Take Your Workout To The Park – Workout Outside

This is the time of year to get out and to the park. This is my favorite time of day. I load up the kids, pack a book on tape if I think there is the slightest chance they may fall asleep during the walk, and make our way down to the local playground. My eight – six – and four year olds are excited and I’ll be crossing workout off my to-do list. Yep, I will be moving too. This isn’t time for me to sit on a bench and read, talk, or yawn wondering how many more times the slide can produce such a gleeful sound. Why should I wonder…why not find out?

In my line of work I repeatedly hear, “I’m just too busy to spend time working out.” We’ve all heard obesity is on the rise. Childhood obesity is steadily climbing, and is a risk factor in many diseases. According to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, Type II diabetes is on the rise in children. “Known as “adult onset” diabetes because it usually affects people over 50, the disease is afflicting children as young as 4”, for many Type II diabetes is linked closely to obesity and inactivity. Fortunately, obesity in most cases is preventable, but yields enormous health risks if left unattended, and people aren’t listening. They continue to blame someone else for the extra weight they are packing around; just look at the newest trend in lawsuits and petitions to claim obesity as a disease along the lines of AIDS. Instead we can change our lives. We have the power to create a better quality of life just by moving our bodies.
So, next time you make a trip to the park, play with your kids, run, jump, pull-up! Research shows a correlation between parent-child activity behaviors. Study after study show links between parent activity levels and their children’s activity levels. Being active is not only going to benefit you, it will directly influence your child’s attitudes about activity and their lifestyle choices for the rest of their life. If that isn’t reason to move, I don’t know what is.

Check out my Youtube Channel for ideas on home exercises. Then adapt them to your park setting.

Next time you visit the park,(children optional); try these moves:

General Guidelines:

Pay attention to the muscles you are working. Exhale as you complete the exertion or work phase of the movement, and keep proper alignment. Maintain core (abdominal and back) strength to protect your spine as you work, and lastly have a great time – your kids won’t be the only ones begging to head for the park once you’ve become a player, too.

Lower Body:

Entire Lower Body~

Determine the approximate distance you’ll be walking to get to the playground. Divide that number into six sections. Begin by walking one section. Follow that with walking lunges for one section, repeat until you’ve reached the park. If your sections are large, do 10 walking lunges at a time, rest by walking, do 10 more, repeat until you’ve completed the section.

*Safety Notes: If you are a beginner, wait until you’ve reached the playground and perform lunges while holding a bar for stability until you are confident in your form. More advanced practitioners begin by practicing while standing still. To avoid overstressing the knee, keep your knee over your ankle. This is more difficult while moving forward. Tip: Pick up your toes while practicing to get the correct position. You’ll get the bonus of balance practice, too. Once you are able to do a correct lunge standing still, practice moving slowly in a forward direction keeping the knee over the ankle.

Center your weight over both legs and keep your shoulders over your hips. Go down only as low as you can while maintaining good form. Keep your head and chest up, and keep your back knee off the ground.

Hamstrings~

Run with your children. This can take the shape of a game or whatever they are doing, let them lead you. Try this variation while you run, kick you heels toward your buttocks while keeping your knees close together. This will help you focus on the hamstrings plus run slower letting the kids win one!

Quadriceps~

Another variation on the run, one your kids will love, running backwards. Aim to keep the shoulders over your hips, as you move backwards bring the leg out, extending from the knee. Try to move slower and focus on the quads as the leg extends. To add more intensity lower your body into a moving squat as you slowly move backwards.

*Safety note: Never completely lock out a joint during a regular workout. 95% extension of a joint will protect your joints and allow you to move through full range of motion. Remember to keep the knee over the ankle. Pick your toes up to help you find the correct position, and make sure you are able to maintain it while moving before beginning advanced movement.

Abductors & Adductors~

The kids will love this one. You may remember karaoke from grade school gym class, but never knew you were working on so many things as you performed this drill, did you?

Begin moving sideways by bringing the feet together. Alternate crossing one in front of the other. Again, center your weight and focus on the muscles you are working, inner and outer thighs. Repeat with the other side leading.

Bonus: When you cross the midline of your body you are causing both sides of your brain to cooperate and are building coordination.

Calves~

My personal favorite muscle to say, gastrocnemius, can be effectively worked as you move up the stairs to the slide. On each step pause to do a calf raise. You can lift with both feet or more advanced, one foot at a time. Step on the edge of the stair; push up onto your toe. Then complete the move by bringing your heel back in line with your toes.

Upper Body:

Chest~

The good ole fashioned push-up is here. Find an elevated surface: Stairs, ledge, bar, etc. Standing, place the wrists in-line with the shoulders and extend the elbow. Bend the elbow and lower the chest towards the hands. Breathe out as you extend the arms back to the starting position. Get the kids to do them with you. Work up to ten.

Safety Note: Stabilize the core to protect the back. You will be ready to move into a more advanced exercise when you can complete 10 in good form. The more horizontal you are, the more advanced the move. Remember small is still good – better than big motion, bad form. The spine should stay long and natural.

Back & Biceps~

Everyone’s favorite – the pull-up. The playground is a great place to pull-up, there are lots of bars at different heights…ok no cheating with all your weight on your feet! Find a bar at an accommodating height. You don’t have to be straight up and down. Begin with a lower bar where your body is at an angle underneath. Grab the bar and pull your upper-body to your hands. The more advanced you are the higher the bar. Once you are completely up right use your feet only for balance or cross you ankles and bend your knees to pick your feet off the ground. See who can do more, you or the kids.

Shoulders, Triceps, & Biceps~

Get the little ones involved – let them be the weight! Depending on the size of your child they may be just what the trainer ordered. With your feet shoulder width apart and your knees soft, stabilize your core. Position your hands firmly under their arms and slowly lift your child off the ground. Keep your elbows and child close to your body as you bring your hands towards your shoulders, once you’ve given your child a kiss, extend your arms up and lift them over your head. Again, keep them close to your body. Their feet should dangle in front of your face.

Safety Note: Be careful with the child! A slow movement is required to keep the body in alignment and not use momentum to get the weight over your head. Do not strain your back as you reach up – it is easy to arch back to support the weight – remember good form first.

If you child is too big or doesn’t want to cooperate pack along some hand weights or find two rocks – pebbles don’t count, but make sure the weight (child or not) is accommodating to you. You should be able to perform 10 lifts with good form – if you can do more add more weight.

Triceps~

Back to the stairs, find a low stair and sit on the edge. Position your feet out in front of you – the further you move them away the harder the movement will be. Place you hands directly under your shoulders next to your hips. Slide your buttocks forward and lower straight down until the elbows and shoulders are in a line. Finish by pressing up into the starting position. Aim for 10.

Core Strength~

The swing set is calling your name. Begin by swinging. As you move higher into the air use your abdominals to pump your legs. Add variations: Curl into a ball at the top of the movement – bring the shoulders and knees together. Bring the knees to one side and alternate for an oblique crunch. To build back strength, add a slight back extension as you move yourself higher into the air.

Safety Note: Pay close attention to your body and alignment during these activities. It sounds easy, but adding the mental element will enhance your muscle activity making it an exercise rather than just movement. Exhale as you crunch in.

Most importantly remember to have fun! Move with your kids and they will learn to love moving on their own.

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/projects/cda2.htm

Warn, Ed.D., FACSM, Dianne. “Getting Kids Active Begins at Home.” Fit Society. Quarterly Publication of the American College of Sports Medicine. (Fall 2001): 1,6 http://www.acsm.org/pdf/fitsc401.pdf

http://www.ucihealth.com/News/UCI%20Health/Fall02Diabetes.htm

Heat and Exercise – Be Safe During Hot Weather Exercising

Summer has arrived, and with its sweet smells, lazy afternoons, and longer days comes heat. Just like it doesn’t have to be freezing to experience hypothermia, temperatures don’t have to be soaring to experience heat related illnesses, especially while working out.

Workouts are still possible even when the mercury rises if you take precautions. First, layer your clothing. No, this does not equal the same type of laying we must do in January, however plan for the spaces you’ll be exercising in. Will the temperature drop or rise while you are there – think about elevation or forest conditions – as we move through different types of spaces we may need different types of clothing. Once, you’ve determined if you’ll need a light jacket, short sleeves, socks, boots vs athletic shoes, you will need to chose good products. Materials are not created equal, which is why we do not see many wool socks worn in the summer. Chose materials that move sweat away from your body allowing it to more effectively do its job. Once, again I am amazed at the intelligence of your body, but we will discuss that below. Then look to design. Not all styles are created equal either. Many of us get overwhelmed by the choices, however choosing good design will keep you from packing or carrying loads of stuff. Very important when its your back and legs doing the transporting. Do your homework. If you are uncomfortable using a sales person as your teacher, grab magazines or look to the internet to find the latest and greatest gear. Make sure to check pricing, too. Gear gets expensive and you may be paying more than you need to. Do some comparisons before you settle.

Second, hydrate yourself well. Sweating is important to the body. Sweat is necessary because your body produces water as a by product of our aerobic energy system. If you are going to do work over an extended period of time your body will produce sweat as it uses oxygen to function. Sweat also works as air-conditioner. As your body moves the by-product to the exterior surface, your skin, it creates evaporation, which cools the body. Also, a necessary function during extended work periods because as you create more movement, you create more heat. As your core temperature rises your body will work to maintain its natural set-point, plus its dangerous when your core temperature rises too far. Some of us sweat more than others and there seems to be a genetic link. As your body sweats it will also lose salt. Another important necessity for homeostasis.

When working out during hot weather drink lots of fluids, and make sure to feed your body well. If you are going to be working out over a long period of time, more than 60-90 minutes fuel up with a sports drink or something to replace lost electrolytes. They make great food gear, too. For those of you looking forward to events, you may look to energy products: bars, gels, goos, and other high-glycemic options to sustain your optimal performance. For the average person however, high-tech food choices are not necessary in most cases. Water and nutritious foods are what your body craves to perform most workouts effectively.

Third, think. If the temperature is too high, this is not an excuse button, do something else and workout when it is cooler. Its not a great idea to wear a non-ventilated hat, as sixty percent of your body heat is released through the top of your head.
Plan for your outing so your food and clothing provisions last through the whole workout, and pay attention to how your body responds to heat. We are all different and have different tolerances to heat and humidity. If you are packing children, please remember that their smaller developing bodies respond differently than adults to heat and do not cool the same, so keep them in mind as you pack clothing, plan for stops, and utilize shade throughout the workouts. Sunscreen is a must these days and many brands are designed for workouts. Check labels when you buy. If you do feel any signs of a heat related illness, stop your activity immediately. Temperature related illnesses quickly get worse. Try to find shade, hydrate your body, and do something to cool your body down; i.e. Remove excess clothing, dose yourself with water, rest, etc.

Your workouts do not have to end because the temperature rises. Dress, eat, and plan well and your body and spirit will soar as you discover great ways to get moving!

Losing Weight The Healthy Way

Here is how healthy weight loss works. Extra weight is just fuel you’ve put into your tank and didn’t use up. You consumed extra calories without burning them.

Calories(kcal) in MUST EQUAL calories out to MAINTAIN your current weight. This means if you want to lose weight the healthy way you must figure out how to create a deficit. In other words calories in MUST BE LESS THAN calories out to LOSE weight.

We can cut our food intake or increase our daily calorie needs (movement or exercise). To lose weight the healthy way create a plan which combines the two. By limiting food calories and adding more exercise to your daily routine it is easier to create enough of a calorie deficit without compromising your energy or health.

For example: Cut 500kcals from your daily intake (about two 20-oz bottles of soda) and increase your exercise by 300kcals per day (30-60 min of activity depending). This creates an 800kcals deficit per day. If you could do this 5 days a week you would expend an extra 4,000kcals per week. To lose a pound of fat you must burn 3,500kcals. So under this plan you should be losing at least 1 pound a week.

Some words of caution.
Food is not the enemy – load up on nutrient dense foods (foods with low calories and lots of vitamins + nutritionist). Healthy weight loss is approximently 1-2 pounds per week. It took time to put the weight on it’ll take time to take it off. Do not cut your calories too low. Less is not always more. See a nutritionist for help. Not eating enough will put your body in conserve mode. This backfires on weight loss because instead of letting go of calories your body will slow functions down to conserve calories. You won’t be getting the workouts because you are likely to be more tired and possibly more sick. This is not where you want your healthy weight loss program to be.

Obesity Rates Are Rising

Many people are trying to lose weight. This is no surprise as more than 60% of our population is overweight and obesity has become one of the top health concerns, even surpassing smoking. But unlike smoking, weight gain may not have been 100% personal decision.

big guy weighing himself in the morning and shocked by what he sees

First, food company marketing budgets are huge. Companies spend a lot of money figuring out how to sell their products. Small, local farmers selling non-patented things like vegetables don’t stand a chance in the marketing arena. However, we still have choices, and we need to make good choices about what we eat.

Second, we are busy people. Many have been removed from their food supply for more than a generation and have no idea how or where their food is grown or created. Until recently I had no idea you could make cheesecake in your own kitchen! We’ve been duped by our trusting nature giving away power in our food choices just because it was packaged good, tasted close enough, and was easy. Unfortunately, these choices have allowed us to take in extra calories without expending more – ta-da extra weight.

Third, portion sizes are bigger than ever before. This portion growth happened over time and many have no idea what a good portion size is anymore. This portion distortion causes us to overeat just because it the food is sitting on our plate.

The above reasons aren’t so you can blame big industry, your job, or restaurants for extra weight you carry. Instead look at them as educational tools. Now that you know these problems are contributing – how are you going to change your eating choices?

3 Things to Bring On Your Summer RoadTrip

Who doesn’t love a great road trip? As I get ready to embark on mine here are some essentials I’ll be packing.

1) Rubber Tubing – Kbands TrainingLike the K Bands in this picture. This little workout staple can create a workout anywhere and takes a smidgen of your packing space.

Have a little more room and some tree branches (or other heavy duty hangers) check out the TRX – a strap system that lets you create an intense strength training workout with your own body weight. I own a set and love’em – Fitness Anywhere

2) Good Snacks – try and aim for a solid mix of protein, carbs, and fats in the most nutrient dense foods you can. Fruit, raw veggies, beef jerky, cheese sticks can all help you stay properly fueled up. Try and skip on the processed fast foods if you can. Check out an earlier blog posting for more vacation snack ideas.

3) Good Shoes – I know its summer time and I, too have trouble finding my socks…but if you are planning to stay on workout track make sure to pack your shoes. Who knows giving up some space may be the commitment you need to stay moving.

10 Tips – How to Get Motivated to Exercise

Here are 10 tips on how to get motivated to exercise. We all could use a refresher to keep us going during these long summer days!

  1. Take before photos
  2. Find a picture of yourself when you looked like you’d like to look again – make copies & post all over the place – mirrors, fridge, microwave, car visor, closet door, nightstand, you get the idea. (Be realistic when choosing your ideal weight)
  3. Write down your goals – Pick one goal to focus on for a month, write it down and post it all over the place – see #2
  4. Get a workout buddy – see the blog post on choosing a workout buddy for ideas on choosing your best fit partner
  5. Track your progress – it helps to see how many more push-ups you can do, how much weight you can lift, how many pounds you’ve lost or gained, how many miles you logged this week, etc
  6. Create a food/exercise journal – writing things down makes you more accountable, creates an easy #5, and helps you focus your attention on you.
  7. Prizes! – pick something you really want and give it to yourself after you’ve reached your goal – see the up coming blog post on the Rules of Rewards.
  8. Hang your reward where you’ll see it everyday
  9. Tell someone about your plans – Pick a supportive person to help keep you on track.
  10. Breathe – Take a long breath when you get stressed or overwhelmed by your fitness goal – remember fitness progress is over time. Keep working at it and you will get there.

How to Get Motivated to Exercise

So many of us have great intentions to exercise but don’t do it! We are going to be exploring how to get motivated to exercise! Now that we are past the 4th and the indulgences of the holiday let’s get down to business. Exercising in the lazy days of summer is hard! Many of us want to exercise but we want to lounge in the water or sun more. So the question becomes how to get motivated to exercise.

1st – Revisit your fitness goals – Why do you want to exercise in the first place? What do you want to be different about your life?

2nd – Look at your current schedule – Schedules change with the seasons but many fail to realize that of their own. What has changed on your to-do list, time demands, and attention needs. Adjust your workouts around these new demands. It is also a good idea to begin planning for fall when your schedule is likely to change again. Don’t spend too much time on fall – just begin to consider how you might need to re-adjust.

3rd – Adjust any exercises needed – do you love to run outside but the heat prevents a good workout? Or are you a pool swimmer but can’t seem to bring yourself to stay inside on a wonderful sunny day? Find alternatives – you can come back to your favorites when the season changes.
Check on your diet – Summer is a classic time to indulge. Where can you focus your healthy eating behaviors and work on your unhealthy ones? This is not a time to beat yourself up – instead practice the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time aim for good eating behaviors.

Motivation is a combination of things and changes depending on your needs. Be considerate to yourself as you re-evaluate and re-motivate your exercise. Fitness progress is not measured in one-time shots – it is measured over time – the battle is consistency. Take comfort knowing as long as you are still exercising (even if it looks different than 6-months ago) you are still moving toward your goals.

Good Home Exercises

Good home exercises are easy to do if you have appropriate equipment and space – which is surprising little (for ideas on home gym equipment and space requirements see the blog entry for Good home gym equipment ideas).Good home exercises begin with your current fitness level, your fitness goals, the equipment you have, and the space you’ll be using. Check out my Youtube Channel for more ideas on home workout exercises. 

Equipment needs will be determined by:

Ability to overload your current fitness level

Storage

Space need

Cost

Possible home exercises will be determined by the equipment you’ve got. Here are some ideas to get you started on your home workout.

Use your body weight – push ups, pull ups, and squats effectively target the large muscle groups and may be challenging enough on their own. See the blog posts on how to do each of them for directions and good lower body exercises.

The following exercises are great home exercises and can be adapted to equipment (including soup cans and filled gallon jugs, stairs in your home, furniture/benches, etc) you’ve got on hand:

Chest:
Chest press
Chest Fly

Back:
Back Row – narrow & wide
Lat Pulldown – using rubber tubing
Lat Overhead Pull – using Dumbbells or other external weight

Shoulders:
Lateral / Frontal Raises
Overhead Press – narrow, wide, and reverse grip

Biceps:
Hammer Curl
Front Curl
Reverse Grip Curls
Curls in any form!

Triceps:
Overhead triceps press
French Press (also known as skull crushers)
Triceps extensions
Triceps pressdown using rubber tubing
Dips

Abs:
Crunches of any variety
Reverse crunch
Bicycle

Lower Back:
Supermans
Torso Lift
Lower Body Lift

Don’t forget to stretch when you are through – flexibility training keeps you strong throughout the entire movement range of each muscle and joint!

Good Equipment for A Home Gym

Are you one of those people who just can’t seem to get to the gym – ever? You have great intentions and are ready to commit but for multiple reasons you just don’t seem to have the time to get down the road to the gym. If you are motivated a home workout can be just as effective and may be more rewarding than a visit to the health club.

Good Equipment for Your Home Gym

Setting up a home gym requires a little planning and can be very affordable. First you’ll want to evaluate your current fitness level and your fitness goals and then make sure to have equipment on hand to help you progress from where you are to where you want to go. Equipment to consider:

Dumbbells / hand weights – sizes will depend on your current level and goals. Typically sold price/pound so keep that in mind when deciding how much you really need

Rubber tubbing – most brands yellow is easiest & blue or black hardest. Check brands for resistance weight of their color matrix to be sure. Heavy lifters – you can purchase braided tubing for increased resistance – you’ll be surprised at the amount of difficulty it creates.

A bench – is using a home decoration/functional bench make sure it is stable enough to be safe and offer you full range of motion during your exercises.

Step – stairs in your home work just fine if you’ll use them

Medicine balls and/or kettle bells – easier to hold for some exercises than dumbbells but not a necessity to have both DB and medicine balls/kettle bells. BOSU or other stability challenging device – air steps, discs, dots, foam rollers, etc

Good home exercises are as plentiful as those in the gym free weight area provided you are creative when purchasing your equipment and finding space. You’ll want to make sure you have enough space to complete the exercises through full range of motion without destroying your home – it actually takes very little space if you can be creative with your movements – but stay safe. Consider home much furniture you’ll realistically move around daily. Many drop their home workouts because it is too much work in the space they have designated and remember – the best workout is one you will do!

Muscle Soreness

Many of us have experienced muscle soreness at one time or another. Here are some things you can do to relieve muscle soreness after exercise so you can keep working out toward your goals!

Delayed onset muscle soreness is common after asking our bodies to do more than they are used to. Whether you were hiking through the forest, had a hard lifting session, or were touring while on vacation. The hard part of muscle soreness is it’s potential to derail your fitness goals.

Many get sore and give up – especially when the soreness is rather painful and sitting on the toilet is a constant reminder to ask yourself, ” Tell me again why I am doing this?”

Here are some things you can do to lessen or eliminate your soreness:

1) Take a long hot bath
2) Walk or move a bit and stretch
3) Ice
4) Rest that body part & workout another
5) Apply heat
6) Try yoga or another stretching type activity

Don’t forget regular exercise and flexibility training are important parts of your fitness routine so don’t let muscle soreness keep you from reaching your fitness!