Get Back on the Bike

Today, I want you to go into your shed, garage, or other storage unit and wipe the dust off your old bicycle. Fill those old tires up with some air. Adjust the seat, because you’re not twelve anymore and probably have a few extra feet on your frame.

But just because you aren’t a kid anymore, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get back on the bicycle. In fact, this is one bandwagon you should definitely hop back on!

Bike riding is a phenomenal workout. And with the gorgeous summer weather here, there’s no reason you should be doing your boring cardio routines on a stationary machine in a stingy gym.’

Here’s why bike riding is so great.

First of all, there’s these things called bike lanes on most roads now. So, it’s not as dangerous as you think to be out cycling on the roads. If you’re at a busy intersection, just cross as a car and follow regular traffic rules. As a rule, I always wear a helmet too. This doubles as protection and a visor from the sun. Now, to the stuff you’re really interested in…

Why biking is so good for you.

You get a full body workout. Yes, you’re primarily working your legs to propel the bike, so your glutes, hamstrings, and calves will look great. But working the handlebars also gives tone to your arms. Plus overall, you’re burning tons of calories while riding – which contributes to fat loss and therefore, overall slimming and toning effects. Going for an hour bike ride, even at a slow or moderate pace, can burn hundreds of calories. And since you’re biking outside, taking in the changing scenery and paying attention to the roads and traffic, you’ll barely notice the time passing!

If you choose to incorporate some hills into your ride, you can up the intensity and overall workout you’ll get by standing and pedaling out of the saddle. This engages your arms even more as you grip the handlebars, as well as activates your core to keep you stable as you climb.

Additionally, biking gives your joints a break. Biking is considered a low impact form of cardio. Spare your knees for a change and switch from running, walking, hiking, etc., to biking. When you’re running, your knees are receiving the impact from hitting the ground, but since you’re smoothly cycling the pedals around instead, your joints are spared.

To make sure your knees won’t get sore or irritated from this low impact, albeit repetitive, movement, make sure your bike is fitted properly for your height. There should be just a slight bend in your knee when it’s fully extended on a downward pedal.

And finally, you’ll reap the usual benefits of doing cardio in general. Your heart will be stronger, you’ll reduce the risk of heart disease and other conditions. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, feel better about yourself and be more alert. You’ll de-stress by working out and you’ll get to enjoy the great outdoors. So do yourself a favor, and get back on the bike.

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Bosu Exercises – Part 3 of 3

The bosu is one of my favorite pieces of exercise equipment. It’s so versatile that it allows you to get a full body workout at a variety of intensities. It really jazzes up exercises that can become mundane and boring on their own.

Below, I’ve listed and shown my favorite ARM exercises to do with a bosu. Try some out!

ARM EXERCISES

    1. Handwalk – This movement combines a straight arm plank with lateral movements to exercise your core and your arms all in one.
      *Put the bosu on the ground with the blue side facing up. Set yourself up in a straight arm plank on the blue surface. Begin the movement by moving one arm laterally onto the floor, then by bringing the other arm over as well. Now, move each arm back onto the blue surface of the bosu. Next, move each arm over the other side of the bosu. Continue moving across the bosu from side to side, lifting and placing just one arm at a time.
    2. Push Ups – Push ups are awesome to tone up your arms. Make them a little more difficult by doing them on your bosu.
      *Place the bosu on the ground with the black side facing up. Grasp the sides of the bosu and perform a regular push up. This exercise adds difficulty to the push up by forcing your core and stabilizing muscles to contract in order to help you maintain your balance throughout the movement.
    3. Chest Press – Don’t have dumbells at home? Don’t worry, you can still strengthen your chest and arms by performing a chest press with your bosu.
      *Lay on the floor and grip the bosu with both hands so the black side is facing you. Bring the bosu in towards your chest, then extend your arms up to push the bosu away from you. Repeat.

Have fun with this! If you have questions, leave a comment!

Tabata

Dr. Izumi Tabata is a Japanese scientist who came up with the method of training called tabata. Tabata is a form of high intensity interval training. This specific style of training consists of choosing four exercises that target large muscle groups or involve the entire body. You begin with one exercise and perform it for 20 seconds at your maximum ability, then rest for 10 seconds. The same exercise and times are repeated for a total of 8 sets. Then, you move on to the next exercise and perform it for 8 rounds of 20 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest in between, and so on for the other exercises you selected.

In total, tabata style workouts take only 4 minutes for each exercise, so you can complete an intense workout in just 16 minutes! Most exercises that are done in tabata target large muscle groups for maximum effect. Some exercises may include burpees, squat jumps, lunge jumps, kettle bell swings, medicine ball slams, mountain climbers, sprints, pushups, tricep dips, and various core exercises.

The benefits of this type of training are that it improves both aerobic and anaerobic capacity. So the cardiovascular system, which requires oxygen to function, improves, AND the anaerobic energy systems are targeted too. Therefore, muscles are trained and strengthened as well. Most types of exercise don’t hit both systems as hard as tabata.

These benefits are what lead to fat burning and muscle building. Additionally, this type of training leads to an increased metabolism, so even after you finish your tabata training, your body continues to burn higher levels of calories for a longer period of time. That’s an added bonus to the improvements and calorie burning you’re already working for!

The only drawbacks to tabata are if you have certain heart issues or very high blood pressure. Because tabata elevates your heart rate, and keeps it elevated for so long with minimal rest between the full body exertions you are performing, your heart cannot recover entirely.

Additionally, if you have problems with your joints this type of workout might not be the best. These high bursts of intense full body exercises might put a little too much stress on your joints and cause irritation if done for so many repetitions.

There is one more important thing to note about tabata. Tabata is HARD. It is not for the weak of heart. It will feel like the longest, most uncomfortable four (up to sixteen if you do the whole workout ;)…) minutes of your life. Your muscles will fatigue. You will be out of breath. But don’t let that deter you from trying this awesome, effective training method because it WILL get you results!

Here is a sample Home Workout Tabata program to try:

tabata

The Magic of Kinesio Tape

Trends in fitness come and go, and often come back around. So by now, I’m sure you’ve at least heard of Kinesio Tape, if you haven’t already used it yet. It was designed back in the 1970’s by Dr. Kenzo Kase from Japan.

1970’s … That’s over forty years old! But before you knock this seemingly archaic taping method, you should know: Kinesio Tape isn’t just regular tape. It’s pretty magical, in my opinion. Of course, I’ll admit here that I’m biased. I’ve used this product before on various occasions, for various injuries. The first time I used this tape, I was in high school and had severe tendonitis in my knee as well as Iliotibial Band Syndrome so bad, I was limping when I walked around. I was running long distances on the track team at the time, and had a meet coming up. One of my fellow distance running teammates gave me some Kinesio Tape and showed me how to apply it. I couldn’t believe what I was feeling. I could not only walk without limping, but I was able to continue running, and my chronic injuries actually began healing.

If you’re an athlete of any kind, you know that typically an injury needs rest and rehab to heal – not continued use and performance. But that’s what I was able to do with this tape! I didn’t stop running or competing, yet my injuries were improving.

How? Magic!

Well, no… It’s the science of Kinesio Tape and we’re about to dive into it.

What is Kinesio Tape?

Kinesio Tape is a thin, porous, stretchy tape. The porous material allows sweat and moisture through the tape for a comfortable, breathy feeling. This also allows the tape to be worn for days at a time, through your sweating, swimming, and showering.

How is it Different from Other Tapes?

Traditional taping of injuries involve stabilizing the muscle or joint that is injured with athletic tape. Often, the tape would be applied tightly around a joint to restrict the motion of that joint, therefore, preventing further strain and injury. The tape would be removed immediately after athletic performance or exercise is completed. This taping technique inhibits the natural healing process by restricting the circulation of blood and fluids to the injured area.

Kinesio Tape, on the other hand, allows full range of motion movements and opens up the area surrounding the muscle. It accomplishes both of these seemingly contradictory tasks because the tape stretches only longitudinally, not across its width, which allows for certain applications of the tape to stretch and pull skin, while other taped directions remain stabilized. Note that the tape is not wrapped around injured sites. The tape is applied along muscles, tendons, ligaments to slightly lift the skin covering an injured muscle to promote circulation and healing, while providing stabilization to prevent further strain and injury. By lifting the skin slightly, space is created for the muscle that allows more blood and fluid to circulate through it.

What Does it Do (Scientifically Speaking)?

Kinesio Tape works with your body’s natural feedback system between the brain and the muscles. By adjusting the placement of the tape, you can manipulate the way your skin and muscles interact. This manipulation can help relax or excite your muscles to send less or more signals to the brain about various things, like feeling pain.

HUH?? Here’s a List to Break it Down:

  • Kinesio Tape supports your muscles and aligns your joints. The taping allows your muscles to continue to work and contract, even when they are weak and injured. The way you tape them helps lessen the pain you may feel by providing excess space between your muscles and skin and disrupting the neuro-muscular feedback system. It helps align your joints by increasing the range of motion to certain joints, depending on how you tape them. Since it also helps relieve your tight muscles, it reduces the extra strain and pressure those muscles put on joints that cause unnecessary pain.
  • Kinesio Tape improves circulation. By creating extra space between the muscle and skin, more blood and body fluids can reach the injured site. This is how we heal! So, inflammation will be reduced, and thus pain will lessen, and more fluids circulate through the area and cleanse the chemicals out.
  • Kinesio Tape facilitates your natural healing process. The tape isn’t magical, but the way your body heals is. The way the tape works is to help promote healing and reduce the pain signals your brain receives. Double whammy of relief.

How Do I Apply it?

First, you want to make sure the area is clean. If you use moisturizer, clean it off the site you are about to tape. This allows the adhesive to stick better and last longer. Use hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes to rid the skin of excess oils or lotions. Let it dry completely before applying the tape.

There are two directions the tape moves in, as said before. It only stretches longitudinally, not across its width, so tension in the tape should be stretched accordingly. For injured, tight muscles that require relief and healing, the tape should be applied with no tension (i.e.: don’t stretch the tape when applying). This application should start from the tendon and muscle and extend toward the origin of the muscle (i.e.: where the muscle originally attaches from).

For chronic injuries that need support or increased range of motion, the tape should have some tension in it. This application should start from the origin of the muscle and extend toward the tendon or bone the muscle inserts on.

After the tape is on, rub it to active the adhesive. This ensures the tape won’t peel off prematurely. Then, enjoy the relief you feel for the next few days!

Conclusion

Anyone can use Kinesio Tape. Many physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, and athletes use Kinesio Tape to provide relief of injury and maintain athletic performance despite injury. This tape can be used for almost any common injury from shin splints, tendonitis in the knee and elbow, to carpal tunnel syndrome. It comes in all sorts of fun colors and can be easily applied to last for days at a time, allowing you to remain pain free and heal faster without disrupting your daily routine. To know more on how to tape your specific injury, head over to the Kinesio Tape website for instructions and tutorials.

Exercising in the Heat

Is warmer weather finally approaching? Is it time for a tropical vacation? Do you still want to get some exercise in and stay on top of your routine? If so, here are a few things you should understand about exercising in the heat to stay safe and maximize your workout.

Various body adaptations occur as we adjust to warmer temperatures during exercise. Some things happen immediately, while other adaptations occur over time as you continue to get used to exercising in warmer temperatures. Here are the basic, major adaptations that occur.

HEART RATE, STROKE VOLUME, & BLOOD VOLUME

Short Term: Initially, your heart will work harder when you begin exercising in the heat as it attempts to maintain homeostasis. You may feel more sluggish exercising at the same intensities in the heat than you do at lower temperatures. This is because your body is working harder to stay cool and fuel your muscles in the heat.

Long Term: Once you adapt to the higher temperatures, your heart will be under less stress. Your heart rate will actually decrease but you’ll still be able to work at higher intensities. This allows you to perform better because as your heart rate decreases, your stroke volume, which is the amount of blood sent out with each contraction of your ventricles, increases.

Additionally, with an increased plasma volume, your body will be able to send more blood to the skin’s surface to cool you down, and also more can be sent to the muscles to allow them to work at their best.

BLOOD VESSELS, SKIN, SWEATING, & IONS

Short Term: Your body will immediately begin to sweat more in the heat, as your core temperature rises. Sweating is how your body tries to maintain homeostasis. In this case, homeostasis looks like your body attempting to stay within the ideal core temperature range. To do this, your body will sweat more as it tries to cool itself down.

In order to sweat, your body will increase skin and muscle vasodilation. This means your blood vessels widen, or dilate, in order to allow more blood to flow near the skin’s surface, where heat can be lost via convection, evaporation, and radiation.

Initially, sweating more than normal leads to a lot of water loss, which can lead to dehydration. You can lose more than 3 liters of water per hour while exercising in the heat, depending on duration and intensity. If you aren’t careful about drinking a lot of water or another beverage containing some electrolytes before and after a workout, this dehydration can lead to hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is a serious issue wherein your body is unable to cool itself. You might become dizzy, faint, and nauseous.

Long Term: Sweat is a mixture of mostly water and some salt. As your body adapts more to exercising in the heat, your kidneys will get better at holding onto the salt and excreting mostly just the water. This is a good adaptation because if you sweat a lot and lose too much salt, it can cause ion imbalances which can lead to cramping in your muscles.

The temperature at which you begin to sweat will lower as well. This allows your blood vessels to dilate sooner and your body to begin sweating, and cooling itself, sooner. This maximizes the benefits of sweating and lets you cool faster.

OTHER THINGS TO NOTE

If you are competing in higher temperatures that you are used to, you might want to give your body a week or two to adjust so that you can perform safely at your best. Your body makes most of these important adaptations in just one week, then results begin to plateau around two weeks.

Wear appropriate clothing that is light or designed to aid in evaporation, like compression clothing.

Additionally, wearing sunscreen will protect you in the sun and help prevent cancer and other skin issues. Wearing sunglasses or a hat is also a good idea to minimize squinting in the sunlight, which can cause headaches and wrinkles if done for a prolonged period of time.

And of course, if you know you’ll be exercising for a while in the heat, be prepared and pack plenty of fluids!

REVIEW

Short & Long Term Adaptations:
1. Blood volume and plasma volume increase
2. Heart rate decreases
3. Vasodilation of blood vessels
4. Sweating more, sooner
5. Retaining salt

Things to Remember:
6. Sun screen
7. Sunglasses/hat
8. Light weight/compression clothes
9. Water/gatorade

Next time you jet off on a tropical vacation or summer comes around and you want to exercise, you need to be smart! Think of how your body works to keep you safe and at your best in warm weather, then respect those limitations and needs, and take care of yourself.

Cup of Tea

Tea has become a pretty hot (or iced) commodity these days. So popular, in fact, you can personalize your style and tea content to match YOUR likes. No more buying boring boxes of tea bags. You can mix and match real tea leaves, blend flavors, and more. But while this is all really fun stuff, are you just on the tea bandwagon because it’s cool? As you suck down yet another canister of iced tea today, find out more about the benefits (and drawbacks) tea offers.

~Style~

Do you know the difference between loose leaf tea and tea bags? If you care about quality, content, and taste, you want to! Loose leaf tea, like the tea you can buy at Teavana, is of higher quality than the tea bags you can buy just about anywhere else. Loose leaf tea is made of entire tea leaves and large, hand picked buds. The tea found in tea bags, while taken from the same sources, is a combination of smaller, broken up pieces. This reduces the quality of the tea as flavor is compromised.

While tea bags are arguably more convenient, you shouldn’t necessarily sacrifice convenience for quality. Loose leaf tea can typically be re-steeped for multiple brews, without losing the flavor of the tea. This is because loose leaf tea, when steeped, has more room to absorb the hot water and expand to extract the flavors. The result is a high quality, fresh tasting, highly flavorful cup of tea.

Tea bags, on the other hand, are good for one brew and often have a bitter, harsh taste as a result of more tannins escaping from the tea bag into the tea. This results from the small, broken pieces of tea leaves having a larger surface area – so most of that delicious flavor you’re trying to infuse into your water evaporates away. The result is a quickly brewed, harsh tasting cup of tea.

Additionally, loose leaf tea can be personal! When you buy tea bags, you’re restricted to the flavors offered on the boxes. When purchasing loose leaf tea, you can easily mix flavors and make your own unique blends, without reducing quality and taste.

Either way you enjoy your tea, remember that it does in fact have an expiration date. When stored properly in an air tight container, good quality tea can last anywhere from six months to a year.

~Content~

Caffeine – Many teas contain caffeine, and certain types may even have higher caffeine contents than coffee. So if you think you’re being healthier simply because you’ve replaced your coffee addiction with tea, think again.

Antioxidants – Antioxidants are micronutrients that really help our bodies by protecting the tissues and preventing harmful chemical reactions from occurring in our cells. You can find antioxidants in fruits and vegetables and the most common antioxidant compounds are pretty well known: Vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, and more! Tea contains plenty of these helpful vitamins.

Calories – Tea is one beverage you don’t need to feel bad about indulging in. There’s no sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat, etc. in tea. Plus, if you’re using loose leaf tea instead of tea bags, you likely won’t even feel the need to add sugar or any other sweetener to it because the flavor is all there!

~Good or Bad~

Like anything, too much can be a bad thing. While most teas have less caffeine than coffee, that doesn’t mean there’s no caffeine in the tea you drink. So drinking multiple cups per day can result in anxiety, restlessness, and trouble sleeping.

Similarly, since tea does contain caffeine, and since caffeine is a stimulant, you can become addicted and dependent upon it. If you typically have a few cups of tea per day, then suddenly stop drinking it, you may experience the usual symptoms of withdrawal such as headaches and fatigue.

On the other hand, the antioxidants found in tea have great health benefits. Drinking tea can help protect us against cancers and other degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Tea helps hydrate us, even despite the caffeine. This has a domino effect, often aiding people in weight loss, managing Type 2 diabetes, and lowering cholesterol levels.

Green tea in particular has a lot of health benefits including increasing bone density, combating allergies, promoting eyesight health, and warding off the effects of UV radiation. (Don’t believe me? Read this.)

So, all in all, I’d say go ahead and put down the coffee mug. Buy some loose leaf tea flavors. Mix them up, brew them over ice and enjoy a nice cool, healthy beverage this summer.

Home Workout #3

Here’s another home work out! It should take approximately 30 minutes to complete. Remember to rest as you need to, and make sure you’re healthy enough for exercise. Be safe! Comment any questions you have on exercises.

Warm up – 1 min each exercise (~3min)
High knees, alternating quad pulls, high kicks

Circuit 1 – Legs (~10 min)
Perform each exercise for 45s, take 15s rest between exercises. Rest 1 full minute at the end of the round. Repeat 2x.
Squats, standing bicycle crunch (high knee and crunch over), broad jumps, ice skaters.

Circuit 2 – Core (~10 min)
Perform each exercise for 45s, take 15s rest between exercises. Rest 1 full minute at the end of the round. Repeat 2x.
Mountain climbers, on floor: bicycle crunch, right side plank, left side plank.

Cool down/Stretch – 5 min
Stretch your legs and arms. Hold each stretch for 30s.
For more details on what stretches you should be doing, take another look at the Stretch Routine from our last Home Workout.

Good luck, do your best, and have fun!