This story was originally published on BalancedStrength.com
Regardless of fitness level, everybody needs help as they embark upon their next level, in order to prevent injury, promote enthusiasm, and ensure continued fitness gains. Seeking the guidance of a qualified professional health and fitness coach is advised, whenever changes are being made to an already- or non-existing fitness regimen.
In researching, then selecting, the most appropriate fitness and wellness coach, there are several points to consider:
1. What degree(s) and/or certifications does this coach carry, and are they current? A gym rat and sexy genetic map translated into physical “perfection” does not make a qualified fitness instructor. Minimally, a qualified instructor should be licensed by a nationally recognized organization.
2. Do you have any chronic conditions or pain, injuries, or other special needs that a coach will need to consider (even if you think they might not need to) when planning your fitness program? The coach you are considering should have experience and success working with others who have the same needs that you do.
3. Does the coach offer single “trial” sessions? Finding the right coach and trainer is like finding the right therapist. Do not allow yourself to be persuaded into buying large packages before you have been able to meet and “sample” (does not imply free) the coach’s services.
4. Will the coach be able to create a fitness program that is considerate of your other daily commitments, such as work and children, and the time that you have allocated to working out? Having a coach who can customize programs for clients includes customization based on goals and schedule.
5. Does the coach have the right personality attributes that will ensure your success? If the coach has personality traits that invoke negative feelings, guilt, or frustration, you may not continue your fitness journey.
The coach who meets most, if not all of the above (and some of your own) criteria, will be the most appropriate person to coach you toward successfully meeting then exceeding your fitness and well-being goals.
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!
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!
There is nothing worse than when you are just about to hit your stride on the treadmill and a Mariah Carey slow jam comes on. Don’t get me wrong, I love MC as much as the next girl, but unless I’m cooling down, I need to keep it upbeat. After 4 years of running track at UC Berkeley, I have developed specific criteria for workout songs
1. It has to have a good beat. If I wouldn't want to dance to it, then how in the world am I going to work out to it?
2. I love getting nostalgic when I work out, so there are a few older tunes in my mix.
3. If they say “Yay Area” anywhere in the song, it’s a winner.
Keeping this in mind, here are a few songs you might want to add to your work out playlist:
Baby Got Back (Sir Mix –a-Lot)
Favorite Lyric: “I’m tired of magazines sayin’ flat butts are the thing.”
Motivation: This was THE jam back in ’00. Actually, as far as I’m concerned, it still is!
Valerie (Mark Ronson, feat Amy Winehouse)
Favorite Lyric: “Oh won’t you come on over, stop making a fool out of me, why don’t you come on over, Valerie.”
Motivation: It’s upbeat and gets me warmed up for my workout. Plus, I miss Amy Winehouse.
Jerk (New Boyz)
Favorite Lyric: OK, I’m not gonna lie... I don't even understand 99% of the words in this song but it just makes me want to dance.
Motivation: Dance break!
U Can't Touch This (MC Hammer)
Favorite Lyric: "Yeah, you can't touch this. I told you, you can't touch this. Too hype, can't touch this. Get way outta here, you can't touch this"
Motivation: That's right, MC. They can't touch this. Increase treadmill speed to 10.
Bugaboo (Destiny's Child)
Favorite Lyric: “ You buggin’ what? You buggin’ who? You buggin’ me, and don’t you see it ain’t cool.”
Motivation: I know every single word to every single song on Destiny's Child's The Writing's on the Wall album. As such, I sing every word out LOUD. (I guess sing is kind of a stretch...) If I can sing this whole song while I run, it's a successful workout.
Tu Compania (Keith Urban)
Favorite Lyric: “If I could be anywhere with anyone, you know exactly where'd I'd be.
Under the covers waiting for the sun to rise, your head on the pillow next to me.
Motivation: Tu Compania’s beat is the perfect mix of Country and Funk.
Calabria 2007 (Enur)
Favorite Lyric: Again, I have no clue what she’s saying but I’m good to go if I turn this on for the last minute of a run.
Motivation: If I can keep up with the tempo then I’m on pace.
Tell Me When to Go (E-40 f/Keak da Sneak)
Favorite Lyric: “Go dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb”
Motivation: Listen, I lived in the Bay Area for 5 years so when E-40 says, "go dumb," that's what I do!
Stay with You (John Legend)
Favorite Lyric: “When the dark clouds arrive, I will stay by your side.”
Motivation: CAUTION: this is a slow-jam, I only listen to this during my cool down. And, if I'm amped after a workout, John's sweet voice helps bring me down!
Of course music selection is a very personal thing. What songs get you through a tough workout?
In all the hustle and bustle of city life, the last thing you want is to deal with another line, another parking garage, or another monthly fee. You can easily cut out all the drama by working with what's around you. To help you on your way, we present the very first of our series of Hidden Gyms; spots around the city that are just begging for you to run, climb or hike your way to fitness.
The Santa Monica Stairs are the ultimate Stairmaster. They are located a few blocks away from the beach at the intersection of 4th and Adelaide. There is ample parking just a block away on San Vicente. If you have problems finding the stairs from your parking spot, just ask one of the many able-bodied men in the area (another incentive to workout at this site).
You will notice that there are two sets of stairs. I personally prefer the wood set over the concrete because they are easier on the knees, but do you. Once you pick a set, please use proper stair etiquette by making your way down on the right-hand side. People may pass you on your left but don't be alarmed, you'll be doing that in no time. Enjoy the way down because the ascent is no joke.
Once you reach the bottom, it's imperative that you put on your go hard song and begin your climb. Take it slowly and use the hand rails if necessary. Don't feel pressured to run to the top just because that 60-year-old man just blew past you; eventually you'll get there.
After you arrive at the top, grab some water and take a few minutes to catch your breath. As you're panting, think about the great cardiovascular benefits of stair climbing. Feel the newfound firmness and/or pain in your calves, quads, and ass while Eye of the Tiger plays in your head. Remember, no pain no gain. Lastly, congratulate yourself on winning the uphill battle against gravity.
By now you should be breathing regularly and you're feeling pretty damn good about yourself. Perhaps even good enough to give it another try.
I know I’m not the only one who can’t stand the treadmill. It gets the job done when it’s chilly outside, but every time I pound away on that cold machine I end up asking the universe to grant me two wishes: One, help me avoid a YouTube worthy fall, and two, please hurry and bring forth that glorious time of year when I can venture out of the gym and work out for free.
When you’re determined, there are plenty of ways to get in shape that won’t break the bank. I’ve already mentioned one of the best kept fitness secrets: YouTube. Don’t have money to buy weights? Type in “weightless arm workouts” and tons of videos pop up. Too broke to purchase P90X and get that murderous abs routine? Type in “Ab ripper x” and it’s practically yours, for free. Similarly, if you have cable, your provider probably offers free exercise videos. Time Warner, for example, has a free section On Demand called ExerciseTV. You can belly dance, kickbox or get yelled at by Jillian Michaels, all in the comfort of your home.
If you're like me and you love to exercise outside, there are plenty of ways to use the great outdoors to spice up your normal cardio routine. Walk or run with a friend and turn it into a race. The first person to reach the finish line has to buy the other person a drink. If there is a high school in your neighborhood with a football field, it’s probably open after school. Several campuses allow people to run on their tracks when students aren’t there. Aim to run up the bleachers non-stop by the end of the summer. And when you want to change the scenery, go for a hike. Websites like Localhikes.com will help you find a trail in most major cities.
If you think you can’t do all of this without a trainer, think again! You can make your friends or even strangers hold you accountable. Last year a blogger friend of mine invited me to join an online running group, which was mostly made up of people who had never met in real life. Every month we set a goal: the number of miles we wanted to run within a month (25, 50, 100, etc.). Then, twice a week we’d all send emails to our Gmail group and report our progress. It may seem like it’s hard for a stranger to hold you accountable through email, but when Jackie from Brooklyn is in the 25 mile group with you and has run three more miles than you did by July 15, you will find yourself motivated to get out there and beat her.
If you must exercise with people in person, check out your local fitness center's website and see if they offer classes. My hometown offers cheap community classes that last several months at various parks throughout the city.
Finally, there’s a fun way to burn calories you probably never considered. According to Woman’s Day, an intense make-out session burns 238 calories per half hour. Just grab someone and kiss them the next time you want to get in shape – you could shave off minutes on the dread-mill!