Strong to the Core

Strengthening your core is important for just about everything you do. Most movements, whether they’re fitness activities or just every day life, originate from your core. Your core muscles work to stabilize your body and help produce power for movements of your limbs.

Your core involves all the muscles of your trunk not just your abs and low back like most people think. Doing a few sets of sit ups and bird – dogs is not going to cut it if you truly want to strengthen your core.

Your core is basically everything but your arms and legs. It includes your glutes, hips, abs, low back, upper back and chest. Your upper back and chest are less involved in certain core movements but are still connected to the whole core chain.

Here are some great core exercises that can be done with minimal or no equipment. And not one sit up in the bunch!

Planks (the exercise you love to hate!)

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Planks

 

Side planks (a slightly more challenging variation)

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Side Planks

Plank with leg lift (alternate leg lifts for up to 10 reps each)

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Plank with leg lift

Seated leg lifts (I’m horribly inflexible so this is a tough one for me because my hamstrings are so tight!)

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Seated Leg Lifts

Bridge

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Bridge

Back extensions (these can be done on a machine in a gym as well)

Can Exercise Help You Recover From Jet Lag?

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My husband recently returned from a trip to Japan and was understandably exhausted because he was 13 ahead while there. He keeps a very consistent workout schedule at home so he tries to fit exercise in when he needs to travel which fortunately, isn’t very often. He was away for 5 days and worked out twice in the hotel.

He returned on a Wednesday evening and went right back to his usual exercise and work schedule at 3:30am on Thursday even though he was completely wiped out. And so I started thinking “Will exercise help someone recover from jet lag faster?”

The typical recovery time for jet lag is 1 day for every time zone change. That would mean almost two weeks for a trip to Japan. That’s a long time to be battling brain fog!

Research shows that physical activity can help combat the symptoms of jet lag. Of course, you probably aren’t going to have the energy or desire to do a high intensity workout but something is better than nothing. When you feel like you’re in the Twilight Zone a HIIT workout is probably the last thing on your mind but an easy run or walk or even something as simple as a stretching session is helpful. My husband altered the intensity of his normal routine but he still did SOMETHING.

Exercising at your normal workout time is best. For example, if you normally work out at 6am East Coast time and you travel to Paris, you should try to exercise at 6am Paris time. And doing an outdoor workout, if possible, is even better. Bright sunlight tells your body that it’s time to be awake and alert. An outdoor workout will help fight fatigue and insomnia and reset your body clock a little faster.

So the next time you have to travel across time zones plan your workouts in advance. Check the hotel to see if they have a fitness center or access to hiking trails or a local gym. And plan your workouts for your return trip. Being proactive and more importantly, flexible, about your workout routine when traveling will help you feel better and get back to normal that much faster.

Happy exercising!

P.S. Click here for some Done-For-You treadmill workouts you can use to get back on track without having to think too much about your workout!

Is High Intensity Always the Way to Go?

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High Intensity Workouts are a Good Addition to an Overall Fitness Plan

There’s no denying the popularity of high intensity interval or boot camp style workouts that promise to torch fat, kick your butt and get you in great shape. You can find local classes, gyms or even online videos everywhere. These workouts can be as quick as 7-10 minutes or as long as a 1-hour class and if done right, will leave you feeling like you want to sprawl on the floor and not move the rest of the day. The idea that you can get in killer shape quickly is appealing to so many people. How could it not be, right?! The intensity of the workouts makes for great Instagram and Facebook posts too! But is working at such a high intensity all the time, even for 10 minutes, a good idea?

Steady state cardio seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years. After all, why do something that takes longer and isn’t as effective as a HIIT workout? But high intensity training is tough on your body and often recovery takes longer than most people allow for themselves. My 44-year-old body does not recovery from that kind of workout in just a day! And a number of my clients have the same recovery challenges.

If you’re trying to lose fat, often you’re restricting your calories in general and sometimes your carbs. This could make it difficult to get through a very intense workout. You need those carbs! If you’re trying to improve speed or sports performance then high intensity workouts are important. If your primary goal is fat loss then strength training and diet should be your new best friends. High intensity workouts are fine as part of an overall fitness plan but not ALL THE TIME!

As with so many other things, the old saying “Everything in moderation” applies here too. Definitely include high intensity workouts in your fitness plan but don’t make them the whole plan.

Here’s a 9-minute interval workout you can do at home… But only once or twice a week!

Do each exercise for 30 seconds moving immediately from one to the next.

  1. Plank
  2. Star jacks
  3. Push-ups
  4. Curtsy lunges
  5. Crunches
  6. Side-to-side pushups
  7. Mountain climbers
  8. Sumo squats
  9. Jog in place
  10. Plank
  11. Jumping jacks
  12. Burpees
  13. Butt kicks
  14. Standing side crunches
  15. Skater jumps
  16. Glute bridge
  17. High knees
  18. Stretch

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Visit my website TheHomeFitnessClub.com for more workout ideas.

Quick, Full-body Medicine Ball Workout

If you’ve never worked out with a medicine ball, here’s a quick full-body workout to try.

Medicine ball workouts are efficient. You only need one little piece of equipment and you can work most major muscle groups with it.

You can get medicine balls at sporting goods stores or online here (affiliate link) in a range of weights. They’re portable too! I took mine on vacation so I could maintain some semblance of fitness without getting crazy about it. I use this workout occasionally for variety or when traveling or when I’m simply short on time. I do 2-3 sets of each exercise.

Squat with front lift: Stand with feet shoulder width apart holding the medicine ball with arms straight down in front of you. Squat down until knees are at least 90 degrees or slightly lower. At the same time, lift the medicine ball straight up to shoulder level keeping arms straight. Return to start and repeat.

Squat with Front Lift

Lunge Press: Stand with feet hip width apart holding the medicine ball in front of your chest with elbows pointed down. Take a large step forward with your left foot and lower straight down so your left knee is at 90 degrees or slightly lower. At the same time, press the medicine ball up overhead. Return to start and repeat with right leg.

Lunge Press

Off-Set Pushups: Start in pushup position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width and feet together with toes curled under. Your body should from a straight line from the back of your head to your heels. Place the medicine ball under your right hand so you are balancing your right arm on top of it. Lower your body as a solid unit until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees or slightly lower. You’ll feel lopsided because of the medicine ball but try to maintain your balance and don’t let the ball roll around. Complete 1 set and switch the ball to the left side for the next set.

Off-Set Pushups

Extended Crunches: Lay on the floor with knees bent and feet about hip width apart. Hold the medicine ball straight up over your chest. Tighten your abs and lift your shoulders off the ground to “crunch” up. Return to start and repeat.

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Extended Crunches

Tricep Extensions: Stand with feet hip-width apart, abs tight and hold the medicine ball straight up over your head. Keeping elbows still and tight by the side of your head, bend your elbows and lower the medicine ball behind your head. Return to start and repeat.

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Tricep Extensions

Bicep Curls: Stand with feet hip-width apart, abs tight and hold the medicine ball straight down in front of you. Keep elbows tight to your sides and bend to lift the medicine ball to your chest. Return to start and repeat.

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Bicep Curls

Happy Exercising!

P.S. My son took these photos for me and captured some amusing facial expressions so, enjoy!

 

5 Ways to Squat

Oh, the squat! Chances are you either love them or hate them! Personally, squats are one of my favorite exercises but they can be a killer so I get it if you love to hate them!
Squats are a very effective lower body exercise that can be done anywhere with or without added weight which is what makes them such a great home exercise. Not to mention the really great things regular squatting can do for your butt! Squats target and strengthen your glutes, hips, quads and hamstrings. Your core will also get worked during a proper squat. With all those perks, what’s not to love, right?!

Squats are one of the most versatile exercises because there are SO many variations. I’ve listed 5 here that I routinely use but there are dozens! You could even get creative and figure out your own variations. With any variation, keep your core tight and your chest and head up. When squatting down, keep your butt out behind you and lower until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor and even a little further if you can.
Standard squat – feet about shoulder width apart, core tight, hands on hips or clasped in front of you. Squat down until thighs are at least parallel or a little past parallel. Keep your knees in line with your toes. Pause and press up through your heels to return to start.


Prisoner Squat – feet about shoulder width apart, core tight, hands clasped behind your head. Squat down until thighs are at least parallel or a little past parallel. Keep you knees in line with your toes. Pause and press up through your heels to return to start.


Sumo squat – feet wider than shoulder width with toes pointed out at about 45 degrees (like a Sumo wrestler). Squat down until thighs are at least parallel or a little past parallel. Keep your knees in line with your toes. Pause and press through your heels to return to start.


Split squat – start with a staggered stance, core tight and hands on hips or clasped in front of you. Slowly squat to parallel or lower keeping knee in line with toes. Pause and press through your heel to return to start.


Wall squat – stand with back against a wall and feet shoulder width apart and out in front of you about a stride length from the wall. Keeping core tight, slide slowly down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause and hold this position for 10-30 seconds (or longer!). Press through your heels to slide back up the wall and repeat.


All of these exercises can obviously be done without added weight but just for good measure my daughter felt I needed a little extra!


Happy Exercising!

I bailed on a race…

20 years ago I ran a race while I was recovering from bronchitis (not the smartest thing I’ve ever done!) I’ve run races after very little or no training. I’ve run races with various injuries. I’ve run races in horrendous weather and on terrible courses. (My sister likes to remind me repeatedly of a 5K I “forced” her to run with me that was seemingly uphill the entire way despite it being a loop course!!)

Once I pay a registration fee I find it very hard to NOT participate in a race. I know in the big picture, it really doesn’t matter whether I run or not. The organization already has the money and in most cases I already have my T-shirt or whatever other giveaway is involved. Although, I do have issues with wearing a T-shirt for a race that I did not actually complete but that’s a blog for another day!!

My point is, that despite having a number of legitimate reasons for not running a scheduled race, I very rarely bail out. Even when, sometimes, I really should.

However, I bailed on the five miler I’ve been training for that was supposed to happen two weeks ago. The Celtic Solstice 5 Miler takes place in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore about an hour from where I live and is a great race. The course is hilly and it’s usually very cold but overall, the race is just a great atmosphere during and after the run. There’s a heated tent at the end with cookies and hot spiced wine! What could be better than that! And this race offers beautifully designed, high-quality jackets with registration. Not a thin, cheesy looking t-shirt but a running jacket.

But the morning of the race, my friend and I would have had to leave at 6 AM and at that time my driveway was a sheet of ice and there was a “wintery mix” coming down. We decided to skip the race for our own safety. We knew the weather was probably better in Baltimore but our current location posed some problems. And let’s be honest, it’s not like this was an emergency. I’m not a doctor, police officer or other emergency worker that needed to be out. There was absolutely no reason for me to be on the road. And yet, I felt this ridiculous need to run because I put my name on the list and paid money. I run this race every year. How could I not go this year?

I know, logically, we made the right choice but it drives me crazy that I had to miss that race. It’s still bugging me almost two weeks later. I ran 5 miles on my treadmill to make up for it and have decided in my own mind that justifies me wearing the jacket even though its not really the same!!

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Celtic Solstice 5 Miler Premium Jacket

My point in all this is that one of my goals for 2017 will be to lighten up a little bit when it comes to racing. Or any other fitness endeavor really. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody but myself and my personal health (and safety!) are my priority. That being said, I already have several races lined up for 2017 so stay tuned!

Let me know in the comments what you have planned for the new year.

Happy Exercising!

Just Start Now

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I recently wrote about New Years resolutions (click here if you missed it) so to go along with setting goals at any time…don’t wait for the perfect time to start a new fitness plan.
Start now. Don’t wait for Monday or next month or the perfect plan or New Years or whatever…

I know it’s a cliche but the perfect time is now. If you’ve decided to make a new fitness plan (or any other healthy habit for that matter) a priority, why wait? What’s going to happen between now and your “start date” that you need to wait for?

I know the holidays are crazy and stressful and you have other priorities so putting off your new fitness goals until after the holiday season seems like a smart idea. But…exercise can improve your mood and lower your stress levels (helpful when dealing with visiting family!) When you exercise your body’s level of stress hormones drops which helps you relax. Exercise can also give you more energy. I know that sounds contradictory but trust me. And who couldn’t use an energy boost during the holidays? And last but not least, going out for a 30 minute run or a quick weight session gives you a break from all the merriment!

So just start now.

If, for whatever reason, you’re not ready to start your formal fitness plan and are sticking with your pre-determined “start date” at least get out and do SOMETHING! Go take a walk or do some crunches or push-ups.

Here’s a fun holiday workout to help you out!
My family loves the movie “Christmas Vacation”. We watch it A LOT! So I decided to make it into a workout game. It’s simple.

Every time someone gets hurt (usually Clark) do 10 push-ups.
Every time something breaks do 10 squats.
Yep, it’s like a drinking game! Enjoy!

Happy Exercising and Happy Holidays!