Fitness

At Home Workout Options

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At Home Workout Options

I love the idea of getting my workout done in the comfort of my own home, but I used to think that I didn’t have the equipment to get that done.  Well, I may not have all the equipment the gym has, but I do have everything I need- my body, a little room to move and some water.  I wanted to share with you all how I manage to get my workouts in at home on those days where making it to the gym just doesn’t happen.

I have a small set of equipment I’ve purchased over the years including 2 sets of hand weights (5 lbs. and 10 lbs.), a kettle bell, a medicine ball, a jump rope, a yoga mat and a foam roller.  I can get a full body workout easily with the things here on my list (usually with only 1-2 of them).  It takes some time to figure out what to do, but once you get some ideas your workout will start flowing and you can feel proud of yourself for getting your workout in!

First I make a plan.  Do I want to get some cardio work in?  Do I want to focus mostly on strength?  Do I want to do Yoga or maybe I need to spend some time stretching a rolling?  If you don’t know what you are going to do, you’ll likely end up doing a little of everything with less motivation and focus.  At least that’s how I am.  So I make a plan based on my needs for that day.  From there I can build a workout or even watch a workout video online.  I’ve mentioned before that I subscribe to FunFitFab, and with that subscription I get access to the FFFTV where I can watch a variety of workout videos including hip hop cardio, barre and yoga.  I use this when I’m needing someone to help push me or just inspire me.

Once I have my plan I set the stage, converting a portion of my room into my workout space.  I like to have my room as a comfy and cozy sanctuary, so I like to mentally and physically prepare for a more intense feeling in the room.  I make sure my water bottle is full, put on some heart-pumping music, open the window and get to work.  I usually do some light movements like butt-kickers, jumping jacks and windmills to warm my body up.  From there I work my way into my exercises building intensity as I go.  My favorite part of working out at home is that I don’t feel like I have to rush through my cool-down and stretching.  I know how important stretching is to my fitness, but sometimes when I’m at the gym, all I can think about is getting home.  When I workout at home I can get a full stretching routine in much easier.  Sometimes this means I put on a podcast I’ve been meaning to listen to, or I turn on the TV to help decompress while I stretch.  I’ve even done a load of laundry while stretching.

My favorite thing to do though is my Sunday routine.  Sunday is usually my rest day, but I hate feeling groggy throughout the day so I like to start with a little “work in”.  After my lazy morning breakfast, tea and reading I like to lay my yoga mat out and stretch or use my foam roller for 30-60 minutes.  I play relaxing, but upbeat music, open the window to let some fresh air in (or during the winter I like to turn my space heater on and spritz some lavender in the air), and begin.  This allows me to slowly awaken my muscles for the day.  Typically, since I am going into this “cold” I like to start with a modified sun salutation like you would see in yoga.  I take the time to move my body throughout different positions, slowly warming up.  Most of us don’t stretch enough during our normal workout routines so this practice can help me work on flexibility and help me workout tense muscles.

I wanted to give you guys some ideas on home exercises you can do with little to no equipment so I compiled a little list below.  You are welcome to ask questions in the comments or even add some of your favorite at home exercises.  Don’t forget, you can do these almost anywhere, so it’s a great idea to start practicing them now in case you find yourself off-schedule or on vacation and needing some easy, quick ideas!

Great At-Home Exercises:

  • Squats
    • Body weight squats
    • Plie squats
    • Jump Squats
    • Goblet Squats
    • Single Leg Squats
    • Pistol Squats
    • Pulse Squats
    • Squat Walk
    • Curtsy Squats
    • Squats with overhead press (weights)
    • Squat with front or side kicks
  • Planks
    • Forearm plank
    • Standard plank
    • Side plank
    • Commandos (moving between a forearm and standard plank)
    • Plank with shoulder touches
    • Plank with shoulder and knee touches
    • Reverse plank
    • Mountain Climbers (cardio)
    • Rocking plank
    • Walking plank
    • Extended plank
    • X plank
    • Single-Arm plank
    • Single-Leg plank
    • Knee-to-Elbow plank
    • Plank with hip dips
    • Side plank with arm thread-though
    • Plank jacks
    • Spiderman planks
    • Rowing plank (weights)
  • Push-ups
    • Standard
    • Shoulder tap pushups
    • Single-arm pushups
    • Single-leg pushups
    • Staggered pushups
    • Spiderman pushups
    • Ticep pushups
    • Diamond pushups
    • Wide arm pushups
    • Pike pushups
  • Lunges
    • Walking lunges
    • Forward lunge
    • Side lunge
    • Reverse lunge
    • Reverse lunge to knee drive
    • Jumping lunges
  • Superman
  • Glute Bridges
    • Single-leg bridge
    • Feet elevated bridge
    • Feet unstable bridge (Bosu or stability ball)
    • Pulsing bridge
    • Bridges with abduction
  • Side lying hip abduction and adduction
  • Standing Calf Raises
  • Burpees (watch videos to see how you can adjust these to work different muscles)
  • Inchworm
  • High Knees

 

Obviously there are a ton more ideas out there!  What are some of your favorites?

 

 

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Fitness

Daily Habits to Improve Posture

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So, I just learned a new phrase.  It’s “text neck”, which refers to our tendency to tilt our head (and neck) toward our phones.  Try it- pick up your phone and see what your neck does. Crazy, right?  So I got to thinking about my posture and the posture of people I see around me.  I know my posture has weakened, especially since I stopped taking ballet, and I know I should be focusing on how to improve it.  So I decided to find some daily habits I can use to help improve my posture and I thought I’d share those habits with you.

  1. Start by bringing object to eye level instead of bringing your eyes down to the device.  It feels so strange to do this at first, and I started by only lifting my phone to eye level when I was alone and not in public where someone could see me.  But it helps to strengthen those neck muscles and actually feels good when you do it.
  2. Set your work stations up for good posture.  Many people have standing desks or use stability balls to help with this.  Just be sure your computer is also at eye level, otherwise you won’t have proper posture.  Have your elbows bend at a 90 degree angle and have your knees stacked above you ankles.
  3. Spend more time moving.  We tend to stay in the same position for hours at a time regardless of what type of work we are doing (computer work, crafting, cooking, driving, etc.).  Take time to stretch and move around.
  4. Pay attention to your core.  If you are sitting or standing in perfect alignment you should feel your core muscles engaging.  Can you feel yours now?  Try altering your posture and see if you can feel them.
  5. Stretch.  I am working on adding a quick stretching routine to my evenings.  I find that I end up feeling too tight and sore most days and could use a good stretch.  It’s important to focus on movements that will elongate the neck and spine.

Our posture is so important, even to things like our digestion, but we often ignore it.  Try to place little reminders around to keep you focused on good alignment throughout the day.  The goal is that this good posture will become natural.

Fitness

10 Awesome Benefits of Walking

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Step trackers have been making a huge comeback in the past year or so (even longer for Fit Bits).  People all over are talking about how many steps they take a day.  They’re competing against each other.  They’re making contests to see who can guess the amount of steps they’ll take during a day at Disneyland.  And these are all good things.  We have seen how being active (measured by steps) can correlate to being healthy.  Here are 10 of the best benefits of walking.

1. You’ll lose weight.  The current physical activity recommendations have us aiming for at least 150 minutes or 2.5 hours a week of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes or 1.25 hours a week of vigorous intensity aerobic activity.  Adding regular walks, at a brisk pace or on difficult terrain, can help you reach these goals.  There are many programs out there aimed at walkers to help them lose weight.

2. Your mood will improve.  Taking a step away from work or home can help you to relax and refresh.  Also, getting some natural sunlight can help keep the mood up and combat seasonal affective disorder.

3. It’ll lower your blood pressure.  It has been shown that even daily 10-minute brisk walks can help you to lower your blood pressure.  Plus, like we mentioned above, getting away from stress at work by taking a walk, can help you relax.

4. It’s low impact and will save your joints.  We could all do better at taking care of our bodies and often our joints face the brunt of the work we do.  Walking is a good way to get some aerobic activity without pounding the joints.

5. It can improve your balance.  If you really want to challenge yourself, take a trail vs. a paved path and pay attention.  Uneven surfaces, ups and downs will all challenge your core and force you to improve your balance.

6. Give your legs and booty some shape.  The movements you do and muscles you work while walking can begin to  change the shape of your body.  Tone and firm your legs and booty with daily walks.

7. You’ll get sick less.  More active individuals tend to be healthier, which means when a cold comes calling their bodies are better able to fight it off.  Walking can also be a good start back into fitness after a particularly nasty bout with sickness.

8. It can be your quiet time, or time to reconnect with someone.  Whether you want to spend some time alone, or vent with your co-worker, or catch up with a friend, taking a walk can be a healthy way to do just that.  Make talking a walk good for your soul as well as your body.

9. You can boost your creativity.  Many people claim that taking a walk can get their creative juices flowing.  Sometimes you need a break or a new inspiration and a walk can give you just that.

10. You’ll become more regular.  Walking can speed up digestion, which will give you more regular bowel movements.  No one like being backed up, and if taking walks can help prevent this, why not try it?!?

There are so many more benefits to walking, especially when you make it a regular routine.  I personally am challenging myself to take my dog on more walks (she gets exercise running and playing in the yard, but she loves her walks!).  It’s a great time to catch up on podcasts or some books on tape as well!

 

 

 

Fitness

How to Increase The Intensity of Your Strength Routine (Without Increasing Weight)

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Some of us know what it’s like to pick up a set of weights, do our reps and feel like it’s just not quite enough.  Sometimes we need to boost the intensity in order to keep making progress!  Most of the time people look to add weight, but what if you only have 5 lb. weights at home and don’t feel like spending the money on a new set?  What if you’re at the gym and you want to bump up to 10 lb. dumbbells, but they’re all being used?  What if you want to increase the weight, but the next step up is still a little too difficult and it compromises your form?  Well the good news is that there are lots of ways to increase the intensity of your workouts without having to increase the weight.  Here are some of my favorite ways to mix things up!

  1. The most common way to increase your intensity is to up the reps a little.  Sometimes adding 2-3 more reps will get you that workout you need.  Give it a try next time you workout and see if you can squeeze a few more out.  Don’t forget to keep an eye on your form!
  2. Another easy way to increase the intensity is to decrease your rest time.  This way you will be doing more work in less time.  I often see people spending a majority of their time at the gym “resting”, usually checking their phones.  A lot of them could cut their gym time down and still get the same amount of work in all while keeping that heart rate up.
  3. Alter your stability.  I usually try to pair my dumbbell work with a Bosu, that way I am not only getting my weight work in, but I’m also working my core and stabilizer muscles.  This gives me more bang for my buck, especially when I have limited time for my workout.  Other ideas include moving from seated to a standing position, using stability ball, doing exercises on one leg, or doing exercises in a lunge position.  Any thing that decreases your stability will make the workout harder, just be sure not to take this too far.  You don’t want to lose proper form or injure yourself!
  4. Switch up your exercises.  There are tons of ways to work each of your muscles.  If something doesn’t seem to be challenging you there may be another piece of equipment or another exercise that may challenge you more.  This is where taking classes or doing some personal training can really help and teach you a variety of work.
  5. Pulse.  Barre classes seem to be all the rage, and for a good reason.  Classes like these often incorporate pulsing.  Pulsing an exercise can really boost the intensity of a workout.  For example, I like to do 10-12 goblet squats (with a kettle bell held at the chest) and then pulse at the bottom of my squat for an additional 15-30 seconds.  It’s a great way to push yourself that extra bit.
  6. Slow down.  Take each movement a little slower (in the eccentric portion) to build lean muscle.  We know that swinging the weight does little for our muscle (and can be dangerous), so we can imagine that by slowing the lowering portion of our exercise we can increase strength, build muscle and also increase muscular endurance.

There are many ways we can increase our workouts without adding weight (or having to increase the equipment in our home gyms).  The importance of adding variety to our workouts has been proven, so why not give some of the above ideas a try next time you are breaking a sweat.

 

Fitness

Re-framing Our Ideas Around Exercise

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For so long, exercise has been promoted as a way to lose weight.  We think of it only as a calorie-burning necessity, which can be damaging and actually can keep many people from exercising.  I get it.  I’ve used the calorie counting apps, figuring out just how many calories I’d have to burn at the gym to work off that burger, or extra beer.  It’s easy to fall into that way of thinking.  But here’s the thing, exercise is not that efficient as a weight loss tool.  As much as we would love to think we can eat anything and simply “work it off” later, it doesn’t work that way.  If you are working out to lose weight, you better also be adjusting your food choices if you want to see real results.

So why even bother with exercise?  Well, it’s true that exercise burns calories, but it also helps prevent heart disease, protects against cancer and can give you a longer, healthier life.  Exercise shouldn’t be a punishment for the reward of food, but rather a reward for you to live your life.  Every time you exercise you are giving your body a gift; taking care of it.  That is how we need to think about exercise- as a gift.

I am a firm believe in “treating myself” and I often pick some sort of treat to reward myself if I complete a goal.  While, most of the time when we think of treats we are thinking sweet, sugary goodies, it’s important to find other treats.  For example, during the month of January I was struggling with my anxiety and happiness.  So, I told myself if I followed a self-care guide I created all month long, I could purchase two new books from my “I want” list.  I knew buying the books would make me happy, so I put them down as my reward, or treat.  This spring I was wanting some new workout shoes, even though my current pair were still holding up fine.  So I told myself if I could workout 25 times in one month I could buy new shoes.  It gave me a goal and reward, plus it wore out those shoes I was using so the new ones didn’t feel like such a splurge.  This is also how I try to frame exercise in my mind.  It’s hard, because the reward isn’t as tangible as new books or shoes, but I know that if I follow my workout routine I will be giving my body rewards.

It’s not an easy change, to switch your mindset regarding exercise, but once you do, it gives you a more freeing relationship around fitness.  You’ll know that even if you only have 30 minutes, it’s still a small gift for your body.  You’ll lose the guilt that surrounds the activity and instead have excitement.  It’ll make it so much easier to fall in love with exercise.  I recommend you start giving this a try.  Ignore the calories the machine you’re on is flashing and instead focus on how you are feeling.  Are you sweating?  Are you breathing heavily?  Are you tired when you are done?  Do you feel stronger or more empowered?  Focus on these things instead of the calories and start re-framing your ideas about exercise.

Fitness

How to Stay Healthy While Working Out

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Wow, is anyone else still recovering (mentally and physically) from that nasty cold and flu season we just had?  I haven’t been sick since the week after Christmas, but I felt like germs have been surrounding me everywhere I went the past few months!  I saw runny noses and heard people coughing everywhere I went.  And I know a lot of people who are members of the gym I work at ended up missing quite a few workouts due to these resistant germs.  So I thought I’d share with you some ways to stay healthy in a gym atmosphere.

Fuel your body.  Step one is to make sure you are fueling your body, not only with good sources of energy, but also eating a variety of foods to make sure you load up on all of the good nutrients.  And make sure you are fueling your body with plenty of water.  Immunity boosting choices for foods and drinks include garlic, ginger, turmeric, citrus fruits, green veggies, almonds, and green tea and are great foods to add into your diet regularly.  If you keep your body fueled with healthy foods, then when sickness hits, you’ll be better able to fight off the bad!

Use the provided spray.  Your gym should have some kind of sanitizing spray available for you to wipe down your equipment.  If you are unsure, wipe it down before you workout as well as after.  You may want to bring your own mat to classes like yoga or Pilates.  Just be aware of common places where people may place their hands and be sure to wash your hands when you are done.  It’s also nice to wash your hands before your workout as well.

Cover any cuts or broken skin.  This is a pretty good rule in general when going out into public.

Use a clean towel and don’t share it.  This one seems like pretty common sense, but it’s a good reminder.

Bring your own water.  If your gym has a drinking fountain you normally use it may be wise to bring your own water (or two) so you can avoid any accidental germs passing while you are just trying to get a drink.

Make sure your gym is clean and has good ventilation.  There are many reasons why a clean gym should be important to you, but avoiding germs is at the top!  You’ll also want to be sure there is plenty of good ventilation.  Ask if windows can be opened or fans turned on; even if it’s not possible, it’s worth asking!

Disinfect your gym bag regularly.  This is one people tend to skip, but it’s important to keep all those things clean and germ free.  Plus, do you really want to carry around a bag that stinks of sweat and dirty feet?

Avoid touching your face.  Use a towel to wipe sweat away, but try to avoid placing your hands on the floor or equipment and then directly on your face.

If you are already sick try to avoid class settings where you’ll be packed in tightly with others.  Be kind and give others space and be sure to really clean your area when you are finished.  Even if the doctor has cleared you as no longer contagious, others don’t know that and may get a little freaked out.  If you are still contagious and spreading germs, skip the gym and rest!

Stay healthy my friends!

Fitness, Food and Nutrition

Plant Nanny: An App Review

Lately I’ve been on a kick of downloading and trying a variety of health and fitness apps. Some I download and delete almost immediately, others I keep for a while before deleting and some I’ve kept for quite a while and don’t plan on deleting. Plant Nanny is one I plan to keep!

The basic idea of Plant Nanny is to water a plant by tracking the water you drink throughout the day. You can set your amounts as well as notifications to remind you to drink. You also get to pick the plant and as you grown your garden you can “buy” cute pots or special plants with the seeds you harvest.

For me, I am set at drinking six 15oz bottles of water a day. This actually puts me slightly over what I personally need, but it still works. So each time I finish my water bottle I “water” my plant. If I have a day where I don’t drink much (or forget to check in on the app) my plant will get dry and eventually die.

At first I thought this was a perfect idea to help people keep track of how much water they drink daily and encourage them to drink enough. The more I used it, the cheesier it felt, BUT I kept using it! It’s easy for me to say I get 80-90oz of water daily, but if I don’t keep track I guarantee I won’t get close. So even while I feel the general concept is still pretty cheesy, it works for me.

Review Breakdown:

Ease of use: 10/10

Reminders/prompts: 10/10

Look/feel: 9/10

Overall: 9.5/10

Fitness, Life and Happiness

The Mental Aspect of Weight Loss

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already 2018. There’s so much that happened in 2017, both personally and in the world. One of the biggest things is that I’m going through some medical stuff- nothing major, but a side effect is possible weight gain so I’ve tried to be on top of my workouts and diet. In December I wanted to lose the 2 lbs I’d gained since starting the treatment. That was my months goal. But December came and went and my weight remained the same. At first I felt upset with myself for not being able to drop those 2 pounds, but I stopped and took a second to think about why.

The very first thing I realized is that I was feeling a little down. I was worn out mentally and even when I was doing my workouts or eating fresh, my mind wasn’t completely there. I wasn’t as driven or as excited. It became easier to slack off in my workouts, to snack on some cookies late at night. On top of it all I caught that nasty bug which kept me out of work one day, so I was stressed trying to catch up on everything while still resting enough to get better.

So, even though I still want to lose those extra couple of pounds (I realize it’s a small number and I shouldn’t obsess, but I’d still like to work on it), that’s not my goal for January. Instead I’m focusing on my mental health. I’m checking in with myself regularly, eliminating sources of stress, letting go what I can, and taking some time for myself. Because here’s the thing- I know the weight loss will come, but it’s going to be a heck of a lot harder if I’m not in a good place mentally.

I hope 2018 brings everyone a happier and healthier life, both mentally and physically!

Fitness

3 Vital Pieces of Equipment for Your Workout Bag

Here are the three, most important things I have in my workout bag. Are you ready for this? Seriously this is ground-breaking.

1. Clothes

2. Shoes

3. Socks

Ok, but really what are the three absolute most important things to keep in you bag?

Why don’t we twist that question just slightly and you’ll get your answer: “What three things that if I didn’t have them would stop me from working out?”

There you go, there’s your answer.

To be absolutely fair, my real list looks more like this:

1. Clothes. Most days I pack a bag and bring it to work with me. I wear nice, business clothes to work and if I forgot my workout clothes there’s a good chance I’d just go home.

2. Hair tie. Some people can manage it, but there’s no way I could do a solid workout without pulling my hair back. Luckily for me the gym I work at had a stash of hair ties just for this reason.

3. My phone/a book/something to distract me. As much as I enjoy working out, I’d get pretty bored without something to distract me- music, a tv show, a book (during cardio), etc. I could probably workout for a little while, but no way I’d get a full workout in unless I was super motivated and focused that day.

So here’s the moral. Yes there are absolutely important things to keep in your workout bag (I mean have you ever worked out without socks!), but everyone’s needs are going to be different. Some people have to have their headphones, others won’t even think of working out without a change of clothes for after. Whatever your needs are, make sure your workout bag meets them, otherwise it’s just too easy to say “oh I don’t have ______, guess I can’t workout today.”

Fitness

When to Sweat

A question I hear quite a bit is when is the best time to exercise.  People want to know what time of day they will get the best results from their efforts.  Great news- this is a pretty basic topic. Are you ready for the simple answer??

Whenever you have the most energy. Simple as that. I’m not going to tell you that if you want to gain more muscle you should work out at a different time then if you want to lose weight. I’m just saying that you should take advantage of when your body naturally feels the most energized. For me the ideal time is between 9 and 11am. I like to be fairly lazy in the early mornings, but start to lose energy (very slowly) after about noon.

Now here’s the problem. I work Monday through Friday during my optimum energy. That’s great for work, but it also means most of the time I end up having to workout between 5 and 7pm. That’s not my lowest energy part of the day, but it’s still not my highest. But when I’m working out on Saturdays, Sundays and even holidays I make a point to be in the gym by 9:30am.

So, while figuring out the best time for you to exercise may be simple, making that time actually work for you might not be. What do you do? You find the best alternative. Here are a few things to consider:

1. When your body is the most naturally energized (duh, I already said that).

2. When are you least likely to succumb to excuses?  Some people like to workout in the morning, before their brains can even tell them no. Others like their lunch hour or right after work. So the question is are you willing to wake up early or will you just hit the snooze button most mornings? Are you going to eat your lunch at your desk and head to the gym on your lunch hour or will you blow it off? Will you run after work or will you decide you had a hard day at the office and should just go home and drink some wine? Pick the time you’ll go the most!

3. Your schedule. Now obviously you have to consider work, school, kids, etc. when you decide when to workout. You can’t just tell your boss “I’m going to come in everyday at noon, because I have to workout mid-morning.” I mean unless your boss is ok with that, in which case let me know and I’ll send a resume. But seriously, we all have tons of things scheduled into our lives already and while working out should be a priority, it can’t always be #1.

4. Your workout schedule. So now that you have a rough idea of what days and time work, it’s time to actually tackle your workout plan. What are your goals? What do you like? If you like taking fitness classes start there. Find a gym or facility that offers classes that work with your schedule. That may fill your schedule fine, or maybe you’ll need to supplement with your own workouts. How many days a week do you want to workout? When are your rest days? For me, my goal is 5 days a week and I try to workout Monday-Thursday and I pick either Friday, Saturday or Sunday for my 5th workout. This also gives me flexibility, like on the first Tuesday of the month when book club meets I have that as my rest day and I workout twice on the weekend. 

Just like with everything else I seem to talk about, when to exercise is very individualistic. You may be different then your partner or you work friend and that’s ok. You just have to take advantage of what works for you, otherwise life and excuses will get in the way of your goals.