Monday, September 27, 2010

Killer Treadmill Workout!

                I find that running on a treadmill can be very tedious (especially if there’s nothing good on TV at the gym) and I don’t do it as often as I should because it bores me too much. A few years ago when I was struggling with this and struggling to lose that last 10 pounds I talked it over with a personal trainer I worked with at a physical therapy facility. He gave me this awesome workout that totally kicked my butt! I was in good shape, but this was so hard and I was determined to beat it (I can be ridiculously competitive). I’m sharing it with you in hopes that next time you think of your treadmill run with dread, you can use this to keep it exciting. It’s very hard so if you’re a beginning runner, please don’t let this scare you away from running, modify it so that you can do it and then work your way up. Working out should be fun so if at any time you decide you hate this and you’re cursing the day you ever took my advice, modify! Modify it so it’s exciting for you and will keep you going. So, the workout….

3 min
4.0 mph
1 min
4.5 mph
1 min
5.0 mph
1 min
5.5 mph
1 min
1 min
1 min
Repeat steps 2-7 for a total of 3 times through.
5 min

                It should take you a few weeks to really get use to this routine but once you do, step it up to 2 min per interval. Once you’re use to that, step it up to 3 min each. You do NOT need to do this workout every day. You need time to recover. If you like to run every day, go for it but reserve this workout for every other day. Do a different run in between or even a different type of cardio. The following is a list of modifications you can make to make this workout easier for you if you need to work up to it:

1. Start the inclines lower. Do an incline of 5-4-3-2-1-0 until you can successfully complete the workout at that incline. Then take it up to 10-8-6-4-2-0. If you really want to gradually build it up here’s a combination you can do to work up to it:
Day 1: 5-4-3-2-1-0
Day 2: 6-5-4-3-2-0
Day 3: 7-6-5-4-2-0
Day 4: 8-7-6-4-2-0
Day 5: 9-8-6-4-2-0
Day 6: 10-8-6-4-2-0
In 6 runs (remember, you don’t want to do this every day) you’ve built up to the workout and are ready to move it on up to 2 minutes at each interval.
2. Start slower. You can pace it slower so that you are more able to complete the workout without stopping. For instance, you could start off at 3.0 mph and move up by 0.5 mph at each incline change.
3. If you can only make it through once, work on that. Then work on completing the workout twice. Once you’re use to that, go to three times through.
4. Work at a shorter time. 1 minute too much? Move to 30 seconds at each interval. With only going 30 seconds, you have to make your changes in incline and speed quickly otherwise your time will be up before you can fully make the change. I don’t necessarily recommend doing 30 seconds because of this, but if this is what you prefer, start with that.

                I love to have my butt kicked during a workout but if you’re not up for that or if that’s not your style, use some of these modifications to help you fit the workout to your liking. You have to keep your cardio routines fun or you won’t keep doing it. Grab your mp3 player, load it up with intense, fast pace music and hit the treadmill!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Keeping Cardio Fun

                One of the biggest problems we have with keeping up an exercise routine is that it gets boring after a while. If you workout at home you tend to slack off when your 1 workout DVD becomes so familiar to you that you can’t stand to do it anymore. (I now hate Bob Harper after doing the Biggest Loser Cardio Max over and over and over….) The secret to keeping up a cardio routine is to make it fun and change it up!
                You local gym is bound to have aerobics classes you can go to. At 24-Hour Fitness you can find aerobic and step classes, boot camp, dance, cycling, kickboxing, Zumba and more! Gold’s Gym offers similar classes. Many local gyms have various classes you can attend as well, and most gyms offer these classes free of charge (well, besides you membership obviously). Since you’re not dishing out the extra cash to go to these classes, try different ones out to see what you like. The instructors do different routines for all of their classes so even if you go to the same class with the same instructor you will get a different cardio routine each time. They may repeat certain elements but the workout is different. Going to classes like these are really fun and you get a chance to get to know other people in the class and you can even develop a support system to help keep each other on track. Some of the various classes you can take are listed below with a short description of each.

Spinning: Spinning (or cycling) is different than getting on a stationary bike in the cardio room of the gym. The bike is totally different and the workout is much more fun. The instructor will usually teach you the terms they like to use in spinning and how to do the moves (yes, there are different moves in spinning) and then they will guide you step-by-step through the whole workout. The workout is set to music that keeps you on pace (for more on pacing click here) and the music keeps you focused and motivated to kick butt to the end!

Pilates Pulse: I don’t know what kind of pilates you’re use to, but I took a Pilates Pulse class at 24-Hour Fitness and it totally kicked my butt! It was more than toning although you can be sure I was plenty sore afterwards. The moves are done more quickly and the music is more upbeat than relaxing like most pilates classes and it sure had my heart pumping!

Kickboxing: Kickboxing is so much fun. It teaches you self defense while getting a good 
workout. Most gyms offer cardio kickboxing which requires no equipment but some gyms do offer kickboxing classes where you are hitting and kicking a standing bag. I recently tried this and even taught it at the high school level and I had a blast with it. Both ways are fun. You do have some choreographing to keep up with but it’s not like a dance class where you’ll feel completely stupid if you can’t move your body just right.

Zumba: A lot of people I know love Zumba and have become addicted! A lot of gyms are starting to offer these classes now because of its skyrocketing popularity. Zumba is a form of cardio dance that tones and sculpts while you dance. The music is great and the classes are very upbeat and fun.

Step Aerobics: Step aerobics are NOT a thing of the past! Just because you think of calf-covering scrunch socks, belted leotards, and the big hair of the 80s doesn’t mean it’s not a good workout anymore! Many step programs have updates their moves and music to create a fun, challenging workout. I recently taught step aerobics at a high school and we had a blast with it. We used more modern music and more athletic steps and it was great. More and more instructors are moving over to that style and it’s a great workout.

                There are so many more cardio classes out there to try so go try them all! Your local city fitness center usually has a lot of classes to choose from with the cost included in your membership. If you don’t have a membership to you city fitness center, classes are usually a few dollars per class when you go. If you have to work out at home, here are a few tips to help you keep up a fun cardio routine:

1. Have a variety of workouts. I have about 10 different cardio DVDs at home and I like to cycle through them. I went on a Biggest Loser kick for a while, I just finished a 2 month kick with Leslie Sansone’s 5 Day Slim Down, and have since moved on to Turbo Jam (which I LOVE!). As soon as I start to get bored with my video, I change it up and do something different for a while. You can find a lot of great DVDs at the Turbo Fit Store. I recently bought one of Leslie Sansone’s DVDs for $1.49 off the Turbo Fit Store so check it out!

2. Keep it fun! If it’s not fun for you, you’re not going to do it. Don’t go out and buy a cardio dance workout unless you think you’re going to like it. I’m not a dancer but I bought a Dancing with the Stars video and I’ll be honest, I don’t get it out much because I don’t enjoy dancing. If you’re not sure what you like, go to your local city fitness center, pay a few bucks and take various classes to see what type of cardio you enjoy. If you enjoy your workout you’re more likely to stick to it, and you’ll burn more calories simply because you’re really enjoying it and getting into it more than you would with something you didn’t like to do.

3. Ease yourself into it. If you’re not in very good shape right now, start easy and build up. Don’t go out and buy P90X or Insanity until you think you’re ready for it otherwise you’ll quit after your first workout and never go back. Start with low-impact aerobics, something you enjoy doing (remember tip #2) and work your way up the intensity scale. When you’re finally ready, then go out and do the intense, butt-kicking workouts like P90X or Insanity.

                Change it up, keep it fun, and work at your level. Cardio doesn’t have to be this terrible thing you have to do. Find what you like to do and do it! Tell yourself you want to do it. You’ll feel better, look better, and you’ll have the energy to take life on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Leslie Sansone's 5 Day Slim Down

I bought this DVD somewhat ashamed… I was a little worried my hubby would make fun of me for doing an old lady workout video (so far he has not said a thing) but I really needed more ways to stay in shape while being confined to the house. We recently moved to Henderson, NV and when it’s 110 degrees outside at 9 in the morning, you can’t really do much out there which took away all of my cardio options. I got sick of my Biggest Loser Cardio Max DVD because it had a ton of lunges and that really bothered my knees and my lower back so I was finding more and more reasons not to do it anymore.
I trained for a ½ marathon with a really good friend of mine from January until May in Utah. As you know, Utah is cold and snowy in the winter so some days we weren’t able to actually go running because we were taking our babies with us in jogging strollers and we didn’t want to subject the babies to that. Instead, my friend bought one of Leslie Sansone’s DVDs and we would do 4 miles right there in her living room. This particular DVD had faster paced miles on it but the 5 Day Slim Down is what I have right now and I faithfully do this workout every day. Sometimes if I don’t wake up earlier enough to beat my little girl awake, I only do 1 mile but most days I do two or three in a row so I end up doing each mile several times per week. The first mile is what she calls a “Classic Mile.” It’s a lot like what her Walk Away the Pounds series is like. Day two is an arm sculpting mile, day three is legs, day four is abs (yes you can work your abs while walking) and day 5 is a faster mile.
There are a few places where Leslie doesn’t cue things right or she’s a little bit off and she has a habit of telling you “only __ more!” and going way past that but really, once you do the mile a few times you come to anticipate those places where she doesn’t cue great and it’s fine. Sometimes I don’t even have to listen to her anymore because I know exactly what’s coming and when based on the music that’s playing. Leslie is really fun and inspiring and she really motivates you to keep it up. Some videos (*ahem* Biggest Loser…) kind of yell at you to keep moving your fat butt and so on but she’s not like that at all. She’s very pleasant to listen to. I never thought I’d work up a sweat while doing a walking video but I do every time! I love the low impact nature of it because my knees and my back don’t do too well anymore with too much high impact and it’s a lot of fun to do! I love every video of hers I’ve tried so far so I’m sure you can’t go wrong with one of her workouts! Check them all out!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tips to Cut Calories at Breakfast Without Starving!

                So if you’ve ever paid any attention to the nutrition facts on your cereal box (let’s face it, most of us don’t even notice it) you’ll see that a serving size of cereal is quite small. Most that I’ve seen range from about 1/3 to 1 cup of cereal. Here’s a secret, cereal companies purposely do nutrition facts serving sizes small so you think your cereal is healthier. Sure your cereal may be 100 calories per serving but it that serving is 1/3 of a cup you’ll be starving before you finish the bowl! My body is slowly craving what I like to call “adult cereals” in the mornings and so I’ve slowly made the switch from the sugary cereals of my youth to “adult cereals” while trying not to compromise the sweetness I love. Instead of Corn Pops and Captain Crunch I’m more into Quaker Oatmeal Squares and Multi-Grain Cheerios. (P.S. Those sound like boring adult cereals but I promise they’re not!) Switching over from sugar cardboard cereal to healthier, more whole grain cereals is a sure-fire way to cut calories at breakfast simply because you don’t need to eat much of it to feel full (and if you get the right ones they still taste amazing!)
                So like I said, I switched to my “adult cereals” but I didn’t notice too much of a change. I did feel fuller longer but I wouldn’t say the pounds fell off or anything. As a fitness and nutrition expert you’d think I would try to implement things in my own life but I’m a little stubborn. It takes me a while. I finally plucked up the courage to *gasp!* measure out my cereal and milk this morning to get the correct serving size. 1 serving of Quaker Oatmeal Squares (my favorite) was 1 cup of cereal and had 210 calories in it. I never noticed before how many calories were in 1 serving. Really, if you eat the actual serving size, this isn’t much. I measured out 1 cup of the brown sugary squares and quickly realized I easily eat 3 or 4 times that much in a serving (I’m not kidding when I say I love this stuff). For about 30 seconds I had a very powerful internal struggle. Could I cut back to 1 cup all at once? How about if I just eat 2 cups instead? That’s still less than what I normally eat. Then the voice of reason popped it. That’s still 420 calories before I’ve even added milk and everyone knows more cereal means more milk which means more calories. I could easily have a 500 calorie breakfast or more!
                Needless to say, my healthier self won. I ate just the 1 cup with ½ cup of milk. And you know what? I was fine. I didn’t die. In fact, I ate an apple a few minutes later to get some fruit into my breakfast routine and didn’t even finish it I was so full. Every morning I regularly (and needlessly) take in 500+ calories just at breakfast but today, I cut back to roughly 300 calories and I felt just fine. I didn’t even need lunch earlier. I saved 200+ calories on breakfast alone and I picked up some extra motivation to eat better the rest of the day. I swear I haven’t even had a piece of chocolate yet.
                In light of my recent willingness to explore my breakfast options and cut calories I’ve come up with a list of tips on cutting calories at breakfast without starving yourself. These are tried and true, tested methods (though stubborn people like me take a little longer to implement them). Following these tips could spare you 1400+ calories per week which is close to ½ pound of fat per week.
     1. Choose healthier, whole grain options for breakfast, whether that be whole grain bread for your toast/French toast in the morning, whole grain waffles, or whole grain cereals. Whole grains help you feel fuller longer and don’t make you feel bloated the way some processed, white flour cereals and breads can.
     2. Follow the serving size on the box!!! Not only will this help you if you’re calorie counting, but it will help you realize that one serving is enough to keep you full. Why eat an extra 200 calories you don’t need? Following serving sizes will also help you choose healthier cereals. My 1 cup of Quaker Oatmeal Squares for 210 calories is way better and more filling than a 1/3 cup of some processed cereal for the same number of calories.
     3. Switch to fat free milk. If you’re already drinking 1 or 2 percent milk it’s not that far of a stretch to switch to skim. Especially if you’re eating it with a cereal you’ll hardly notice the taste difference and someday you’ll be lucky like me and you’ll come to prefer skim milk to any of the others.
     4. Drink water before you eat. Drinking a glass of water before your breakfast will help you to feel a little less like you’re starving to death in the morning. Sometimes the reason we think we need such a big bowl of cereal is that we feel hungry enough to need it. Drinking that glass of water before pouring your cereal will help you to feel as though 1 serving size will suffice.
     5. Add fruit to your breakfast. A lot of people freak out at the sugars in fruit. Well guess what, the sugars in that fruit are natural sugars that your body needs and has the ability to naturally process. They’re not quite the same as the processed sugars found in processed foods. Eating a piece of fruit at breakfast can help you fill up faster with less calories. If your one serving of cereal wasn’t enough, go for that piece of fruit because it will finish filling you up and it contains way less calories and fat.
     6. Skip the biscuit and go for the English Muffin. If you like your homemade egg McMuffins, use an English Muffin rather than a biscuit. An English Muffin has 120 calories per muffin and only 1 gram of fat. Biscuits can be several hundred calories and almost always contain trans fats which are a HUGE no-no. If you’re in the habit of hitting up the McDonalds on the way to work, it would take you just as long to make one at home as it would be to go through the drive through. Saving hundreds of calories every day is so worth it even if you have to wake up five or ten minutes earlier.
     7. Don’t skip breakfast! Whatever you do, don’t skip the most important meal of the day! I know some of you are thinking that skipping breakfast isn’t a big deal and that you’ll save on calories. Many studies have shown that those who skip breakfast in the morning are more likely to splurge on other calories elsewhere and end up eating more calories per day than those who normally eat breakfast in the morning.
                Make the change. It’s not hard. It takes about 20 seconds longer in the morning to measure serving sizes but that 20 seconds every morning could save you 2 pounds or more per month.

Monday, September 13, 2010

10 Great Exercise Band Moves

                In a previous post found here I talked about building your home gym and one of the pieces of equipment I talked about were exercise bands. There are a few different types and styles, all are easy to use and can give you a great muscular endurance workout. One of the types of exercise or resistance bands are long and flat (like a lasagna noodle, I know that’s a dumb comparison but it’s true) and does not have handles on the ends. The other type are tube shaped (like a spaghetti noodle, I felt like throwing another bad comparison in here since I’m thinking about noodles…) and they do have handles on the ends. Each serve the same purpose with minor differences and both can be found at the Turbo Fit Store. If you’re only going to buy one type, borrow some from a friend to see which type you like best.
                Here’s a list of some great exercises you can do with resistance bands and I’ll list them according to the type of band you have to make them easier to look through if you only have one or the other. For the most part you can do all of these exercises with either band but you may have to adapt or you may discover that you prefer a different band for a different exercise. It’s all about you feeling comfortable and natural with the movement. I apologize for the lack of pictures, I hope to explain them clearly but please leave a comment at the end of the post if you have any questions.
                Both Types of Resistance Bands:
     1. Shoulder Press: Stand on one end of your band with your right foot and hold the other end in your right hand. The band should be coming out from the outside of your foot. Raise your arm so that it is at a 9o degree angle, elbow pointed away from your body. Press the band upward in a smooth, controlled manner, then return to 90 degrees. Do your preferred number of reps on one side and switch to the other. Be sure to stabilize yourself while pressing upward so that you are not leaning while pressing.
     2. Tricep Press: Set up for the tricep press the same way you would for the shoulder press only raise your arm all the way up until your upper arm is against your head, bending the elbow and allowing your hand to go behind you, keeping your elbow pointed upwards, not out to the side like in the shoulder press. Press upward using your triceps until your hand is extended all the way above your head. Be sure to lock your upper arm into place next to your head. A lot of people get lazy with this exercise and do a shoulder press instead. You want to focus on the back of your upper arm so if you’re not feeling it there, you’re probably doing a shoulder press and not a tricep press. Switch sides.
     3. Bicep Curl: Stand with both feet on the middle of the band while holding one end in each hand. If you’re using a flat band and it’s long enough, you can tie loops at the ends so you have something like a handle to hold on to. Keeping your elbow locked into your sides, pull upward on the band in a bicep curl. Be careful not to use your body as momentum. Keep your body still and focus on using your biceps (that’s the front part of your upper arm) to pull up on the band.
     4. Lateral Raise: Using the same set-up as the bicep curl, hold your arms straight at your sides with palms facing in toward your body. Raise both arms up straight at the same time until arms are parallel with the floor, then lower.
     5. Bent-Over Row and Bent-Over Lateral Raise: Set up as you would for the lateral raise or the bicep curl and bend forward at your waist. Be careful to keep your lower back strong and not put it in a position to cause pain or injury. For the row, pull up on the band as if you were rowing, bending your elbow as you pull and squeezing your shoulder blades together, release. For the lateral raise, keep arms straight and extend them outward until arms are parallel with the floor, release. The Bend-Over Lateral Raise strengthens the same muscles as the upright Lateral Raise in a different way.
     6. Chest Press: Lay on your back on a step or on the floor. If you are on a step, have your band threaded through the bottom space of the step. If you are lying on the floor, lay on top of the band. Take hold of one end of the band in each hand and press upwards. As you come back down, go all the way until your upper arm touches the floor. If you’re on a step, go until your upper arms are level with your chest.
                Tube-Shaped Bands with Handles:
     1. For inner and outer thighs: Lay on your back (preferable on a step but if you don’t have a sep it’s okay) with the band threaded through the space under the step (or under your back if you are not using a step). Hook the handles over the toes of your shoes and secure so they don’t snap off during the exercise. Lay back and put your feel straight into the air towards the ceiling. Slowly lower your legs out to the sides as far as you can and then bring them back together. This will work your inner thighs while your outer thighs work to stabilize. Staying in the same position, you can cross the bands on your feet (the handle coming from the right goes on your left foot, and the handle from the left goes on your right foot) and do the same motion. This will focus more on outer thighs as your inner thighs work to stabilize.
                Flat Bands with No Handles:
     1. Outer thighs: Tie your band at the ends to form a circle. Step into the band and pull it up around your knees. Take ten side steps to the right and ten to the left to work outer thighs. Lay on the ground on one side and do regular leg raises with the band to increase resistance.
     2. Lat Pull-Down/Tricep Pull-Down: Tie a knot in your band at the middle and throw the knot over a door. Shut the door with the knot on the other side and the two ends of the band hanging down on your side of the door. Kneel down and take one end in each hand. Pull down on the ends the same way you would on a lat pull-down machine at the gym. Stand up and lock your upper arms to your sides. Pull the ends down and squeeze your triceps for a tricep pull-down.
3. Internal and External Shoulder Rotation: Tie a knot in one end of the band, and a loop in the other. Close a door on the knot with the knot on the other side of the door and the loop on your side. Stand sideways to the door with the loop in one hand. Bend your arm at a 90 degree angle and keep your upper arm locked to your side. Rotate your forearm in towards your body (you should be meeting resistance with the band) and then back away from your body as far as you can go. Do not let your upper arm separate from your body. This is an internal shoulder rotation. Turn to face the other way so that as you rotate outward away from your body you meet resistance with the band. This is an external shoulder rotation. Both will strengthen your rotator cuff and prevent injury to the shoulder.

                You can use exercise bands to increase the intensity of other exercises as well. You can hold one end in each hand with the band going over your back while you do push-ups to get a little resistance on the way back up, or you could stand on a band, holding one end in each hand while you squat. Remember that you can always make the exercise harder by shortening the length of the band (when standing on the middle, spreading your feet apart to shorten the ends, or standing closer to the middle of the band when doing a one-arm exercise) or lengthening the band to make it easier (keeping feel closer together when standing on the middle, or standing closer to the end on a one-arm exercise).  Exercise bands are very versatile so get creative with your bands and experiment!