Friday, November 21, 2014

New Product Announcement: Black Mountain Products Ultimate Resistance Band Set

Resistance bands should receive more recognition as they not only increase muscles strength and flexibility, but also stimulate growth. Resistance bands use many parts of one's body free weights can often neglect. Not only are they beneficial to use in one's workout, but they are also very convenient and easy to use. They aren't expensive and are perfect for travel.

Unlike free weights, resistance bands place constant tension on muscles, allowing one to work through the entire exercise without rest. Using a resistance band requires the muscles to use control which can be quite the challenge. 

The Black Mountain Products Ultimate Resistance Band Set offers a wide range of bands and accessories. Choosing which band to use is simple- the more resistance, the thicker the band. Specific details pertaining the color of each band can be found on our website. 

Exercises Using Resistance Bands-

Curls: Stand on band with leg width appropriate so tension will start with arms straight down. Holding handles palms up, curl as you would dumbbells.

Triceps Extensions: Stand on band with leg width set so tension begins at height of your hand with arms behind your back (over your head) and elbows flexed. Extend your arms as you would with Triceps extensions.

Lateral Raises: Stand on band so tension begins with arms at sides. Keeping your arms straight, raise you arms out to your sides so they are parallel with the floor.

Back Flyes: Fix band around a stationary post. Stand back so tension begins with arms raised in front of you. Keeping your arms straight and feet planted, move your arms back so they are extended to your sides.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why Having Good Posture is Essential to Your Health

Having a good posture is essential to being physically fit; it is just as important as eating right, exercising, and getting a good night's sleep. Having a good posture results in having more energy and less stress and fatigue. Shocked? Most fitness advocates often over look the importance of good posture.

Good posture means your bones are properly aligned and your muscles, joints and ligaments can work as they were meant to. It helps contribute to the normal functioning of the nervous system.

During work how can one improve his/her posture? The answer is simple. Using a chair like the Swopper Ergonomic Stool encourages you to sit up straight and increase your range of motion! Besides sitting up straight, improving your flexibility and muscle strength will help support your posture.

Just like maintaining good health by eating right and exercising is important, one should be mindful about improving their posture to avoid achy muscles and fatigue.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Benefits of Proper Recovery After a Workout

To get the most out of a workout, recovery is key! 

Whether you’re just a beginner or a lifelong running pro, learning how to recover properly is essential to everyone! During exercise the body produces lactic acid which often causes muscle soreness and tightness. Rolling out before a workout warms up your muscles and increases the efficiency of your workout. Massaging after a workout not only feels great but reduces lactic acid build-up as well!

Use a foam roller to increase blood flow and flexibility. After a run, using the foam roller will help speed up recovery and keep some money in your pocket as it easily replaces the need for a massage therapist! To ease very tense muscles, try using a more dense roller.

A foot massage eases pain from tight muscles. The Moji 360 Foot Massager works well to revitalize sore and tired feet from running or exercising. Simply rolling your feet on this massager will speed up the recovery process immensely.

And don’t forget to stay hydrated before, after, and especially during your workout. FuelBelt water bottle packs are convenient and perfect way to keep hydrated during that fall long run!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Products Announcement: Swiftwick Compression Socks

When shopping for your different exercise needs, there are all kinds of fitness equipment and gear to consider. One thing that may never cross your mind is the type of socks you wear. But the right workout socks can actually make a huge difference, especially for athletes. Whether you’re into running, cycling, hiking, baseball, hockey, or any other sport or fitness activity, Swiftwick has designed several lines of compression socks to give you the ultimate comfort and meet all your needs.

Why compression? It improves blood blow and circulation, which may enhance your performance and endurance. It may also help with relieving sore muscles so your recovery time is shorter.

Swiftwick socks are also moisture wicking to keep them dry during your toughest training sessions. This is an important quality for working out in the summer, as well as the winter. Fabrics that stay dry help keep you warmer when exercising in cooler temps. They’re essential for anyone training outdoors now that the weather is getting colder.

There are plenty of other benefits to selecting the right socks. When running a marathon or competing in an event, you don’t want to have to worry about them bunching up. Not only is it a distracting discomfort, it can also cause blisters. Swiftwick’s Linked-Toe technology eliminates bunching in the toe-box so blisters don’t have to be an issue for you.

Most of Swiftwick’s socks are knitted at 200 needles. Why is that so important? The tight knit design keeps debris from penetrating the sock. If you’re hitting the trails, sometimes little pieces can get in your socks and irritate your skin, which can also cause blisters. The high density material allows you to avoid dealing with that irritation or having to take time out to see what’s bothering you.

If you’ve previously overlooked the importance of selecting the right socks, you’ll find that they can make your training and event days much more comfortable! Plus, they're available in different heights and colors.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

5 Ways to Prevent Workout Injuries

Nobody ever wants to be sidelined with an injury. Aside from the pain, it’s an inconvenience to your exercise routine, as well as your daily life. Fortunately, most exercise related injuries can easily be prevented. There are a few common mistakes that even regulars in the gym can be guilty of doing. It’s best to be aware of them to avoid serious problems.

Mistake 1: Working Out Too Much

This is usually an issue for beginners. Those starting a new program often do so with enthusiasm and a goal of committing to make a big change. The desire is strong and newbies can sometimes go at it too hard. The ones who are really determined often plan longer workout sessions on a daily basis, without recovery time. While the enthusiasm is great, it can cause you to burn out fast and lead to injuries. It’s better to focus on the quality of exercise, and less on the quantity. There’s no need to overdo it. Twenty minutes of a focused session is a good starting point for beginners until they are ready to progress to a longer period.

Mistake 2: Following the “No Pain, No Gain” Philosophy

This is one for both amateurs and gym veterans. Exercise is a challenge and it’s going to be difficult. A program that’s too easy won’t yield results. However, pain is a way of telling your body that something is wrong. Don’t ignore a nagging pain that won’t go away because it can develop into a more serious problem.

Mistake 3: Forgetting About Form

Proper form is essential for everyone. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been performing a certain move or exercise, you can still be putting yourself at risk if you’re just not doing it right. But there are plenty of ways to remedy this. Try taking a group class, get some personalized instruction with a trainer, or make use of some fitness DVDs. If you aren’t able to take advantage of those options, simply ask a friend. It’s easier for outsiders to see how you’re doing and can offer better suggestions than only going by how it feels to you.

Mistake 4: Getting Stuck in a Fitness Rut

If you’ve been doing the same routine over and over without variation, that can be a problem. On the one hand, it’s great to be consistent and stay committed. On the other hand, it can lead to overuse injuries by adding a lot of stress to the same muscles and joints on a daily basis. A little variety can prevent that, and also help you get a more complete workout.

Mistake 5: Not Listening to Your Body

Everyone is different, and you know yourself better than anyone else. There’s no need to compare yourself to others and try and push the limits so you can match others at the gym. Your only focus should be on you and your own workout. In addition, if you’re feeling off or notice a particular exercise is affecting you differently, don’t push yourself. Get some rest or try to figure out why there’s been a sudden change.

Keeping yourself healthy and injury free will allow you to have consistent, productive workouts!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Take on a Fall Fitness Challenge

The holiday season often sneaks up on us and it arrives before we know it. Thanksgiving is still 5 weeks away, so why would we want to rush it? Thinking about it now can still give you enough time to sign up and start training for one of the most popular fitness events of the year - a Turkey Trot or Thanksgiving Day race.

Fall is the perfect time to take on a new fitness challenge. Motivation is often lost at the end of summer, and it’s tempting to put on some comfy clothes and head indoors to stay warm. We spend less time at the gym and we lose that desire to stay fit. If you find yourself falling into this trap as the year goes on and you need to reboot your fitness routine, try committing to a race to regain your motivation.

Since Thanksgiving races have become so popular, it’s likely that you will be able to find one near you, no matter where you live. It should also be fairly easy to find a race that’s the right distance for you. They usually vary in distances but typically range between 5K and 10K. Even if you’re a beginner, starting today would give you enough time throughout the 5 remaining weeks to prepare yourself for a 5K. You can also choose to walk instead of run, or do a little of both.

If you’re ready to take on the challenge, the first step you need to do is sign up! It’s important that you don’t put this off until later. Once you’re committed to it, make your plan. Writing it out will make it much easier for you to stick to it.

Try to design a training program with at least three running days per week. During your running times, you’ll want to alternate between periods of walking and jogging. As your training progresses, slowly increase the amount of running time, and decrease your walking time. You should also slowly increase the distance. Plan enough time to warm up and cool down. Add some strength training but don’t forget to take your rest days. Recovery days are an essential part of any healthy program.

Finally, get out there and start training. These races tend to be recreational so they’re great for beginners. In the end, it doesn’t matter how fast you finish but just that you took on the challenge, put in the effort, and completed the race. Just enjoy the cooler temps and all that training during this season has to offer. And by the time the holiday season rolls around, you’ll be in better shape and ready to enjoy that Thanksgiving meal!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Truth Behind 5 Common HIIT Myths

One of the most effective and time-saving workouts is High-Intensity Interval Training, also known as HIIT. It’s a great way to build muscle and burn fat while spending less time at the gym. As its popularity has increased, so have a few misconceptions. Here are several of the myths to help you understand it better.

Myth #1: Anyone Can Do HIIT

Truth: While this is true to some degree, beginners should be more cautious to avoid the risk of injury and soreness. It’s recommended that one should be able to consistently do 30 minutes of low-intensity before kicking it up to high intensity. Like any new program, it’s best to ease into it.

Myth #2: HIIT Only Works for Cardio

Truth: Most people associate High-Intensity Interval Training with cardio, especially running. However, it can be applied to other exercises. Its main purpose is to alternate short periods of higher intensity with longer periods of lower intensity. Whether that time is spent hitting the treadmill, or doing other things such as swinging a kettlebell or performing bodyweight exercises, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about alternating intervals of briefly taking it up a notch and then bringing back down to normal.

Myth #3: All You Need is HIIT

Truth: Sticking to HIIT is a great way to stay active, but it should be just a part of your fitness regimen. It’s important to include regular strength training. It’s also beneficial to add steady state cardio without the bursts of increased intensity. Cardio done at a steady state can help you build endurance. In addition, only doing lighter intensity aerobic activity can be ideal on those recovery days when your body needs a rest.

Myth #4: More is Better

Just because the idea is to train hard, you don’t want to overdo it. It’s best to keep your workout between 20 -30 minutes. You’ll want to limit the duration as well as the frequency. It’s best to follow it up with a recover day and stay with three sessions per week.

Myth #5: HIIT Alternates Between High Intensity and Rest

Truth: The high-intensity periods are meant to be followed by low-intensity periods, and not complete rests. Many people confuse this and simply stop activity after the high-intensity spurts. It’s not really considered HIIT if you don’t keep the activity going at a slower rate.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Products Announcement: The Surge and the Kamagon Ball

Hedstrom Fitess, the same brand that created BOSU, is now providing a few more innovative ways to train. The Surge and the Kamagon Ball, both water-filled products, challenge the user to perform better in the real world through the use of dynamic-fluid living resistance training.

Whether you’re carrying around your young child, handling groceries, working on the job, or playing hard in your sport, life demands that you deal with unstable objects. Dynamic-fluid resistance requires our bodies to constantly adapt to the shifting water inside the product. It also involves an increased focus, which translates to a more productive workout. This intense style results in building a stronger core, as well as training muscles to handle life as we live it on a day to day basis.

Other things that fall under the living resistance category are sandbags, heavy ropes, and chains. If you’re already working with these items, or interested in something comparable, the Surge and the Kamagon Ball will yield similar results and come with some unique benefits, including adjustability.

The Surge, which was originally developed for the training of emergency responders, is a 42” long tube that can be filled with 10 – 65 lbs of water. Users can easily progress at their own pace without needing to purchase heavier tubes. The handles and easier to hold design set it apart from the more basic slosh pipes, which have tried to accomplish the same thing. The Surge also includes a fitness DVD.

The Kamagon Ball is a different design, but similar in the results it produces. It utilizes multiple groups of muscles at the same time. It comes in several sizes and colors, and is also adjustable with the amount of water it holds. The two handles allow for various ways to grip the ball. It has similar benefits of a medicine ball or kettle bell, except it adds the element of the unpredictable movement of the shifting water.

Both the Surge and the Kamagon Ball are a great addition to any home gym. They take strength training and functional fitness to a new level by improving core, flexibility, strength, and balance in one workout. It’s an effective tool for anyone looking to boost athletic performance, or simply gain strength for their daily lives!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

7 Reasons You Should Be Weightlifting

Ask anyone the benefits of weightlifting and the most popular responses are usually building more muscle and increasing strength. However, there are many added benefits that we forget or don’t even realize. Here’s a reminder on a few reasons why it’s important not to shy away from lifting weights.

1. Fight Fat – Building muscle can increase your body’s metabolism and help you fight body fat. Your body burns more calories while building and maintain muscle than it does for fat. Even if you don’t make any changes to your diet, you can still see some results by following a weightlifting program.

2. Lessen Back Pain – It may seem like lifting weights would contribute to back pain, but it can actually help prevent it. Working on back muscles can stabilize your spine, improve your posture, and strengthen any weak muscles that could cause pain. You’ll also find relief by working on the core, legs, and the body as a whole.

3. Improve Balance – Lifting weights doesn’t just target your larger muscle groups. It also works your smaller, stabilizer muscles. Good balance is essential for completing daily tasks, such as reaching up for things or walking over slippery surfaces. It decreases your chances of falling, which becomes more and more important as we age.

4. Add Energy and Combat Depression – You can elevate your level of endorphins with strength training, which can boost your mood. Even if you’re not at risk for depression, it can still leave you feeling happier and more energized so you’re ready to tackle the day.

5. Maintain Healthy Bones – Our bones naturally weaken as we age. Strength training is a great way to prevent this from happening. Anytime our bones experience stress, they respond by building more bone mass. Women tend to fear lifting weights, but their increased risk for developing osteoporosis is one reason why it’s important for them to make it a part of their routine.

6. Improve Heart Health – Weightlifting can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure after each session. Having stronger muscles can lessen the demand that’s placed on our heart. Given how important heart health is, that’s reason enough to pick up some weights.

7. Control Blood Sugar – Diabetes is a growing worldwide problem. Lifting weights can lower the risk of developing the disease. It also assists in regulating blood sugar.

No matter what your health and fitness goals are, these 7 benefits are certainly worth putting in the time and effort for weightlifting.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

5 Ways to Break Through a Training Plateau

It can be frustrating to train hard and see and fewer results. For those who are fairly new to strength training, you may have been able to make some dramatic strength gains during the initial stages of your training. Over time, though, the strength gains lessen and it gets harder to keep progressing. Usually after about six months, people start to reach a plateau and their gains begin to level off. If you find yourself at or nearing a plateau, there are some adjustments you can make to help you break past it.

1. Increase Intensity – Instead of doing more reps at a lower weight, try a higher weight at a lower amount of reps. It will force your muscles to work harder. Making your muscles work harder, rather than for a longer a period of time, is one of the best ways to break through a plateau. Just remember to make gradual weight increases. Microloading by adding fractional weights is a great way to do this. It’s also a good idea not to rush your movements and lift in a controlled manner to get the most out of your efforts.

2. Change the Order – You probably have a set routine established and perform a specific pattern of exercises. Simply just breaking free from your normal pattern and doing things out of order can challenge your muscles in a new way. You may find certain exercises may be a lot harder when performed at the end of your workout. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that it’s usually best to work out the bigger muscle groups at the beginning of your regimen.

3. Add Variation – Aside from just switching up the order, it’s ideal to introduce new challenges to your routine. If you’re used to working out with machines, try free weights, or vice versa. Making little adjustments to keep your program interesting and work your muscles in new ways can be enough to break through that plateau.

4. Evaluate Your Program – It might be time to take a good look at your routine. Now that you’ve been sticking to it for quite some time, is there anything that you’ve outgrown? Are there exercises that you weren’t previously ready for but are now up to the challenge? If you’re uncertain, you can consult a personal trainer for a few sessions.

5. Get Enough Rest – Adequate rest is an essential part of making healthy strength gains. Your muscles need the time to recover. If they don’t get the proper rest, you’ll be too fatigued to maintain your program and you’ll put yourself at risk of an injury.

Overall, the important thing is to stick with your training and don’t give up when you hit a plateau. They can pop up from time to time but making those small adjustments will keep you going strong!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

5 Common Cardio Myths You Can Put to Rest

When it comes to exercising, there are plenty of misconceptions people have that keep them from staying fit. Here are 5 myths that people tend to believe about cardio routines.

Myth #1: Cardio is only for people who are concerned with weight loss.

The Truth: Whether you’re looking to shed some extra pounds or want to bulk up, cardio is beneficial to everyone. Among many other things, it helps get your blood pumping, strengthens your heart, improves your endurance, and increases your lung capacity. So, it’s not something to shy away from even if you’re looking to add muscle. It’s important to include some amount of cardio in your routine.

Myth #2: The machine displays an accurate count of calories burned.

The Truth: A display that shows calories burned is helpful, as long as it’s used as a guide. The amount of calories burned will vary from person to person so the number that is shown is just an estimate. An additional way to determine how many calories you’ve burned is to invest in a good heart rate monitor that will better evaluate your workout intensity.

Myth #3: More cardio means you can eat whatever you want.

The Truth: Wouldn’t it be great if this were true? Unfortunately, it’s not. Many people use their cardio workouts to burn off the extra junk food they just ate. However, it usually takes a lot longer to burn off the calories of a big splurge than we tend to think. If you consider the amount of calories consumed in a typical fast food meal, it may actually take hours. Anyone who works out with this in mind is not actually burning off those calories in the time they allotted. If they are able to accomplish that, then they are probably working out too long. Spending hours on a cardio machine day after day can lead to overtraining and can be damaging.

Myth #4: Steady-state cardio is best for burning fat.

The Truth: Doing cardio at the same pace for a longer period of time may be easier, so you may wind up burning more calories during your workout time. But high intensity interval training (HIIT), where you alternate short bursts of intense cardio and periods of rest, will actually help you burn more calories throughout the entire day. Your body will be burning more even when you’re not exercising. The goal is to focus less on the amount of time and more on the intensity.

Myth #5: If you only have a short time to devote, you might as well skip it.

The Truth: Even if all you have is ten minutes, it’s still worth the time you’ll take. Any amount of time that you can devote to being active is better than doing nothing.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

5 Fitness Hacks to Make Staying Fit Simpler

When it comes to getting fit, there's no way to cheat. It requires hard work and dedication. However, there are a few simple tricks to put into effect to make life a little easier. Here are 5 fitness hacks that could be useful for anyone.

Combine Strength and Cardio

Short on time? For those days that don’t allow a full workout, try combining your efforts. You can get in both cardio and strength training in the same amount of time. Using kettlebells is one way to accomplish this. While they are primarily used for strength training, certain movements will keep your heart rate up and provide some of the benefits of cardio. Adding a weighted vest or a pair of ankle weights as you walk or jog will increase your strength during your cardio session.

Perform Compound Exercises

Another way to get the most out of your workout is by working more than one muscle group at a time. The best way to do this is with compound exercises. To read more about the benefits of compound exercises vs. isolated exercises, check out our previous article.

Keep a Record

One of the most important things you can do to stay on track with your fitness regimen is making a plan. Setting goals and planning ahead is a great way to hold yourself accountable. So, why not take it one step further by keeping a fitness diary? Don't just plan your routine before it happens. Take some time to write down what you did after your workout. Did you meet your goals? Were there areas where you fell short? Not only will it be a valuable tool for showing you how you can improve, it can also be motivating to see how hard you've worked and make it easier to stay on track.

Use a Pedometer

How close do you come to reaching the recommended goal of 10,000 steps a day? A pedometer is a great way to evaluate how active you really are. This is an especially useful accessory on those rest days.

Listen to an Audio Book It's common to use music to get you through your workouts, but have you tried listening to an audio book? It's easy to do with some earphones and the help of your phone. It may not get you as pumped as your favorite tunes, but it can easily help in passing the time. This is especially true for a book you've been waiting to read or with one you have trouble putting down. For an added incentive, don't allow yourself to listen to it unless you're exercising. That doesn't mean you need to ditch your favorite playlist, but switch up what you're listening to for some added variety.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

10 Tips for Staying Fit in College

Adjusting to college life can be a challenge. It’s often the first time that many young adults get the chance to make their own rules. There’s the freedom to choose all your own meals at the cafeteria and snack on whatever you want in the dorms. Plus, there’s no one requiring you to stay active in high school P.E. classes. But it’s not just freshmen that are concerned about the “Freshman 15.” Keeping fit can be difficult for any seasoned college student, especially when you add in the busy class schedules, social activities, part-time jobs, and late night study sessions. Fortunately, staying healthy doesn’t have to be hard if you commit yourself to it. Here are 10 tips to help you stay fit in college.

1. Schedule Your Time – The students who make a plan are much likelier to succeed than those who simply say they will try to make time for exercise. College life can be hectic, so fitting in your workout as if it were a class you need to be at will make it much easier. Once you have your class schedule in place, you can plan out your days and make better use of your time. If you sit down and work it out, you may find you have a long break between classes near the fitness center where you can get in your workout.

2. Use the Campus – College campuses are perfectly designed for cardio workouts. Walking or biking to class will add activity to your day, especially if you have time to take the long way. That’s another reason why planning ahead will come in handy. There are many ways to fit in cardio, even if you’re not headed to class.

3. Head to the Fitness Center – Many colleges have a fitness center that is either free for student use, or the rate is reduced. This is a perk that won’t last after graduation. So, if you have access to fitness equipment, you might as well take advantage of it.

4. Take a Class – Your school may offer fitness classes that you can receive credit for. This will keep you from giving into excuses. Even a nutrition class would be a smart idea.

5. Multitask – If you’re short on time but have a lot of reading to do for a class, take your book to the fitness center. Hop on a treadmill or bike and study at the same time. You can pass the time on a machine while you review your notes.

6. Join a Team – Intramural sports are a great way to get exercise without getting bored. It can take the place of the exercise you may have been getting from your high school sport, and it’s great for socializing.

7. Form Your Own Club - Look for others who have shared interests and may want to join something like a running or biking club, for example. Working out with others will help you stay committed, and it will give you an opportunity to meet new people. You can check bulletin boards or put up flyers to find others that may want to join you. Even if you only wind up working out with one other person from your dorm, it can give you the edge you need to stay focused.

8. Maintain Balance - Be sure you’re making time for cardio and strength training. With all the walking you may be doing around campus, it’s important to make sure you’re incorporating strength training into your routine.

9. Get the Right Tools -Put together your own mini home gym for your dorm or apartment. There are plenty of small fitness items that don’t take up much space but can give you a full workout, while still staying within the tight budget of a college student. Resistance bands, weighted fitness balls, jump ropes, yoga mats, or a small pair of dumbbells, are some examples of portable, space-saving pieces. They can be taken outdoors or used inside if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

10. Eat and Sleep Well – In order to stay fit, you should try to eat right and get enough sleep. This isn’t always easy in college, but it can be done if you make the effort.

Making fitness a priority while away at school is not only important for keeping off the unwanted Freshman 15, but it will allow you to succeed in other areas. It can help you manage stress, improve your mind for your classes, and give you the energy you need to handle your schedule. If you make an effort to stay healthy, you’ll have an easier time, overall, at handling college life!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Benefits of Using a Medicine Ball

Day after day, you head to the gym performing the same movements in your routine. If you need a change that will prevent boredom, adding a medicine ball is an excellent way to challenge yourself in a routine that you’ve become used to. Besides keeping your workout fresh, it also provides some great benefits.

Medicine balls are a valuable tool for strength training. You can add intensity to some of the exercises you’ve been performing by simply holding the ball while you do the movements. You can take exercises, such as lunges or squats, to the next level and build more muscle mass. If you’ve recently hit a plateau, this can be a great way to vary your regimen and push beyond it.

Medicine balls are also frequently used to improve core strength by working on your abs and muscles in your back. Tossing the ball to the side or throwing it back and forth to a workout buddy is one of the ways you can engage your core. Using it in this way can help with balance and posture.

Sports training is another way medicine balls are used. They can be tossed, caught, rolled, pushed, or bounced in a variety of ways that enhance sports performance. Plus, they improve hand-eye coordination.

Other benefits include improving flexibility and endurance. Since the movements become more challenging, you have to push harder, which increases your range of motion. It will also help you with performing your daily tasks because it’s a form of functional training, and you mimic real-life activities. Although medicine balls are commonly used to push harder in a routine, they are also used in rehabilitation. Whether you’re an athlete looking to train harder, or simply just improve your balance, they are safe for all ages and fitness levels.

Because you’re able to use them with such a variety of exercises that work out both your upper and lower body, it’s an inexpensive piece of equipment that takes up little space. And it’s easy enough to take outdoors with you if you need a change of scenery. With its limitless uses and many benefits, it makes a great addition to any home gym!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Choosing a Weightlifting Belt

While they were once considered gear for only serious lifters, weightlifting belts have become increasingly popular among male and female lifters of all levels of experience and skill. Among some of their benefits, lifting belts support the core, encourage proper form, assist in preventing injuries, keep the back aligned, and can be a great confidence booster at the gym. You may have noticed more people wearing them and wondered if a belt was right for you. If you're considering making a purchase, there a few things you should think about to help you decide which one to get.


The best way to start narrowing down your options is by deciding what type of material you want. The two main choices are leather or nylon. A leather belt is stiff and offers less give when performing exercises. As a result, you'll get much more support. They’re also very durable. Weightlifters tend to favor using them for things like squats or deadlifts. However, some people find them to be too rigid and not as comfortable as the lighter material.

As an alternative, nylon belts will provide much more give during exercises. This makes them ideal for performing more complex movements. Although, it also means they don't offer the same secure feeling that a leather belt gives. They tend to be favored by power lifters, and are also great for those who are sensitive to the stiffness of leather and want more comfort.


Once you've figure out the type of material you want, the next thing to consider is how it closes, or the locking mechanism. Many belts lock in place with a hook and pin, similar to what you'd see on a regular belt. This closure system offers lifters a lot of security, but you may not get the belt as tight as you'd prefer since the pin can only be locked in certain places.

For a more custom fit, there are belts that come with some form of a quick release lock. The belt can be adjusted to lock in place at any point for the ultimate fit. However, some lifters prefer the security of the hook and pin closure.


The next thing to look at is belt width. The width of the belt comes in various sizes, with the most common being four or six inches. Choosing the right width is generally determined by height. Four inch belts are great for those who are around 5'6" or shorter. Six inch belts are ideal for those over that height. However, that's just a guideline and some people base it on personal preference for what feels best.


Finally, paying close attention to the manufacturer's sizing chart is important. You may be used to buying a particular size in one brand, but the guidelines may vary in another brand. It's best to measure and not make any assumptions.

Ultimately, the right belt is decided on your preferences and needs. Think about what movements you'll be using it for and how much support you'll need. This will help guide you in deciding on the perfect belt!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Returning to Exercise

Sometimes life gets too hectic and even the most dedicated athletes have reasons for taking a break from their workout routines. Whether you were sidelined with an illness, had family issues arise, or simply got bored, things happen. Maybe your summer has been busy but you’re now ready to make exercise a priority again. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to get back in the habit. There are a few things to consider before jumping back into a routine after a hiatus.

Depending on how long your break was, you may need to work back up to where you were. A few days of rest are encouraged at times to prevent overtraining, so a week-long break isn’t a cause for concern. You may even feel stronger after giving your muscles a break. However, a couple months or even a few weeks will require changes from what you were used to doing.

Many people who start exercising again might do so because they feel a renewed sense of motivation. That’s great! But too much enthusiasm can be a danger. You don’t want to be so excited to make up for lost time that you overdo it. Your strength will not be what you were when you had a regular routine, and you should gradually work up to that point again. If you’ve taken a few weeks off from strength training, it’s best to scale back on the number of sets you do and the size weights you use. Or, start at a slower pace for your cardio workout. Taking the time to progress again will help prevent unnecessary injury.

Just as you don’t want to overdo it, you also don’t want to underdo it. The key is maintaining the right balance. If you were running ten miles and took a two week break, it isn’t necessary to go back to walking one mile. How long you’ve been inactive and your fitness level will make a difference.

Another important thing to think about is your diet. You haven’t had to worry about the right nutrition to fuel your workouts while you were taking a break. Once you start up again, you’ll want to cut back on any junk food and tailor your meals to give you enough energy.

However long you’ve been out of practice, don’t get discouraged if you’re not where you used to be. It may take some reconditioning but your body will be able to get back where it was. And you’ll have an easier time getting back into it than when you first started. The important thing to keep in mind is that you’re getting yourself back on track!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Post-Workout Meal and Snack Ideas

What you do during the time after your workout is important. Following up with the right foods should be an essential part of your post-workout routine. To help your body recover, it is best to eat within 30 – 60 minutes after exercise. Refueling with the right amount of protein will help your muscles, while carbohydrates will replenish energy stores. Whether you have time for a meal or just a quick snack, there are plenty of options to consider.

If your workouts are in the morning, an egg sandwich is a great option. The egg will provide the protein you need, while the bread will give you the carbs. Sandwiches are also a good choice if you’re working out around lunchtime. Using whole grain bread will make it even healthier. Filling it with lettuce or tomato will add in a serving of veggies.

When looking for a protein-packed dinner to follow up with, chicken or fish are great sources. Have a side of brown rice for carbs. You can also opt for a stir-fry. Loading up on vegetables with your meal will add fiber to keep you full the entire evening. This will help eliminate any urges for late-night snacking.

Depending on what time you work out, you may not want a full meal. A snack can be enough to provide the nutrients you need to recover. A little yogurt and berries can give you everything your body needs. You can also make your own smoothie with yogurt or skim milk. Throw in some bananas, berries or whatever fruit you prefer. You can even toss in a little protein powder. Another great snack idea is a rice cake topped with peanut butter or almond butter for protein. Or, try slathering peanut butter on some apple slices.

There are also some great options for those days when you just need a snack but don’t have time to prepare one. A mix of dried fruit and nuts are perfect when you’re on the go. Just remember to watch portion size. A small handful will work without overdoing it. A protein or energy bar is another thing you can easily grab.

These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking. The key things to keep in mind are keeping portion size in check, and choosing foods that will provide a good combination of protein and carbohydrates, while still low in fat. But the possibilities are endless. You can still be healthy while enjoying your post-workout bite to eat. And it’s a great way to help your body recover!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Proper Hydration with Exercise

We’ve all heard that we need to drink plenty of water throughout the day. We hear it even more during the summer. Hydration is essential, especially for those who are active. Staying properly hydrated is usually listed on every fitness and exercise guide. But what exactly does that mean? We’ll help you figure out how much water you need and why it’s so important.

Whether you’re a beginning exerciser or an advanced athlete, drinking enough water should be one of your concerns. Water helps lubricate joints, transport nutrients, and regulate body temperature. Not being properly hydrated can lead to poor athletic performance by causing fatigue, as well as more serious symptoms.

Many factors, such as heat, exercise intensity, or how much one sweats, can affect how much water one should drink. As a result, there are no set rules to follow. However, there are recommendations that can give you a starting point. For moderate to high-intensity exercise, the American Council on Fitness suggests drinking the following:

• 2 to 3 hours prior to exercising: 17 – 20 ounces of water

• Before your warm-up: 8 ounces of water

• Every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise: 7 – 10 ounces of water

• Within 30 minutes after exercise: 8 ounces of water

In order to get a better idea of what your body specifically needs, there's a simple thing you can do. Take a couple of sessions to weigh yourself before and after you exercise. The average amount of weight you lose will most likely be fluid loss. You are going to want to replace that loss of fluid during the time you exercise. For every pound of body weight that you typically lose, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water. You can increase this number if you are exercising in hotter temperatures or at a greater intensity than you are used to doing. If you find that you are gaining weight right after your session, it can signal that you are drinking more than you need.

Some people wonder about the benefits of hydrating with sports drinks. Water is typically the best way to replace fluid loss for the average person. You usually don’t deplete your store of potassium, sodium, or electrolytes, that sports drinks help replenish. However, you might want to consider one if you’ve been exercising at a high intensity for longer than 60 minutes.

It’s important to remember that you need to keep drinking as you exercise, and not just when you feel extra thirsty. This will help prevent you from experiencing dehydration, when your body does not have enough water to work properly. Fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, and a stop in sweat can be warning signs of dehydration. More severe symptoms can be mental confusion and weakness.

Another thing to be aware of, although rare, is hyponatremia. This is when the body has too much water and not enough sodium. It is a result of drinking extreme amounts of water and, like dehydration, it requires medical attention.

The important thing is to keep drinking water with the recommended guidelines in mind. Always have a water bottle handy at the gym or outdoors, especially during these hot summer months. It will help you properly hydrate and have your body performing at its best as you exercise.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

10 Outdoor Fitness Safety Tips

Whether it’s at the beach, in the water, along a trail, or just around the neighborhood, many people take their workouts outdoors. Not only is it good to get out in the fresh air, it can be a fun change of pace. But you can be exposed to a lot more elements than you’re used to when you’re exercising in a controlled environment, like a gym. Since July is usually the height of hot weather, it’s always smart to remind yourself of the ways to stay safe as you head outside to get fit. Here are a few important tips to keep in mind.

1.) Always keep an eye on the weather report. Pay attention to the temperature and exercise indoors during periods of extreme heat. It’s also important to avoid air pollution. If you live in a city where this is of special concern, your local weather report should provide an Air Quality Index. You’ll probably want to head indoors if the levels are over 100.

2.) Watch the clock. It’s best to avoid peak sun hours or scheduling your workout between 10 am and 2 pm. Early mornings or around dusk are the ideal times.

3.) Allow your body to acclimate to the heat. When you’re used to working out in the comfort of an air-conditioned gym, the weather can take a little getting used to. Keep your workout a little lighter until you adjust to the hotter weather. Listen to your body and head indoors if you’re feeling dizzy.

4.) Reach for sunscreen. Make sure to apply it before you leave home. Consider a sport sunscreen that is more effective while you’re working out and sweating.

5.) Select the right clothing to wear. You need protection from the sun’s rays and darker fabrics are better for this than lighter ones. However, they also add more heat. If possible, opt for sun-screen treated fabrics that are moisture-wicking, cool, and light in color and weight.

6.) Protect your eyes with quality sunglasses. UV rays contribute to various eye problems, like glaucoma or cataracts. The best way to protect yourself is to make sure your sunglasses have UVA and UVB protection. You’ll want a pair that offers protection from the light on all areas surrounding the eyes, including the top and sides.

7.) Use the right shoes. Your feet will need different support if you’re planning on hitting the trails or rocky terrain. They will also need additional padding if you’ll be walking on concrete or surfaces that don’t provide as much give. Just make sure your footwear is appropriate for the type of exercise you have planned.

8.) Protect your head. The scalp is often neglected during an outdoor workout because people forget or don’t think it’s necessary. That area of the body can still burn. Apply sunscreen on any exposed areas of your hair part or where hair may be thinning. If possible, wear a hat.

9.) Stay hydrated. Drink water before you go outside and always make sure you bring a water bottle with you. Continue to drink throughout your workout, and not just if you’re feeling thirsty. This will prevent dehydration.

10.) Be safe during the late hours. If you decide an evening workout is better, take a few precautions. Apply insect repellant to ward off bug bites. It’s also a good idea to have a workout buddy with you if it’s after dark.

Keeping all these things in mind will help you take advantage of the fresh air and give you more enjoyable workouts!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Protect Joints while Exercising

Exercise is beneficial for numerous reasons, but it does come with a small risk of injury. The joints can be one area of concern. Yet, that’s definitely not enough reason to forget working out. It just means that precautions should be taken to minimize the risk.

There are a variety of reasons that can cause one to sustain injury and add stress to the joints. Certain health conditions can increase the risk and require special consideration. Those are best discussed with a doctor. For now, we’ll just focus on the simple reasons that can easily be prevented.

Beginners or those who are starting a new program are more susceptible to joint issues. The desire to start strong is usually high. You have to make sure you give your body time to adapt to a new program. Our body usually sends us warning signals if we’re doing more than we should. For example, a rapid heart rate can indicate we may need to slow down. However, our joints provide little indication that we need more time to adapt until days later. That’s why we need to be aware and start gradually. Allowing oneself to progress will minimize stress on the joints and prevent unnecessary aches.

Another reason why beginners experience problems is because of improper form. Even something as simple as riding a stationary bike can add stress to the knees if the seat is improperly positioned. Taking time to learn the correct techniques is something everyone should do. If you’re unsure of anything, don’t hesitate to ask for help at the gym or from a friend. Keeping yourself informed can eliminate unwanted stress.

An additional rule to follow is to never skip a warm up or cool down. Warm ups prepare the body for activity by increasing circulation to the muscles and joints. Cold muscles have a harder time absorbing shock. If your muscles are warm, they’ll feel less stress on impact. A cool down is necessary because it helps joint mobility and prevents the stiffness you would otherwise feel.

Variety is another key factor in preventing joint problems. In fact, these problems are most commonly caused by overuse and repetitive motions. Switching up your program is one way to help this. Making sure you focus on your body as a whole, working all your different muscle groups, will also prevent you from overtraining one specific area. In addition, you’ll want to make sure you have some low-impact exercises in your routine so you are not only performing high-impact exercises.

Along the same line, it’s important to include a rest day. Your body needs time to recover and your joints will thank you for this. It’s a good idea to include one or two rest days per week. Always listen to your body and take longer if needed.

Proper footwear is another thing to consider. Some shoes are designed for specific purposes, so make sure you are getting the support you need from your footwear. It can be expensive, but think of it as an investment in your health.

Keeping these ideas in mind will minimize the stress on your joints, as well as any pain associated with it. If you do find yourself experiencing minor aches, it can be managed with magnetic therapy. Magnetic therapy is available in a variety of styles for targeting different areas of the body, and can provide relief. It’s important to take the precautions to protect your joints so you can remain active and keep exercise a part of your regular routine.