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Category: Fitness

Swimming

Swimming

Swimming – a full body exercise

Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise. It is a good workout because the water provides consistent resistance and makes your body work. It provides an excellent cardiovascular workout but also minimizes impact on your joints. It’s beneficial at any age and for any fitness level…

Kids playing in an above-ground pool

Swimming can be enjoyed as an individual or team sport and is one of the most popular sports in the summer Olympics for breaststroke, back stroke, butterfly stroke and freestyle. There are also relay events and even artistic events such as synchronized swimming.

But swimming as a more casual form of exercise is an excellent way to maintain a healthy weight and keep your muscles toned. It is a low impact activity that has several mental and physical health benefits. Swimming is linked to better cognitive function, lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, lower risk of high blood pressure and lower risk of stroke. People are typically able to exercise longer in water with minimal effort and minimal joint or muscle pain.

No matter your fitness level, swimming can benefit you! If you don’t know how to swim, make sure to take swimming lessons. It’s a valuable skill that will last a lifetime and it’s never to late to learn!

Water Aerobics Class

Swimming can be a great way to meet new friends. Consider taking a class like water aerobics. There are so many options for swimming in pools in almost every community. Open-water swimming on a natural body of water like a lake, river or even an ocean promotes adventure during the summer months. With a minimal amount of equipment you can go snorkelling to explore under the surface! Be smart and be safe. Swim with a buddy and tell someone where you are. Be aware of your fitness level and choose a safe environment.

Exploring underwater in a lake

The benefits of swimming include:

  • Full body workout
  • Requires minimal equipment
  • Keep muscles toned
  • Increase flexibility
  • Strengthens the core
  • Burns calories
  • Builds endurance
  • Great for cross-training
  • Time to de-stress
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Low chance of injury
  • Don’t worry about sweat
  • It’s refreshing on a hot day
  • Lowers risk of diseases
  • Improves overall health

 

I love to swim off the back of our boat in fresh-water lakes. Where do you like to swim?

Please let me know in the comments section below…

Read also about walkingrunning and strength-training.

Top 5 Strength Training Exercises

Top 5 Strength Training Exercises

Top 5 strength-training exercises

Strength training is an excellent way to get the most out of your exercise time. After a warm up, you can get right into strength-training. You may find that if you move from one activity to another your breathing quickens and your heart beats faster. You can even break a sweat! This means strength-training not only tones your muscles but it also turns into a cardio exercise. Women don’t need to worry about “bulking up”. We lack the hormones to become body builders overnight. You can train with dumbbells or without weights by using body weight. Either way, this type of training is good for toning muscles, keeping the brain alert, increasing bone strength, burning calories and staying in shape.

Top 5 upper body strength-training exercises:

  1. Bicep curls (or push ups)
  2. Bent over row (or tricep dips)
  3. Overhead press
  4. Bent-over reverse fly
  5. Chest press

 

Top 5 lower body strength-training exercises:

  1. Squats
  2. Deadlift
  3. Calf raise
  4. Lunge
  5. Side lunge

 

Top 5 total body strength-training exercises:

  1. Bicep curl and lunge
  2. Deadlift and fly
  3. Plank and row
  4. Back Bow Cross Over
  5. Jackknife to toe touch

 

I love to use workouts and workout programs from Fitness Blender. They are great for mixing it up and doing new workouts each day. I don’t want to overwork any areas of my body so if I work on lower body one day, then the next day I should concentrate on upper body and go easy on the lower body. The weight you select is very important. You should be able to complete about 10 repetitions but the last 2 or 3 reps should be hard to complete. If this happens then you know you’ve picked the right weight.

After a workout, always remember to cool down and stretch so you don’t stiffen up as you cool. You can even stretch at various points during the day to stay limber.

Explore some of Fitness Blenders videos on individual exercises to find the ones that work best for you.

What are your favourite strength-training exercises?

Please leave your comments below…

Read about cross-country skiing and how to start running.

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor for medical advice before proceeding with any new exercise routine. Information provided is of a general nature and is for educational purposes. By following this information, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this information are at your own risk.
Walking

Walking

Walking – the best exercise

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise. It requires no special equipment except for a good pair of walking shoes. It doesn’t require any special training or practice. You can do it outdoors or even indoors (in a shopping mall for example). It’s probably the safest form of exercise with the least chance of injury. If you aren’t ready for running, but are thinking about it, start with walking!

If walking is your main form of exercise, the challenge is that it may not be strenuous enough to be considered an aerobic exercise. To make walking a more aerobic form of exercise you must walk with a purpose. Find a comfortable stride and swing your arms opposite from your legs. Keep your abdominal muscles firm, to support your back. Keep your chest open and allow the diaphragm to move freely to support regular deep breathing. Stand tall with your shoulders back and keep your face looking straight (not down). Walking at a reasonable speed will get the blood pumping and raise your breathing rate. It will help tone your muscles and help maintain your weight. It’s good for your bones and helps increase circulation.

Once you are comfortable with a regular walking pattern, step up the aerobic challenge. Try gradually increasing your speed; try walking longer or farther; or try walking uphill. You can increase speed incrementally or just for part of your walk. For example, if you walk for 15 minutes total, walk at 5km per hour for 5 minutes, increase to 6km/h for 5 minutes, then return to 5km/h for the remainder of your walk. Always start small and increase gradually. Don’t use ankle or hand weights because that can cause stress on your joints. Instead use weights in a separate routine for strengthening but not while walking.

It’s a great idea to walk with a friend (or your spouse), so you have a regular routine. Start with three times a week. Once you become more accomplished at walking you could join a walking group. You can even do walking tours throughout the world! Some people even do race walking. You might ultimately consider a walking half-marathon…

Like any form of exercise, make sure you do a short warm-up beforehand – some light movements for both upper body and lower body to gradually increase your heart rate. At when your walk is complete, don’t just stop – do a cool down to gradually bring your heart rate back to normal and finally finish with some light stretching. Particularly pay attention to stretching your lower body: quads, hamstrings, calves. Hold stretches for about 30 seconds until you feel a slight tension without it hurting.

Ideally we should get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. You could split this into two if that works better in your schedule. Use walking as a tool to add exercise into your day. I am extremely lucky to be able to walk to work and it allows me those 10-15 minutes to get my head “in the game”. Conversely, on the way home, those 10-15 minutes let me de-stress before I return home to make dinner. If you work in an office job, you’re probably sitting all day. Try as much as you can to get up and walk around. Consider getting off the bus a few stops early and walking the rest of the way. Go for a walk at lunchtime or even have a “walking meeting”. Choose the stairs over the elevator. If you consistently choose to walk, you will soon notice you have more of a bounce in your step!

More information about walking:  The Walking Site

See also How to Start Running.

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor for medical advice before proceeding with any new exercise routine. Information provided is of a general nature and is for educational purposes. By following this information, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this information are at your own risk.
Strength Training

Strength Training

Strength Training at every age

Strength training is not just for gym rats and body-builders. Weight training can benefit everyone in several ways: it creates toned lean muscle tissue, improves joint function, strengthens ligaments and tendons, improves balance and co-ordination, keeps your heart healthier, improves sleep, reduces stress, creates more energy, makes bones stronger, and the list goes on…

You don’t have to worry about having huge muscles. The best form of weight training simply tones your muscles. The most common form of weight training uses dumbbells. But you could also use kettle bells, resistance bands and even your own body weight or a combination of these.

Variety of Dumbbells
Variety of Kettlebells
Resistance Band

Whether you are 90 years old, 40 years old or 10 years old, strength training is good at any age. Women don’t need to worry about becoming “bulky” because we lack the hormones to become body builders overnight. Women need strength training just as much as men. Here are five reasons we should include weight training in our regular exercise routines:

  1. Burn Calories – It will help you lose fat more quickly than other exercise like cardio alone. You burn more calories even after your weight routine is complete. For several hours afterwards, your metabolism is raised and you continue to burn fat even after you stop lifting weights. The increased metabolism also helps your body fight off disease.

 

  1. Stay in Shape – Between the ages of 30 and 50, it’s estimated that you’ll lose 10 percent of your muscle. As long as you eat clean, lifting weights keeps your muscles toned and fat down so you’ll fit your clothes better!

 

  1. Healthy Brain – Including weight lifting as part of your regular exercise gives you a boost of energy and helps your brain function better. Generally you handle stress better, sleep better, are less prone to depression, are happier overall and ultimately more productive. Weight training may increase cognitive function especially in older adults.

 

  1. Increase Bone Strength – As we get older, strength training can help combat the natural decline in muscle and bone density. Weight training toughens bones and lowers the risk of fractures.

 

  1. Cardio Workout – If you lift weights without taking many breaks, your heart works harder and your breathing becomes more laboured. Weight training in the form of supersets turns into its own cardio routine. So you’re not only toning muscle but also exercising your heart!

 

It’s best to incorporate weight training about 4 times per week: 2 upper body routines and 2 lower body routines. Or you could do 3 times per week of a total body routine. It’s good to mix it up so your body doesn’t get used to the same routines over and over again. If you’re new to strength training, start small – even with no weight at all, then gradually add weight with low increments until you reach a comfortable weight. Generally speaking you should do 8 to 12 repetitions with the same weight. You know you’ve chosen the right weight if the last 3 reps are difficult to complete.

And as with any exercise, make sure to take the time to properly warm-up before and cool down afterwards. Stretching is particularly important especially after strength training to prevent your muscles from tightening up. Drink plenty of water and eat a meal or decent snack after the workout is complete. I love to have a fruit smoothie such as a Mango smoothie, Fresh Green smoothie or Nutritious Fruit Smoothie.

Some of my favourite weight training supersets from Fitness Blender:

What’s your favourite method for strength training?

See also How to Lose Weight

and How to Start Running

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor for medical advice before proceeding with any new exercise routine. Information provided is of a general nature and is for educational purposes. By following this information, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this information are at your own risk.

 

Cross-country Skiing

Cross-country Skiing

Cross-Country Skiing Basics

cross-country skis

Cross-country skiing has evolved from being a utilitarian form of transportation to a modern day world wide recreational sport. It is believed to have started as a form of transportation in Scandinavia in the 13th century and in the 1800’s branched out into other forms of the sport: long races on flat ground, down hill races, and shooting a target while skiing at top speed! A new technique “skate skiing” was experimented with in the early 20th century and became widespread in the 1980’s after the skiing style was used to win the 1982 Cross-country Skiing Championships by Bill Koch. And lastly there is also dog skijoring where a skier is assisted/pulled by 1 or 2 dogs.

skijoring-2Today cross-country skiing includes ski touring and skiing on groomed trails. Groomed trails are typically found at resorts and parklands and require specialized equipment to maintain the tracks. Ski touring can be done anywhere but we typically think of this as in the backcountry.

skiing-2-typesCross-country skiing requires skis, poles, boots and bindings. I remember my first pair of ski boots looked like shoes with laces and an extended toe to fasten into the binding. It was easy to get snow in the top of the boot at my ankles because of the design and therefore wet and cold. I bought new skis and boots 2 years ago from Mountain Equipment Co-op and they are much more comfortable and easy to fasten into the skis. For someone like me who does a little recreational, casual skiing, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on top-of-the-line equipment. Basic waxless skis and comfortable well-fit boots are essential to avoid getting blisters. You can also opt for waxed skis but you do need to apply the correct wax prior to your outing.

skiing-groomed-trailSki boots are attached to the skis with bindings. They attach only at the toe leaving the heal free, allowing the foot to lift. Poles are used to help you propel and keep your balance. My first pair of ski poles were made of bamboo. Nowadays they are made from aluminum, plastic or carbon fibre. They are used either each alternating or double poling.

If you are a runner, cross-country skiing is an excellent sport to follow during the winter months when running may not be possible due to ice and extreme cold. I am not the fastest skier but it certainly gives a good workout over most of the body. The pole action keeps the arms engaged and you can really get your heart rate up. Remember to take the time to warm up and cool down before and after each ski outing. If you’re travelling down an incline, make sure to practice the “snow plough” technique to help slow you down and maintain control. Snow plough means placing your feet quite wide apart while also pointing the front tips of the skis together so they are forming a wide V shape.

Typically, the best way to dress is to wear layers. Much like running, dress slightly cooler than you would normally since you will likely be working up a sweat. Several thinner layers are better than one thick layer. If it’s cold and windy, wear a hat, good mitts and windbreaker type pants and jacket. If you plan to go out for a while, take a small knapsack to hold energy snacks and water.

All in all, cross-country skiing is an excellent total body exercise to incorporate into your winter fitness routine. Take the time to warm-up before your ski and also remember to cool down and stretch at the end. Dress appropriately and get outside in the fresh air. Avoid very cold, icy days for your own comfort and safety. If you go alone, remember to take a cell phone and tell someone where you’ll be. Have fun and be safe!

What’s your favourite spot to cross-country ski?

Read about running.

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor for medical advice before proceeding with any new exercise routine. Information provided is of a general nature and is for educational purposes. By following this information, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this information are at your own risk.
How to Start Running

How to Start Running

Running Basics

Running in NatureI started running at age 35. It was a birthday present to myself – good health. I always thought my knees were too weak to run! I struggled for the first few weeks to get a breathing pattern and comfortable pace. I over analyzed how my foot hit the ground and worried about what to wear. It took me some time to feel comfortable and to know my limits. After about 3 months, I could run and not really think about it too much and more importantly not get a stitch! Now, I run about two to three times per week and mix up my fitness with biking and my inside routines with Fitness Blender. For me, running is a time to be by myself, even a time to meditate and enjoy some fresh air. I look forward to my runs and have never once had a problem with my knees due to running!

Running is a form of exercise that many people use in their routines. It is an activity that requires little equipment and can easily be incorporated into your day. If you are new to running, try easing into it gradually. Here are some tips to get started:

If you are a beginner, set aside some time to devote to your new running routine. If you plan it ahead of time, you will allow yourself the time to adapt to it. As a beginner, it can be difficult to set goals. Don’t worry about the speed or distance, but concentrate on duration. A good first goal is 10 minutes of running. This doesn’t include the warm up or cool down.

Start with a walk-run-walk-run routine. Start with more walking and less running. Then gradually decrease the walk portion and increase the running portion until you feel comfortable enough to run the whole way. This allows your body to ease into the faster pace and avoid getting a “side stitch”. Side stitches are caused by a lack of oxygen. If this happens, slow to a walk and breath deeply until it subsides. It may also be caused because food was eaten prior to running. So avoid eating any food for 2 hours prior or run first thing in the morning (my favourite time to run).

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned runner, it’s vital to have the right equipment: a good supportive pair of running shoes and comfortable clothing. I prefer leggings and a quick dry type T-shirt and a baseball hat. Shorts are better in the summer and for colder days, use layers for warmth. But be careful not to overdress. Your body will produce enough heat so I usually try to slightly underdress, knowing that my body will heat up as I go. A good pair of running shoes should last about 800km and should be replaced to prevent injury. Runners usually can tell when it’s time for a new pair of shoes because they start to have injuries or little pains here and there. Go to a running store to be fitted correctly with a new pair of runners.

running-shoesBefore starting a run, always take the time to warm-up. This may be simply a short brisk walk followed by gentle stretching. Include some upper body warm-up movements such as arm circles and torso twists as well.  Keep warm up stretches shallow and fluid – don’t hold for very long.  Save the deep stretches for after your run. The goal is to get some blood flowing through your muscles. Without a warm-up you will be much more prone to injury.

While running, don’t worry too much about how your foot hits the ground. Just keep it natural but try to be graceful – this means you won’t pound your foot down and that should protect your joints. Also keep your breathing consistent. Breath deeply. You may find when you start that you think about it too much. Try to find a breathing pattern and then don’t focus on it too much!

At the beginning you may find your legs are a bit sore. This is normal with any new exercise – but there should be no pain. Leg soreness should subside rather quickly. Be aware of the difference between being tired and being injured.

My preference is to run outside but you can use the treadmill during inclement weather. It is also a tool to help avoid injury since it is more consistent than a road. You can also incline the treadmill to help with training. Treadmills also offer feedback and information like heart monitors and calorie burn statistics. You can also get free apps for your phone to track your progress while running. I use one called Kinetic on my iphone.

After the run, cool down properly and stretch. Just as you warmed up by walking briskly, you can cool down by slowing to a walk and allowing your heart rate to slow, but still allow the blood to flow. Continue to take deep breaths. You will find that your breathing will return to normal more quickly as you become more experienced. Once you feel your heart rate and breathing is normal, find a quiet place to stretch. Hold the positions for at least 30 seconds for a good deep stretch. Make sure you stretch the front and back of your legs: quad, hamstring, calf, inside thigh, deep glute and even lower back.

quad-stretch
Quad stretch
deep-glute-stretch
Deep glute stretch (don’t miss this one)

Track your progress to see how you are doing. Give yourself little goals to reach and write down all your successes no matter how little. There’s lots of information on the internet. Do your research and make yourself a plan to put into motion. My mantra is never stop moving! Good luck and happy running!

What is your running routine? How long do you run or walk?

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor for medical advice before proceeding with any new exercise routine. Information provided is of a general nature and is for educational purposes. By following this information, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this information are at your own risk.

 

How to Squat Correctly

How to Squat Correctly

How to squat correctly to protect your back

squat-correctly

With reference to Back Mechanic by Dr. Stuart McGill

To correctly support your back while you squat, you must maintain a neutral spine as you move. The way to do this is to always hinge at the hip. Start off by standing up straight with feet shoulder width apart and your hand on your hips or straight out in front of you. Beginners can place their hands on the thighs until they are strong enough to move to hands on the hips. Think about starting with the hip, almost like you’re sticking your butt out first, then slowly bending your knees as you start to lower. Continue to exaggerate this motion of sticking your butt out while still maintaining a neutral spine, and continuing to lower to the lowest point. It feels as if you’re lowering yourself into a chair.

Examples of incorrect posture:

(1) Knees to far forward over the feet (2) Back should not be curved or slouching
(1) Knees to far forward over the feet (2) Back should not be curved or slouching

There should be no rounding of your back at any point. It helps to look straight ahead, focussing on a spot on the wall straight ahead, keeping your chin up and keeping your back straight. Keep your chest up and out. Think about “lifting your tail”. Your torso muscles (both front and back) should be engaged so support the lower back. Dr. McGill refers to this as the abdominal brace. The muscles should not be “sucked in” or loose, just slightly tight to provide enough support.

Beginners: start by placing your hand on your thighs
Beginners: start by placing your hand on your thighs

As you lower down into the squat position, the weight of your body should be back into your heals. So much in fact, that you should be able to lift your toes up off the floor while still maintaining this position. When you are at your lowest point, your knees should be in line with your feet and not in front of your toes. Only go down as low as you can comfortably go. Do not allow your spine to curve during any part of this motion. As you practice this over time, you will strengthen your muscles and increase range of motion. It is more important to practice good form over range.

When you push back up to a standing position, use your glutes to help you push back up. Always maintain the abdominal brace to support your back. Even if your back is not sore, it is good to keep these muscles engaged to support your spine to prevent any injuries.

Use a mirror to watch your form. Once you have perfected this motion, you can begin to add weights, holding them in your hands up at shoulder height or hanging straight down at your sides. But always err on the side of lighter weight to maintain good form and a comfortable range of motion.

Fitness Blender’s video: How to Squat 

See also Good Standing Posture

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor for medical advice before proceeding with any new exercise routine. Information provided is of a general nature and is for educational purposes. By following this informaiton, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this information are at your own risk.
Fitness Blender Program

Fitness Blender Program

Fitness Blender 30-minute 8-week program

fb30-round-3

Fitness Blender’s latest 8-week program for Busy People is an excellent way to incorporate 30-minutes per day of exercise. Kelli and Daniel have preselected all the workouts you need for a variety to take the guesswork out of your daily fitness plan. I am currently in week 6 of this plan and can highly recommend this as a good way to get toned and healthy. The workouts are completely free. The only thing you pay for is the program itself which is $14.99 US or about $20 Cdn. Once you’ve purchased the program, you can re-use it as many times as you like. Simply make an account on their website Fitnessblender.com and follow the links to their many options for workout programs. You can even try some of their free 5-day programs first to see if you like their format.

Which is your favourite workout on Fitness Blender?

Read my fitness philosophy.

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor for medical advice before proceeding with any new exercise routine. Information provided is of a general nature and is for educational purposes. By following this video, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this video are at your own risk.
Home Workout Equipment

Home Workout Equipment

Setting up your home workout space

Growing up, organized physical activity was not a big part of my life. As kids we played outside but I didn’t regularly participate in organized sports. I do remember asking to participate in soccer with a friend and did that for a few years. That was a good way to learn teamwork and get a really good workout. As a parent, I encouraged my children to participate in at least 2 activities outside of school: one sport to challenge the body and one other activity (usual something creative like art or music) to challenge the mind.

As an adult, I am acutely aware that my physical well-being is not only related to what I eat, but also a result of how I maintain my body through exercise. With a family history of heart disease, I need to remember to exercise the heart muscle. Running allows me to do this along with some fresh air and time alone to meditate. A few years ago, my daughter introduced me to home workout videos on youtube.com, in particular Fitness Blender. Previous to that I would concentrate on running and biking and dapple in some body-weight strength training. I also tried gym memberships, but after gaining more experience and becoming more confident in my understanding of how to workout my body and strengthen my muscles, I felt the need to set up a better home workout space. Now I can pre-select one of the many videos on Fitness Blender and have a quiet space to actually do it!

home-workout-equipment

This is what I have in my home workout space:

  • small room/space with no clutter
  • window and/or good lighting
  • an area rug
  • soft exercise mat
  • series of different weights
  • exercise ball
  • stand for my ipad mini to play videos
  • small fan to keep me cool
  • a mirror to check my posture/position

 

None of these things are very expensive except my iPad mini. Other equipment I need includes a good pair of running shoes, comfortable clothing and a water bottle. Since I workout in the mornings before my workday, I also have a clock on the wall to keep an eye on the time so I’m not late for work.

Depending on the weather, I do mix up my routines. Some days I go for a run outside, typically about 5km or a bike ride – normally about 30 minutes including a warm-up. In the winter, cross-country skiing is another option. I mix the days outside with the days inside. The great part of Fitness Blender is they offer a good blend and variety of workouts including HIIT (high intensity interval training), cardio, kickboxing, strength training, toning, yoga, and more. I can also choose the difficulty level and even low-impact options. No matter what I choose, I do have to remember to cool down and stretch. If I skip the stretch, I pay for it later with stiff and inflexible muscles and will be more prone to injury.

Now, I don’t have the need for a gym membership and it’s so easy to incorporate different types of workouts into my daily routine. The equipment I need is right at home and I have absolutely no excuse to skip the routines! In fact, I have made a conscious effort to routinely include them in my day and if I have a day off, I actually miss it!

What do you have in your home workout space?

Bike Ride Checklist

Bike Ride Checklist

Essentials for bike trips

bicycle

If you’re going on a bike trip for an hour or more, you may end up a fair distance from home and if you encounter a problem, it could be a long way to walk. There are a few things you should pack to ensure you will be safe. No matter how long you plan to ride, bring tools to repair a flat. Bring a hand pump, tire levers, a spare inner tube and a patch repair kit. Flat tires can happen anytime, anywhere and being close to home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Carrying this small amount of equipment can turn a spoiled day into a short delay. Secondly know how to repair your flat!

Here’s a checklist:

  • Bike helmet
  • Water bottle
  • Snack
  • Flat repair kit
  • Bike pump
  • Cell phone
  • Map (if you don’t know the area)
  • Comfortable clothing – maybe padded shorts, bike gloves
  • Visibility – brightly coloured or reflective clothes
  • Rain gear
  • Protective eyewear
  • Sunscreen
  • Bike lock
  • Bike light (front & rear)
  • Cash (just in case)

 

My fitness philosophy.

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