Add Some Spring To Your Step!

New Season, New Workout!

It’s time to get rid of the winter blues and shake up your workout routine! I know I’ve been sick of running on a stationary piece of a equipment, whether it’s the treadmill or the elliptical. With spring comes (hopefully) some warmer weather and milder winds, and I’m ready to take my workouts outside!

The beautiful view while hiking in Cave Creek

The beautiful view while hiking in Cave Creek

Why Change Things Up?

If you continue to do the same workouts, not only do YOU get bored – so does your body. And with boredom comes little change and a whole lot of untapped potential. Even though I switch up which machines I use regularly, I tend to get bored of the same old gym routine and I feel my body becoming acclimated to what once seemed to be a tough limit. Muscle confusion allows for better results, since your muscles are being continuously pushed to their limits and forced to learn new movements. Also, switching up your gym routine allows your nervous system (your brain, spinal cord and the neurons and other nervous cells throughout your body) to form new connections, which has major implications in the prevention of both physical and mental diseases. So, if you’re getting bored, chances are, so are your legs – time to hit the road and take things outside!

So Now, What Do I Do?

One way I was able to start switching up my workout routine was by hiking this past week, while I was in Arizona with my family. Not only were the views incredible, the burn was, too! My family and I hiked through Cave Creek and had a lot of fun while doing so. Overall, the trail was only about 3 miles, however, we reached some impressive elevations and certainly felt the incline in our steps. Even though some family members were apprehensive about the hike, everyone ended up having a really great time and now we are searching for places where we can hike while back home in the Connecticut and New York areas. I recommend finding a serene route near you and soaking up the tranquility nature can offer you – especially while being active!

My sister and me, stopping for a quick photo op!

My sister and me, stopping for a quick photo op!

Other ways in which I’m looking forward to switching up my workout? I want to get back on the court and pick up my old tennis racquet. I used to play tennis when I was younger and it was an activity I really enjoyed. Even though it’s certainly a workout, I always looked at it as something I wanted to do for fun, as opposed to something I had to do to stay in shape. This outlook is, in my opinion, what separates those who lead active lives from those who lead sedentary lives with scheduled spurts of activity built in to them. Finding something you love, whether it’s hiking, running, playing tennis, soccer, flag football, or any other activity or sport, is truly the key to sticking with your workout regimen, preventing boredom and progressing. Also, with the nice weather coming, I definitely don’t want to be spending time indoors when I don’t have to! I always feel a sense of clarity and – most importantly – FUN – when I take my workout outside and take in what nature has to offer.

Pilates in the Park with my friends, Alli and Casey (last summer)

Pilates in the Park with my friends, Alli and Casey (last summer)

And Remember To Always Challenge Yourself!

Mix up your fun activities with activities that really train you. Two years ago, I pushed myself to run my first long-distance race – a half marathon. My sister, who previously ran the NYC Marathon, convinced me to sign up with her and I was so excited to have her by my side during my first important race. This required some training and, for the first time, I was able to feel the difference that the beautiful outdoors made in terms of enjoyment while running. I alternated training runs between the monuments and the National Mall in DC, while I was finishing my last semester of college, and the beach and residential roads within my hometown in Connecticut once I had graduated. Ultimately, the race took place in a suburban Connecticut town and the scenic route through the beach was motivation enough to keep going and enjoy myself. Find YOUR race, YOUR challenge and YOUR motivation – and this spring, meet your fitness goals (and have fun while doing it!)

Goin' strong during the half!

Goin’ strong during the half!

 

 

 

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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

Turkey Trot

me at mile 4!

This Thursday, my sister and I ran a turkey trot prior to celebrating Thanksgiving with our family. Not only was it great to run 5 miles before a day of eating, but it also made me realize that I have so much to be thankful for! While I was running, I was able to reflect on the blessings in my life, such as family, friends, and my opportunity to pursue the career of my dreams. Also, I was thankful for my body and my health – each step made me grateful that I was able to run and I was so proud that my legs carried me through another race.

This turkey trot was a local race that was organized by volunteers in my community. It was pretty cheap to register and the race included not just a wonderful morning outside, but also a t-shirt and a gift bag with virtual coupons and gifts from local businesses, as a “thanks” for running! There are often similar races throughout the country on Thanksgiving morning, along with random races throughout the year – some of them to benefit charities! These races are a great opportunity to train for longer races, enjoy the great outdoors, or just enjoy running with fellow runners. The best part? The community lines up along the sidewalks to cheer you on, which really keeps you going strong!

me sister and me before the race

getting ready for the race!

I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving, as we all have so much to be thankful for! Keep fueling your body with foods that make your body thankful! Remember – food is fuel for your run, your workout and your active life!

a Lulu-athlon!

Dana, Erica and Me after the Lulu Lemon East Meets West Event in Central Park!

Last weekend, I joined my sister and her friend and completed a Lulu Lemon luluathlon! Not quite a triathlon – but definitely a fun fitness challenge! We started off by spinning at Flywheel  for 45 minutes, (thanks for the complimentary class!) and then ran 2 miles to central park where we completed about an hour of boot camp, thanks to AS1! We filled the boot camp portion of the event with squats, burpees, push-ups and dips right on the green grass of central park. Lulu Lemon called this event East Meets West, and the strength training portion created some competition between East and West siders! I hope Lulu Lemon continues to do events like this one, because it was a perfect way to spend some quality time with my sister and some friends on a sunny saturday! Best of all – the event was totally free (with the exception of the lulu lemon tank I felt compelled to purchase before the event)!

My sister (Dana) and me!