Don't be left out!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Family Fitness: Move It For Movies

Now that I have a kindergartner in my house I've been even more focused on making sure my kids are getting plenty of exercise.  My little lady is enjoying her time at school but like a lot of kids, she needs to move when she gets home.

Because you ate up my Summer Of Miles family fitness activity I thought I'd come up with another challenge for the school year to encourage your entire family to move more together.

Move It For Movies is a way to track time spent exercising while you work towards a (non-food) goal everyone in the family can enjoy- a family movie night!  Who doesn't love cozy movie nights in the Fall?
Click photo for printable version

After printing off the poster, decide how much each movie square is worth and write it on your poster.  For example, we decided each square was worth 20 minutes of exercise.  (For younger kids try smaller increments of time and older kids bigger amounts of time).  Every time your child exercises for the specified amount of time they get to color in a square on their line.  When all the participants have colored in their squares in their line you can enjoy a family movie night- in the theater or at home.  Your choice!

I sent the pdf file to a local printer and had a 12x18 poster made for less than $7.00.  Be sure to hang the poster somewhere your family will see each day.
To help get your kids even more excited to exercise, spend a few minutes looking at the movies available to watch and have them pick out which one they'd like to see.

My daughter is thrilled to earn a trip to the movie theater and it will be so rewarding to take her once she's colored in all her squares.  Moving together as a family is time well spent and working together towards a goal is even better!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How Much Weight Should You Lift?

If there is one thing I know about women and weight training it's that we typically sell ourselves short when deciding how much weight we can lift- myself included.  Even as I enter into my second year of powerlifting, I sometimes still find myself choose weights that are too light for a given exercise.

Once a program and strength workouts have been put into place the next question my clients often ask is, "How much weight should I lift?".  While my initial answer is something like, "More than you think you can lift.", the truth is if you want to be successful in the weight room, knowing how much weight to use per a given exercise is a skill you'll have to develop for yourself.  Sure, a personal trainer can make suggestions and encourage you to take off/add more weight but in the end you need to be responsible for being in tune with your body enough to know when you can kick it up a notch, when you should dial it down, and when it's just right.

I'm going to assume that if you're following a more traditional strength training program your workouts are organized into recommended sets and repetitions. There are formulations and calculations to help you figure weights based on percentages of your one rep maximum weight.  However, I would highly recommend one rep maximum tests be executed with a knowledgeable trainer/coach or for experience lifters.  Regardless of your program/goals here a few general guidelines to help YOU decide how much weight you should be lifting.

Form first: Hands down the most important factor in determining your weight selection should be form. You must be able to maintain proper throughout the entire set.  If at any point your form breaks down and/or you adjust your range of motion during the set (i.e half way down on squats) to cheat the exercise you need to reduce your load.  Performing movements with poor form or reduced range of motion can lead to injuries, lack of progress, and above all it's just a waste or your time.

Channel your inner Goldilocks:  Remember Goldilocks? Too hot, too cold, just right?  It might take a little trial and error but try to find that sweet spot between, "This is a cake walk" and "Oh my God, I'm gonna die.".  If you finish a set and feel like you have multiple reps (two or more) left in you, add weight!  Unless otherwise noted on your workout, aim to finish a set feeling like you have one to two reps left in the tank. For example, if your workout consists of 5 sets of 5 and after the first set you feel like you could have done 8 or more reps, consider adding weight.  The key here is to be honest with yourself.  Only you can determine your level of exertion and by stopping short you're only cheating yourself.

The follow up question to this usually pertains to how much weight one should add.  As a general rule of thumb, larger, more compound movements (squat, deadlift, etc) you can add more generous amounts  of weight (try 10% of your initial load) where as isolation exercises might only allow for smaller jumps in weight.  When in doubt, add lighter amounts of weight and build up.

Put your ego aside: Ensuring that guideline number one is met sometimes means putting your ego aside and reducing weight to perform a movement with proper form.  Do not feel obligated to finish a set when the weight is either too heavy or too light.  As soon as you realize the weight is not appropriate, stop, adjust the weight as needed and start again.  I give you permission to stop mid-set and re-load.  Don't worry about people watching you, taking the time to be certain a weight is appropriate for you is important and nothing to be embarrassed about.

In addition don't try to keep up with other lifters by using the same weights.  Just because your friend used 30 pound dumbbells for a overhead press doesn't mean you have to. After all, how will you ever figure out how strong you really are if you just play tag along with your training partner?  Find a weight that's right for you.

Actually rest during rest allotted rest periods:  If you're lifting history consists of flying through workouts with light dumbbells you might find working with weights that are challenging (but not impossible) a little more uncomfortable.  You should find yourself working harder during the lifts and therefore need to use allotted rest times for…..REST!  If your workout program does not specify how much rest between sets, typically two to three minutes should suffice but if you need more, take more as heavier lifting, generally, should not be rushed.  If you consistently find that you can move from set to set with little to no rest or muscle fatigue, most likely you can move up in weight.

Sometimes you've got it, sometimes you don't: Just like in life, in the weight room sometimes you're a super hero and other times you are super wiped.  Either way, don't let your weights from last week, last month or even yesterday determine what weight you choose for your next workout.  Use your training log as a guideline but let feedback from your body ultimately decide your weight.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Double Duty Athletic Clothes

A while back one of my very best friends wrote to me and said this…. 
I'm sick of looking for regular clothes for my mom life and I want to wear athletic wear on a more regular basis (because then I won't have to go to the effort to changing when it's time to go to the gym)...
Can you tell why we're great friends? :)

The great news is that athletic influences are sneaking into to everyday fashion. In today's world it's totally acceptable to mix in athletic apparel with your everyday life.  And it's not just athletic lines selling this look.  Take a peek at these looks below that I found from Banana Republic and J.Crew.

I'm not a fashionista by any means, but this trend I'm totally down with.  There is no longer the need to sacrifice fashion for comfort.  You CAN have both!

If you're totally lost at how to start incorporating your gym wear into your night lift check out these three inspiration boards below, feature three Athleta pieces, that will take you from working out to working it.  And keep in mind- my version of "working it" is showing up to PTA meetings or lunch with friends without looks like a slob.

Exhibit A:  My lululemon tank I wore to a BBQ with friends a few weeks ago.  Paired it with some skinny's and cute metallic sandals.

A few tips to consider:

  • Don't be afraid to mix "high and low" items together.  Fancy and comfy can co-exsist in one outfit.
  • Accessorize!  Add some baubles, a baseball hat, head band, scarf, etc.  I promise you accessories are the difference maker. 
  • When shopping, consider function (it's cute, but does it "work"?) as well as versatility. Depending on your budget, it may be worth it to spend a few extra bucks on items that can do double duty.   

Your turn:  Do you have a favorite athletic item that you wear with your "real clothes"?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Workout and GymBoss GIVEAWAY!

If you frequent my blog, you know that I typically don't enjoy cardio.  If you're new here, let me be the first to tell you, I typically don't enjoy cardio.  I'm not even going to try to hide it.  I'd rather be lifting.

Lets face it though, it's practically impossible to teach your five year old to ride a bike or lift anything for more than six reps when you're cardiovascular system isn't on point so cardio exercise must be included in my workout routine.  (Yes, I count those tasks as "cardio".)

In my opinion, there are only two things that make cardio suck less- ample recovery times and a GymBoss interval timer and lucky for you, today, I've got BOTH!  

First let's discuss the Gymboss Interval Timer.  I first wrote a review of the Gymboss back in January sharing how this convenient, little gadget has helped me teach group exercise classes because I can't possibly provide instruction, demonstration, encouragement, watch form, AND keep track of time but this timer isn't just for fitness professionals.  

This bad boy makes intervals, for anyone, a breeze.  Just set your active time, recovery time, how many sets and go!   No more messing with cheap interval timing apps on your phone, trying to clock watch or count in your head which set you're on. The Gymboss comes in multiple colors and has multiple settings for alarms including vibrate so you can put your headphones in and still catch when the time is up.  I really can't say enough about this.  

Now, about ample recovery times.  High intensity interval training can be a great tool to blast fat, torch calories, and improve cardio conditioning but I have to be honest, it's kinda getting out of hand.  

I see more and more people performing difficult moves for an extended amount of time with little rest in between and in my book, that's missing the point of HIIT.  During HIIT, you should be working at a level 8-9 (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being full out effort) and that level of work for most is not sustainable for very long.  Hence, the importance of keeping your work intervals short.  

On the flip side, because you're working hard, taking time to rest is just as important as the work it's self.  This will help you to recover so you can put forth the effort towards the next move as well as reduce the likelihood of making mistakes with form which we all know can lead to an injury.  As one of my favorite trainers, Neghar Fonooni says, "More is not better.  Better is better." Rant done.  For now. 

Because I want everyone to leave here a winner, I came up with an interval workout that will hopefully prove to you that you don't need to drag out work intervals and shorten rest periods to get a good workout in.  Please note that while the interval times appear gentle, this is NOT a beginner HIIT workout as it incorporates dynamic and ballistic movements at a rapid pace.  In case it's not obvious, this workout would be so much better if you had a Gymboss timer.  Have I mentioned how much I love mine?  Wink, wink.

As always, perform proper dynamic warm up beforehand and a cool down afterwards.  

Ok, back to the Gymboss…because the Gymboss was such a hit the first time around, they've offered to giveaway another one to one of my lucky readers!  Woot!  Woot!  Any color of your choice!  Really, check out the colors.  So cool!

Here are the details:
  • US winners only (Sorry, shipping reasons.  No offense).
  • Giveaway will close Sunday, August 24 and the winner will be contacted via email.
  • Gymboss did provide the merchandise for the giveaway but all opinions are my own.  
  • IMPORTANT: you must use the rafflecopter below in order to be eligible for the giveaway. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

3 Tips to Bust Through a Fitness Plateau

If you’ve been chipping away at your goals for awhile chances are you already will or have run into the dreaded plateau. In the fitness world, a plateau is defined by progress or improvements coming to a standstill despite continued efforts.

The bad news is this may cause a slight delay in progress , but the good news is that typically hitting a plateau means your body is becoming more efficient at completing tasks it once used to find challenging. While you may be tempted to get frustrated and throw in the towel all together, give these three strategies a try to bust through a fitness plateau.

Get out of your comfort zone: Going to the gym banging out a 3 mile run 5 times a week may prove to be challenging initially but eventually you can expect that those same three miles run at the same pace will become easier. This is a good thing! It simply means your body is positively adapting to your demands by performing the task with less effort but don’t let the ease of the movement lull you into a comfort zone.

You know I don’t buy into the whole muscle confusion theory but I do believe that workouts need to be progressed slightly to ensure they stay appropriately challenging. Regardless of your activity, slight variations in the duration (time), intensity (how hard your working), volume (how much), load (how much weight) or even reducing rest periods can be enough to push you back out of your comfort zone and back on track.

Of course if trying a completely different activity strikes your fancy, give it a shot and shake things up.

Take a break: I know, I know. Taking a period (long or short) of rest from activity can feel counter intuitive when you’ve hit a plateau but taking a few days off to deload can have plenty of physical and mental benefits. Rest can help your body to physically recover from weeks of pushing hard and mentally refresh and recommit to your goals. Trying taking some time off and get out of the gym, guilt free knowing that the rest is just as important as the work.

Give yourself a gut check: Bad habits have a sneaky way of creeping back into our lives. A few handfuls of goldfish here, skip a workout there and before you know it these once in awhile behaviors have turned into daily habits.  It's important to be honest with yourself about your actions and your abilities. Are you finishing your workouts or skipping out a few minutes early?  Are you really writing down everything you eat or magically forgetting about the cookie after lunch?  Did you really push yourself as hard as you could during group exercise classes or did you hold back?  Even the little things can add up quickly and impede progress.  If you struggle holding yourself accountable find someone who you can trust to give you some tough love when needed.

Your turn:  Have you hit a plateau before?  If so, how did you work through it?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Low Impact, High Intensity

Grab any fitness publication off the shelf today and you’ll most likely find articles that suggest incorporating high intensity interval training (HIIT) to blast fat and torch calories. Alternating periods of high activity with low-moderate activity have proven to be a top pick when it comes to a challenging yet effective workout and easy to complete in short amounts of time.

However, high intensity intervals also has a tendency to mean high impact, and for beginning exercisers, individuals with joint concerns or people with injuries, high impact may not be your friend. The good news is you can still get the benefits of HIIT with out the impact by making just a few modifications to common high impact movements.

Many moves used in HIIT workouts incorporate a jump or plyometric element to get your heart pumping. Generally speaking, to turn a high impact exercise into a low impact one try removing the jump (or leap or bound) to get a similar but gentler effect. Take a look at how I modified five common high impact moves to remain high intensity but low impact.

While these moves may be low impact that doesn’t mean you can still execute these moves with intensity, speed, and power. Remember that high intensity will look different for everyone. On a scale of 1-10, one being sitting in a chair and 10 being an all out physical exertion, try to reach a 7-8 during your periods of high intensity and a 3-4 during low intensity.

If you’re new to HIIT workouts try working at a high level of intensity for 20 seconds followed by one to two minutes of low intensity/recovery. As your progress, try shortening your duration of low activity or lengthen your duration of high activity slightly. Remember, your periods of high intense should require large amounts of effort to complete. The goal is to work hard during that short period of time, not necessarily longer.

Using the low impact moves in the video above try this low impact, high intensity workout a try.

After a proper five minute warm up period, perform each move as stated and follow with a five minute cool down. The total workout should take 15-20 minutes.

20 seconds walk out burpee

1-2 minutes march in place

20 seconds backward lunge

1-2 minutes march in place

20 seconds squat with reach

1-2 minutes march in place

20 seconds high knee march

1-2 minutes march in place

20 seconds skaters

1-2 minutes march in place

Remember if you find this beginner version not challenging enough try shortening the rest periods between movements. 

Your turn:  Do you have a favorite low impact exercise that gets your heart rate up?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Girls, Get Off Your Knees

Push-ups…..I'm talking about push-ups.  What did you think I was talking about?  Geesh!

Push-ups, in my opinion, are one of the top offenders for moves executed with poor form.  I see everything from hips sagging, raised butts, reaching with the neck, shallow range of motion, movement through the spine while descending, etc, etc.  Why?  Why do I see such poor form on push-ups?  Because they're hard!  Push-ups have been around for decades and while they may look simple enough, they're a difficult exercise to perform correctly rep after rep after rep.

Can you spot the mistakes on the top video?  I know I exaggerated the move but it's not too far off from what you might find in the gym….or doing yourself.

Somewhere along the line performing push-ups on the knees caught fire as a great way to modify the exercise to make it easier and I'm here to totally disagree.  And, for the record, I cringe at referring to push-ups on your knees as "girl push-ups"…so don't say it.

There is no shame in modifying or regressing any exercise, including the push-up but if you're goal is to eventually be able to perform push-ups from your toes I suggest you get off your knees.  In my experience, performing push-ups from you knees may help to strengthen your upper body but it doesn't always translate to strength in push-ups from your toes.

So how do you regress a push-up from your toe if you're not on your knees?  You use an incline!
Using an incline allows you to get into the exact same position you would in a standard push-up but the incline removes some of the load.

I performed these incline push-ups on a smith machine as it's easy to adjust the bar but a countertop, step, or bench would work well too.  Lowering the incline makes the movement more difficult and a higher incline makes the movement easier.

If you need a review of proper push-up technique click here.

Regardless of if you take my advice on trying out the incline push up or not, I hope we can agree on one thing- perform a move incorrectly or with poor form should not be an option.  Find a way to modify or regress the movement to keep your body injury free and build from there.

Your turn:  Have you ever tried incline push-ups?