It’s a commonly accepted myth that you have to read Jane Eyre cover-to-cover (although, who’s reading books on paper nowadays?), in one workout session on the treadmill, to get a Beyonce-esq tight a$$. Women everywhere are spending hours of their precious time in the gym and are still not reaching their fitness goals. Let me tell you, you can burn all the rubber off a treadmill belt, but it really isn’t necessary if you put in some Q-T workout time.
If you seek improved cardiovascular health, improved muscle tone, and overall improved fitness, you will get there faster by power walking over hilly terrain versus strolling aimlessly for an hour or two. The ups and downs of a hilly road or trail builds in low, moderate, and high intensity intervals to your workout session.
How do you add intensity to your workout without hiking up hills, going to a trainer, or paying to participate in a fitness class, you ask? Well, you can do that by changing a couple variables—speed and resistance. To add speed, you just move faster. Adding resistance requires adding incline, weight, or other opposing force against your direction of travel. For example, if you are strength training, add more weight to your effort; if cycling, running, or walking, add hills to your tour. If you decide to add jumping or sprinting to your routine, wear a weight vest or do it in soft sand. There are various ways to add intensity to your workout. A good rule of thumb to follow is that the more intense an interval is, the shorter that period will be. These high intensity intervals should be interspersed with low to moderate intensity exercise such as walking, jogging, or other less physically intense activities to give your body a chance to recover.
More challenging intervals increase your breathing and heart rates, fatigue some muscles, and make you sweat. By adding them into your workout, you burn more calories in a shorter period of time, elicit a positive cardiovascular response (read: healthier heart), “tone” and “firm” skeletal muscle (Michelle Obama arms, anyone?), and increase your recovery metabolic rate (that means you’ll burn more calories while you’re relaxing or going about your business, post-workout, while your body returns to normal resting rate). Bottom line is that a workout that incorporates high intensity bouts can do more for you than a steady state workout, and in a shorter period of time. More bang for your buck there, sister!
It’s time to rotate new workout clothes into the wardrobe and retire the ripped and holey t-shirt you got in college, after signing up for that credit card. In fact, some of those workout-to-brunch (or brunch-to-workout) multi-purpose articles of sweat-wicking clothes look really cute. So where do you begin to look for these multi-function outfits?
As a person who has worked as a fitness professional for as long as I can remember, I can tell you workout clothes have come a loooong way. And, there are options for nearly every budget! These days, you can find your yoga ware--mats and pants--at Wal-mart or at Dianne von Furstenberg. Although, I haven’t test-driven gear from either of those retailers, I can tell you about the places that I’ve hit up and liked to purchase my fitness attire.
On the lower end of the scale, “Tar-jay” really is your go-to for everything you can possibly need: underwear, motor oil, organic produce … you get my point. They’ve also done great with getting designers to create whole new, budget-friendly lines of their clothing. I’m a fan of Champion workout-wear. Although, I now find it moderately priced, straight out of college, my paychecks stretched further when Target introduced Champion’s C9 line to me. You can find sports bras, workout tights, shorts and layering tops mostly in the $10-$19 range, before the mark-downs.
Yes, you need a membership. But these days, membership is pretty affordable. You can tag onto your parents’ family membership (I’ve been on my parents’ membership for the last decade or more), or you can sign up with your roommates. It can really pay off--wild-caught salmon by the giant tray, shampoo by the gallon, and workout clothes that don’t cost as much as a mortgage or rent. Inventory changes fairly frequently, but often, you’ll be able to find technical exercise clothing by Nike, Adidas, Columbia or other reputable names. Costco’s own label, Kirkland also has some nice technical and functional articles of fitness fashions.
It might be an ordeal to brave the crowds at the outlet centers, but if you are an outlet shopper, you know that the usual suspects (i.e Puma, Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Oakley) are there with high-quality merchandise at nearly half-off sometimes.
So, I was an ambassador. So what? That was almost ten years ago, and I’m still a fan of their clothes (not-so-much of the foot-in-the mouth comment the owner made)! And yes, some people gasp at the price tag, but I can attest that the clothes I purchased a decade ago have gone in the washer/dryer and are not thread bare. (No pun intended, but if you follow the news, there were a few articles of luon that did not pass the downward-facing dog test-- which is bent-over, butt-in-the-air, for those non-yogis. We should always do the bend over test with any tights we buy to check for any level of see-through-ability.) In ten years, clothes I bought from them still function just as well as when they were first purchased. Expect to spend between $120+ (on the lower end) for a 3-piece workout outfit. Separates range from $35-$240, and they have everything from sports bras to tanks to winter jackets. (For those of you with shorter legs, like me, you can take great advantage of their basic hemming services on pants.)
Dubbed as the Australian equivalent to Canada’s Lululemon, these stores are opening up as quickly and at a shopping mall near you. I was attracted to this line of brightly colored, fun, fashionable, fitness attire when I first tried it. Although the care instructions advise drying the articles flat and not in the dryer, I have cheated and run them through on low. I don’t have anything older than a year, so I can’t attest to how long they might last, but so far they all look new. These tops, bras, tights and jackets start at $60.
There you go, my five favorite places to find my functional fitness fashions. With this comes my warning: of “buyer beware.” I can advise you, from my own personal experience: you get what you pay for, even with workout clothes, the more you pay, the longer it will last, remain stink-proof and supportive in all the necessary places. And, if you’re like me, no matter what I pay, I like to make sure my clothes last as long as possible, which is why I wrote How to Maintain Your Workout Clothes. Go on, get fit, inside and out. Workout wear does not have to mean you have to resign to looking frumpy. You can find clothes that function as well as they look.
Ladies: Memorial Day is around the corner and if your commitment to staying in shape has fallen by the wayside, then it’s time to hit the gym and get bikini ready. These simple, tried and true exercises will help tone your abs, butt and total body so that you can wear your swimsuit with confidence this summer.
Running: We were born to run, Ladies! This simple, yet heart-pumping exercise will tone your legs and glutes and get your cardiovascular system working.
How to: You already know what to do. Put on a good sports-bra, lace up your kicks (invest in some good ones) and put one foot in front of the other.
Plank Rows with Leg Raise: This one works your back, core, biceps and glutes. It’s very intense, but you WILL see results.
How to: Place a pair of 5 pound dumbbells shoulder-width apart on a yoga mat. Get in plank position with your hands on the dumbbells. (A) In one motion, lift the right dumbbell until your elbow passes your torso and raise your left leg to hip height. (B) Lower and repeat with the opposite arm and leg to complete one rep. Do two sets of 10 reps.
Jump Squats: Tone your quads for extra confidence in thigh bearing swimsuits this summer.
How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides. (A) Start by doing a regular squat and then jump up as high as you can when you rise up reaching for the ceiling. (B) When you land, lower back into the squat position to complete one rep. Do two sets of 10 reps.
Superman: Strengthen and tone your back, shoulders, glutes and hips.
How to: Lie on your stomach on a mat or the floor with your legs outstretched behind you and your toes pointing toward the wall behind you. (A) Reach your arms out overhead with your palms facing the floor. Relax your neck and align your head with your spine. (B) Slowly extend both legs away from your torso until they lift a few inches off the floor. At the same time, lift both arms a few inches off the floor. Keep both legs and arms straight and make sure that your head is aligned with your spine. Hold this position for a few breaths. (C) Gently inhale and lower your legs and arms back to your starting position without any movement in your low back or hips. Do two sets of 10 reps.
Push-ups: Old-school push-ups strengthen your chest, shoulders and triceps.
How to: Get into push-up position with hands shoulder-width apart on mat or floor. Make sure that your body is in a straight line and do not arch your back. (A) Lower your body down to the mat into plank position keeping your body straight. (B) Push body straight up into starting position. Do two sets of 10 reps.
Two years ago, tired of being overweight, I decided to get healthy and stay in shape for good. A regular fitness routine that includes the exercises outlined above, along with a vegetarian diet helped me lose and keep off 25 pounds. The best way to maintain a healthy and attractive physique is to make it a way of life. We all want to look good in a bikini, but more important is feeling AND looking good for a lifetime. You may be hitting the gym to get ready for swimsuit season, but when the going gets tough remember that this is for your health.
Disclaimer: Please consult your physician before starting a new diet or exercise routine.
So, you’ve heard that you can’t exercise anymore once you’re pregnant? Well, that’s a big, fat myth. In fact, if you have a healthy pregnancy (one without complications such as a “compromised” cervix, or previous difficulty carrying to full term, etc.), you are encouraged to stay active. Of course before you start running laps or going for bike rides, you must consult with your OB regarding how active you can be since the doc is one of the few people who can determine the state of your pregnancy.
If your pregnancy is without issue, you are encouraged to exercise whether or not you did so prior to the positive-resulting test. You may have heard differently -- that if you didn’t exercise before, you shouldn’t start. That, too, is old news. The new news is that exercise will benefit your baby post-partum, with a stronger heart, lean body mass, and lower body fat (meaning a lowered likelihood of childhood obesity). What does an active pregnancy mean for you? Read: shorter labor time, fewer fat pounds gained, faster return to your pre-pregnancy size, and sound mental health. Exercise benefits both you and your miniature human.
Now, if you didn’t exercise prior to your pregnancy, I’m not sayin’ you ought to start training for a marathon. Walks (let your body tell you at what pace and how much you feel like you ought to push yourself, if at all), modified yoga (no twists or inversions and be sure to find an instructor with experience working with pregnant clientele), swimming and/or aqua aerobics (you’re virtually weightless, for crying out loud!), recumbent bike or elliptical machines at the gym, and light strength training are all great get-fit options for the mommy-to-be.
For those of you workout queens, continuing your training routine will likely be fine, if you have a healthy pregnancy. Your growing baby will get the oxygen he or she needs. But be mindful and listen to your body. If you start to feel nauseous, reduce your intensity (stop if it persists, and contact your physician). With any pregnancy, you will experience a loosening of the joints due to an increase in a hormone called relaxin, which is most prevalent in the third trimester and is responsible for making ligaments more flexible. That said, you are more prone to injury during this time, so be particularly mindful of the activities that you choose to participate in, as you don’t want to get hurt before labor (that will hurt enough…).
Now you’ve got the low-down on the exercise part of a fit pregnancy. And, if you are more active during your pregnancy, you will need a few extra good quality calories (calm down, hungry tigress, that means an extra 100-500 calories, which equates to a large apple--100 calories--or a chicken and cheese on whole wheat toast--500 calories), depending on the level of your activity. Read up on the diet part of a fit pregnancy if you haven’t done so already. Lastly, work that Made Mommy glow!
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!
The holiday season is right around the corner. That means cocktail parties, cocktail dresses, and of course, the classic LBD. What that also means is you’ll need to gain the will power to "just say no" to your pants with the elastic waistband this Thanksgiving and in the weeks that follow. Here are few simple, easy-to-follow tips to enjoy your holiday eating and imbibing without the guilt.
Exercise in the morning
Plan a hike with your family and/or visiting guests, join a local group bike ride, or check out local fitness facilities that offer special Thanksgiving or other morning classes. On Turkey Day, check to see if your hometown holds a Turkey Trot or another fun 5k or 10k race on Thanksgiving morning. Many of these races exist around the country and most of the proceeds benefit food banks and local charities trying to feed the hungry.
Including physical activity on the mornings of the most gluttonous season of the year means you will be able to increase your metabolism for the day and will likely make better food choices when at the dinner table. If you decide to indulge in an extra slice of pie or glass of wine, at least you’ve burned a few calories first!
Maintain your workout schedule
Company, club, and family parties may interfere with your regular workout schedule. Checking your weekly schedule at the beginning of each week is a good practice to keep, and even more so during this time of holiday commitments. When holiday parties interfere with your workouts, reschedule your workout at a different time. Don't skip your workouts, even if it means abbreviating them. Squeezing in 15-20 minutes will still provide you more benefits than not doing anything at all.
Don’t skip breakfast
In order to prevent guilt-ridden overeating and letting out the waistband on your trousers, eat breakfast. Do not skip meals earlier in the day. Prepare healthy meals or snacks before your dinner to avoid feeling famished, which can result in overeating.
Use smaller plates
I know... you are already dreaming about plates laden with Thanksgiving goodies. But if you want to keep your summer shape, you will have to serve yourself smaller portions all winter long. Serve yourself 1/3-1/2 of what you would normally put on your plate. If you opt for a second serving you should still serve yourself a smaller portion. With this approach you will consume at least half the calories of holidays-past.
Practice conscious consumption
Rather than eating mindlessly while deep in conversation, look at what you stick your fork into before putting it in your mouth. Enjoy the flavors while savoring the food as you chew slowly. You will be less likely to eat the food that is not as satisfying to you, become satiated faster, eat more slowly (which means you will have less time to go up for seconds), and enjoy the taste of your meal at the first plate.
Enjoy this holiday season! And if you follow these tips, you'll be able to do it while staying the same size into the New Year's Eve party. Read: you won't be one of those frantic weight loss fanatics fighting over the treadmill at the gym, madly trying to lose the nine pounds gained over the course of the five weeks of winter holiday festivities. Instead, you’ll look stunning and chic as you ring in 2013.
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! ;-)
The thought of donning your bathing suit this summer is taunting you…You know it’s time to ramp up those workouts. But it’s spring. That means if you go out for that awesome workout, you’ll spend the rest of the day sniffling, sneezing, and figuring out how to keep your makeup from running with your teary eyes. Ugh, allergies!
Rather than dismiss physical activity through the months of spring and admit bitter defeat against your summer wardrobe, try some other options:
1. If you have a gym membership, use it. If not, it might be time to invest in one.
3. Still like hoofing in the open air? Commit to early morning workouts when the pollen count is low and other nasal irritants have not yet been stirred up.
4. Avoid outdoor workouts on windy days and the day after.
After being outdoors, wash away lingering irritants. Immediately wash the clothes that you had been wearing, wash your face, and shower. Saline washes for your eyes and nasal passages (yes, like a neti pot) also help make allergies less annoying.
During allergy season, consider adding more foods high in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, like salmon and halibut, flaxseed oil, or walnuts. Omega-3s aid your body with suppressing the inflammatory responses to allergens that cause teary eyes and runny noses.
Don’t play victim to this season’s wind and pollen count, while prepping for the warmer summer months. You can make adjustments to your workout routine and join the swimsuit-clad population on the beach—or anywhere else, if you choose—very soon.
Made Woman Mag is excited to participate in the Revlon Run/Walk for Women again this year on May 12. This event is especially dear to the hearts of Made Woman's co-founders, as both of their mothers are women's cancer survivors. The Made Woman team had a lot of fun last year honoring amazing women from all backgrounds and walking toward finding a cure. Being there for this event left a deep impression on us and we left truly inspired.
The Revlon Run/Walk is a 5K race and participants run or walk at their own pace. If you can't make it out to the event, you can still fight this disease by donating. Your donation will help fund important research into the cause and cure of women's cancers, prevention, education and support service programs. In a way, however large or small, we can all work towards curing this disease that affects so many.
Having a nice butt is important. Even if yours isn’t insured for $27 million bucks and you didn’t create a new word for it, I’m sure you still do the over-the-shoulder butt check. I know I do. No one wants something too flat or lumpy in the back for obvious reasons (ahem, boys...); but your rear should be in good shape for optimal health/fitness as well.
The muscles in your rear end stabilize your legs while you walk and run. They are also integral parts of your body’s powerhouse, called your core. You know, the part of your mid-section that most people think is another word for abs. Well, your core—your powerhouse—includes the whole structure of your body (yes, it’s a structure), from your shoulder girdle down to the bottom of your pelvis. That means -- say it with me, folks -- your butt is part of your powerhouse. Not only does a strong one look good in your clothes and stabilize your lower half, it helps you jump higher and leap further. Why not work it?
Need some ideas? I just happen to have some for you. Here are four of my favorite exercises to get that tush tight.
Quadruped hip extension
This is a great everyday exercise that you may do at home. Begin on all fours, with your shoulders over your hands and hips over your knees. Draw your ribs down and tuck your tailbone under to flatten your back, creating a table-top position. Squeeze your hind cheeks and keep your stomach drawn in, as you extend one leg back, allowing your foot to come up to hip height. To make sure you are doing this one right, place a dowel along your spine and balance it there as you do this exercise, and alternate your extending leg.
You can do this one at your desk. Before sitting in your seat, let your bottom hover over your seat pan a couple of inches. Be sure to tuck your tailbone under you and clench your glutes. Keep your shoulders drawn back to keep your back flat. When you can’t stand it anymore, stand straight up by squeezing those burning glutes.
You thought you knew’em…Here’s how to do them and make them count. Take a long step forward, so that you are in a long stride position. Lean your chest forward, while keeping your back flat (you want your back to appear to form a straight line from the crown of your head down to the heel of the foot that is behind you). Your chest will line up with the middle of the thigh that is in front of you. Keeping your hips square (as if parallel to a wall in front of you) and squeezing your glutes, slowly lower your back knee toward the floor. Hold that position for a few seconds, while you feel a little heat in your working muscles. You want to feel like you could pounce forward by jumping off your lead leg. Slowly straighten your legs, returning you to ready position. Repeat as many as you are able to with good form, then switch sides.
Side leg lift
I like this one, as well, because I can multi-task while I do it—while washing dishes, brushing my teeth, folding laundry... While balancing on one leg, which stays slightly bent, raise the non-supporting leg straight out to the side of your body, angling slightly back. Keep your hips directly below your shoulders. Guess what? Squeeze your tush! And, as you do that, slowly raise the angled leg up. Lower and repeat ten to fifteen times, and repeat on your other side.
Within a few weeks of working on these simple four exercises, a few times each week, you will start to notice a lift in your hindquarters region. Print out this page and keep it with you so that you can get working on your new million dollar butt!