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Episode 68: How to Stop Overthinking Your Exercise Routine with Mike Siemens, Canyon Ranch

Brief summary of show:

Are you overthinking your exercise routine and putting off getting into shape?

As we all know, there's more to exercise than cardio and weights. But how do we make regular exercise an easy fit and an effortless part of our routine?

We're jumping into that topic with expert Mike Siemens, Director of Performance Science at Canyon Ranch.

After more than three decades with Canyon Ranch, Mike continues to be energized by teaching people how exercise can improve the quality of their lives. He specializes in strength and aerobic conditioning, metabolic testing data, and custom exercise program design.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [3:50] Where people should start when it comes to exercise overwhelm

  • [5:20] Common exercise goals for you to relate to

  • [8:10] Why we always take care of others before ourselves

  • [9:30] How to leverage science to support your fitness goals

  • [14:55] The biggest challenges we face as we age and why it’s important

  • [21:10] Do you have to lift weights to get a good strength workout

  • [28:10] The motivation you need from Mike to help you get past lack of motivation

Notes from Natalie:

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Connect with Mike Siemens

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

[00:00:00] Natalie: Hi everyone. It's Natalie. I've been a health reporter for almost 30 years and I've learned that so much of our wellbeing is in the way we approach health. That includes exercise today. I wanna talk about exercise, but not in the way that we often talk about it. I wanna break it down because what works for me?

[00:00:18] Well, that probably doesn't work for you. If you're overwhelmed, we all know what happens. And. Is usually nothing. My guest is the director of performance science. His name is Mike Siemens. He's from canyon ranch. After more than three decades with canyon ranch, he specializes in strength and aerobic conditioning, metabolic testing, data, and custom exercise program design.

[00:00:42] Get that word. Custom Mike is gonna help us. De-stress our exercise routine. Okay. Before we get started, will you do meet the honor of subscribing to this podcast? And if you love it, I certainly hope you do. Would you leave me a review? Thank you so very much. Let's get motivated and learn today with Mike Siemens.


[00:01:05] Natalie: Mike, thanks for taking the time I have to admit I've never been to canyon ranch, but I hear so many people talk about it and it's definitely on my bucket list. I wanna come out there, meet you in person and experience everything you all.

[00:01:16] Great.

[00:01:17] Mike: We'd love to have you come out, Natalie. We're really proud of our emergent experience here at canyon ranch.

[00:01:22] So come on out. We'd love to help you bump up your wellness and health lifestyle. Just a little

[00:01:26] Natalie: bit. Well, those who listen to the podcast regularly know that I'm all about Overall approach to health, because if your mindset's not right, you're probably not gonna be as healthy. If your relationships aren't good, you're not gonna be as healthy.

[00:01:40] So today I wanna dive deeper though into the physical aspect of getting into a good exercise routine. And I know this is something you specialize in and. I think from my experience in over 20 years of being a health reporter, a lot of people overthink their exercise program. So they overthink it and then they just don't do it, or they do it, but they don't really get into it and love it.

[00:02:04] And it becomes a chore instead of something that they're passionate about and enjoy.

[00:02:10] Mike: Sure. Absolutely. The other thing I would add to that is a lot of people get overwhelmed. Yes. By the choices out there. Right. We're all suffering. I think from decision fatigue. Yes. Right. We live in this great country, the United States of America, but you go to Amazon and maybe you search for something online you wanna buy.

[00:02:26] And who knew there were 100 different phone cases for your phone. Right. That's true. And all the. I don't wanna make the wrong choice. I think that exists also in the exercise space, right? Lots of great opportunities out there. Orange theory, CrossFit mm-hmm Pilates, yoga, hot yoga, regular temperature, yoga, and a lot of people get sort of overwhelmed or they choose things that might not be in line with their goals.

[00:02:50] And we end up doing the shotgun approach, getting frustrated, cuz we're not getting results. And then as you said, we end up not doing anything or staying consistent with our.

[00:03:00] Natalie: So, where do you find? I, I wanna draw it back and say, okay, people wanna start fresh. Doesn't have to be the beginning of the new year in a new year's resolution.

[00:03:07] It's always a great day to get into some routine without being overwhelmed.

[00:03:12] Natalie: Where do you think from a mindset part or a research aspect, should people start so they don't get online, like you just said and go, okay, I've got this option, this option, this and I just never mind. I just am tired of it. The decision fatigue, where do you suggest people start?

[00:03:26] Mike: Here's where I suggest people start real simple exercise. When you get back to home base, after listening to this, or take out a pad of paper, piece of paper, a pen. What I want you to do is focus on two or three minutes, writing down probably three to five different goals you have for yourself with your exercise routine.

[00:03:45] In other words, what do you want your exercise program to deliver? For you, an example might be a common one. I would love to lose five or 10 or more pounds of, of fat great goal, but let's get down to the emotional reasons. Why, why do you wanna lose that body fat? Well, I'd like to lose that body fat so that I can keep up with my family on a hike this summer.

[00:04:08] Or I would like my knees not to hurt when I go out and walk or jog a little bit. And then once we have that project done, you've got three or four goals. Then what I'm gonna do is intermesh. And we can talk about this as we go on how the science says we should achieve those things. So. Again, that exercise I find helps prevent people from getting overwhelmed with all the choices and what they should focus on.

[00:04:30] Should I do more cardio? Should I do more strength? Should I be doing more core work? That sort of thing. And once we can look on a piece of paper and see, oh, these are my three or four top goals or one or two top goals, the process becomes a lot simpler.

[00:04:43] Natalie: So let's talk about what some of those common goals are.

[00:04:47] I'll give you a couple of mine. Yeah. But I think it's important for people to have something to relate to. Yeah. Often it is. I wanna drop five, 10, sometimes 20 more pounds. Very common for me now in, at my age, it's. Sure I wanna, I would like to drop 10 pounds. I also, I wanna feel energized in the afternoon, come three, four o'clock in the afternoon.

[00:05:07] I'm tired. And I don't like that feeling. So feeling energized dropping a few pounds and for, you know, I just mentioned the, the overall wellness. Like I just wanna feel healthy. I wanna feel able to keep up. Do you think you need to get more specific? Like you mentioned, like I wanna keep up with my kids or I want those jeans I wore last year to fit me.

[00:05:28] Do you think it's important that you outline things that specifically? Yes,

[00:05:32] Mike: I do. Why do I say that? Because when we have specific goals and also the emotional desire for those goals as I make. Yes. Yeah. And that's when we start to get real buy in emotionally, ourselves and keep in mind, tuck in the back of your mind, the answer to this might not be doing more exercise.

[00:05:52] Mm-hmm the answer here might be. I need to feel better about myself and work on my self esteem so that I can feel valued enough to carve out an hour a day to give back to me. Right. A lot of us are really good at taking care of other people, right. We prioritize our kids, our significant others, our work, our parents that we're taking care of.

[00:06:12] And at the end of the day, how much energy or time do you have for your. Yeah, zero. Right? So we need to emotionally work on ourselves. This might be doing some self care work, maybe working with a therapist, someone else. That's the great thing about being at canyon ranch. You can see your integrative health expert, whether you need more help from a nutritionist or from a performance scientist or from a mental health and wellness coach or a spirituality coach.

[00:06:37] And you can start to build that self-esteem to. Darn I'm worth an hour a day. And I'm gonna set aside this hour day, whether it be morning, noon, or night, that is my time. Nothing gets scheduled over that time. I can come into work a little later that day. I can take a little longer lunch break. I can leave work on time or a little early that day to facilitate.

[00:06:56] My workout. That's important to me and I'm worth that time. So that's a big step

[00:07:01] Natalie: too. Yeah. That what you just said falls right in line with what I said, this podcast is all about. Do you find that a lot of the folks you help don't give themselves that time or they don't allow themselves to have that? I mean, I know as a mom and as a working professional, Everything else comes before often I'm, I'm learning to turn this around. And then by the end of the day where I'm like, I really should go for that run or go do yoga. And I'm like, oh, but I'm too tired now. That's why the mornings work so well for so many people to, to work out.

[00:07:31] Mike: Yes, this is epidemic in our society, right?

[00:07:35] Taking care of other peoples. I like to say there are energy vampires out there that are sucking at our energy all day long. And if you're not cognizant of them or you don't really strategically plan, what's gonna get my energy today. Um, Some of that has to be me cuz let's face it. Eating well exercising.

[00:07:55] Doing some stress management. Yeah. Leaping. It all takes time and energy. Yeah. And it's not gonna happen automatically. And I would lobby to venture to say probably no one listening has extra time or energy that they can afford to squander in the exercise space. Right. So we have to be strategic with our exercise goals.

[00:08:14] Therefore we can choose our exercise time and types and training modalities wisely so that we get to those goals. Yeah.

[00:08:24] Natalie: As a matter of fact, I know my listeners and those who are watching as well. Well enough to know many of them are listening to this podcast while they're doing something else. It might be doing laundry.

[00:08:35] It might be on a walk. It might be carpooling. And sometimes that's a good way to get a workout in is to feed your mind with good information, like a podcast while you are doing your workout. That's okay. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. But you gotta take care of yourself. That's self care.

[00:08:50] Absolutely doing those things.

[00:08:51] Natalie: Okay. So let's go back. You mentioned the right workout or the right program for you. What's the next step in doing that? You mentioned. Yeah. Identifying what your goals are first. Very specifically then

[00:09:03] Mike: what? Yeah. So let's say we have our goals written down now, as I said, my job as an exercise scientist is to say, okay, here are your goals.

[00:09:12] Here's what science says is a fit. Person that's gonna age well and have energy or whatever your goals might be. Let's intermesh those a little bit. So let's take the example you gave. Let's say I'd like to lose five or 10 pounds of fat. I'd like to have a little more aerobic horsepower to enjoy my time with my family.

[00:09:30] Then obviously we need cardiovascular training, right? The trick here is we need to pick at least two different types of cardiovascular exercise, I would say. Um, So that we avoid avoid boredom. We avoid those overuse injuries that can happen to all of us if we're doing the same thing over and over again.

[00:09:46] So I always empower people. Choose the things you love. To do exercise has to be fun. It has to be something you look forward to. It has to be something you enjoy. Absolutely. So let's say we pick walking as our cardiovascular mainstay, but we're also gonna supplement that once a week with maybe a swim or a water aerobics class or a dance class or some app that we have that we love to go on and do a stationary bike workout or whatever.

[00:10:12] Mix it up a little bit. Um, The minimum buy-in for cardiovascular fitness. Is three days a week of 15 minutes. And a lot of your listeners might be saying that sounds pretty Mickey mouse. I can do that all day long. That's not gonna move the needle too much on fat loss or fitness, but how I'd like you to think about that is this um, think about that.

[00:10:33] Requirement three days a week, 15, 20 minutes as your rescue workout plan. Meaning that's the workout, frequency and duration you reach out to when all hell is breaking loose in your life, right? An example might be your tax accountant. In March and late February, your work schedule is slam jam packed, and you might easily be able to prioritize work over that workout time.

[00:10:58] But if you're thinking in the back of your head, if I could just get through these four or five weeks doing my three days a week of 1,520 minutes, the research shows we preserve our aerobic fitness. On that frequency. We also psychologically we don't fall off our exercise programs. We all struggle with staying consistent with our workout plans.

[00:11:18] And if we can just keep the string alive, keep the workout frequency going. Then we're never in that situation when we're like, It's been four weeks or six weeks since I've worked out. It's a real common thing I hear in my office every day is how do I reboot my exercise program? Am I here to, I'm here to get back on track, Mike, how is it that you've stayed consistent with exercise in your life for 40 years?

[00:11:42] And I sarcastically say back that's because I've never stopped. And part of that is I have these rescue workouts. Do I always do my 45 minute to an hour cardio workout? Which we'd all love to do. No, cuz I've got kids, I've got a job, I've got dogs, I've got lots of other things going on. And sometimes it's like, Hey, all you have is 20 minutes.

[00:12:02] Is it worth putting on the running shoes or walking shoes and going out? Absolutely. I would say, yeah. So think about that rescue workout plan. I love that to keep people going with their program. So cardiovascularly, we need. Different modes of exercise. We need at least three days a week. If your goal is fat loss, let's bump that up to four or five days a week and timeframe, minimum 15, 20 minutes, and ideally 30 or 40 minutes would be great for optimal calorie burn fat burn fitness improvement.

[00:12:29] So that's sort of the nuts and bolts of cardiovascular exercise. We can go on and talk about strength, training and muscle building and flexibility and balance and agility. Cuz I'd put those as our four. Factors are components of fitness, right? To build a fit human being. We need aerobic fitness, we need muscle strength and muscle endurance.

[00:12:47] We need flexibility or mobility and we need balance and

[00:12:50] Natalie: endurance. Yeah. So you hit the cardiovascular part of it. Yeah. And weight loss. You know, I, I love the fact that you mentioned those four because it gives people a chance to say. You know, I really, I would like to be more flexible. I thought my goal was to lose some weight, but boy, flexibility would be great.

[00:13:07] So I would encourage everyone to think of those four things you just mentioned. They'll be in the show notes for anyone who needs to go back and think about how would it feel. To be stronger and to be more flexible and the cardiovascular side to lose a little bit of weight and then balance, I mean, do, do many people think of, I'd like my physical goal to be, just to have more balance.

[00:13:29] I mean, some do, but to really think about those four things. So give me another example. So you mentioned the one on three days, a week of cardiovascular to lose some fat, but give me some other examples of different types of workouts for some of those other goals.

[00:13:45] Mike: Yeah.

[00:13:46] Natalie: everyone. It's Natalie. I am excited to let you know that I'm opening up spaces for collaboration and advertising and sponsorship on this podcast. And on my YouTube channel, if you're a brand looking to grow in the wellness family or mindfulness spaces, I would love to collaborate with you. You can find a link to get in touch with me in the show notes, and you can always find out more about what I'm up to on

[00:14:14] Mike: So real common challenge for us as we all age is maintaining our muscle mass, right?

[00:14:22] Mm-hmm how are we gonna stay strong and agile and capable as we

[00:14:25] Natalie: age? Okay. So before you go on, why is that important? I think for a lot of people, they think I just wanna be thin and they don't think about why that's so important, but for longevity for, I know for many, many reasons it is important, but explain.

[00:14:39] Mike: Yeah. Great question, man. Where do I start? There's so much you wanna say about muscle mass. Um, Muscle is the foundation, first of all of your metabolic rates. So a lot of us when we hit age 50 or 60 feel like our metabolism has absolutely betrayed us. Right? Where did my metabolism go? I have no metabolism.

[00:14:56] It feels like every calorie I eat goes right to my rear end or my hips are somewhere. So think about this, the average adult in this country, who ages without weight lifting. Loses about a third of a pound of muscle a year. Wow. Starting at the young age of 30. Wow. Really? So do a little math in your head.

[00:15:15] I'm now 60 years old. That means 30 years. If I hadn't been lifting weights, I could have lost as much as 10 pounds of muscle mass. Now muscle burns about 40 or 50 calories per pound a day, just laying in bed, sleeping being inactive. So your metabolic rate might slow down two to 500 calories a day just from loss of muscle mass.

[00:15:39] Now that means over a year's time that muscle might burn 20 to 50 pounds of fat. Wow. So that means if you're gonna maintain your current weight, you either have to eat that many fewer calories per day, 200 to 500 calories, fewer, or do that much more cardiovascular exercise. So maintaining muscle mass as we age is a huge part of keeping your metabolic great high and preventing that annoying one to two or three pounds of fat gain.

[00:16:08] A lot of experience in our thirties, forties, and 50.

[00:16:12] Natalie: Yeah, I know a lot of women. I turned 51 this year and for a lot of women, you go, I'm doing everything the same. I haven't changed my diet. I'm still as active as I used to be. And yet you start putting on weight. Yeah. It's just a part of life, especially forties, fifties.

[00:16:28] I find it more so at this age than I did in my forties. So it changes for everyone, but have changed anything. So does it mean as we age past. Thirties forties. We have to do even more than we did when we were twenties and thirties. We. How does that look? I mean, typically we're not exercising and lifting more weights and doing all that as we age in increasing that even

[00:16:49] Mike: more.

[00:16:50] Yeah. I like to say it this way. As humans, our maintenance free warranty expires at some age. Right? Mm-hmm so in all bask in the glory of our twenties and maybe early thirties, In terms of, Hey, I can eat pretty much whatever I want. I can. And some of us are genetically blessed to be that way. And others have to work really hard even at a young age.

[00:17:11] So the playing field is not level. I don't wanna assume that for everybody, but in general, most people can enjoy pretty good muscle mass, pretty decent body shape, not paying super close attention to their exercise or eating habits. But eventually that wears out like any product you buy maintenance free warranty is over expiring man, who knows what age?

[00:17:30] 20, 25 30. And then, yeah, I like to say it's game on because as I said, the human body is at ages without activity and without weight lifting or cardio, it's not a pretty picture. Right. We lose muscle mass. We cannot rely on the scale to be our feedback mechanism. Right, right. For how our body is aging the body can very.

[00:17:51] Subconsciously to us be losing muscle and bone and then replacing it with fat. Yeah. So the scale says the same 130 pounds every day, but, but you don't look the

[00:18:02] Natalie: same. Yeah. Yeah. We

[00:18:03] Mike: don't look, you don't feel the same, feel the same. Yeah. And that means we've gotta take action. With Des designing and implementing a strength training program.

[00:18:12] It's absolutely crucial. I think to monitor your body composition every six months to every year. With an accurate tool. And that's a great thing about canyon. Ranch is we have the state of the art, most accurate testing. We really pride ourselves on that. We might be a health known as a health resort or spa, but we really are have a medical department.

[00:18:31] We have master's degree exercise physiologist. We have PhD physical therapist. We have PhD level mental health and wellness experts, spirituality experts, and everything. Yeah, but the cool thing I'm saying here about the testing equipment is we have a DXA body composition scanner. We have a Bo pod to do body composition testing.

[00:18:51] So if you can find access to that in your hometown and test your body composition, the thing I want everybody to pay attention to is how much fat free mask do you have? How much muscle bones, organs, fluids do you have and track that. As you age again, most people lose that as they age. And if you've been unfortunate enough to have a health challenge that caused some bedrest, right.

[00:19:15] You've had long haul COVID mm-hmm you've had an operation, a joint replacement, an accident, something that you had to be in bed for any more than two or three days. Wow. The data suggest adults over 40 lose as much as three to five pounds a week of muscle mass under bed. Wow. I think that's scary. Yeah. So we have to come out of those situations, fighting me.

[00:19:35] I say, to regain that muscle eating adequate protein. Yeah. Doing your strength training the proper way. And I can get into some of the details about how we go about our strength training is really important on how we build muscle. Well, because you,

[00:19:49] Natalie: you spent so much time talking about the importance of strength training and, and I have kind of both ends of the spectrum in my house because I'm kind of in the middle.

[00:19:57] I do a little bit of everything. Nothing consistently. Yeah. Got weights in my basement. I've got treadmill in my basement. I love to walk. I'll go on a run, which I like. It keeps it interesting for me, but I have a daughter who's a collegiate athlete. She does bod pod twice a year. She is strong. She works out every day and then I've got a dancer.

[00:20:13] And so the dancer's not my other daughter, you know, She's not doing as much strength training, some cardio. So we kind of have, we kind of have everything in our house, but can we talk about why you talked about why strength training is so important, but what does that look like?

[00:20:28] Natalie: Do I have to be lifting weights to get good strength training?

[00:20:32] Do I need to go get those dumbbells out?

[00:20:35] Mike: Yeah. Great questions. Cuz people are really confused about this and it's pretty simple when you know. What am I about to say? So in the world of strength, training or resistance training, let's use that word. Okay. Resistance training is a better term because it describes anything.

[00:20:48] We might do body weight, free weights, machines, stretch bands, whatever divide in your mind, resistance training into two camps. You could have a strength benefit from resistance training, or you could have an endurance benefit for your muscle. Now, depending on your individual goals, what your body composition tests told us about you?

[00:21:07] What you're trying to perform in, right? A dancer does not need big bulky muscles. Nessarily want them however, a college athlete, depending on the sport might want some more powerful, strong muscles. So we have strength or endurance to choose from under the heading of resistance training. Under the strength category.

[00:21:23] We can that qualifies as weight lifting that would build muscle mass and build bone D. So, if those are goals you're looking for, you need to be in the strength training camp, under endurance, we have maintenance of both of those things. So endurance training will maintain muscle mass and maintain bone mass.

[00:21:42] The difference between the two is how many repetitions and in particular, are we reaching fatigue? On those repetitions in general, to build strength, we need more weight, fewer repetitions. Mm. So we wanna fatigue by 15 repetitions or fewer in general, if we're trying to build muscle and build boom, if we're interested in endurance, then we could do lighter weights more times.

[00:22:07] And again, I wanna emphasize here, one's not wrong, not wrong. One's not right. It might be for you at this stage in your life or this goal that you have. But for the individual that wants to maintain muscle mass, maybe a class like bar method or something like that with lighter weights, more repetitions is perfectly appropriate.

[00:22:24] However, if Natalie goes to a Bo pod, she gets a analysis or you come to canyon ranch, and we do a Dexus scan on you. And we're like, Hmm, your fat free mass is a little on the low side. Let's target building three or four pounds of muscle over the next year. For you, I'm gonna recommend heavier weights, fewer times, three days a week.

[00:22:44] Three to four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions is kind of a, a middle of the road prescription. And however you might do that is up to you. And we can work with you on that plan. Right. Are you gonna do some dumbbells? Are you gonna do body weight for some people pushups with your body weight would meet the criteria of strength.

[00:23:01] Cause not many of us can do 10 or 15 pushups in a row with our full body. Right. So that if you're failing before 15. Then you're going to be getting strength, benefits from pushups. However, if you can get down on the floor and do 25 or 30 pushups, that's not gonna build much muscle. It's gonna build more endurance.

[00:23:18] So can you see within that frame where start to work with people on, Hey, what kind of weight lifting do you like to do? Do you like to go to the gym and do the machines? Do you like a barbell and doing squats on your back? Do you like dumbbells? And we love to meet people where they are. And I think all of us need to meet ourselves where we are on our fitness journey.

[00:23:36] Yeah. And sure have goals to aspire to higher levels of fitness. But you know, today is today, where are you? What's that first step we're gonna take today.

[00:23:45] Natalie: Yeah. And no shame and wherever you are right now. You're certainly not alone. There are a lot of people who are doing nothing, so, and that's not okay.

[00:23:53] So having. A place to start a goal. That's what I love about what I've heard about you all. And I think for people who maybe can't afford, or they're not able to go, just knowing what you wanna do and having a plan. I always like to tell kids, or even in the exercise world, like you have to have a ladder you're climbing somewhere.

[00:24:14] I mean, if there's no ladder, you're not going anywhere, you can move it. But if you don't have something you're working towards, you're not gonna accomplish it at all. So having that goal. And so I'm hearing you say again, talk to cardiovascular, we talk strength, but can you get all four of the things that you talked about in one type of program?

[00:24:34] Like say someone loves doing a bar that, or they love going to yoga. Can you get all four of those elements yo