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.

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!

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!