Don't be left out!

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?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nothing of Value

I'll be honest, I couldn't come up with anything I deemed valuable enough to take your time today so instead of spending three minutes to read a shitty post why don't you spend those three minutes squatting.

Seriously.  3 minutes.  Squats.  Now.

Count your reps and leave them in a comment section when you're done.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Strong For Life

It's no secret that I love strength training.  And, while pumping some iron is easily one of my favorite past-times and could go on and on about the list of benefits-both physical and emotional- that come along with lifting weights, I realize not everyone wants to/needs to test their strength or striving to be a powerlifter.

Nonetheless there is no denying that the benefits of strength training, even at moderate levels, can spill over into everyday life often.    So you don't want to be a strongman?  Totally cool!  But wouldn't it be nice to be able to perform a variety of movements and tasks in life with strength and confidence and without injury or help? Simply put, strength training makes everything easier.

Sure bragging about deadlifting 300 pounds may sound cooler than, "I carried a bag of ice melt.".  I mean who puts up photos on social media bragging about how many grocery bags they can carry in?  Really, who does that?  Wink, wink.

All kidding aside, as much as I'd love to keep increasing my strength in the deadlift, I also want to be strong for life.  I want to be able to carry my kids when they're too tired to walk, shovel my own driveway, put my own luggage in the car and so much more.  I'm in this life for the long haul and at the risk of tooting my own horn, I came up with 20 ways strength training has made my everyday life easier and strong for life.  

See example #2.  This is light weight---anyone have anymore bags I can carry? :)

1.  Carrying big bags of pet food, garden soil, or ice melt is no issue.

2.  I can bring everything in from the grocery store in one trip, regardless of how many bags there are.

3.  I can trek a toddler and kindergartner up and down stairs when they both want to be carried…at the same time.

4.  I can mow the lawn with ease…without using the self propel feature.

5.  I can carry a toddler and a trike back to the car when my kid decides he's too tired to bike the rest of the way home.

6.  When the FedEx guy offers to carry a large package into the house for me, I can politely decline and carry that sucker in like a boss.

7. I can lift one side of the couch high enough to search for missing toys just to avoid a meltdown.

8.  Loading heavy luggage into the car is not just a job for my husband.

9.  I'm happy to change the water cooler jug.

10.  I can move most furniture myself to vacuum under it…if I wanted to.  Not that I actually do that.

11.  Helping a friend push a stalled car to the side of the road is something I actually find fun.

12.  Climbing the stairs 25 times in one night while trying to teach my little boy to sleep in his big boy bed doesn't phase me.

13.  When I want to go canoeing, I can pull a canoe from a rack without help.  It's a little awkward, but I can do it.

14.  I often find myself asking myself if random people needed to be pulled from a burning car, could I do it?  The answer is typically "yes".

15.  I can swing a baby carrier with smooth rhythm to calm a crying baby…without throwing out my back.

16.  My strong legs can help me sprint along side my five-year-old while teaching her to ride a bike.

17.  I can demonstrate how to do the monkey bars instead of pointing and telling.

18.  Helping our old, 175 pound, English Mastiff into the car for vet check-ups isn't exactly fun, but I can do it.

19.  I can pull myself out of the water easily when my not-yet-ready-for-deep-water-but-refuses-to-wear-a-life-jacket son takes off spiriting for the deep end.

20.  I can pick up a 40lb, tantrum throwing, screaming toddler up off the ground in Target, while wearing a 15lb diaper bag on my back, holding an Americano and not spill a drop, hurt myself or my child.  ;o)

Your turn:  How has lifting weights made you strong for life?  I'd love to see pictures hear stories about how weights have changed your life.  Tag me of Facebook, InstaGram, #StrongForLife

Friday, July 25, 2014

3 Tips To Make Lunch Hour Workouts A Success

While it may not be your first pick, working out over lunch is growing in popularity.  Many companies today, are including gyms on site or free/reduced memberships to near by fitness studios because they know regular exercise means improved health for their employees.  For you it can mean a chance to de-stress, get away from work and sneak in a little activity.  

For my husband, working out over his lunch hour has been a saving grace for him and really...our entire family.  To John (my hubby), it comes down to the lesser of three evils- get up early to workout and sacrifice sleep, go to the gym after work and sacrifice family time or workout over lunch.  

My powerlifting friend Laurel has some experience in this department, "I work out over my lunch break 4 to 5 times a week and have been for 5yrs now." Laurel told me.  "I had tried to work out after work for a year after my son was born but felt like I was missing out on even more time with him. I was willing to sacrifice the occasional lunch with friends and time away from my desk to sit in a lunchroom." Yes that means for people like Laurel and my husband they eat their lunch at their desk, while working. It may not be as fun as a lunch out with friends but it can be done.  

I realize there are schedules and situations that aren't conducive to working out on your lunch hour but before you poo poo this potential solution entirely check out the tips Laurel shared with me that helped her get into her lunch time workout groove.  

Put it on your work calendar.  Laurel encourages you to write it down just like you would a meeting.  If you have an electronic calendar that co-workers can view block out your time (if applicable) online as well to avoid potential conflicts.  

If you need extra time, ask your boss.  This is my favorite suggestion of Laurel's and one that has been used by my husband as well.  If you're finding you don't have enough time to squeeze in your workout ask your boss for a longer lunch.  In exchange offer to come in early or stay late.  If your boss scoffs at your request remind him/her (in a polite, persuasive manner) that studies have shown that people who exercise also increase their ability to make complex decisions, focus, think clearly and improve their mood.  Oh yea, then throw in a compliment.  Can't hurt right?  

Skip the shower.  Oh before you get all grossed out just listen… consider saving your lunch hour for your less sweaty workout sessions.  As hard and heavy as I lift weights I rarely sweat.  (Remember that sweat in NOT an indicator of how hard you're working.)  Laurel suggests just toweling off, touching up your make up and switching clothes.  Swap what would be your shower time for a few extra reps.  Besides, wipes like these, a little baby powder and a spritz of fragrance can go a long way.  

Weather you make working out over your lunch break part of your regular routine or use it as a back up plan these tips are sure to help make your workout a success.