Category Archives: Workout Routines

Tabata Time


Tabata training is perfect for those who never seem to have enough time in the day but still want to make space for fitness in their lives. It’s also a great tool for losing weight without losing muscle.

It works because unlike regular exercise that makes your body go into a steady state (adjusting to the workload by conserving energy – aka calories), Tabata training keeps your body working hard to adjust to the bouts of intensity, thereby increasing the caloric expenditure.

What is Tabata training?
Tabata training, based on the research of Izumi Tabata; a former researcher at Japan’s National institute of Fitness and Sports. He observed two groups of athletes to determine the results of moderate intensity versus high intensity. He found that high intensity training had the benefit of training both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. While there are many variations on this type of training, a true Tabata is four minutes of a single exercise with 20 seconds ultra intensity followed by a ten second recovery period. This is not something you would do every day, but once – a few times a week as it takes a lot of energy.

How do I get started?
One Tabata round is four minutes of a single exercise with 20 seconds at your max intensity followed by a 10 second recovery period.  Exercises using compound muscle groups are best (squats, lunge to press, etc) but any exercise including walking, running, or cycling are also effective.

Pick an exercise then warm up for at least three minutes.  Set your timer for 8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Do the selected exercise to failure for 20 seconds then rest for ten seconds. Repeat this process until the four minutes are up. Your goal is to put just as much intensity into the last set as you did in the first set. *Keep a towel and a bottle of water nearby. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be sweating pretty quickly!

Example Exercises:
Box squats
Full squats
Dynamic squats
Lunge, knee tuck
*any of the above with or without weights depending on your fitness level
Walkover push ups
Plank suicides

Safety First:
You should only do an exercise that you are comfortable with and that you can complete in correct form for the full four minutes. Because this training is based on intensity, you don’t have to get fancy, you just need to be clear with your movements.  Remember, you are trying to go as intensely as you can for 20 seconds eight times. If you find that you are losing form or pooping out midway, you may consider changing the exercise.

If you’re new to fitness you can walk as quickly as you can and then walk very slowly for each round or squat on a bench or box.

Apps for your phone:
Tabata Pro – Tabata Timer 
HIIT Interval Training Timer
Tabata Timer

Online Tabata Clock – Workout Timer – Interval Timer

If you like to exercise outside but don’t want to use your phone as a timer, this little gadget works really well and clips easily to your clothes:
Gymboss Interval Timer

If you have questions about this type of training, leave your question in the comments section 🙂

Holiday Travel Workout

With so much traveling going on this holiday season, there’s not time to worry about packing equipment or finding a local gym. Here’s a four-exercise, full-body routine you can do anywhere. Time yourself (not including the warm up or cool down) and try to beat your time on subsequent runs. *click on each gallery to see larger images.
WARM UP – 3-5 minutes(yoga vinyasa, dancing, or gentle stretching)
15 reps/side              HALF to FULL STATIONARY LUNGE
Step forward about the length of one leg, come down halfway, lift up and then come down into a full lunge so that both legs come to a 90 degree angle. Lift all the way up to the starting position and repeat 15 times. Come back to standing, switch legs and repeat on the other side. *make sure to keep your abs engaged, body upright and knee aligning with your 2nd toe.

10 reps/side              SINGLE LEG TRICEPS DIPS
Start down in a crab position – fingers pointed towards your body, and lift one leg. Engage the abs to keep the leg lifted. Bend the arms and come back to a fully extend position to activate the triceps. Dip 10 times, lower your leg, switch sides and repeat 10 more times. *If you are having trouble with your balance, come down to two feet.

20 reps                      DYNAMIC SQUAT
 Start standing then jump feet apart and touch hands down to the floor as you come into a squat. Keep the chest lifted and don’t go further than thighs parallel to the floor. Squeeze the butt and abs as you jump to a standing position. Repeat 20 times.
10 reps                      PUSH UP TO SIDE PLANK
Start in a plank position with your wrists under your shoulders, and feet hip distance apart. Perform one push up and then come up through plank and rotate into a side plank with your right arm up. Feet should stay hip distant apart. Hold for four seconds, come through plank to perform another push up and then rotate to the left and hold for four seconds. Each side counts as one repetition and you’ll want to go up to 10.

*If you have trouble performing a push up in good form, come down to your knees for the push ups and then come back up to full plank before rotating.
Go through all exercises back to back without a break. At the end of the fourth exercise, rest for 90 seconds. Repeat once or twice depending on your fitness level.
COOL DOWN – 3-5 minutes (yoga vinyasas, or gentle stretching)
Warm up – 3-5 minutes (yoga vinyasa, dancing, or gentle stretching)
15 reps/side             Half to full stationary lunge R/L
10 reps/side             Single-leg triceps dips R/L
20 reps                      Dynamic Squat
10 reps                      Push-up to Side Plank (4 second hold in side plank)
Cool Down – 3-5 minutes (yoga vinyasas, or gentle stretching)

Healthy Habit Apps

If you are going to have your smart phone with you at all times, you might as well make it work for you. Getting yourself to follow some healthy habits becomes easier with a few applications.
*All apps listed below work for iPhone and Android unless otherwise noted.

Reduce headaches, stress, and fatigue as you improve your mood by making sure you stay hydrated. Try one of these water trackers:

Waterbalance – Plug in your weight, gender, and workout schedule and then start adding your liquid intake. A silhouette slowly fills as you meet your goals. But beware, if you have certain drinks, your intake may go down. This app is great for recognizing which beverages hydrate and which dehydrate your body.  A notification will sound on your phone about once an hour to remind you to drink water. The only drawback is that measurements are in millilitres instead of ounces so you must have a general understanding of how many millilitres are in various cups sizes.

Water Your Body – Put in your basic statistics and the app will figure out how much water you should have a day. This app uses easy icons to add your water intake, but doesn’t adjust for  different drinks. It tracks your intake over time in a handy graph and plays a running water notification sound every hour to remind you to get to your goal.

Finding it hard to stay motivated? Give these apps a try to get you to stay on track:

GymPact (iPhone, Android beta) – Need some monetary incentive to get your butt in gear? This app is perfect for you. Pick how many times you will commit to working out in a week and then make it happen . Once you are at the gym, studio, etc. “check in.” Once your GPS is verified, your workout is counted towards your total. Miss a workout and get fined. Hit your target, and you get to split the pool of money of all those who played hooky. If you also walk or run outdoors, attach it to RunKeeper for an integrated experience.

RunKeeper – Track your workouts and get coaching tips in your ear as you go. Measure your caloric burn, time, and length of run and get notified when you hit a new personal best. Share your progress or use the information to create new goals for yourself.

Let’s face facts, men and women are not created equal. Since women have other concerns regarding their bodies, here are a few apps created with women in mind:

Period Calendar/Tracker – Great for those in all stages of life from tracking your period, ovulation, or menopause. Not only can you see where you are in various stages of your cycle, but you can also add in a plethora of symptoms and moods. This app is for Android only, but for those with iPhones, try iMensies for a similar experience.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting App – Track your fertility or pregnancy and get helpful tips at the same time. Or try one of their other apps to track your baby’s development so you don’t forget a thing.

Plank Time

If you have ever been to a gym chances are that you have seen, or performed, the plank exercise. In its basic form you hold your body up in a push-up position anywhere from 30 seconds to over an hour (though I wouldn’t suggest holding for that long). While it’s an exercise promoted for core strength and stabilization, it’s actually an exercise that, when executed properly, can also work the muscles in your arms, shoulders, back and legs. With that being said, let’s talk about proper form.

1.  The easiest way to make sure you are in the correct position is to start by lying flat on the ground with your feet slightly apart. Position your hands right next to your chest so that your palms are directly under your shoulders. Make sure your fingers are spread wide. *If you have tight or weak wrists, you can perform a variation by putting your elbows on the ground right under your shoulders to prop you up.

2.  Curl your toes under and push your upper body up leaving your knees and feet on the floor. Swivel your arms (not hands) so your elbows are pointing back towards your body then lock your arms out so they are nice and straight. In this position you should be making one straight line from your head to your knees.

3.  Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down. This will prevent you from scrunching your shoulders  up to your ears. Tuck your tailbone slightly under and squeeze your abs, butt, and legs extending to a straight position. You are now in a perfect plank.

4.  Once in position, gaze slightly forward (not down or at your feet). This will keep your neck happy. You should be able to draw a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.  (No sagging back or butt sticking up). Make sure that your arms are locked, shoulders are away from your ears and your tail bone is tucked. Tucking the tailbone will save your low back and put more of a demand on the lower abdominal muscles.

Take a moment to feel your body in this position. This is where you want to be each time you get into a plank. If you’re new to this exercise, start slow with a 30 second plank each morning or night and work your way up to one or two minutes.  If you have little ones in the house, get them involved by timing you and cheering you on. Once you are able to comfortably hold a plank for a minute, you will be able to do all sorts of fun variations.

One Size Does Not Fit All

With all the information out there about what you should eat, what exercises you should do, what doctors you should go to, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed. Most people will tell you that their way is the best way, but that’s not true. Everyone is a little different, so what works for your friend might not work for you.

As with all health-related matters, you need to know your own body and be your own advocate. That means you might have to try a few things before you find the right fit. Below is a list of various fitness plans that are out now. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start to see what  resonates with you. Just remember, when it comes to losing or gaining weight, getting a stronger body, or getting to the next level, there is no quick fix or magic pill. Like anything else in life, you are going to get out of it what you put into it. Whichever plan(s) you go with, make sure to check in with your physician first to see if you have any conditions that might conflict with your chosen fitness program.

Yoga: A discipline that originated in ancient India which includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures. It is widely practiced for health and relaxation but is also great for gaining flexibility and stability in the body. Read more.

Bar Method: Is an interval training program that mixes isometric moves, dance conditioning and the science of physical therapy to create a strong, lean body. It is an hour-long, non-impact program that anyone can participate in. One potential drawback  is the cost factor, so keep that in mind if your budget is tight. Read more.

Pilates: A body conditioning routine that helps build flexibility, long, lean muscles, and strength and endurance in the body. It focuses on the core muscles and the idea of stability. All exercises have modifications that can make a workout safe and challenging for a person at any level. Like the bar-method it is a non-impact practice with a higher ticket price. Read more.

CrossFit: This is a core strength and conditioning program that is not specialized per person. It attempts to optimize physical competence in ten fitness domains. Every participant is encouraged to do the same Workout Of the Day with adjusted weight loads and intensity depending on their fitness level. Results can be seen quickly, but injury risk is high if you are not aware of your limits. Read More

Boot Camp: Modeled after military boot camps, this is a form of group exercise that combines calisthenic and body weight exercises with cardiovascular, interval and strength training. One large component is the camaraderie that is built  to motivate and  push each other to higher levels of fitness. While this type of program is cost effective, you need to make sure to pay attention to your limits and not push to injury.

Beach Body: Is a suite of in home workout materials that are primarily aimed at burning fat, though some are for strength gains as well. This program does offer results, but a lifestyle change is needed. This may not be suitable for those who need someone to push them or are not good at following movements.

TRXUtilizes a portable training tool that leverages gravity and the user’s bodyweight to execute exercises that can be scaled for anyone to reach their goals. It is based on the principle that the body is an interconnected chain of muscles and uses movements that challenge the entire body in every plane of motion. Read More.

After you have taken a look at these different work out methods, take a moment to think about your goals and your body type. Do you want a certain kind of body? Do you want more energy? Less sick days? Do you have past or current injuries? After you figure out your top goals, it will be easier to figure out which program mix is right for you.

Slow It Down

Shopping in crowded stores, delayed flights, family squabbles…it’s enough to drive anyone crazy. Today, put aside the intense workout and let the stress melt away with 50 minutes of yoga. Check out this level 3 yoga video to get you grounded and in the right frame of mind to enjoy the holidays. If you’re new to yoga, check out myyogaminute for some beginner tutorials.

Military Style

American Flag - A Picture of the American Flag

Image by jcolman via Flickr

In honor of Veteran’s Day, here’s a military inspired workout to get your Friday off to the right start. Thank you to all those that have served, and contributed to allow us to maintain our way of life.

Perform each exercise for max reps in 50 seconds with a ten second rest. You’ll go through three rounds total (15 minutes). Record your reps each round to see if you can beat it at a later date. Maintain GOOD FORM throughout each exercise. If your form starts to suffer, slow down. As always, do a small warm-up and cool down so as not to injure your body. Click on the exercise title to see images/video clips of how to perform the exercise properly.

Mountain Climbers

Start in a push up position on hands and toes. Bring the right knee in towards the chest – toe will be on the floor. Jump up and switch feet in the air, bringing the left foot in and the right foot back. Continue alternating the feet as fast as you safely can. Hips should stay as stable as possible with the abs pulled in tight the entire time.

Prisoner Squats

With feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, put your hands behind your head, elbows out and descend into a squat. Drive through the heels squeezing the butt to come back up.

Flutter Kicks 

Lie flat on your back with your feet and head approximately 6 inches off the floor. Hands are under the butt to support the lower back. Raise the left leg to a 45-degree angle, keeping the right leg stationary then raise the right leg off the ground to a 45-degree angle while, at the same time, moving the left leg to the starting position. Alternate the legs back and forth keeping them in a locked position. Feet should not touch the floor.


Start in a full plank position or with your knees down. Wrists are under the shoulders with your heart lining up between your wrists. Slowly lower yourself to the floor, pause, and then push yourself up squeezing your chest as you come up.

Plank Crawls

Come to plank on elbows and toes. Slowly crawl forward taking small steps forward on your elbows and toes. Once you have gone forward for five steps, come back for five and end in your original position. The key here is to maintain a neutral spine with the belly pulled in tight (don’t let your hips come up).

Rained Out

Photo by IVM

The cold and rain might be upon us, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your workouts. Yes, cuddling up on the couch with your Snuggie may sound fantastic, but don’t let yourself turn into a hibernating bear. Here’s a workout you can do in the comfort of your own home (and without any equipment).

Warm Up:

Jumping jacks 30 seconds

High knees 30 seconds

butt kicks 30 seconds

After your warm-up do 8 ankle rolls in each direction and then some gentle knee rolls followed by some arm windmills to warm up your shoulders.

The Main Event:

Plank 45-60 seconds

Side plank 30-60 seconds

Reverse crunches 20

Crunches 20

repeat this ab circuit 2-3 times without any rest in between then rest for 30 seconds and move on to the second circuit (below).

Push-ups (modify to knees if necessary) 10-15

Stationary lunges 15/side

Mountain climbers 30 seconds

Squats (hands out in front or behind head) 20

repeat this circuit 3-4 times with 30 seconds rest after each completed circuit.

The Cool Down:

Standing quad stretch

Hamstring stretch

Piriformis stretch

Calf  stretch