorporate a variety of these activities or devote yourself to one practice that really speaks to you. The choice is yours.

Strength Training Options for the Fall Season (September-October-November):

- Strength Training with weights utilizing compound movement exercises for balance and symmetry: Working within a range of 3 sets of 10 reps for each exercise chosen and using a weight that is challenging to lift the last couple of reps. Examples of some basic compound strength exercises would be:

Quadriceps/Glutes/Calves/Deltoids –

- Squat with an Overhead Shoulder Press (When squatting, be sure to keep your spine long and do not extend your knees beyond your toes as you lower your body into position.)

Hamstrings/Glutes/Calves/Biceps –

- Lunges with Arm Curl (Avoid lunges if you have knee issues.)

Chest/Triceps -

- Push-ups

Back –

- Rows (Utilizing weights, resistance bands, or cables.)

Throw in some ab work and a program centered on these four simple exercises would be both effective and time efficient. It is a myth that you have to grind it out at the gym to achieve success. Our bodies actually build muscle while at rest, not while working. More is not always better. Respect your body’s need for recovery. Allow a minimum of one day’s rest between strength sessions for adequate regeneration. If you choose to work with weights for your strength component and have experience lifting, work in the range of 3 sets of 10 reps for strength and balance. If you are new to weights, you are also going to work in the 10 rep range, but will perform 1 set of each exercise for week one, 2 sets of each exercise for weeks two and three, and 3 sets of each exercise for week four of this current month of September. It is important to gradually build up to 3 sets if you are new to lifting weights. You will not regret easing in. The simplified workout outlined above is done so for the benefit of those new to weight training. If you are an intermediate or advanced lifter, enjoy creating a balanced program incorporating compound movements for intensity at a level that meets your current training needs.

If you would like the comfort of an outlined workout based on compound strength moves that incorporates both weights and a medicine ball, e-mail me. I will be happy to send you a file that includes a strength session that was designed with busy people in mind. The workout includes images of how to execute the movements with detailed directions. With minimal investment in a set of dumbbells and a medicine ball, this workout can even be done in the comfort of your home. For those looking for a quick, easy, no frills strength workout, this could be a good match for you. To learn how to execute the exercises I have listed above, it is quite easy to obtain tutorials and visuals by doing a search online. I also highly recommend the book, “Getting Stronger”, By, Bill Pearl if you are interested in a manual that provides clear and simple directions for every strength exercise imaginable. The illustrations are wonderful in their directive. This is a great foundational book for anyone interested in exploring weights as a route to strength.

For those looking to work more at their edge or seasoned lifters who are looking to inject some fresh inspiration into their strength routines, I recommend you check out the link below and allow yourself the treat of experiencing one of Mark Verstegen’s core-based strength workouts. These strength exercises would also be great for beginner’s to advance to in month three, (November), of our autumn training cycle. When you follow this link, you will find a strength workout that presents both verbal and visual instruction, including video streams.

- Power Yoga, Ashtanga, or Bikram/Hot Yoga: These are more strength-oriented forms of yoga that will help you establish strength, grace, and balance, while building your connection to your body. Check out a class or DVD to explore these forms of yoga as your strength source.

- Pilates: A core-focused strength building and rehabilitative exercise system. Pilates was originally created to provide injury prevention and rehabilitation for gymnasts and dancers. It is also a wonderful system for helping you to become deeply in tune with your body. There are pilates mat and reformer classes widely available, as well as DVD’s.

- Physioball Training: Getting on the ball can be a fun way to get fit. It is also amazing for the core and will help you build functional strength. This is the kind of strength that makes the activities of day to day life easier. Watch the video below to view a demo of what can be done with a physioball. I also have a bare bones physioball routine file that I can e-mail to you upon your request. Physioballs are widely available, along with books and DVD’s for training with this useful tool.

Video Link -

- TRX Suspension Band Training: This is a form of training that utilizes bands that require you to employ both balance and activation of your core muscles. If your curiosity is peaked, check out the link provided below. This is your TRX resource. Here you can get information about this type of strength training, watch demonstration videos, and purchase total starter kits. I must say, after seeing the program outlined and talking to others currently using this system, I am setting aside funds to line up my own starter kit. I’m very excited to explore this form of strength training.

- Calisthenics: Calisthenics are simple body weight strength exercises. The beauty of a training program like this is that it is portable. You can take it anywhere with you, including on the road when traveling. The other benefit is that there is no start up cost in terms of equipment. In order to create a calisthenics routine that is in alignment with our fall training focus, choose movements that build both strength and balance, while challenging your core. Below, you will find a link to a 5 minute total body strength session that the master of core work, Mark Verstegen, has created. This could be a great training session for those limited on time, but wanting every minute they invest in their strength efforts to count. It is also a good foundation that you can build a more in-depth calisthenics training program upon.

You can also get your whole family involved in a calisthenics program like this and make it fun by taking it outdoors to your local playground. The link below includes a calisthenics-based playground workout that everyone can enjoy, no matter their age. It’s a great way to teach the whole family that fitness can and should be fun.

As you can see, there are many forms of strength training you can explore throughout our autumn training cycle of September-October-November. In order to continue progressing, switch up your strength training a little bit every four weeks. Whether it is selecting another strength option from the list above, changing the order you do your exercises, or mixing in a few new moves… keep it fresh. This will keep your body on its toes and your motivation engaged. This approach will also promote results that will be tangible in your day to day life.

For the month of September your focus is to fit in a single strength training session each week for weeks one and two, then progressing to two strength sessions a week for weeks three and four. Much like our exploration of whole foods, we are going to ease in to our training. Research has shown that for the purpose of building and preserving muscle tissue, no more than two weekly strength sessions are required. Those that focus on strength training three or more times a week are mostly doing so to achieve strength gains for their chosen sport. For our intents and purposes, two weekly sessions are a balanced way to meet our strength component. However, if you are a more advanced trainer and have athletic goals, you can adjust this training schedule to suit your preference.

It is very important that you properly warm-up your body before engaging in strength training. Many people falsely presume that stretching is the most effective way to do this. Never stretch cold! It is the perfect recipe for injury. Save stretching for the end of your workout as a cool-down when your muscles are warm and it is safe to increase their flexibility range. An ideal warm-up could be a simple as 10 minutes of power walking or other aerobic activity. Movement prep is also a superior warm-up created by Mark Verstegen. You can find a link to a solid movement prep warm-up below.

Just as it is important to warm-up our bodies before a training session, it is also important that we cool-down at the end of our workout to help our bodies recover. A great way to do this is to spend 5-10 minutes stretching all the major muscle groups of the body. For a simple total body cool-down stretch routine, feel free to e-mail me to request the file. Engaging in a series of gentle yoga asanas is another option. For those who are feeling adventurous and want more rehabilitative bang for their buck, you can’t beat foam rolling. Foam rollers are widely available online. To see if this is something you might be interested in exploring, check out the link below for a sample foam rolling routine.

Cardiovascular Training Options for the Fall Season (September-October-November):

Bring your aerobic training into harmony with the energy of autumn by infusing your workouts with creative and balancing energy. Some great options that will immerse you in the flow of the season are:

- Dance: There are so many varieties of dance to explore, including the free form movement of dancing freestyle in your living room to your favorite tunes. There are also a plethora of classes and DVD’s that are easily accessible. I believe there is a dancer in everyone just waiting to be invited out onto the floor for a twirl. Explore what peaks your interest. There are so many forms of dance to choose from… belly dance, Bollywood, salsa, African dance, tap, modern dance, hip-hop, ballroom, and jazz to name a few. She if dance tickles your fancy. It’s a great way to move into the rhythm of the season.

- Zumba: This is the latest hybrid workout and is offered in many gyms. It will continue to become more widely available with its popularity spreading. The class blends dance and classic cardio sequences with toning core work at the end. It is a world of fun and if you have never tried it, I encourage you to check it out.

- NIA: NIA is a blend of yoga, dance, and martial arts. It is the perfect mix of balance and creativity. To learn more about this healing form of movement and locate classes in your area, check out the link below.

- Power Walks, Runs, or Hikes in Nature: Getting outdoors in the surroundings of fall’s brilliantly colored natural canvas is a direct route to inner balance and calm. Breathing in the crisp autumn air and witnessing nature’s artistic expression in action in the changing colors of leaves is a great way to feel your connection and find your center.

Balance your strength training with some cardiovascular activity. There are many creative options to explore. You may discover a whole new side of yourself as you unleash the artist within and free your body through creative movement. A good guideline is to engage in three cardiovascular training sessions each week for a minimum of 20 minutes in duration. If you are new to exercise, build up to this level. Begin by fitting in 1 cardio session in week one, then advancing to 2 cardio sessions for weeks two and three. By week four, you should be at a level where it is comfortable to engage in three weekly aerobic sessions. Again, remember to warm-up and cool-down. If you are taking a class or using a DVD for your cardio training, this element will already be built into your workout. Otherwise, make sure that for the first 5-10 minutes of your cardio session you are slowly building up to the level of intensity you will maintain for the duration, (minimum of 20 minutes), of your workout. For example, if choosing to power-walk, run, or hike, begin with 5-10 minutes of gentle walking that slowly builds in speed and intensity to prepare your body for the next 20 minutes of steady state aerobic work ahead. Also, be sure to cool-down after your cardio sessions with some total body stretching.

As a final note…

If you are not used to moving your body it is very common for overweight and obese individuals to develop foot issues such as, plantar fasciitis in response to the increase of activity. It is common enough that it warrants discussion. The best way to prevent this painful condition is to be on the ball with your warm-ups and cool-downs. There are also some self-rehabilitative exercises you can throw into the mix that will support you in this regard and can even prevent an occurrence of this condition. Check out the link below for more information about plantar fasciitis and what you can do to both prevent and treat this ‘pain in the foot’.

Enjoy moving those beautiful bodies. Give them this quality time and care. Your body will thank you. Embrace the bounty of autumn as you reap the harvest of major returns in your physical health and whole-listic well-being.


  1. Thanks so much for putting this together, Shannon! I have gotten so many good ideas.

  2. Well Rick, with all due respect, I think it's a great fad to start. No need to be negative if it's not a match for you.