It’s summer time. And even if the livin’ still ain’t easy with the constant demands of work and life, there are some nice ways to break from the humdrum patterns of the other 9 months of the year.
This summer, my coach got me working out in a park. I live near the Hudson River, so admittedly, that’s a pretty great place to time a few planks on a patch of green grass. But one day, we just used a paved courtyard to dead lift medicine balls and jump squat onto benches. Even that was pretty great.
It was a big step for me! I am a creature of habit, and my gym couldn’t be closer to my home (across the street). But I’m so glad I stayed open-minded to the idea. What makes it worth it? Here are a few points…
There’s a lot of color! Usually, gyms offer mostly black, grey, and white. Even just a bit of blue sky, some greenish hedges, and, if lucky, a garden of flowers can make me feel like staying out longer to burn and strengthen. My endorphins latched onto the natural colors and left me feeling even more upbeat than usual.
No ceiling and no walls! Runners who get off the treadmill know this best of all. But doing body strength or lifting exercises regularly, it can be easy to forget that there’s a world out there beyond the 5 square feet in which I’m lunging. That same contained exercise in an open field showered me with a sense of freedom. Unshackle yourself from the gym and do those mountain climbers … on a mountain (or at least a grassy knoll).
Space is more varied. My coach and I moved from one area to another as we desired – sometimes it gave us a view of the water, sometimes it took us under the shade of the tree. We even used a big metal sculpture of a bottle to do some medicine ball throws. Our brains re-awaken whenever we make some change – even the smallest amount. I worked out better by varying my space and environment from exercise to exercise. As a teacher who knows that my kids like to keep moving to learn, it’s really the same for us adults.
Get an extra training boost by working out on new terrain. Without even realizing I might be doing burpees with a slight elevation. My body is used to the set up at my gym so it’s probably re-working the same aspect of each muscle group, again and again. But I jumped up to run across rocks of different heights and angles. All these variations lit new parts of each muscle. My body will thank me.
The sweat feels more natural. And burns more. At least, it felt like it did. Maybe it was just that I kept going outside with more enthusiasm! The sweat drops from an outdoor workout feel more cathartic. Get those toxins out and then let a passing breeze cool you down.
Take a deep breath! The air in the gym can definitely get stale. Take a deep breath between sets. Pick a day that has a breeze to make sure those nearby car fumes (if you are in NYC) keep moving along.
Enjoy a sunset… there’s nothing like tying a band around a tree to do some bent over rows with a glimpse of the sunset in the distance. (And for you morning folks – why not catch the sunrise?)
See you outside!
“Never regret it!”
Those are the three words my swimming friend always calls out as she waves to me, looking back and leaving the locker room. We are both teachers, and it’s usually on a weeknight when most people would just want to crash after running around with energy balls of flesh -- known as children. But we get ourselves to our swim class or lifting HIIT group fitness, anyway. We both leave, always feeling revived and challenged.
The words of a work out partner can really take me a long way even when I’m going it alone, which is most of the time. I generally prefer to work out on my own, actually. It helps to have a training plan to lead me down the pool lane or around the strength machine. Sometimes after a personal training session, I’ll run home and write down what we did. Because practice, practice, practice … I know I’ll never regret.
So recently I’ve focused on getting back into a rigorous warmup before my main set.
Out on the floor I’ll do the following superset, starting slowly but speeding up as my body starts revving up:
But that’s not all. I do it three times over. And, sure, I can hear my brain whisper (just do 1 round, who will know?), but I’ll never regret it, if I go all three!
In the pool, I’ve ramped it up. Instead of my usual 100 free, 100 kick, 100 pull, I’ve raised it to 200 free, 200 kick, and 200 pull. Why? ...Cause I’ll never regret it.
So far, anytime I’ve taken that extra time to go to a fitness class or get myself to the gym on a tiring (or lazy...) day, I can safely say, in the words of my dear swimming buddy, “Never regret it!”
PROPER SQUATTING TECHNIQUES AND TIPS
I want to share with you our techniques and tips for safe and proper squatting!The squat is one of the most effective lower-body exercises you can do. Its great at building quads and glutes while also utilizing your hamstrings and calves for support. When performing the squat, by utilizing your core to maintain a straight spine alignment, you also work your core neuro muscular connection.
First assess if you are a good candidate to use squats in your exercise routine. People with specific injuries or health conditions may not benefit from adding squatting to their program, or may need to build up to them.
It is becoming more apparent that adults are terrible squatters, if they aren’t shown how to correctly. Toddlers on the other hand, are expertise squatters! If you ever need a refresher on proper technique, put a toy on the ground in front of a toddler and see how they pick it up!
Proper Squatting Technique
No need for an adding weights or any fancy gear right away. All you must do is pay attention to a few key pointers:
• Plant your feet shoulder-width apart (or slightly wider), with your toes slightly pointing outward.
• Keep spine in a neutral (not flexed and not extended) position, and then send your hips back, as if sitting in a chair.
• Concentrate on keeping your knees wide, roughly in line with the second toe of each foot.
• Drop your hips until they are roughly in line with your knees or lower (you might need to work up to this), then drive through your heels to stand.
What you decide to do with your arms doesn’t matter, as long as it doesn’t cause your lower back to arch, or your shoulders to elevate or hunch. Try keeping your arms level in front of you, tight by your sides or even over your head.
If you can’t quite get the feel of it, try squatting with an actual chair or bench behind you. Tap it gently with your glutes and you’ll know you’re doing it right! Aim to take about two seconds to drop down, and then another two seconds to come back up.
Once you’re a master of the traditional squat, you can begin loading. There are many variations to loaded squats. Within your program you will have specific examples of types of squats you will be performing.
Isometric exercises build muscle strength and endurance with minimal movement. An Isometric Squat can sometimes be called the squat hold, this variation involves spending more time at the bottom of your squat. At first, try holding the position for five seconds before returning to standing. Gradually, you can work your way up to lengthier holds. You can even try it against a wall if you need a little extra support. A good example of a common exercise performed in this category is wall sits. Try doing a wall sit for 30 seconds and feel what happens.
Widening your stance and pointing your toes slightly outward allows you to recruit different lower-body muscles compared to the traditional stance. In this position the glutes are around 25 percent more engaged when you do a deep squat than when you only drop it as low as your knees. As long as you’re using good form, these squats wont be damaging to your knees. If you experience any discomfort, you body might not be ready for this squat yet.
Some more advanced variation of the traditional squat are the Single-Leg Squat and the Rear Leg Elevated Squat. Not only will you be placing a greater amount of weight on that one leg, you’ll also be calling on stabilizing muscles in your core to help you stay upright. In the rear leg squat, start in front of a stable surface, like a weight bench or chair. Rest the toes of one feet on the bench, which should ideally be slightly below your knee. Lower down and back (still imagining you’re tapping that chair), keeping the front knee behind the foot and in line with the second toe.
ALWAYS CONSULT WITH A PERSONAL TRAINER, PHYSIOTHERAPIST OR KINESIOLOGIST BEFORE STARTING OR ADVANCING ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM. IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONFIRM YOU ARE A GOOD CANDIDATE FOR OPTIMAL BENEFITS OF THE EXERCISE AND THAT YOU ARE USING PROPER TECHNIQUES TO AVOID INJURY.
If you are wondering whether your squat is good or not, you can always message me with a video of you performing the squat and I can critique your form. I can also schedule a live session where we can both be watching each other online and I can immediately assist you in correcting your form.
For inquiry on this, contact me here.
“Let’s Go Ahead” – Getting Creative in a Fitness Desert
When strength training became part of my life two years ago, and I mean really a part of my life - like having that 3 pm caffeine hit even if it’s made by a bad barista – I needed to figure out how to incorporate it into vacation time or work travel. Sure, these are often times where I can’t go all out and am purposefully taking extra time to do things that don’t get daily (or even weekly) attention. But my muscles don’t know that and still crave attention, like toddlers who call out for love and care.
This weekend, I was at a writer’s conference. And all the spare time was used for, well, writing, talking about writing, and then more writing. But my body is not used to sitting still that much all day. I’m a teacher who is on her feet chasing 9-year-olds. I swim 3-5 hours a week. I run and row for another hour. And strength or core training is almost daily in one form or another – be it for 15 minutes or 90 minutes. I needed to get at least one good, solid workout in. (And the 2 inches of snow in Upstate New York wasn’t exactly conducive to a couple quick runs…)
Most conference centers have well-equipped fitness rooms but this weekend, I came face to face with one that posed a challenge. I entered a basement room with the sign reading “Fitness and Games.” Behind a pool table and up against the wall, I found a disorganized bunch of dumbbells thrown to the ground next to a slowly deflating Pilates ball – all squeezed in next to a ping pong table. There was barely room to even do a side lunge. This was one fitness desert.
But then I got excited! It’s an opportunity. I can work with this, somehow, I thought. Life is testing me to be my own trainer today. Then, on closer inspection, I saw that some key weights did not even come in pairs. There was a pair of 5s, a pair of 10s. No 12s. No 15s. A single 20. A single 25. A Pair of 35s. And so on. You get the gist.
This obstacle could have been a final excuse to walk away, to dampen my open-minded eagerness. But there is a wonderful quote from BKS Iyengar, lauded leader of Western yoga practice and pedagogy, that goes like this: “Sometimes the body says, ‘yes’ and the mind says, ‘Excuse me today.’ Sometimes the mind says, ‘Yes,’ and the body says, ‘Excuse Me.’ I always say, “Let us go ahead.’”
In this room, it seemed like the weights were saying “Excuse us today!” So, I said, “Let’s go ahead.”
I’d have to be truly intentional with the exercises I chose, given my materials. I pulled from routines I’ve followed with my coach, took ideas I got from a couple articles I read this week, and used a fitness app I had handy where I could record my activity. Here’s what I did.
First, I lined up the dumbbells so I could see exactly what was there and then I thought about exercises I could manage in a narrow, long space. And I pulled out a yoga mat to keep nearby for active rest and stretching.
I used to think I should take a break when I’m away – like, 100%. And this conference weekend was the ultimate test of that. But now I realize, that’s not necessary and it’s no fun. With fitness always in my life, I actually look forward to finding out how I’ll incorporate it away from the gym. It’s a time to be creative. And instead of making something out of nothing, it’s really about discovering what’ll work best with the options I find before me.
Written By: Daniele Sahr
Here are some of the main benefits you may wish to know:
– You no longer have to go into a gym. Lots of people don’t like gyms. They’re not always comfortable, welcoming environments. They’re not always conveniently located, either. Being able to train anywhere – in the comfort of your own home, for example – can be a big advantage.
– If you do go to a gym. I know many people who go to the gym and perform the same routine every week. Some people use the elliptical, some use the stairmaster, others do their usual bodybuilding routine. When you train with me online, you will have a program that you can follow with new exercises, new reps and tempos, and easy to follow instructions.
– Personality types. Because there are many personalities with different backgrounds, online personal training allows individuals to take advantage of their own mindset during training. Here are two examples I could quickly think of for a shy introvert person who would rather put on head phones, lower their cap and workout alone, or the outgoing social fitness enthusiast who loves to mingle and talk to everyone...well maybe not everyone.
For the shy person, this type of training allows you to follow a program using your phone without having to socialize (if you don't want to). It can be difficult to talk to people and by going to the gym ready with a program, your mind can be focused at your current tasks instead of the many people that could be around. On the contrary, because of your program, you may actually have some people come and to you to talk about your exercise routine. This could be a good thing if you are choosing to be more sociable. Yet, totally not necessary.
For the outgoing person, you can be sure to know that you are well prepared with a great program that you can talk about or keep to yourself. It also allows you to stay on track if you are a social butterfly who tends to socialize a little bit too much instead of working out. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does give you some accountability and you could potentially finish your workout sooner.
Nonetheless, you can be sure that online personal training fits any personality type.
– Scheduling is a non-issue. For those of you who work regular hours, booking with a trainer from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. can be a headache. Additionally, a strict appointment time can put undue pressure on you. It’s frustrating to show up 5 or 10 minutes late for an appointment because of traffic and miss part of the workout that you paid for.
– Stronger accountability and support. Because I have more time, I can offer you better support. Additionally, I offer the benefits of an online community, where you can enjoy the support of other people who are all moving towards the same goal.
– More cost effective. In addition to paying a trainer for their time, you also have to pay for club overhead. You can get a better trainer at a fraction of the price by working with me online.
– Can now work with the best. Because the trainer can be anywhere, a client can now seek out and find “the best” trainer to work with. When my clients believe I'm “the best,” they’re more likely to trust the process, adhere to my program, and get better results.
– Free client app to track progress. A nice value-add for you is the ability to see stats, track progress, and communicate with me in real time.
– Loved ones can be taken care of. Unfortunately there’s a lot of variance in our industry and not all trainers are good. People can now refer those they care about to a great trainer (someone they trust and respect) because location is no longer a factor.
Written By: Coach Ozzie