11 Benefits of Doing Lunges Regularly

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woman doing a lunge

Lunges are a popular strength training exercise among people wanting to strengthen, sculpt, and tone their bodies, while also improving overall fitness and enhancing athletic performance.

This resistance exercise is popular for its ability to strengthen your back, hips, and legs, while improving mobility and stability. Lunges are ideal for those wishing to get stronger and for current athletes, including runners and cyclists.

Continue reading to take a look at the benefits of lunges along with what muscles they target and a few variation options.

Benefits of performing lunges

1. Weight loss

Lunges work the large muscle groups in your lower body, which builds leans muscle and reduces body fat. This can increase your resting metabolism, which allows you to burn more calories and trim excess weight.

If you’re looking to lose weight, push yourself to your outer limits by including lunges in a high-intensity circuit training routine using heavy weights.

2. Balance and stability

Lunges are a lower body unilateral exercise since you work on each side of your body independently. The single-leg movements activate your stabilizing muscles to develop balance, coordination, and stability.

Working one leg at a time causes your body to be less stable, which forces your spine and core to work harder to stay balanced.

3. Alignment and symmetry

Lunges are better than bilateral exercises for rehabilitation since they can correct imbalances and misalignments in your body to make it more symmetrical.

If you have one side that’s less strong or flexible, spend a bit of extra time working on this side so you don’t overcompensate or overuse the dominant side.

4. Stand taller

Lunges strengthen your back and core muscles without putting too much stress or strain on your spine. A strong, stable core reduces your chance of injury and improves your posture, making common movements easier.

Benefits by type of lunge

5. Stationary lunges

Stationary lunges target your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. You’ll put most of your weight on your front leg and use your back leg to balance, stabilize, and support your entire body.

You’ll want to get the form down since stationary lunges are the foundation for all the lunge variations.

6. Side lunges

Lateral lunges develop balance, stability, and strength. They work your inner and outer thighs and may even help to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Side lunges train your body to move side to side, which is a nice change from your body’s normal forward or twisting movements. Plus, side lunges target your quadriceps, hips, and legs at a slightly different angle, thus working them a little differently.

Pay attention to the outsides of your legs and work on activating these muscles as you do these lunges.

7. Walking lunges

To do walking lunges, you’ll need balance and coordination. The walking variation targets your core, hips, and glutes, and improves overall stability. They also increase your range of motion and help to improve your functional everyday movements.

To make walking lunges more difficult, add weights or a torso twist.

8. Reverse lunges

Reverse lunges activate your core, glutes, and hamstrings. They put less stress on your joints and give you a bit more stability in your front leg. This is ideal for people who have knee concerns, difficulty balancing, or less hip mobility.

Reverse lunges allow you to be more balanced as you move backward, changing up the direction from most of your movements and training your muscles to work differently.

9. Twist lunges

You can add a twist to stationary, walking, or reverse lunges to activate your core and glutes more deeply. Twisting lunges also require balance and stability as you twist your torso away from your lower body while maintaining the alignment of your knees.

You’ll also activate the muscles in your ankles and feet.

10. Curtsy lunge

Curtsy lunges are great for strengthening and toning your derrière, which is excellent for your posture. Strong glutes also prevent and relieve back and knee pain, all of which help to improve your athletic performance and lower your risk of injury.

Curtsy lunges also sculpt and strengthen your hip adductors, quadriceps, and hamstrings as well as improve hip stabilization. Use a kettlebell or dumbbell to up the intensity of this variation.

11. Lunges and squats

Lunges and squats both work your lower body and are a valuable addition to your fitness regime. You may favor lunges if you have low back pain since they’re less likely to strain your back. Consider focusing on squats if you feel more stable in this position.

Since this pair of exercises will work your body in similar ways, it’s a matter of personal preference to see if either exercise feels better for your body or brings you the best results. Of course, adding both lunges and squats to your routine is beneficial.

Muscles worked 

Lunges increase muscle mass to build up strength and tone your body, especially your core, butt, and legs. Improving your appearance isn’t the main benefit of shaping up your body, as you’ll also improve your posture and range of motion.

Lunges target the following muscles:

  • abdominals
  • back muscles
  • gluteal muscles
  • quadriceps
  • hamstrings
  • calves

How to get results 

Lunges are simple, making them accessible to people who want to add them to part of a longer routine or do them for a few minutes at a time throughout the day. You must stay on track and be consistent to maintain your results over time.

If you do lunges regularly as part of a larger fitness routine, you’ll notice results in terms of building muscle mass and shaping up your body. You’ll likely feel the results before they are visible.

You may develop tight, toned, and stronger muscles and start to lower your body fat percentage within a few weeks. More noticeable results may take a few months to develop.

For each lunge variation, do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. If you feel yourself starting to plateau, up the intensity by doing more difficult variations, adding weights, or increasing the amount you do.

Source: https://www.healthline.com/

5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Workouts

fitness, Uncategorized

Few things are more frustrating than seeing little progress after starting a workout routine—and sticking to it—no matter how many gym sessions you log or sweaty laundry loads you do. It’s so frustrating, in fact, that it might even tempt you to quit.

But before you start slacking, know the simple mistakes that could be sabotaging your results—and that you can fix them!

Below are six of the most common workout mistakes people make—and the expert advice you need to get your motivation and progress back on track.

1. Your Goals Are Unrealistic

Set the bar too high and you’re sure to fail. Whether it’s scoring a six-pack in a month or vowing to hit the gym every single day of the week, setting unrealistic goals is probably the number-one way people sabotage themselves, says trainer, yoga teacher, and nutrition coach Kendra Coppey Fitzgerald, C.P.T. When you can’t achieve these unrealistic goals, you’re bound to feel discouraged, which might lead you to give up on your exercise routine altogether.

The Fix: Check in with yourself to make sure your goals are realistic, and adjust if and as needed. Choose a goal you think you can accomplish and then commit to reaching it. So while scoring a six-pack in a month may not be feasible, goals like sticking to a regular workout routine or losing half a pound or so per week are attainable, says trainer and author Jeremy Scott, C.P.T., C.N.S.

Step one is creating a workout schedule that fits your lifestyle. You’re more likely to stay motivated when you have a schedule in place you can really commit to—even if that means squeezing in a quick 15-minute HIIT workout instead of spending an hour at the gym some days.

Then, adding mini fitness goals to your daily routine— such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work—can be really motivating, says Fitzgerald. This way, you’ll be more active—and feel more accomplished—every single day.

2. Your Pre-Workout Snack Game Is Off

What you eat (or don’t eat) before you get your sweat on can make the difference between having a killer workout and feeling like a sloth. Most people make one of two opposite mistakes: either eating too much too close to a workout or not eating enough.

Eat too much and your body doesn’t have time to digest and absorb the nutrients in your food, and you might feel sick to your stomach during your workout, says Fitzgerald. If you don’t eat enough, though, you could feel lightheaded and tired, and be more prone to muscle cramps, adds McCall. Your body relies heavily on glycogen (carbs stored in your muscles) during harder workouts, so if you don’t have enough available your body will turn to other less-ideal energy sources—like protein—and your performance will take a hit.

Another overlooked fuel issue: Not drinking enough water in the hours before a workout. Water comprises the majority of our muscle tissue, so you want to be well-hydrated before you exercise, says Pete McCall, M.S., C.S.C.S., C.P.T., master trainer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Dehydration can make your body temperature and heart rate rise, which both put extra stress on your body during exercise—so much so that poor pre-workout hydration can actually cut your ability to do high intensity exercise almost in half, according to Sport Nutrition, Second Addition.

The Fix: If you work out first thing in the morning, don’t worry about eating much (if anything) beforehand, since your body still has fuel stashed away from your food you ate the night before, says Fitzgerald. If you’re saving your gym session for later in the day, though, and haven’t had a meal in a few hours, eat something that contains some protein and carbs about an hour beforehand, so you have time to digest. Some of our favorites are toast or a banana with nut butter, a serving of edamame, or Greek yogurt with berries. The carbs will cover your energy needs while the protein will keep your body stocked on the amino acids it needs to support your muscles, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

As for hydration, McCall recommends drinking 16 ounces of water an hour before working out.

And don’t forget to refuel after you work out, too! Nosh on something high in protein and carbs within an hour after you exercise, Fitzgerald recommends. The carbs will restock those energy stores while the protein will help your muscles repair and grow stronger. Fitzgerald’s go-to post-workout snack? Chocolate milk—because it provides protein, carbs and fats.

3. Your Workouts Are Too Repetitive

Yep, there is a such thing as too much routine. Mindlessly run through the same workouts day after day—whether it’s a spin class, weight-lifting session, or any old cardio—and your body will adapt and, eventually, you’ll stop seeing results, according to Fitzgerald. “If your body isn’t being stressed enough, or you’re not putting enough intensity into a workout, your body gets used to it,” Fitzgerald says.

Think of it this way: If a runner jogs at the same pace all the time, they’re not going to get any faster, she says. Bottom line: No matter how much you love a particular workout, it can’t be the only thing you do. And you definitely shouldn’t do it at the same speed or intensity every time.

Plus, doing only cardio—or only strength training—prevents you from developing well-rounded fitness. Cardio helps your heart pump blood (and oxygen and nutrients) throughout your body more efficiently, and helps you ward off cardiovascular issues and chronic conditions like diabetes, according to The Mayo ClinicStrength training, on the other hand, helps your muscle fibers work more efficiently and grow, boosts your metabolism, supports strong bones, and improves your balance.

Women especially may get stuck in a rut of repetitive cardio-only workouts and miss out on the benefits of strength training because they’re afraid of bulking up, says Scott. But without a balance of cardio and strength training, you’ll likely sabotage your metabolism and even gain fat.

The Fix: Switch up your routine throughout the week to include a balance of cardio, strength training, and stretching (such as yoga), so that you challenge your body in multiple ways, says Fitzgerald.

To keep your cardio and resistance training effective, try alternating between high and low-intensity workouts. This will stimulate your muscles in different ways and give your body time to recover between tough workouts, says McCall. Think track or treadmill sprints versus a nice steady jog, or lifting heavy for just a few reps versus lifting moderate weight for a dozen reps.

From there, switch up the tempo, intensity, or order of your strength-training exercises to keep your workouts challenging, adds Fitzgerald. For example, if you usually do squats before lunges, try swapping them, adding more weight to your squats, or turning bodyweight squats into jump squats. You can also mix up your cardio workouts by cross-training and swapping a run for a spin class or a swim. This will help keep your muscles from plateauing and prevent overuse injuries from doing the same repetitive movements all the time, Fitzgerald says.

4. You Skimp On Warmups And Cooldowns

Your workouts are key to making continuous fitness gains—but what you do before and after them matters, too. Let’s start with warming up: If you jump right into a high-intensity workout without prepping your body, you put yourself at greater risk for injuries like pulled and strained muscles, according to Scott. And the same goes if you run out of the gym before properly cooling down, says McCall. During a hard workout, your muscles produce waste your body needs to clear out of its system—and your cooldown and post-workout stretch give it the opportunity to do so, he says. Skimping on that cooldown can delay your recovery process and leave you sore.

The Fix: Spend at least 10 minutes warming up before a workout, Scott recommends. Perform simple moves like lunges, arm circles, toe touches, and hip swings, which get your whole body moving and start to boost your heartrate.

Then, spend about 10 minutes stretching and foam rolling after nailing your sweat session. Stretch all of your major muscle groups for 30 seconds each, and pay special attention to your hip flexors, calves, and hamstrings, McCall recommends. Using a foam roller to massage out your muscles can also help relieve tension and boost recovery, says Fitzgerald. In fact, a review published in Current Sports Medicine Reports found that foam rolling after strength training decreased participants’ soreness later on.

5. You Don’t Take Rest Days

This one might come as a bit of a surprise, but to see results from your workouts you have to rest. Remember that glycogen we talked about earlier? Your body needs time to replenish the stores it used up during your workout, says McCall. If you continue to push yourself on an empty tank, you’ll just feel fatigued and under-perform.

Without solid glycogen stores, your body may turn to protein for fuel—and that’s the opposite of what you want! Your body needs protein to repair damaged muscle tissue and help your muscles continue to grow, so running off protein leaves you more prone to soreness and injury, he says. If necessary, your body will even pull that protein from your muscle tissue and your workouts can actually break down some muscle instead of build it up. And because muscle supports your strength and burns a lot of calories, this is bad news for your overall fitness and your metabolism.

The Fix: Fitzgerald suggests taking a rest day after two or three workout days—especially if any of those workouts were high-intensity (which puts extra stress on your body). Make the most of rest days by foam rolling and stretching to help sore muscles recover, she says.

It’s normal for soreness from a workout to last a day or so, but if you’re still feeling it after a few days, consider it a sign that you’re overdoing it on exercise and putting yourself at risk for injury, McCall says.

Source: by Kate Magill

8 Things Trainers Wish Everyone Knew About Weight Loss

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8 Things Trainers Wish Everyone Knew About Weight Loss

Weight loss is one of the most common fitness goals trainers deal with. The reality, however, is that not every person who seeks to lose weight ends up reaching their goal. Often times, that’s because people striving for weight loss don’t go into it with the right mindset or information about what really works when it comes to shedding fat and building muscle.

Drawing upon their expertise and years of experience with clients, here’s what trainers want you to know about dropping pounds, plus what successful weight loss looks like from their perspective.

1
RESULTS TAKE TIME, AND IT’S BETTER THAT WAY

You probably already know it can take a while to see the benefits of working out and eating healthy, but knowing something and accepting it are two different things. “Many clients will join a fitness program only to terminate too soon,” says Michael Piercy, MS, certified strength and conditioning specialist, owner of The LAB and IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year 2017. Think about it this way: “The weight that you might want to lose didn’t get there in one day, so we know that it won’t come off in a day.”

Plus, there’s the fact that losing weight really quickly isn’t a great idea. “The faster you lose weight, the more likely it is to come right back (plus some) when you stop dieting,” says Christel Oerum, a certified personal trainer and diabetes coach. “When you lose weight too quickly, you also decrease your body’s metabolism, meaning that you burn fewer calories. When you have reached your weight goal and go back to a normal, healthy diet, you may have decreased your metabolism so much that even a ‘normal’ diet will make you gain weight fast.” That’s why slow and steady is the best approach, which means 1–2 pounds of weight loss per week maximum.

2
YOUR “WHY” IS AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR “HOW”

Having a plan for how you’re going to lose weight is great, but there will inevitably be moments when your motivation wanes. During those times, your reason for wanting to lose weight in the first place becomes even more crucial, according to Brian Nguyen, CEO of Elementally Strong. Ask yourself: Why are you doing this? Is this doctor-ordered for your health? If so, why would you follow those orders? “After all, most people know what they should be doing: Eat more broccoli and less sugar, get eight hours of sleep, exercise or be active for about 20 minutes a day,” Nguyen points out. To actually make those lifestyle changes that will affect your body composition requires a big “why.”

“Maybe it’s to be able to play with the kids without pain. Maybe it’s to reinvigorate your sex life with your partner. Whatever it is, no one’s goal is really the number on the scale,” Nguyen says. “Get to the real why and make yourself conscious of it daily.” That can include making a vision board, creating your own mantra, or journaling about your weight-loss experience. However you do it, the more you focus on the specific reasons you want to lose weight — the ones without numbers attached — the more likely you are to stick to it.

3
WHAT WORKED FOR YOUR FRIEND MIGHT NOT WORK FOR YOU

It’s easy to get caught up in trendy workouts, diets and wellness trends, thinking they could be the answer to all your weight-related woes. “I see this all the time,” says Alix Turoff, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian. “A client will come to me and tell me what’s working for their friend and think that they need to be doing the same thing. If your friend is following a Paleo diet, and it’s working for them, that’s great but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to lose weight or meet your goals,” Turoff explains. Instead, it’s better to figure out a plan that capitalizes on the healthy eating and workout habits you may already have. “It’s important to realize that weight loss and nutrition are extremely individual and it’s OK to follow your own set of rules — within reason, of course.”

4
CRAZY-HARD WORKOUTS AREN’T REQUIRED

You might think the harder you work out, the faster the weight will come off, but that’s not necessarily true. “Don’t sign up for the most challenging boot camp in town with a goal of totally burning off your bad food choices,” says Shana Verstegen, fitness director at Supreme Health and Fitness. “This is a recipe for injury and burnout. Instead, find fitness activities that you enjoy and stick with them. If fitness is viewed as fun and something you look forward to, then there is no limit to how long you can maintain it.”

5
RESISTANCE TRAINING WILL MAKE A BIGGER DIFFERENCE THAN CARDIO

It’s a common misconception that to lose weight, you have to do a ton of cardio. “By mainly basing your weight loss on lifting weights and eating healthy food — and not just on lots of cardio and a super low-calorie diet — you will permanently increase your base metabolism, meaning that you will burn more calories every second of the day, even when you are not working out,” Oerum explains. “As you build more muscle mass and your metabolism increases, it will become easier and easier to both lose weight and to maintain your weight loss.” Of course, cardio isn’t a bad thing, and it deserves a place in your routine no matter what your goals are, but perhaps a smaller one than you might expect. Oerum emphasizes that resistance training and good nutrition are more effective for long-term results.

6
THE PEOPLE YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH MATTER

Having a community to reach out to can make a world of difference, and while you might not be able to control your family’s health habits, you can certainly make an effort to spend time with fitness-minded friends. “Don’t forget that you are the culmination of the five people you hang around with the most, so be sure to seek out friends who are already living that healthy and fit lifestyle,” Nguyen advises. “The bottom line is that no one does this alone.”

If you can, find a workout buddy who can help keep you accountable. “Have fun with the fitness game using a system of checks and balances with rewards and penalties,” Nguyen suggests. “Maybe the most consistent partner gets a free steak dinner or whoever is later to workouts does the meal prep for the following week.” By motivating each other, you’re also motivating yourselves.

PLAN HOW YOU’LL END YOUR WEIGHT LOSS

“One of the most common weight-loss mistakes is not having a plan for what to do after you reach your goals,” Oerum says. “Most people either keep following the same diet they used to lose weight or end up going back to how they ate before their weight loss.” Neither choice is ideal. “Instead, don’t think of your weight-loss journey as being done until you have managed to keep your goal weight for at least a month.” How do you do this? “After you reach your weight-loss goal, slowly start adding a little more (healthy) food into your daily diet.” Finding a calorie intake that allows you to keep your weight stable is just as much a part of the weight-loss process as shedding pounds.

8

IT’S BETTER NOT TO HAVE WEIGHT LOSS AS YOUR PRIMARY GOAL

You might be thinking, “What? How can this not be the goal if it’s why I’m training?” Easy. “Strive for athletic and wellness goals such as completing a race, improving your maximum lifts or tracking your food intake for 30 days straight,” Verstegen says. “The weight loss will follow. If you train as an athlete, you will eventually look like an athlete.”

Source: JULIA MALACOFF

 

5 Common Strength Training Mistakes to Stop Doing

Fitness on a Budget, Motivation, Inspiration and Encouragement, Uncategorized
5 Common Strength Training Mistakes to Stop Doing

There’s a saying that if you’re new to lifting weights, any program will make you stronger. While it’s true that “newbie gains” can be attained doing just about anything, experienced lifters will often tell you that in hindsight, they wish they’d known what they know now when they first started lifting.

There are a handful of common mistakes fitness novices make all too often when starting a training routine. Rather than accepting that anything will work, it’s best to learn the basic principles of strength training so you can ride out the progress of your “newbie gains” as long as possible.

Here are five mistakes to avoid and how to fix them:

Beginners are often introduced to strength training through body-part splits, which are exercise routines that dedicate an entire day to a specific muscle group. For example:

Monday: Chest
Tuesday: Back
Wednesday: Legs
Thursday: Shoulders
Friday: Arms
Saturday and Sunday: Rest

While this may be effective for experienced bodybuilders, for beginners it’s like drinking water through a fire hose and here’s why.

Beginners need to learn how perform basic exercises like squats, pushups and deadlifts. These exercises take lots of practice, and you don’t get good at anything by only practicing it once a week. Second, beginners rarely have the ability to recover from workouts that smash a single body part with so many sets and reps that your muscles feel like they’ve been put through a meat grinder.

Beginners are better off with either three full-body workouts per week or four workouts that are split between upper- and lower-body. For example:

3-DAY FULL-BODY WORKOUT

Monday: Full body
Tuesday: Rest or low-intensity cardio
Wednesday: Full body
Thursday: Rest or low-intensity cardio
Friday: Full body
Saturday: Rest or low-intensity cardio
Sunday: Rest

4-DAY UPPER/LOWER SPLIT

Monday: Upper body
Tuesday: Lower body
Wednesday: Rest or low-intensity cardio
Thursday: Upper body
Friday: Lower body
Saturday: Rest or low-intensity cardio
Sunday: Rest

Beginners are often encouraged to use machines because they’re easier to learn than free weights. While this may be true, free weights build more strength and coordination in the long run.

It’s best to learn proper technique with free weight exercises while you’re still in a novice stage. That way, as you get stronger, your technique will be on point, and you’ll be less prone to injury. A strong lifter with lousy technique is like a racecar with no brakes, so get your brakes tuned up early on to set yourself up for a lifetime of safe workouts.

You can still use free weights and machines (because they’re both awesome), but if you’re new to working out, trade these common machine exercises for their free weight equivalents:


READ MORE > SHOULD YOU LIFE WEIGHTS TO FAILURE?


Many beginners avoid using a full range of motion during some exercises because they either haven’t been taught proper form or they heard some old wives’ tale that an exercise is dangerous. Examples of such myths include:

  • Deep squats are bad for your knees.
  • Touching the bar to your chest on the bench press is bad for your shoulders.
  • Locking out your joints keeps the stress on your muscles.

These myths are born from dogma and misinformation. They’re often spread by people who haven’t learned proper technique or have hurt themselves by using poor form.

In reality, research shows that proper lifting technique performed with full range of motion results in more muscle and strength gains than using partial range of motion. So the next time you’re tempted to cut a rep short, remember that full range gets better results and is perfectly safe if you use proper form.

A “no pain, no gain” approach to lifting weights might sound cool in theory, but doing too many sets to failure may be holding you back. Overzealous lifters often like to take every set of every exercise to the point where they can’t complete the final rep, but turns out you can make the same gains with far less pain.

A 2016 review in the Journal of Sports Medicine tells us that non-failure training results in slightly more gains in strength and muscle than failure training. After looking at eight studies, it appears that you don’t have to go to failure, although you have to do a few more sets to make up the difference. This is important because stopping each set shy of failure means you’re less likely to use improper form, reducing the likelihood of injury.

The takeaway? Stop most of your sets at least 1–2 reps shy of failure. The heavier and more complicated the exercise (i.e., heavy barbell deadlifts), the further you should stay from failure, while lighter single-joint exercises (i.e., dumbbell biceps curls) can be trained to failure with less risk.

As the saying goes, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” Heading into the gym without a plan is like going on a road trip without a map (or a GPS, for the youngsters who don’t remember maps). Sure, you may get somewhere interesting, but you’re more likely to get to your destination with a specific route to follow.

Rather than flying by the seat of your pants, find a tried-and-true workout program that suits your goals. There are plenty of them right here on MyFitnessPal, including:

While a premade program may not be tailored exactly to you, it keeps you accountable and on track toward a more specific goal than just “getting a workout in.”

Smarter, Not Harder

Just like any new endeavor, you don’t need to know everything about lifting weight to be successful. But a little knowledge goes a long way in helping you get stronger, so avoid these five common mistakes to ride out your “newbie gains” as long as possible.

Source: by Tony Bonvechio

Motivation Monday: Hate the Gym? Try These 9 Calorie-Burning Alternatives

fitness, Motivation, Inspiration and Encouragement, Uncategorized

Hate the Gym? Try These 9 Calorie-Burning Alternatives

Hate the Gym? Try These 9 Calorie-Burning Alternatives

If you don’t like the gym, can’t stand running and never took to cycling, well … that’s still no excuse to sit on the couch all day. There are plenty of ways to exercise beyond traditional methods. In fact, we can count at least nine.

Take a gander below for unique workouts — plus their estimated calorie burns — that are guaranteed to get your heart racing and might even put a smile on your face.


READ MORE > 6 WAYS TO BURN 300 CALORIES IN 30 MINUTES OR LESS


Sure, it could elicit some odd looks if you’re hula-hooping while not concurrently 8 years old and on a playground. But who cares? It’s a fun way to burn calories — and easily something you can do in the privacy of your own home. It’s a great core workout and will have you breaking a sweat in no time. Want more of a challenge? Try a weighted hoop.

Spinning underwater isn’t just some nautical fantasy — it’s a real thing that was developed mostly for rehab reasons due to its low-impact nature. But find a gym near you that offers it, and you’ll be pedaling through water. The pace is much slower, obviously, but due to the added resistance, you’ll be working hard from start to finish.

The gravity-defying art of trapeze is for more than just circus performers. Local training centers and ropes courses offer classes, where you can fly high to test your strength, flexibility and mental fortitude — all while getting a great workout.

Bike polo is exactly what it sounds like, assuming you think it sounds like playing polo — a sport typically reliant on horses — atop a bicycle. Look online for leagues, clubs or friendly pickup games nearby, and you’ll soon be knocking balls into a net using a wooden mallet while balancing on two wheels.

This highly-Instagramable activity is serious exercise, requiring participants to move between a series of poses while suspended from the ceiling by a fabric hammock. It’s a total body workout that promotes core strength and flexibility and is a fun take on traditional yoga classes.

More than just a fun backyard activity for kids, trampolining is an official Olympic sport. But you don’t have to be a kid nor an Olympian to partake. Check your city for local trampoline gyms, and go bounce around for awhile. The more comfortable you get, the more you’ll be able to incorporate flips, tricks and other cardio-friendly moves into your repertoire.

Once relegated to the outdoors, the proliferation of this sport — thanks in part to “American Ninja Warrior” — has spawned dedicated gyms all over. Break a sweat while jumping, rolling, swinging and climbing on natural or man-made obstacles like you’re the star of your own action movie.

The fast-moving game of Ultimate Frisbee is a fun way to get some cardio. Join a league, or just gather a few friends in the park. The short sprints and near constant movement mimics soccer and will have you gasping for breath.

If you like some friendly competition and don’t mind getting dirty, try a mud run. They’ll take you over, under and through obstacles across a variety of distances. And with events like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Savage Race and others scheduled in cities across the country, there’s no shortage of options for the aspiring mud runner.

by Kevin Gray

20 Ways to Spring Clean Your Fitness Routine

fitness, Fitness on a Budget, Uncategorized
From workouts to gear (time for new kicks?), how to recharge your body

It’s that time of year again—the snow’s melting, the sun’s shining, and those thick sweaters in the closet are about to go into storage. It’s the perfect time to reignite your motivation by breaking away from your boring gym routine and embracing the great outdoors. Kick off spring with a healthy start by getting the right gear, revamping your routine, and doing some “spring cleaning” in your pantry. Here are 20 simple tips to get you started.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Book a Physical
Believe it or not, only about 20 percent of Americans get an annual check-up. Be one of them! While you might look and feel just fine (or really hate needles), it’s important to keep tabs on things like blood pressure, cholesterol, and vitamin deficiencies before designing your workout program.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Set a Schedule… but Be Realistic
If you haven’t been working out much this winter, don’t write down that you’ll do outdoor cardio exercises for 30 minutes a day, six days a week. You’ll only find yourself getting frustrated and will be more likely to give up on your workout program. Post your exercise plan in places you’ll look frequently, like the calendar app on your smartphone or at your desk at work.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Team Up
You’re more likely to stick with your plan if you’ve got a partner in crime. Choose someone who has similar goals who’s schedule fits with your own. Your best bet: Get together at the same time four days a week, whether it’s before work or just before dinner.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Buy New Running Shoes
If you’ve been hitting the gym (and the treadmill) all winter, chances are, you’re due for a new pair. Most running shoes last somewhere between 300 and 400 miles—but if you use them to walk around or do other parts of your gym routine, that wear and tear counts, too. Go to a running specialty store to get fitted, and have them look at your gait/pronation to find the best shoe for you.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Clean Out Your Pantry
Still have that tin of popcorn from the holidays or a box of chocolates from Valentine’s Day? Get rid of them. And while you’re at it, throw away other foods low in nutritional value, like chips, pretzels, sugary cereals, white bread and, yes, even those 100 calorie snack packs (a cookies still a cookie, even if you squash it flat and drop five in a bag).

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Protect Your Skin
Now that it’s warming up, you’ll be heading outside again. This means more sunshine (and vitamin D, which is a good thing), but it also means that your skin is exposed to harmful UV rays. Rub waterproof lotion with at least SPF 15 or more over all exposed areas of your body. Don’t forget easy-to-miss areas like behind your ears, the back of your neck and the crease near your underarms.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Pump Up Your Playlist
Still listening to the same tracks from December? Do some iPod “spring cleaning” by downloading a fresh workout playlist to get you going.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Jump Rope
Heading outside and doing this favorite childhood “workout” can burn about 208 calories in just 20 minutes. Add other outdoor cardio exercises like walking lunges, short sprints, and jumping jacks, and you’ve got yourself a circuit program you can do right in your backyard.

RELATED: 20-Minute, Fat-Blasting Jump Rope Workout

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Update Your Workout Wardrobe
Still sweating it out in cotton T-shirts? Throw away worn-out workout duds and replace them with shorts, tanks and tees in breathable, wick fabrics. While you’re at it, update your sports bras, too (a typical bra has a lifespan of about six months, although hand-washing can make them last longer).

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Stretch Out
The best way to prevent injury is to stretch before and after your workouts. Here’s how it’s done: Warm up with 10 minutes of light outdoor cardio exercises, then do dynamic stretching—as in, stretching while moving. This includes lunges, touching your toes and walking your hands forward, swinging your legs while standing and twisting from side to side. After your workout, complete “static” stretches—a.k.a. your typical “touch and hold” routine. Yoga, Pilates, and dance classes are also great ways to stay flexible.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Stay Hydrated
Avoid muscle cramping and fatigue by drinking about two liters of water a day, and 17 ounces about two hours before exercising. Another general rule of thumb: The more you sweat, the more fluids you need to replace, so drink up after a vigorous workout. Use stainless steel bottles to avoid some of the chemicals associated with certain plastic varieties (such as Bisphenol A, or BPA).

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Plan a Trip
Outdoor exercises are great, but if the weather’s still cool where you live, take a “health” vacation to a resort with hiking, biking and other activities (plus warm weather), or sign up for a yoga retreat.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Get Sporty
Break up your routine with outdoor exercises like tennis or golf, or team up with friends for an afternoon of ultimate Frisbee. Even kickball will get your heart going—and you don’t have to be athletically gifted to play!

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Hit the Farmers Market
Soak up some of that spring sunshine while you shop for fresh fruits and veggies. Other items worth picking up include fish, dried fruits, and nuts.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Change Your Thinking
Instead of designing goals based purely on weight loss, concentrate on how you feel. If counting calories has you down, think in terms of portions instead. Constantly checking the clock during your workout? Chances are you need to find a sport or activity you actually enjoy.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Step Off the Scale
Muscle weighs more than fat, so although you may look more toned, there’s a chance you might not be shedding pounds at the rate you’d expect. To get an accurate measure of your progress, use measuring tape once every two weeks to see where you’re trimming inches from your waist, hips, and other target areas.

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Jump On the Twitter Train
Get vocal about your fitness routine and goals and make friends with other women looking to get motivated this spring with a Twitter feed. Give updates on your progress, post links to your favorite fitness articles and products, and cheer on others (they’ll do the same for you).

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Tie On Weights
Tone up arms and legs by doing your regular routine—whether it’s walking to the store, cleaning your house or walking the dog—while using wrist and/or ankle weights. The resistance will help strengthen muscles (and get your body that much more ready for bikini season).

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Sign Up for a Race
Adding positive goals to your fitness routine will make you feel better and also give a purpose to your training other than losing weight or fitting into those skinny jeans. Look into local road races—the 5K distance is perfect for beginners—and sign up with your training partner. It’s also a great way to get involved in your local fitness community!

Spring Training Fitness Tip: Reward Yourself
Don’t forget to take care of your hard-worked body! A sports massage is the perfect way to pamper yourself, while alleviating toxins and speeding up muscle recovery. We love Just Calm Down Spa in New York City; even if you can’t get there, you can still get your hands on the muscle-soothing cream their therapists swear by: Topricin. Rub this fast-absorbing topical pain reliever on after a tough workout and your muscles will thank you.

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