Thursday, 30 June 2016

4 Cool-Down Stretches For After Your Workout That Feel Ridiculously Good

Jen Grantham / Getty Images

We all know a pre-workout warm-up is an important part of any fitness routine, but what about the cool-down? It can be tempting to head straight to the locker room right after you’ve crushed those treadmill sprints, but skipping a cool-down might mean you’re missing out on some major benefits.

According trainer Rebecca Kennedy, creator of NYC-based active recovery class A.C.C.E.S.S., a proper cool-down will “lower the heart rate and calm the central nervous system.” Aside from the fact that stretching after a tough class can feel so good, stretching when your muscles are already warmed up (meaning you’ve used them so they aren’t as stiff), is ideal for helping to improve your flexibility, she explains. “It will allow the muscles to get into deeper stretches.”

For best results, cool-down stretches should be passive, so you’ll hold them for a while (as opposed to dynamic stretches before a workout, which you shouldn’t hold for long). “Never do less than 10 seconds on any passive stretch,” suggests Kennedy. As a rule of thumb, she aim for six to eight deep breaths, she says.

Ready to stretch it out? Try this four-move cool-down routine after your next workout. (And be sure to save the Pin below for easy reference.)

Related: Here’s 1 Simple Way To Prevent Neck And Back Pain

1. Figure 4 Stretch — hold for 30 seconds on each side

FIGURE_4_STRETCH

Whitney Thielman

“Figure 4 opens up the hips and releases the glutes,” says Kennedy.

  • Start lying on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift your left leg and cross your left ankle over the right knee.
  • Reach hands around right leg to meet under thigh. Draw the right thigh toward you while keeping your torso pressed against floor.
  • Use your left elbow to gently press your left knee away from you as you draw your right thigh in closer.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, deepening the stretch with every exhale, then switch sides.

2. Reclining Twist — hold for 10 seconds on each side, repeat 3-5 times

RECLINING_TWIST

Whitney Thielman

This stretch is great for releasing the lower back, according to Kennedy.

  • Lie on your back and draw your left leg into your chest and keep your right leg straight.
  • Exhale and twist the bent knee across the center of the body. Then press the opposite hand onto the bent knee and extend the other arm.
  • Hold for 10 seconds on each side, repeating three to five times.

3. Cat/Cow Stretch — continue for 30 seconds

CAT_COW_STRETCH

Whitney Thielman

“This stretch aids in breathing and slows down the heart rate,” says Kennedy. Inhale in the cow position when your back is arched and you’re looking upwards, then exhale as you bring your chin to your chest and round your spine.

  • Begin on your hands and knees. Align your shoulders over wrists and your hips over knees.
  • Take a slow inhale, and on the exhale, round your spine and drop your head towards the floor (this is the “cat” posture).
  • Inhale and lift your head, chest, and tailbone towards the ceiling as you arch your back for “cow.”
  • Move through this sequence for 30 seconds.

4. Child’s Pose — hold for 30 seconds to one minute

CHILD_POSE

Whitney Thielman

This stretch is grounding, says Kennedy, because it “connects you to the floor at your shins, knees, ankles, feet, chest, and head.” Try to lengthen your spine by extending through the crown of your head and your tailbone. Then, “let everything settle into place.”

  • Sit back on heels with your knees out wide.  
  • Bend forward at hips and lower your chest between your thighs with your forehead resting on the ground.
  • Extend your arms long and place your palms on the ground.
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Pin this stretch sequence and save it for your next tough workout:

cool-down_pin

Valerie Fischel

You may also like: A Simple Fat-Burning Workout You Can Do At Home

The post 4 Cool-Down Stretches For After Your Workout That Feel Ridiculously Good appeared first on SELF.

11 Things You Need To Know If You Want To Become A Runner

Starting a new type of workout can be scary. If you’ve never done something before, it’s tough to confidently jump right in without second-guessing yourself and your fitness level. But every workout has its own quirks (and perks), which is what makes mixing it up so good for your body—and, obviously, fun.

Running is one of the most intimidating workouts of all. If you don’t run, chances are you look at people who actually like to do it with total awe (and secretly wonder if they’re crazy). But anyone can be a runner. You just have to have the confidence to start.

Here are some of the most important basics to know if you want to add “runner” to your list of bad-ass self-descriptors. It’s time to stop wading in self-doubt and start jogging toward your first 5K.

1. Investing in a good running shoe is a non-negotiable.

Everyone’s foot is different, Andrew Kalley, founder of Kalley Fitness and NYC-based triathlon coach and personal trainer, tells SELF. So the sneaks that are best for you may be different from what your BFF likes. “Some runners pronate, like I do, where your foot rolls in. Some supinate, where you foot rolls out,” Kalley says. Most shoes are either neutral, stability, or minimalist. Kalley recommends heading to a running store for a gait analysis to find out what your feet need. Here are five things you should know before you buy sneakers.

2. Don’t lace up your sneakers like a corset.

You want to tie your shoes firmly so nothing’s slipping and sliding, but feet tend to swell during running, Kalley says. “Always leave a little room for swelling, especially if you are planning longer runs.” That’s also why it’s also recommended to try running shoes a half to full size bigger. Try this simple shoe-lacing trick that’ll help keep your heels in place.

3. Skipping a warm-up is a bad idea.

“A proper warm-up is critical for all exercise, including running,” Kalley says. Depending on the workout, the best warm-up will vary. But if you’re a beginner just going out for a couple miles, spend just five minutes doing some dynamic stretches “to active your muscles to prepare them for a higher intensity.”

4. Run for time, not for mileage.

If you’re new to running, forget about how many miles you’re going. Start by setting time goals. Kalley suggests starting with 15-minute runs three times per week. “Don’t focus on pace for the first three months.” Once you’ve got a good foundation, then you can start thinking speed.

5. Work your way up to longer runs to avoid burnout.

Start with no more than two or three days a week, and only build up duration by 5 to 10 percent each week. “This will help prevent injury and overtraining,” Kalley says. A good way to not stick with running longterm is by burning yourself out or getting hurt right off the bat.

6. Hold off on the fancy running watches at first.

Fitness trackers and apps are very helpful if used properly, Kalley says. They can help track mileage, pace, and progress over time. But they can be overwhelming for newbies—it’s best to just run and build a base, first. “Eventually, using a device will help keep you on point.”

7. Proper posture will save you from back pain.

Poor posture is one of the biggest causes of back pain in runners. “Your running posture should be tall and straight with a slight forward lean. Shoulders should be back and elbows should be bent at 90 degrees,” Kalley says. Your back and shoulders should never be rounded, and your core muscles should be engaged—basically, listen to your mother and stop slouching. Try these six easy moves to improve your posture.

8. Keep your strides short and quick.

“The key is to focus on short, quick strides and build your ability to turnover fast and efficiently, then lengthen your stride over time without sacrificing cadence,” Kalley says. That way, you’ll be able to keep a good, steady rhythm while making each stride cover even more ground. 

9. Hydrate all day every day, not just right before a run.

Hydration is key before, during, and after running. This means staying hydrated throughout the day, but also sipping some H2O immediately before and during. “Depending on the length of a workout, you should drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid before,” Kalley says, and 1 to 3 ounces every mile, or more, depending on conditions (read: if it’s a humid summer day). Post run, drink 16 to 24 ounces to rehydrate.

10. Figure out if you need to eat before or not.

It’s OK to run on an empty stomach if that feels best for you, but many people find they need that pre-workout fuel to stay energized. Experts recommend eating a high-carb, low-fiber snack about two hours before you plan to hit the pavement.

11. Always have a post-workout snack so your body can recover.

“It’s critical to replace both carbohydrates and protein after a workout,” Kalley says. The amount you need will vary depending on your size and the length of the workout. A protein shake or smoothie is a quick and easy way to get those macronutrients. Kalley’s favorite is: 1 scoop vanilla vegan protein, 1 tablespoon almond butter, 16 ounces almond milk, frozen blueberries, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, 1 teaspoon hemp seeds, and 1 teaspoon coconut oil. Or, try one of these snacks you can throw in your gym bag.

The post 11 Things You Need To Know If You Want To Become A Runner appeared first on SELF.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

After Running For 15 Years, I Made This Change and Finally Lost My Belly

POPSUGAR Fitness shares the change that made a major difference.

I started running after college to lose that Freshman 40 I was holding on to. I learned a lot along the way, like what socks prevent blisters and how to shop for a sports bra so you don’t have to wear two. But what I struggled with was losing weight, specifically belly fat. And after 15 years of running and experiencing two pregnancies, that still-pudgy pooch—although a sweet reminder that I was my kids’ first home—was always the thing I pinched and poked when standing in front of a mirror.

So I signed up for a half-marathon. I was convinced that all those training runs would surely slim my middle, but when I stepped on the scale, I was completely wrong. I was gaining weight because the hunger that came with those long workouts made me want to eat all the time. After the race, although I made some changes to my eating schedule to lose the weight I’d gained during training, my squishy belly wasn’t budging, and it pissed me off. It wasn’t like I was going to run more often or for longer distances. It was quite by accident that I figured out how running could help me ditch my mummy tummy.

One morning, I skipped the hour-long flat road run and turned into the woods near my house. I let my dog, Reuben, off leash, and we just started running. My pace was much slower because the terrain was so unpredictable. Rain had eroded away the path, creating holes, plus the slippery wooden bridges, the rocks and logs to leap over, and the hills—man, were there hills! I was huffing and puffing way more than on my previous runs, and my quads, calves, and butt were burning. I had to swing my arms more to get up those steep inclines, and trying to catch up to my dog added a little fire to my step. At the end of my 20-minute run, I felt like I did after running two hours.

After just two weeks of running those trails and those crazy hills, I felt an incredible sense of strength in my legs I hadn’t experienced before in the 12 weeks I was training for the half. In the obstacle course that is the woods, my muscles were constantly guessing, since running in the woods is completely different than running on a sidewalk or a treadmill. It’s like a dance because there’s no monotony of movement. Every step is a little different, a little shift to one side or the other, a little shorter or longer than the one before.

Interval training had always seemed so forced when running through my neighborhood: I felt a little weird sprinting past my neighbor’s house, so I skipped them and just stuck to my 9:40 minute-per-mile pace. But the hills forced me to switch up my pace, and I knew this type of training would be the key to ditching my tummy. Running this way was also really challenging to my mind. I felt a complete sense of calm afterward that I wasn’t able to get to unless I did a long training run. Instant runner’s high in just 20 minutes? I was floored.

And the added perk? My belly looked slimmer. I could see definition in my obliques—I had obliques! By no means am I saying I have a six-pack after a month of running in the woods, but I see now that I was pushing myself in the wrong way. I was working harder, not smarter. If you’re struggling with a weight-loss plateau from running, the answer for you, too, might be found in the woods.

Originally written by Jenny Sugar, POPSUGAR Fitness

More from POPSUGAR Fitness:

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The post After Running For 15 Years, I Made This Change and Finally Lost My Belly appeared first on SELF.

Is It Better To Work Out In The Morning Or At Night?

Mr.Nuttakorn Chaiwetchakan / EyeEm / Mamoru Muto/Aflo / PeopleImages / Getty; Graphic by Jocelyn Runice

Finding the time to work out is half the battle when it comes to keeping up with a fitness routine, and for better or for worse, that often means you get two choices: morning or evening. And while some people feel strongly about which way is right for them, the good news is that there’s no “best” time in general—just the one that’s best for you.

“I get this question all the time,” says Steve Ball, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri. “My answer? Any time is a good time to exercise. Find the time that works best for your schedule keeping in mind that lifetime fitness is achieved through consistency, not through working out at the perfect time. If any physiological differences exist, they are minimal and don’t outweigh personal preference.”

So, even though research has found some small differences between the calorie-burning and strength-building powers of working out at in the morning and working out at night, neither is necessarily better, and probably not worth basing your routine off of.

What is worth working your fitness habits around? Think about your schedule, when you feel the most energized, and how you get motivated. Here are eight things to consider when you’re deciding to set up a morning or evening workout grind.

Benefits Of Morning Workouts:

1. Exercise can give you an energy boost.

Some people (myself included) find that working out in the morning gives them all-day energy. This effect is, in part, a mental benefit, but endorphins are also released, explains Ball (and those bad boys can give your energy an instant boost). Plus, an change in body temperature can help wake you up. Pair a workout with coffee, and you’re well on your way to your most alert morning ever.

2. Life is less likely to get in the way of an early workout.

While chances of a 7 A.M. breakfast date are pretty slim, post-work happy hours or late nights at the office have a way of derailing evening workout plans. If you have an unpredictable schedule at night, morning workouts are probably less likely to get canceled. “There is some research that shows morning exercisers have increased adherence [to their workout routine],” says Ball. “If you exercise in the evening, life can often get in the way, and people tend to skip more often. Since consistency is a key to maintaining fitness, this [factor] shouldn’t be minimized.”

3. Gyms are often quieter in the morning, so you might have more space. 

Hate waiting for a treadmill or a set of 15-pound dumbbells? Many gyms’ peak hours are right after the workday, according to Ball, so if the thought of working out in a crowded space stresses you out, earlier mornings might be a better bet. Try going at a few different times of day to feel out the situation, or ask your gym’s staff to see when the least busy times are. 

4. You’re getting your workout over and done with and setting a healthy tone for your day.

If you dread the thought of going to the gym after a long workday, mornings might be a good option—this way, “your workout won’t hang over your head the entire day,” says celebrity fitness expert Lacey Stone of Lacey Stone Fitness. “And you will feel you accomplished something before you even go into work.” By getting your workout in early, that’s one less thing you have to think about making time for later.

A potential drawback: Not everyone feels wired after a workout and for some people exercising first thing can leave them feeling drained during the day. 

The post Is It Better To Work Out In The Morning Or At Night? appeared first on SELF.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Here’s A Total-Body Cardio Exercise That Burns Mega Calories

Tara Moore / Getty Images

Oh, burpees—the move we all love to hate. This calorie-crushing exercise hurts so good for a reason: It puts your whole bod to work. “This move doesn’t leave a single large muscle group behind. You’re using your legs, your arms, your core—pretty much everything you’d would want to work during a training session,” says NYC-based trainer Diana Mitrea, co-founder of Stronger With Time.

This killer bodyweight move has serious calorie-burning benefits, too. “Since you’re recruiting all these muscle groups all at once, your body has to pull in a lot of oxygen and energy in a very short period of time. This makes burpees incredibly efficient at burning calories and improving strength overall,” says Mitrea. That’s why your heart rate will spike and you’ll feel breathless after just a few reps. 

Strength? Check. Cardio? Check. Sweat? Check, check, check. 

The more tired you get, though, the easier it is to lose that ultra-effective form. There are lots of different ways to do a burpee, but this is the most basic variation. So when you find exhaustion getting the best of you (these bad boys are hard as hell), try coming back to this correct form.

4 Steps To The Perfect Burpee:

BURPEE_STRICT_PUSHUP

Whitney Thielman

  1. Start standing with your feet hip-distance apart and bring your palms to the floor.
  2. Jump your feet back so that you are in a high plank, keeping your core tight and your hips lifted.
  3. Bend your elbows and lower yourself into a push-up, then push back up into high plank.
  4. Now jump your feet to the outside of your hands. As you stand up, explode up and jump as high as you can, bringing your arms overhead.

That’s 1 rep. Try doing as many as you can in 60 seconds. Or, try Tabata intervals, suggests Mitrea—that means you’ll do as many burpees as possible for 20 seconds then you’ll 10 seconds of rest. Do six to eight rounds for a killer cardio quickie.

There are tons of modifications you can do to a classic burpee. To make it easier, you can remove the push-up entirely (see the squat thrust here), or if you are looking for a non-impact burpee, you can walk your feet out and in instead of jumping, explains Mitrea. For a more advanced version, you can add a tuck jump at the end instead of a regular jump. You can also add mountain climbers while you’re in plank position.

And hey, if you felt the burn just reading this, you’re doing it right.

You may also like: 13 Incredible Bodyweight Exercises You Can Do At Home

Related:

The post Here’s A Total-Body Cardio Exercise That Burns Mega Calories appeared first on SELF.

Monday, 27 June 2016

1 Reason Your Workout Is Preventing You From Losing Weight

Sanne_Berg / Getty Images

Refueling after a workout is an important part of any fitness routine—the right nutrition choices can help you replenish your energy stores, build and maintain muscle, and rehydrate after sweating it out. However, when it comes to post-workout food choices, you can have too much of a good thing—and too much can mean not meeting your weight-loss goals

Successful weight loss comes down to creating a calorie deficit, but you still need to make sure that you’re eating enough to keep you powered up during your workouts and fuel muscle recovery. But, it’s also totally normal to feel hungrier once you start an exercise routine. So while fueling and refueling is important, you want to make sure you’re not overdoing it because that might be preventing you from seeing the results you’re after. And the adage is true—you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

“A lot of times when people start a new exercise regimen they’ll take a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition,” explains Nora Minno, R.D., C.P.T., an NYC-based registered dietitian and personal trainer. “For example, they’ll see what a lot of athletes, fitness competitors, or professional CrossFitters are eating post-workout and model their diet after that. The thing is, you have to do what’s right for you.”

“When I first started lifting weights, I ran into this problem myself,” she adds. “I was so concerned with making my post-workout meal effective and supportive of my fitness efforts, that I ended up exceeding my calorie needs. After a brief moment of frustration, I realized I just needed to tweak my caloric intake. After that, my body was burning fat and building lean muscle the way it was supposed to!”

The lesson? It’s important to make nutritious and strategic choices after a sweat session. While consuming a calorie- and carb-heavy protein bar may be appropriate for a hardcore athlete, for the average exerciser, that might be overdoing it. Aim for 10 to 20 grams of protein to help rebuild muscle, and include some carbs to replenish your glycogen stores, which your body uses for energy.

If you’re making smart post-workout food choices and staying within your caloric needs (here’s how to find how many calories you should eat to lose weight), working out can be a great way to help with your calorie deficit—just make sure you’re not overcompensating when you refuel. Here are four ways to make sure your post-workout snacking routine is working for you, not against you:

Related: 10 Strength-Training Tips For Beginners That Will Make Your Workout More Effective

1. Make sure you’re rehydrating after a workout.

While burning calories can make you hungrier, you may be confusing some of your post-exercise hunger with thirst. “Drink 16 to 32 ounces of water after a workout,” suggests Amelia DiDomenico, C.P.T., master trainer at Crunch Gyms. “Water replenishment is an essential aspect of your post-workout routine.” 

2. Try tracking your calories for a while to get a better picture of what you’re consuming.

“Track your food just learn a little bit about nutrition and how many calories are in the food that you eat every day,” says DiDomenico. “It’s like the opposite of a bank account—we want more coming in than going out,” she adds. “Just like looking at your spending, it is important to become aware of how much energy you are eating and how much energy you are truly expending.” You don’t have to resign yourself to counting calories forever—just doing it for a week or two can help you be more conscious about your calorie intake. Here’s how to keep track in a safe and healthy way.

3. And consider wearing a heart-rate monitor to see how many calories you’re actually burning, too. 

This helpful gadget will keep tabs on your intensity and measure your caloric burn—here’s how to choose the heart-rate monitor that’s right for you.

4. As a rule of thumb, you can add about 200 calories to your post-workout diet after an hour of hard exercise. 

“For about every hour of exercise you do each day, I would recommend adding about 200 to 250 calories to your diet post-workout,” says Minno. “Make sure you’re getting in good-quality protein and complex carbohydrates.” So before you recreate that huge post-workout snack idea from Instagram, consider your own needs. Here are a few ideas for balanced post-workout snacks, all around 200 calories.

While fitness is an important part of losing weight, your diet is important too. But with a healthy balance of both, you can successfully lose weight in a timely and healthy way.

You may also like: A Simple Fat-Burning Workout You Can Do At Home

The post 1 Reason Your Workout Is Preventing You From Losing Weight appeared first on SELF.

3 Resistance Band Workouts To Do In 15 Minutes Or Less

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If you’re looking for that perfect anywhere, anytime workout, a resistance band is one of the best tools around—they’re insanely versatile and super portable. Toss one in your suitcase for a quickie vacation workout, or just stash one in your closet for when you don’t have time to hit the gym. The best part? For something so simple, there are a surprising number of ways to use it to sculpt, tone, and sweat.

The exercises you can do with a resistance band are pretty much endless, and it can supercharge your favorite bodyweight moves. Not sure where to start? First, snag a band—some have handles, but simpler bands without handles can be even cheaper (and lighter). You can also tie them into a circular band for moves like these butt-sculpting exercises.

Next, try these three total-body workouts—they’ll get your heart pumping and your muscles burning, which means you’ll get a cardio and a strength workout in. And since they’re each 15 minutes or less, there are no excuses. Ready to work?

Related: The 1 Thing That Will Make Every Workout More Effective

1. Four moves, six minutes, full body.

This workout features two upper-body moves and two lower-body moves. For an extra burn, do two sets—or even three!

2. Or try this multitasking 12-minute routine from Tone it Up.

This routine has tons of moves that’ll strengthen two body parts at once (those lunges with curls burn so good). Plus, not a bad outdoor view, huh?

3. This 10-minute workout has an extra focus on cardio.

This workout will get your heart rate up thanks to quick transitions and minimal rest, so it’s great if you’re looking for a little extra cardio boost. 

The post 3 Resistance Band Workouts To Do In 15 Minutes Or Less appeared first on SELF.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Right Way To Do A Lunge For A Stronger Booty

Yurok / Getty Images

Lunges are one of those classic exercise moves for a reason—they work. But since they’ve probably been a part of your workout routine for as long as you can remember, it’s easy to let your form slip and rely on what you’re used to doing, even if it’s not entirely right. By getting back to basics, you can make sure you’re getting the most bang for your workout buck—and efficiently building strong legs and a butt that Will. Not. Quit.

Need a refresher? NYC-based trainer Courtney Paul, an instructor at RIPPED Fitness, is here to go through Lunges 101—because they’re definitely worth getting right. “The lunge is one of the most effective lower-body movements,” he says. “Lunges work the glutes, quads, and also engage the hamstrings.” These compound movements are also especially effective to include in your gym routine, because you burn more calories when you have more lean muscle mass.

There are a gazillion different lunge variations, but for now we’re going to focus on nailing the perfect reverse lunge. You’re using the same muscles as you would in a forward lunge, but this variation is a little easier because your center of gravity doesn’t change. That will help you stay balanced and stable during the movement, explains Paul. And it will “force you to push through the (front) heel and into the hips and glutes, which is exactly how it should be executed,” he adds.

Ready to get down (the right way)? Master the reverse lunge and the gym is yours.

Related: 10 Strength Training Tips For Beginners That Will Make Your Workout More Effective

Reverse Lunges

ReverseLunge

Whitney Thielman

  • Start in a standing position with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Inhale as you step backwards with your left foot. Land on the ball of your left foot and keep your heel off the ground.
  • Now bend your knees creating two 90-degree angles with your legs. Aim to have your back knee hovering about three to six inches off the ground. Get low!
  • Pause at the bottom position and let’s go over what form looks like here: You want to have your shoulders directly above your hips and your chest is upright (no leaning forward or backward). Your right shin is perpendicular to the floor and your right knee is stacked above your right ankle. Your butt is engaged and your core is tight. And don’t forget to breath!
  • Now push through the heel of your right foot to return to standing.
  • That’s one rep—repeat with the other leg. Aim to do three sets of 20 reps during your regular gym routine.

Want an extra challenge? “If you are more advanced, I would incorporate dumbbells to raise the bar,” says Paul. “I recommend a set of 10 to 15 pound dumbbells.” Hold them by your sides as you do your newly perfected reverse lunges.

Want an extra challenge? “If you are more advanced, I would incorporate dumbbells to raise the bar,” says Paul. He recommends holding a 10- or 15-pound dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your sides. You’ll feel the burn–big time.

You may also like: 13 Incredible Bodyweight Moves You Can Do At Home

The post The Right Way To Do A Lunge For A Stronger Booty appeared first on SELF.

The Workout You Need To Do If You’re Trying To Lose Weight

Mikolette / Getty Images

If you’re trying to lose weight, you probably already know that you need to burn more calories than you take in to meet your goals. Likely that thought conjures images of sweaty cardio classes and breathless outdoor training movie montages. But while it’s definitely true that cardio workouts can help you get the calorie deficit you need (in addition to sticking to a clean, healthy diet), strength training is what’s really going to give your weight-loss goals that extra boost.

Here’s the thing, while strength training may not give you the instant heart-pounding, sweat-dripping satisfaction of, say, Zumba or an indoor cycling class, in the long run, building lean muscle definitely works in favor of your weight-loss goals. The short version? Having more muscle means your body burns more calories at rest. The long version? Read on.

Related: Here’s Exactly What To Do If You Only Have 15 Minutes To Work Out

Strength training helps build lean muscle.

“Aerobic exercise is actually the most effective in losing weight, however, it’s not the best at burning fat and increasing lean mass (muscle),” says Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., founder of TS Fitness. When you’re losing weight strictly through cardio, it’s normal to lose muscle and fat. And if resistance training isn’t a part of your plan to counteract this, you could actually be slowing down your metabolism by losing lean muscle mass, rather than revving it up (which can lead to weight-loss plateaus). 

Strength training is better at much building muscle than a cardio-only routine, explains Michaela Devries-Aboud, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at McMaster University. “When you lift weights, you overload the muscle and it works to adapt to be able to lift more weight. The way the muscle adapts is by increasing something called myofibrillar size (the contractile units of the muscle),” she explains. Resistance training stimulates this growth, which leads to an increase in muscle mass over time. “And while aerobic exercise can also [stimulate this process], this increase is not as great as it is with resistance exercise.”

More muscle = a higher BMR (base metabolic rate).

Having more lean muscle means your body will burn more calories at rest. Having more muscle increases your everyday base metabolic rate, or BMR (AKA, how many calories your body would burn just to keep itself running if you did nothing but binge on Netflix all day). “Muscle mass is a more metabolically expensive tissue,” explains Devries-Aboud. “The metabolic demand of a pound of muscle is greater than it is for a pound of fat, so just sitting around, the amount of energy needed to maintain a pound of muscle per day is greater than that of a pound of fat. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn throughout the day.”

“Muscle is constantly being broken down, recreated, and synthesized, and all these processes require energy. The more muscle you have, the more energy it takes for this process,” adds Tamir. So by building more muscle, you’re stoking the fires of your metabolism. By increasing your BMR and burning more calories at rest, you’re also increasing your calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss. (Head over here to get all of the formulas and information you need to figure out how many calories you should eat for weight loss.) 

And don’t freak out if you don’t see huge results on the scale: “Go by how your clothes fit, because muscle is more compact than fat,” suggests Devries-Aboud. If you’re not losing as much weight as you think you should be, you’re probably building muscle as you’re losing fat, and that’s a good thing! (And no, you won’t get bulky.)

“That new muscle has a huge influence on decreasing body fat,” explains Holly Perkins, B.S., C.S.C.S. “The net result is that you are tighter and leaner, regardless of what the scale says.”

You’ll still burn calories during a strength workout.

Even though cardio gets a lot of the credit when it comes to calorie-torching workouts, you can still get a great burn during a strength-training session by adding in some heart-pumping elements. There are several things you can do maximize your burn, says Perkins: Move faster between exercises, don’t rest between sets, move quickly during each set, increase your reps, and choose heavier weights (but don’t go so heavy that you risk injury, of course). Or, “add a five-minute cardio burst in-between strength moves: Hop on the treadmill and jog or sprint for five minutes,” says Perkins.

“These methods work mostly because they increase your heart rate during the workout,” she explains. “An increase in heart rate means a greater need for fuel, and a greater need for fuel means that your body will demand more calories. Also, as a result of an intense workout, your excess post-exercise oxygen consumptionor EPOC, will [go up and] result in more calories being burned after the workout. Think of EPOC as a temporary boost to your metabolism.” This is known as the afterburn effect

Here’s how to add strength training into your weight-loss plan. 

At the end of the day, you still have to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight, and even though building muscle can help keep that up long-term, it’s still important to chip away at calories on a day-to-day basis. “Having a challenging cardiovascular routine helps in your caloric deficit,” says Tamir.

Moral of the story: Do both strength training and cardio, says Tamir. It’s important to include both types of training in a successful weight-loss plan. In general, Tamir recommends strength training three to four times a week for 45 to 60 minutes. “Strength training also gives you the ability to endure more during your aerobic training,” notes Tamir. “The stronger you are, the less effort it takes for you to complete aerobic exercise.” 

This means you can increase your performance in cardio-based activities: “For example, having strong glutes for running helps you go faster for longer, which burns more calories. And doing exercises to strengthen your core can help you maintain form for biking, which can also help you burn more calories,” says Tamir.

So no need to ditch the dance cardio or treadmill workout—just throw some weights into your routine a few times a week, too. 

You may also like: 12 Ultra-Effective Arm Exercises You Can Do At Home

The post The Workout You Need To Do If You’re Trying To Lose Weight appeared first on SELF.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

4 Standing Core Exercises That Will Sculpt Your Abs From Every Angle

Quavondo / Getty Images

Standing exercises are great for working the muscles of your entire core—from your back to your hips. (And they’re another reasons to skip the crunches.) These moves will help you develop core strength because you have to really engage your abs to stay standing tall and stable—they’re challenging your abs and your balance. And, if you tend to have neck or hip flexor pain when you do core work on the mat, these moves may be a great alternative for you. Of course, if you’re ever experiencing any sharp pains during exercise, stop and check in with your doctor.

While you shouldn’t neglect your floor abs workout entirely, standing exercises are a great way to mix up your regular routine. So give the four-move circuit below a try. You’ll need one dumbbell—start with a weight that’s five to eight pounds, and go heavier when you can.

The Workout: Do 10 reps of each move and repeat the entire circuit two to three times. Or, add your favorite exercise to your normal training session.

1. Core Stabilizer — do 10 reps

  • Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell straight out in front of your chest with both hands.
  • Move your torso slightly, and slowly begin to rotate your arms to the right as far as you can.
  • Pause for a second. Then rotate in the opposite direction. That’s 1 rep, do 10.

2. Reverse Dumbbell Chop — do 10 reps on each side

  • Hold a dumbbell in both hands and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and rotate your torso to the left so that your hands are on the outside of your left thigh.
  • Keeping your arms straight, slowly swing the weight diagonally across your torso so that it’s above your right shoulder as you straighten your legs.
  • Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s 1 rep, do 10, then switch sides.

3. Standing Oblique Bends — do 10 reps on each side

STANDING_OBLIQUE_CRUNCH
  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hands behind your head and elbows wide.
  • Lift your left knee toward your left elbow while you bend your torso up and over to the left. That’s 1 rep, do 10, then switch sides.

4. Warrior Balance — do 10 reps on each side

  • Stand on your left foot and lift your right knee to hip height in front of your body.
  • Reach your torso forward as you extend your right leg behind you. Keep your standing leg slightly bent as your torso becomes parallel with the floor. Extend your arms overhead to help with balance.
  • Pause for a second, then reverse the movement. That’s 1 rep, do 10, then switch sides.

You may also like: Try This 10-Minute Plyometric Workout You Can Do At Home

The post 4 Standing Core Exercises That Will Sculpt Your Abs From Every Angle appeared first on SELF.

11 Amazing Reasons To Work Out That Have Nothing To Do With Weight Loss

JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Even when you have the best intentions, sometimes, it can be really, really hard to drag yourself to the gym. Whether your bed or brunch plans are calling your name, sidestepping workout plans is all too easy when you’re feeling tired, stressed, and your willpower is running dangerously low. Finding the motivation to work out doesn’t have to be about getting stronger or leaner. Sometimes those are goals, and sometimes they aren’t, and there are a 1,001 other amazing reasons to lace up your sneakers or unroll your yoga mat that have absolutely nothing to do with losing weight. Here are 11 of our favorites.

Related: 14 Motivational Fitness Quotes To Inspire You Every Time You Work Out

1. Here’s something to smile about: Exercise is a happiness booster!

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Justin Case, Getty Images

Endorphins, amiright? The link between exercise and happiness has been well-studied, and the results are very positive (just like you’ll be after some gym time). One study from the University of Vermont found that just 20 minutes of exercise can boost your mood for 12 hours. Cardio and strength training can both give you a lift, and 30-60 minutes of exercise three to five days a week is optimal for mood benefits, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

2. Feeling fit can help you be your most confident self. 

Completing a tough workout, especially the ones you do when you’d much rather stay in bed, can give you a serious confidence boost. Sticking to your plan and hitting the gym (even when you’re not feeling it) can make you feel like you can take on the world.

3. And, it’s an excuse to buy a cute new gym outfit or colorful sneaks!

I mean, you could wear your favorite kicks or workout pants just to run errands, but where’s the fun in that? When you’ve actually, y’know, exercised in them, you can work them with a sense of accomplishment.

4. Exercise can energize you.

If you struggle with a touch of fatigue, exercise might be just what the doctor ordered. According to a study from the University of Georgia, the blood flow benefits from exercise help carry oxygen and nutrients to muscles, which helps them produce more energy. They found that even low-to-moderate intensity exercise for just 20 minutes a day, three days a week for six weeks can help with that can’t-keep-my-eyes-open feeling.

5. Working out reduces day-to-day stress.

Sweating it out in the gym is a known de-stressor. Harvard Medical School has shown that aerobic exercise helps curb stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline (as long as you’re not overdoing it), while also flooding your system with feel-good endorphins. It also ups the calming, good-mood brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. So while exercise itself is actually putting low-level physical stress on the body, it can be pretty mentally relaxing.

The post 11 Amazing Reasons To Work Out That Have Nothing To Do With Weight Loss appeared first on SELF.

Friday, 24 June 2016

How To Do A Perfect Plank That’ll Strengthen Your Core Like No Other

Jacob Ammentorp Lund / Getty Images

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, planks are an exercise you’re probably pretty familiar with—after all, sometimes it feels like they’re in every fitness class ever. Basic as they may seem, though, there’s actually a lot that goes into the perfect core-shaking, ab-quaking plank. And the better your form, the better your results.

There are endless plank variations—side planks, forearm planks, you name it—but high planks are probably the most pared-down version of this challenging exercise. “The high plank targets the core, which is your body’s stabilizer,” says NYC-based trainer Courtney Paul, an instructor at RIPPED Fitness. But it’s a great total-body move—when you’re in proper form you’ll also be working your arms, butt, and legs.

Nailing the high plank can help you crush more challenging variations of the move down the road (this advanced plank, anyone?). Here’s how it’s done:

Related: 9 Ridiculously Effective Exercises That Work Your Abs

High Plank

high-plank

Valerie Fischel

  • Start on the ground, hands and knees shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift your knees off the ground and push your feet back, bringing your body to full extension.
  • Once you’re there, make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart to start. This will help you feel more stable in the position, having your feet closer together will make the exercise more challenging.
  • Keeping a tight core is key here. “Envision your navel going to your spine while slightly tucking your pelvis,” says Paul. And keep those hips lifted! You want to create one long line that connects your shoulders, hips, and ankles.
  • To keep your neck and spine in a neutral position, try aiming your chin about six inches in front of your body.
  • Keep your palms directly below your shoulders and pressing against the ground.
  • Think length—imagine that you’re extending from the crown of your head and out through your heels simultaneously.
  • And don’t forget to keep your entire body engaged so tighten your quads and push through your palms.
  • Aim to hold this position for 30 to 45 seconds, and work your way up to 60 to 90 seconds once you get stronger. Oh, and remember to keep breathing!

We’re calling this move high plank to distinguish it from a forearm plank, but you can totally just call it a plank if you want. Now, is your core on fire yet? Great—time to move into your next plank variation. Kidding…kind of.

You may also like: 12 ultra-effective arm exercises you can do at home:

The post How To Do A Perfect Plank That’ll Strengthen Your Core Like No Other appeared first on SELF.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The 1 Thing That Will Make Every Workout More Effective

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Even though you might feel like going balls to the wall during every workout, it’s not just about training harder—it’s about training smarter. Enter the heart-rate monitor, which offers a really easy way to keep tabs on your intensity level. “You can see in real time how hard you’re actually working, because it measures how fast your heart is beating,” says Pete McCall, M.S., C.S.C.S. Many also give you a good estimate of how many calories you actually burned (which is way more accurate than a count on a cardio machine). These details will give you a whole new look at your fitness habits—and help you get the results you want faster.

This information can help you see when you’re crushing it in your workout class, as well as when you’re not actually working as hard as you think you are. It can also give you a clear picture of how effective your workouts are, and maybe even help you find one you actually love. Plus, it can be motivating as hell to see your sweat in the numbers. 

Where heart-rate monitors really shine, though, is that they allow you to see the percentage of your maximum heart rate you’re working out at, or how close you’re getting to the hardest work you can possibly do. And harder isn’t always better.

“With high-intensity training, you only need two or three sessions a week to boost your caloric output, but your body needs time to recover,” explains McCall. It’s important to include a few days of lower-intensity exercise too, like steady-state cardio or weight training. A heart-rate monitor can help keep you on track so you don’t overdo it with the intensity every single day. Overtraining increases your chance for injury and can hinder your day-to-day performance, and it puts a ton of stress on the body, says McCall.

By wearing a heart-rate monitor, you can make sure you’re pushing hard enough when you need to (like during high-intensity intervals, when you want to be giving it your all), and recovering enough when you need to (like during the recovery section of an interval workout or a lower-intensity day).

To make the most of the information a heart-rate monitor gives you, start by figuring out your maximum heart rate. Many devices will estimate your maximum heart rate for you when you set up your profile, but if you want to check it out yourself, McCall recommends the Tanaka method to give you a good estimate:

Maximum heart rate (MHR) = 208 – (0.7 x your age)

So, if you’re 25 years old, you would multiply 25 by 0.7, which equals 17.5. Then, subtract that from 208. In this case, your max heart rate would be about 190 BPM, or beats per minute. Now, to get a picture of your how hard you’re working, you can look at your heart rate in comparison to that maximum number. Now that you have that number, you can use it to find your intensity zones.

Low-intensity cardio = between (.6 x MHR) and (.7 x MHR)

This would be about 60 to 70 percent of your max heart rate, explains McCall. If your MHR was 190 and you worked between 114 BPM and 133 BPM, that would be a low-intensity day.

Moderate-intensity cardio = between (.7 x MHR) and (.85 x MHR)

If you wanted to do a moderate cardio day, you’d want to work at about 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. That’d be between about 133 BPM and 162 BPM if your MHR is 190. This range is ideal for a steady-state day, says McCall, which you should do two to three of every week (rather than doing all high-intensity training). This is also the range you should try to go back to during rest sections of high-intensity intervals, says McCall, so you can push hard again when it’s time to kick it into high gear.

High-intensity cardio = (.85 x MHR) and above

High-intensity cardio is anything above about 85 percent of your max heart rate, so that’s about 162 BPM or higher for a 190 MHR. This heart-rate zone torches serious calories, but pushing into this range isn’t ideal all the time, since your body needs recovery. Of course, it’s important not to get too stressed out about the numbers—do you best to stay within your target range, and you’ll see results.

Heart-rate monitors can also be useful if you’re training for a long-distance race or event, so you can learn how to pace yourself without burning out. No matter what your goals are, though, wearing a heart-rate monitor can take your fitness to the next level—whether you want to watch your calories burned, check out the intensity of your favorite workouts, create an efficient training plan, or just motivate yourself.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to shopping for a heart-rate monitor here are a few things to know:

1. Chest-strap models that connect to a watch or phone app are generally considered the most accurate, because they sit close to your heart at your sternum, but some wrist monitors (which use your radial artery or light sensors to measure heartbeat, according to McCall) can be effective, too. It’s all about what you feel comfortable wearing.

2. Consider your goals. “The more specific the training goal, the bigger role a monitor can play in helping you achieve it,” says McCall. If you’re more casual about your workouts, you can probably opt for a cheaper model with fewer features. But “if you have a specific goal, like a PR in a running event, then a monitor can be an important training tool and you won’t want to skimp on the investment.”

3. Figure out what stats you need. “Less expensive monitors might just show the heart rate, which is all a general fitness enthusiast needs,” he adds. “More expensive monitors can track calories spent during a workout, and some include a GPS to track distance and speed. The more expensive ones will include a way to download the information to a computer so you can track your progress or results from one workout or competition to the next.” You can expect to pay anywhere from $50 for a basic model to upwards of $500 for a super high-tech device.

Here are six models to consider investing in, all under $250:

Related: The Best Workout Tanks Under $40 For Your Summer Workout

The post The 1 Thing That Will Make Every Workout More Effective appeared first on SELF.

14 Motivational Fitness Quotes To Inspire You Every Time You Work Out

Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Sometimes, no matter how important your goals are to you, it’s a struggle to bring your best effort to your gym session (or work up the motivation to make it happen at all). But whether you’re trying to lose weight, train for a race, keep your stress in check, or any of the other worthwhile reasons to make fitness a part of your life, staying consistent is key, even when you really, really, really don’t feel like it. When you’re struggling to remember why it’s worth all the effort, these 14 fitness quotes will give you the push you need. Consider these gems of fitness inspiration the antidote to your temporarily unenthusiastic fitness ‘tude—or save them for any time you need a little extra boost to get you moving, mind, body, and soul.

Related: 5 Energizing Moves That Also Strengthen Your Core

1. Remember who you’re doing it for.

fitness-quote_13

Graphic by Valerie Fischel 

2. Be proud.

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Graphic by Valerie Fischel

3. Consider the possibilities.

fitness-quote_10

Graphic by Valerie Fischel

The post 14 Motivational Fitness Quotes To Inspire You Every Time You Work Out appeared first on SELF.

Here’s 1 Simple Way To Help Prevent Neck And Back Pain

Chad Springer / Getty Images

For a lot of us, that daily office grind is just a part of life—but unfortunately, slouching in front of a computer all day has some not-so-great effects on our posture. Couple that with hunching over your phone all the time to scroll through Insta or send a few texts, and we’ve got a neck-and-back nightmare on our hands—or, should we say, on our shoulders. 

By staring down at our phones and craning our necks toward computer screens, “the upper back and neck muscles become strained and stiff and can even become painful,” explains NYC-based trainer Diana Mitrea, co-founder of Stronger With Time. Keeping your core and back muscles strong and limber is a simple remedy, and the one move below will help you feel better, and sit a little straighter.

The sequence incorporates three moves (a row, a rotator raise, and a superman), and you’ll need an exercise bench to do it. While many core and back-strengthening exercises can have positive effects on your posture and help ward off pain, “this is one of the most effective exercises to do to strengthen the muscles of the upper back and anything connected to the scapula (the shoulder blades),” she adds. “By strengthening these muscles, your body will more naturally pull the shoulders back and down, giving you much better posture.”

Work this move into your regular gym routine to help you stand tall and pain-free:

Do three sets of 10 reps of this move two times per week.

yti

Whitney Thielman

  • Lie down on the bench with your chest in the center, your neck and face off the front of the bench. Your feet should be on the floor, or for more of a challenge, off the bench behind you. 
  • Hold your arms at a 90-degree angle below the bench, with your forearms under the bench seat and with your palms facing your feet.
  • Bring your elbows up to shoulder level and squeeze your shoulder blades together as tight as you can.
  • Rotate the forearms upwards to make a goal post with your arms, bringing your palms to face the ground.
  • Reach your arms above your head, and then bring them back to the goal post position, once again by squeezing the muscles of the upper back.
  • Return to the starting position. That’s one rep—do three sets of 10 reps.

Make sure you’re squeezing your shoulder blades together during this move, and keep your shoulders down and away from your ears, advises Mitrea. You should start doing this move without weights, but feel free to work your way up to two- to three-pound dumbbells (at most) for an added challenge as you get comfortable. So give this move a try—your back and neck will thank you.

You may also like: 12 Ultra-Effective Arm Workout Moves You Can Do At Home

The post Here’s 1 Simple Way To Help Prevent Neck And Back Pain appeared first on SELF.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Best And Worst Exercises For Tight Hips

You wake up in the morning to run or hit a Spinning class—yay!—but then you spend the entire day sitting, hunched over a computer or phone. We all do it, and that’s why it’s so common to spend happy hour bemoaning your super tight hips or begging your yoga teacher to “please please please let us spend extra time in Pigeon pose today.”

In order to have happy hips, you need to be stretching and strengthening them—same goes for the muscles around your hips, too. While dynamic stretches are great—like a kneeling hip flexor stretch—they’re not always enough. So we enlisted Brynn Fessette, DPT, FAFS, physical therapist and clinical director at Finish Line Physical Therapy in New York City, to break down the best—and worst—exercises for tight hips to help prevent current and future pains.

Do these four moves.

“You want your body to be able to load and explode,” says Fessette. “That means loading and strengthening the muscles so they can perform for you however you need them to. The body works in three planes of motion—the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes,” says Fessette. “All your muscles and joints load in all three planes, so the key is to open up the hips and load them for strengthening, so they’re healthy, loose, and functional.” Try doing these four moves twice per week.

1. Forward Lunge With Overhead Reach

How to do it: Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Starting with your right foot, lunge forward and reach arms overhead. Then return to standing and repeat with the opposite leg. Do 10 reps on each side. Make sure your hips are driving forward as you reach overhead so the stretch is occurring at your hips and not just your low back.  

Why it works: “This move gives you a great stretch, opening up your back hip while loading the front leg—just like when you walk or run—making it more functional,” says Fessette.

2. Lateral Lunge With Same-Side Rotation

How to do it: Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart and arms extended in front of you at shoulder height. Now lunge to the side with your right leg—keeping your feet parallel—while twisting your torso and left arm to the right. Your hips will continue to face forward. Do 10 reps, then switch sides. 

Why it works: “This exercise is a good hip opener in the frontal plane,” says Fessette. “A lot of our daily activities happen in the sagittal plane, so it’s important that we tap into the frontal plane and those lateral movements in order to give us better all-around strength and mobility.” 

3. Rotational Pivot Lunge

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, then rotate to your left and take a step with your left foot approximately 45 degrees behind you. You’ll land in a pliĆ© squat position. Now take your left foot and place it next to your right (about a foot apart) with toes point in. Your knees will fall in slightly. Then step back out to the pliĆ© squat position. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.

This one is tricky so check out the video here to make sure you’re doing it properly. One tip: “Wherever your toes are pointing, the knees should follow. Aim the knee between your first and second toe. If it hurts, sit your butt back more or don’t go as deep.”

Why it works: “This exercise opens up the hip in the transverse, rotational plane,” says Fessette. “This move and the two lunging exercises before it all combine to open all three planes motion, while simultaneously strengthening your legs.”

4. Single-Leg Pivot

How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Shift your weight to your right foot and lift your left foot a few inches off the ground. Start to tap your left foot forward, then backward. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.

Why it works: “Now we’re working on balancing,” says Fessette. “By moving your leg, you’re opening and closing your hip while holding your balance. You’re essentially asking your leg to be able to stabilize you in a single-leg stance.”

Related: 6 Ballerina-Approved Stretches For Tight Hips And Legs

What not to do: V sit-ups, leg raises, or flutter kicks.

“All of these core exercises require you to be lying on the ground,” says Fessette. “Most people don’t fully stabilize their cores when they’re doing these moves, so they have an arch in their backs. When that happens, your hip flexors are actually doing most of the work. You need your core to stabilize you, or you’ll overuse your hip flexors.” Listen to your body, if it hurts, skip it. There are plenty of other amazing ways to work your core that won’t irritate your tight hips—like these five core-strengthening exercises.

You may also like: Try this 10-minute plyometric workout you can do at home:

The post The Best And Worst Exercises For Tight Hips appeared first on SELF.

9 Ridiculously Effective Exercises That Work Your Abs

Master1305 / Getty Images

When it comes to strengthening your core you don’t need to work your abdominal muscles to complete exhaustion. Yep, you don’t have to be so hardcore when it comes to getting a hard core. By focusing on effective exercises (read: not performing mindless crunches or holding a plank for so long that good form is a concept versus a reality), you can see the abs results you’re after.

Of course, it takes both smart training and a healthy diet to develop a rock-solid core. But consider these nine bodyweight exercises lesson one. Core school is now in session. 

1. Side Plank With A Twist

  • Come into a forearm side plank on your left side with your left elbow resting on the floor below your shoulder.
  • Place your right arm behind your head.
  • Rotate your torso toward the floor, bringing your right elbow to meet your left hand. Don’t let your hips drop.
  • Return to start.

2. Mountain Climbers

  • Start in high plank and draw your right knee under your torso, keeping the toes off the ground.
  • Return your right foot to starting position.
  • Switch legs and bring your left knee under your chest. Keep switching legs as if you’re running in place.

3. Plank Up

  • Start in high plank. Bend one arm to bring the elbow and forearm to the floor.
  • Bring the other arm down so you are in a forearm plank.
  • Push back up to the start position, placing each hand where your elbows were.
  • Repeat this movement, alternating which side you lower first with each rep.

4. Front Lunge With A Twist

  • Start standing with feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a big step forward with right foot and bend knees to lower into lunge while twisting torso over right leg.
  • Return to standing. Alternate sides with each rep.

The post 9 Ridiculously Effective Exercises That Work Your Abs appeared first on SELF.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Here Are 7 Seriously Effective Exercises For Your Arms

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of SELF.

Want a more powerful jab—and another reason to rock that new tank top? Try these killer moves used by Olympic boxer Mikaela Mayer. Mayer’s coach, Billy Walsh, focuses on strengthening the 26-year-old lightweight’s shoulders, biceps and triceps to help her land powerful hooks and punches…even when exhausted. “Every boxer gets tired in a fight,” Walsh says. “Mikaela’s dedication to training, both mentally and physically, helps her deal with whatever comes her way.” Coming off a first-place finish at the Olympics qualifier, she’s more ready than ever to fight for gold in Rio.

Your Trainer: Mikaela Mayer’s coach, Billy Walsh.

You’ll Need: a pair of 5-pound dumbbells and a 10-pound medicine ball.

Do: this entire routine three times weekly.

Scroll down to see a GIF of each move, and be sure to Pin and print the graphic at the bottom to refer back to this workout easily. 

1. Medicine Ball Push-Up — do 3 sets of 6 reps

RotationalPushupFinal

Works shoulders, chest, core, arms

  • Start in a high plank with hands slightly wider than chest, right hand on ball.
  • Do a push-up, then roll ball to left hand and do another push-up for 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 6 reps.

2. Weighted Punch — do 3 sets of 12 reps

RotationalPushupFinal

Works biceps, shoulders

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells at shoulders, palms in. Slowly punch right hand forward at shoulder height.
  • Return to start; switch sides and repeat for 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

3. Hands-Up Row — do 3 sets of 12 reps

RotationalPushupFinal

Works biceps, shoulders, upper back

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart in a quarter squat, torso forward, back straight, holding dumbbells with palms up­.
  • Keeping elbows close to body, squeeze shoulder blades and pull dumbbells to hips. Lower to start for 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

The post Here Are 7 Seriously Effective Exercises For Your Arms appeared first on SELF.

2 Simple Stretches That Will Help You Sleep Like A Baby Tonight

Image Source / Getty Images

Keeping your eyes open at 4:45 P.M. takes monumental effort some days. And, despite trying to hit the sheets earlier, it always seems like a second wind rolls around at 10 P.M. threatening those well-intentioned plans to get eight whole hours of sleep. If you have a tough time shutting down at night (even though your body needs those Zzzz’s), some strategic stretching could help break your night-owl cycle.

“For many of us, we just don’t know how to slow down and unwind. We run around all day, stimulated by work, exercise, and technology. It’s difficult to come down and prepare our bodies and minds for a night of rest,” explains Jillian Pransky, director of the restorative yoga teacher training program for YogaWorks and author of Deep Listening (out October 2017). “Practicing yoga and stretching can help us to calm down. It can release excess tension and ‘noise’ from our muscles and our mind.” 

Prep for bedtime by quieting your thoughts and practicing these two yoga-inspired stretches that just feel oh so good. Focus on your breathing, set your intention, and do your best to clear your mind of the day’s stressors. You’ll be ready to tuck in before you know it.

Related: 3 Exercises You Should Do As Soon As You Wake Up

1. Child’s Pose — hold for one minute

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Valerie Fischel

“Child’s pose and other forward bends allow you to retreat from outer stimulus and turn inwards. They are known to quiet the mind, lengthen the spine, and help you come back into your body,” says Pransky. Here’s how to do it:

  • Come to all fours, with your legs and knees comfortably apart.
  • Sit back on your heels and fold forward, resting your belly on your thighs completely.
  • Place your forehead on a block, blanket, or the mat and release the full weight of your head. Press your palm against the mat and try to create space between your head and your tailbone.
  • Hold for one minute.

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Is BPA-Free Plastic Safe?

Is BPA-Free Plastic Safe? Blog Post

"BPA-free" is the buzzword of choice for water bottles and plastic packaging. Bisphenol A (BPA)—the chemical that hardens plastic food containers and is in the lining of metal cans to prevent corrosion—has gotten bad press for having a harmful estrogen-mimicking effect, which may cause early puberty and lower sperm counts, even raise your risk of obesity, diabetes and some cancers (breast, ovarian, testicular, prostate).

11 Of The Best CrossFit Gyms In America

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of SELF.

In honor of July’s Reebok CrossFit Games, we’re highlighting our favorite venues for chalking up, doing deadlifts and swinging kettlebells.

1. Solace; New York City, New York

Sure, schmancy details like grass-adorned walls and flatirons in the locker room are impressive, but the coaches and programming are top-notch, too. This dreamy “box” (CrossFit lingo for gym) is tricked out with athletic turf, loads of barbells and an Olympic lifting platform. Bonus: Yoga classes take place regularly in the group fitness studio.

2. Brick Grand Central; New York City, New York

Brick’s Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and NYC locations are all known for their warm and fuzzy community vibe. Equally awesome: amenities like fully stocked locker rooms and an on-site Caveman Coffee Bar (butter in your java, anyone?). You may even bump into A-list members like Bob Harper in a HIIT or mobility class.

3. CrossFit Central Downtown; Austin, Texas

One of the first CrossFit locations in the world, this is a classic, bare-bones box smack-dab in the middle of Austin. Its women’s-only programming is designed for all ages and experience and fitness levels.

4. CrossFit New England; Natick, Massachusetts

Home to some of the sport’s biggest names, including 2015’s Fittest Woman on Earth, Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir, this mega space with blue accents has classes for all levels, whether you’re still mastering a clean and jerk or can already do a pull-up. It’s the kind of place where locals come for a workout, then stay to hang out.

5. CrossFit Sanitas; Boulder, Colorado

Triathletes and marathoners train at altitude in beautiful Boulder, and many of them are drawn to this box’s holistic, fend-off-injury approach. Expect complementary offerings like acupuncture, physical therapy and massage.

6. MBS CrossFit; Broomfield, Colorado

Every WOD (that’s workout of the day) feels epic inside this massive airplane hanger turned gym, thanks to the Rocky Mountain views through the garage door. If you’re lucky, you’ll do your warm-up outside on the tarmac!

7. NC Fit; Santa Clara, California

Founded by 2008 games champ Jason Khalipa, this West Coast gem (one of the chain’s five Bay Area locations) gives members everything they need to become better CrossFitters. Think: cardio-based QuickFit classes to increase speed and endurance, and a yoga space to help athletes improve flexibility and mobility.

8. Reebok CrossFit Miami Beach; Miami, Florida

Coaches frequently move WODs outside this box’s aqua walls and into the South Beach sunshine, so members get to squat with a side of sand. Those looking for a longer burn can tackle a cardio-based class that incorporates running or rowing.

9. Windy City CrossFit Chicago; Chicago, Illinois

Creative programming and traditional CrossFit classes coexist at this popular Chi-Town spot. Addictive options include Assault, which incorporates the assault bike—a brutally challenging cardio machine that most CrossFitters have a love-hate relationship with.

10. San Francisco CrossFit; San Francisco, California

Home to CrossFit-favorite physical therapist Dr. Kelly Starrett (better known by his social handle @mobilityWOD), this Golden State gem is known for its incorporation of flexibility and mobility training to its regular programming.

11. CrossFit AllStar; Waimea, Hawaii

Fan of fitness and big on family? You’ll fit right in with the community at this by-the-beach box, where they host regular activities like movie night and dodgeball. They even have a designated kids play area for little ones to get in their “workout” while you crush yours!

Related: Here’s What Happened When 3 Friends Tried CrossFit For 2 Months

For more from the Olympics issue, subscribe to SELF. This full issue is available June 28 on national and digital newsstands.

You may also like: Try this 10-minute plyometric workout you can do at home:

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12 Power Moves 4 Top Athletes Swear By

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of SELF.

Whether they’re running 19 mph down a track or dunking in a basketball game, athletes are the closest thing we have to real-life superheroes. We asked four of our favorites what unique power has helped them become champions, as well as the moves that keep them powered up. 

Dawn Harper-Nelson

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Age: 32
Home base: Los Angeles
Sport: Hurdles

 ”I visualize the first eight steps of a race for hours beforehand, trying to get them just right in my head,” says Dawn Harper-Nelson, who will run the 100-meter hurdles in Rio. That total commitment to precision—plus a smooth stride powered by superstrong glutes and legs—helps her clear hurdles at breakneck pace. And the track star knows firsthand how crucial each micro-moment is for a podium finish: She missed the gold medal in London in 2012 by a mere 0.02 second. Her attention to detail started young. “My mom used to call me inside as it was getting dark, and I’d beg to practice more,” says the self- described perfectionist. “Then I’d come in and hurdle the arm of the couch!”

Her Moves

Improving as a sprinter involves more than running. Harper-Nelson shares her plyometric drills for a speedier stride.

1. High Knees Run in place, bringing knees to chest as high as possible while pumping arms, landing on balls of feet. Keep chest lifted throughout. Continue for 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat twice.

2. A Skip Skip forward with lead knee at waist height, back leg straight. Strike ground with midfoot or forefoot as you swing opposite arm. Continue for 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat twice.

3. Butt Kick Run in place, kicking feet to glutes while pumping arms, landing on balls of feet. Keep chest lifted throughout. Continue for 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat twice.

4. Pause Squat Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes out. Keep chest up and back straight as you squat with knees over ankles until thighs are parallel to floor. Pause 10 seconds. Return to start for 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Gevvie Stone

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Age: 31
Home base: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Sport: Rowing

There’s a beautifully rhythmic cadence to rowing: Lean forward, catch the blade in the water, push through your heels and pull the oar back. “You practice that motion over and over, usually alone,” says Gevvie Stone, who will compete in single sculls in Rio. It helps that the drive to succeed on the water is in the Princeton grad’s DNA: Her parents were Olympic rowers, and boat was her first word as a baby. Still, creating that poetic repetition on the water takes major muscle. She spends up to 90 minutes a day lifting weights. “You have to embrace the hurt,” says Stone, a med school grad accustomed to chasing big dreams: She plans to become an orthopedic surgeon after the Olympics.

Her Moves

Lower-body strength is key for Stone, since her legs generate 70 percent of her power in rowing.

1. Reverse Lunge Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step left leg back into lunge, both knees bent 90 degrees. Push through front heel to return to start. Repeat on opposite side for 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

2. Jumping Lunge Stand with feet hip-width apart. Jump and land in a lunge, right leg forward. Jump again, switching legs. Continue for 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat twice.

3. Suitcase Squat Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand, palms in. Push hips back and lower into squat. Drive through heels to stand for 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

4. Deadlift Row Stand with feet hip-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand, palms back. Bend at waist, bringing torso parallel to floor. Pull weights to ribs. Lower, then stand for 1 rep. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

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That Moment When: Gwen Jorgensen

olympics-gwen-jorgensen

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of SELF.

Gwen Jorgensen was working as a tax accountant in Milwaukee, balancing her office job and crack-of-dawn training sessions with a group of local cyclists. But even with that rigorous schedule, she qualified for the 2012 Olympics. The magnitude of her raw talent was surprising—even to herself. “When the U.S. triathlon team first recruited me, I kind of laughed at them,” the 30-year-old remembers. But once she was in, she was all in. So getting a flat tire at mile 13 in the London Games felt devastating. Jorgensen ended up finishing 38th, but her competitive drive was stronger than ever. “All I could think about was Rio,” she says. After London, she committed her life to the sport, extending her leave of absence indefinitely to train like other top triathletes. Jorgensen now spends nine months a year abroad with a coach who guides her four daily workouts. The investment has paid off: She’s the first American woman to win consecutive triathlon world championships and is the favorite for gold in Rio. “If I cross the finish line first, they’ll play our national anthem,” she says. “That would be incredible.”

Gwen Jorgensen’s Road To Rio:

1st: In 2013, she became the first U.S. woman to win an International Triathlon Union World Triathlon Series race.

2010: Jorgensen was named USA Triathlon Rookie of the Year.

12: Number of ITU World Triathlon Series wins in her historic 2014–15 streak.

To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit teamusa.org. The Olympics begin August 5th on NBC.

For more, pick up the July/August issue of SELF on newsstands, subscribe, or download the digital edition.

Swimsuit, Frank Tell, $450; Jason Campbell Malibu, 310-456-3594. Sneakers, $130; AsicsTiger.com.

Styled by Michaela Dosamantes; Hair, Dana Boyer for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup, Laura Stiassni for Dior Addict.

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