Tag Archives: Physical exercise

Walking in Winter Weather: Do It Safely and Know Your Limitations

This is a guest post by Eva McElwain Tucci AKA Gammianne and mom to Hungry

I think that the majority of us would agree that it has been a rather unusual and harsh winter with near record snowfalls in many areas of the country. I was always an active and physical child, however, a  Phys Ed assignment my sophomore year in High School led me onto the path of a more organized exercise regime (Thank you Mrs McCormack!!). Our assignment was to choose two sports which we either had to participate in , or choose a spectator sport. As my family was somewhat limited on funds (I am one of nine children)  I chose to roller skate, an activity which I had been attending with my Church Group for years and asked my teacher if I could design an exercise plan for myself as my second activity. Being a nerd and overall highly graded student,  I was given the go-ahead. That was in 1975 and  little did I know when I made that decision that I would be choosing a path for life .

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Although disabled in 2008 by a rather serious spinal cord injury at C5, I have been exercising since 1975 and spent many years being a gym rat.  I do routinely go to the gym five or six days a week although many of my exercises have been curtailed due to injury and I do have limitations in what I am permitted to do .

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Currently away from home , I have not been to the gym since December 22nd (yikes). Instead, I have been largely walking which has been challenging with all the ice and snow (I cannot afford a slip and fall) so I am writing about how to walk outdoors safely in this weather as I have heard too many stories about people slipping, falling and breaking bones and they are much younger than I , not to mention in physically better shape.

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The photos in this post show my daily walk. It has not been plowed and there are many icy patches as well as uneven terrain. So..what do I do ? I have been walking on top of the snow, simple enough as there is traction to be had there. Rather than walk on the pathway , which is riddled with patches of ice as well as frozen slush making for a ridiculously easy scenario to slip and fall I keep myself on the snow, which today was covered in an icy coating . I am heavy enough to make an impact but light enough not to sink in. Other days there has been more snow and I have,again, learned about limitations.

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The weather has warmed up a bit and that crunchy upper layer is uncertain. Again, I walk with great trepidation over any areas that are icy and I definitely recommend avoiding them (beware as if there is a thin coating of snow there is almost certainly ice beneath that, which is quite dangerous) . I was walking last week and the snow was not solid enough ..there was neither tracks or footprints and at points I was slipping in to the ankle while the other leg went in knee-deep. NOT smart…I did happen to fall into a puff of soft snow, and possibly , for the first time in  my life I stopped in my tracks and turned around and went back  which is something my younger and more fit ego would never have permitted.  At almost 55 and with some serious injuries I made a decision to not take the chance and that is okay .

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I still go out daily and check the terrain. Yesterday, after yet another snowfall, I went to a familiar and quiet neighborhood and walked around the streets (and in the streets when necessary) . It is almost always possible to get in some type of exercise…you need to know yourself, your limitations and be wise about what you are doing . It is always possible to stay Hungry & Fit as I am a testament to this. Hungry used to fall asleep in the crook of my body while I was doing sit-ups when he was a baby. :)

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Gym Reviews: Ironhouse Gym (Mason City, IA)

This product is a result of the work of the worker and not the place they are working. A true talent can create without any tools or resources because they make everything work by themselves. But some nice equipment and a great working environment can really help maximize those results sometimes! In Northern Iowa, about two hours from Des Moines and Minneapolis, lies Mason City, the home of the Music Man. It’s a large town with a small population but it has one of the best gyms in the country that no one knows about. Welcome to Ironhouse Gym.

Outside of the building

Outside of the building

It is what you would expect due to the name. A small building made of sheet metal that absorbs the extreme temperatures and weather conditions of Northern Iowa, but you would never know that while inside because of the great temperature control. I’m not one who cares how hot or cold it is where I workout but it’s nice for other people who have those needs. Another major perk is that the facility is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you’re a member and you have a keycard, then you can key in whenever you want. This is the kind of place I would love to have to myself at 2:00 a.m. although all of our workouts were mid-morning. The three days we were there it certainly wasn’t busy during those normally peak times, but it wasn’t empty either. All kinds of people were working out, but no one that unnecessarily threw weights and stacks around. They actually are pretty strict with behavior, which I can appreciate. If you’re deadlifting twice your body weight and need to drop it, okay I get it. Lately however, guys at our gym in Boulder (big guys) have been tossing the 35s on flat chest press like they were lifting 140s. Oh well.

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Speaking of equipment, Ironhouse has it all. I don’t want to tell you what they have because it’s like a spoiler in a good story. However, I will say that the dumbbells do not go very heavy. I think the heaviest were in the 120-140 lb range. I would expect up to 200 in such a great place but that’s fine! There are plenty of other ways to get your heavy lift on here. Full and half racks, roman chairs, captain chairs, wide chest press, elevated stand for back exercises, standing shrug machine, tons of plate loaded stuff, lots of cable and stack based machines, every bench you need, places for pullups and dips, tons of cardio equipment, and more and more and more.

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I was like a kid in a candy shop. I wanted to do something on every machine because no place in Boulder has anything like this. The only gym I have found in Colorado that can compare so far is Armbrust Pro Gym where Phil Heath trains. The amount of cable based machines with stacks is ridiculous. They have nearly 5 machines just for triceps in that section alone. It’s absurd and everything is this bright firehouse red, which is awesome. I want to go back!

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The dressing rooms are modest and the lockers are on the floor. There are no showers but who needs those anyway. There is also a supplement and apparel store attached to the gym that is open during normal business hours. They have great deals on great supplements and I bought this awesome tank the second that I saw it. They also have an honor-based mini-store in the gym itself for when the store is closed. If you need a pre, intra, or post workout you can grab it out of the mini-fridge and throw some cash in the cash box if you’re an honest man or woman. You can buy belts, lifting straps and other gear too if you need it. They have everything you NEED and a ton of stuff you WANT.

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We did a push day, lower body day, and a pull day while we were there and it was a blast. Check out the website or leave a comment if you have any questions but if you need the best gym in Northern Iowa and maybe even a greater area around that, Ironhouse Gym in Mason City, Iowa is your place. Bring one to Boulder! Bring one everywhere! Very nice employees, awesome facilities, great products, and the best equipment makes Ironhouse Gym an easy place to help you stay hungry and fit!

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Core-Po-rate Fitness (Staying Fit in the Office)

You might be thinking… why is the title written in such a manner? Well, this article is being published because of a single man who I consider to be a brother. I am sure in time you will find out more about some of my closest friends but “Po” and “Pablo” (these names are used to protect identities) are almost definitely my oldest closest friends. I have known them for the longest time of the few friends I stay in touch with on the regular. Therefore, the core comes from what you will be doing, the Po is for his name and it somewhat misspells but spells out the word corporate.

"Po" with a delicious donut

“Po” with a delicious donut

So Po texted me this morning and said that I “should do a post on a sweat-free guide to corporate fitness” because he seems to “feel all fat and bloated sitting at my office desk.” As he pointed out, “sweating is crucial to a healthy workout… but not conducive to business attire.” Well, Po is obviously very accurate in what he is saying. I know that everyone watches Bond movies and says how does Sean Connery/Roger Moore/Timothy Dalton/George Lazenby/Pierce Brosnan/Daniel Craig manage to be in such good shape and chase criminals at full speed for miles while wearing a very tight tuxedo or suit? We all know that it’s a movie and it’s very challenging to workout in that business attire for a few reasons.

Up and coming James Bond

Up and coming James Bond

First, you don’t want to ruin expensive clothes. Second, you lose a whole lot of range of motion when wearing button down shirts or skirts. Third, when you have those tight-fitting clothes on, your body temperature raises faster… causing you to SWEAT MORE. So we have to figure out how to increase someone’s physical fitness in the corporate world without sweating? Well, let’s talk about sweat, baby.

If dogs could sweat, SHE WOULD!

If dogs could sweat, SHE WOULD!

Sweat, more properly known as perspiration, is the release of fluids in mammals from two different glands that are more or less distributed over the skin of your whole body. Sweating is the body’s way of regulating its temperature in hot weather. In tropical climates near the Equator, especially in Southeast Asia, spicy foods are staples in diets because they help stimulate a sweat response which leads to water on one’s skins evaporating causing a cooling effect. Depending on the individual and many factors, the secretion of fluids can range from not so much to a ton. I have never perspired a lot, however a high school friend who captained the football and wrestling teams perspired just by sitting still. That is why we should not compare ourselves to one another and deal with your body when figuring out what you need to do. Males can perspire anywhere from 2-4 liters in an hour… which is a large range. Finally, men start perspiring much quicker than females, even though both genders have the same perspiration when they are exercising at the same intensity.

Beautiful picture of Alana sweating after a Spartacus workout

Beautiful picture of Alana sweating after a Spartacus workout

Now that we know the basics about sweating, how can we avoid it? Obviously, we sweat more when we exert more force on our muscles because they heat up and this doesn’t help our problem. We need to figure out a way to not sweat but still exert force on our muscles. It seems impossible. The issue here isn’t being able to find a way to exercise intensely while wearing business attire. It is how can we change our overall lifestyle, while coping with our occupation, in order to feel good all the time. That can be challenging when sitting down at a desk for eight or nine hours, even with a lunch break in the middle. I know how that feels when I am tied to my desk on Fridays, some nights and some weekends. So let’s outfit a day that can make us feel better because not everyone can afford a treadmill desk or is allowed to use a stability ball instead of an office chair.

Aside: That’s right everyone… there is something called a treadmill desk and you can research it more to find out about it. Otherwise, if you are working at a place where they don’t mind swapping office chairs for a stability ball, then please make that purchase and switch. Sitting on a stability ball forces you to utilize your core muscles while sitting and typically that results in better posture and a workout that lasts all day long. You can also bounce up and down and get a leg workout when people aren’t watching you! Do that in moderation and you won’t even break a sweat.

This is going to come back to the three basics of a healthy lifestyle: Exercise, nutrition, and rest. Make sure you are getting an ample amount of sleep every night before you have to wake up to go to work. I say 6-8 hours, which makes 7 seem like the magic number. Some professional athletes sleep 10-12 hours but there are studies that show that can actually have negative effects.

Make sure you are eating healthy meals throughout the day. If you are trying to stay lean, it helps to keep your metabolism fired up by spacing out 6-8 small meals that meet your macronutrient goals. If you don’t want to measure macros, then just don’t eat garbage. Eat well! Ask away if you want recommendations for office snacks that can help fight cravings for junk food and help keep your metabolism fired up.

Salad

Salad

Finally, try to get some physical activity in every day. You don’t need to hit the gym if it doesn’t fit your schedule. Fifteen minutes are all you need. I recommend working out when you wake up if you have a corporate job because then you can be happy with what you did and not have to think about what you’re going to work out for the rest of the day. Mike Chang just did a YouTube video on the same topic so check it out. But here is what I recommend for physical activity in the office to keep you loose. These are exercises that will not make you sweat but will help keep your metabolism up, joints healthy, and muscles loose.

This can make the difference! Photo from FitSugar

FlexingI’m not joking. When you flex your muscles, you are contracting them and then releasing the contraction. It’s the same thing you do with a weight but there is less resistance. When I drive for more than 3 straight hours I will typically sit straight up with my back off the chair and start contracting my abs. All of them one at a time (upper, lower, obliques) in a circuit. You can do it without thinking.

Flex!

Flex!

Bring a resistance band to work. Tie it up under your chair and do some side deltoid (shoulder) raises or front deltoid raises. You can do some curls also. If you want to wrap it around your ankles then you can do some leg extensions. Just by using proper posture and some very light weight exercises you can FEEL better. That is what this is all about.

Po is an athletic guy that is in good shape but sitting around makes him and all of us feel LAZY and bad about ourselves. Just by doing these exercises, with a range of motion that fits your attire, you can feel so much better about yourself while you are sitting down because you are trying. And a lot of these don’t take much time or effort but they can keep you loose, strengthen your joints, help stretch, and keep your metabolic rate up throughout the day. If you want recommendations about resistance tubes and bands, just ask away in the comment section below. Some are better suited for certain people. Plus, they are very easy to transport unlike heavy weights. And like I said, you can do those exercises without even thinking. Low risk of injury when using that type of resistance.

I will try to make a video of me dressed in business attire sitting at a desk doing these exercises so you get the idea but remember that this is about feeling better so do what you need to do to stay happy, hungry and fit! (REMEMBER that we are here for YOU and are willing to do posts on just about anything that you want to know more about. We will answer all requests and questions to the best of our ability no matter what the topic is related to. Just put what you want us to write about in the comment section below or email it to hungryandfit@gmail.com)

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BONUS KITTY PIC

Nymeria being cute

Nymeria being cute

Building Muscle & Losing Fat (Myths of Fitness)

Myths of Fitness might not be the greatest name for this series but it’s all we have for now. The whole reason that I made up such a boring and vague name comes from my immediate desire to spread this information. Now, I am sure that we have said this before, but it IS possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. Here I will explain it shortly without getting into detail about the scientific and specific aspects that are better explained through some links below. This is a better explanation for people who want to know the truth and those links provide the better explanations for those who want to know the reasons that make it true.

Hittin da gym in Iowa

Hittin da gym in Iowa

First and most importantly, you as an individual need to figure out what your goal is! The reason why I have a general problem with P90X, Insanity, Total Immersion Swimming, and other similar programs that are products you need to pay for is because they act like these programs are the solution to everyone’s needs. This obviously is not the case since all individuals interested in getting in better shape are different anatomically, physiologically, psychologically, etc. Basically, everyone is physically and mentally different from everyone else. So you need a program that caters specifically to your needs. While I have many problems with those products the one reason why I do like their popularity is that they are helping get people off of the couch. (Just be careful that once you get off the couch you don’t get hurt because it’s in the nature of some of those programs to accidentally let that happen.) But my rants about those products, triathlons, obstacle races, and Crossfit will come at another time. (It will be a “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”)

Going back to how I started the last paragraph… what is your goal? If you want to be massive then your goal is hypertrophy and mass gain. If you want to be super lean then you’re on the other side of the spectrum. If you want to maintain your appearance, it’s another different story. Professional bodybuilders, pro athletes, endurance athletes, martial artists, dancers, professional eaters, and everyone else on this planet should take different approaches to reaching their goals and this is where we come back to that myth of not being able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

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If you focus on one goal (I struggle with this) then it is typically easier to achieve. Or at least you can achieve it quicker. Bodybuilders go through a bulking cycle where they pack on extra mass and fat in order to help their muscles go through hypertrophy. Once they have achieved their desired size in terms of specific muscle groups, they continue to exercise rigorously while cutting. While they are in a cutting cycle, they will lower their body fat and mass significantly while maintaining a significant amount of their hypertrophic progress in their muscles. That is the end result of what you see when you watch the Olympia or the Arnold Classic. I won’t go into significant detail about their diet and supplementation other than the fact that they try to eat more calories while bulking and a caloric deficit while cutting. This is the optimal way to maximize gains in a mere aesthetic manner.

However, if you are more interested in building “functional” muscles (don’t take me using functional literally. Every workout leads to the growth of functional muscle. Some would argue that some forms are more “functional” or useful than others) then you should consider find what program suits you best. Everyone can be classified as a mesomorph, ectomorph, or endomorph. (See our old glossary of fitness terms for an explanation.) In order to find the perfect mix of macronutrients and exercise in order to build muscle and lose fat you need to go through something called… trial and error. I cannot be convinced that there is a single “adonis ratio” that calculates every person’s needs equally. We are all far too different. You can hire “coaches” to help you and guide you but be careful and make sure they have your best interests in mind. You might hear of a coach telling a client to eat under 20 grams of fat a day. Please do not listen to them. You need fat to control hormone production and for hundreds of other functions. But that is another post we’ll talk about at another time.

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Bottom Line: You can build more muscle if you are just trying to build muscle. You need the excess calories and other factors to help you gain mass. You can cut more fat is you are just trying to cut fat. You need the caloric deficit and other factors to help lose fat. However, if you are interested in doing both at the same time… you can. Obviously it isn’t possible to maintain a caloric surplus and deficit at the same time but for beginners, overweight individuals, and exceptional people it is more likely to be able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Also, depending on your macronutrients, you can “build muscle” (in various ways, not mass necessarily) while on a slight caloric deficit or a caloric balance. You won’t build quite as much muscle or lose quite as much fat, but you can still be efficient and help reach YOUR goals. Don’t listen to anyone else since you have YOUR goals and it is YOUR body. My goal right now… be happy in life. If I want ice cream then I’m having ice cream. And you should do the same because happiness is a key factor in staying hungry and fit.

Gettin' some Frisbee Golf on

Gettin’ some Frisbee Golf on

Here are two great links to two great individuals that I look up to in the scientific side of the fitness industry. Jim Stoppani provides individuals with hundreds of phenomenal workout programs… many for free. Congratulations to Dr. Layne Norton in the birth of his son. Best of luck to your family.

http://www.cutandjacked.com/CutAndJacked-Ask-Dr-Layne-Norton

http://www.jimstoppani.com/home/questions/187

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Some Help on Training Splits and Achieving Goals

This is going to be a fairly short post compared to what I can say on the topic but it was prompted by my own changing of my split. Obviously, there are many muscle groups in your body. Major muscle groups include pull muscles, push muscles, lower body, core, and so on. Some people like to split them up even further into back, biceps, triceps, chest, abs, quads, calves, and even more. Some people like to split them up even more but I won’t do that to you.

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Depending on your fitness goals, you might be trying to focus on certain muscle groups more than others. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re probably targeting all those groups equally in some intense interval training paired with lots of cardio to cut down. If you’re trying to gain mass and strength you might be methodically working out each group in detail in order to build clear-cut muscles so your arms don’t fit in your shirt. Either way, it is very intelligent to plan your approach to achieving your goals.

Every personal trainer initially assesses their client’s health conditions, background in fitness, personal goals, nutritional plan and diet and so forth. This information helps the trainer create the most fitting workouts and lifestyle for their client to achieve these goals. Even personal trainers and professional bodybuilders have trainers and nutritionists that help them achieve their goals so don’t think that you’re too good or smart for some help. It’s always helpful to have someone objective pushing you and leading the way, constantly motivating you to achieve your own goals. It’s hard for me to push myself to failure when I don’t have that motivation or person telling me try harder. Whatever your motivation might be, some extra push can help if the person with you knows what they are doing.

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Splits have many depending factors, such as time. How often do you plan to do strength workouts? Every day? Every other? Maybe every 3 days. Depending on which one, you want to plan your workouts accordingly to give enough rest and recovery time. What happens when we don’t give ourselves proper recovery time? We overtrain and lose progress. So plan to give yourself proper rest in between each muscle group to avoid overtraining.

You typically wouldn’t want to go to the gym and work your chest out every day. This would not allow proper time to recover. Depending on your personal recovery rate, you may be ready to workout a certain group every other day, although that is rare. I typically allow somewhere around 4 days before repeating a workout that is targeting the same muscle group if they are intense workouts. If you plan on doing full body workouts multiple times a week and are not trying to gain massive amounts of strength, power, or size, less rest is necessary.

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Some of the greatest bodybuilders of all time have claimed to workout only two to three times a week while some workout six days a week doing double sessions every day. No matter what you decide, to do make sure you are allowing proper recovery time. If you have any questions about how to fit “cardio”, strength training, performance training or whatever you do together to maximize results, please let us know in the comment section below. With these tips, we hope you can stay even more hungry and fit!

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5 Ways to Firm Up Your Glutes

No matter what gender we are, we all want to have nice glutes. And besides aesthetics, the stronger our glutes are, the more powerful we are. Think of when you feel your glutes: walking up the stairs, the beginning part of sprinting, and standing up from kneeling or squatting. Improve your gluteal muscles and you will get up the stairs faster, be able to run and sprint faster, and spring up from the ground like a ten-year old. These are 5 simple exercises that can be performed anywhere!

1. Doggies. You’ve heard me talk about these beforeand I will again because it’s such a great exercise for the glutes! And the more you do without stopping, the better workout it is for those muscles. Go on your hands and knees, kick your leg back and then rotate it around to starting position, keeping the leg in line with your hips. Keep going until you can’t and then go right away to the other side.

2. Hip bridges. This can be done with or without a stability ball. Lie on your back with your feet on the floor, knees bent. Now, lift up, bringing your hips and glutes up. If you want a deeper exercise, you can go up on your toes to get higher. Come down, but don’t touch the floor. Continue up and down, squeezing the glutes at the top until failure. If you want to use a stability ball, simply put your calves on top of it and do the same motion.

3. Box jumps. For this, you can use an athletic box, stepper, a chair, a couch–anything that is raised and stable. Focusing on using your glutes, spring up with both feet and jump onto the top of the box. Try to synchronize so both feet hit at the same time. This is also a cardio workout if you do it repeatedly. Slightly squat down so you can get power, and jump up!

4. Step ups with leg extension. This is different from regular step-ups. Have something similar to what you had for box jumps–a box, a stepper, a chair, a couch, whatever you can find. Now step up with one leg, and extend the other as high as you can behind you which clenches the glutes. Now do the same on the other side. Do this until your glutes and hips cramp up so you can’t do another (aka until failure!).

5. Bobbing squat. You will really feel the burn with this one. Get into a squatting position and hold. Now bob your hips and glutes up and down in little motions. Go for as long as you can until the burn is just too much. Don’t forget to time yourself and try to beat your own record!

So if you’re looking to have buns of steel for the summer time, or better, for your lifetime, make these few exercises a part of your routine. They’re easy to remember and simple to do (though they burn if you do it right!), giving you no excuses not to have the glutes of your dreams! Click here if you’re looking for an over-all non-machine leg workout! Use these exercises to stay…hungry and fit! 

BONUS KITTY PIC

Nymeria found a nice little spot

Nymeria found a nice little spot

6 Exercises You Should Be Doing Over 60

And even if you’re not over 60–these exercises help everyone. I work a lot with the older population and it’s never too early to make sure you age gracefully. Even as we get older, more stiff, and less agile, it’s still–no, MORE–important to exercise and keep active. The more we move, the better we feel.

The body strongly dislikes being inactive and has a way of turning on the body. Whether that means weight gain, arthritis, stiffness, and/or loss of flexibility. Just to name a few. Another big loss as we get older is balance. Falls are one of the biggest problems for seniors, and it’s never too early to start practicing. Try at least 3 of these each day:

1. Calf raises. Stand up straight. If you’re unsure of your balance, make sure you stand near something to hold onto (a chair, wall, anything sturdy). Rise forward onto your toes, leaving your heels off the ground. Slowly come down. Do 12 repetitions for 3 sets. 

2. Rotator cuff stretch. This one requires a resistance band or tube. As we get older, we notice our shoulders deteriorating faster and getting injuries easier. Use this exercise to make sure you don’t hurt your rotator cuff. Tie the resistance band around a pole or bed post. Stand a few feet away and grab the other end. Rotate your elbow like a door hinge towards you and slowly back out. Control is the key here. Nice and slow, really use those muscles. Switch on other side. 12 repetitions for 3 sets.

rotatorcuffImage Source

3. Single-leg balance. It’s as simple as it sounds. Make sure you have something nearby to hold onto and lift up one leg, so that you’re standing just on one. Hold it for 20 seconds. Switch. Do 2 sets.

4. Laying twists. This is a great stretch for flexibility and stretching out your muscles–especially in your back. Start by laying down and spreading your arms into a T. Now drape your right leg over your left and look towards the right. You want to make sure your hips are twisting. If both shoulder blades are not on the ground, you’re moving your leg a little too far for your body. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on other side. Do 2 sets.

5. Opposite lifts. This is a core-strengthener. Lay down flat on a mat, arms by your side. Lift up the right arm and left leg at the same time. Now, you only want to lift the leg about 6 inches maximum from the ground. This is the point where your tummy really has to work to keep it up. Contract your abdominals. Lower both extremities, and perform on the other side. 12 repetitions for 3 sets. 

6. Cat/cow rotation. This is taken from yoga. Go onto all fours. When you inhale, lift your head up and invert your spine. When you exhale, move your head down and arch your back. Do about 10 rotations, 2 sets. 

Again, these are good for ANYONE. But especially if you’re over 60, put this into your routine. Either when you get up in the morning, during a commercial on TV, or before bed–make time for it. After all, it is your health. If you’re having trouble coming up with a routine and sticking to it, a personal trainer will probably be able to help. And we can always answer questions here.

Cheers! And as always…stay hungry and fit!

Quick Home Workout (Starting at Just 10 Minutes!)

So you really don’t have a lot of time, but you want to get some kind of cardio and strength activity in. Maybe you’re running off to see Jack the Giant Slayer in 15 minutes, but you want to get some muscle work in (hmm, sounds familiar…). This one ended up being a great core blaster with great upper body work as well.

home workoutAnd that’s my delightful chicken scratch! Do as many sets as you have time for. You can do one set in 7-10 minutes, depending on how long you last until failure. The weight for curls, rows, and press is up to you! You should get a light sweat and feel it in the abs and upper body, at least I did. Do them right, no rushing! If you have any questions on the exercises, feel free to comment and ask!

Cheers! And as always…stay hungry and fit!

Listen to Your Body

Listen to your body. It is a simple rule that many many many of us tend to forget, including myself. Well, perhaps forget is a rather passive word, but instead ignore. And what do we do? Keep pushing our bodies even though it’s saying, “Um, hi! I’m done now, please stop!” Many of us will call this “wimping out” or just a complaint that can be pushed through. But that is where you need to acquire a skill.

This skill is understanding and knowing your own body. Picking up on the language that your body uses to communicate with your mind. Often, beginners to fitness are a little out of tune with this language. It’s taken one of my clients several months to come to the point where he can really tune into his body and understand when it is telling him to stop or push just that one rep farther.

Working it right

Working it right

Take the time in your next workout to feel out what’s going on with your body. Try to learn the difference between muscle pain (good) and joint or tendon pain (bad). If your muscles are filling with lactic acid, you can feel that pressure, that burning pain, but you know you can just do one more rep to push your body to the proper place. And if you feel your elbow joint or rotator cuff hurting with a sharp pain as you continue to bench press or curl, you know to stop before pushing yourself to injury. You have to walk that tight rope of pain. You have to know which is which.

If you’re unsure, ask a trainer. Point out what’s bothering you and they can tell you if that’s A-OK (ripping muscle fibers to make them stronger!) or a big NO-NO (overly-stressing a joint or ligament). If they’re a good, quality trainer, they will want to help you. Don’t be afraid of asking. It could save you an injury or make a workout that much better.

Chris taking a rest day with the kittens

Chris taking a rest day with the kittens

Don’t be (too) stubborn. Now here, I really need to take my own advice. Tonight we did a chest and triceps workout (here’s a sample). My (we think) rotator cuff has been a bit strained and stressed lately and can get pretty painful with certain exercises like push-ups, chest press, shoulder exercises, and other triceps exercises on the bench. I endured it pretty well tonight, but it kept me from completing as full sets as I would like. However, even though I wanted to push myself harder, I knew that it was worn out after a good number of supersets. I wanted to do another superset or so, but I held back. I didn’t want to seriously injure anything. Often, I can be way too stubborn for my own good, but here is a prime example of listening to your body.

Working myself to a good place where my skin needs to get tougher!

Working myself to a good place where my skin needs to get tougher!

So next time you’re in the weight room or out on a run, keep a finely-tuned “ear” to your body and listen to it!

Cheers! And let us know if you have any questions!

Starting a Balance Program: It’s Never Too Early!

Working at a YMCA, I work with an older population a lot of the time. This means lots of balance work. Using different exercises, different times, tempos, and so forth in order to prevent adaptation or plateauing. But the thing is, they seek me out because at their age, they have awful balance. However, if you start balance training earlier than later, you will be a happy camper. Proper balance training prevents falls and increases muscles endurance and strength in hips, buttocks, core, and small muscles of the feet. It’s time you started a balance routine today.

It doesn’t have to be a huge long thing. It could even be one balance exercise before your workout to start out. However, if you have the time, I would suggest doing a 20-minute balance routine 2-3x a week. At least!

Benefits of doing a Balance Training Program:

  • Better strength in smaller muscles
  • Stronger core
  • Reduced chance of falling and injury
  • Helps improve the connection between brain and muscles
  • Burns calories as your body struggles to stabilize

Yes, even my younger clients have complained of tiny muscles in the feet, or their hamstrings, or their hips being sore the next day due to efficient balance training. So now it’s time to start your own. Like I said earlier, at least do one balance exercise before your workouts, better to do more, if possible. Here is a list of great balance exercises to add to your routine:

  • Single-Leg Balance. This one is simple. Stand on one foot, posture straight, shoulders back. If you have poor balance or feel unsteady, have a wall nearby to hold onto when needed. 30 seconds each leg.
  • Single-Leg Balance, Eyes Closed. Same as above, but with the eyes closed. Closing the eyes throws the body off, makes it unsure of where it is. Thus, you get more wobbly. Working on this will improve your proprioception (aka, your body’s awareness of where you are even with eyes closed). 30 seconds each leg.
  • Airplane. Stand on one leg and lean your body forward, spreading your arms like wings of a plane. The goal is to get your body (torso) completely parallel to the ground, including the leg that is off the ground. This one is a killer for the glutes and hamstrings. 30 seconds each leg.

  • Heel to Toe [Drunk Walk]. Yes, it’s what you think it is. Imagine you get pulled over and a cop makes you walk in a straight line. I want your heel to touch your toe every time. Back and forth twice.

  • Windmill. Similar to the single-leg balance, but instead of keeping your arms still you are going to cycle them like a windmill. 30 seconds each leg.

  • Supine Leg Raise. For this one you need a foam roller. Place it along your spine, and far up enough that you can rest your head on it. You can touch your hands on the ground, but the goal is to do it with no hands. Slowly raise a leg up and lower it. Then alternate. 12 reps on either leg.

  • Single-Leg Rotation. Stand on one leg, raise the other so that your thigh is parallel to the ground. You can hold your arms out or put them on your hips. For me, it helps to hold them out. Now, slowly turn either to your left or right (depending what foot you’re on). Then come back. This is all on one leg. And you need to do it slowly. Control the muscles. 12 reps on both legs. 

  • Single-Leg Lift & Chop. Same position as the previous one. But this time I want you to lift your arms up and chop across the body, far down. Look at the picture, but without the medicine ball. It is important to not use your momentum. Use your muscles. Control. 12 reps on both legs. 

  • Seated to Standing. This one is simple. Without pushing your hands on your knees to get up, stand from a seated position. 12 reps. 

  • Stability Ball Leg Raise. Most gyms should have them. If you don’t have one, and don’t go to a gym, get one–it’s worth it. There are lots of exercises you can do with it. For this one, preferably with your hands up (you can hold your hips if you need extra stability), slowly raise your leg to full extension. Then slowly lower. Alternate. 12 reps on either side. 

  • Bosu Ball Stand. This one is simple, but there are many variations. Simply find a bosu ball, and stand upright. You may feel wobbly but attempt to stabilize yourself. If this is too easy, close your eyes. If this is still too easy, march your feet. 30 seconds. 

Remember, folks, you don’t have to do all of these. I’m giving you a big list so you can pick and choose, try new ones different days. And if you have poor balance or need more stability, do these with a wall, a rail, or a chair to hold on to. Safety first. Always. You are never to old to start balance training. There are so many benefits. It’s not a waste of time and it will save you big time in the future. Try it out.

Cheers!