Category Archives: Fitness

The Healthy Way to Beat Stress with Exercise

Stress of all kinds (ex: exercise, accident, illness, trauma, an argument, generalized anxiety, etc.) can impact our endocrine systems both immediately and over a prolonged period of time. When our bodies sense a stressor they release both epinephrine and norepinephrine right away. These hormones dissipate rather quickly once the body perceives it’s no longer in danger or threatened. The famous “stress hormone” called cortisol is released about 10 minutes after the initial stressor and does not dissipate quickly. Instead, cortisol can circulate in the body for 1-2 hours.

Normal levels of cortisol rise and fall throughout the day with our circadian rhythms. People experiencing prolonged elevation of cortisol might demonstrate “anxiety, agitation, poor sleep, ‘wired but tired’ feeling and a fast pulse.” Over time, the constant release of cortisol causes the hormone to accumulate in the body to the point that the adrenal glands can’t produce any more of it. This is when the “exhaustion phase” begins following chronic stress and anxiety.

 

 

The Exhaustion Phase

During this period of exhaustion, the body’s immune system is vulnerable and small stressors are more difficult to manage. People might experience emotional issues, poor sleep, increased pain, slower wound healing, and other challenges that outwardly reflect the body’s dysregulated state.

I’ve lived for long periods of time in the fatigued state that follows an excess of cortisol. It happened when I over-trained in just about every exercise format while also working full-time as a personal trainer. It happened again after getting hit by a car. I also felt exhaustion rear its ugly head after postpartum anxiety plagued me during the sleep-deprived days of caring for both of my infant sons. And, just when I thought I’d never get burned out again, it happened after I endured a traumatic loss and surgery last fall.

So, take it from me [a health professional] when I say that you can set aside any shame, blame and guilt that you want to put on yourself for your stress getting out of hand. It just happens sometimes. This is life. What matters is that you do your best to learn how to manage stress better as the years pass. You can start by taking the simple steps to manage lifestyle habits that support the healthiest version of you possible. I will talk about how to do that with exercise today but I encourage you to seek a mental health counselor who can address the root of the problem and a naturopath who can help you rebalance hormones.

 

The Stress of Exercise

As many of you already know, exercise is a stressor. Hard exercise can become “too much of a good thing” for someone who is experiencing adrenal fatigue from the prolonged release of cortisol. If you’re currently experiencing a major life change, loss, accident, illness, stressor, or long-term fatigue, then my advice to you is to avoid exercise modalities like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), distance running/biking, competitive events, classes that focus on elevating your heart rate above 70-80% max, boot camps, and other forms of exercise that you might define as intense or very intense. Now isn’t the time! Set aside the long workouts, the twice a day workouts, the intense workouts, and even the everyday workouts. Make sure you have at least two rest days a week.

 

Here are the healthy options for exercise that will help you recover from prolonged stress (and beat stress in general)!

 

 

Exercise that Feels Fun and Uplifting

This is about as straightforward as it can get: HAVE FUN. Exercise formats and routines that you find enjoyable will help you stay committed and lift your mood too. Try a dance class or ballroom dancing lessons if you used to dance when you were younger or have always dreamed of getting better at it. Try walking or jogging a local trail that has a great view or outdoor exercise equipment stations that you can play around on. Go for a gentle bike ride with your kids or sign-up for a family fun run. Whatever sounds exciting – and not too rigorous – is what you should pick first! Challenge yourself in a positive way without overdoing it.

 

 

Get Outside for Exercise

Exercising outdoors is a great way to help boost feel-good hormones. Science shows us that being outside helps to raise both serotonin and dopamine: “Serotonin is responsible for many functions such as memory, sleep, behavior, and appetite. Dopamine affects movement, emotional response, and your ability to feel pleasure.”

As you can see, so-called “outdoor therapy” is real! One of the best ways to get a dose of it is through a walk in nature, a hike with a friend, beachside yoga, a country bike ride, and other soul-soothing physical activities. Just be wary of conditions that make the exercise strenuous such as high heat, heavy humidity, dehydration, inappropriate apparel/gear, planning a route that’s overambitious, etc.

 

 

Do More Stretching

Stretching can help your body release tension and activate a relaxation response. This is helpful when you’re feeling the physical effects of stress such as tense muscles, a tight jaw, a racing pulse, intestinal distress, poor sleep, etc. Stretching is also a great time to focus on deep breathing which can help you calm your mind and progressively relax your muscles. I like to tell people to stretch at the end of a workout for their nervous system’s sake, not just their muscles. Taking a few minutes to stretch can help calm the nervous system down from sympathetic overdrive and can help the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) kick in. Your PNS helps regulate and slow down your heart rate, breathing and mind so that you can reach a more calm and peaceful state.

 

 

Practice Mind/Body Exercise Formats

Just because yoga and Pilates are considered mind/body disciplines doesn’t mean that they’re easy. Pick a class level that’s appropriate for your energy and beneficial for your healing. Personally, I love really gentle hatha yoga classes where I can just melt into comfortable poses and focus on my breathing. I find these experiences to be highly rejuvenating.

Yoga and Pilates instructors will help you pay attention to your body’s alignment, internal cues, breathing, and more. We often take these aspects of the classes for granted, focusing instead on mastering headstand in yoga or getting ab definition in Pilates, but the body awareness and progressive relaxation is the best part – especially for people who are chronically stressed!

 

 

Play More Sports and Do More Recreational Movement

Even if you never made varsity back in high school you can still enjoy sports as an adult. Pickleball courts are sprouting up left and right, and there is always a rec league accessible if you’re willing to be brave and dust off the sneakers. Find an adults league for soccer or a local pool where you can swim laps. Play a round of tennis or golf with a friend, or find a court where there is pick-up basketball happening regularly. If you’re short on sports options then seek out other recreational movements through a climbing gym, martial arts or kickboxing studio, boathouse that rents out kayaks and canoes, or anything that allows you to enjoy movement without the pressure of performing sets and reps all the time at the gym.

 

Choosing any of these options will help you enjoy exercise, sports, mind/body formats, the great outdoors and an active lifestyle for many years to come and without the added toll to your system that comes with other rigorous fitness options.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

Fitspiration Proven Harmful: How Do We Fix Things?

Although the fitness industry’s mission has many merits there are also a multitude of ways that it has gone awry, damaging people’s physical and mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness month, so I want to talk a little bit about studies that prove “fitspiration” images pack as much harm as power, and how we can protect ourselves from becoming collateral damage from “well-intentioned” social media hashtags, trends, images, and messages.

 

 

Mental Health and Fitness

As a fitness professional, I have spent the better part of the past two decades witnessing the underlying anxiety and cultural pressure imposed on both men and women regarding body image and desirability. I watch people with impressive careers crumble when they talk about their weight and people with outgoing personalities shrivel into themselves when asked about their lifestyle and exercise habits. It happens again and again, at various ages and stages in the lifespan, with people of all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, and income levels. Each time I witness that familiar, typically-nonverbal burden weighing the person in front of me down I can’t help but ask myself: Is teaching this person safe and effective exercise really going to help them with the core of their crisis? Is getting to a “goal weight” really going to make them happier? Is pushing through a hard workout to attain a particular body type going to help them realize they were worthy all along?

The short answer: No. It doesn’t help. At least not for long.

 

So, what does help people feel their best in the pursuit of health?

Well, it’s a little different for everyone but a huge chunk of it revolves around unplugging from cultural expectations and messages, and centering on the essence of what makes that person feel alive, really alive. This is where joy comes from within.

In my personal training relationships we celebrate small victories and honor what setbacks teach a person about their personality, motivations, insecurities, and how they respond to things out of their control. We view the training experience as an opportunity to get to know the body on a more focused level, with as much practical wisdom about exercise physiology, anatomy, life-enhancing movement, biomechanics, and exercise programming poured from my brain into theirs in bite-size, consumable pieces. We make the mission not just about an “end goal” but about an educational process of learning how to care for the body through health, illness, injury, and preventative medicine.

The exercise journey can and should be healing, not harmful. It should be infused with compassionate support, uplifting messages, and both personalized and realistic aspirations. This sets a person on the path towards a version of health that looks and feels best for them.

 

 

The Picture-Perfect Problem

Sadly, we’re often met with boiler-plate, subpar training programs designed to be consumable by the masses, young “influencers” who pose as fitness professionals and dole out questionable advice, and a nonstop waterfall of images that objectify both men and women’s bodies. These images perpetuate the stigma that only certain body types are healthy while damaging the mental health of both the people viewing them and those creating them.

We all know that life isn’t picture-perfect and yet the multitude of unrealistic images flooding #fitpso and #fitspiration dishearten and intimidate most people, even those who claim such images “teach them healthy habits and are inspiring.” At present, there are over 73 million images in #fitspo on Instagram alone, tagged by celebrities, fitness and nutrition professionals, and members of the public alike. That’s a lot of images. Unfortunately, viewing these fitspiration images has been linked to greater body dissatisfaction.

Instagram noticed a similar dangerous trend with the now-banned #thinspo or #thinspiration. These tags and over a dozen similar terms were banned on Instagram due to the dangers they posed for followers who used them to spread pro-eating-disorder messaging and to build communities around supporting disordered eating and body dysmorphia. Unfortunately, since that ban there have been stronger and more niche hashtag communities formed around these dangerous topics. So, it would seem that an outright ban on #fitspo isn’t the answer, but keeping it around is nearly as dangerous as the years of #thinspo.

 

 

Here’s the Evidence of How Fitspo Images Harm People

A publication on Research Gate that looked at body image disturbances resulting from fitspiration images stated that “viewing fitspiration leads to sexualization, objectification, upward and downward social comparisons which can either lead to self enhancement or body dissatisfaction.”

Another study, published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found similar trends in objectification and sexualization of the people in fitspiration posts, noting that women were most often thin and younger than 25 years old. The images were often sexualized and didn’t include the women’s faces. Many of these images “emphasized the woman’s buttocks.” Men were most likely to be muscular or “hypermuscular” but were more likely to include their faces in the images.

Okay, let’s pause for a second…

Ladies – WHAT are we doing to ourselves?!?!

The issue of self-objectification is driven, in part, by the amount of time people spend on social media. Apparently after just 30 minutes spent on Instagram each day, a person is more likely to view their body as an object. Not only is this linked to greater body dissatisfaction but it also predicts both depression and disordered eating in young women. The damage doesn’t just start with the viewer’s experience; it begins with the person taking and posting the picture. Women posting to #fitspo tend to have a stronger “drive for thinness” and are more likely to compulsively exercise. They are at higher risk of a clinical eating disorder too.

In yet another study, participants expressed multiple negative effects from viewing fitspo images, including “frustration about the deceptive nature of posts, jealousy regarding unattainable body appearance or lifestyles, feeling that their usage had become out of control, guilt about not following the lifestyles advocated, and frustration in being encouraged toward inappropriate goal-setting.” These experiences were amplified for some participants who expressed negative opinions of their own bodies and answered questions in ways that suggested underlying disordered eating habits. However, this particular study’s most novel finding is that there is an element of guilt about social media usage getting out of control and becoming addictive while following tags such as #fitspiration and #fitspo.

It appears that even careful and critical viewing might not be fully effective at avoiding the negative psychological consequences of fitspiration.

 

 

How Do We Fix Things and Feel Better?

It seems fairly obvious that nobody wishes to experience chronic stress, depression, fear of exercise, and recurrent weight loss and regain cycles, and yet that’s what fitspiration is causing to happen. This begs the question:

How do heal from fitspiration or, at the very least, better control our consumption of it?

Here are a few ideas:

Engage in self-acceptance practices like mindfulness, meditation, prayer and reflection

Work with a mental health counselor to treat underlying eating disorders, anxiety and/or depression.

Practice intuitive eating instead of restrictive eating. In other words, eat when you’re hungry and recognize which foods help you feel uplifted, energized and healthy. Intuitive eating acknowledges that it’s okay to indulge here and there too, and to focus on the cultural foods and dishes that honor your lifestyle, ethnicity, religion, taste preferences, etc.

Get active with life-enhancing movement instead of rigorous and regimented exercise. Ask yourself what types of exercises, sports and movements you enjoy and focus on them. One person may find health and wellness through frequent nature walks while another may prefer weight lifting. Still other people prefer tennis and golf, or yoga and Pilates. Whatever works for you, works! Plain and simple.

Keep a journal where you can pour out your emotions, tell your story, focus on healing, or scribble down daily self-affirmations.

Acknowledge and remind yourself that health doesn’t come in one size only. Find people on social media (or even better, in real life) who go against the cultural norms of beauty or have unique stories about the ways in which they look different. Watch their bravery and find encouragement.

Limit time spent on social media apps. As previously mentioned, around the 30 minute/day mark is when social media apps can start to influence a person towards self-objectification and all the harm that comes with that.

Avoid, block or delete triggering accounts, hashtags, content and messages. Life is too short to waste on scrolling through content that makes you feel lesser-than.

Pause and consider your own content before you post it. Who are you posting your own “fitspo” or objectified image for? Are you doing it because it genuinely makes you happy? Are you trying to gain attention and affirmation? Are there other, healthier ways to do that? Are there other ways you could take a picture of yourself that are less intimidating, sexualized or harmful, but also make you feel excited to share the content?

 

 

The Future of Digital and Image-Based Fitness

There’s something very captivating about images and sharing them, so I don’t think the social media trends around these behaviors are going anywhere for a long time. If they’re going to stick around then we must consider the consequences of our digital behavior on ourselves and society at large. Young women in particular are suffering on an epidemic level from what they consume on social media, and they’re getting set up for lifelong battles with their bodies. That’s not the legacy I want to leave as a fitness professional, nor as a “person in the public” posting pictures just because that’s what we apparently do these days.

Let’s ALL try our best to subtly shift the way we’re photographing these images, liking them and encouraging them. Let’s focus on boosting young women’s self-esteem instead of setting them up for harmful, unrealistic and oftentimes elitist and racist body image expectations. Let’s shift the dialogue and keep it positive, healthy, and accessible.

Perhaps you can do this by limiting social media time or maybe showing a little ” behind the scenes” into your real life instead of the picture-perfect version you may wish the world to believe. Whatever little thing you do, it matters. The small and collective actions of the masses are what will carve a healthier path for people of all genders and ages now and to come.

 

 

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

How Vibration Machines Affect the Neuromuscular System

Neuromuscular conditions are some of the most debilitating health concerns plaguing humanity. The ease of movement is something that we all take for granted until mobility restrictions begin to appear in our own lives.

Though age and genetics are regarded as the most common predisposing factors that initiate the beginning of degenerative neuromuscular concerns, there can be other influential variables too. Vibration exercise and therapy are increasingly integrated into prevention and treatment of these conditions. So, one may ask:

What is Vibration Therapy?

In simple terms, vibration therapy involves using an intense vibration or shaking within simple day-to-day workout routines to promote faster healing. To introduce vibration into the workout regime, specially designed equipment is used. These vibrating machines create a wide range of vibration intensities that can be custom manipulated based on the requirement.

 

The History of Vibration Therapy

In approximately the mid-1800s, Russian scientist Gustav Zander created a weight-and-pulley system to produce vibrations and used it to help improve the overall well-being of his digestive system. This was the earliest official record of using vibration therapy to improve health. Later on, the Russian Space Program also introduced vibration therapy for the astronauts and was soon followed by NASA’s similar endeavor. NASA scientists noticed that astronauts returning to earth after extended space missions experienced accelerated bone loss. They prescribed a daily regimen of 10-15 minutes of vibration therapy for the astronauts to help them regain bone density.

How Does Vibration Therapy Improve Neuromuscular Health?

Vibration can be categorized into two distinctive types:

  • Localized – The vibration machine is placed at a specific local area that needs immediate relief.
  • Systemic or Whole Body – Whole-body vibration requires one to sit or stand on the machine for the vibration machine to produce the vibrating effect.

The vibrations produced by vibrating machines can be vertical, horizontal or even circular in direction. As the vibration continues, the musculature of the body contracts and relaxes in a consistent yet frequent manner. This results in increased production of osteoblasts, a well-known and key component of bone formation. The increased production of these bone-forming cells promotes overall healthy growth and well-being for the skeletal system.

How is Vibration Therapy Incorporated into the Workout Routine?

Regular exercise moves like squats, pushups, crunches, deadlifts, etc. are widespread and easy to incorporate into vibration training. It’s simple – rather than a flat surface, a vibration machine is used as the base support for the exercise!

Since the vibration machine constantly produces vibrations while exercising, the muscular workout is intensified. This produces faster results in the form of leaner muscles, stronger bones, and decreased fat content within a shorter time span than workout programs that don’t include vibration.

What Are the Various Exercise Routines That Can be Done While Using a Vibration Machine?

As mentioned above, push-ups, crunches, and squats are great options, especially for beginners. Foam rolling devices are also starting to incorporate vibrations. However, as time goes on and the user gets accustomed to the constant vibration during the workout routines, numerous other exercises can be introduced.

These exercises might include calf raises, lunges, planks, bench press, side lunges, dead lifts, side planks, leg raises, sit-ups, v-sits, standing shoulder press, bent over rows, balancing exercises and more! Any free-standing or weight-bearing exercise is feasible.

 

 

Choosing the Right Vibration Machine

Vibration machines today come in various sizes and with numerous configurations. Choosing the best vibration machine from a wide range of options can be difficult and confusing. The simple solution is to choose a vibrating machine based on a few notable factors. They are:

  • Size – Larger vibrating machines are bound to be heavy and occupy a lot of space. Choosing a machine based on the overall size of the area where it will be permanently kept is the first point one should consider.
  • Requirements – There are certain scenarios where prescribed vibration therapy is restricted to specific regions of the body. In such cases, it’s unwise to invest in a whole-body vibration setup.
  • Functionalities – The best vibrating machines available today are equipped with a wide range of functionality based on the duration, intensity, and direction of the vibrating currents.

Additional Benefits of Using Vibration Machines

In addition to helping with neuromuscular improvement, vibration machines are also known to promote numerous other health benefits too. These include:

  • Weight Loss – Obesity is one of the primary global health concerns today as it leads to numerous additional issues like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more. Adding vibration therapy to regular exercise routines can help burn calories faster and produce better results.
  • Improved Bone Density – Vibration therapy promotes osteoblastic cell formation; the key structures for increased bone strength. Using a vibration machine during a workout adds noticeable changes in overall bone density. This may be a special consideration for menopausal and post-menopausal women in preventing bone loss, and a tool for aging populations to stay strong.
  • Boosts Metabolism – Research has shown that vibration therapy is known to promote leptin production in the body. Leptin is one of the primary components that inhibits hunger.
  • Improved Lymphatic Drainage and Blood Circulation – Vibration therapy improves the fluidity of the circulating blood as well as the lymphatic drainage system. This helps with the faster removal of toxins and increased oxygen production within the body. Both of these factors promote the overall well-being for organ function and other bodily systems.
  • Reduces the Effects of Parkinson’s Disease – Vibration therapy machines may help to reduce the intensity of neuromuscular tremors and also decrease the muscular rigidity that occurs specifically in Parkinson’s disease.
  • Improved Sleep – The hormone ghrelin impacts sleep patterns in humans. Increased ghrelin hormone can cause spikes in hunger and sleep disturbances. Exercising with a vibration machine can help stabilize the release of the ghrelin hormone and improve overall sleep quality.
  • Reduced Back and Joint Pain – Joint and bone pain are often the result of osteoarthritis. Low impact and low-stress workout routines are often prescribed to people who suffer from these ailments; however, combining vibration therapy with these routines has been shown to increase glucosamine and chondroitin production in the body. Both of these components are essential for cartilage metabolism.
  • Decrease of Blood Pressure – Stress and other additional underlying factors can cause increased blood pressure. Vibration therapy relaxes the body and mind, and helps reduce stress while improving circulation.

 

 

 Contraindications of Vibration Machines

Despite the numerous health benefits vibration machines offer, there are certain scenarios where vibration therapy can cause more damage than good. This adverse effect is generally a result of interference created by the vibration.

The contradictory situations include:

  • Patients with pacemakers and other electronic implants
  • Patients recovering from operations
  • Pregnancy
  • Epileptic and other neurological disabilities

 

Conclusion

Vibration therapy has many benefits for the neuromuscular and skeletal systems, and can be used by astronauts, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts alike. It also offers many benefits for certain health complications such as osteoarthritis, back pain, Parkinson’s Disease, osteoporosis, and more. Choosing the right machine is crucial for maximal benefits. If you’re hesitant or unsure about starting vibration therapy then consult with a trusted fitness professional or physical therapist before getting started. They can help address your concerns and point you in the right direction so that you can enjoy vibration training in a safe and healthy manner!

 

Many thanks to my friends at Elliptical Ninja for collaborating on this content and helping us learn more about vibration therapy benefits!

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

Building Lean Muscle Boosts Immune Function

Building lean muscle has been boasted for reducing fat and toning the body, but it’s seldom discussed in relation to the immune system. Lean muscle is a powerful medicine and has a protective effect for our immune systems.

The Evidence

In studies of mice it has been observed that mice with more muscle fare best when fighting a chronic viral infection. Many chronic illnesses like infections and cancers exhaust the immune system, but in muscular mice the skeletal muscle tissue releases cytokines. This small protein triggers a phenomenal reaction. The cytokines influence “T-cell precursors” to settle within the muscle, creating a sort of back up reserve of cells that can migrate out and develop into fully-functional T-cells when needed. Thus, when the immune system’s regular T-cells are too exhausted to support the body in the face of chronic illness, the precursor cells get released from muscles and become new, disease-fighting T-cells at the sight of infection.

(I don’t know about you, but when I learn something like this about the body I REALLY geek out!)

While this specific protective mechanism between the immune system and muscles has only been proven in studies on mice, there’s a strong chance the same thing happens in our bodies. For example, it has been known for a while that immune cells play a critical role in repairing muscle. This is called myogenesis. In this process, immune cells help regulate stem cells within the muscles to regenerate healthy tissue. The immune system’s critical role in muscle growth and repair may help explain why muscle mass diminishes with age. In other words, the aging immune system results in reduced muscle stem cell function.

In another study, people who regularly bicycled had more immune cells thanks to their muscle mass. Their muscles produced more hormones to regulate the thymus, the organ where T-cells are manufactured (these little fighters help detect infections, including covid-19). The cyclists’ bodies also produced more cancer-protective proteins like the interleukin-6 protein (IL-6).

In summary, the muscle-immunity connection is very real. Now, let’s talk about how to take advantage of it…

How to Maintain Muscle

First off, please don’t feel upset if you don’t look muscular. You don’t have to flaunt a six-pack or chiseled legs to be strong and healthy. Bodybuilders and fitness models have lots of lean muscle, it’s true, but they also have very low BMIs. In other words, they work extremely hard to trim down fat. Sometimes, this can be to the detriment of women’s health if they become amenorrhoeic (i.e. their menstrual cycle stops), so try hard not to compare your body to someone else’s. Perfectly normal people can have immune-fighting and health-boosting muscle mass while also retaining healthy amounts of fat.

In general, I recommend for healthy people under the age of 40-45 to focus on exercises that are moderately intense for 45 minutes/day, 4-5x/week to maintain good health and lean muscle mass. Other days of the week can be used for rest days, low-intensity exercise days, walking, stretching, gentle yoga, meditation, gardening/yardwork, cleaning the house, or other light activities. Adults over 45-years old can follow the same framework but should keep exercise bouts lower in intensity. This programming is extremely basic but demonstrates how weekly exercise can be scheduled for general fitness and muscle maintenance.

You can build strength and muscle through virtually any exercise; running, low-impact cardio, HIIT, strength training, dance, swimming, sports, yoga, pilates, barre, you name it. It’s all fair game. What matters the most is that you regularly stimulate and stress your body (in a good way, of course) with exercises that get your heart rate up and challenge your efforts. As long as this is done safely then you can enjoy many lifelong benefits for your overall health.

Strength Train at Least 2x/week

Although it might be out of your comfort zone, I recommend that everyone (yes, everyone) do strength training twice a week.

Why?

Strength training offers focused bouts of effort that can allow you to train weak areas of your body to improve overall strength, balance and postural support. Incorporating strength training into your weekly regimen (even if you only do 20 minutes twice a week) will allow you to troubleshoot weak muscles so that the exercises and sports you enjoy the most can be enjoyed for years to come.

While performing strength training exercises, the number of sets and reps needed is highly subjective to your level of fitness, ability to maintain form, and knowledge of the movement pattern. Whether you choose to use free body weight exercises, weight machines, or props is also dependent on your individual needs. You can gain enormous benefits from any and all of them. For a highly detailed tutorial about strength training, check out my contribution to a MyFitnessPal article on the topic: Fitness Basics: Strength Training.

You deserve to feel amazing in your body. A little muscle might help. This doesn’t mean that you have to be excessively skinny or lacking fat. It doesn’t even mean that you have to be super strong! Feeling amazing is a balance that only you can define and at its heart is wellness.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

10 Ways I Have Reduced Environmental Toxins in My Household
Wellness is not defined by products. Whether expensive or inexpensive, products will …
Religion vs. Evidence-Based Science: An Integrative Philosophy for Wellness
People like to pit religion against evidence-based science, and vice versa. I've …
The Healthy Way to Beat Stress with Exercise
Stress of all kinds (ex: exercise, accident, illness, trauma, an argument, generalized …
Fitspiration Proven Harmful: How Do We Fix Things?
Although the fitness industry's mission has many merits there are also a …

Walking for Weight Loss and Metabolic Health

I recently had the pleasure of joining MyFitnessPal as a featured expert for the fourth time. I’m so honored! The pandemic has proven that nothing beats the medicinal power of getting outside of our homes for fresh air and a brisk walk. Oftentimes, the weight loss potential that can happen with daily walking is underestimated. Check out Your Fail-Safe Walking Formula for Weight Loss to learn how to use this healthy habit to shed pounds and feel great!

8 Reasons Why Running Hurts

More people than ever are turning to outdoor running as a safe option for exercise during the pandemic. Whether you’re new to running or a regular runner, it’s likely that you’ve experienced pain associated with running at some point. This is extremely common. We tend to believe that running is something everyone can and should be able to enjoy since it’s one of the most natural forms of exercise. Unfortunately, the reality is that running without pain is not always the norm. Regular running takes a toll on the body and requires proactive measures for it to remain pain free. 

Below are eight commons reasons that running might cause pain, along with exercises, stretches and actions you can take to keep yourself healthy and ready to hit the pavement.

Please note: I will be posting videos on my IGTV over the next few weeks to help people better understand the exercises and stretches under “actions to take” for each issue. Join me on Instagram for the latest updates.

   

1. IT Band Syndrome

Pain Location: Lateral aspect of knee, top of hip or both

What it is: Overuse of the connective band of tissue that runs from the hip to the knee on the outside of the thigh. Although most commonly associated with overuse from running, the IT band can also get excessively tight from weak muscles in the glutes, hips, legs and low back. If you feel pain or tightness on the outside of your knee when your heel hits the ground during running then your IT band is in need of stretching and/or cross-training for injury prevention.

Actions to Take: A balance of flexibility and strength training is usually key for preventing IT band syndrome. Foam rolling is a great first action to take even though it may feel uncomfortable on the outer thigh if your IT band is especially tight. It will get easier the more you do it. (I recommend a high-density roller by SPRI.) Stretching the IT band can also be done by crossing the tight leg behind the other and leaning the torso away from the affected side. Lastly, strengthen weak muscles and replace a couple days of running with strength training for a while. Two great exercises to start with are clam shells and hip bridges while squeezing a medicine ball, pilates ring or yoga block between the thighs. 

 

2. Weak Transverse Abdominus

Pain Location: Low back, hip flexor tightness, sometimes achilles pain too

What it is: The transverse abdominus (TA) is a muscle that wraps around the core and stabilizes it. Subsequently, it also helps stabilize the pelvis and the spine. When the TA is strong, it helps prevent low back pain and keeps the pelvis in the correct position. When it’s weak, the pelvis drifts into an anterior tilt and places strain on the lumbar spine. The TA can become weak from lack of use, incorrect use or improper pelvic and spinal posture. 

Actions to Take: Physical therapy and Pilates training are both great options for learning how to properly engage the TA. If these options are inaccessible then simply start with supine pelvic tilts, dead bugs, and planks drawing the belly button to spine so that the stomach flattens.  

 

 

3. Large Q-angle

Pain Location: Medial aspect of knee; can result in patellofemoral pain syndrome, chrondromalacia or ACL injuries

What it is: The q-angle is a measurement from the patella (knee cap) to a point on the pelvis. This measurement tends to be larger for women due to greater pelvic width (“them birthing hips!”). The larger the q-angle, the greater the stress on the knee due to the patella tracking more laterally instead of smoothly up and down.

Actions to Take: Although structural width of the pelvis is obviously out of our individual control, women can take proactive measures to strengthen the medial aspect of the knee and to keep the lateral aspect from being too tight. This might include wall squats and glute strengthening for enhanced stability as well as isolated quadricep extension with rotation to target the vastus medialis obliqus (VMO) – i.e. the most medial muscle fiber in the quadriceps group. Stretching tight muscles such as hamstrings, calves and the lateral aspect of the quadricep can also prove helpful.

 

4. Unstable Ankles

Pain Location: Ankle pain or weakness and/or plantar fascia pain. Can also impact higher joints resulting in knee, hip and/or low back pain. 

What it is: Unstable ankles result from weak muscles in the feet and/or lower legs. Core stabilization also impacts how stable the ankles are. If you notice discomfort in the ankles or feet when running then you might need to improve stability, especially if you are prone to ankle sprains.   

Actions to Take: Balancing exercises can be useful for improving ankle stability. It’s easy to get creative with how these are done too (single leg reach, balancing side leg lifts, dancer’s pose, warrior III, and more). Towel grabs and other foot strengthening exercises can also prove useful. Rolling out the plantar fascia with a pin roller or on a lacrosse ball can help release tight areas that compensate for weakness. 

 

 

5. Improper Footwear

Pain Location: Pain usually begins in the foot but higher joints can eventually become painful if footwear is not corrected

What it is: Improper footwear can be the result of shoes that are worn out, tied too tight or loose, or are not correctly fitted to your foot shape, length and/or width. Running shoes that fit properly should have approximately 1/2-inch room after the toe before the end of the shoe. They should not cut off circulation when laced up and also should not slip down the heel. A proper fit for your arch is extremely important too. Whether you have a neutral, high or low arch matters a lot for running comfort and shoes should be fitted according to your individual needs. You know you’re ready for a new pair of shoes when you’ve run between 300-500 miles and the tread of the shoe is worn down. If you’re not sure how many miles you’ve run then a good rule is to replace shoes every six months.  

Actions to Take: I like to tell people to visit smaller, local running stores to get fitted. Most have die-hard, passionate runners working in them and they are often trained in basic gait analysis so they can get you the right shoe.

 

6. Weak Abductors

Pain Location: Weak abductor muscles (think the lateral part of your glutes that stabilize your hips, low back and outer thighs) can result in IT band syndrome, patellofemoral pain syndrome and/or abductor tears. Most of these injuries are from overuse of the muscles while running and/or jumping during sports. Overuse doesn’t always mean that a muscle is strong. As is usually the case with abductors, these injuries stem from weak muscles.   

What it is: Weak abductor muscles can be identified in one of several ways: 1) Perform a squat and note if your knees drift inward. This is a telltale sign that the abductors are weaker than the opposing muscle group (the adductors). 2) Make note of your foot’s arch. Many people who are flat-footed and excessively pronate tend to have weak abductors. 3) Perform a clamshell or side lying leg lift with the leg that is lying on top. If this feels difficult right away or quickly after starting, your muscles may need strengthening.

Actions to Take: Clamshells and side-lying leg lifts are two of the first exercisees I recommend to clients, as well as supervised side lunges with correct form. Once a baseline of strength is established therabands are a great way to ramp up resistance and build on progress. 

 

 

7. Poor Running Gait

Pain Location: Poor running gait can impact any joint or muscle in your body from head to toe depending on what the issue is. 

What it is: Normal running is smooth and not “jumpy” looking. When there is excessive up/down movement that places extra stress on the joints. There should be a brief “flight phase” when both feet are off the ground but it shouldn’t look like a person is jumping rope or doing jumping jacks. Posture should be upright, not slumped, and arms should be bent at roughly 90 degrees at the elbows, staying relatively close to the body and swinging gently forward and back with slight rotational movement. If you notice that you’re bending forward in your torso while running or that your arms swing really low, high or wide then you may experience some upper body discomfort as well as lose energy efficiency in the exercise. Feet should be landing and rolling from mid-foot to forefoot smoothly, not striking hard with the heel first. Lastly, stride length should be appropriate for your size and athleticism. For most people, a large stride length reduces hip extension and causes issues. If you feel that you’re a “heel striker” then correcting your stride length might be the place to start. 

Actions to Take: It’s extremely hard to analyze your own gait. As you may be able to tell, gait analysis is complicated and takes an expert’s experienced eyes and feedback. You can start by filming yourself running outdoors or on a treadmill and seeing if anything stands out as appearing unusual – sometimes you might surprise yourself! But your best bet is to get with a running coach or personal trainer who specializes in running. You could even test your luck at a local running store when you get fitted for your next pair of shoes. Sometimes these stores have treadmills set up so that experts can help offer feedback on your shoe and running gait needs. 

 

8. Poor Running Posture & Thoracic Weakness

Pain Location: To be fair, I already mentioned poor running posture in the last section about running gait, but it warrants more attention. Nearly every week I see a handful of runners in my neighborhood alone who are in dire need of postural help. You may consider improving your posture while running if you feel pain in your upper back, neck and/or shoulders afterwards. Poor posture can translate down your body and result in weak glutes, tight hip flexors and improper foot strike. 

What it is: When thoracic and spinal extension muscles such as traps, rhomboids, lats, rear delts, erector spinae, multifidus and more are weak then it becomes difficult for the torso to maintain an upright position during running. As the body slumps forward the lungs close off, making breathing more labored, and the hip flexors take over work that hip extensors should be driving. 

Actions to Take: Strength training several times a week is critical to correct posture so that you can run pain free and so that you can *live* pain free. Posture impacts quite a lot. One of the most important places to start is with thoracic extensions. In other words, teaching your body to isolate and lift tall from the upper back. Trunks lifts from a mat or prone on a bosu ball are great options. Also, it will be important to do full spine extensions from a mat. Quadruped exercises and supermans are great beginner exercises. Dumbbells and weight machines might also come in handy to target the rotator cuff, traps, rhomboids, rear delts, lats, etc. To sum, kick-start a strength training program focused on the back and/or find one to follow along with.

 

Run and be happy (& pain free)!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

My Favorite Wellness Products Right Now

I’ve been averse to product pushing for years. I can’t tell you how many pyramid scheme companies and product rep opportunities I’ve turned down – it’s a lot. It’s just not me. I’m a writer and services girl – here for you always if you have fitness and wellness questions or needs! All that said, I recognize the value in trusted recommendations, especially as we collectively seek to improve our wellness and quarantine-life experiences. So, here are my favorite wellness products at the moment…

Molekule Air Filter 

This Molekule Air Filter might be the ideal solution for your seasonal allergy, dust & dander, mold, virus and bacteria concerns. The Molekule is designed to filter *and* destroy these particles, meaning that they won’t get recirculated in your living space. Molekule is designed to help you breathe easier thanks to its Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO) nanotechnology. It even removes things like VOC fumes and odors from the air. The design in the photo below is for 250 sq ft but other models cover larger rooms (for a price). I think this is a really wonderful option for some people, and well worth the price – especially for city dwellers in apartment or condo buildings. 

 

Good Days Start with Gratitude

Five years ago I wrote a deeply personal blog article titled My Diary. Air France. A Happy Ending. It was about losing my self-made version of a gratitude journal in an airport in France and how it miraculously made its way back to me months later. I will confess that I’ve fallen out of the habit of keeping a gratitude journal and have substituted other forms of gratitude practice and self care in its place, but I will be the first to resume the daily habit should I ever find the need….and honestly, that timing might be soon. This Good Days Start with Gratitude journal might be the perfect thing for your mental health too. But feel free to start or end your day with it. As someone who used to struggle with sleep, I found that reflecting on positives at the end of the day helped me the most.

 

Booty Kicker

If you’re interested in sticking to your Barre routine but don’t want to venture away from the comfort of your bedroom then check out the Booty Kicker! My best friend (you know who you are!) is a hardcore Barre girl and swears by the Booty Kicker. It has a rack for dumbbells built in (weights sold separately) and is easy to mount a screen onto so you can follow along virtually with your favorite instructor. It also folds down for easy storage. I’ve found that many group exercise classes are relatively easy to simulate with props at home, with the exception of Barre, but that’s now a thing of the past!

 

Sports Research Collagen Peptide Powder

I guess I’m finally getting on board with the whole Collagen supplement thing. Although collagen can help with skin and hair health, that has never motivated me to use it. I generally find that my skin and hair are healthiest when my nutrition is well balanced and natural. But recently, I learned more about how collagen supplements might help joint pain thanks to helping the body rebuild cartilage. As someone who sometimes struggles from back pain due to an old accident, I’ve often wondered what my old age has in store for me with joint health. Collagen supplements just might be worth the cost! Plus, this Collagen Peptide brand is unflavored so it can be added to virtually any beverage – even hot coffee or tea!

 

SPRI High Density Foam Roller

I have and will always be a raging fan of foam rolling. I do it almost every day and the benefits are tremendous for my physical comfort. Foam rolling helps relax the myofascial tissue surrounding our muscles, reducing areas of restriction, tightness, discomfort, and aches. My favorite style of foam roller is high density like this one by SPRI and it comes in 3 sizes; 12 inch, 18 inch or 36 inches long. If you’re thinking of traveling with it then opt for the 12 inch, but if you want one for the house then I suggest the 36 inch. A long foam roller will allow you greater freedom of movement when rolling out and is a great tool to lie on vertically for chest-opening stretches.

 

URBNFit Pilates Toning Ring

Pilates circles like the URBNFIT Pilates Toning Ring are often overlooked by people stocking up on equipment for their home gyms. I’m here to get this magical prop on your radar! Not only are Pilates rings extremely versatile props but they are also one of a few pieces of home exercise equipment that’s excellent for targeting the inner thigh muscles. The URBNFIT ring comes in 3 colors and includes an accompanying smartphone app that guides both seasoned athletes and beginners through appropriate and effective Pilates exercises. This is a great combo for anyone looking to switch up their home workout routine. 

 

Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager

Are you as big of a fan of massage as I am? The fact that two products on this short list of favs include massage-like functions should tell you a little bit about me (and how often I pester my husband for foot and neck rubs). But *this* Zyllion Shiatsu Back and Neck Massager is a dream for anyone who has tight neck and shoulder muscles from uncomfortable work-at-home conditions and/or pandemic-related stress. Not only does the Zyllion massage sore muscles but it also helps them relax through heat. No more need to miss the spa! You can attach it to a high back desk chair or simply lean against it on the couch. Once you return to the traditional schedule of commuting to work you can even put it across your driver’s seat so you can decompress to and from the office! 

 

Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands

Leave it to a pandemic and social media to take resistance bands (which have been around forever) and make them look sexy. Almost everywhere you turn there are so-called fitness influencers using them in exercise video clip tutorials – because they work! These resistance loop exercise bands by Fit Simplify are a popular choice in the sea of options and come in 5 different levels of resistance. The bands are portable and easy to store. They can also be used for a wide range of exercises from physical therapy and stretching to strength training. 

 

What are your favorite wellness brands? Have you found anything to be especially useful or enjoyable during the pandemic? Please drop your favs in the comments so we can all help each other out!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

*Full disclaimer: I will receive a small sales commission for purchases from affiliated links in this post. Any and all proceeds will be used for the blog’s maintenance and future content. 

 

 

A Guide to Using the Gym During COVID-19

Gyms are carefully reopening in some places, taking action under government guidelines to increase cleaning and sanitation procedures. Gyms are also implementing new social distancing measures to ensure members’ safety. Although it’s intimidating to get back into the gym, your health is paramount during this pandemic and exercise bolsters wellness in many ways.  Getting back into the gym is a personal choice that must be carefully considered based on health risk factors, mental comfort, and the extent to which your gym has taken appropriate actions to protect its members.

Here are some things to look for when/if you return to the gym or consider doing so. I’ve included a few recommendations on how to improve your safety from the minute you step into the gym to the moment you walk back into your home. Lastly, check out the tips for how to make the experience time-efficient and effective.

 

 

Considerations When Returning to Your Gym

Before stepping foot in the gym, check its website for COVID-19 updates. There’s a decent chance that your gym will have adjusted hours of operation and updated check-in procedures that you will want to familiarize yourself with. Reinstating your membership may also be a step that you need to take with a membership director prior to walking in for your first workout. This is likely done over email or phone right now while membership directors are working remotely and social distancing.

If your gym doesn’t have clear COVID-19-specific policies and adjustments then I strongly urge you to freeze your membership until it is safe to return or they adopt new policies. Many gyms have responded professionally and appropriately to the new operational challenges because 1) they need to stay in business, and 2) they care about their members. To help with this, many are using advance online registration for group classes and capacity trackers like Club Automation. These capacity trackers use real time data to reflect how busy (or not) the gym or fitness facility is, so you can decide from the comfort of your home whether or not you want to pay the gym a visit.

 

 

Gym Safety Check List

Below is a list of COVID-19 safety measures you should check for at your gym. Please note, this list is not exhaustive.

  • Temperature and wellness checks at sign-in.
  • Masks required in busy corridors such as the entrance/exit, stairwells, cafe, locker rooms and restrooms.
  • At least 6 ft of social distancing required between all members. 10 ft is even better indoors.
  • “Out of Service” signage on alternating pieces of gym equipment to ensure social distancing and/or rearrangement of equipment to create more distance and open space.
  • Encouragement of wearing face masks in areas with cardiovascular exercise equipment (when you’re breathing heavily and fast you expel more viral and bacterial particles into the air).
  • Ample supplies of hand sanitizer at check-in and on the gym floor as well as stocked soap dispensers in restrooms.
  • Limited capacity in any and all elevators on site.
  • No gym towels allowed on the gym floor (reduces spread of germs).
  • Signage asking members to wipe down equipment before and after use as well as ample supply of equipment wipes.
  • Reduced capacity for gym classes and enforced social distancing during participation.
  • More outdoor exercise class options with social distancing when/where feasible.
  • Possible signage and floor markings indicating traffic flow/walking directions through hallways and corridors.
  • Possible reduced overall gym capacity depending on government regulations and directives.
  • Possible upgrades to air filtration systems (can’t hurt to ask if your gym has the ability to invest in one that eliminates viruses and bacteria in large spaces).

Use this check-list to gauge which safety measures your facility of choice is leaning on and let it inform your decision about returning for exercise.

 

 

Gym Childcare – Is it Safe?

This is a really tricky one to answer. Scientists have seen hints that children pass COVID-19 among themselves at a lower rate than adult-to-adult transmission; however, research is fledgling at best. Unfortunately, it may take seeing how transmission rates change once school is back in session in some places come fall (hopefully they don’t get worse). Part of what will weigh your decision about the gym childcare will be:

  • Age of your child; children who are under 2 years old and mobile are likely putting everything in their mouths…which is probably, unfortunately, not so ideal.
  • Age of children who are able to wear masks versus those who are too young, and whether or not these different age groups will be playing in close proximity.
  • Health status of your household and family members.
  • Enhanced hygiene measures of the gym’s childcare; additional temp and wellness checks, modeling covering coughs/sneezes, hand washing upon entering and exiting, routinely cleaning toys and floors, etc.
  • Type of flooring in childcare – for gyms that have wood, tile or otherwise non-carpeted flooring, the facility should be deep cleaning it daily. Unfortunately, gyms with carpeted childcare areas are likely unable to deep clean the carpet every day because of how long it takes to dry. This may affect your choice, especially for parents with babies who are crawling.

Again, as long as safety measures are in place, this must be a personal choice you make. Please note: Bringing a symptomatic child into the gym childcare for the sake of your workout is irresponsible both during a pandemic and otherwise. Let’s all agree on this…please!

 

 

Extra Measures You Can Take to Boost Your Safety

Here are a few extra steps that I personally take when coming and going from the gym. I’ve done most of it since years ago when my oldest son was 15 months old and came down with a nasty case of bronchiolitis that landed him in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. To see a loved one struggle for air is a horrible experience. I don’t wish it on anyone.

  • Leave wedding bands and rings at home to keep them both clean and safe – bleach-based gym wipes and cleaners can erode certain metals.
  • Bring and wear workout gloves or disposable gloves if you have sensitive skin and/or allergic reactions to the gym wipes, sanitizer, etc. Also not a terrible idea to help reduce overuse of hand sanitizer.
  • While exercising at the gym, consider wearing a face mask for your entire workout, even if it’s not required. Double-layer masks that include some type of air filter sandwiched in the middle and masks that fit snugly (but are breathable) are great options because they offer you a little bit of protection while also boosting safety for others.
  • Store hand sanitizer in the side pocket of your car door or in your hand bag/gym bag in case you forget to wash your hands when you leave.
  • Remove gym shoes before entering your home.
  • Immediately put your reusable gym water bottle into the dish washer or sink for cleaning.
  • If you used your phone during your workout then clean the phone with a phone-safe wipe, cleaning solution, portable UV sanitation device, or PhoneSoap container at home. I like to clean my keys with my PhoneSoap too.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds, even if you already used hand sanitizer.
  • Promptly remove your gym clothes and face mask and place them in the washer or laundry basket – then go take a shower!
  • Now take a deep mask-less breath in the safety of your home and be glad you kept yourself both healthy and safe at the gym!

 

 

Tips for Making Your Gym Experience Time-Efficient & Effective

Wiping down equipment before and after use combined with certain machine restrictions will force you to think outside of your normal gym routine. I hope these tips are helpful so that you can have an effective workout on day one. If you have any other tips to offer please drop them in the comments!

  • If possible, limit workouts without masks to less than 45-60 minutes since the viral load of COVID-19 is shown to increase in this amount of time in enclosed spaces.
  • Use machines that you don’t have at home; save body weight and mat workouts for home.
  • Instead of rotating weight machines between sets (because machines will be limited and in need of wiping), complete all sets on one machine with short breaks between sets or do stationary exercises like squats/lunges/push-ups/planks in front of the machine during rest periods.
  • Buy a few sets of affordable dumbbells for home and use props like the roman chair, bench press, squat rack, plated machines, etc. while at the gym.
  • Skip the treadmill and save running for your neighborhood – choose the Stairmaster or ARC trainer on an incline for a great low-impact glute workout to switch things up.
  • Set a goal to finish your workout in less than 45 minutes and plan it out in advance. Your determination and effort might surprise you when you’re working towards a time goal.
  • Focus on three main things: Building cardiovascular health, muscle, and a sense of calm. We could all use a bit more of these things right now.

I hope you have a GREAT workout whether it’s at the gym or at home. Remember, staying healthy and well is the only critical component here, and that can happen essentially anywhere.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

Planning and Optimizing Your Strength Training

I had the honor of sharing my advice for a MyFitnessPal article back in the winter but publication was massively delayed when Covid19 changed the face of the earth as we know it. With gyms shuttered, the article became less timely. Now that gyms are gradually reopening (or perhaps now that you have more at-home equipment to work with), it’s well worth the effort to get acquainted with the basics of strength training.

The reality is that most of us aren’t getting in as much daily activity and movement these days. Focusing on acquiring or maintaining lean muscle mass is perhaps more critical than ever for our metabolisms and overall health.

 

 

The article is detailed and specific – give it a read!

It covers:

  • Strength training benefits
  • Fundamental movement patterns (squats, lunges, hip hinge, push and pull, lateral rotation and carry)
  • Choosing the right equipment
  • Structuring your workout
  • Optimizing your workout

I hope you find this helpful! Feel free to reach out in the comments section or through direct message on my contact page or Instagram for questions. I’m always happy to chat and offer tips!

Other MyFitnessPal “fitness basics” articles include:

Bodyweight Training

Cardio

Recovery

Goal Setting and Motivation

Training Plans

 

Yours in health & wellness,

Maggie

 

Time-Efficient Exercises for Home Workouts

I’m doing a little something different today by offering up some ideas for at-home workouts (see videos & tutorials below). I feel it’s my job to do my little part to help others during this difficult time of uncertainty, fear and cabin fever. Globally, we are vulnerable to coming out of this pandemic more at risk for obesity-related issues. The time has come to figure out once and for all how to exercise at home. My sincere hope is that once we all figure it out, we won’t be so saddled with the age-old excuses like “I don’t have time to exercise.”

 

I’m no videographer so these shots from my home office are very basic, but they are educational. Hopefully they can help you learn how to combine exercise movements for time-efficient, full-body workouts. Side note – Please forgive the pop-up appearance of my curious little yorkie and the missing “pizzazz” of professional lights/music/editing. It’s the time to give each other some grace and keep it real, right? Feel free to do 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps per exercise. Even just one set can prove beneficial so no need to shy away or be intimidated! All you need is a mat (or the carpet) and a set of dumbbells. Quick heads up – it’s a little easier to view the instructions and videos simultaneously from your desktop instead of mobile.

Let’s battle this coronavirus the best way we can – with good health! Stay well, everyone!

Exercise Combo #1: Down Dog with Leg Tuck + Chaturanga + Upward Dog


Target Muscles: Lower – tightens quadriceps, lengthen hamstrings and calf muscles; Upper – lats, traps, deltoids, pec major and triceps; Core – rectus abdominus and transverse abs


Benefits: What doesn’t this exercise cover?! It’s a great warm-up but can also be quite challenging after enough reps. It stretches tight hamstrings, works the entire upper body and challenges the core.

Exercise Combo #2: Double Leg to Single Leg Crunches + Overhead Pull


Target Muscles: Lower – Lightly engages quadriceps; Upper – triceps and anterior deltoids; Core – rectus abdominus


Benefits: Great way to get more done with core work. Overhead pulls target the triceps while also ramping up the challenge of this exercise.

Exercise Combo #3: Alternating Lunge w/ Twist + Alternating Side Lunge w/ Twist


Target Muscles: Lower – glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and abductors; Upper – pec major, traps and rhomboids; Core – obliques


Benefits: This is an excellent way to hit all three planes of motion in one sequence! The chest and obliques benefit from a nice stretch and the lower body muscles work isometrically during each twist.

Exercise Combo #4: Curtsy Lunge + Bicep Curl


Target Muscles: Lower – all major leg muscles including adductors and abductors; Upper – biceps; Core – transverse abs for stability


Benefits: Strengthens hips and soft tissues surrounding the knees. Challenges lower leg muscles and ankle stability, especially if you hold the low position for a slow bicep curl.

Exercise Combo #5: Plank + Alternating Single Arm Row + Alternating Single Arm Twist


Target Muscles: Lower – all muscles working for isometric support; Upper – deltoids, trap, rhomboids, biceps; Core – rectus abdominus, transverse abs, obliques, QLs and multifidus


Benefits: The entire body gets a great workout with a focus on stability, the core and muscles that support posture.

Exercise Combo #6: Static Hip Bridge + Chest Fly


Target Muscles: Lower – glutes, hamstrings; Upper – pec major, biceps; Core – transverse abs, QLs


Benefits: Hip bridges are a wonderful way to engage the major glute muscles and open tight hip flexors. Chest flies are a nice alternative to push-ups.

Exercise Combo #7: Alternating Weighted Lunges + Single Leg Balance + Bicep Curl to Shoulder Press


Target Muscles: Lower – all major muscles are involved; Upper – biceps, deltoids; Core – tranvserse abs for balance


Benefits: Balancing exercises train the nervous system to be sharp. This specific sequence challenges your center of gravity and gets the heart pumping!

Exercise Combo #8: Static Plie Squat + Upright Row


Target Muscles: Lower – Adductors, quadriceps; Upper – medial and rear deltoids; Core – transverse abs for stability


Benefits: Excellent workout for those hard-to-tone inner thighs. (P.S. – do you hear my 1-yr old starting to cry in the background? ha! #reallife)

Exercise Combo #9: Balancing Side Leg Lift + Lateral Raise + Single Leg Balance + Frontal Raise


Target Muscles: Lower – Abductors; Upper – frontal and medial deltoids; Core – transverse abs for stability


Benefits: Stable abductors support your hips and low back making this a go-to for tight, weak back muscles and hips in need of some TLC.

Exercise Combo #10: Single Leg Reach + Reverse Fly + Straight Arm Tricep Kickback


Target Muscles: Lower – glutes, hamstrings; Upper – rear deltoids, triceps; Core – transverse abs used for balance


Benefits: Improves balance & posture thanks to working the posterior kinetic chain (i.e. muscles in the back of the body)

 

If anyone has questions or needs help modifying form then feel free to contact me or drop it in the comments.

Yours in health & wellness,

Maggie