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.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Exercising for Strong Bones

We all know how important exercise is to build and strengthen muscles. We also know that cardio helps our heart health. One thing we tend to forget is that, among its many other functions, exercise is vital for strong bones. While proper nutrition is essential, there are also specific ways to work out our bodies to maintain healthy bones.

Strong bones should be a concern for anyone, no matter how healthy you may feel. It’s critical for teens as they are still growing, and it becomes more important as we age and are at greater risk for osteoporosis. Our spine, wrists, and hips are especially at risk for experiencing bone loss. Sometimes the problem is not that we aren’t exercising them enough, but that we aren’t doing the right kinds of exercises that vary our movements. They need to be challenged in new ways to remain strong. Adding variation to our daily movements is one of the best ways to promote healthy bones.

Another crucial element is to add weight-bearing exercises to your routine. There is often confusion on what that means. The term weight-bearing refers to how much body weight you are holding up as you move. Riding a bike, for example, where most of your body weight is resting on the bike would not be as weight-bearing as walking. The most effective exercises for strengthening bones are ones that have you up on your feet and supporting your own weight.

The reason it works is because of the way bones respond when stress is put on them during exercise. It prompts them to create more bone tissue in a process called osteogenesis. This only works at the specific areas being exercised. That’s why it’s suggested to try a variety of exercises that will strengthen bones in different areas of the body.

A few examples of weight-bearing exercises to give a try are running, jumping rope, tennis, hiking, dancing, stair-climbing or step aerobics. Keep in mind that these are high-impact activities. If you’re at greater risk for breaking or fracturing a bone, you may want to stay away from that and opt for low-impact weight-bearing exercises. Using an elliptical machine, golfing or walking may be better for you. Balance training is also a good idea to prevent falling, which could result in fractures.

Remember that the above exercises are great ways to vary your cardio routine, but other non-weight-bearing exercises are helpful. That doesn’t mean cycling or strength training won’t provide other benefits. They have their own purpose. Incorporating weight-bearing exercises will simply give you a more complete program and allow for better overall health.

Being aware of all the benefits different exercises can provide, and learning how to add them, can push you to be the strongest you’ve ever been!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Swimming for a Total Body Workout

When was the last time you hit the pool or beach for a workout? Swimming is a great option for those looking to change up their cardio routine. Not only is it a low impact exercise that’s perfect for almost anyone, it can also be very challenging. If you haven’t given much thought to taking your workout to the water, it’s time to reconsider.

There are all types of classes and fun ways to get fit in the pool, but we’ll just focus on the basics. There are four types of swimming strokes - freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly.

Freestyle swimming is generally suitable for beginners since there are no set rules on how to move your arms and legs. The only guideline to follow is that you keep part of your body above the water at all times, with the exception of turns. Depending on one’s size and swimming intensity, you can expect to burn between 500 – 700 calories in one hour.

The breaststroke uses a more particular set of movements and requires practice to perfect the technique. More coordination is needed with the arm and leg movements as the shoulders are kept in line with the water. You rely on your large leg muscles to propel you through the water. It’s not as fast of a swimming style, but it certainly gets the work done. An hour of it can burn up to 750 calories.

The backstroke is similar to the freestyle but it is done with the back facing the water. Strong abdominals and shoulders will help you with this swim. While it is technically an easier style for beginning swimmers, it can be difficult to remain aware of where one is in the pool when nearing the walls. About 500 calories can be burned in an hour. While it doesn’t burn as many calories as the others, you may find that it’s easier to swim for longer periods of time.

The most challenging stroke is the butterfly. Both your arms move up from behind you at the same time, heavily involving the shoulder muscles, followed by the legs doing a dolphin kick. This style is for more advanced swimmers and will expend the most energy. As a result, it may be hard to put in a full hour, which can burn around 800 calories.

As long as you work hard at any of the above strokes, you can expect to get a total body workout because swimming engages so many muscles in the upper and lower body. It's one of the few exercises you can do that works so many different muscle groups all at once. Depending on the swimming style you choose, you can easily decrease or increase intensity, making it challenging enough for advanced athletes or gentle enough for those needing to rehabilitate injuries. Aside from improving your cardiovascular health, it can improve flexibility and help gain strength because of the resistance that the water provides. As an added benefit, it can also be a great stress reliever. On top of that, you get to stay cool while exercising.

If you’re getting ready to jump in the pool, you may be wondering which stroke is the best. While it may seem like it would be the one that burns the most calories, it’s better to do the one that you perform the best. A sloppy butterfly will not yield the same results as a perfected breaststroke. So, give them all a try and see how you do. Just remember to go slow and work your way up to it. Even though its low impact nature makes it a gentler form of exercise, you still need to be careful. Starting out at 20 – 30 minutes for three or four days a week is all you need to get going.

For more advanced swimmers or even just beginners who are ready to commit, there are tools that can help you in your training. The Garmin Swim Watch is an easy way to keep track of your distance, pace, and stroke count. So, all you have to do is get in the water and enjoy the swim!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

5 Ways to Keep Kids Active in the Summer

Summer is approaching and most kids couldn't be happier about it. They get to trade in their long days at school for lazy days at home. That means no more early rising, recess, and required P.E. classes. Instead, many children will sleep in and stay occupied by sedentary activities. Kids can easily become glued to the couch, the TV, their iPads, video games, cell phones, and all the other electronics that even we, as adults, would probably devote all our time to if we could. Unfortunately, we need to stay active and it's important to help your children out in this area, especially during the summer months.

Experts recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day. This includes aerobic, muscle, and bone strengthening activities. It’s essential in preventing weight gain and all the problems associated with the growing issue of childhood obesity. Physical activity has also been shown to improve the mind, which is another benefit for children during their summer break away from school.

So, how do you get your child off the couch and moving? Here are a few ideas to consider.

1. Head Outdoors - There is no better place to be in the summer than outside. The activities are endless - biking, skipping rope, playing tag, basketball, baseball, tennis, swimming, walking the dog, and plenty more. Staying fit is so simple for kids when you're able to run around in the fresh air. Just make sure they have any protective helmets or other gear, and are appropriately dressed and hydrated for the heat.

2. Look for Camps - If you live in an area that provides little space to play, a day camp is a great idea. They're often filled with ways to keep children active. Some parks have community programs that are free or inexpensive if cost is an issue.

3. Set Limits – Some parents opt to take away all their children’s electronics. This will usually result in unhappy kids and there's no need to be so strict. Teach children balance by setting time limits on their use of technology, and be sure to enforce the rules.

4. Involve the Family – Plan family walks after dinner, days at the local pool, or head to the park and get a game going. Showing children how to stay active while having fun together will make it likelier for them to make fitness a priority once they reach adulthood. It will also build and strengthen family bonds.

5. Make Exercise a Reward – When using the term “exercise,” it may not sound like fun to your kids. However, these activities can appear rewarding when they are used as incentives. For example, offering to take a long bike ride or spend time at the beach after having them help out around the house will motivate them.

However you choose to stay active with your children, have a fun summer!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Are Compound or Isolation Exercises Better?

In order to get the most out of a workout routine, it is important to choose the right exercises to perform. Strength training exercises are commonly classified in two groups – isolation exercises and compound exercises. Understanding the difference between the two can help you decide what you need.

Compound exercises are multi-joint movements that work more than one muscle group at a time. They are often considered a vital part of functional fitness because they tend to mimic movements that are a part of everyday life. The squat exercise is one example. It involves both hip and knee joints, while working the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and lower back. It also helps make daily activities that closely resemble it, like needing to pick something up, a lot easier to perform.

Isolation exercises, on the other hand, work only one muscle or muscle group and one joint at a time. They are often performed on weight machines in commercial or home gyms, although some may be done without the use of machines. An example of an isolation exercise is the leg extension, which involves just the knee joint and only works the quadriceps.

The two types of exercises have different benefits. Since compound exercises work more muscle groups, they save a lot of time. You can get a total body workout with a few compound exercises and spend less time working out. You’ll also burn more calories during that time. They also give you the best opportunity to progress into greater levels of difficulty. They are a great addition to any workout because they improve coordination and balance that helps with the performance of regular daily activities.

Isolation exercises are ideal for strengthening specific weak muscles. This is the reason why they are often used in rehabilitation programs. Since they focus on one muscle, they help to recover after an injury. However, they also have their purpose with healthy athletes who are looking to focus on certain muscle groups without fatiguing other ones.

While both types have their place, it’s a good idea to make compound exercises the foundation of your workout. Unless you are trying to rehab weak muscles, you’ll probably want them to be the focus. Isolation exercises are great to add towards the end of your workout since compound exercises take more energy and it’s better to get them out of the way.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

8 Race-Day Tips for Beginners

If you’ve been training for your first 5K, or any other race, it can be hard to know what to expect. You’ve put in all the work, now you just need to focus on the actual day of the event. Here are a few things to keep in mind for the day of the race that might answer some of the questions you have.

Don’t Overdress – It’s best to dress in layers so you don’t get overheated. Since your body will warm up while you race, it’s a good idea to dress as if it were 10 – 15 degrees warmer than it actually is outside. You also don’t make the mistake of wearing brand new training gear. Your shoes and clothes should be ones that you’ve trained in before so you know that they comfortably fit.

Eat Right – Be sure to eat at least one hour before the start of the race. Opt for something that’s high in carbohydrates. Don’t choose anything fatty or high in fiber that could upset your stomach. You’ll also want to stay away from eating a new meal or pre-workout snack that you’ve never tried, since you don’t’ know how it will affect you.

Arrive Early – Make sure you have plenty of time to get to your event. You will need it to find a parking spot, pick up your number if you haven’t already received it, and use the bathroom, since there may be long lines. The extra time will also allow for a proper warmup. It’s important to take about five minutes to get your entire body ready to race so you can avoid injury.

Control Any Nerves – If you’re feeling nervous, try not to get caught up on how you will finish in comparison to others. It’s best to just focus on yourself, and use any nerves to help push you to do better.

Pace Yourself – This can be hard to do. It’s easy to get excited, feel the energy from the crowd, and start stronger than you should. Your training should have helped you learn what pace you should keep, so stay close to others who match that.

Stay Hydrated – Make good use of the water stations. Before you start, take a look at the map of the course. They should be marked on there so you’ll know when one is coming. If there are several tables at one stop, aim for the tables in the back or on the left side of the course. Those are usually the least crowded. It’s also a good idea to bring your own water bottle and snacks for later, just in case they don’t provide what you need.

Don’t Stop – It’s tempting to quit moving around once you cross the finish line, but it’s important to keep walking for a few minutes. Your body needs a chance to cool down to avoid soreness. Take some time to stretch, especially your calves, quads and hips.

Celebrate – You should be proud of your accomplishment. It may not be a marathon, but you took on a challenge, trained hard, and met your goals. No matter what time you had, you should be happy that you crossed the finish line!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Get in Shape For Summer

Now that May is here, many of us are dreaming about spending time at the beach. Along with those thoughts, we want to get in better shape for the season of swimwear and shorts. If you’re looking to get fit for the summer, it’s not too late. However, you should get started today. Here are some tips that can help you now, or any time of the year.

The most common mistake people make when it comes to seasonally slimming down is attempting to spot reduce specific areas of their body to feel more comfortable with their appearance. Abs, for example, are often the target of both men and women. One approach that people frequently take is to perform a ton of crunches while not making any other changes. However, your body needs more of a workout than a few crunches to see real results.

The best way to get toned is to focus on the body as a whole. If you’re committed to getting in shape for the summer, make a schedule of when and how you will train, while incorporating cardio, strength training, and stretching. Since you can’t pick where you will lose fat, working on your entire body will help you achieve an overall leaner look. Compound exercises are great for this because they work multiple groups of muscles at the same time. Just remember that results take effort and dedication.

Aside from exercise, nutrition is very important. Adding healthier eating choices is essential for slimming down. The warmer weather means more fruit is in season. This is also the time that farmer’s markets start popping up everywhere. That makes it easy to replace junk food with fresh fruits and vegetables. Concentrating on better eating habits will help so that your time and energy spent exercising won’t go to waste.

Since summer is also a time of picnics, barbecues, and parties, it can be hard to watch portion size, or even find the time to work out. If you find yourself struggling with staying on track, it’s a good idea to sign up for a fitness event that takes place in the fall. Having something to train for will prevent you from losing focus. It can keep you motivated on those days when it’s tempting to give into excuses.

Instead of stressing out about your appearance for summer, use this time as an opportunity to reevaluate the fitness goals you made at the beginning of the year. It’s the perfect time to renew your commitment to your health!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

Did you know that May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month? The President’s Council on Fitness designated this month in 1983 to promote healthy lifestyles among people of all ages. It serves to remind us that physical fitness is vital for good health. Here are a few ways to take this reminder and live a more active lifestyle.

Take on a New Challenge – We all know how important it is to be active. The hard part is taking the initiative to challenge ourselves. Look at this month as a way to set a new goal for yourself and do something you haven’t done before. Add a new routine, incorporate an exercise you’ve never tried before, or sign up for a fitness event and start training.

Make Small Changes – New challenges are great, but you also don’t need to commit to a marathon to get healthier. You can try starting small. Even just making an effort to take a walk after dinner can help you see improvements in your health. Little changes may not feel like much, but that’s why they are the best. Your body has time to slowly adapt and you are more likely to stick with them.

Join a Sport – May is a great time to get involved in sports. Whether you like volleyball, softball, or some other sport, there are usually teams forming now and it’s the perfect time to join. Participating in a sport means scheduled weekly activity that you are likely not to miss since you have others counting on you. Plus, it’s easier to do since it has the added benefits of being social and having fun!

Get Outdoors – You don’t have to join an organized sport to enjoy the advantages of exercising in the open air. Aside from the usual activities like walking or cycling, you can do yoga, strength training and even suspension training outdoors. Some fresh air and a change of scenery is a great way to add variation and get motivated.

Share Your Success – National Physical Fitness and Sports month was designed to spread the word about healthy living. If you’ve participated in a fitness event or challenge, share your goals with others. Social media is great for sharing your pictures and achievements. It can encourage and inspire your friends to join you.

Since most of us set our fitness goals at the beginning of the year, May is the perfect time to renew your commitment to your health. So, how will you challenge yourself this month?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

New Products Announcement

If you take a look around any gym, it is likely that you will find someone wearing a pair of Harbinger gloves. For years, they have had a reputation of being a solid product to keep in the gym bag. Under their HumanX brand, Harbinger has recently created a new line of gloves. Understanding the differences between these two lines of gloves can help you decide which pair is right for you.

Let's start by taking a closer look at what HumanX is all about. High intensity interval training (HIIT), like CrossFit, has been growing in popularity. So, the brand was designed to provide gear that would enhance one's performance in this style of training. The leather of the gloves undergoes a unique process to provide maximum grip on metal, rope, wood, or stone surfaces. They even work with chalk. The classic Harbinger gloves are great for those who are doing more traditional gym work, and the HumanX brand is ideal for those who are doing more intense training.

Another difference with the HumanX brand is that some of the styles offer full finger protection. This is another great feature for those who are breaking away from traditional training. It can provide your hands total protection from ripping. For those who don't find it necessary or simply don't like the feel of it, you still have a choice of 3/4 finger protection. Like traditional gloves, there is also the option of WristWraps for added support. The variations make it easy to find something that meets your needs.

Aside from the important features that make it necessary to have a successful workout, the gloves also come in a lot of fun colors for men and women. While their cool look may not physically help you out, it can mentally help you. Feeling good about what you're wearing can boost your confidence in the gym and actually motivate you to perform better.

If you're still uncertain about whether or not you need gloves, check out our article on the benefits they provide. As with any fitness gear, knowing what's right for you can be determined by having clear training goals in mind.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The 5 Components of Physical Fitness

We are constantly being reminded of how important it is to maintain a healthy level of fitness. So, how do we evaluate how fit we are? It’s not as simple as stepping on a scale and reading off the number. There are several components to take into consideration.

Overall physical fitness is comprised of five different things:

1. Cardiovascular Endurance – how well your heart and lungs work together to fuel your body with oxygen.

2. Muscular Strength – how much force your muscles can exert in a single effort.

3. Muscular Endurance – how much your muscles can repeat those exertions of force without experiencing fatigue.

4. Flexibility –how far muscles can stretch, and the ability to move joints through their full range of motion.

5. Body Composition – the percentage of fat, muscle, and bone in the body, which is typically expressed as a ratio of lean mass to fatty mass.

It’s important to evaluate yourself on each of these elements to determine your level of fitness. A marathon runner, for example, may have excellent cardiovascular endurance but rate poorly in muscular strength and endurance. In contrast, someone who is able to bench press a lot of weight may struggle and be unable to jog a mile. That’s why it’s best to work on all five categories to maintain good health. A personal trainer or someone at your gym can help test your performance in these areas and assess your level of fitness.

Once you know how you rate, you can design your fitness program to cover areas where you are lacking. You can better understand how much time you need to put in on various exercises to get you in top physical shape. Aerobic activity such as running, swimming, cycling, or rowing can improve your cardiovascular endurance. Strength training will improve your muscular strength and endurance, while flexibility can be improved through stretching, yoga, or pilates.

As you begin to work on all these different components, you will notice a change in your body composition. Keeping an eye on this can help you lower your risk for health issues. The best way to measure this is with skinfold calipers. This will give you a more complete picture, rather than just knowing how much you weigh.

Working on all five elements will impact your life in many ways. Not only will it decrease your risk of health problems, you’ll find your daily tasks getting a lot easier. It will help you gain the stamina and strength that is required to get you through the day. This is especially important to focus on as we age. Improving one’s overall level of fitness will provide a much better quality of life!