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‘Tis the Season for those Winter Blues

Yes, it’s true. We’ve arrived at the last Motivation Monday of January. As we gear up for the second month of 2019, many of us are also bracing for some of the coldest temperatures on record around the country. If the extreme weather and sunlight-starved days are giving you a case of the winter blues, close your eyes, envision your sunniest memory and take comfort knowing you’re definitely not alone.

If you need a boost, never underestimate the power of breaking a sweat. Exercise is a natural way to lift your spirits thanks to all the endorphins that flow through the body when you workout. That energy surge stays with you long after the group exercise class or weight training session is done. Of course, bad weather can sometimes put the brakes on making that drive to the gym or lacing up for that daily run or power walk. The good news is there are plenty of exercises you can do in the comfort and safety of your own home. Here are 10 moves that require nothing more than your body weight (or some creative props) and a little space to call your own:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Mountain climbers
  • Planks
  • Push ups
  • High knees
  • Squat thrusts or burpees
  • Tricep dips (Use a stable chair or stairs for an extra challenge)
  • Bicep curls (use cans of soup or laundry detergent bottles for weight)

Try doing each of the exercises nonstop for 30 seconds with no breaks in between. After you get through all ten, rest for one minute and start over again. Aim for three sets. With the rest built in, you can get your heart pumping and work virtually every muscle group in approximately 15 minutes. Feeling extra motivated? Try banging out three sets in the morning and another three at night. There’s 30 minutes of exercise split up for the day.

If you have any ideas for indoor sweat sessions to keep the winter blues at bay, I’d love to hear about them. With a little teamwork, we can all get through the worst of the winter season ahead and stay on track with our goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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Keep On Keepin’ On!

Stay Strong - You Got This! Photo by Lauren Bachner

Stay Strong – You Got This! Photo by Lauren Bachner

As a lifelong fitness lover, I always get excited at the start of a New Year. It’s wonderful to see a fresh crop of faces sweating it out on the elliptical machine next to mine at New York Sports Club or squatting away at the barre in my Physique57 classes. In the back of my mind, however, I can’t help but wonder how many of these glistening faces will disappear come March. I thought I’d use this Motivation Monday as a chance to encourage everyone to pause for a few moments and assess how things are going so far – and also forgive yourself for any slip-ups.

When I talk to people about why they abandon their fitness journey, most of their reasons can be put in two categories:

  1. Getting discouraged easily: Maybe these thoughts crossed your mind over the weekend “I’ve worked out every single day since January 1st. I haven’t had one piece of chocolate or even a glass of wine, but I don’t see the hint of a six-pack yet.” Well, consider this your reality check. First of all, I’ve never been a proponent of embracing extreme restrictions to make healthy lifestyle changes. Denying yourself the things you like for too long can only end in disaster, such as devouring a whole cake or pizza instead of one slice. Second, it’s important to remember it takes a minimum of six weeks for anything to become a habit. Whether that’s fitting those five servings of fruits and veggies into your daily diet or finding your groove in spinning class, be patient. Stick with your plan and focus on the positives you have experienced since making some healthy changes. (Don’t stop reading now, some of those positives are mentioned below.)
  • Doing too much too soon:  Similar to my mantra about restrictions, I’m also not a fan of over-the-top workout plans for newbies to the fitness world. Which of the following scenarios sounds better to you?:
  1. Banging out a series of squats, planks and even modified push-ups and feeling a healthy “burn” in the muscles afterward and being able to tackle another workout the next day or
  2. Plowing through 50 burpees and/or pull-ups in far-from-perfect form only to suffer lower-back pain and be out of the game for five days

Sure, it seems like a no-brainer, but unfortunately too many people take the less optimal choice and end up with plenty of pain and no gain. Choosing quantity over quality is a surefire way to put yourself at risk for injury…which leads to discouragement…which can ultimately lead to throwing in the towel on those fitness goals altogether. You already know slow and steady wins the race.  When it comes to running down your health and fitness goals, I like to think of it as more of a lifelong marathon.

Finally, it you’re plugging away with your workouts and healthy eating choices, keep it up and remember to focus on the positive! In fact, I’ll be so bold to tell you forget what the scale says and take stock of any of these positive changes:

  • A sharper focus at work or tackling that to-do list on the homefront
  • A new “glow” to your skin
  • Increased energy for everyday activities like playing with your kids
  • Not needing to catch your breath after walking up that flight of stairs
  • Getting a better night’s sleep

I leave you with one last reality: there will be “off” days. Even this fitness lover can admit there are times all I want to do is watch TV while sipping red wine and eating  chocolate. It happens. Just don’t let one bad day throw you off course.  Just wipe away the cookie crumbs, chop some veggies, prep your gym bag and remember tomorrow is your next chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Movin’ It at Home

The Push-Up: one of many exercises you can do anywhere!

The Push-Up: one of many exercises you can do anywhere!

Last week, I got a tweet from my high school pal Kathy asking about ideas for home workouts. She reminded me that with the kids out of school for the summer, it’s not always easy to escape to the gym to break a sweat. So on this Motivation Monday, I offer some quick tips to keep you active all summer, even on the days when getting out of the house isn’t an option.

The secret to making a home workout work for you is using as many muscles as possible while quickly moving from one exercise to the next. This will keep your heart rate up and help you burn calories. All the exercises I present in this “one-minute-wonder” circuit use your body-weight.  The idea is to perform as many reps as possible of each exercise – with proper form! – in 60 seconds and then move directly on to the next one with no rest in between. The only “equipment” needed is a jump rope.

  1. Jump rope: if you don’t have a jump rope or not enough head room to use one indoors (and don’t have any outdoor space to work with), try jumping jacks or running in place
  2. Forward lunges: alternating legs
  3. Squats
  4. Push-ups (modified version is to be on your knees instead of your toes)
  5. Bridges (Click here for a refresher on some core moves)
  6. Crunches
  7. Mountain climbers
  8. Side planks
  9. Tricep dips: We do these in my Physique57 classes all the time seated on the floor – you just need to lift your booty off the floor and brace yourself and use your triceps to dip up and down without touching back down. If you have stairs at home, steps are always a sturdy base for dips.
  10. Jumping jacks (or jump rope again)

Once you’ve made it through the 10-minute circuit, take up to a two-minute break and then start again. Or if you happen to have any cardio equipment at home, bang out the 10-minute circuit and then hit the treadmill, bike or elliptical for up to another 20-30 minutes. Aim for banging out this total-body routine three days a week on non-consecutive days.  As you get stronger, work toward repeating the circuit two to three times. As you progress, you can also add more intensity to some of the exercises. For example, you can turn squats into squat-to-jumps where you literally jump off the ground with your arms extended straight over your head when you come up from the squat position. Push-ups can also be replaced with burpees. Of course, if you have any favorite summer stay-cation home moves, I’d love to hear about them!

Whether you’re working out at home, in the park or at the gym, be sure not to skimp on the stretching and allow your body time to warm up and cool down. Add plenty of water and sweet summer fruits and veggies to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect plan in place for a whole summer filled with endless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Friday’s Final Thoughts

TGIF!

With the 2012 holiday hustle and bustle in high gear, there aren’t always enough hours in the day to come up with original material for my blog. So, I hope you’ll forgive my ending this particular work week with what I hope will be a little comic relief and some borrowed words for motivation.

First, thanks to my colleague and friend Valerie for this one:

Burpee picture

For those of you who aren’t sure why the above definition holds true, here’s an encore presentation of the quick video I posted over the summer showing what the burpee looks like in action:

Finally, I offer a few words from some famous folks that I hope will motivate you to conquer burpees and all the other “tough stuff” life can throw at you:

“All things ar difficult before they are easy.”-Thomas Fuller

“If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.” -Vince Lombardi

“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.” -Roger Bannister

And finally, I figured this was the perfect quote to end a Friday post:

 “Always so sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”-Ernest Hemingway

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend and plenty of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Brisk & Exhilarating Workout Wednesday

Kicking off December with a brisk workout in Central Park

Kicking off December with a brisk workout in Central Park

It certainly doesn’t feel like December here in New York City on this first Workout Wednesday of the month! It’s been close to 50 degrees here the past few days, and I’ve enjoyed every breath of this balmy air on my morning walks to the office. However, it was nowhere near this warm on Saturday when I headed to Central Park for another great CrossFit UWS workout!

Armed with my Under Armour compression top, ear band and gloves, I was ready to go. Of course, after jump roping a few minutes and getting through one round of the warm up, my core temperature was adequately fired up and ready to push through another of Roberto Murichi’s killer workouts.

Here’s how it all broke down:

  • Static/Active Stretching:  After some static stretches for my calves and hip flexors, I spent between 5-6 minutes minutes jumping rope.
  • Warm up:  We had 10 minutes to complete as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) of the following circuit:
  1. 50 m lunge walk
  2. 25 sit-ups
  3. 20 push-ups
  4. 15 back extensions (“Superman”s)

Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted part of my note on my iPhone and don’t remember how many rounds I got through. I know it was more than two and less than 10. Regardless, I was more than warmed up and ready to move on to the the heart of the workout. The key with any AMRAP it to remember you can stop and take a breather at any time when your body tells you to.

  • Workout: I’ll call it “Three Crazy Minutes x Five.”  The basic concept: we had three minutes to get through as many rounds of the following circuit as possible (yes, another AMRAP): 
  1. 25 m sprint
  2. Three burpees
  3. Six squats (I used the park bench as a guide to make sure I “sat” down far enough so that each squat count!)
  4. Nine box jumps (also using the park benches as our jumping on/off point)

We would work our way through each of the exercises listed above until the three minutes were up. Then we had one minute of rest before moving on to the next round. We did this for a total of five rounds.

I never made it through the circuit three full times in three minutes. The most I could bang out were two circuits and then an additional 25 meter sprint and three more burpees before the glorious sound of the buzzer went off to let us know we had 60 seconds to rest. When those five rounds were up, the endorphins were flowing and I felt great!

Despite the holiday hustle and bustle and Old Man Winter knocking on our doors, I’m hoping to get a couple more of these Central Park workouts in before the end of 2012. If you’re interested in getting in on the fun, click here for more information.

Wherever your workouts take you this month, remember to stay active so you can round out the year knowing you’re doing all you can to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Thanksgiving Eve: The One Day You Shouldn’t Skip the Workout This Week!

Another Awesome CrossFit UWS Workout!

with Ashleigh & John

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

I’d say this is the one day you really don’t want to skip the workout this week! If you have an abbreviated work or school day, why not add an extra ten minutes to your cardio session or take that 90-minute group exercise class.

If you can get outside and take advantage of the not-yet frigid temps, you could always try the awesome workout CrossFit UWS Head Coach Roberto Murichi pushed us through this past Saturday. This was the first time I was able to get to the Central Park class in several weeks, and it felt great to be back in action!

  • Static/Active StretchTwo rounds; four areas of focus:
  1. Hamstrings: 30-second static stretch followed by 30 seconds of “butt kickers” – similar to running in place, but instead of bringing your knees up toward your chest,  you bend them enough to try and kick your heels to your glutes.
  2. Quads: 30-second static stretch followed by 30 seconds of “high knees”- running in place with those knees coming up as high to the chest as possible.
  3. Hip flexor: 30-second static stretch followed by 30 seconds of jumping jacks.
  4. Chest: 30-second static stretch (clasp hands behind back and “pull”) followed by 30 seconds of “sun gods.” That’s simply raising your arms to shoulder level, keeping them straight and moving them around in circles.
  • Warm up: 100 meter sprint. 10 rounds. This was done in “relay” style with my two other classmates. With the combined effort, it took us just under 13 minutes to get through the 10 rounds.
  • Workout: Roberto broke things down into one-minute intervals where we’d bang out as many reps as possible of four different exercises. We continued with as many one-minute rounds as needed to get through the total number of designated reps as follows:
  1. 100 sit ups
  2. 75 squats
  3. 50 push ups
  4. 25 burpees
  • The “catches”: At the start of each minute, (which we were alerted to by a beep on Roberto’s iPad), we had to bang out five box-jumps using the park benches as our jump-on/jump-off origin. The other catch was that you had to finish all the reps designated for each exercise before moving on to the next. So, let’s say I got through 50 sit-ups in the first minute. When I heard the one-minute beep, I banged out five box jumps, then went back to sit-ups starting at #51. I couldn’t start the squats until all the sit-ups were done. It took me 12:50 to complete all the reps of all the exercises. (Which means my workout also included a total of 70 box jumps.)

Just a friendly reminder that these workouts aren’t designed for fitness novices. However, if you’re looking to take things up a notch, Roberto’s workouts are a great way to supercharge your routine! Click here for more information on the workouts and when they’re held.

Whatever you do on this Workout Wednesday, be sure to make it count! That way you can head into the Thanksgiving holiday knowing you’ve done all you can do to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Kicking off the New Season with a Kick-Butt Workout

Still standing after the first Autumn of 2012 Central Park workout!

This Workout Wednesday marks a first for me. I’m spending it in Iowa City! While you read this post, I’m either on one of two flights or in my rental car heading to my hotel. I plan on hitting the fitness center soon after checking in so I can get the blood pumping after sitting on the plane.

So, while I can’t give this past weekend’s killer CrossFit UWS workout another go today, I wanted to share it with you in case you have the desire and opportunity to kick things up a notch in the great outdoors!

Seriously, this workout was tough and NOT one I’d recommend for any beginner. However, if you’ve got solid core strength and good form while performing the following exercises, then well, I’d love to hear what you think of what Roberto Murichi cooked up for his latest and greatest Saturday morning class in Central Park.

  • Static stretching:   Each of us focused on static stretching our tight areas, holding each stretch for 30 seconds. For me, that meant paying special attention to my calves and hips.
  • Warm up:  The concept was to complete three exercises within 90 seconds for a total of five rounds. Here’s what each round looked like:
  1. 20-second plank, 100m sprint, three squat thrusts
  2. 20-second plank, 100m sprint, six squat thrusts
  3. 20-second plank, 100m sprint, nine squat thrusts
  4. 20-second plan, 100m sprint, 12 squat thrusts
  5. 20-second plan, 100m spring, 15 squat thrusts

What made this warm-up deceptively “easy” was the fact that if we completed the exercises before the 90-seconds were up, we could rest before the “ding” sounded on Roberto’s iPad alerting us to the start of the next round. So, for the first round, getting through the plank, spring and three squat thrusts left me with nearly 30 seconds of rest time before round two. However, as the squat thrusts reps got higher, the rest time got shorter. Needless to say after the seven-and-a-half minute warm up, I was a little scared of moving on to the killer workout!

  • Workout: For the purpose of this post, I’ll call it “30…20…drop!” It was “only” two rounds, but we were timed on how long it took us to complete them. For round one, we had to perform 30 reps of each exercise. For round two, we “only” had to get through 20. Oh, and each of the two rounds started with a 200m sprint. Now for the exercises:
  1. Push-ups
  2. Squats
  3. Sit-ups
  4. Walking lunges (30/20 total, so 15/10 for each leg)
  5. Bicycles (double count)
  6. Back extension (which some people call the “Superman”)
  7. Double-unders (I admit, I’m not coordinated enough to do double-unders, the jump rope always gets caught up on my feet! So for us single-under warriors, the reps broke down to 150/100 for each round)
  8. Burpees (UGH!)
  9. Box jumps (using the bend.) As a regression, we could do step ups/step downs

Well, someone in the group has to finish last and that was me. I wrapped the workout in 22:20. After I finally caught my breath, I couldn’t believe the rush I felt from the workout. Again, covered in dirt, sweat and grass with the echo of Roberto’s coaching us through lingering in my ears, I felt amazingly exhilarated!

So, I’m definitely following my own advice and mixing it up with the start of the new season. Maybe I’ll see some of you in the park one of these weekends. Click here if you’d like more information about the classes  and CrossFit UWS.

If you’ve got a killer workout you’d like to share, please don’t be shy! Sharing information about new and exciting fitness routines is a great way to help everyone have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Simply Lovin’ These Outdoor Workouts!

Saturday Morning Central Park Warriors!

On this Workout Wednesday, I gladly share what I’d call my favorite workout in recent memory.

The fact that Mother Nature provided a picture-perfect morning for this kick butt CrossFit UWS  group class in Central Park didn’t hurt. Here’s what Roberto Murichi cooked up for us to tackle:

  • Active stretching: included walking lunges, reverse walking lunges and bear crawls.
  • Warm up: Burpees Tabata followed by 50 meter walking lunge. Just a reminder on what constitutes a Tabata, the high-intensity training protocol features eight continuous intervals of 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. Check out the clip below to see what a few of those 20 seconds of work looked like. Needless to say after we finished the burpees, adding those walking lunges provided one heck of a warm up!
  • Workout: I really liked this AMRAP -“as many reps/rounds as possible” – combo. Our mission was to push out as many rounds as possible in a five-minute interval of the following exercises for a total of three rounds. We had one minute of glorious rest in between each round.

Round one

  • 10 pistols: Another term for single-leg squats. We used the park benches as a start/end point for the exercise. As a regression, we could switch to “regular” squats as needed.
  • 10 box jumps: We used the park benches for these, too. The regression was to do a step-up and step-down.
  • 10 push ups

Round two

  • 100 meter sprint
  • 10 walk out push-ups

Round three

  • 100 single-unders (jump rope)
  • 25 situps

Just to further clarify the AMRAP concept: in round one, we’d bang out the 10 pistols, 10 box jumps and 10 push ups, then start over with the pistols again and keep repeating as many rounds of the three-exercise combo until we heard the blessed buzzer on Roberto’s iPad. After the five minutes were up, we had one minute to drink some water, stretch and catch our breath before moving on to rounds two and three featuring the different exercise combinations.

The endorphins generated by this killer workout kept me energized from the moment I banged out my last sit up right right through the last out at Yankee Stadium where I happily watched my beloved Bronx Bombers beat the Devil Rays. I’m already pumped to see what Roberto has in store for us next time around!

If you’re beyond the beginner level and looking to kick things up a notch, this kind of workout won’t let you down! Click here for more information about CrossFit UWS.

Remember, regardless of your fitness level, mixing up your exercise routine with different workouts and different venues is a great way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Another Killer Outdoor Workout Wednesday

With CrossFit UWS Co-Owners Roberto & Ashleigh

Happy Workout Wednesday!

For this week’s installment, I gladly share another kick-butt workout courtesy of CrossFit UWS head coach Roberto Murichi.

I survived..I mean enjoyed…this workout with seven other Saturday morning warriors in Central Park. Here’s what we did:

  • Active stretching: included walking lunges, reverse walking lunges, side hops and knee-up hops.
  • Warm up: 200 m run followed by the maximum number of push ups we could do before having to drop to our knees. The alternative was to hold a plank as long as possible before dropping. Three rounds total.
  • Workout: Roberto put together another heart-pounding combination of exercises. This time, each of us was timed upon completion of the following three rounds:

Round one

  • 100 m run
  • 21 burpees
  • 21 squats
  • 21 push ups
  • 21 box jumps (using park benches)
  • 21 sit ups

For rounds two and three, we again started with the 100 meter run and moved on to the exercises in the same order. The only thing that changed was the number of reps. For round two, we dropped to 18 reps for each exercise and for our final round, we were down to 15.

Honestly, after 21 burpees, I had no idea how I’d make it through the rest of the exercises in the first round, let alone get through all three.Yet, thanks to the positive coaching from Roberto, shout-outs and high fives from the rest of the group, I somehow made it to the last sit up and heard myself shouting “Time!” I finished in 17:05.

Workout completed, I found myself covered in sweat, grass and dirt, feeling completely spent and exhilarated at the same time. Then, the heavens opened and we all welcomed the soaking rain as we sprinted out of the park to get to our next Saturday morning destinations.

It’s been great adding this outdoor workout to my weekly fitness routine. Being in the park offers a break from the ordinary, and having Roberto cheering us through the reps and rounds while keeping an eye on our form offers some great motivation. If anyone lives in the city and wants to give the workout a try, click here for more information about CrossFit UWS.

If you’re beyond the beginner level and looking to kick things up a notch, this kind of workout won’t let you down! Regardless of your fitness level, mixing up your exercise routine by venturing into the great outdoors is a  wonderful way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Workout Wednesday: Outdoor Edition

All Smiles After a Killer Workout!

Saturday in the park…

No, this isn’t a tribute to that old Chicago classic. Instead, it’s a post sharing one of the more intense workouts I’ve had in recent memory courtesy of CrossFit UWS head coach Roberto Murichi. I cannot in good conscience recommend this workout for anyone just starting a fitness routine. However, for all you seasoned fitness enthusiasts looking to kick things up a notch, I guarantee this will do the trick!

I was one of the nine brave souls who met in Central Park at 9 am for Roberto’s workout of the day. Here’s how it broke down:

  • Active stretching: included walking lunges, reverse walking lunges and bear crawls and monkey jumps. The bear crawls got some second looks from tourists out and about in the park as we literally crawled from one end of our grassy spot to the other with our glutes high in the air
  • Warm up: 30 seconds of squats; 30 seconds of push ups; 30 seconds of rest. Six rounds total.  (Yes, this was just the warm up.) Here’s what some of that looked like. I’m the one in the gray top. (Ironically, Roberto chose “Misery” by Maroon 5 to play from his iPad for this part of the program):

  • Workout: Nothing short of killer! Our mission was to complete the following in six minutes or less:
  1. 400 m run
  2. 40 squats
  3. 30 sit ups
  4. 20 push ups
  5. 10 burpees

Afterward, we got a three-minute rest period. We then did the workout two more times for a total of three rounds.

Done!

I’m happy to report I got it all done in about 5:20 in the first round, but I won’t lie, I didn’t get through all of it for the remaining two. For the second round, I made it to through everything but the burpees. On the last round, I only made it through the sit ups.

Along with Roberto’s positive coaching, we nine Saturday morning warriors kept each other motivated with high-fives, and a mixture of grunts and laughter when we heard the 10-second warning beeps or “dings” signaling new rounds for new exercises. At the end of the hour, I felt totally spent and exhilarated at the same time. A few of us went out for a healthy breakfast afterward. (I enjoyed an amazing egg white, avocado and Swiss cheese wrap along with a lot of water and a huge iced coffee.)

If anyone lives in the city and wants to give the workout a try, they happen every Saturday at 9am and also on Thursdays at 6:30 pm. Click  here for more info. I hope maybe I’ll see a few of you other in the park sometime! Trust me, mixing up some exercise in the great outdoors is an awesome way to kick off a Saturday -or any day of the week! – and the perfect way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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