Do These 8 Underrated Exercises

They may not be fancy, but these exercises do the body good. So why are you ignoring them?

You go the gym, do the same routine day in and day out, and go home But is your routine pushing your body to be its best or are you sticking by a certain set of exercises just because you’re comfortable with them? Read on to find eight exercises that you – along with half the people in your gym – may be neglecting.

Bridges

They seem so basic, because they are. Resting on your forearms and toes, you hold your stomach tight in order to cause your body to levitate a few inches off the ground, keeping your back straight. Thanks to these stripped down, basic exercises, your body gets the basic results you want – a stronger, more supportive core.

Deadlifts

Though pictures of competitive body builders may leap in your head when thinking of deadlifts, you may be surprised that the average Joe or Jo should also be performing this underrated exercise. Why? Because you perform it one way or another almost every day. Whether picking up your child during playtime, grabbing a bag of 35-pound dog food from the bottom shelf, dead lifts are part of life. Getting better at them at the gym only makes sense.

Horizontal Pull-Ups

This one may be neglected because it’s not as available as others. Or at least it doesn’t seem to be available. To perform this, you have to find a bar relatively close to the ground. Hanging underneath it with your body extended out and feet resting on the floor, pull yourself up to the bar repeatedly. While essentially the same motion as push-ups or bench pressing, horizontal pull-ups push your body in slightly different ways and more closely mimic movements necessary for climbing and other activities.

Push-Ups

Always the underdog, push-ups are the essence of basic exercise, working out the chest, biceps, and triceps. In fact, if performed correctly, you’ll be forced to tighten your core muscles during each repetition, which adds to the shape and strength of your six-pack abdominal muscles.

Running

You probably don’t see a lot of body builders on the treadmill. That’s because they run at home. One of the most vital pieces to a complete workout regimen, running consistently improves your cardiovascular health, increases your stamina, and helps tone and shape your muscles.

Squats

Toss some weight on a rack and bend at the knees until you lower yourself toward the ground as far as possible. Return to your starting position and repeat – but do it all with precision and proper mechanics. You’ll feel the burn in your legs, but squats actually work quite a few other muscles and should therefore not be neglected in your routine.

Stretches

Often overlooked as an unnecessary part of working out, stretching is anything but unnecessary. In fact, if you want to get bigger and stronger and maintain your range of motion, the only way to do it is through stretching whatever body part you’re planning to exercise. There are stretches for every muscle, from the thighs to the calves to the biceps to the neck. With a little stretching, you give your body a chance to warm up and prevent yourself from potential injury.

Swimming

It offers a full-body workout that tests your stamina and strength. You’ve known it for years, but you still don’t take advantage of it. What kind of swimming should you get started with? Any kind of swimming will work, and swimming freestyle laps at a moderate pace is a great way to break your body into swimming shape.

And the Downside

Now that you know what exercises deserves a spot in your routine, you may be curious about some of the exercises out there that get too much credit.

The following are a few of the most overrated exercises that you may be doing with a little too much frequency:

  • lunges: they’re great in moderation, but it’s not uncommon to overdo lunges and wind up with knee problems down the road
  • bench press: very useful in defining the chest and arms, the bench press belongs in your routine; just be careful not to start and end every routine with it
  • sit-ups: yes, they strengthen your abdominal muscles, but you’ll never have a six-pack unless you eat right and get enough cardio to burn off the layer of fat covering up you abs
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Booty Building Secrets

Seems like everyone has been asking how to shape up their behind lately, so I’ve decided to let you in on a few of my closely-guarded booty-building secrets.

Most of my clients have one of the following things to say about their bum: 1) Help! My bum is too big; 2) Help! My bum is too saggy; or 3) Help! My bum is too flat.

Now let’s tackle each of these challenges with solutions that will give you the best booty ever!

I. Help! My bum is too big.
If you are suffering from an over sized behind then do the following 3 fat-blasting workouts to reduce, tighten and shape your bum.

Fat-Blaster #1: Run

Running is a great way to burn off extra body fat while developing strong glutes. Follow these 4 tips to target your glutes while running:

  1. To target your glutes focus on extending your hips and keeping your chest lifted.
  2. Roll all the way forward onto your toes with each step, in order to engage more of your glutes.
  3. Run up hills, stairs, or on the treadmill at an incline.
  4. Run on a sandy beach or gravel path – the uneven surface forces you to work harder to stabilize your lower body.

Fat-Blaster #2: Elliptical

The elliptical works well for streamlining your behind – but only when used properly. Follow these 4 tips to get the most from your elliptical workout:

  1. Posture matters. Don’t drape your upper body over the front of the elliptical machine – this will bring the focus to your quads and lower back instead of your glutes. Instead keep your back straight and posture good.
  2. Put the incline of your machine higher than seven percent. This will ensure that the emphasis is on your glutes instead of your quads.
  3. Push down with your heels with each stride. Also sink down into a squat for 30 second intervals while striding.
  4. Let go of the handles. This will force your core to stabilize you.

Fat-Blaster #3: Swim

Swimming laps is a sure way to burn tons of calories. Follow these 4 tips to get the most from your time in the pool:

  1. Start each lap with an explosive push from the wall. Place the soles of your feet flat against the side of the pool, bend your knees and explode forward with your legs.
  2. Use flippers. Sounds silly, but try a few laps with a kickboard and flippers and you’ll quickly feel the intense emphasis on your glutes.
  3. Vary your kick. Go from flutter to froggy kicks to target all of your glutes.
  4. Try some in-water squat jumps: stand in chest-level water with feet shoulder width apart, toes turned out. Bend your knees and lower your hips down then explode upward, pushing through your heels.

II. Help! My bum is too saggy.
The solution to a saggy bottom is to target your glutes. Try the following 3 bum-lifting exercises at home – these require no equipment.

Bum-Lifting Exercise #1: Hyperextension with leg curl
Lie facedown on the floor with your arms extended above your head and knees together. Bend your knees and curl your heels toward your glutes, contracting your glutes. Lower your feet back toward the floor, raise your chest and shoulders up and hold for one count before returning to the start position. Do 15 repetitions.

Bum-Lifting Exercise #2: Plank pull
Get into a plank position with hands directly under your shoulders and feet spaced shoulder width apart. Contract your core, lift your left leg with flexed foot, then raise your heel up in a quick motion for 15 reps. Keep your core contracted throughout the exercise and back flat. Repeat with right leg.

Bum-Lifting Exercise #3: Side-lying bicycle
Lie on your right side with your elbow directly under your shoulder and legs stacked on top of each other. Bend your right knee back slightly. Lift your left leg about 6 inches into the air, then draw if forward to a 90 degree angle, keeping your foot flexed. Swing your leg back, pointing your toe and extending your lower back. Do 15 repetitions and then repeat with right leg.

III. Help! My bum is too flat.
In order to build a shapely behind you’ll need to head to the gym. The following 3 booty-building exercises will give your bum a serious shape-changing workout.

Booty-Building Exercise #1: Dumbbell Squat
Place your feet wider than shoulder width apart, and turn toes out. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Inhale as you squat down, keeping your back straight and tummy pulled in. Exhale as you press up through your heels and return to a standing position. Do 15 repetitions.

Booty-Building Exercise #2: Dumbbell Lunge
Stand with feet together and a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Inhale as you lunge forward, keeping your lunging knee directly over your ankle. Exhale as you push off with your lunging heel, and return to the starting position. Do 15 repetitions and repeat on the other leg.

Booty-Building Exercise #3: Straight-legged Deadlift
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing your thighs. Inhale as you bend forward at the hips, keeping your back flat. Lower the dumbbells down until you feel a pull in your hamstrings. Keep the dumbbells close to your legs as you exhale and straighten your legs, focusing on contracting your glutes. Do 15 repetitions.

Want to get your best booty as quickly as possible? Call or email me now to get started on a unique fitness program that will get you on the fast track to your best booty ever.

Totally Thin Thighs

A leggy tutorial on what it takes to get firm, shapely thighs.

Every celebrity has them, and you want it for yourself. Fortunately, shapely thighs are not a pipedream or reserved for those who can afford to have their pictures tossed in magazines and touched up beyond recognition. In fact, even little old you can get the sleek, sexy thighs your heart desires. But you can’t keep doing what you’re doing right now if you want to reach your goal. You’ve got to make some life changes, so get to work!

Don’t Eat Late

It may be a hard adjustment, but to keep your thighs thin and shapely, you’re going to need to cut back on late-night snacks. A good rule of thumb is to stop eating after 7 p.m. Otherwise, your body may fill up on calories right before bedtime, and if you’re not awake to work them off, those calories will go wherever they want. And yes, this includes going to your thighs. If you must eat something late, make it something light, such as a salad. Before giving in and eating something late in the night, grab your discipline and go to bed.

I have flabby thighs, but fortunately my stomach covers them. – Joan Rivers

Go Cardio Crazy

Okay, so you don’t want to go completely psycho over your cardiovascular routine, but you’ll probably need to pump up the amount of cardio you subject yourself to on a regular basis. How much cardio should you be getting each day? Shoot for an hour, but get at least 30 minutes. While you may want to push yourself to your limit the entire time, doing this may add bulk to your legs. If you prefer thin, shapely legs, you’ll get the best shape if you stick with a low or moderate intensity for your routine.

Work Your Entire Thigh

Though your thighs are often thought of as a single muscle, they’re made up of a number of muscles: adductors (inner thighs), quadriceps and hip flexors (front of thighs), abductors (outer thighs), and hamstrings (back of thighs). If you don’t know whether you’re working the entire thigh, listen to your legs. If the pain is all concentrated on the front, back, or side of your thighs, then you need to get some new thigh-trimming exercises in your repertoire. If, on the other hand, your entire thigh is screaming in agony after a workout, you’re doing a good job.

Always Exercise

The great thing about your thighs is that they can be exercised with relative ease, whether or not you’re in the gym. A good exercise to begin thinning your thighs is wall sits. With your feet about a foot from the base of a wall, push your back against the wall and slide down the wall to a sitting position, stopping when your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold as long as possible. Another smart way to keep your thighs in shape is to skip the elevator and escalator and go for the stairs when shopping or making your way through an airport. A good third exercise is to begin sitting in a chair, only to stop in midair right before landing in the chair. Hold for as long as possible, plop down in the chair, and smile knowing your thighs are getting stronger and thinner as a result of a few small steps. For an added thigh-thinning boost, slowly raise yourself back to your standing position, or hold a couple notebooks full of paper for added pressure on your thighs.

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Incorporating Kids into Your Exercise Routine

…without going out of your mind.

If you’ve got young kids, you may find it challenging to set an exercise routine and stick to it. You can’t leave the house without them and if you don’t have a sitter to watch your kids or you try exercising at home, then they run underfoot, begging for your attention.

If this sounds like you, you need some ideas on how to incorporate your kids into your daily exercises – rain or shine. After all, what better way is there to spend time with your children than teaching them the importance of good health?

On the Outside

When the weather permits, there are great ways to exercise with your kids outdoors. The most convenient might be to take a walk or run outside. For parents with toddlers, grab the stroller and head around the block a few times. Some strollers are made for running and kids love to feel the breeze and see the scenery fly by. If you have an infant, they usually love to be outdoors snuggling close in a baby carrier, while you go walking or hiking on a nearby trail.

Another great outdoor activity to do together is bike riding. This is something you can do with young or old kids. With young children, a wonderful piece of equipment for any family is a bike trailer. You can ride your bike at any speed and your children sit in the trailer enjoying the breeze. If your kids are old enough, you can each ride your own bike, developing your child’s confidence and well-being at the same time.

Some of the best exercise is child’s play!

During the hot summer months, if you have access to a swimming pool, take advantage! Water gives you a great chance for exercise also. Swimming is one of the best exercises for all shapes and sizes. If you don’t like to swim around, just chasing your kids around the water or walking in shallow water are better than nothing.

If you have older kids, take a trip to the neighborhood park for a game of basketball or tennis. Or get a group of kids and parents together and play a round or two of soccer or football. Besides being great exercise opportunities for everyone, these create great memories and bonding experiences for everyone involved.

Keep It In

When the weather is cold or rainy, you shouldn’t count exercise out. Instead, either get to the gym for some complimentary babysitting while you get your own workout time or try the following at home:

  • Dancing. One thing both kids and parents enjoy together is dancing. Turn up your favorite dance tunes and get moving! Enjoy yourself and let loose, and don’t worry about looking silly, because no one is watching! If you can’t really dance, then just do some repetitive aerobic moves in sync to the music.
  • Lifting. If you have toddlers, a great strength-building exercise is lifting. Lift your child up in the air as many times as you can. They love it and your body says “Thank you” with each lift. Then get on your back on the floor and place your child on your legs and lift your legs as high as you can. Repeat these moves a few times and you’ll start to feel the burn.
  • Watching. These days you can buy workout videos for you and your kids to do together. What kid doesn’t like watching a movie? Now you can get them off the sofa and start moving to the workout together.
  • Playing. An entertaining new workout for all ages is using the wii video games to get moving. With the wii system, you can play all kinds of sports, from tennis to baseball to bowling, in the comfort of your living room.

With these indoor and outdoor exercise ideas, your kids are no longer a good excuse to not work out. Now that your excuses are gone, how will you get fit?

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Lies You Believe about Exercise

The truth will set you free…to exercise better!

Everyone falls prey to lies and myths on occasion. But if you buy into one of these and your exercise routine is affected by it, you could be in a world of danger. What lies may be affecting your ability to work out safely and with maximum results? Read on to find out.

Lie 1: Big Size = Big Strength

Okay, so the big guys are often rather strong (you won’t see a lot of skinny folks lifting cars), but you don’t have to be super beefy to be strong. Actually, too much muscle mass can make it difficult to perform certain activities. Instead of focusing on getting bigger, bigger, bigger, go for exercises that help you get in good shape, have good muscle definition, and retain your ability to move quickly.

Lie 2: Muscle Becomes Fat

Ever wished you could transform all of the fat around your midsection into rock-hard muscle? Of course you have. Unfortunately, you know you have to burn off the fat in order to make room for muscle. Likewise, the muscle you build up won’t turn into fat when you stop working out. You just think it did, because any time you stop working out, you see unwanted pounds show up with such speed.

Lie 3: You’ll Get His or Her Results

At every gym there are people with great bodies. Everything is where it should be and every muscle is well defined and shapely. To get the same results, you ask one of these model-looking individuals for the secrets to their picture-perfect bodies. You take careful notes and then attempt to mimic their every move in the gym. Unfortunately, what works for one person may not work for you. Every body is different and responds differently to various exercises. Since there is no one-size-fits-all approach to exercise, try plenty of different workouts to find out what works best for you.

Lie 4: Tons of Gym Time, Awesome Results

If spending an hour or two in the gym five days a week is good for you, then spending five hours every day pushing your body to the max is even better – right? Wrong. Overtraining your muscles and not giving them any chance to rest can actually cause your muscles to begin breaking down and going away. On top of this, you also put your muscles at risk for some serious injuries if you spend too much time exercising – especially if you’re doing the same movements over and over again.

Good Intentions

Exercise myths aren’t always created out of malice. In fact, many of them are built on what would seem to be common sense. However, deciphering between truth and fiction is the only way to ensure your workouts are safe and beneficial.

Lie 5: Slow Is Safe

Commercials that feature outdoor groups of people enjoying a relaxing class of yoga can be misleading. While yoga and pilates can be relaxing and slow-moving ways to get exercise, they can put your body at risk for some of the same injuries other exercises pose. So before hopping into an advanced yoga class without understanding what you’re getting into, start at the beginner’s level and gradually work your way up to the more advanced, demanding classes.

Lie 6: Form Doesn’t Matter

Back when you were first starting to lift weights, you worried about keeping perfect form for each rep. But over time, you began to realize that form wasn’t as important as just getting out there and lifting. Unfortunately, your epiphany isn’t based in truth, because if you lift weights or perform other exercises without using the right form, the negative results are two-fold. First, you aren’t actually targeting the muscle you think you are unless you maintain good form. Second, improper form puts you at great risk for a variety of severe injuries.

Lie 7: Genetics Are Everything

If your parents and grandparents are overweight and out of shape, it can be easy for you to expect the same fate for yourself. But don’t let your genetics get in the way of exercise. Instead, understand that you may have to make some modifications (including what you eat) to get the results you want in the gym. You may even have to change your goals to better meet your body’s abilities.

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Are You Running Right?

Run faster, better, longer, safer.

BodyRunning is one of the easiest ways to get in your daily 30 minutes of exercise. It requires no special equipment, and you can do it anywhere you find yourself. However, to get the best workout, you’ve got to do it right. Grab your running shoes, your favorite shorts, and have a seat. It’s time for a brief refresher in running that’ll have you running faster, better, longer, and safer than ever before.

Warmer Legs

Any time you start exercising without warming up, you put yourself in harm’s way. As you may guess, this is also true for running. Before going full force on the trail, sidewalk, or treadmill, take a little time to get your leg muscles warmed up nice and slow. A great way to do this is to walk for a minute or two, go into a light jog, and work your way up to the top speed you want to use most of your time running. Also, when you’re done running, don’t stop cold turkey. Walk it off for a few minutes to allow your body to cool down in the safest way possible.

Relax – It’s Just Running

When you’re trying to push your body to superhuman speeds, you may find yourself tensing every muscle in your body in an effort to muscle your way across the finish line. But you may want to change your tense-running ways. One of the tricks to running fast is learning to relax. Start out by sitting in front of a mirror and letting your entire face go loose. Pay attention to how your face looks and feels. The next time you go running, take a quick peek in the mirror before heading out the door and remember to keep loose while running, and you’ll feel better during and after your run, while keeping yourself from many bothersome injuries that are more common when you’re tense.

I always loved running. It was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs. – Jesse Owens

Listen to Your Body

Just like every other workout routine, you should pay close attention to what your body is saying when you’re out for a run. If you feel your body is about to collapse during a run, it’s time to stop. Instead of pushing yourself over the point of no return, stop running when your body tells you to, and increase your running distance gradually. If you do it right, you should be able to increase your total running distance by 50 percent every four weeks until you hit your maximum running distance.

Pick up the Pace

Plan on getting in on the next big race in your community? You’ve got to pick up the pace in your own workout. After all, if you don’t make yourself run fast during your workouts, you’re not going to be able to run fast in a race. A great way to determine if you’re increasing your speed is to count how many times your right foot hits the ground each minute and work to increase that number. A good goal is 80 touches a minute, though it may take a while to get there.

Toes and Hands

To get the most effective push forward when running, use the big toe on each foot to catapult your weight. Doing this will move you faster and help your heels avoid some of the abuse that is often the result of frequent running. At the same time you’re pushing ahead with your toes, make sure your arms are moving in the right direction: directly in front of you. Though you may naturally swing your arms left to right, doing this causes your entire body to turn with each step, resulting in extra energy being used and less energy being saved up to help you in the final leg of the race.

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Finding Cardio Effectiveness

BodyWe all love our cardio, right? Hang on… what was that? Did I happen to hear a collective sigh? Yes, cardio is usually the most hated portion of a work out. Especially if you haven’t yet found your cardio niche. Or, perhaps you have found your cardio niche… but now you’ve reached a plateau and don’t seem to be breaking through to the next level of fitness that you’re striving for. Don’t despair. There are many ways to break through those barriers, both born of boredom or lack of challenge, in order to maximize your cardio time.

Find Your Forte

That’s right. Take the time to try many different forms of cardio. Find the type of cardio that you absolutely love. It needs to excite you, to have you jumping out of bed, saying “Yes!” in the morning. Try anything and everything. Some of the best forms of cardio include the usual suspects, like running, bicycling, elliptical trainers, swimming, aerobics, rowing, and walking. Some lesser known, but still very effective, forms of cardio include skiing, dancing, rock climbing, martial arts, and team sports. Try everything. Pick your power! If you enjoy what you do, you’re going to be motivated to continue. And not just continue… you’ll be motivated to keep moving forward, to keep challenging yourself and achieving more goals. That will help prevent the plateau effect!

Find the Time

Make your cardio work out effortless, just a normal part of your day. Is there a time in which you’re most likely to work your hardest? For some people, it means first thing in the morning. They’re up, they’re focused, and they’re not being distracted by other things. Other people prefer the afternoon because they’re more energetic at that time. Again, whatever your preference may be, you need to take the time to find out. Try doing your cardio at different times. See what works best. Then make that time your cardio hour (or half hour, or 45 minutes). It takes decision making out of the equation. “Oh look, it’s 5:30pm. Time for a run.” To be honest, it doesn’t matter when you do your cardio, as long as it works for you, and as long as you’re actually doing it!

Find Your Challenge

Whether you vary the speed, the distance, the intensity, the type of movement, or the type of cardio entirely, you need to challenge your body. Don’t keep cycling 10 miles in 45 minutes if you always cycle 10 miles in 45 minutes. Try for 12 miles in 45 minutes, or 10 miles in 30 minutes. Also vary the intensity of what you’re doing within the work out.

Work out in intense bursts, and then pull back a little for a break. There is any number of combinations suggested by researchers. For example, you could cycle as fast as possible for 8 seconds, followed by a 12 second lighter intensity “rest period”. Other researchers talk about intense bursts of activity with lighter “rest periods” in terms of minutes. It’s all up to your endurance level and your ability to pay attention during your cardio!

Don’t Be Slack!

If you’re working out for an hour, but average around 60% effort, then you’re wasting that extra time. You would be better off working out for 45 minutes at 80% effort. You will save yourself 15 minutes, and your body will adapt, and therefore become fitter and stronger, at a faster rate due to the higher level of effort.

Cardio should form a part of every fitness fan’s routine, and with a little research and discovery about yourself, you can ensure that you’re making the most of the time you spend pounding those machines or pavements!

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Reduce Exercise Muscle Soreness

Body

Many people should probably exercise more often and with more intensity. Now is the time to kick excuses out the door, because you’re about to learn how to reduce your risk of sore muscles. You’ll feel so good that you will be motivated to make time in your day to exercise. So get started!

Okay, so now you might be thinking about where to start. Should you warm up or stretch first? Here’s the simple answer – both.

Start with a good warm-up to lower your risk of having sore muscles the next day. Warming up your muscles (especially the major muscle groups you’ll be using during exercise) is one of the best ways to prevent muscle stiffness and injury. A good warm-up consists of moving your body by slowly walking, gently jogging, and light participation in the activity you’re warming up for. The goal is to increase your heart rate a little bit, which increases your muscles’ temperature so they move more easily. Your warm-up period doesn’t have to take long, either. Five minutes or so will do the trick.

Once you’ve revved up your body with a good warm-up, you’re ready to start stretching. Stretches are most beneficial when you hold them for at least 30 seconds, but a good rule of thumb is to start by holding a stretch for just five seconds and work your way up to 30 seconds as your body gets used to the stretching and exercise. As you stretch, be sure not to bounce as this action can increase your risk of injury. If you’re not sure how to stretch or you want to make sure you are performing your warm-up and stretching properly, visit your local gym for advice.

It’s true that the warm-up period of your exercise is more self explanatory than stretching, so here are a few simple stretching techniques and positions that may help.

Calf stretch – This is a great stretch if you’re going to be using your legs during exercise, such as when you run or play many team sports. Begin this stretch by facing and standing about two feet away from a wall. With your heels flat and your back straight, slowly lean forward and press your hands and forehead against the wall. You should feel this stretch in your calf right above your ankles.

Hamstring stretch – You’ve likely heard of a lot of people who get hamstring injuries, so this exercise is obviously very important. Lie with your back flat on the floor and both knees bent. With your feet flat on the floor, slowly bend your right knee up to your chest, place both hands behind your right thigh and then extend your leg upward. You should feel the stretch in the back of your leg. Repeat this exercise with the left leg.

Neck stretch – This is a good stretch if you’re going to be working out your upper body, especially the shoulders. Standing upright, hang both arms by your side. Then take one arm and twist your palm so it is facing out. At the same time, grasp your head with your other hand and gently pull your ear toward your shoulder. Stop and hold when you feel the first signs of stretching along the side of your neck. Repeat on the other side.

Okay, there’s no time for excuses anymore now that you know how to warm up and stretch. Get out there and get moving and have a great time – you’re going to feel great!

The Other Side of Warming Up

Yes, that’s right. Warming up and stretching are not the only parts of a healthy work out plan. Cooling down is just as essential if you want to prevent injury and sore muscles the next day. Just like you spent a few minutes warming up your body and your muscles in order to exercise them, you should take at least five minutes to cool down the temperature in your body and muscles after a good work out.

Walking is a great way to end your exercise session, and you can even utilize many of the same stretches to cool down as you did to warm up. With a cool-down period, you give your body a few minutes to relax and return to normal functioning after exercise.

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How Fit Are You?

BodyExactly how fit are you? It’s an intriguing question. Many people over and under estimate their own fitness. Often, the fitter people get, the more critical they are of their own fitness. The ways of measuring your fitness is almost as varied as the ways you can get fit. So how do we find out how fit we are?

Measuring your fitness is important for a few reasons. Knowing your current fitness level will enable you to make clear goals for your workout program. You’ll be able to measure your fitness after some time, and see how far you’ve progressed. This will help to maintain your motivation. Finally, it’s important to know your fitness level so that you can choose the most appropriate exercise and strength training for your body.

There are four primary components of fitness that you can measure. The first is aerobic fitness. This is your endurance level, and it is dependent upon your age, gender, and improves with proper training. Aerobic fitness is directly related to the proportion of your bodyweight that is free of fat. Your level of aerobic fitness implies a level of health, and thus is a very important measurement.

Aerobic movement requires the delivery of oxygen to the muscles. Oxygen is delivered to the muscles via your bloodstream. Therefore, each heartbeat you have is an indicator of the amount of blood traveling through your bloodstream. So one way to measure your aerobic fitness is to take your heart rate, or pulse. Record your resting pulse rate, and then go for a one-mile brisk walk. Take your pulse again once you’ve immediately finished the mile, and record how long it took you to walk. As you gain aerobic fitness, your heart rate should lower. So should the time it takes you to walk the mile! The average resting heart rate for an adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Truly fit individuals can have a resting heart rate of 40bpm!

The second measurement is muscular fitness. This relates to your strength, and the endurance of that strength. Your muscular fitness can show how susceptible you are to injury. It also relates to your bone mass. A very simple way of testing your muscular fitness is with push-ups. You can time yourself, and see how many you do in that timeframe. Or, you can just complete as many push-ups as possible before fatigue sets in.

The third measurement is flexibility. This is your body’s ability to move joints and muscles through a full range of motion. It can also relate to your balance and coordination levels. A tight muscle can prevent normal movement. The most common way to measure your flexibility is via the dreaded sit and reach test. With this test, you’ll need a measuring tape. Place the measuring tape along the floor. With your feet at zero, and the tape stretching away from you, sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Try to touch your feet or stretch as far past your feet as possible. Have a friend check how far you went on the measuring tape. If you can’t reach your toes, you’ll have a negative number. If you stretch past your feet, you’ll have a positive number. Obviously, the more flexible your legs, hips, and lower back are, the further you will be able to reach in this test. One problem, though, is that your flexibility in each joint is independent of your other joints. Therefore, you may have very flexible shoulder joints, but terribly tight hamstrings.

The fourth measurement is your body composition. This tends to relate to the amount of fat on your body, and where that fat is located. The location of fat at specific sites (in particular, the waist area) places you at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. A simple way of measuring your body composition is via your body mass index (BMI). This is your body weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of your height (in meters). For example, if your weight is 61 kilograms, and your height is 1.69 meters, then your BMI calculation would be

61
(1.69 x 1.69)

That’s a BMI of 21.36. There are also charts that allow you to look up your BMI based on your height and weight. The range for a normal BMI is 18.5 – 25. You will fall into the overweight range if your BMI is anywhere between 25 – 30. Obese is anything greater than 30. Underweight is anything under 18.5.

Another important body composition test is to measure your waist. Anything larger than 40 inches for men, and 35 inches for women increases your health risks. This is particularly important to take notice of if your BMI is larger than 25.

So how fit are you? But more importantly, how fit do you intend to be? Set your goals, work your program, and watch as those numbers go down, down, down.

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Put Exercise on Your Calendar

It may be the most important event of your week.

Go here! Go there! Don’t slow down! Don’t stop! Help him! Help her!

For many, looking at a desk or wall calendar or day planner is distressing and depressing. Filled with meetings and events, the calendar can be a sign of a busy but unfulfilled life. It can also signal an unhealthy routine – especially if there is no time carved out for exercise. Putting a little exercise on your calendar may be no easy task, but the benefits are well worth the effort.

Not Easy, but Possible…

Wondering how to cram exercise in your overflowing schedule? First, grab your calendar and sit down. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. If it’s been a while since you’ve done that, do it again. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Now that you’re in your right mind, turn your calendar to the upcoming month. Hopefully there are some empty spots a few days each week. Write “exercise” on these, and add some details. Write down what time you’re going to exercise. You may want to even write down where you plan to exercise and what you plan to do. Are you going to lift weights in your garage? Play racquetball at the gym? Walk around the neighborhood? Depending on your plans, you may need a partner, and planning ahead will make it easier to find someone to accompany you.

Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness. – Edward Stanley

If there are no empty slots on your calendar, fitting in exercise will seem impossible, but keep your chin up. Take another deep breath and cross something off your calendar. Choose wisely, marking off an optional obligation only. Then cross something else off. In both their places, write “exercise.” Finally, call anyone who may be affected by your decisions and you will need to reschedule.

You can make these phone calls before rearranging your schedule, but be careful. If you’re a pushover, you may feel guilty rescheduling or canceling and you may never mark anything off your calendar. To make it a little easier, ask the people you’re rescheduling to join you while you exercise.

…And Necessary

Making the decision to add exercise to your life isn’t as easy as it should be. But it is important. Vitally important. And while you may think exercise is only for people who want to look good, you’re wrong. Regular exercise helps you feel better inside and out. But that’s not it! Exercise is the best preventive medicine available, helping every part of your body work more effectively and efficiently.

On top of all these great perks, hitting the gym on a regular basis will help when it’s time to look at your calendar. Remember how stressful it is to think about putting one more thing in your day? With an exercise regimen firmly in place, you’ll be more relaxed and less likely to feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand. You’ll even perform each individual task with gusto and more attention to detail than would be possible without including exercise in your day planner. So before you count exercise out of your life, give it a second thought. There’s probably a little room on your calendar for it after all.

Finding the Time

Okay, so your calendar really is full for the next six months and there isn’t a single company meeting, conference call, or work trip you can back out of in the name of exercise. That doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze exercise in. The following are a few ways to get exercise in your day – even if there’s not time:

  • Wake up early – Most gyms are open in the wee hours of the morning for early bird workouts
  • Stay up late – Find out how late your gym stays open and whether the classes you’d like to take are offered at night
  • Eat on the job – Run to the gym during lunch for a quick workout and eat while performing work duties by yourself
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