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Working Out At A Gym Vs. Working Out At Home

17 Mar

So you decide that you want to lead a healthier lifestyle and start exercising. Great! But should you sign up for a commercial gym? Or try working out at home?

workoutatgymvshome

I decided to lay out some pros and cons to each. For the purpose of this particular post, I’m going to focus on signing up for a commercial gym as opposed to small boutiques or personal training studies. Also, when I talk about working out at home, I mean doing exercise videos or using dumbbells/other small equipment (as opposed to building your own home gym).

Working Out At A Gym

Since I work out at my local YMCA, it was easy for me to think of a lot of the benefits of this. However, there could be some “cons” that may deter you from joining a gym.

Pros

  • A lot of different equipment, so it’s easy to switch up workouts.
  • Options to take classes
  • Personal trainers and wellness coaches to help you and give you tips.
  • Seeing other people working out may motivate you.
  • You’re changing your setting so you get out of the house.

Cons

  • The thought of having to drive to the gym could mean skipping a workout more often.
  • A lot of different equipment could be confusing and overwhelming.
  • Gym can get packed which could be annoying if you need specific machines or equipment.
  • Gym membership could be expensive.
  • It may be intimidating to workout around others.

Tips:

  • Take a gym tour of equipment before starting.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a trainer to show you correct form or spot you.
  • On days you don’t feel like working out, take a class instead. The group atmosphere helps a lot.
  • If possible, go at off peak times so you can use the equipment you need. Going during times that are less busy will also help if you’re intimidated of the weight room.

Working Out At Home

Working out at home has a lot of its own benefits. When I first started exercising in college, I did a lot of workout DVDs in my room. I loved Jillian Michaels! This is what inspired my recent post where I listed out my top workout videos on YouTube.

Pros

  • It’s convenient.
  • Even when you have no energy you really have no excuse, since you don’t have to go anywhere to work out.
  • You can multitask (workout while waiting for dinner to be ready).
  • You can vary your workouts by doing different workout videos and DVDs.
  • Less intimidating because you’re working out alone.
  • Great way to get family members in your house involved in fitness.

Cons

  • Unless you have a home gym, you may not have a lot of equipment to use.
  • You may not be as motivated because you’re working out alone.
  • Family could be a distraction/interrupt your workout.

Tips

  • Set up a time that you WILL do your workout. Think of it as a meeting that you can’t skip.
  • Let your family know about your time, so that way no one will distract you.
  • Make a YouTube playlist of workout videos, so you always have a selection ready.
  • Just as you would have a gym workout schedule, make an at-home workout schedule with what videos you will do each day
  • Try a new DVD each month to switch things up.
  • Get a friend or two to come over and workout with you!

So as you can see, there are great things about both options! Some days I’d rather workout at home with my mom or dad than go to the gym. It’s just more convenient and after a long day of work, I just don’t feel like getting ready and driving another 15 minutes to the gym!

There are some great fitness channels on YouTube like SarahFit and Blogilates…and myself ;)…just do some research and find workouts that best fit your needs.

What pros & cons did I forget about?

Which do you prefer? Working out at a gym or working out at home?

Do you have a personal trainer?

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Save and Splurge: Fitness Items

11 Mar

Buying fitness related stuff can get addicting. I love shopping for new workout clothes, and when I see gadgets and other stuff for cheap at T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s, it’s hard to walk away!

I’m going to highlight some typical fitness items, with a “save” option and a “splurge” option. Some things are worth splurging on, while other things you could definitely get away with buying at a Five Below – but it really all depends on you, and how often you use certain things.

Yoga Mats

yogamatsThis all depends on how often you do yoga. I think if you do it once a week or so, like I do, then it’s okay to save on a yoga mat. The C9 Basic Yoga Mat is from Target, which also has other brands like Gaiam. I have used the lululemon yoga mat at their community classes and love it. My hands don’t slip at all. However, I don’t do yoga enough to justify buying it…but maybe one day!

Dumbbells

dumbbellsGetting adjustable dumbbells has been on my to-d0 list for a while. Once I have a home gym, I will definitely get a pair of these Reebok adjustable dumbbells (also available at Target). But, really, all you need for an at-home workout are a pair of dumbbells ranging from 5-10 lbs. The one above can be found at Five Below. If you don’t have one of those near you, check out Target or T.J. Maxx too!

Watches

watchesYou can look up both of these watches on their brand page, but I found that you can save a good chunk of change on Amazon*. The Polar GPS watch comes with a heart-rate monitor if you like to see how many calories you burn. I personally have a Garmin, but know a lot of people who own Polars and love them. I like that it’s a GPS and HRM in one. But if you don’t need all that, this Timex Women’s watch will do the trick. I like that it’s light and small, so it could be used in everyday life too.

There are a lot of other products I could include, but I’ll save that for Part 2! One thing I will say you should always splurge on is a good pair of sneakers.

Which of these products would you splurge on?

What fitness item do you have no qualms about spending a little extra on? For me it’s running shoes and shorts!

*Disclaimer: I’m an Amazon affiliate, so if you buy through the links provided, I may get a small % kickback, which helps with my blog hosting costs 🙂

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My First Hot Yoga Experience

17 Jan

Earlier this week, my local lululemon store posted that they were having a Blacklight Yoga Party on Thursday, at a studio in my area. I quickly RSVPed for my sister and me because we had never done hot yoga before.

I was really nervous…I was afraid of sweating an insane amount and being stinky and having people be disgusted (sometimes I over-think things). My yogi friend assured me that everyone will probably smell and be insanely sweaty.

I went to social media for other tips for a first time hot yoga-er, and some common ones were:

  • Drink a lot of water in the days leading up.
  • Bring a big towel.
  • Bring a water bottle.
  • Bring an open mind.

I absolutely loved it. I have had this instructor before at lululemon’s community classes, and usually it’s pretty mellow, but this class was really upbeat and fun. We got light-up bracelets at the door too!

The class started with upbeat music, and once Timber by Pitbull & Ke$ha came on, everyone was singing and grooving along to the beat. PS – I’m obsessed with that song, I could listen to it on repeat.

This was certainly the most challenging yoga class I’ve taken. Obviously, because it was hot. But also, the sequence of movements and how long certain poses were held made it tough! The good thing was that the room wasn’t TOO hot-about 97-100 degrees. I have read other reviews of hot yoga where people have said it was too hot to even concentrate, and that’s what I was afraid of.

When people say the heat helps you get deeper in your poses, they aren’t lying! I got into my deepest downward dog, usually I have to keep my knees bent, but this time they were straight and I almost got my heels to touch the ground.

Overall, it was a great class, and I love yoga in general. She ended it on a spiritual note, reading us a quote while we lay in corpse pose. I left feeling refreshed and really wanting to commit to adding more yoga into my life.

Blacklight + yoga = awesome

My clothes were definitely soaked through afterwards, but you really feel good! I would like to add in hot yoga to me exercise routine-just need to find the time and budget 😉

Have you ever tried hot yoga? Or yoga in general?

What are your thoughts about it?

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4 Common Mistakes People Make When They Start Exercising

14 Jan

Is 2014 going to be your year? Have you committed to living a healthier lifestyle? That’s great!

You may be excited and ready to tackle everything that comes your way, but while your motivation is awesome, make sure you don’t make these mistakes in your new journey!

commonmistakes

Trying Too Many Things At Once. You may be excited to start eating healthier and workout out regularly, but don’t be too overzealous! For example, if you want to start eating healthier, try cutting out one “bad” thing for a week, then add another. It’ll be easier to manage cutting out soda the first week, then processed food the second, and excess sugar in the third, than it would be to try to cut every bad habit out at once. Same thing goes with the gym; you may want to hit the gym every day, but start slowly. Your body is just getting used to this. Start with 2-3 days per week, then add on as you get accustomed. Trust me, if this is your first time lifting (or you’re just getting back into it), you will be sore even with only 2-3 days of working out!

Not Setting Proper Goals. What exactly are your goals? Do you want to lose weight? Gain muscle? Setting proper goals is key, as well as attainable goals. You can’t expect to lose 50 lbs. in 1 month, or squat 100 lbs in the first few weeks. Set small goals at first, such as, “I want to lose 1 lb. a week,” or “I want to lose 5% bodyfat.” SMART goal setting is a great way to set attainable goals.

Not Researching Proper Workouts. Just as you need to set proper goals, you need to assess what it is you want to accomplish. You may try out everything: lifting, running, Zumba, spin, etc. Do you want to run 5K? Or be able to do pull-ups? Because both of those will require totally different training. If you want to run a 5K (or any distance), research different training plans. Before I started marathon training, I read 3 books by 3 different authors on 3 different training approaches. Find the best one that you think will work for you. If you don’t think you will make it to the gym 5 days a week, then don’t choose a plan that has you in the gym 5 days a week!

Not Eating Enough. If your goal is to lose weight, you may think the easiest way is the good ol’ “cut 500 calories per day out” and exercise. But if you’re exercising on a regular basis, then you need to make sure you are fueling your body correctly. You may be surprised at how many calories you actually need. I thought 1,500 calories would be enough for me, then put my stats in multiple calculators which told me I should be eating anywhere from 1,800-2,000 calories! I don’t have a specific one that comes to mind, but google “calorie calculator” and try out multiple ones. Also track your intake for a few days to make sure you’re eating enough. I like the app Lose It! because you can add or scan in foods, and it gives you a pie chart breakdown of your macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat). I talk about this app more here. Remember, calories are not the enemy!

What advice and tips would you give?

Have you experienced any of these mistakes?

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The Importance Of Warming Up

20 Dec

Yesterday, I was reading this post by Tony Gentilcore on pre-workout warm-up steps. I have to admit, I’m pretty bad at warming up before runs, but when I’m in the gym lifting, I make sure to warm-up every single time.

The thought of lifting heavy weights and putting that load on my joints before warming up makes me cringe. And yes, I will try to warm up more before runs too 😉

warm up tips

Why You Should Warm-Up

Tony states:

Taking the time to warm up properly is crucial not only for optimal performance on the field, but also for continued progress in the gym—and it serves several functions:

  • Increases body temperature.
  • Improves joint lubrication.
  • Engages the nervous system to a larger degree.
  • Improves extensibility/flexibility of muscles.
  • Grooves movement patterns.
  • Better prepares you for a back-alley fight against a pack of zombies. You know, just in case.

Given that many of us spend an inordinate amount of time hunched over a desk in front of a computer on a daily basis, the warm-up should target the areas of the body that tend to be most problematic: the glutes, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders and core, to name a few.

How To Warm-Up

I used to just run on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes as a warm-up, but now I do that and make sure to get in some dynamic movements as well.

Tony suggests starting off with foam rolling because, “we tend to accumulate knots, adhesions and scar tissue in our muscles, which affect their extensibility, or ability to lengthen fully. If left unattended, these knots can become problematic and lead to muscle strains and other injuries.” Therefore, foam rolling before lifting helps release some of those knots, and get your muscles to fully lengthen.

Here are the exercises he suggests doing in your warm-up:

I usually change my warm-up depending on whether I’m training upper body or lower body that day. For a full-body workout day, I suggest you try out Tony’s warm-up.

Here’s how I warm-up for lower body days:

  • 2 min incline walk, then 5-10 min jog.
  • Slow body weight squats (10-15 reps)
  • Glute bridge (10 reps), then single leg glute bridge (5 on each leg).
  • This is all in one move: forward lunge, step back into reverse lunge, then feet together for a squat. Repeat 5x.

Upper body days:

  • Same treadmill warm-up.
  • 10 push-ups, then 10 knee push-ups
  • 10 Dive Bombers
  • 10 small arm circles, forward, then backward, 10 large arm circles, forward then backward.

But That’s Not All…

Do you think your car would perform optimally if you walked out on a 20-degree day, turned on the ignition, and then ramped it up to 60 mph on the highway without first letting it warm up?

Once you do the warm-up, you still continue the warm-up before doing your sets. For example, before setting up to do a bench press, I usually do lighter weight dumbbell presses to get my body ready. Tony discusses this in more detail in his article.

A good warm-up only takes about 10 minutes. Make sure to go through the exercises slowly, and it will help you lift heavier when you get to your main lifts.

Do you make sure to warm-up before every workout?

How do you warm-up?

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7 Tips To Aid Muscle Recovery

19 Nov

I thought of writing this post today because currently I can’t straighten my arms from being soooo soreeee. I did a chest and back workout yesterday which included pull-ups…which I haven’t done in months! The first few days of lifting after a long hiatus are always the worst in terms of soreness.

While sometimes you can’t avoid soreness or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), there are ways to promote muscle recovery, and feel back to normal faster. Here are tips that have worked for me, and may help you to avoid the DOMS!

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  • Have something with protein after every workout. I usually try to have a protein shake as soon as I get home, or if my workout is timed right, I get home and just have dinner. Protein aids in the repair of exercise-induced damage to muscle fibers. [1] Every time you go to the gym, you are damaging and tearing your muscle fibers. What you do after the gym is what matters, because once those fibers heal is when you will see your gains (i.e. – lift heavier). Active states:

Heavy resistance exercise increases the rates of both protein synthesis and breakdown in muscle for at least 24 hours after a workout. Unless a protein-containing meal is consumed during recovery, breakdown will exceed synthesis, resulting in the loss of muscle mass.

I usually try to get around 20-30 grams, and within 30 minutes of my workout ending.

  • Stretch. I always try to stretch after every workout. Your muscles are nice and warm, and this is the perfect time to stretch them out after they have tightened up during your workout. According to MIT:

When you stretch, the muscle fiber is pulled out to its full length sarcomere by sarcomere, and then the connective tissue takes up the remaining slack. When this occurs, it helps to realign any disorganized fibers in the direction of the tension. This realignment is what helps to rehabilitate scarred tissue back to health.

  • Ice, use heat, BioFreeze, etc. If something feels swollen, like a joint, ice it to decrease inflammation. I’ve also tried “contrast therapy” after long runs or hard workouts. Get in the shower, use cold water for 30 seconds, then switch to hot water, and repeat 4-5 times. If a muscle is just plain sore, applying a heat pack can help it relax. My physical therapist also recommended BioFreeze for times when ice isn’t convenient. It’s like Bengay or IcyHot but with less chemicals…and definitely makes whatever area you’re using it on feel nice and cold! I was applying it to my shins and calves before bed.

  • Foam roll/self-myofascial release. I don’t think I need to talk about this too much. Foam rolling has so many benefits for your muscles, despite sometimes being painful! It helps release muscle adhesions (knots) in order to help muscle recovery, and allows your muscles to move much smoother. If you don’t have a foam roller, use a tennis ball or lacrosse ball. I like it better anyway because it’s smaller and can really get into those hard to reach muscles. When you hit a tender spot, stay there for 20-30 seconds, and/or also try flexing and unflexing the muscle (similar to ART). Foam roll first, then stretch.
  • Take supplements. Magnesium is something many people don’t get enough of, and it helps greatly with muscle recovery, nerve function, and also helps you get better sleep. [2]. I also take L-Glutamine and have taken BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) before. L-Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid that helps to ease trauma, and halt the breakdown of muscles.[3] BCAAs support muscle protein synthesis and also can decrease muscle soreness such as DOMS. Read more benefits of BCAAs on Charles Poliquin’s website – he’s a well-renowned and respected trainer.

So there you have it folks. Those are just some ways that I help my muscles recover. It really is important to remember that what you do OUT of the gym matters more than IN the gym. Make sure to get enough sleep, hydrate, etc. to take care of your muscles and you will see the results you want.

What tips would you add to this list? Which of these haven’t you tried yet?

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Quick Abs Workout

15 Oct

After a long run or workout, if you’re like me the last thing you want to do is a core workout. I just want to foam roll, stretch and shower. Which is why I made this quick and easy abs workout for you!

Instructions: Do 2-3 sets with 12-15 reps of each exercise. I usually do 2-3 sets depending on how I feel/how hungry I am 😉

abs

Here are some YouTube links for each exercise, in case you’re not familiar with some of these:

Reverse Crunch

Scissors

Bird-dogs

Bicycle Crunches

What are your go-to core exercises?

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