7 Great Reasons to Stay Flexible

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Remember when you were a kid?  You could lie on the floor and pop up in seconds.  You could bend from the waist and touch the floor. If you were really talented, like my kids, you could lie on your back and get your knees to touch your ears. Flexibility allowed you to do all these marvelous feats. Just because you are older now, it does not mean you should give up on flexibility. We lose flexibility as we age.  Most of the loss comes from inactivity,but some comes from the normal process of aging. But just like strength and cardiovascular fitness, your flexibility can improve with regular training.  Here’s seven reasons why you should stay flexible.

  1. Improve your posture  Ever see someone walking around with hunched shoulders or stooped over at the hips?  Tight muscles can cause you  to hold your body this way.  Improving your flexibility can help you release those muscles and straighten your spine.
  2. Avoid injury  Tendons, ligaments and muscles have a better range of motion when they are flexible.  A better range of motion means less chance of those tendons ligaments and muscles being pushed beyond their limits and being damaged.
  3. Less  back pain  A majority of Americans will experience back pain during his/her lifetime.  For some, it will be excruciating and debilitating. Tight hamstrings pull the pelvis forward which puts more pressure on the lower back.  My first job out of college was a YMCA program director.  I taught a class called, “Y’s way to a healthy back”.  Many of my students had been sent to the class as a last ditch effort before surgery.  Most of them had very tight hamstrings.  With just ten simple flexibility exercises done each day, not one of those students had to go on to have surgery.  Most of them found a tremendous amount of pain relief from this class.
  4. Increased range of motion  You will be able to move your body more efficiently through activities of daily living.  Things like bending over to pick up a child’s toy on the floor, reaching the top cupboard in your kitchen, stooping to get the the groceries out of the car, lowering yourself into a chair, or climbing the steps for the 25th time in one day will become easier.
  5. Improved Circulation  Being more flexible allows blood to travel more easily to the muscles and joints.  With a better blood supply the muscles and joints will work more smoothly which means less aches and pains.  I’m for that!
  6. Less Stress  Flexible muscles contain less tension.  That means not as many stiff and aching shoulders, necks, hips, knees and backs.
  7. Improves physical performance A pliable muscle can run through a variety of movements more efficiently. This can improve your performance in many of your favorite sports like golf, tennis, hiking, swimming, skiing and many others.

*Special bonus benefit

Travel more comfortably You will be able to sit comfortably in a variety of positions over time in a confined space.  This comes in handy in a crowded plane or when turning around constantly to tell your kids that, no, you are NOT there yet.

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Pinterest Beginner Strength Training

So, you want to start strength training because you know it will strengthen your bones and boost your metabolism.  You have not done any strength training, or you haven’t done any recently and you don’t know where to start.  Should I go to a gym?  Should  I get a trainer? Should I buy a workout DVD? Should I buy weights? How much will all this cost? You know there will be some muscle soreness, but you want to be able to get out of bed the next day. You’re a little worried about injuries. No, make that you’re a LOT worried about injuries.  If you get injured, you may not be able to work, or do the activities you need to do every day.

The best advice is to start slowly.  Use your body’s own weight at first as your resistance.  Keep the exercises simple. Do less reps of each exercise in the beginning and gradually add reps.  Start out doing only a few rounds of the workout and add rounds as you get stronger.  In the workout below, there are ways to make each exercise more intense as you get stronger too. For example, thigh push-ups can become push-ups on your toes.  Russian twists can be done while holding your feet slightly above the ground and half squats can become full squats. The stretches at the end of each round target the muscles you used during the workout phase.  They will also help increase your flexibility.

Try this Pinterest beginner bodyweight workout.  Do it 2-3 times a week with a day in between each time you do it. If you already do cardio exercise, do that on the days in between. If you are consistent and do this workout at least twice a week, increasing the intensity and length of the workout as you get stronger, you will see results.  Comment and let me know how you are doing!

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How Can I Work Out When I’m So Busy?

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Whew!  The weeks between Christmas and New Years are killer on my workout routine.  It’s tough to squeeze in workouts between shopping and making gifts, family get-togethers, parties with friends, work obligations, travelling, concerts, plays and volunteering. (That exhausted me just rereading all that stuff!)  It would be so easy to just scrap it till after the New Year.

BUT this is when I need my workouts most.  All this extra activity means added stress, not to mention extra calorie intake. So.. here’s the plan.  I’ll need to chunk my workouts. I may need to squeeze it in at 15 minute increments throughout the day. I may need to do a mini workout during my plan period at school.

Here’s just one example:  I usually do a strength workout 2 times per week.  It lasts about 40 minutes.  I do a 5-10 minute warm-up.  That’s followed by three sets of 2 strength moves, then 3 sets of two new moves, then 3 sets of a third pair of moves. I finish up with 8 minutes on the stationary bike and about a 5-10 minute cool down.

On these busy days that same workout may look more like this:  A 2 minute warm-up first thing in the morning, 3 sets of 2 strength moves, a quick stretch and I’m off to work.  During plan period at school, I squeeze in another quick warm-up and 3 more sets of two new moves, cool down, then get ready for my next class.  Then after work, I get the third set in, take the dog for a quick walk around the block and cool down with some stretches before we head out to a Christmas party.

If you need some ideas on squeezing your workouts in during these busy times, check out these 15 minute workouts.  Pick the one(s) that suit you best.  Want to work out around the commercials during all those Hallmark Channel Christmas movies?  Try these 30 second commercial length workouts.

Thanks Tony Horton!

Have some good ideas for working out during busy times?  Please share!

How To Vary Your Workout

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Are you getting everything into your workout that you need? Did you know that to be healthy you need to do cardio, strength training and flexibility?  You have to mix it up. it keeps your heart, lungs and muscles strong and flexible.  You need it all.

I recently finished a round of PiYo.  It’s a program I really like, but I do need to change it up after 8 weeks.  Here’s a sample of my weekly schedule.  I try to cover, cardio, strength,  and flexibility.  I have incorporated one day where I can put any workout in that I would like.  Trying something new each week keeps me motivated to keep working out.

Monday:  PiYo workout (strength, flexibility, cardio)

Tuesday:  Strength workout, concentrating on back  (there are a lot of push-ups in PiYo) and legs.

Wednesday:  Elliptical and stationary bike (cardio)

Thursday: Strength workout (a different one from Tuesday focusing on the same muscles)

Friday:  PiYo workout (strength, flexibility, cardio)

Saturday:  This is the day reserved for any new or interesting workout I would like to try.  So far, I’ve tried Turbo Fire Low HIIT 20 and an ACE stability ball workout.  They were both fun and I looked forward to them once I picked them.

Sunday:  Rest day. If I have to skip a different day during the week, I use Sunday as a make-up day.

So within 30 to 45 minutes per day, I can keep my entire body healthy and have a different workout every time I step into my home gym.

How do you vary your workouts?

PiYo Review

 

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About 10 weeks ago, I started a new home workout program called PiYo. I told myself I would do a review here when I had completed the program so here it is!

The Pros

  1. It starts you out slowly– The first three weeks get you started with lower intensity workouts.  These workouts are the building blocks, strengthening your muscles for the higher intensity workouts that begin to be included in week four. By week five the workouts are more intense, but your body is ready for it.  This cuts down on the muscle soreness which causes you to walk strangely, especially up and down steps!
  2. There are built in modifications– I have been working out consistently for a long time.  If this was my very first workout experience, even the low intensity workouts could have been a challenge.  Chalene Johnson planned for this and has a class member demonstrate modifications for every exercise.  You can follow the modifications until you’re ready for a little more intensity.
  3. No equipment needed-None, zero, nada. Every exercise is done with your own body weight.  This is good news for your bank account.
  4. No/low impact-If you don’t want all the joint jarring jumping in your workout, but still want the intensity, PiYo is it.
  5. Keeps you flexible and well balanced–  If you are getting older (and who isn’t?) these yoga inspired workouts will keep Father Time from robbing you of these two important body qualities.
  6. Fun-I get bored with the same old, same old.  This is something different and challenging.

The Cons

  1. Lack of upper body pulling movements– The upper body exercises have to rely on pushing movements only, mainly because there is no equipment (see pro #3). This can leave you with tight pecs and rounded shoulders.  See my post next week to see how I compensated for this.
  2. A lot of sweating when you are upside down- (downward dog position).  Highly uncomfortable.  Keep a towel handy that you can grab quickly.
  3. Hard to see the instructor when you are upside down-  Make sure you WATCH the Allign video first and then try the exercises. Watching each of the videos before you actually try them would be helpful too.

The really good thing about PiYo is there are live classes all over the country.  If you are not sure you would like this program, go to a local fitness center that offers PiYo classes and try a few.  If you like the live classes, the PiYo basic workout is a great buy.  I got mine for under $50.  I get a discount because I’m a coach, but the regular price is beween $50 and $60.  Once you have it, you can use it forever…or at least until your DVD player breaks down!

Let me know what YOU think of PiYo after you try it.

Why do YOU Exercise?

When most people start an exercise program, the reason they give is “to lose weight”.  It’s no wonder. Our culture is obsessed with thinness and equates being thin with being happy.

If you ask someone who has made exercise and fitness a part of their lifestyle, you will get a very different answer.  Did you know that money, looks and status contribute to only 10% of our happiness?  (Idea Fitness Journal, “The Skinny on Happiness”)

A long-term exerciser will have other reasons as to why they continue to work out. They feel healthier, more relaxed or less stressed.  They have more energy, more focus, are more productive at work. They can keep up with their kids or grandchildren.  They experience a reduction in chronic pain. They are training for a future fitness event. They have made a new set of friends they enjoy.  And the list can go on.

Here’s just one example of the  reasons I exercise almost every day.  On October 18th, my oldest daughter got married.  We have been planning and preparing for this day for almost a year.  The weekend involved a trip to Pittsburgh for my side of the family.  On Saturday morning, I woke up with an overabundance of energy.  I’m not one to show my excitement on the outside.  It all builds up on the inside.  By 7 a.m. I felt like I was about to jump out of my skin.

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Thank goodness the hotel had a nice size gym.  A half hour on the elliptical and the stationary bike and I was much calmer.  Good thing..as later in the day we were stuck in a traffic jam getting back from hair and make-up and it was touch and go on the decision about an outdoor service.  Thanks to my workout, I was able to stay much calmer and really enjoy such an important day.

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So what are YOUR reasons for working out regularly?  If you  haven’t started yet, why do you want to get started? #notjustweightloss

The Shorter More Intense Workout Trend

In the last year or so , there has been a switch in the fitness world to shorter, more intense workouts.  Many of the people who joined the P90X and other extreme fitness movements got great results.  They also found that they couldn’t fit hour long workouts into their schedule six days a week for the long term. People still wanted the good results, but they wanted them in a shorter period of time.

 

Enter High Intensity Interval Training and Tabatas type workouts. After all, who doesn’t want good results in a fraction of the time, right?  The at home fitness industry has answered with workouts like T25, Turbofire and P90X3. These are great, but what if you are just starting out? You have to be careful that a more intense workout doesn’t leave you injured.

The key is starting at a lower intensity level and working your way up. If the workout calls for a burpee, for example, there are several different levels you can start at and work your way up.  Most DVD type workouts have one person demonstrating the modified version.  Stick with that until you are fit enough.  Want to put your own workout together or modify a more intense one you already have? Here are several videos I made that demonstrate body weight exercises at several different levels.  Use them to pick the intensity that’s right for you.  Then get more intense as you get more fit!

Weight Loss; Slow is the Way to Go

 

Who hasn’t settled in to watch at least one episode of “The Biggest Loser”? We are impressed at weigh-in by the huge weight loss numbers earned by the leading contestants. We feel sorry for the poor guy or girl who only lost a pound or two and stands crying on the scales.

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As much as the networks would like us to believe it, this is far from reality.  In real life, slow and steady weight loss will bring you health and success in the end.  Here’s why.

  1. Extreme weight loss actually lowers your metabolism.  Severely restricting your calories makes your body think it is starving and it slows all your metabolic processes down.  When you increase your calories (and you have to eventually), you gain the weight back.  Sometimes you even gain MORE than what you lost originally.
  2. Extreme weight loss tends to burn muscle instead of fat.  Muscle is what burns calories, so refer to number one for what will happen.
  3. Severely restricting your calories can leave you dehydrated, and fatigued. It’s hard to get all the nutrients you need when you cut calories to the bone so you may be left malnourished as well.
  4. EWL can be detrimental to a host of your organs.  It puts stress on your heart, can cause gallstones and affect your brain processes.  The lack of nutrients can mess with your neurotransmitters, which can lead to depression.
  5. If you are not giving your body the nutrients it needs (like calcium) it will take them where it can get them (like from your bones) leaving you at risk for things like bone density problems.

So what is healthy weight loss? The American Council on Exercise recommends one to two pounds per week. No one should restrict their calories to less than 1200 per day. In order to lose those one or two pounds per week, you need to combine calorie reduction and burning extra calories through exercise to make a 500 to 1000 calorie deficit per day.  3500 calories equals one pound.  If you lose weight slowly, you will be doing it by changing your lifestyle (doing something you can sustain over time). You will be much more likely to be able to keep it off.  Here’s a calorie calculator to help you figure out how  many calories you should eat to lose weight the healthy way. Here’s a link  to some videos to give you ideas to easily eliminate a few hundred calories per day.

Have you ever lost a lot of weight only to gain it back?  Have you lost weight and been able to keep it off?  Leave a comment and tell your story!
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How do I Keep Fitness Fun? Try “1000 Steps”

This past weekend, hubby Bob and I decided to try something we’ve never done before and climb the “1000 steps” on Jack’s Mountain.  This lies between the towns of Huntingdon and Lewistown, PA.  Our motivation was a cooler summer day and the fact that it was on my Summer Bucket List for Mifflin County School District’s Wellness Project.

Hubby Bob starting out.
Hubby Bob starting out.

1000 Steps was quite the workout!  This is not something you want to try if you are a complete couch potato. The steps were originally constructed in 1936 as a “shortcut” commute for sand miners who worked near the top of the mountain. The sand was mined to make silica bricks.  The miners would climb the steps to go to work in the morning and climb down at day’s end.  In between they worked a very physically demanding job.  After completing these steps I have a whole new appreciation for what good shape these workers must have been in. This is approximately an 800+ foot climb up Jack’s Mountain.  The steps are uneven and cut back and forth. This was a nice day.  Imagine commuting in the rain, sleet or snow. Yikessteps2It took about 45 minutes to get to the top.  It was a good cardio workout and the glutes and hip flexers worked hard on the way up. On the way down, it was the quads and hamstrings. It was worth it when we reached the top and saw the great views.   view3   view6   After our climb, we treated ourselves to lunch at Boxer’s Cafe.  This is a local eatery in the town of Huntingdon.  The cafe specializes in homemade food with local organic ingredients. We had sandwiches (a Reuben for Bob and a grilled veggie sandwich for me) and garden salads.  Mine had homemade ginger balsamic dressing.  Everything was delicious.  Boxsers

So to wrap up, we a had a really good workout that was a lot more fun on a Saturday than the usual circuit workout.  We learned some local history, took in some beautiful views and had a delicious locally grown lunch. That’s how to keep fitness fun. How do you inject a little fun into your fitness routine? Let me know below.

Staying Fit on Vacation-Kayaking

I sure am glad I got started on this blog thanks to #TravelFit2014 and Jennifer Whitehead at the Aria Las Vegas hotel. Otherwise I may not have been as motivated to get this trip arranged. Today we took kayaking trip at Assateague Island. If you are not familiar, this is one of the islands in Maryland and Virginia that are inhabited with wild horses.

We booked our ecotour with Coastal Kayak. Chris and Steffan were our guides. My family and another family on a day trip from Philly were in the group. We had a 45 minute van drive to the island. Steffan is the”lucky guide” and always spots horses when he leads a tour. Luck was with us as soon as we crossed the bridge to the island. There were several horses on the road including the only baby born on the island this year.


We unloaded the kayaks and got underway. The water and the weather were both beautiful. We spotted several native birds to the island and a few crabs in the water. Not long after that we saw a “band” of horses which consists of a male and several females. They were feeding on sea grasses. This is their main diet, along with lots of water since the grass is very salty. Our kayaks were only about ten feet away from the horses. They seem very used to people and watched us about as much as we watched them.


Our kayak trip was about 90 minutes of paddling. This was a good workout for the day. I think we made a convert to kayaking out of hubby Bob. He had never gone before and he was really into spotting all the wild horses.


Before we got back in the van, we had a visit from a lone male horse. He acted like he wanted a food handout. You aren’t allowed to feed the horses so they don’t get dependent on humans for food. The guides told us they get enough food from the campers (they steal it from the campsites just like bears or raccoons). When we didn’t give him treats he lumbered away to see what else he could find.

What a fun day! I would recommend a kayak tour for anyone looking for an active adventure on the water.

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