23 12 / 2012

Stretching Out: Hamstring Edition

Stretching your hamstrings can often alleviate lingering back pain. Your hamstrings are made up of three muscles (biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus) which attach to your lower back. When those muscles get tight (which is actually more often than you think) it can cause your back to ache. Here is the easiest hamstring stretch in the world! 

  • Lift your leg onto a bench or curb.
  • Keep your leg straight and slowly lower your chest down towards your leg.
  • You should feel a “pull” in the back of your leg.

As always follow these guidelines:

  • Do NOT stretch to the point of pain. You should stretch until the threshold of pain, but not beyond it. 
  • You can utilize this stretch before and after your workout.
  • Hold the position for at least 20-30 seconds.
  • Repeat on both sides.

28 11 / 2012

How to: Properly Ride A Bike

What a silly title. But really, if you learn how to size and ride your bike (regular or stationary) correctly, you can work out more efficiently. 

Positioning: 

  • Put the bike seat at hip height.
  • With feet on the pedals: the knee should bend when foot is in neutral.
  • With feet on the pedals: the knee should straighten when you drop your heel.

Motion:

  • Plantarflex (or point your toes) on the upswing.
  • Dorsiflex (flex your toes) on the downswing.
  • Sit up tall.
  • Slight bend in the elbows.
  • Keep your head in neutral and focus on something in the distance at eye level.
  • Hold your stomach in.
  • Do not rock on the seat. Try to keep your hips in line with your elbows.

Hopefully these tips will help you ride more effectively and efficiently! 

14 11 / 2012

How to: Stay slim during the holidays

Ah- the holidays are upon us. That means time with the three f’s: friends, family and food.

If you’re anything like the majority of people out there, you probably put on a little bit of weight during the holidays. Often times it’s because our get togethers and parties are surrounded by snacks, treats and calorie loaded drinks. 

To avoid putting on the pounds this holiday season try these tips:

Eat before you go.

  • When heading to a party, try to eat a good meal before you go. That way you won’t be tempted to eat a thousand calories worth of chips, cheese and cookies. So if you’re headed to a Christmas party at 2:00, try eating lunch around 12:30 to rid yourself of the temptation to snack.

Grab a plate.

  • If you want to snack, that’s fine. But consider grabbing a plate and not handful after handful. Grab a plate and put what you want on there. This way, you will not be tempted to continuously stick your hand in the chip bowl. You’ll just eat the chips you’ve already got on your plate. This includes dips as well. If you want chips and queso, grab a few chips and drizzle some cheese on it so as to avoid overeating. 

Watch your liquids.

  • We’ve all heard of empty calories and liquids is where they’re most often found. Just like with the plates, grab a cup or glass full of what you want and then dispose of it when you’re done. For every glass of wine or bottle of soda you drink, drink 1 glass or cup of water. So instead of having four beers, you’d only have two. 

Avoid seconds.

  • This is especially helpful during Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Just like with your snacking, put what you want on your plate the first time around. Estimate what you think will make you full and stick to that plate. Do not go back for seconds. 

Eat until you’re full.

  • In order to avoid overeating and the bloating that comes after it, try to eat until you are full or satiated. If you begin to feel bloated or sick, stop eating. It’s as simple as that. 

So some of these tips may not be as fun as drinking an entire bottle of wine with the fam or eating three servings of mashed potatoes, but it is what it is. When you feel down because you’re making the right decisions during the holidays for your fitness, think about this:

"Don’t exchange what you want the most for what you want in the moment.

08 11 / 2012

The Breakdown: Fat Edition

Fat. Ewww. 

Regardless, it’s essential for our body. The problem is that we typically consume too much. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the types of fats:

Saturated fat

  • Solid at room temperature.
  • Examples: butter, animal fats, shortening.

Monounsaturated fat

  • Liquid at room temperature.
  • Examples: canola oil, vegetable oils.

Polyunsaturated fat

  • Liquid at room temperature.
  • Examples: fish oil, flax oil.

Whether a fat is saturated or not depends on the number of hydrogen atoms in the structure. 

Trans fat

  • Fats that have been hydrogenated for a longer shelf life.
  • You should avoid these fats as much as possible.
  • Example: shortenings, fried foods, bakery items.

Essential Fatty Acids

  • They are considered essential because you have to ingest them. Our bodies cannot make these fats on our own.
  • Examples: omega-3 fats (salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout) and omega-6 fats (vegetable and canola oils).
  • Select these most often.

And that’s that. Avoid trans fats. Take in saturated fats moderately and select essential fats the most often. 

03 11 / 2012

02 11 / 2012

How to: Properly Use An Elliptical Machine

ELLIPTICAL OMGGGGZ EVERYBODY LOVES THIS MACHINE. Why? I’m still not quite sure. Regardless, think about these things the next time you hop on one:

  • Set an appropriate resistance. Resistance 1 is like space walking.
  • Stand up tall.
  • Head in neutral with a focus on something in the distance that is at eye level.
  • Keep feet firmly on plates with toes facing forward.
  • Rest hands lightly on handles. (Sidenote: do NOT push your weight with your arms. If you have to use your arms, the resistance is too high.)
  • Do not twist your hips and back. Keep your hips in line with the handles on the machine. 

The elliptical is a great machine but it should not be your prime form of cardiovascular exercise. This is a non impact machine so it is best to use partnered with impact exercise (like biking, walking or jogging). 

28 10 / 2012

The Halloween Workout

Skull Crushers

Step 1:

Step 2:

Tighten your abs so as to keep your lower back on the mat. Hold your arms straight over the highest part of your chest. Lower the weights towards your head by ONLY using your elbows. 
Area worked: triceps.
Frequency: 15 reps. 

Monster Walk:

Step 1:

Step 2:

Keep your knees locked. Take small steps with toes facing forward.
Area worked: hips. 
Frequency: 2 laps, or 25 steps on each foot (40 total).  

Dracula’s Coffin:

Step 1:

Step 2:

It’s basically a half crunch. Keep your abs tight. Hands behind your ears.
Area worked: abs.
Frequency: 20 crunches. 

Zombie Lean:

Step 1:

Step 2:

Keep a slight bend in your knees. Do not lean forward or backward, just sideways. Area worked: obliques.
Frequency: 20 leans each side.

Pumpkin Smashers

Step 1:

Step 2:

Let your arms hang. Legs should be in a squat position. Chest up. Swing your arms upward, tighten your abs and do NOT arch your back.
Area worked: quads, glutes.
Frequency: 20 times. 

Corpse Hold

Step 1:

Step 2:

Legs straight, arms out to the side. Tight abs. Raise your arms and legs 6 inches off the ground. Do NOT strain your neck. Keep it in a neutral position. 
Area worked: core.
Frequency: 10 times, hold for 15 seconds. 

Slashers

Step 1:

Step 2:

Tight abs, straight back. Straighten one arm while the other arm remains bent at 90 degrees. Alternate.
Area worked: shoulders, triceps, biceps.
Frequency: 15 each side.  

Here’s a link to the Halloween  workout!

27 10 / 2012

22 10 / 2012

21 10 / 2012

The Breakdown: Carbohydrate Edition

Carbs are confusing. Everybody says to avoid them, but this is not the way to go. Cutting out carbs completely can make you feel sluggish during workouts. 

Below is a quick breakdown:

What do carbs do? Carbs are the body’s main source of energy. They provide glucose for your brain and muscles so that you are able to work out for oh, more than five minutes. 

Simple Carbs

  • Technically called monosaccharides and disaccharides. These names refer to the number of sugar molecules in the substance (1 or 2 respectively).
  •  Examples of simple carbs are table sugars, soft drinks and simple sugars like honey. 
  • These carbs are often consumed by athletes prior to performance because they are rapidly absorbed by the body to be used as fuel. It’s like a sugar rush (for lack of a better term). There’s a quick surge, but a fast fall follows. 
  • Use these during or directly after a workout. Your muscles are burning and hungry for glycogen which is what simple carbs provide. 
  • Sports drinks (such as Powerade or Gatorade) and fruit juices are the easiest ways to consume simple carbs.

Complex Carbs

  • Technically called polysaccharides (which obviously means many sugars).
  • Also known as starch or dietary fiber.
  • Examples include: grains, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, etc.
  • These carbs should make up the majority of the carbs you consume. This is because they provide a more sustainable source of energy for your body.

Why is fiber so important?

  • It slows your digestion which helps you keep your energy longer. 
  • It gives you a feeling of fullness. Overeating? No thanks. 
  • It decreases fat and cholesterol absorption. Woot.

There you have it. The simplified carbohydrate confection. 

Carbs are not the devil’s nutrient. It’s the choices you make about the carbs you eat that can help you stay slim or gain weight.