Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: It’s the Little Things

The little things we do everyday can make a big impact.  I spend a good deal of time helping people move more comfortably.  Most of my clients want to climb stairs or crawl around on the floor with their grandkids.  They are less interested in mountain climbing and endurance sports (well, aside from babysitting toddler grandkids which could definitely be considered a type of endurance sport….).

Fitness goals are often thought of as grand.  Climbing Mt. Rainier or running an ultramarathon are fine aspirations, but I believe things like climbing a ladder to clean the gutters or running after your child in a grocery store parking lot are just as important.

Kick-ass workouts are great, but truly, it’s the little things we do everyday that add up.  The following are a few skeleton-supporting exercise ideas that can make life a little easier in the long run:

-Power Up With a Plank: Take 60 seconds to plank.  Extra credit if you do so while blending a healthy green smoothie or luscious adaptogenic latte.

-Roll It Out: Keep a foam roller in the living room and roll out while you wind down with some Netflix.  Bonus points if you watch a documentary about consuming more plants (Forks Over Knives or What the Health are some good places to start).

-Make Like a Flamingo: Stand on one foot for 30 seconds 3x per day.  Bonus points if you do so while while prepping a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner involving leafy greens.

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

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T training Dee against her will so she can keep her puppy-like agility….
Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: Benefits of Bicycling

Summer has unofficially started, and with it comes the availability of many healthy outdoor activities.  Though I’ve subbed the occasional spin class when necessary, I am by no means an avid cyclist.  In fact, I was once so intimidated by the other cyclists on the Chicago lakefront I left J in the dust miles behind me when his bike chain broke.  I was too afraid to slow down or turn my head and by the time I realized he was gone he had to hop a bus home….with his bike attached to the front.

As a fitness professional, I recognize that bicycling is a wonderful sport and do aspire to improve my skills one day.  The following are a few reasons why it’s on my to do list, and why you may consider adding it to yours:

-It’s Gentle On Your Joints: Biking a good option for those with joint pain or stiffness.  If you have sensitive hips or knees, it’s a great way to reap the benefits of exercising outdoors while keeping things low impact.  When temperatures climb and indoor exercise is more appealing, remember that most gyms have step-through upright and recumbent bikes that are very safe and accessible.

-It’s A Great Mood Booster: Cardiovascular exercise is known for it’s mood boosting properties.  Pair that with some sunshine and scenery and you are bound for some good vibrations.  Prefer to take it indoors?  Never underestimate the high you get from the combo of movement and your favorite tunes in spin class.

-It’s Superb Strength Training:  Pedaling away, especially up hill or with the resistance cranked up, builds all major muscles of the lower body.  Additionally, the core muscles work to keep you balanced and the upper body muscles help stabilize and control the handle bars.  Simultaneous cardio and strength training?  Yes please!

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

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Ridin’ dirty….
Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: Get Hyped About Hydration

With warmer weather approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about hydration.  Where I work, the hard core tennis players and golfers play outdoors all through the summer.  We’ve already had a few 95 degree days and my hair tells me that the dew point is climbing (I always thought that poofy hair in the south was a style choice, turns out it is unavoidable!)

Most of us know that water helps with things like digestion, detoxification, and athletic performance.  I was surprised to learn recently that staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your brain.  Even a 2% decrease in hydration can lead to brain fog, and chronic dehydration can actually lead to brain shrinkage!

The following are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate more water into the day:

-Play a Drinking Game in Your Car: Keep a large bottle of water in the cup holder next to you when driving.  Every time you come to a red light, see how much you can drink.

Breakfast Water in Bed: Place a very large bottle of water (or two) on your nightstand before you go to sleep.  Set an alarm for 15-20 minutes earlier than you usually get up.  When you wake, sit and sip until all the water is gone.  Consider reading or listening to something inspirational as you drink to seriously jumpstart your day.

-Eat Your Water: There is a reason why watery fruits and veggies abound during the hotter months….mother nature knows we need to stay hydrated!  Eating lots of watery fruits and veggies is encouraged year round, but can be especially useful (and refreshing!) in the summer.

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

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Stay thirsty friends….
Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: Try Some Tabata

I was introduced to the Tabata protocol by a fellow personal trainer in Chicago.  Lean as the day was long and probably 120 lbs soaking wet, he had trouble keeping weight on if he wasn’t eating at least 5,000 calories a day.  I could totally relate……on opposite day.

A few cities and training gigs later, the Tabata protocol still makes regular appearances in my workouts.  The Tabata protocol, named after Dr. Izumi Tabata from the National Institute of Sports and Fitness in Tokyo, consists of 20 seconds of all out intensity followed by 10 seconds rest.  Typically this is repeated 8 times through for a total of 4 minutes, although sometimes I like to split a set between two different exercises (a preferable modification for beginners).

Why might you want to do this aside from the usual reason of “My trainer told me to.”?  The following are a few reasons why I think Tabata is tops:

-It Allows You to Compete Against Yourself: I train many golfers and tennis players who tend to have a competitive streak.  Naturally, Tabata encourages them to push themselves beyond what they otherwise might.  When performing Tabata sets, the general rule is to stay within 2 reps of what you perform on the first round during the following 7 rounds.  To keep your motivation up workout to workout, try increasing the number you perform on the first set to keep raising the bar higher.

-It Improves Reaction Time: Now, Tabata may or may not be the reason why I take of yards ahead of the person next to me once the traffic light turns green….  Regardless, it has been proven to boost reaction time when practiced regularly.  This is a welcome benefit whether you use it to school your opponent in tennis or take off at a green light like Mario Andretti.

-It Makes Any Exercise More Interesting: Done the same old way time after time, any exercise can get monotonous.  Tabata can infuse life into a tired workout.  You’ll be looking at the clock to time your intervals, not to lament the slow moving minute hand as your workout drones on.

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

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T gets his lead foot from mom….
Fitness Friday

Fitness Friday: Power Up Your Pelvis

For women, the pelvis can be an extremely controversial topic when it comes to strength training.  You may agree that, being the place through which all life enters through, it encompasses a decent amount of power.

Energetically, the pelvis is associated with the second chakra which is considered the seat of power. Maintaining a balance of flexibility and strength in the muscles surrounding the pelvis is crucial for almost any activity, and one muscle of particular importance is the psoas.

The psoas muscles, which are considered part of the core, are essential for range of motion and balance.  Emotionally, they are connected to the limbic brain (the fight or flight region).  Consequently, working the psoas muscle is one way to alleviate negative emotions, such as fear and anger, that are connected to this part of the brain.

The following are a few ways to get in touch with this often neglected but highly important muscle:

-Shake Your Body Like a Belly Dancer: With a little research, you can find belly or even pole dancing classes in your community.  Once considered taboo, many women now appreciate the major health benefits of moving the body in this manner.  Fun fact: belly dancing was originally taught to young women to prepare them for childbirth, not for seducing men.

-Have Fun With Some Hip Openers: Yoga is a wonderful way to connect to the hips.  If you aren’t sure where your psoas is located, you’ll know after a series of hip openers.

-Party on in Pilates: Though it was originally created by a man, women now flock to this modality for it’s positive impacts on pelvic power.

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

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A young Dee, stretching her psoas…..