It may be time to try that group fitness class you’ve been considering. With no workout to plan, you won’t have a chance to talk yourself out of sweating. Plus, the social aspect of group exercise gives you the added accountability of your instructor and peers--again, so you don't skip your workout. And, by incorporating various class formats into your weekly fitness routine, you keep yourself cross-training (the term used for incorporating different modes of exercise in your weekly workout routine).
When you check out the local fitness center’s schedule of group classes, however, it sometimes looks like a Rosetta Stone lesson: Barre, CrossFit, Tabata, Indo-Row, HIIT, Yogilates, Zumba… Sometimes, instructors make up the names of classes using a hybrid of various foreign languages, but I’ll decipher some of the descriptions for you, and throw in a few tips:
Still confused? Here’s some advice to remember when trying out fitness classes that are new to you: 1. Read the class description to make sure it's an appropriate level and activity for you; 2. If my glossary and the class description fail to shed light on what the class is all about, call the facility and see if the group exercise director is available to answer your questions; and, 3. Go to the first class a few minutes early to introduce yourself to the instructor and let her/him know that you're new to class, so she can provide any necessary modifications. This will ensure that your first experience in that class is positive, and you can develop a relationship of accountability with the instructor.
Now that you know how to translate fitness class descriptions and pick your classes, try a variety of them. That’s how you’ll keep your mind and body stimulated to prevent hitting a plateau and to continue on your path to optimal fitness.
There’s nothing like a good weekday workout. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to attend the Jamba Juice Fit Trends Expo at the Annenberg House in Santa Monica. The Fit Trends Expo is part of Jamba’s Team Up For a Healthy America campaign, aimed at combating obesity and encouraging healthy living. Venus Williams, professional tennis player, designer, and Jamba Juice franchise owner, was the keynote athlete at the event. Trainer, Samantha Monus, and nutritionist, Tara Gidus, also provided their insight on taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle. On a local level, the Expo’s goal was to encourage community fitness, health and nutrition, as well as to expose people to workout opportunities in their area.
Our day was jam-packed with great activities. From 9:30am-1:30pm, Jamba Juice held an array of fitness classes and nutritional samplings. Among the local fitness studios present were: Broadway Bodies LA, Piloxing, and LA Blast. Fitness guru Tony Horton of P90X even stopped by the event and took a lucky few through an impromptu exercise outside. I did my best to keep up with the routines, but as a girl who usually runs and lifts weights, I felt super uncoordinated! Despite this, the atmosphere was fun and relaxed. It was quite inspiring to be around a group of people dedicated to getting fit and staying healthy. In between each class, Jamba gave everyone the opportunity to try their array of juices, smoothies, and food products.
Overall, the energy at the event was extremely positive. Jamba Juice did a great service for the community by generating increased awareness of local health and fitness outlets. Venus Williams, Samantha Monus, and Tara Gidus had some extremely helpful information to share. For those of you seeking guidance on how to stay disciplined with your workouts, Williams insists that you keep it fun and not worry about perfection! I think I can abide by that! I hope everyone in attendance was activated to carry the spirit of the day beyond the event and incorporate what they learned into a healthier lifestyle.
If you’re interested in learning more about Jamba Juice’s commitment to healthy living, check out their health campaign website: MyHealthPledge.com. My Health Pledge encourages everyone to make a pledge to change their daily habits. It’s free to participate, and for each pledge, Jamba donates $1 to local schools and organizations to support their athletic and fitness programs.
You may think you need gym equipment to help you get in your best shape. Think again... Things that you have around your home can make some unlikely devices that double as fitness equipment. You’re not alone if you have an aversion to gyms. Some people prefer working out alone, outdoors, or (let’s say it…) for free. Some social circles may not accept you if you don’t have the local gym’s membership card attached to your keys, but there are other ways to incorporate exercise into your weekly routine:
Want legs that stay firm and look good without the aid of jeggings? A heavy and solid (read: unbreakable) wooden coffee table or ottoman can help. Put some felt pads under the table legs. Lie on the floor with feet against the top edge of the table and press away. Be sure small pets and children are not within squishing distance.
Don’t want to use the table? That’s OK. This exercise will work those same leg muscles, and some others (abs, lower back, and butt). Stand with your back against a sturdy wall and walk your feet forward about 2-3 feet (depending on your height). Start sitting down as if you had a chair underneath you, and slide your back down the wall. Hold for as long as you can, in the position where you feel challenged—progress to the point where your hips and knees form 90 degree angles. (Tip: make sure your feet are right under your knees at the lowest point of your squat.)
Use a sturdy chair or table (again, one that is unbreakable) that can’t slide away to do this exercise. Lie down on your back with your feet and ankles resting on the table or chair top, with your knees slightly bent. Squeeze your butt cheeks together, flatten your lower back (imagine tucking your tail between your legs and point your tailbone toward the ceiling), and press your hips up toward the ceiling. Slowly lower and repeat. This will firm the back of your legs (including your bum), abs, and lower back.
Want firmer arms? Lots of women are mavens of multi-tasking, so while you are waiting for your soup to simmer, rock some push-ups against that counter. Safety tip: stay a safe distance away from pot handles, hot stove surfaces, and open flames. You can also try some single arm push-ups against the bathroom counter while brushing your hair.
Most of us have running water at home, or gallon containers of liquid in the fridge or cupboard. If you lift them enough times, they’ll feel pretty damn heavy. Grab that heavy container, or fill a bucket with water (don’t waste it; water the plants with it after you’re done), or bags of sugar and/or flour, potatoes, or anything weighty. Then, lift, arm curl, or carry around the weight while you go up stairs or lunge across a room. Doing so will tone your shoulders, core, and your limbs as well.
This exercise will help strengthen all of the muscles in your mid-section. Hold push-up position (butt in the air is not a modification...it’s not the precise way to do it—not even close—just wrong) with your tailbone tucked under, stomach held in tight, and shoulders drawn back. If your shoulders, hips, knees, and toes form a straight line, you are doing it right. To modify this exercise, keep your knees on the floor.
These are just a few exercises that you can do at home, besides the old standbys—jump rope and stairs. Skip the gym and get your workout on at home. Be safe, and be creative. You may notice your clothes will fit better, and you will have some money to spare.
Sometimes when I can’t get to the gym or am feeling too broke to hit up a yoga studio, I like to have a backup plan. After researching some of the best health & fitness apps for the iPhone and asking fit friends for suggestions, I identified five apps that I wanted to try. I went with the free versions to start, just so I could test the waters.
Here is a breakdown of each app I tried and the verdict on each.
Yikes. This app is really elementary and I would not recommend it. The sound and picture quality resemble an old home video, and the free version only offers one 20-minute workout. I also found that you can’t resume your workout if you want to go back to the home menu – it just starts it over every time and there is no way to scroll through. I honestly couldn’t even get a whole yoga session in using this app.
Verdict: Don’t bother
I liked this yoga app better, but it still wasn’t great. I do like that it provides whole sequences instead of requiring you to scroll through and keep selecting different poses. For each series (Yoga for Back, Yoga for Abs, Yoga for Butt, etc.) you can select a 10, 15 or 20 minute session to customize the length and style of your workout. The app also includes pretty background music.
The main issue with this one is that you have to download each workout individually after downloading the app itself. I have very little patience, so this bugged me.
Verdict: Try it if you have no other option for an at-home yoga workout
I really like this little fitness buddy. MapMyRun acts like a GPS and also gives you verbal cues along your route to help you reach your desired mileage. It saves routes, counts calories and tracks your pace. I am not an expert runner, so it was fun to have the guidance.
There is also a great Nutrition section of this app that logs the food you eat and the calories you consume, which is really helpful to track eating habits and setting health goals.
Verdict: I recommend this app. The upgraded version for $2.99 provides a ton of cool features, including music, training plans and ad-free access.
Fitness Buddy is a strength training app. It is nicely organized by muscle group and type of exercise, and offers extensive exercise suggestions. Unfortunately the demos are like pictures in a flip book and you have to spend a lot of time scrolling on your phone instead of just working out.
Verdict: Pay the extra $0.99 for the Pro option, which will offer a good strength training workout without the constant menu surfing and bad demo quality.
I thought it would be fun to try an app that manages healthy living habits. Lift is an app that connects you with your social media channels and allows you to follow “habits” in several categories such as fitness, productivity, health & wellness and many more. It shows other users’ activities for group support.
I decided to get myself in check by signing up for a few habits:
• Wake up by 6:30
• Eat more Fruit
• Drink more water
Truthfully, there is just no point to an app like this. If I need to drink more water, I’ll carry a full bottle around with me. If I need to wake up at 6:30, I’ll just set my alarm.
Verdict: If you really can’t remember your own wellness habits and need to see other people’s check-ins to help motivate you, this might be a useful app. Otherwise, forget it.
My fitness app experience wasn’t the greatest, but I am also a newbie at the app thing. What are some of the apps you recommend? Do you go for free versions or do you pay the small price to upgrade for a better user experience? Tell us in the comments below.
We’ve reached 2013 and I’m sure the one common resolution on most people’s list is to get in better shape. Having been a NCAA Division I athlete, I promised myself that I’d never pay to workout. Why pay to workout when Cal was footing the bill? However, when I graduated, I finally saw what everyone else was doing. They were signing up for Yoga ($35/class), Barre Method ($25/session), and Equinox memberships ($225/mo). I couldn’t believe that people were paying to kick their own butts. $35 for a class isn’t too expensive if you’re just taking the class once. But like anything, to really get results, you’ll need to stick to a routine. That means that you should be following your regimen at least 3 times a week. 3 times a week x $35/class x 4 weeks, rounds out to a cool $420/mo! If you’re like me, you’re not-so- keen on paying big bucks to stay in shape. Free is where it’s at, so here are a few free workout routines.
I do my best to stay long and lean. That means I do a fair amount of cardio work, combined with short explosive movements. Hill work is perfect for this. Usually I run/warm-up for 30-40 min before starting my hill routine. Once warmed up, I do the following: 2 sets of five, 40 second hills (run as far as you can for 40 seconds, jog back to the bottom, and repeat. Adjust your rest and intensity as your fitness increases. Beginners should walk down and rest at least 90 sec in between each rep. Take 5-8 minutes in between sets.) 2 sets of five 30 second hills and a cool down. I keep my heart rate up, and my tush in shape.
The beach is amazing if you’re prone to impact injuries or if you just want a little extra resistance. If you’re near the sand dunes, I highly suggest putting in an hour of work on them. No sand around? Go to a park and run on grass or dirt. There’s not a ton of resistance, but they are both easier on the joints than concrete.
Find a bench that’s about 2 feet off the ground and start some circuit work. Rotate between dips, step-ups, burpees, box jumps, push-ups, wall sits, and core. Keep moving for at least 30 min.
Grab a pair of sneakers and head to a local trail. There are many great things about hiking. 1. You can control the intensity of your workout based on your trail, 2. You get the added benefit of enjoying the scenery, and 3. It’s easy to convince friends to come along. Everyone loves a beautiful hike.
If you’re in L.A., you can go to the Santa Monica or Culver City Stairs. If not, head to your local high school. Beginners should walk the first few times, but as soon as you’re ready, start running. I do 3 sets of 10 continuous up/downs. Fill your rest in between with core work.
Ok, so you really want to take a class, but you aren’t sure that you want to invest the money? Many classes offer free trials. Dirty little secret: Right out of college, a friend and I class hopped, just taking the trial class of each fitness routine. I don’t necessarily suggest doing that, but remember that you can always try a class before you buy.
No matter how you choose to get your workout in, the most important thing is that you have fun and safely test your limits. Keeping your workouts fun will ensure that you stick to your plan. Be sure to keep track of your heart rate. If you're aware of your resting heart rate, and heart rate during workouts, you'll be able to appropriately manage your intensity. Once you’ve gotten into your routine, don’t be afraid to bump up the intensity every once in awhile (with your doctor’s blessing of course). Your workout will get easier over time, but don’t just settle in your comfort zone. Mix it up!
It’s amazing how holiday sales begin earlier every year. Well, if you are a savvy gal who is already looking to finish your holiday shopping, I have a few suggestions that most health and fitness enthusiasts will love.
This bag is a favorite of mine (and I have a lot of them!!!). I have been stalking Live Well 360 on Twitter since my friend, Angela Manzanares of Fitbook, introduced me to the company last year. Sheila Veirs and her husband designed these bags when they found a void in the “gym bag” department. Their gym bags left them with sweaty clothes mixed in with clean ones, shoe marks on clothes, exploded lotion bottles, tangled jewelry—you get the picture. So, they created the Core bag, which has compartments galore, including a felt-lined pocket, generous sections on the inside and outside of the main compartment with more pockets inside. It even has a vented separate compartment for those sweaty shoes and/or used clothes. What woman doesn’t love a bag with compartments?! Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the softest, cushiest removable shoulder pad that I’ve ever felt. (They even have two other designs that have mat straps for the yoga and pilates lovers!)
These bags are more than just gym bags—mine is packed and ready to race out with me to the hospital when I have to deliver my first baby!
As an ambassador alum, I love everything from Lululemon. So much of what they have in-store can go from gym to street. If I have to choose one of my favorite accessories, I have to recommend the Vinyasa scarf. It is made of the softest cotton blend that wicks away any sweat from your neck. This is amazing post workout, before stepping out into the cold weather. It also snaps at opposite ends to create the look of an infinity scarf, poncho, tube top, wrap, cowl neck, or just plain old scarf. You can get really creative with it. And, it comes in different colors and textures, depending on the season.
This brand has been making the best watches for divers and trekkers for decades. They took the fitness world by storm with their technology and fun colors almost 10 years ago. Now, they have improved on their fitness watch by making it more user-friendly (they also have lots of video tutorials) for the fitness enthusiast who wants to track her progress in and out of the gym and mark her performance based on her heart rate. And, the faux weaved band and bright color accents on the face of the watch make it fashionable, too.
I was introduced to these funny-looking little domes by a physical therapist friend. I was amazed that I hadn’t discovered them before! Who knew these little knob covered orbs could bring me so much relief and health to my tired and pounded-on feet. I am on my feet A LOT. Regardless of the footwear or activity, these orbs massage my feet back to health. There is even a therapeutic workout (that won’t make you sweat) that you can do with these little guys that will help you strengthen your feet and prevent and relieve any joint or back pain you may suffer from. I am also crediting the Foot Wakers with my feet staying the same size throughout my pregnancy!
Is your fitness fiend friend concerned about drinking too much water from BPA-leaching water bottles or littering the environment with unnecessary single-use plastics? Well, keep her healthy with this bottle that she will never want to leave home without. CamelBak has made a water bottle that fits in any standard cup holder and has a built-in water filter! And, if that isn’t good enough, this one is insulated so your cold drink stays cold! Finished with your bottle of water? Fill ‘er up at any water fountain—even that questionable looking one that you saw birds bathing in at the park.
This may be a gift list, but I have to finish up by telling you that now that I’m reminded how much I love every one of these products, I would suggest you pick up two of each. Of course, one of those two will have to be a Christmas gift for you.
What’s in your gym bag? Do you have what you need to make your workouts effective and maybe… dare we say it, fun? Here are a few items that we never leave home and head to the gym without:
I love my glass water bottle, great for the environment and doesn't leach anything into the water. – Lindsey E.
My ShowerPill athletic body wipes. A friend founded the company. I work out every day-- and sometimes I have to run somewhere quickly after. Shower Pill makes me feel better about post-workout appointments. –Brook
Waterproof mascara. After a workout, and shower, I splash cold water on my face, to really cool off and feel refreshed. Then, I curl my lashes and put on my black waterproof mascara, so I look extra alert and refreshed, despite just getting done at the gym. – Christine
Flip flops! Whether working out in the gym or going for a swim at the local pool, I don't trust those shower floors. I keep my flip flops handy for all occasions. That, and deodorant lol. – Lindsey D.
iPod and a towel. These are absolute musts. If I'm not sweating at the gym, then I shouldn't be there. - Beth
Besides the fact that my gym bag is my Made Woman tote, the coolest thing I keep in it is my plastic, elastic bands. They are great for stretching things out and resistance training. – Serena
What are your gym bag must haves? Tell us in the comments below!
You really don’t want to be that person at the gym who gets a wrinkled nose pointed at her because her clothes might not look or smell so fresh. You might be thinking, “I’m just gonna work out. What does it matter what I wear?” But I say, “You’re a put-together woman and your clothes—gym, work, or otherwise—ought to always convey that message.”
Spending a little extra cash on high quality and durable workout clothes is worth it because they’re designed specifically to stand up to all that you’re going to put them through -- sweat, those awkward yoga positions, etc. Since they are a bit more expensive than your old ratty tee and sweats, you’re going to want to take extra care of them to make sure they last you as long as possible. What’s the best way to do that? Try this:
Those are the fab five tips to keeping your workout gear lasting long and staying funk-free. It’ll keep you looking fresh at your workouts too, so everybody will know that you are that girl—the Made Woman.
The staggering statistics of the health crisis in the United States can be overwhelming. Most Americans need to get more exercise, which can make one of the biggest differences in your health. Even 30 minutes a few times a week can do wonders not only for your body but your self-esteem as well. I know that we all lead such busy lives and sometimes getting to the gym isn't always possible, so a little resourcefulness can go a long way to keep your fitness habit alive.
For example, there are a wide variety of exercises you can do in the park. You get a chance to go outdoors, breathe real air, and see new things. And the best part about it? There’s no equipment to bring. Here are some ways to turn your local park into a gym:
First off, the warm up! Take a few laps around the park before you begin as well as in between your exercises. This adds a cardio element to your workout. Then try some:
Park Bench Dips
Sit on a park bench and then lift your body weight up and out, palms on the edge of the bench and facing out and your elbows straight. Your knees will be bent and your feet flat on the ground. Bend your elbows and then straighten to dip down and up. Be sure not to rock back and forth. Instead, keep your back very close to the bench during the entire movement and limit the movement to up and down.
Monkey Bar Pull Ups
Hang from the low monkey bars with your legs outstretched in front of you and heels on the ground. Pull yourself up as high as you can and then lower back down to the starting position. Your back will be a bit rounded in the starting position. As you pull yourself up, you'll notice that your back straightens considerably. Make an effort to consciously squeeze your shoulder blades together during the movement for maximum toning.
Park Bench Step Ups
Stand in front of a park bench and step up one foot at a time. Step down the same way, making sure your heel isn’t hanging off the edge of the bench. Park benches are pretty high, which makes this exercise quite a challenge and one you'll want to perform fairly slowly to maintain good form. If you're a beginner, you can easily choose a lower step to use instead of the bench. Be sure to keep your back erect and get your entire foot planted on the bench with each step.
Tip: You'll want to switch the starting leg at some point. Beginners can switch halfway through their 30-60 second time frame. More advanced exercisers will want to start a brand new 30-60 seconds for their second starting leg!
Stand in a lunge position with your back foot up on the bottom of the slide. Lower down, bending your front knee to about 90 degrees, being careful not to let your front knee jut out beyond your toes. Push back up to your starting position, focusing most of your weight through your front heel (rather than your back foot). Be sure to keep your body erect and to keep the movement going up and down rather than forward and back, which would place undue strain on the knee. After your first 30 to 60-second set, you'll need to switch legs and repeat on the other side.
V-Sit Ab Toner
Sit on the end of a park bench, facing sideways (so that the back of the bench won't be in your way). Place your hands on the bench on either side of you, and lean forward while drawing your knees in toward your chest. Next, lean back while extending your legs out in front of you. Stay balanced on your rear end and repeat the movement back and forth as smoothly as possible, while holding in your abdominals as tightly as possible during the motion.
Hanging Ab Toner
This one is tough! Hang from the high monkey bars. (Your feet should not be able to touch the ground.) Pull your knees up as high as you can and then lower them back to your starting position. Be sure to keep the movement slow and controlled and avoid using momentum (i.e. swinging your legs up there!). Beginners may want to work this one into the routine gradually!
Sit on the edge of a bench and place palms behind you on the seat, fingers forward. Maintaining a neutral spine, lean back slightly and lift legs, knees bent 90 degrees, off ground. Keeping chest lifted, shoulders back and right knee still, touch ground with left toe, then raise left knee back to start position. Switch sides and repeat to complete one rep. Do 10 reps.
Not every exercise is right for everybody. If any of the exercises causes pain in your joints or otherwise causes discomfort beyond tired muscles, it may not be right for you. It is normal to experience muscle soreness after trying a new exercise routine, but that should subside quickly. Good luck, and have fun!
If you’ve watched any late night TV you know that every other exercise infomercial claims to hold the secret to getting washboard abs… In 2 days or less! I'm gonna go out on a limb and speculate that machines and workouts promising chiseled abs make up at least half of the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry. But, guess what? You can't spot train your abs. If you want a six-pack, it's gonna take more than a magic machine or a billion crunches. It takes a full program of diligent exercise, a healthy diet that does not allow over-eating, and a good set of genes.
Sorry if I already have, but I'm not here to rain on your parade. What I am here to do is give you five of my favorite abdominal exercises to incorporate into your fitness regime, not one of which is a friggin' crunch.
Begin face down, while you prop yourself up on your elbows, shoulders directly over them. Pull your navel in toward your back, draw your tailbone down toward your heels, squeeze your gluts, and press your hips up off the floor. You’re planking! Advanced? Press up onto your toes, lifting your knees off the floor as well. Hold for ten seconds and repeat 6-10 times.
Begin on your side, propping your upper body up on your elbow, shoulder directly over, and hips and knees in line putting you in one plane. Keeping your chest open, abs in, and gluts squeezed, press your hips up. Draw your bottom rib toward the top of your pelvis. Hold for 10 seconds. As this gets easier, progress to holding for one minute. Repeat on the opposite side.
Begin on all fours (hands below shoulders and knees below hips), with your tailbone drawn down to flatten your back. While holding your abs in and squeezing your glutes, extend opposite arm and leg. Keeping your back flat, draw elbow and knee toward your midline and touch them together (if your range of motion allows you), extend again, and repeat about 10 times. Then do the same with the other side.
Again, begin on all fours (hands below shoulders and knees below hips), with your tailbone drawn down to flatten your back. Extend your right arm up, using your back muscles to stretch your chest. Then reach your arm under you, through the space between your left arm and leg. Be mindful that your hips remain over your knees to ensure optimal oblique ab engagement. Repeat 10 times and do the same using your left arm.
This time, you’re on your back. As usual, keep your navel tucked in toward your waistband. Your head and neck are relaxed on the floor, arms resting on either side of you, and legs are extended straight over your hips. If the backs of your thighs (your hamstrings) are tight, keep your knees, which line up over your hips, bent. In a controlled manner lower one leg toward the floor while keeping your lower back flat against the floor. Return the leg to ready position and do the same on the other side. Repeat 8-12 times on each side.
Why didn’t crunches make the list, you ask? Because these exercises are so much more functional in working every aspect of your abdominal muscles and the muscles of your core. (Heard that word thrown around the gym before? Your core includes more than just your abs; it refers to all the stabilizers of your trunk—from hips to shoulders.) These exercises will work those abs, improve your posture, and help you prevent injury. Translation: You’ll look and feel taller, prevent pain, and tone every muscle in your body’s middle. And you didn’t even have to make three easy payments of $29.95! ;-)