Take advantage of free workout opportunities circa July 5-11, 2012; Seminole Chronicle
No gym membership? Not a problem. Create your own gym outside with outdoor equipment and simple exercises.
Many parks in Central Florida have fitness equipment along shady paths, some with a beautiful view of a lake. Other parks have playground equipment, park benches and swings. Not only can taking advantage of these resources save money, it will also make for scenic workouts.
Want a full body workout? Lake Mills Park in Chuluota has a Parcourse FitCircuit, a series of 15 exercises along a jogging and walking path. Each station has an instructional sign that describes and illustrates specific exercises. The circuit begins with warm-ups and stretching and then challenges you with more demanding exercises along the path. It also features a cool-down period to wrap up the workout.
For a lower body work-out, use the steps that lead up to a slide to perform lunges and step-ups. For a higher intensity, plyometric moves on the steps, such as toe taps and box jumps, will get your heart pumping. Begin performing the plyometrics for a period of 15 seconds. Over time, graduate to 30 seconds with a 15-second rest period between sets.
Continue your leg workout by using a swing to perform suspended lunges. These are done in the same manner as a split lunge, except the front of one foot will be placed on the seat of the swing behind you instead of on the ground. Not strong enough for a pull up? Strengthen the back muscles by using two swings for inverted rows. By practicing the flexed arm hang and negative pull-ups on the monkey bars, along with the inverted rows, you will achieve the perfect pull-up.
Park benches can be used for triceps bench dips and decline pus-ups. If you are a beginner, start with the incline push-up on the bench.
Looking for a new way to train the abdominal muscles? Use a swing for high planks, jackknives and a pike. Work the abs and oblique muscles with hanging knee raises to the front and sides from the monkey bars. Be sure to perform these moves by keeping your abs tight and the movements slow and controlled.
If you have no knee, hip or black issues, have a good aerobic base, or are a runner who would like to take their workout to a different level, I suggest stair running. Be sure to begin with a proper warm-up. Run up the stairs as fast as you can, using the balls of you feet rolling down to the heel, being careful not to land on your toes. Walk back down and repeat three to five times. Running every other step, lateral running, both left and right side, and crossovers are other ideas of stair running. In between running the stairs, add jump squats, walking lunges and push ups for an additional challenge. If you feel uncomfortable running up the stairs, try climbing every other step.
Finish by stretching the muscles you worked: quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.
As you can see, there are numerous ways to turn outdoor equipment into a full-body workout - no gym membership required or the purchase of trendy new equipment.
Step outside into your own outdoor gym!
Starting with a warm up is key to a healthy, successful workout circa June 7-13, 2012; Seminole Chronicle
Congratulations! Making it to the gym is the first mental obstacle to overcome when beginning an exercise program. Now what? Focusing on what our body needs to prepare us physically for the work-out we are about to begin comes next: the warm up.
Many people walk into the gym and head straight for the weights without a proper warm up. I've also witnessed people jumping onto their favorite cardio machine and hitting start right away. Before hitting start, some will perform a few static stretches such as standing toe touches or quad stretches. But note this - stretching before a workout is not a warm up! Stretching cold muscles could cause injuries and can be painful.
Warming up is a low-level activity performed before a workout. Not only does it prepare one-self mentally, it also prepares the body for a more intense activity by: increasing body temperature, warming the muscles, improving oxygen supply and increasing blood flow. Warming up allows the heart rate to increase at a slow pace. Without it, heart rate will rise too quickly.
When warming up for weight training, I recommend beginning with at least five minutes of light cardio on the treadmill followed by a specific exercise with a few sets of lighter weights for the body part you're training that day. Then, switch to heavier weights.
When warming up for my cardio workout or high-intensity interval training with my group of clients, I like to improve performance and physical exertion by beginning with a brisk walk or easy jog for a few minutes followed by dynamic stretching, which simply means stretching while moving, all the while targeting the muscles that will be used later on.
There are many debates over stretching before or after your workout, dynamic stretching or static stretching. I personally feel dynamic stretches help improve my range of motion and flexibility due to the constant movement. These moves allow the body temperature to remain warm, whereas static stretching will drop the body's temperature. A few examples of the dynamic stretches I perform are walking lunges, Frankenstein marches, quad walks, knee hugs, arms circles and back strokes.
We all want to decrease injury and perform better. With that in mind, a proper warm up is necessary for a successful workout. Be sure to allow time for the warm up - it only takes five to 10 minutes and can protect against injuries that will delay staying physically fit.
Duration and intensity of the warm up will differ from person to person depending the goals set that day.
High intensity training perfect fit for busy schedules circa May 3-9, 2012; Seminole Chronicle
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of cardiovascular training that will burn more calories allowing for quicker weight loss while maintaining muscle, improving anaerobic capacity in a shorter period of time.
As a runner, I've always enjoyed my long outdoor runs, usually dreading the use of a treadmill indoors when the weather turns cold - until this past winter when I devised a high intensity interval training workout.
The main intent for my HIIT was to become leaner without losing muscle for my second competition. I quickly fell in love with my new program, despite my feelings toward the treadmill. I found myself anxiously awaiting my next HIIT workout more than my long runs!
My obsession with HIIT grew even more when I began noticing a reduction of inches and pounds lost due to committing to the program and eating clean. With HIIT you are burning more calories and fat during the workout as well as boosting your metabolism long after the session.
HIIT is an interval workout which involves coming out of the comfort zone, usually including periods of high and low intensity activities lasing from seconds to a few minutes and then a period of rest. You may use a treadmill, elliptical or any other cardio machine. This type of training is not limited to running and may be performed anywhere, requiring little space if you prefer working out at home.
Don't have equipment? Not a problem. With this workout your main focus is to push yourself to the anaerobic zone where the body becomes winded, a period of rest and repeating the process. Such activities may include: agility and plyometric moves, burpees, jumping jacks or quick feet. Look around your home, there are many ways to incorporate an exercise with what's around you. Many of my clients use their stairs not only for a muscle toning workout going up and down them, but also for toe taps and push-ups.
HIIT is ideal for your busy schedule, training on your lunch break. It's a great way to get in shape quickly with sessions lasting only 15 minutes, two to three days a week.
Runners will also reap the benefits of incorporating a HIIT program. I find I have increased endurance and speed on my runs.
This training may not be right for everyone. Consult with a physician before beginning any new program. I recommend fueling up with good carbohydrates and perform a proper warm-up before each session.
Leave your favorite book, magazine and iPod at home - you won't need them. This fast paced program is far from boring. Time goes by quickly whether it's performed at the gym or as a group. I find it to be fun and my clients love how invigorating they feel once completed.
Perfect portioning takes a lot of practice, willpower circa April 5-11, 2012; Seminole Chronicle
The whole process of cooking is rather daunting to me.
Cooking something everyone will enjoy, writing a grocery list, which I tend to forget and leave at home. Shopping, then unloading the groceries, preparing the meal and of course, cleaning up.
When I entered my first body building event, I remember thinking, "How am I going to cook clean meals often? Can I really do this?" I'm somewhat of a lazy, unpracticed chef. I had to search the internet for how-to videos on baking fish and steaming vegetables. Something as simple as grilling chicken wasn't my specialty either.
My first thought was I would cook the meals when I returned from my training sessions. That's not how it ended up. By then I was so hungry, I couldn't wait to cook a healthy meal. I found myself eating and grabbing anything and everything that was wrong for my diet. All the hard work at the gym wasted due to my laziness and lack of willpower. I quickly realized I wasn't going to see the results I wanted if I continued in this manner. Something had to be done immediately.
I sat down one day and worked out a plan; it included setting out early on Saturday morning with my shopping list in hand, determined to shop, prepare, and pack my meals all in one day. Although challenging, it needed to be done.
Returning home from the store, I began the process of cooking everything at once. The chicken was on the grill, fish and sweet potatoes were baking in the over, vegetables were steaming one after the other, while a pot of eggs was cooking on another burner.
I reached in my cupboard for my scale, turned my laptop on and signed into a popular calorie counting site and arranged 10 containers on my countertop. I then began weighing and measuring everything along with checking the site for a total calorie count. I packed five containers with meals of at least 200 calories and the remaining containers with 300. Before I knew it, 10 meals were prepared and packed.
These days, a few minutes after returning home from training, I'm eating a small healthy meal. All the hard work at the gym is no longer wasted on poor food decisions.
Tips and tricks to a happier, healthier midsection circa March 1-7, 2012; Seminole Chronicle
What machine works to tone my abs? Are sit-ups good for you? Will sit-ups reduce my stomach pouch? My belly fat is out of control! These are only a few examples of messages I received from those who want a flatter stomach.
Let's first talk about what lies beneath the stomach. Just below the skin is the subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is located inside the abdominal cavity, packed around our internal organs. In excess, visceral fat can pose potential health concerns.
My flatter stomach tips worked for me during my competition training. I believe success comes when we are ready to make changes in our daily eating and exercise habits.
To see results while dieting, eat clean - lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbs, along with eating often and logging your food daily, is at the top of my list. Try drinking more water; stay away from sodas. Reduce the amount of processed foods and candy. Check the food labels for sugar. Four grams of white refined sugar is almost equal to a teaspoon. Our favorite soda may have as much as 46 grams of sugar, which is about eleven teaspoons of zero nutritional value. Be mindful of the so-called healthy cereal bars or protein bars, they pack a lot of carbs and sugar.
Incorporate some type of physical activity at least five days a week, one that you will enjoy so you'll be more likely to stick with it. If you're already doing cardio, try bumping it up by exercising in your targeted heart rate zone: 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. To calculate this, subtract your age from 220 to find maximum heart rate. Multiply the maximum heart rate by the 60 to 80 percent for your targeted heart rate. Before starting a new program, check with a physician; they may recommend a targeted heart rate zone.
During my high school days, I remember asking my mom what I could do to reduce my belly bulge. She recommended holding my abdominal muscles in tight while on the school bus, at my desk, and during my physical activities. Pull the abdominal muscles in tight toward your spine. By doing so, you also will have perfect posture. I believe my mom was ahead of her time. This advice is something I continue doing and advise my clients to do, as well as contracting abdominal muscles during weight-training exercises.
One hundred crunches and purchasing expensive equipment is not necessary. I work my abs at least four times a week, moving from one exercise to the other. My ab routine includes floor crunches, standing crunches, stability ball exercises and, my favorite, handing leg raises.
It's not going to be easy; it takes patience, hard work and dedication. The key to a flatter, healthier midsection is commitment. With that, comes success.
Running not only a hobby, but a healthy habit circa February 2-8, 2012; Seminole Chronicle
I was always active a a child, building tree houses in our back woods, catching crayfish in our front stream and ice skating when it froze over the the winter.
During high school, I didn't participate in any sport. I once joined the cross country team, but after a couple weeks of practices, I dropped out. To this day, I am puzzled by that decision since my true passion is running.
Growing up in Pennsylvania made it hard to run with the rain, snow and steep hills. After moving to Florida, I was able to run often thanks to the flat roads and warm weather.
While teaching physical education at Carillon Elementary School, I found co-workers with the same passion. We entered marathons, half marathons, and even an eight-mile relay through the woods.
During my nine years at the school, I noticed an increasing trend among the younger generation - diabetes. Each year, more and more students were developing the disease. I also notice d a great number of people being diagnosed with cancer.
In the beginning, running was a high for me as well as a way to control weight gain. Once aware of certain health risks surrounding me, I realized not only was I running for fun I was running for my health.
Since my mother passed away from cancer in the early '80s, I wanted to get involved with Relay for Life, which is a community event to raise money for cancer patients, and research. Working at Relay for Life and the school made me aware how crucial staying active is.
I always knew with my active lifestyle and good eating habits I had more energy, better moods, and a healthier heart. What I didn't realize was I was preventing high blood pressure and cholesterol, strokes, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, arthritis and bone loss. I even noticed my improved immune system; I rarely got sick even though I was surrounded by small children every day.
The consequences for leading a sedentary lifestyle, as mentioned previously, is what motivates me to stay active.
Time is one of the reasons people don't exercise. That should not be used as an excuse considering exercising only take at minimum 20 minutes a day. Not only will that instantly benefit your well being, it will also prevent costly doctor visits that will consume more time than all the exercising combined.
Some diseases may be hereditary; all the more reason I will do all I can to reduce the risks, I want to be around my family as long as possible. By focusing on exercise for health purposes your reward may be greater than just weight loss.
Eating clean the first step to weight loss circa Jan. 12-18, 2012; Seminole Chronicle
Congratulations, the first step toward a successful new year is set in motion. Written fitness and weight goals were placed in a spot where they'll be seen everyday. Visits to the gym, boot camp classes and training for a 5K have begun. Now what?
Are cases of soda, bags of cookies, chips and candy stored in the pantry? If so, throw them away, give them away or take them to work. Oh, and don't tell me, "It's for the kids." My reply is, "Children don't need all that sugar!"
Today marks the first day of eating clean. Eating clean simply means eating foods that are closer to their natural state. Not processed, no preservatives or additives and low in sodium.
When I decided to compete in my first body building competition, I needed to change my eating habits. I never steamed my vegetables, they came from a can. My favorite cheat meals were sugary cereals and pasta. And I would sneak an Oreo cookie on occasion. I knew if I continued I wouldn't lose the weight or gain the lean muscle needed for the event.
I did a hard 180. Complex carbs, lean meats and fresh vegetables were now on my shopping list. I planned my meals - a must for staying on track. Meals were prepared ahead of time by placing my vegetables, lean meats and healthy greens or sweet potato in a container, having several readily available to grab and go. Nighttime snacks were baked chicken tenders prepared by the dozens ahead of time.
Complex carbs were eaten early in the day, not late at night. I removed saturated fats from my diet. Almonds, which have healthy fats, were a good substitute. I drank lots of water, eliminated alcoholic beverages and ate smaller meals every two to three hours, keeping my blood sugar stable and overeating under control.
After exercising, don't ruin it by indulging yourself. If a cheat meal is needed, keep a healthful mind and don't go overboard. After my competition and eating clean for three months, I thought I wanted a few cheat days, but eating pizza and other junk food left me sick to my stomach and didn't taste good. Eating clean can become a way of life - boosting energy and leaving us less lethargic.
There are no quick fixes to losing weight. It's not going to be easy, however, it can be accomplished. I lost the weight and gained the lean muscle for the competition. It's like anything else in life - it must be made a habit. Hard work and discipline bring results. It may take a little more effort and extra time, but will shortly come second nature. Eating clean is now my way of life.
From January 2012 thru May of 2013 I was the Seminole Chronicle's Fitness Columnist. Here you will find all of my published articles.