3 Ways to Make Your Strength Routine More Efficient

I enjoy exercise. Moving and sweating and pushing myself. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend hours and hours on my workout. I’m busy just like everyone else so I need to create efficient exercise routines.

I’m not a bodybuilder or figure competitor so I have no need for dozens of exercises that hit every individual muscle. There’s nothing wrong with that type of training (I’ve used it at other times in my life) its just not what I need right now.

If you’re like me and need an effective and efficient workout too, follow these principles…

1. Compound Movements

Compound movements are exercises that involve multiple muscle groups. Working multiple muscles at once certainly saves time. These can all be done with or without added weight. Things like:

Squat Presses – after you squat down and return to a standing position, press the weight overhead.

 

Row to Stiff-Leg Deadlift – bend over at your hips with weight hanging straight down. Pull weight up to chest. Return to start. Contract glutes and lower back to stand up straight.

Walking Lunge with Alternating Shoulder Raise – step forward into a lunge position while lifting both arms to at least shoulder height. One arm at front and one arm to the side. On the next step alternate arm positions.

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Lunge with Shoulder Raise

Kettlebell Swings – start with the kettlebell between your legs in a slight squat. Contract glutes and hamstrings to thrust the weight forward and lift to about shoulder height.

I could go on and on but you get the idea.

2. Circuits

Circuits are a great way to get a quick workout in when your schedule is busy. Alternate upper and lower body movements and move from one exercise to the next without stopping. For example, squats, pushups, lunges, bent over row, etc.

3. Intensity Level

Adding more weight to your current routine (within reason!) can increase your intensity just enough to give your program a little boost. If you’ve been just going through the motions or doing a set number of reps without considering how challenged your muscles are, then maybe its time to increase the weight to make your workout more efficient and effective.

Happy Exercising!

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Is Your Butt Doing It’s Job?

Seriously…is your butt doing it’s job?

And, no, I don’t mean making a dent in your couch cushions. Your gluteus muscles help with just about every movement you make. Walking, running, climbing stairs, lifting everything from a bag of groceries to a 35 pound weight plate..all of these movements go through your hips and glutes in one way or another. Your glutes are part of your core and need to be active and strong just like your abs and low back.

Many people only use their glutes for one thing…sitting on them. You might think “But I exercise every day.” But if you exercise for 30-60 minutes and then sit at a desk the rest of the day, you probably still have lazy glutes. And if your glutes are inactive, they are less able to handle strenuous exercise and unable to properly distribute motion throughout your core.

Lazy glutes can lead to low back and hip pain and I don’t think I need to explain why that’s bad!

Glute activation exercises along with strength building exercises and some foam rolling will get those sleepy muscles firing.

Donkey kicks and clamshells will ‘wake up’ the glute muscles before a strength workout. Do these as part of your warm-up.

Start on all fours with your core tight. Lift one leg keeping your knee bent. Squeeze your glutes to lift your heel towards the ceiling. Focus on using your glutes for the movement and not your lower back.

Lie on your side with knees bent and legs stacked on top of each other. Squeeze your glutes and lift your top leg, keeping your heels touching. Your knees should open and close like a clamshell!

The two best exercises for building glute strength are sumo squats and hip thrusts.

Sumo squats will isolate and engage the glutes more than regular squats.

 

Begin in a wide stance with toes pointed out at a 45 degree angle, core tight and arms in front of you for balance. Squat down with your knees following the same angle as your toes. Press back up through your heels, squeezing your glutes on the way up. You can hold dumbbells for added weight.

Hip thrusts target the glutes to build strength and power by maximizing hip extension.

 

Begin by leaning on an exercise ball or bench with feet planted about hip width apart. Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips to parallel, pause and return to start. You can hold a dumbbell or barbell across your hips for added weight.

Get off that derrière and start working it!

Happy Exercising!

Is the Fat Burning Zone a Mythical Creature?

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Is the Fat Burning Zone a mythical creature?

It must be! Otherwise, all those people plodding along on the treadmills at the gym would be in great shape. Like a beautiful, sparkly unicorn, we want to believe that it exists but the concept of the fat burning zone has been regularly misinterpreted and misunderstood.

The fat burning zone theory is that lower intensity exercise, at about 55% – 70% of maximum heart rate, burns more fat. Basically, your body burns more fat at a lower intensity of aerobic exercise than it does at a higher intensity. This sounds good in theory. After all why work harder if you don’t have to, right?

The misinterpretation of this theory happens because there is a difference between percentage of fat burned vs. actual fat burned. In reality, you burn a higher percentage of fat at lower intensities but generally more fat overall at higher intensities. Your body draws energy from two sources, fat and glycogen or stored carbohydrates. The percentages of these two fuel sources vary depending on the intensity of your exercise.

At a lower intensity, you may burn 60% of total calories from fat. And at a higher intensity only 45% of total calories from fat. On the surface, that seems like lower intensity would be better. But at a higher intensity you burn more calories OVERALL which bumps your actual fat calories up even though the percentage is lower.

For example:

 

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The numbers above are just for example purposes but hopefully, you get the point. Percentage vs. actual are very different. Lower intensity exercise has its place in a workout program but if you’re relying on it to help you burn fat, it’s not the best idea. Circuit or interval workouts are efficient and help you burn more calories in less time.

Stop searching for the mythical creature! To truly burn maximum fat, focus on building muscle with a comprehensive strength training program and healthy eating habits. These will do far more to help you reach your goals then chasing the unicorn at the end of the treadmill!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. If you want help creating an effective exercise program, check out my monthly coaching services here.

Moderation…what is it?

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Moderation!

So many people promote moderation especially with regards to diet. But what does moderation REALLY look like? What SHOULD it look like? Moderation is a very subjective sliding scale for most people but I’m not so sure that it’s “sliding” in the right direction. I know some people who consider cutting their McDonald’s run back to once a week is moderation for them.

Ummm….that’s a good start but I believe most people think tiny, moderate changes are good enough to make a significant difference in their health and well-being and to be honest, it’s just not. I’ve known many people to make a small change or two and stop there. Again, a good start, but our wellness goals should not be to stop when it’s “good enough”. Shouldn’t we always be striving towards better health? Even if we’re not always good at it?

Moderation should be different for everybody because everyone is different but it’s not a license to eat like crap and then justify it with “everything in moderation”. It may seem like I’m being harsh but moderation is a slippery slope. Don’t let it be your excuse or your crutch.

Let it lead you to success. Make conscious choices to eat healthy foods AND to indulge. Just make your indulgences count for something. Choose them thoughtfully. Don’t eat random junk out of the vending machine or drink empty calories and then justify it with moderation. Choose to indulge on occasion in your favorite homemade dessert or a decadent meal for a special occasion and TRULY enjoy it. That’s real moderation.

Moderation allows you to be flexible which is one of the best indicators of success in leading a healthier lifestyle. Being too restrictive or constantly over indulging will not lead to long-term success. When used correctly, moderation leads to real balance in your life. And, hopefully, that’s everyone’s goal!

Happy Exercising!

P.S. Click here for a free download Healthy Eating On The Go!

Vacation Workout

I’m on vacation and yes, I have a workout plan. I know what you’re thinking, only crazy people workout on their vacation.

I’m not diligent about getting my workout in on vacation but if I’m away from exercise too long I start to not feel good and I get cranky. It’s better for everyone around me if I get some physical activity!

That being said, I fit it in when I can and don’t worry when I can’t. I don’t take away from family time and I don’t skip other activities that I want to do just to workout. My vacation is two weeks long and I maybe work out 4-5 times  at most.

If you choose to exercise on vacation don’t expect to make gains or lose weight. You may even lose a little strength and endurance but that’s ok…It’s a vacation after all, enjoy it!

A run, a long walk or even a stretching session can be good exercise and still keep you relaxed. Especially if you can do it early in the day before everyone else is up.

The following are 3 different workout plan options you can do anywhere. A hotel room, condo balcony, poolside or even on the beach. Do one of them, two of them or all 3 if you’re feeling really ambitious. Sorry if the pictures are a bit blurry or goofy… teenage photographer!!

Workout 1 – do each exercise for 1 minute with 30 seconds rest between and do the whole circuit twice.

Skaters – jump sideways from foot to foot

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Standing side crunches

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Pike shoulder presses – in a downward dog position, bend elbows to lower and then push back up


Sumo squats

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V-sit leg flutters

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Workout 2 – Do the whole circuit twice

Walking lunges x 20 reps

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Push-ups 10-20 reps

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Plank 30 seconds

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Squat with kickback x 20 reps – squat down and upon returning to start, press your leg back at your hip. Alternate legs.


Tricep dips 10-20 reps – these can be done on the ground if necessary but a bench or a chair makes them a little more productive.

Workout 3 – do each exercise for 1 minute with 30 seconds rest between and do the whole circuit three times.

Jumping jacks

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Side leg lifts

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Jog in place

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Heel touch crunches – in a crunch position, squeeze from side to side touching your heels with the tips of your fingers.

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Mountain climbers

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Happy Exercising!

My Favorite Running Stuff

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links)

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SPIbelt, ASICS running shoes, RoadID app, Hyathletic gloves

I’ve been a runner since I was 13. I’ve gone through dozens of pairs of shoes and probably hundreds of t-shirts, shorts, tights, socks, hair ties and who knows what else. I’m not super particular when it comes to my workout gear. I’ll wear a 10 year old ratty race t-shirt just as often as a $50 technical shirt. I don’t care. But, there are some things over the years that I’ve come to love and run with more often than not. Here are a few of my favorite things…

ASICS running shoes. I’ve had more Asics shoe models since high school than I can count and they have all worked well for me. I’ve avoided major injuries for 30 years and have always had comfortable runs so I see no reason to change my routine anytime soon. I’m currently wearing the Gel Kayano 22s and they give me just the right amount of cushioning without too much bulk. I’ve always been a fan of ASICS and would recommend them to almost anyone. I even recently made a convert of my husband!

Road ID app. The Road ID app uses GPS to track your run (or walk, bike ride, hike or whatever) and send eCrumbs to up to 5 people that you designate so they can keep track of you from any web browser. They don’t even need to have the app. I use it to let my husband know when I’m going out for a run alone or when I’m running a race so he knows when I finish. The app also has a Stationary Alert Notification feature that would let someone know if you stop moving for a preselected amount of time. A fantastic safety feature, in my opinion! And, it’s free!

SPIbelt. I don’t run with headphones so I’ve never had a need to carry my phone on my arm and frankly, I find armbands annoying anyway so I wear a SPIbelt. A spy belt is like the sleek, rich cousin of the 80s fanny pack. It’s big enough to hold my phone, keys, ID and a small snack or energy gels but not so big to be bulky or get in the way when I run. It’s usually hidden under my shirt or jacket so no one can even tell I’m carrying it. Another safety feature!

Hyathletic Flux gloves. These are a new addition to my stash of running gear. I’ve only worn them a few times but they’re quickly becoming indispensable. They’re thin and light as a feather. They keep my hands comfortable without making them clammy. In the past, I’ve tried gloves that are too thick and I end up taking them off halfway through my run. I’ve also tried using the thumb holes in my running jackets instead of gloves but they don’t quite keep my hands comfortable. I’ll admit these gloves look crazy when you take them out of the package (you’ll think there’s no possible way they can fit you) but, trust me, they work!
What are some of your favorite running gear items?

Happy Exercising!

1-Year Anniversary and 3D Pictures

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The 1-year anniversary of my breast cancer surgery is coming up in a couple days and I’ve been reflecting on the last year and how it all started. With a 3-D mammogram.

Regular mammograms are so important and when I was offered the option to have a 3-D mammogram done, I took it even though I would need to pay an additional out-of-pocket fee for it. My insurance only covered part of the screening. I didn’t really know the difference between a regular mammogram and a 3D one but my very quick and limited research indicated a 3D mammogram created better pictures.

Traditional mammography takes a single picture versus 3D mammography which takes multiple pictures or slices. The multiple pictures are used to make a 3D image that is clearer and easier to read. These images help detect more cancers and detect them early and help doctors see the size of the cancer easier. It also reduces false positives.

A lot of the research on the effectiveness of a 3D versus traditional mammogram is published by companies that manufacture the screening machines and doesn’t necessarily show a huge difference between them. There is some debate that the more accurate, clearer picture may show abnormalities that require further testing thus producing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Here’s some more information about the greatness of 3D mammograms from breastcancer.org

A study looking at 3 years of data on breast cancer screening with 3-D mammograms has found that the benefits of 3-D mammograms last over time.

The study was published online on Feb. 18, 2016 by JAMA Oncology. Read the abstract of “Effectiveness of Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Compared With Digital Mammography: Outcomes Analysis From 3 Years of Breast Cancer Screening.”

Benefits of 3D Mammograms Last Over Time

“These findings reaffirm that 3-D mammography is a better mammogram for breast cancer screening,” said Emily Conant, M.D., chief of breast imaging at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, who was the senior author of the study. Dr. Conant also is a member of the Breastcancer.org Professional Advisory Board. “These results are an important step toward informing policies so that all women can receive 3-D mammography for screening.”

Based on my personal experience, I highly recommend a 3D mammogram. I was fortunate that my cancer was very small and caught very early. My amazing surgeon indicated that a 3D mammogram was the reason my cancer was caught early. A traditional mammogram may not have caught it and I would have gone a whole year before another screening. In hindsight, the best $50 I EVER spent.

But, sadly, many insurance companies don’t cover the full cost or even part of the cost of a 3-D mammogram. Many women, including me, can afford to pay out-of-pocket fees on top of our insurance coverage to have this more advanced screening but far too many women don’t have that option.

If you have the means, please consider donating to help someone and if you need assistance, here’s a search tool  to help. Please help me spread the word.

*steps off soapbox…

Happy Exercising!