Vacation Workout Quickies

If you are a fellow Bostonian, can I get a HELL YEAH for the weather this week? Finally some sun, temps into the 40s and 50s, and a reassurance that we may get out of this winter alive (and sane) after all. I know I can’t be the only one who has been basking in the sun for the last few days. I’ve made a point to get off the train a couple stops early just to walk more, and even made it out for a beautiful 4 mile run along the Charles River on Wednesday. Since I hadn’t run outside since the fall, I wasn’t sure how things would go for these old legs. But honestly I think the pure joy of sunlight took over, and it was a pretty blissful experience! The juxtaposition of the snowy views and the warm sun on my back didn’t hurt either. There really is a lot of beauty in our daily lives that we can miss if we’re not paying attention!

Ok, off my little Vitamin-D filled soapbox about appreciating the little things. Today’s post is inspired by the fact that although the warmer temps and sun this week have been encouraging, I’m well aware that we’re not in the clear yet. It’s only the beginning of March, and I’m sure Mother Nature has her own ideas about when she’ll actually let us fully thaw for spring.

Because we’ve still got some cold to go, most people I know are either in the middle of or planning a tropical vacation right about now, hence why today I’m giving you a couple of workout quickies. I know that when I’m on vacation, I still like to get a good sweat going on most days, but I don’t want to spend all of my time in the gym when I could be enjoying the beach. So whether you’re heading to a tropical resort, or just looking for a couple quick workouts for some busy days, here you go!

These are actually two quick workout circuits that I did while on my Honeymoon in December. This view from the resort gym made it easy to get things done, but all in all each of these will only take 20-30 minutes, depending on how tough you make them. The other good thing is that they both require very little equipment, just a treadmill for one and a dumbbell or kettelbell for the other. So even if your resort gym (or home gym) isn’t fully equipped, you can still get some good work in!

itrainthereforieat2

Just to be clear, you are first completing 10 reps of the burpees and squats, then 9, then 8, and on all the way to 1 each. As the graphic says, try to take as little rest as possible and complete this for time. To make this workout harder, start the pyramid at 15 instead of 10 — this sounds a lot easier than it actually is if you’re working hard! Additionally, use a little bit more weight on your goblet squats if you want more of a challenge, or make the push-ups traditional, and not incline.

itrainthereforeieat

As much as I don’t love treadmill work, I actually really loved doing this workout. Make sure you get a good warm up in before your sprints though, in order to avoid muscle strains or other injury. Make sure to go all out on the incline sprints, and set the incline at a level that is challenging for you. I think I did these at a 10% incline. In the “recover” aspect of the treadmill work, you are simply standing on the sides of the treadmill, NOT incline walking. If you are not accustomed to treadmill intervals in this manner, be very careful getting on and off the belt — use the hand rails!

The floor work is pretty self explanatory. To make this workout harder, take only 1 min rest between the treadmill and floor sessions. To make it easier, take 3-5 min rest.

Readers: Do any of you have tropical vacations coming up? What types of workouts do you typically do on vacation? 

Weight Room Circuit

I’m not going to lie… yesterday I was feeling a bit *cough* under the weather. Or as one of my athletes would call it, “Saturday Morning Sad” (only it was Sunday).

Catch my drift? Saturday night I went out to celebrate a friends birthday which was super fun, but I think there was something about the mixture of sushi for dinner and the drinks I had that just made me feel absolutely terrible when I woke up Sunday. Luckily, after getting some food in my belly, a few glasses of water and a power nap, I actually felt a lot better and had a decently productive day with Will. I knew that I needed some type of workout though, but nothing that was going to really kill me, because I knew I wasn’t quite up to a killer lift or sprints. So, my normal Sunday workout of hill sprints was out — I didn’t think my stomach would be too happy with that.

Instead, I made the trek into the gym with the intention of maybe just doing some KB swings, something to get my heart rate up and get a little sweat on. I really only went to the gym to do it because I knew that if I stayed home to use my KBs at home, I wouldn’t actually do it.

Motivation or self torture? Either way, it worked. Once I got to the gym I actually was motivated to do a little bit more than I originally intended. I put together a full-body weight room circuit — I made it a little heavier on upper body though, as today is a deadlift day and I didn’t want to mess with that too much by fatiguing my lower body yesterday.

I thought I’d share this with you guys since it was a pretty good circuit if I do say so myself. Just be aware that this is meant to be done in a weight room — it does require a good amount of equipment. If you’re looking for a circuit workout to do at home or outside without a ton of equipment, check out this one here. (Note to self: post more at-home and outdoor workouts..it took me a while to find that one!)

Weight Room Circuit

  • 2 Arm KB Swings – These should be fairly heavy. Remember to hinge from the hips and use the power from your hip thrust to lift the weight — this is not a shoulder exercise! For more KB tips, please read here.
  • Barbell Overhead Press (OHP) – Standing with a barbell in a front loaded position, holding barbell with palms facing away from you, lift up overhead until arms are straight. Be careful not to arch your back, and keep your core engaged throughout the movement. These should be a moderate weight — one that you can complete 8 reps, but that the last 1-2 reps are difficult.
  • Barbell Jump Squat- These are pretty self explanatory. With the barbell in the back squat position, squat to just above parallel, jump, and land back in your squat. As I noted above, if you can’t squat at least 100lb for reps, I would not recommend doing these with a full 45 lb barbell. You may want to start with a weighted medicine ball or kettle bell instead. Safety first, kids!
  • Corner Barbell Press- Place a barbell with one end in a corner. Load the free end of the barbell with lighter weight (I added 20 lb to the barbell). Stand holding the barbell in your right hand, at your right shoulder, palm facing away from you. You should be in a split stance with left foot forward. Push the barbell up/forward for 8 reps, then switch sides.
  • Medicine Ball Slams with rotation- Stand in an athletic stance, holding a medicine ball with both hands. Keeping your core engaged, swing the medicine ball up to the right side, and back down, slamming the ball to the ground as your arms come back toward your midline. Repeat on left side. That is two. And because I did a horrible job explaining that, watch this video if you have no idea what I’m talking about.
  • Battle Ropes Alternating Arm Swings – for video of this exercise, please see here.
  • Single Leg Bodyweight Hip Thrust- Sit on the floor with your upper back against a bench. Place your feet on the ground in front of you, knees bent. Using your glutes, bring your hips up into a hip thrust or bridge position. Pick your left leg off the ground, and complete 8 hip thrusts with right leg. Make sure that you are not hyperextending your lower back at the top of the movement, and focus on engaging your glutes to complete the movement (not letting your hamstrings take over).

(**Side note that has nothing to do with anything: WordPress keeps autocorrecting “glutes” to “flutes” and it makes me giggle every time. Contract those flutes! Add in the fact that I played the flute for my entire childhood, and it makes it even better. Ok, side note over. Now go engage those flutes.)

I actually rounded this workout out with a half mile jog to and from the gym, which was a great way to warm up and cool down. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Readers: Do you have any go-to workouts when you’re a bit hung over or do you skip it all together? What’s your favorite piece of gym equipment to include in a circuit?

Take Your Workout To The Next Level

As much as I love heavy weight training and feel that it’s something that most people could benefit from, I do have an appreciation for the importance of cardio.

whatdidshesayCardio? 

Now, when I say cardio, please understand that there is a lot more that falls under the broad umbrella of “cardio” than just slogging away on the elliptical or treadmill. As in all types of training, what type of cardio you do really depends on the goals that you have set for yourself. Want to run a marathon? Well, then, you probably should be running, with some speed work and long runs thrown in there. Want to climb Mt. Everest some day? Running stairs, hill training and hiking will probably do you some good. Want to be strong as hell but also lose some body fat? Strength training plus metabolic conditioning is the answer for you.

What is metabolic conditioning? 

Metabolic conditioning, or metabolic “finishers” are fairly short bouts (10-20 min) of non traditional, high intensity cardio that is typically done at the end of a workout — and generally done with body weight or relatively light weight. However, when crunched for time, a quick and dirty MetCon session can leave you gassed after just 10 minutes of work, which is a lovely alternative for those of us who don’t have hours set aside for the gym every single day.

Who can benefit from metabolic finishers? 

Basically, anyone looking to decrease their body fat or increase their cardiovascular conditioning (without logging endless cardio hours). Heck, even steady-state cardio-ers should give these a try — you may not see a ton of results riding the elliptical every day, but add a 10 minute finisher to that workout, and you may notice a difference quite soon. Strictly speaking for myself, I find long, steady state cardio to be absolute torture. I will run a mile or two at a time periodically, but beyond that, I really hate it. And that is an understatement. But adding in a 10 or 15 minute bout of “cardio” to the end of a workout? That I can do, and usually enjoy, especially when it involves fun things like burpees and squat jumps.

Yeah, I kind of have a weird thing for burpees. So sue me.

How often should people add these to their workouts?

As with many tweaks to a training program, it depends on the person and their goals. If you have been doing the same training routine for a while, no matter what it is, and haven’t seen the fat loss results that you want, try adding in 1-2 short finishers per week. I usually stick with two, but will do three on some weeks depending on how I feel. If after adding in one to two you are still not seeing results after a few weeks, add in one more.

Although just be aware that fat loss results do not happen over night, and they also depend a lot on dietary intake (maybe more so than exercise, but that’s a different blog post).  Also keep in mind that you don’t want to burn yourself out. If you’re doing two heavy leg days plus three intense lower body finishers during the week, your legs may not be getting the recovery time that they need in order to get stronger.

What are some examples of finishers?

The possibilities are pretty much endless here, but here are a few examples of things I’ve been doing lately.

1. Plyo Pyramid Set 

PlyopyramidgraphicThis mini circuit looks innocent enough, but it kicked my ass last time I did it with a 14 lb medicine ball. Following up a moderate weight squat day with this circuit left me sore for days, so don’t let it deceive you! 

2. Battle Ropes Finisher 

Battle Ropes Finisher

If you have access to battling ropes at your gym, give this a try! The whole thing will take you less than 10 minutes, but will leave you sweating and with arms shaking. Check out this post for descriptions/video of all of these moves. 

3. 100 Kettlebell Swings for time. This one doesn’t get a fancy graphic because it’s pretty self explanatory, but these should be heavy KB swings, with as little rest as possible. My best time for 100 swings so far is 3:53, and I’m hoping to get it down to 3 minutes! Remember to pay attention to your form with KB swings, and please don’t do these if you are too fatigued to keep proper form. An injury is never worth a few more calories burned! 

Readers: Do you ever do metabolic finishers at the end of your workout or do you tend to stick to more traditional cardio? What is your favorite exercise to include in a quick, high intensity circuit? 

 

 

Fitness Friday: Full Body Circuit Workout

As much as I love strength training days, sometimes a heavy session just isn’t in the cards, for one reason or another. This week, I had maxed out my deadlift (sumo) on Monday (for a 5 lb PR of 230!!). Needless to say, my whole body has been kind of tired since, so I decided to do a conditioning day yesterday, instead of my usual heavy bench day.

As much as I hate on steady-state, boring cardio, I really do love some circuit training and HIIT every once in a while. I put together this circuit workout, and I ended up loving it. I’ll definitely be repeating this one, and thought I should share it with all of you.

This workout consists of three separate sections: two circuits and a set of treadmill incline sprints. If you’re short on time, I would recommend cutting it down to the circuits only, as you’ll be able to complete these in about 20-25 minutes but still have an excellent workout. I was able to complete the entire workout in 45 minutes, including my dynamic warmup and rest time before the sprints.

The first circuit is more geared toward strength, and the second is more geared toward conditioning. By doing both, you’ll get a full body workout that will leave you sweaty and panting, I guarantee it!

Equipment you’ll need:

  • 1 medium KB (I used 16 kg) – for single arm KB swings
  • 1 heavier KB (I used 20 kg) – for two arm KB swings and KB split squats
  • 1 medicine ball (I used 14 lb. You could easily sub in a dumbbell or other type of weight if you don’t have a med ball) – for weighted lunge jumps
  • Battling Ropes (I’ll offer some other suggestions later if you don’t have access to these)

CIrcuit

Perform the first circuit 3 times, with 10-15 seconds between each exercise. Rest one minute following each completion of the circuit. Rest two to three minutes before starting the second circuit, and complete that one in the same way (three times through, with 10-15 seconds of rest between exercises).

Again, the weights listed above are those that I used. Please adjust accordingly to match your fitness level — just remember to challenge yourself!

For the treadmill sprints, set the treadmill at an incline of 10%. Complete 10 sprints, 20 seconds each, with 40 seconds rest in between. For the 40 seconds rest, just rest your feet on the sides of the treadmill — true rest in between reps. I did these with my sprints at a speed of 8.5-8.3, but yours may be faster or slower than that.

If you don’t have access to battling ropes, substitute either cable wood choppers or medicine ball slams.

After completing this workout, I was gassed. It was a good reminder that I may be able to lift heavy weights, but there is always work to do.  Let me know if you try it, and enjoy! And again, adjust the weights and treadmill specs to match your fitness level.

Readers: Do you enjoy traditional cardio or circuit training more? How often do you do circuit training? What’s the one exercise you love to hate in circuits work? 

Fitness Challenge Week 8: HIIT, Tabata, and Semantics

Hellooo Blogosphere!

So after a week hiatus due to my obsession with the Olympics, the fitness challenges are back. Which brings me to the question…is it week 8 or week 9? I couldn’t decide, so here we are back at week 8….It’s almost as if we’ve gone back in time. I told you guys I would give you 12 weeks of these, and 12 weeks I shall give you, damn it.

Even if no one is doing them.

As you can see by the title of today’s post, this weeks challenge is a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout. It was originally going to be called a Tabata workout, but then I did some extremely scientific research, and had to slow my roll a little bit.

See, I’ve used the term Tabata on here before, and honestly this type of workout has became even trendier than leggings with crop-tops (seriously…can we leave that trend far, far behind?), but what I learned through my research is that most of what the fitness world calls “Tabata” workouts, are not exactly that.

What is Tabata?

Tabata is an exercise protocol that was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata in 1996, after he and his cronies published a study in which they  found HIIT to be more effective than steady state cardio at improving aerobic fitness.  The specifics of the study were that the intervals were 20 seconds of high intensity (170% of VO2 Max) to 10 seconds of rest, repeated for 4 minutes.

Nowadays, the fitness world is a-buzz with “Tabata” workouts, where people perform sets of squat jumps, lunge jumps, push-ups, bicep curls, barbell presses…etc. And if they’re doing it with a 20s work to 10s rest time interval, they’re calling it the T word.

This is all swell, but after reading a few articles including this one, it’s abundantly clear that the widespread use of the term Tabata is not exactly correct. Yes, people are doing 8 rounds of 20 seconds of high intensity work coupled with 10 seconds of rest, but this does not a Tabata make. A true Tabata includes that crucial component — 170% of your VO2 Max. This is a level of exertion that is near impossible to create with push-ups, burpees, squat jumps, or whatever other exercises are being used for the so-called “Tabata”.  Not to mention that this level of exertion is ridiculously difficult for the average-joe to work at, even for just 20 second intervals.

Semantics, I know, but after reading up on it I just couldn’t bring myself to call this a Tabata workout. Maybe Tabata-style? Tabata-ish? Baby Tabata?

Who’s a cute little Baby Tabata!

Hmm…Maybe we better just stick with HIIT.

So regardless of what you call it (I’ll be honest here…Baby Tabata is starting to grow on me), here is your workout for this week! You will perform each group with the 20s work/10s rest interval, and you will take 1 min of rest in between each group. The entire thing will only take 20 minutes, but if you’re working hard enough, 20 minutes will be plenty.

For those of you who are beginners, or who have not done HIIT before, I recommend starting out with just 2 groups instead of all four. Trust me, if you’re working as hard as you can, 10 minutes of this will leave you in a puddle of sweat on the floor.

Another bonus — this is a circuit that you can do with very little equipment, so if you don’t have much time, or can’t make it to the gym… No excuses!

Ready?

Burpees: Begin in a standing position. Squat down, placing hands on floor. Kick legs back to high plank position, quickly bring them back to your hands, and jump straight up. That is one.

Squat Jumps: Do a bodyweight squat, immediately  jump out of squat position and straight up. Continue without pauses between squats, keeping good form in mind.

Lunge Jumps: Lunge forward with R leg. Quickly jump up, switching legs in the air, and landing in jump position with L leg forward.

Lateral Ski Jumps: Starting on R leg, jump laterally to your left and land on L leg, with knee bent. Immediately jump off of L leg to land on R leg. Focus on height and distance of each jump, with proper landing mechanics.

Soup Stirrers: Begin in plank position with forearms on physio/stability ball and feet on floor. Keeping core tight (think of a straight line from head to heels), move arms in a steering-wheel sized circle. Move clockwise for the first set, counterclockwise for the second set, and so on.

A few notes:

If you don’t have a kettlebell, or have not been trained in proper KB swing technique, substitute Frog Jumps for this. (Begin in a squat position. Jump as high and far forward as you can, landing again in squat position. Repeat this.)

If you don’t have a physio-ball for the soup stirrers, substitute side-planks, alternating sides each time you perform that exercise. 

What exercises do you like to include in circuits? Do you do “Tabata-style” workouts? What Olympic sport have you enjoyed the most so far?

Easter Insulin Spike and 2 Workouts

Hello, and Happy Monday! How was everybody’s Easter/Passover weekend? Mine was wonderful, although after making the rounds to a few different (delicious) family dinners, my blood sugar paid the price.

After 3 amazing holiday meals in 24 hours, I had a full appreciation for all of the great company I had enjoyed, as well as all of the wonderful food, but BOY oh boy was I feeling it. By about 11 am Sunday morning, after consuming only 1 holiday meal so far, I was already feeling groggy and slow. Add in 2 more Easter/Passover meals on Sunday alone, and I felt like a sloth with about 3 brain cells when I got home that evening.

This guy may have been able to carry better conversation than me by Sunday evening. 

Throughout these meals, I was able to eat plenty of greens, kale, and salmon, but I also ended up eating far more refined carbs than I ever eat, in the form of home-made Mac ‘n Cheese (So ridiculously good), various desserts, banana bread, and other holiday goodies.  Now, I’m not one to deny myself indulgences on holidays. For example, home-made macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite things in the world, but I only eat it maybe once or twice a year. So when faced with a delicious dish of it at a family gathering? You bet your ass I’m going to let myself indulge a little.

Source

However, when said indulgences left me with an insulin spike and the resulting near-coma,  it got me thinking. Is this what your average American feels like all the time? Since we’re all so gung-ho on processed foods and refined carbs, do normal people walk around feeling this sluggish and slow (physically and mentally) all the time?!?

I’ll tell you one thing: it was a swift reminder of how quickly our bodies react to this type of food. Every once in a while, fine, but I can’t imagine feeling this way all the time. If I can choose between feeling like a slug after eating refined carbs and processed foods, or feeling energized after eating vegetables, lean-meats, and other whole foods, why would I ever choose the former?

Just a little food for thought to start the week.

Now on to a couple of workouts I did 2 weeks ago when I lost my weight room. If any of you went a little overboard on the Cadbury Eggs this weekend and are looking for something new at the gym, why not try one of these? If your gym doesn’t have all the equipment listed here (or you don’t quite feel comfortable using it), you can substitute just about anything that works similar muscle groups.

Now get going!

The first is a workout that will take about 45-50 min with the recommended rest. It’s broken up into two small circuits with a little bit of interval cardio at the end. Each circuit was done for the reps listed, with no rest in between exercises. 1 min rest was taken after each round of each circuit, completing both circuits 4 times total.

 Circuit 1

Battling Ropes x30 sec (Alternating arms)

Box Jumps x10

KB Swings x20

Step-Ups x24

Push-Ups x10

Circuit 2:

Battling Ropes (arms together)

Dumbbell Walking Lunges x24 (12 each leg)

Plank DB Rows x 20

Lateral Bounding with medicine ball x20

Interval Cardio: Stationary Bike x25 min (Intervals of 30s hard/30s recovery for the duration)Pinned Image

Workout #2: This one is a cardio interval circuit that I do usually once per week (although the interval times vary depending on how I’m feeling). I do this on the treadmill, but you can also do it on any cardio-machine of your choice:

Jog steady state 10 min (Moderate pace)

Incline Level 9 (30s run/30s walk) x10 (The run speed here should be as close to a sprint as possible, while still able to complete all reps)

2 Minute Recovery Walk

Incline Level 10,  Speed 8 mph 15 sec Run/30 Sec Rest x5 (8mph is fast for me..if it’s not for you, kick it up a notch!)

5 min recovery jog

TOTAL 30 min

Writing For Your Weight Loss Success

So there you have it. Since I know not everyone reading this blog is into heavy lifting (although I’m trying to slowly convince you all), now you have a couple of workouts that I do sometimes when I don’t have heavy lifting available to me, or when I simply need some time away from the weight room.

Did anyone else eat too much for Easter/Passover? Did you all get to visit with family and friends? How often do you do circuit training at the gym?