Simple Ways To Pump Up Your Workout!

How  To Pump Up Your Pumping Iron Session

A lot of people tell me that they find the gym to be boring. So, I thought it’d be helpful to share some of my tips for keeping your workout fun, full of energy and effective – and keep you coming back to the gym for more! Hopefully this post will get you excited to rise and shine and move..and revive your gym routine!

dumbbells

Pump Up The Volume

I know that many treadmills have TVs in front of them, however, I still find music to be my number one motivator when I’m feeling tired during a run. Sometimes I watch the TV on mute, but I don’t find anything about the news or latest Bravo show to be encouraging for my tempo and my drive to continue running. I like to make personalized playlists for different types of runs. For instance, if I’m doing sprint intervals, I’ll alternate songs that are more intense and fast paced with quieter, slower songs to match my pace. Or, if I’m doing a steady run, I’ll make a playlist that incorporates the most intense, fun songs in the middle and toward the end of my playlist to coincide with my dwindling energy so that I can keep going strong. Also, I always make sure to make playlists longer than my actual planned cardio session so that if I decide to stay on longer I can be excited by the new music. Another helpful tip is to constantly add new music and make new playlists, and put them on shuffle if you don’t feel like you need the beats in a particular order. This can get me excited to go to the gym because I get to take a music break and hear my favorite new songs. Plus, I never know what’s coming next, which helps to keep things exciting and interesting. Oh, and don’t forget to pump up the volume – you want some energy to take you through those hills. Which brings me to…

Feel Inclined To Add A Little Incline

nt-x9i-incline-trainer

You know that little incline button on your treadmill? Use it! Also, ellipticals have incline and resistance buttons, which allow you to customize your workout and add in more effort – effortlessly. I like to simulate hills that naturally occur while running outside, so every few minutes I’ll add inclines throughout my run. I usually maintain a 0.5 or 1.0 incline on a treadmill as my “flat” surface  to increase the effort without really running up a mountain the entire time. Then, I’ll either add timed hill intervals or randomly decide to run at a steeper incline for a few minutes. It can also be great to mix things up and power walk up a large hill (think 7.0+ incline) during your cardio session, so that you can engage your glutes more. The hill intervals make it so I don’t get bored and also, surprisingly, make the rest of the (flat) workout seem easier in comparison. Great for a mind trick, as well as your stems.

Add A Little Speed

So, before you call me crazy for thinking that sprint intervals are fun, try it! I personally find sprint intervals to be less monotonous than a steady run at the same pace. I like to plan my sprints either by the clock (perhaps sprinting for 30 seconds, walking for a minute, jogging/running for 1 minute, repeat) , my music (sprint for a chorus, jog/run for the rest), or where I am on the track (the treadmill I use has a touch screen that shows different sceneries – I like the track, which traces your steps with a red line so you can see how far along you are – I tend to sprint the straight sides and jog or walk along the curves). However, the term sprint is key! Think speeds around 9.0 or 10.0 + on a 12.0 speed treadmill. Increase sprint time and decrease walk/jog time as this becomes easier. Or, eliminate walking entirely and recover with a jog or a run as you train more. Instead of stepping on to the hamster wheel and dreading it, add some pep to your step and mix up your session. I try to do a 30-40 minute sprint interval session at least once a week – to keep me toned, de-stressed, and excited to hit the gym!

Take It Outside

The Reservoir in Central Park - Who wouldn't want to run here?

My own photo of the Reservoir in Central Park – Who wouldn’t want to run here?

Last weekend felt like a heat wave, so I took my run outside with a friend. Okay, maybe not a heat wave, but here in NYC it’s been in the single digits for awhile and last weekend it was 45 degrees and bright sunshine. Although I am a self-proclaimed gym rat and typically prefer my gym sessions to any other type of workout, I was thrilled to take my workout outside and hit the pavement. Mixing up where – and how – you do your routine spices things up in your mind, as well as your body. Performing new moves adds to muscle confusion, which forces motor units within your muscles to be recruited for new tasks and neural connections to be made. If you do the same thing all of the time, not only will you be bored – so will your muscles. Running outside adds resistance from the wind and naturally occurring hills and differences in terrain texture. Also, there is no better feeling (in my opinion) than finding the perfect scenic route and surrounding yourself with nature while clearing your head on a run. My favorite spot is the reservoir in Central Park. Find your favorite running spot and leave the gym (and your boredom) at home.

Challenge Yourself

This is the single most important tip I can give you for avoiding boredom – and plateaus in fitness and weight. Our bodies are quick to learn movements (muscle memory is REAL) and as soon as we make those neural connections, it becomes easier to perform that task. My challenge to you is to challenge yourself. Force yourself to incorporate one new workout (whether it is one new workout per week, per workout session, per 3 workout sessions, whatever works for you!) and try it. I like to play around and discover new movements, pick up new tips from magazines or the internet, try something I learned in a gym class I took recently, or bring back old favorites that I haven’t done in awhile. Also, you can challenge yourself by trying out variations on movements that you’re comfortable with – such as performing leg lifts during a plank, trying jump squats, or doing a diamond (triceps) push-up. It’s also exciting to set a lofty goal (such as doing a 2 minute plank when you’re not used to doing them for longer than 30 seconds) and watch yourself work up to it. Or, my personal favorite – sign up for a new class, a race, or a fitness challenge. It can actually be fun to challenge yourself and afterwards, you will feel so accomplished – and sore!

My friend Casey and Me after the Color Run in Philly this past summer. Worth the three showers it took to finally get all of the paint out of my hair!

My friend Casey and me after the Color Run in Philly this past summer. Worth the three showers it took to finally get all of the paint out of my hair!

Now It’s Your Turn!

I hope that you found these tips to be helpful and are excited to try out some of these ideas in your next workout! Keep checking out my blog for fitness tips – and for tips for fueling your body with good nutrition. Remember, your body works hard for you. It’s important that you treat it with respect, challenge it, have fun with it and make it strong – and happy!

*Prior to beginning any fitness regimen, please consult your physician and make sure that you are fit to engage in such activity. If you feel unfit to perform this or any other recommended exercise, or feel faint, ill, injured or uneasy while performing an exercise, stop immediately and seek medical attention. 

*dumbells photo courtesy of:http://activeevolutionfitness.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/dumbbells.jpg

*treadmill photo courtesy of: http://www.treadmilladviser.com/images/nt-x9i-incline-trainer.gif

New Year, New Way To Think About Your Resolutions!

So it is three days into the New Year, which means it is the perfect time to re-evaluate those perennial New Year’s resolutions. Chances are, they look something like this: 1) go to the gym 6-7 days/week 2) cut out all junk food 3) lose weight. While it is certainly encouraged to have goals and make New Year’s resolutions, it is important that these goals are both attainable and sustainable. If you are new to working out and have previously worked out less than 1-2 times per week until 2014, chances are it is not going to be enjoyable or realistic to be hitting the gym 6-7 days per week. Also, cutting out all junk food is quite ambitious and, frankly, sets up unhealthy relationships with food. Food is meant to fuel your body and be enjoyed and it is important to understand that it is not the end of the world if you eat a cookie, as long as your diet is generally comprised of real, whole foods and offers your body the nutrition it needs to keep you moving, happy and healthy. So here are my guidelines to making  New Year’s resolutions that will stick.

runningshoes

1. Start Small

Be proud of your small accomplishments – they add up. Small lifestyle modifications = large results. For instance, weight loss is a result (not a behavior). It is often best to set behavioral goals and ultimately, these behavioral goals can add up big time to give you the results you want. Possible behavioral goals include things like taking the stairs when possible, getting off at an earlier subway stop in order to walk further, walking instead of driving or taking public transportation, eat 3 more servings of vegetables each day, eat breakfast each morning, etc. These all seem small, but they are behaviors that are part of a healthy lifestyle and will ultimately help you to reach your overarching goal of weight loss, weight maintenance, being more active, or whatever your personal goal is.

2. Don’t Make Too Manyweights

I bet all of those behaviors I listed above are enticing. However, if you do not currently do any of those things, attempting to start doing all of those is likely to be a set-up for failure. Making too many resolutions and goals at once can be overwhelming and ultimately, you will be less likely to do any of them. It is often better to pick just a couple of goals (I suggest starting with 1-3) and once these become routine, gradually add in more goals (who says you can only make goals on January 1st???) We are constantly evolving and should always be challenging ourselves and our goals should reflect this. So, allow yourself to start small, with just a few behaviors and allow yourself and your lifestyle to evolve gradually. Trust me, you will be much happier, healthier, and sane!

3. Keep Your Resolutions Realistic

Now is the perfect time for self reflection. You must meet yourself where you are in order to get where you would like to go. Currently going to the gym two times per week? Awesome! A perfect resolution would be to go to the gym 3-4 times per week, or to gradually add time doing cardio work, or gradually add more challenging workouts (such as planks and their many variations). Another great resolution would be to go to the gym at least two times a week (as you have been doing) and add in more activities of daily living, such as physical work (walking, taking the stairs, doing yardwork/housework, etc.) Or, my personal favorite, add in mini-workouts that do not include the gym or any equipment. Can’t stop watching your favorite show? Do mat exercises, such as crunches, squats, planks and push-ups during commercials. There, no sweat! (Well, a little sweat, but so easy to squeeze in!!!) While it would be awesome to tell yourself you are all of the sudden going to start going to the gym 4-5 times more per week than you already are, this is likely not realistic and not sustainable. Accept yourself, love yourself, and challenge yourself with realistic goals. That is how you will become stronger and reach your goals.

4. Do not (I repeat – DO NOT) focus on numbers

scaleSo many clients and friends talk to me about the scale. So many people base their success off of a number reported by the scale. Yes, the scale reports your weight, but this number can be affected by so many factors and neglects a lot of other valuable information. For instance, your weight could be influenced by water, muscle mass, and many other factors. Your weight is not simply a report of fat and when you lose weight, you are losing not just fat but also fat free mass (which is your lean body mass). Therefore, rapid weight loss can mean dehydration and rapid loss of muscle, which is likely not what you are aiming for! Additionally, the scale does NOT report the positive changes going on inside your body, such as the relative shift in  fat free mass versus fat mass, neural adaptations that occur with exercise regimens, etc. I always tell clients and friends to focus on fitness goals – these are the only numbers you should be focusing on! For instance, shaving off time from your pace per mile, adding time to your plank, adding weight to your resistance training – these are the numbers that are okay to focus on. Your weight? It is likely to fluctuate, plateau at some point, and drive you absolutely crazy! Focus on your performance and how you feel – the resulting weight (loss, maintenance, gain) will come as a result of these behaviors.

Hopefully this year, these new New Year’s resolutions will stick and inspire you to continue to be active, healthy and respectful of your body. It does a lot for you and a great overall goal would be to treat it well, in any way that you can!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy new year!

*sneaker photo courtesy of http://teambcspca.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/runningshoes.jpg

*weight photo courtesy of http://www.hitraveltales.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/weights.jpg

*scale photo courtesy of http://blog.withings.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/7-Wireless_Scale_Lifestyle_1.jpg

The Buddy System: Gym Edition

Why Work Out With a Friend?

So, why should you grab your spouse, significant other, friend, sibling, acquaintance (or anyone for that matter) and bring them to the gym with you? There are actually a few reasons. Making plans with someone holds you accountable, so you’ll be less likely to blow off a workout. Additionally, working out with someone allows you to take advantage of exercises that you wouldn’t be able to do on your own, plus partner stretches can really push muscles to the limit and help your muscles to be long, lean and injury-free! Also, working out with someone you enjoy spending time with is FUN! As if I really needed to say the last reason. Grab your partner and get sweatin!  Below are a few of my favorite partner workouts, plus a partner stretch, to keep you and your buddy active, strong and toned. Your workout just got a lot more fun!

Workout #1: Pass The Medicine Ball (abs, obliques, arms)

Lay on your back, in “crunch” position, facing your partner, with your feet in one straight line (all four of them!). One partner holds the medicine ball overhead (typically a 6 lb. ball should work well for this exercise, but this may vary) and both partners lift at the same time and twist toward one another. Pass the ball to the other partner and return to start position, with the medicine ball in the second partner’s hands. Now repeat so that the ball gets passed back in the same way, back to the first partner. Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps and then switch sides (so you’re twisting to the other side).

position A

position A

position B

position B

position C

position C

Workout #2: High-Five for Push Ups (arms, core, glutes)

Get into your yoga plank position (back straight, elbow joint direction under shoulder joint), facing your partner. At the same time, both you and your partner will shift your weight into your left arm/hand and lift your right hand off the floor, slap each other’s hand, and place your hand back down. Repeat, this time shifting your weight into your right arm/hand and lifting your left arm. Both hands lift for 1 rep. Perform 3 sets of 10-20 reps, depending on how advanced you and your partner are.

position A

position A

position B

position B

position C (really just the start position - same as position A!)

position C (really just the start position – same as position A!)

position D

position D

position E (really just the same as positions A and C - sensing a pattern?)

position E (really just the same as positions A and C – sensing a pattern?)

Workout #3:Crunch and Squat (abs, arms, glutes, legs)

For this exercise, one partner will lay on a resistance ball with feet firmly planted on the floor, holding a 4-6 lb. medicine ball overhead. The resistance ball should be in contact with your lower – mid back. The second partner should stand a couple feet apart, with feed about hip-width apart and knees soft. The “crunch” partner will crunch up, pass the medicine ball to the “squat” partner, who will then take the medicine ball and squat before coming back up and passing the ball back to the “crunch” partner. Then, the “crunch” partner will return to the start position. That counts as 1 rep. Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

position A

position A

position B

position B

position C

position C

position D (really the same as position B)

position D (really the same as position B)

position E (really the same as position A)

position E (really the same as position A)

Workout #4: Medicine Ball Toss (glutes, legs, core, arms)

This one is really fun and reminds me of playing catch when I was younger. Stand a couple feet away from your partner, with feet about hip width apart. Both partners will squat, while only one partner will hold a medicine ball (4,6 or 8 lb. should work for most). While remaining in a squat the entire time, gently underhand toss the ball to your partner and have your partner pass the ball back to you. Continue this for 1-3 minutes, lowering your squat every 30 seconds (since your legs will stretch and you will be able to go lower as time goes on). More advanced? perform more than one set, or add on another minute!

postion A

postion A

position B

position B

position C

position C

Partner Stretch

This stretch is really great for tight hamstrings. Lay on your back in with legs bent and feet on the ground. Raise one leg and have your partner gently push your foot closer toward your head. Hold for 10 counts and then have your partner gently push slightly further. Hold for another 10 counts. Repeat on opposite legs, then switch and help your partner stretch.

time to stretch!

time to stretch!

*Prior to beginning any fitness regimen, please consult your physician and make sure that you are fit to engage in such activity. If you feel unfit to perform this or any other recommended exercise, or feel faint, ill, injured or uneasy while performing an exercise, stop immediately and seek medical attention. 

**Special thanks to my friends, Casey and Ruthie, for demonstrating these moves!