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Workout Wear

It certainly doesn’t feel like the beginning of autumn here in New York City. The high temps and humidity have air conditioners working overtime, even at the end of September, and wardrobe choices are trickier than usual. Thanks to a suggestion from my friend and makeup artist extraordinaire, Deanna Bell, I figured it was the perfect time to talk about one fitness essential that helps make my workouts more enjoyable even on the stickiest days: the right workout wear.

I sweat a lot when I exercise, even on the coldest days of the year. So wearing cotton t-shirts, shorts or pants can be very uncomfortable as they cling to my body and make me feel even hotter. This is why I am a huge fan of clothes that wick moisture away from the skin. They actually make me feel cooler and less constricted.  For me, being comfortable is crucial when it comes to getting through even the toughest of workouts.

Adding a couple of these wicking items to your workout wardrobe doesn’t need to break the bank. (Trust me, I’d rather save my dollars for a great pair of shoes or boots!) You can find great deals on brands like Champion, Nike Dri-FIT and Under Armour at stores ranging from Target to Modell’s.  These labels aren’t just for the ladies, they have great gear for men and kids, too.

Along with the comfy and cool-inducing clothes, here are my other exercise essentials:

You’ve made the commitment to take better care of yourself through exercising, so why not “pamper” yourself a bit to make the activity as enjoyable as possible? Instead of throwing in the towel when things get too hot, something as simple as a comfy tank top can help you stay on the right track so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Cardio for Beginners

Whether you love it or hate it, cardiorespiratory exercise is crucial when it comes to reaching your goals of losing weight, reducing body fat or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Research shows there are many benefits to cardio activity including its ability to decrease:

  • Daily fatigue
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Hypertension
  • Non-insulin dependent diabetes and
  • Obesity

At the same time, cardio helps boost your:

  • Sense of well-being
  • Immune system
  • Blood lipid profile and
  • Overall physical performance at work and at play

While there are several levels to cardio training, for the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on some guidelines for beginners and anyone who may be getting back into a fitness routine after a hiatus.  (As usual, I base these guidelines using the essential information I studied through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.) Your cardio activity should focus on maintaining a zone one heart rate which is approximately 65% to 75% of your maximum heart rate. Here’s what that means for you:

  1. To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220.
  2. Multiply your max heart rate by .65.
  3. Multiply your max heart rate by .75.

To use myself as an example:

  1. 220-37 = 183
  2. 183 X 0.65 = 119
  3. 183 X 0.75 = 137
  4. Laura’s Zone One Heart Rate = 119 – 137

If you’re working within the parameters of zone one for cardio, it’s likely you are also in stage one of your overall exercise program. (NASM refers to this as the stabilization level.) If you’ve never worked out before, you may want to try to reach your zone one heart rate for a maximum five to ten minutes and then spend another 20 minutes simply walking at a good pace, climbing the stairs in your home or getting really dirty in the yard by cleaning up the garden.  Your goal should be to eventually maintain your zone one heart rate for at least 30 minutes.  This can take some time.  A “newbie” may need two months or longer to meet this demand, but remember: there’s no finish line here. You’ve made a commitment to exercise and start taking better care of yourself, so while you don’t want to just dial it in, make the journey work for you.

A final note about measuring heart rate. You’ve made the decision to make fitness a part of your life, so along with a good pair of sneakers and breathable workout wear,  invest in a heart rate monitor.  Countless studies show it is the device that provides the most accurate heart rate readings. So, whether you’re using a treadmill in the gym or running or walking along the open road, you’ll be able to see if you’re really “in the zone.”

I hope this brief session of cardio 101 will help get your heart pumping safely and effectively so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Fitness & Footwear

Like many women, I love shoes. I love them even more when I find a great pair at one of the discount shoe paradises that have popped up all over the country. There is one type of shoe, however, that I will gladly pay full price for if I have to, and that would be my sneakers. Why? Because wearing the proper footwear while you workout is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from exercise-related injuries.

Here’s a little trivia for you: there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles and tendons in each foot.  (No, I didn’t have those numbers memorized, I looked them up in AFAA’s Fitness: Theory & Practice, Fifth Edition.) That means there are 370 places vulnerable to injury in your feet alone.  Now consider that improper foot support can lead to compensations made by your knees and hips, and you are putting your body at risk for a world of hurt.

So, what’s the best footwear? It depends on your foot type.  If you have a high arch, you need sneakers with good shock absorption. If your feet are flat and/or “roll” inward or outward, you need a sneaker with stability. An “average” foot needs a shoe with both cushioning and stability.

I don’t know your foot type, but I can tell you what works for me.  Since my fitness routine includes walking, elliptical training, riding the stationery recumbent bike, rowing, and weight training, cross trainers keep me well-grounded and stable. I started wearing New Balance cross trainers five years ago (I currently wear the 1011s), and I get a new pair every six months.  I can honestly say if I wait longer than six months, I start to feel pain in my knees while I’m on the elliptical or while doing squats and lunges.   My current pair are two months old, and at the moment, I wear them with orthotics as I continue to recover from a stress fracture in my left foot.  (A subject for a future blog.)

While I am not a runner, most of my friends who are will only pound the pavement in running sneakers.  I also have friends who have sneakers specifically for when they’re on the tennis court. Many basketball players like high tops for the extra ankle stability. If there is one sport you play often, it’s a good idea to get a pair of sneakers specifically for that activity, and also have a more “universal” pair, like cross trainers, for days when you mix up your routine.

I look at it this way: I have far too many purses in my closet and most guys have more ties than they will ever need.  So why wouldn’t you spend the money to have at least one good pair of sneakers to protect you from injuries while you’re working so hard to stay healthy?

In the end, wearing the proper footwear is one of the easiest ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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