Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: For the Love of Movement

This post builds on Monday’s post, even though the warm spring weather that inspired that post headed south again (c’mon mother nature, would you make up your damn mind?).    If you read Monday’s post, you might be spending some time today contemplating whether your current fitness routine is serving you.  The following is a little something I came up with when I did the same:

Dear Movement (more formally known as exercise),

I have grown to love you.  What was once like an arranged marriage has become a complete and total union.  This was not always the case.  I used to should all over myself in regards to you.  Look to you to shrink me down, make me smaller.  I came to you out of guilt and fear as opposed to love.

Afraid of who I would become without you, I built a life around you.  Uncertain of the extent to which you made me a societally acceptable human female, it seemed plausible to do this just in case.   I obsessed over you for all the wrong reasons, not realizing your true potential as a tool for growth.

Through the passing of time and a buttload of experience I now see the truth: you are a gift to be enjoyed, not a force to be reckoned with.  When I hold on to you lightly, and not for dear life, your true colors emerge.  No longer am I the weary soul who used you solely as an outlet for calories.  No longer do I come to you to make my supposed wrongs right.  No longer will I slog it out on the freakin’ treadmill instead of rejoicing in dance just because it burns more calories (not that there is anything wrong with the treadmill, done with the right mindset it can be fun too!  Just not a personal favorite…)

Exercising out of guilt, fear, or shame sucks.  Moving for the love of it is where it’s at.

(And no, this isn’t just a severe case of personal trainer Stockholm syndrome…at least I don’t think so…)

The Joyful Gym Rat (more formally known as Laura)

For more fitness ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

Photo credit Mary Ellen Blacker (less formally known as mom)










Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: What’s Your Rush?

As we head into the weekend, I invite you to slow down…your strength training that is.  Bursts of quick movement can be fun, but don’t underestimate the power of slow and controlled movement.

Just like meditating fosters awareness of thought, unhurried movement fosters awareness of the body.  Moving mindfully from time to time can have big benefits on overall progress and performance.  Constantly racing through workouts can lead to injury.  Mindlessly performed movements lose their potency.

I don’t always perform my workouts at the pace of a turtle, but when I do I choose the following:

-Slow Flow Yoga: Yoga, particularly slow flow vinyasa, is a great way to notice muscles (including ones you never knew you had).  To get the most benefit in regards to strength, find a class that incorporates lots of standing poses and weight bearing movements.

-Slow Motion Weight Lifting: Slowing down weight training puts the emphasis on mastery.  Try performing a pushup by pressing up for 4 counts then lowering down for 4 counts.  Instead of pausing at the top or bottom of the movement, keep the flow constant.

-Single Leg Balance: Single leg balance exercises strengthen the hip, knee, and ankle complex.  Standing on one leg is a great way to fire up the glutes, which tend to get sleepy from too much sitting.  Next time you get the urge to lunge, try coming to a balance instead of bringing the feet together in between repetitions.

For more fitness ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

Dee says slow and steady wins the race…..
Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: Prime Your Plank

Remember a few years back when “planking” was all the rage?  In my world it still is.  The plank is one exercise that never goes out of style.  What makes it such a classic?  Considering the minimal effort it takes to get into and the low chance of injury (unless you are one of those crazy people planking on top of a basketball hoop, street sign, or two camels….seriously, google it…) the plank offers some amazing health benefits.  Performing this one exercise can help tone abdominal muscles, improve posture, and reduce back pain.

Ready to incorporate planking into your life?  Read on:

Start With the Basics: To perform a basic plank, place the forearms on the floor aligning shoulders and elbows.  Carefully walk the knees back until your hips are aligned with the rest of the torso.  Tuck toes under and raise knees off of floor.  Hold for as long as you can.  Working up to 60 seconds is a good starting point, but feel free to go longer as you feel able.

Supe Up Your Strength:  A pushup is a moving plank, but your upper body workout doesn’t have to stop there.  Once you are proficient at low plank, see how many times you can move to high plank (or pushup position) then back to low without putting your knees down.  Add a pushup to your high plank for extra credit.

Do Some Horizontal Cardio:  And no, I am not talking about the mambo.  Once you’ve mastered high plank position, try some plank jacks by jumping your feet out then back together, all the while maintaining plank position.

For more fitness ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

Good effort T!  We can work on your form later….


Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: Back in Action

There are not many areas on the body as neglected as the back.  Is it because most of the time it’s out of our view?  Muscular weakness in the back may hard to see, but boy is it easy to feel.  Last I checked, something like 80% of Americans will experience back pain in their lives.

When it comes to the back, we can’t ignore it without some consequences.  The following are a few ideas for keep your back strong and healthy:

-Pull, Pull, Pull….:  Pulling exercises are a fabulous way to work the back.  Pulling from different angles works different muscles, so switch up your direction.  By extending your arms fully then consciously drawing your shoulder blades together you’ll inspire back muscles to activate, making it harder for the biceps to take over.

-Stretch Your Hamstrings: Tight hamstrings can often pull on the lower back and create discomfort.  Foam rolling hamstrings prior to a workout and stretching them after may help address this issue.  If you have a sensitive back, be sure to bend the knees as much as you need during extended leg stretches, gradually working towards straight as your muscles allow.

-Explore Your Spine: There is a saying that goes “You are only as young as your spine is flexible.”  How many directions do you move your torso in any given day?  If the answer is not too many, consider taking up a yoga class or something similar that will get you moving your spine as nature intended.  Roll it, twist it, bend it back, forth, and side to side, the options are endless!

For more fitness ideas head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

T says “That’s great you can bench 300 bro, but what about your back?”


Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: The Impact of Environment on Your Workout

When considering all the benefits of exercise, we may want to take environment into account.  I know you are probably thinking “It’s not enough to get the movement in, now we have to think about where we are performing it?”  Hear me out.

As we know, the benefits of exercise go way beyond the physical.  Among other things, moving more improves mood and reduces stress.  I am all about getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to exercise.  Taking environment into account is another way to do this.

Curious what I mean?  See if any of these ideas resonate with you:

-Take that run outdoors: Both running and walking have proven to be superbly effective against anxiety and depression.  Why not add in some sunlight and fresh air, which are also proven to lower stress and improve mood?

-Cue up your favorite playlist: You may have guessed that music can be helpful in improving mood.  Did you also know it promotes a feeling of youth?  Listening to music from earlier times in life helps improve recall and retention.  It may also be true that certain songs release a cascade of hormones that were present when the song was first heard.

-Try some lavender and candlelight with your yoga: Next time you roll out your mat try setting the scene.  It only takes a few minutes to dim the lights, dab a favorite  essential oil into your wrists, and take your practice to the next level.  Dim lighting helps bring focus inward and aromatherapy has positive effects on the more primitive limbic brain, responsible for emotions and behaviors.

For more exercise motivation head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

I like that you chose to run around outside, but is that my hat T?