What Fitness Equipment Should I Buy?

As a fitness professional, I get questions about lots of different topics.

One of which is….

“What fitness equipment should I buy to use at home?”

There are so many ways I could answer this question. I don’t suggest that anyone HAS to buy fitness equipment in order to get a good workout. Bodyweight workouts are great and you can use stairs, park benches or the curb out front to workout and never spend a cent. 

Or you could spend thousands setting up a home gym.

If you’re looking to expand your home workout routine without taking out a second mortgage, here are some items that pack a big exercise punch without pounding your budget.

A yoga mat is a good general piece of equipment even if you’re not into morning vinyasa. You can use it for stretching or foam rolling (Which I highly recommend, by the way!). You can also use it as a base for doing other activities to protect your hardwood floors or keep from slipping on tile. Yoga mats are very portable too so if you decide to workout outside you can keep your butt out of the dirt.

Resistance bands are a great addition to bodyweight workouts or a great alternative to dumbbells. They take up very little space and like a yoga mat, are very portable. And if you think bands won’t provide heavy enough resistance to give you a good workout, think again! You can get a killer full body workout with a couple of bands, attached handles and a door jam attachment.

A jumprope. Yep, a simple jumprope. If you haven’t jumped rope since elementary school I want you to go immediately to the nearest toy store or dollar store and grab a jumprope for a few bucks. You don’t need a high-speed, fancy sports rope. Just a simple rope with a decent set of handles and you can get a workout that will kick your ass!

Kettlebells are a little bit more of an investment than the other items on this list but you can get a wide range of exercises with two or three bells in varying weights. They can be used in similar ways as dumbbells but take up less space. Some of my favorite exercises with a kettlebell are squats (I like any kind of squat, really!), overhead presses and swings.

My personal home gym happens to have a lot of equipment in it. I know, I know…I advocate no equipment, bodyweight workouts all time, how can this be? Most of my equipment was given to me or bought second hand or at deep discounts – thank you Sports Authority going-out-of-business sale. And it has taken me many years to acquire all the equipment I have. If you’re just starting out working out at home then you can definitely do it with nothing or just a few pieces and add to your home gym over time when the opportunity arises.

Happy Exercising!

Note: This post contains affiliate links
Advertisements

If…Then… Do You Have A Backup Plan?

Your workout and nutrition routine should be consistent and progressive to give you the best chance of seeing results but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Consistency over the longterm is what really works. But let’s be real, life happens and sometimes you have to stray from your routine. You have a sick child at home or you have to travel unexpectedly or a pipe bursts and you have a flooded basement. And on and on.

What if you skip your workout for a few days? What if you eat more tacos than planned (I’ve never done this, I’ve just heard people do!!) What if you are more sore than expected after a workout and can’t do your prescribed routine the next day?

Having an “If…Then…” plan allows you to get back to your routine quickly without beating yourself up for days when you make less than desirable choices. (I’m looking at you, Girl Scout cookies.) Studies show that “if-then” planning (contingency planning) ups your chances of success no matter what you’re trying to accomplish. This can work especially well with health habits.

For example:

“IF someone brings donuts into the office on a random Wednesday, THEN I’ll avoid the break room and eat the healthy snack I have stashed in my desk.” This obviously requires that you plan ahead and have healthy snacks in your desk in the first place!

“IF my schedule gets crazy and I skip a few workouts, THEN I’ll find 20 minutes the next day to take a walk or stretch.” Doing something is better than nothing and can get you back on track.

“IF I get sick and can’t exercise, THEN I’ll continue to eat well to feel better and workout again soon.” It’s important to rest when you’re sick but plan to start with light exercise again as soon as possible.

No plan and no person is perfect. You’re going to have bumps in the road. Having a back up will get you back on track. Even the back up plan won’t be perfect and won’t always work but its better than having no plan at all.

But a back up plan is only as good as you make it. Don’t blow this off. Give some thought to the things that could derail your exercise and nutrition routine. Be honest about your cravings and weaknesses. Be honest about things that get you off track. Keep your personal motivation in mind. Why are you exercising in the first place? Why are you trying to change your eating habits? If you always keep your personal reasons in mind, it makes getting back into your routine that much easier. 

Take time today to think about some of these things. Make yourself a plan. Let me know if I can help!

Happy Exercising!IMG_1204

Home Step Workout

Working out at home allows me a lot of flexibility with my schedule but can sometimes be limiting since I only have a certain amount of equipment. I get creative with things around the house, such as a step or fireplace hearth. This is a simple but very effective workout. It left we wiped out with my legs feeling like Jell-O!

Make sure you have a sturdy step and that you plant your feet solidly on the step when you’re working out.

1 minute of walking step-ups.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 12.34.19 PM

1 minute of running step-ups.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 12.37.30 PM

30 reps of alternating lunges.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 12.38.27 PM

30 reps of angled push-ups.

 

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 12.42.58 PM

Another 1 minute of running step-ups.

30 reps of side squats. Switch sides halfway through.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 12.40.08 PM

30 reps of tricep dips.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 12.41.38 PM

Another 1 minute of running step-ups.

Another 1 minute of walking step-ups.

I repeat this circuit 2-3 times depending on how much time I have and how I feel.

Happy Exercising!

 

 

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.

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 2.29.38 PM

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!

Kettlebells

  • Note: Affiliate links included in this post

Need an effective, quick workout that only requires one simple piece of equipment? A full-body kettlebell workout to the rescue!

Kettlebells have been used for hundreds of years but they seem to be the trend right now. And for good reason. Kettlebells are compact and sturdy. They don’t take up a lot of storage space and they don’t break easily. They come in a variety of weights and you can do lots of exercises with just this one piece of equipment. Kettlebells are a great addition, or a great start, to a home gym. You can buy them at most local sporting goods stores or online.

If you have a kettlebell or plan to buy one, here’s a workout to get you started.

Deadlift 

Stand tall with core tight and feet hip width apart. Hinge at hips, knees slightly bent and back flat. Squeeze glutes to return to start.

Overhead press

Stand tall with core tight and feet about shoulder width apart. Lift kettlebell overhead, pause and return to start.

Squat

Start with feet wide and toes pointed out slightly. Hold the kettlebell close and squat down as far as comfortable keeping your toes in line with your knees. Press back to start.

Bent over row

Start with feet staggered and hand right hand on right knee for balance and support. Hold kettlebell straight down in left hand. Keeping core tight, drive elbow up to lift kettlebell. Repeat on other side

Swings

Start with feet wide, core tight and back straight. Hold kettlebell between your legs and back behind your hips. With a controlled motion, swing bell by contracting your glutes and pressing your hips forward. Use muscle not momentum!

Upright row

Start with feet shoulder width apart and bell down in front of you. Keep core tight and back flat. Lift the bell straight up in front of you leading with your elbows. Pause and return to start.

 

Happy Exercising!!

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?

IMG_1208

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:

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 1.19.53 PM

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.