Tag Archives: Physical exercise

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)

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.

Busted Excuses

Photo by IVM

Today is the start of Lent in which many Christians commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxury as a form of penitence. Religious or not, I invite you to use this event as a day to give up something else that has been holding you back; excuses. We think of excuses as being truths that pardon our behavior, but in reality they are just reasons that we give to make us feel better about not doing what we know we should.

Until the end of March (and hopefully beyond) bust those excuses you normally dish out and start to creating healthy habits. Too tired to workout? Go for a less intense workout like walking or a game of frisbee. Feeling sick? Recuperate with healthy foods and do some gentle stretches to stay limber and move the toxins around. Too busy to exercise? Take the ten minutes that you would spend surfing the web and do some push-ups, crunches, or marching in place at your desk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Want to buy that pastry that you “deserve” because you just worked out? Reach for a parfait or fruit cup instead so that you don’t negate the good work you just put into your body.

Don’t let your mind get in the way of your goals. The next time you want to reach for an excuse, reach for your workout gear instead. Just remember “Ain’t nothin’ to it, but to do it.” Maya Angelou had it right, don’t make healthy eating and healthy living more of an affair than it needs to be. Before your mind has a chance to talk you out of it, take the small steps now to get huge rewards later. Get the healthy food options, get off the bus a few stops early and walk, and push yourself a little further each day.

I hope you accept my invitation to be excuse-free for the next forty days and see what positive benefits result. I’m in, are you?

Staying on Track


Photo by IVM

Many people who want to lose weight are motivated to stay consistent with their workouts and healthy eating, but when they go out with friends or travel, they find it difficult to stay on track. Truth is, we all get minor setbacks anytime we are reaching for a goal. The best way to keep moving forward is to acknowledge these slips, learn from them, and continue progressing.

That being said, here are a few tips to stay on track whenever you’ve got a full social calendar or trip ahead of you.

1. Plan ahead

At the beginning of the week take a look at your schedule and add in work out times that make sense for that weeks activities. If you are going out of town make sure to plan out your exercise. Get up a little earlier and go for a walk or run, find a local gym that you can access, or look up a no-equipment workout that you can knock out in 30 minutes. *And don’t forget to pack the proper clothes and shoes.

2. Set some limits

It’s hard to set drink limits when you hand over a piece of plastic to the bartender, but when you have cash in hand, it’s less likely you’ll go overboard. Determine a drink limit for yourself and then withdraw a set amount of cash from the ATM. Only use the cash you’ve taken out…no more ATM trips.

3. Be food ready

Most healthy eating plans get derailed at happy hour so be sure to have a plan of attack. Checking out the menu online before you go will give you a better chance of picking out a healthy option. If there aren’t any, you can make sure to grab a quick (healthy) snack on your way there.

If you are traveling to a place where there are limited healthy options, bring a couple of portable healthy snacks with you – low fat string cheese, trail mix, nuts, granola, etc.

Engaging the Abs

Photo by Noah Kavic

Have you ever done sit-ups and ended up with a sore neck instead of sore abs? Truth is, there is more to engaging your abs than just moving your body up and down in the sit-up position.

Our body is made up of two systems:  the stabilization system and the movement system. While the movement system is comprised of the superficial muscles that we see in the mirror, the stabilization system is responsible for the strength within the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex that allows us to maintain our overall balance. And, just like building a house from the foundation up, we too must build up our core from the inside out. That means we need to learn how to engage the transverse abdominus (TA) muscle that runs horizontally, wrapping around the front and sides of your body like an internal girdle. When you contract this muscle, it initiates movement in the rectus abdominus, internal, and external obliques.

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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

Push Through

When things get difficult – in life or in your workouts – your mind and body will look for a way out. Sometimes  it is our body that will adjust to make a movement easier, but sometimes it is our mind that will talk us into quitting early so we can let go of any discomfort. However, pushing through even when your mind and body tell you to stop will strengthen the commitment to yourself and your goals.

It is when we keep good form despite the burning in our muscles and the voice in our head telling us to stop that the benefits of exercise come to fruition. Most people fail to push themselves to force a new level of fitness in their body, but with some forethought you can get yourself to the next step.

1. Write it out

Start your workout with a plan of what you will do including how many reps, sets, weight, time, distance, etc. that you want to complete. Don’t forget to include rest time (between 30-60 seconds) in between sets or circuits. Having something in writing will further your commitment to the exercises you have set out for the day.

2. Relax!

Sometimes when our head takes over, our muscles tense up and our body is not free to work in the way it can, and should. Take a deep breath and relax into each movement. Find a rhythm, let gravity do it’s job, and trust that your body will know the best way to move. Don’t over-think.

3. Mental Control

Our bodies are strong and complex systems that are more powerful than we give them credit for. Next time you feel discomfort (not pain) during an exercise, stick with it and focus instead on your breathing or form. Many times it is our own mental blocks and not our bodies that hold us back, so changing the focus can get you through an intense exercise or workout.

4. Bring a friend

If you are the competitive type, or you tend to cut your workouts short, link up with a buddy. Having another person with you can help motivate you and keep you on track.

5. Let it go

There will be some days that we are more flexible or energetic than other days. Once your body starts to lose proper form it is a signal that you have pushed as far as you can go to get results. Continuing any exercise with improper form doesn’t help you to reach your goals, it just leads to risk of injury.  Take this as a signal to move on to another exercise, slow down, or end your workout for the day.

*If you were able to accomplish more than expected during your workout (longer distance, more weight, reps, etc), keep notation of your progress. Keep these achievements in a mental file to help get you through a future workout.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Many people make the same breathing mistakes during a workout; they hold their breath, or breathe at the wrong time. Both of these things not only make your workout harder, but it can also lead to dizziness, headaches, and additional stress. None of which are fun. Slowing down our breathing doesn’t always come naturally in our fast paced world, so if it feels strained at first don’t despair. Keep practicing and soon it will become second nature.Next time you work out, keep these tips in mind:

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Turn it up!

Getting pumped up for a workout isn’t always easy, so why not let your music take the lead?

My favorite site for getting some music inspiration is  IntheGym.net which features workout playlists for all occasions (cycling, running, interval, etc.).  My current fave is Tough Cherries. Click to listen on Grooveshark.com. Enjoy!