Category: Exercise

 

Your mental and emotional health are just as important as your physical health – possibly more! Being mentally healthy makes it much easier to stay regularly active and choose healthful and nutritious foods. Exercise is a wonderful and necessary thing to keep your body feeling well and maintaining muscle tone; however, there are so many more beautiful things about exercising. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that exercise is only good for “staying trim” or losing weight, and definitely don’t berate someone who is physically slim for exercising. Do you know how many times I’ve heard, “why do you exercise? You’re already skinny!”

The benefits of physical activity and exercise go far beyond the physical aesthetic. In fact, that’s one of the least important aspects of exercise. That “skinny exerciser” may use her regular workout as a way to stave off crippling fatigue or anxiety. Exercise is particularly great for a whole spectrum of areas of emotional and mental health. Particularly right now, as so many of us are struggling with extra stress and irregular routines, you can find some healing in physical activity. 

 

 

Find Community

 

 

Physical exercise can encourage socialization. Even solitary, non-competitive sports like running can be done in groups, and many people find this helps motivate them – not to mention it’s more fun. Finding a community within your sport which helps connect you to the sport and to others on a deeper level is amazing. Exercising in a group can make you feel like you’re part of something – this in itself is a great thing for your mind and body alike.

 



 

Stave off Depression and Anxiety

Exercise is fantastic for mental wellbeing. The science is all there – human beings are designed for movement, mobility, and activity. We thrive on being able to run, walk, jump, climb, swim and exert our muscles. Even if hardcore exercise isn’t for you, simple stretching or less intense sports such as walking and gentle swimming can release endorphins in your brain and give you an incredible feeling. Give activity the chance to help you feel as renewed and refreshed as you deserve.

 

Try Something New and Promote Brain Function

 

 

Trying a new activity is great for both your mind and your body. If you love sports and practice your favorite sport regularly,  you might be tempted just to stick with what you know. However, trying cost-effective new activities which require learning a new skill, such as hand-eye coordination, helps your mind adapt, stretch and overcome new challenges. This is highly beneficial for your development, and has been strongly connected with lower occurrence of cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. Stuck on what to try? Check out this list of options:

  • Pickleball – Pickleball is a mixture of tennis and badminton, and requires a teammate. All you need is a buddy, a paddle, and a whiffleball. While you’re at it, pick you up some court shoes for pickleball. My mom’s been playing pickleball at her local gym for a few years and I’ve joined her a few times. It’s a great workout and a ton of fun!
  • Pilates – Mostly mat work, pilates is great for low-impact strengthening work for core and back stability, as well as lower body strengthening. It is an excellent way to stabilize joints and prevent back pain.
  • Rock Climbing – If you have a local gym with a climbing wall, give it a go! There are few equivalent exercises for functional upper body work. The key, though, is to work on using your lower body whenever possible so you can climb for more than a few minutes before your arms give out!
  • Dancing – It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like dancing in front of others, you can try hip hop, Latin, or cardio dance from the comfort of your living room with free Youtube dance workouts. Who cares how you look? Just move and have fun!
  • Martial Arts – From Tai Chi to Muy Thai and everything in between, martial arts have so many benefits: balance, flexibility, discipline, and self-defense skills.

 



 

There are so many more ways to stay active, you’d be surprised! I even had a client recently who participates in arm wrestling competitions! Whatever you think you might be interested in, there’s a group of people out there doing it. If you haven’t find your “thing” yet, don’t give up. Your mental health (not to mention the physical health benefits) is worth the journey to find an activity you’ll enjoy doing long-term. Keep at it!

 

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Exercise

 

We’re going on two solid weeks of quarantine in my area, and we recently started a shelter-in-place lockdown. Gyms have been closed for several weeks and now all parks, beaches, and government-owned trails are either shut down or we have been recommended to steer clear. While necessary, these closures can make it seem impossible to find a way to stay active (not to mention find the motivation to do so)!

While it may not be your preferred way to be active, video workouts can be a saving grace when your gym and equipment (and much of the great outdoors) are unavailable. Many different Youtube creators have been generating free fitness-related videos for years, all of which are at your fingertips. With these Youtube channels, there’s something for everyone!

Important: As with any new fitness regimen, make sure to have your doctor’s approval and use this form to help you assess your risk to safely incorporate new exercise. Discontinue any movement that causes sharp or shooting pains, modify as needed, and progress gradually.

 



 

1. POPSUGAR Fitness

 

 

  • Type of workouts: All kinds – cardio, barre, boot camp, kickboxing, Zumba/latin dance, strength and toning, Pilates, yoga, and more
  • Reasons you might love it: Think of POPSUGAR as a live, video version of a fitness magazine workout. They have many skill levels of balanced, well-rounded workouts with certified trainers, and they often instruct on modifications. If you love female-oriented workout classes, this is a great place to start!
  • Reasons it may not be a good fit: The models are very fit and dressed like fitness models. You’ll swear they aren’t breaking a sweat. Staying fit and aesthetic is their job – for most of us, that’s not the case. If that’s going to be discouraging, you may prefer a different channel.

 

2. Fitness Blender

HD wallpaper: Fitness couple doing working out exercises in the ...

  • Type of workouts: Cardio, HIIT, kickboxing, strength training
  • Reasons you might love it: Fitness Blender offers a no-frills approach to video workouts. The set is very simple (one exercise demonstrator on a white background), the workouts are balanced, and you’ll definitely get your sweat on. There is no background music so you can play your own favorite tunes.
  • Reasons it may not be a good fit: If you love a high-energy, music-pumping group fitness experience, the simplicity of Fitness Blender may not offer the atmosphere you crave.



 

3. The Fitness Marshall

File:TheFitnessMarshall.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

  • Type of workout: Hip hop cardio dance
  • Reasons you might love it: With all due respect, Caleb (aka “The Fitness Marshall”) is like a very hip, very modern Richard Simmons. He’s high energy, he’s hilarious, and he is an EPIC hip hop dancer. His videos are inclusive of a variety of shapes, sizes, genders, races, and sexual orientations. He sometimes messes up and totally plays it off – no perfection needed, just have a blast dancin’!
  • Reasons it may not be a good fit: Obviously, if you don’t like dancing or hip hop music, this is not the channel for you. You should be forewarned that while most are, not all of his videos may be appropriate for your kiddos. Since everyone’s kids are home now, you might want to screen individual videos before putting them on the big screen.

 

4. Yoga with Adriene

 

 

  • Type of workout: yoga (you’re shocked, I know)
  • Reasons you might love it: Adriene has a darling, low-pressure personality and her videos are very peaceful and relaxing. She has yoga videos of all lengths and for all situations (headaches, anxiety, back pain, stress, sore muscles, and more). If you’re new to yoga, her 30 Days of Yoga is a great place to start while in quarantine. Plus, if you’re lucky, her adorable dog Benji will make an appearance!
  • Reasons it may not be a good fit: This may be dangerous Internet territory but I would be remiss if I did not mention that yoga sometimes encourages spiritual practices. Emptying your mind and connecting with the spiritual realm provides opportunities for harmful spiritual attack. While Adriene rarely incorporates these practices, you should be aware. Take the videos for the excellent stretching and breathing exercises, and use the time of mental clarity to meditate on God’s word or to pray (Philippians 4:8).

 



 

5. HASfit

 

 

  • Type of workout: cardio, strength, and some equipment workouts
  • Reasons you might love it: Led by two certified personal trainers, the workouts are balanced and effective and come in a wide variety of lengths. Got 10 minutes? Got 45? There’s a video for that. They have options for all skill levels – they even have an awesome seated workout. If you have some home equipment you’d like to utilize (dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.), they’ve got you covered.
  • Reasons it may not be a good fit: If you don’t love calisthenics or you prefer a workout that is a distraction from the fact that it’s exercise (i.e. dancing or kickboxing), this may not be the channel for you.

Hopefully these Youtube channels may provide you with some fresh activities to try while you’re riding out the Coronavirus storm. Hang in there. Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to be as active as you normally are. This is a difficult time for many of us, and while activity can help with stress reduction, it won’t help if you’re stressed about the workouts themselves. Give yourself some grace and patience as you find your footing. Look for workouts you really enjoy, and stay safe and healthy!

 

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Exercise Wellness Tips

Exercise

 

Sometimes starting a new exercise plan can be overwhelming. One nice thing about being more active is that you have a lot of options, but that can also be a struggle. Many people are confused about what types of exercises they “should” do and how they should do them. This post will give you some tips on selecting exercises and making a sustainable (and dare I say, enjoyable?) exercise plan.

Keep in mind that any new exercise plan should be approved by your doctor, particularly if you have any chronic diseases or injuries. Use this form to guide you as you plan to safely increase your physical activity.

 



 

What are your goals?

Ultimately the exercises that you choose should be guided by your health goals. While being physically active is beneficial for overall health, choosing the most appropriate and specific exercises will help you achieve your goals most efficiently.

  • Weight Loss – Start out any new weight loss plan by focusing on simply moving more than you move now. Once that becomes a habit, then increase the cardiovascular challenge by spending more time with your heart rate up. Finally, add in strength training to build muscle mass. This extra muscle will use up energy, increasing your metabolism.
  • Endurance – To increase your endurance, start by gradually increasing the amount of time you spend with your heart rate up. In this case, you’re not looking for very intense exercise, but a moderate challenge that you can sustain for longer and longer bouts of time as you train. Then add in strength training, focusing on more repetitions (10+) and lower weights.
  • Strength – Begin by focusing on your form – ask a trainer or friend (or watch in the mirror) to ensure you are performing the exercises safely and effectively. Gradually increase the difficulty, focusing on fewer repetitions (6-8) and higher weights. Focus on muscle balance – if you train one side of your body (for example, your chest), you must also train the other (your upper back, in this case). If you train biceps, be sure to also train triceps. This helps to protect your joints from imbalances that can lead to injury. Make sure to incorporate the recommendations for flexibility into any strength training plan as well.
  • Improved digestion – Yes, physical activity can improve digestion! Moderate cardiovascular exercise can improve circulation to your intestines, helping your body break down and absorb food more efficiently. Another significant factor is stress – stress can wreak havoc on digestion! Consistently performing stress-reducing activities like prayer, yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation can play a huge role in improving digestion.
  • Improved health markers (blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) – While it varies based on which lab values you’re targeting, most are improved with combinations of cardio and strength training, even without weight loss; however, reducing excess body weight is linked with improvements in blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
  • Flexibility – This is a great goal if you’re wanting to improve or maintain movement in your joints and prevent injuries. Anyone can benefit from maintaining flexibility. The key here is consistency. Stretch your muscles and joints regularly. Whether you use yoga, standing stretches, or wall stretches doesn’t matter as long as you are gentle and consistent.

 

 



 

Enjoyability

This is so, so important to an exercise program. If you detest doing a certain type of exercise, do not plan on or expect that you will do it consistently. That is a great way to set yourself up to either quit or be miserable. Bear in mind that the first few weeks of any exercise program will be difficult since you are not yet trained for the exercise, but I’m not referring to difficulty here. I’m talking about enjoyability – if you hate to dance, don’t join a Zumba class. If you can’t stand being on a cardio machine, don’t commit to a treadmill. Find methods of exercise that you actually enjoy.

 

Sometimes that looks like building a little more intensity into the movements you do in everyday life. For example, if you love to garden and be outside, use a push mower, shovel by hand, or cut your own firewood. If you like to watch television, ride a stationary bike while you do or – one of my personal faves –  take a drinking game designed for the show you’re binge-watching and exchange the shots for exercises. These tasks will incorporate fitness into aspects of your life that you do enjoy.

 



 

Accessibility

Ask yourself a few questions: Do you have the equipment or space to do this activity? Will you need a gym membership? Is there a realistic time in your day to set aside to do this?

If the basic logistics aren’t there, find something more accessible. If all else fails, there are hundreds of workout videos on Youtube for any type of workout you can think of. No fees, no membership, no travel, and no need for fancy exercise clothes (unless you want them).

 

Taking all three of these factors into account can help make sure that your exercise program gets you where you’re trying to go in the most enjoyable way that is realistic for your life. Fitness isn’t always fun and there aren’t too many people who are super jazzed to do their workout every day always, but a little thought and planning on the front end can make a huge difference in the long run. If you find yourself stuck or confused, find yourself a certified fitness professional to help you out. Finding a way to make it work is worth it!

 

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Exercise

 

To round out this series on fitness for backpacking, I thought I would offer you a little bonus post on nutrition for the trail.

Good choices for trail foods are:

  • lightweight
  • do not require refrigeration
  • are nutrient dense
  • may or may not require cooking – while either can work if you bring a stove, this is a factor to consider!

Some of the parameters you might look for in your day-to-day food might be a bit different when hiking or backpacking. Your needs for calories, carbohydrates, and sodium are higher when you are active (especially if you’re carrying a pack). Don’t worry if some of the foods you eat are higher in these nutrients than what you normally eat. Here is a list of ideas for meals and snacks while hiking or backpacking:

 

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal – Portion oatmeal, dried fruits, protein powder, cinnamon, and brown sugar into individual packets or zipper plastic bags.
  • Breakfast bars – Homemade or store-bought bars that contain whole-grain carbohydrates and protein can be great options. Oats, nuts, seeds, honey, and dried fruits are all good potential ingredients. Here is a recipe for homemade breakfast bars that I’ve made before and enjoyed!
  • Instant Breakfast Packets – While these are probably not sufficient by themselves to prep you for a day of hiking, you can mix these packets into your oatmeal, coffee, or water for some added carbohydrate and protein.

 



 

Lunch

  • Wraps – Whole-grain tortillas with peanut butter and a banana or a pouch of chicken with spinach are easy to whip out for a quick lunch break.
  • Hummus “plate” – Depending on how long you’re hiking, you can sometimes get away with some crunchier veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower) in your bag for a day or two. Toss in some pita bread and a container of hummus and you’ve got a nutritious and delicious no-cook meal.

 

Dinner

  • Pasta- Particularly if you’ve hiked all day, do not fear the carbohydrates! Pouches of pasta sides are convenient and easily cooked with a camp stove. Add a packet of chicken or tuna or some slices of summer sausage for protein, and toss in some dehydrated veggies.
  • Beans and rice – Find a mix of rice and beans to which you can add some dry ranch dressing or onion soup mix and some dehydrated veggies. Boil it up!
  • Freeze-dried backpacking meals – These guys can be super-light and very convenient, but sometimes expensive. Watch to make sure they have the right amount of calories, carbohydrates, and protein for you after a long day on the trail. Unless you’ve been sweating a lot throughout the day, aim to keep the sodium under 40% DV.

 



 

Snacks

  • Dried fruits – These make excellent snacks, loaded with carbohydrates for energy and are quite light with all of the water dehydrated from them. Try dried peaches, strawberries, kiwis, or bananas.
  • Trail mix – Sorry to state the obvious, but this high-calorie, high nutrient density snack is really in its element in the out-of-doors.
  • Harvest Snaps – These crunchy puffed snacks made from peas, lentils, and other legumes have carbohydrate (important when hiking), protein, and a decent amount of fiber. Plus they are very light!
  • Whole grain crackers – Light and nutritious, these help provide necessary fiber and energy.
  • Jerky – Buy it or marinate and dehydrate some yourself.
  • Treats – Pack a little something to treat yourself after a long day of hoofing it! Choose individual packages of a favorite cookie or candy to enjoy around the campfire.

 

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Hiking/Backpacking

Stretches for hikers

 

Are you getting excited to hit the trail yet? I know I am! Every sunny day gets me one day closer to our first backpacking trip! We’ve covered endurance and joint stability so far, and today we’re going to talk about flexibility. While by no means is it necessary to be gumby to enjoy a day on the trail, working on your flexibility can help you hike with less soreness and risk of injury. As an added bonus, performing these stretches after a day of hiking may prevent or lessen muscle tightness the following day.

 

The primary muscle groups that are going to benefit from increased flexibility in this case are: hip flexors (on the front of your hips), glutes (buttox), quads (thighs), hamstrings (the backs of your upper legs) and calves. If you are carrying a pack, we’ll toss in your upper and lower back, and pectorals (chest) as well.

 

I’ll show you 4 stretches that will catch each of these muscle groups. You want to hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds, 1-3 times a day. Press gently into the stretch until you feel tension but not pain. As you sit in the stretch, take deep breaths. You’ll often feel your muscles release some tension after 20-30 seconds and you’ll be able to go a little deeper without pain.

 

Hip Flexors, Quads, & Calves

Stand with your feet hip width apart and place your hands on your hips or against a tree or wall for balance. Step your right leg forward into a lunge position. Bend your right knee, press your left hip forward. Keep your left leg as straight as you can and press your left heel toward the ground. You should feel this stretch in the front of your left hip, down into your left thigh, and in your left calf. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

 

hip flexor and calf stretchhip flexor and calf stretch side view

 



 

Hamstrings & Glutes

Stand with your feet hip width apart and place your hands on your hips or against a tree or wall for balance. Step forward with your right foot. Keeping your right heel on the ground, bend your left leg and shift your weight downward as if you were going to sit down. You should feel this stretch in the back of your right leg and in your right buttock. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

 

glute and hamstring stretch

 

Upper & Lower Back

You can do this stretch standing or on all fours. Placing your hands on the ground or on your knees, pull your stomach muscles toward your spine and round your shoulders and back. You should feel this stretch in between your shoulder blades and around your spine. Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds.

 

back stretch standing

back stretch kneeling



Chest

Standing with feet hip-width apart, reach both hands behind you and interlock your fingers. Roll your shoulders back and press down into your fingers. Keep a slight bend in your arms to avoid locking your elbows. You should feel this stretch in your chest. Hold for 30-60 seconds. If you are not able to clasp your fingers together behind you, you can press your arm against a tree or wall behind you to stretch it.

 

chest stretch

 

And that’s it! Four simple stretches to help improve your backpacking experience. Consistency is key with flexibility – try to do these exercises daily (or several times daily, you overachiever, you). It only takes 5 minutes!

 

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Hiking/Backpacking

physical therapy for hiking and backpacking

 

When you’re out on the trail, there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing with some unstable or uneven ground. Between sticks, rocks, and roots, there is quite a bit of potential for strained or sore joints. Your knees and hips can run into trouble with instability, but there’s good news. The endurance training plan from my last post will strengthen and stabilize these joints. No need for anything extra – I love an efficient training program! There is another joint, however, that could benefit from a little extra attention.

 

The most likely victims of instability on the trail are your ankles. Since they allow movement in multiple directions, they are usually less stable and can be susceptible to strains and sprains. On my first overnight backpacking trip, this completely snuck up on me. Fortunately I didn’t sprain my ankle, but carrying my pack and hiking on uneven ground for several miles caused my ankles to be sore for months afterward. In fact, I used some of the exercises below to help regain my ankle stability.

 

This routine shouldn’t take you any more than 5 minutes. You can do all of the exercises You’ll need a resistance band for this quick ankle routine.

 

Front-to-Back Stability

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Hook the resistance band around the ball of your foot and hold the ends of the band in your hands. With controlled movements, slowly press the ball of your foot away from you. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 15 times on each foot.ankle flexion exercise for backpacking

 



Left-to-Right Stability

2. Anchor your resistance band around the leg of a heavy table or bookshelf. Sit on the floor with your legs perpendicular to your anchor. Loop the resistance band around the inside edge of the ball of your foot. Keeping your leg still, rotate your ankle to point your toes away from the anchor against the resistance of the band. Slowly return to the starting point. Repeat 15 times on each foot.

3. Repeat this exercise with the band looped around the outside edge of your foot. This time you will rotate your ankle the opposite direction to move your toes away from your anchor.

lateral ankle exercise

 



 

360-degree Stability

4. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Hook the resistance band around the ball of your foot and hold the ends of the band in your hands. Slowly turn your ankle in a clockwise circle 15 times. Repeat in the other direction. Repeat both directions on the other foot.

ankle rotation exercise

 

You can complete this 5-minute routine anywhere from 2-3 times weekly to 2-3 times daily. The more often you do it, the more stability you can build in your ankles.

 



 

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Hiking/Backpacking