One Hour Outdoor Track Circuit Workout

Good Morning dear readers!

I’ve been under the weather with a sinus infection (my 4th in the last 5 months – what is up with that?!) since the wee hours of the morn on Monday, and my antibiotics have finally started to kick in, so I’m in a pretty good mood this lovely summer morning.  Oh, and it is officially summer now too, since the solstice was yesterday!  I’m loving the long days (even though I was cooped up inside for the last few), and it makes me a little sad that they will start to shorten now.  Oh well…I’ll take advantage of the sunlight while I can!

I took the workout outside with my sunrise sweat class this morning.  I teach my fitness classes in the high school where I also teach kids, and we usually use one of the gyms, but it’s final exam time, so the gym is full of desks.  I didn’t really know how the outdoor workout was going to go, since even though it’s summer it can be a little chilly at 6am…but it was actually pretty perfect – I’m glad we’ve been displaced from our regular indoor location!

This is the workout I lead this morning – a simple One Hour Track Circuit:

I took out some mini pylons that I got at Fitness Depot.  I spaced out 16 of the pylons around the track as we did a brisk walk to warm up; they were about 25m apart, but I didn’t actually measure (I only know that now because I just divided 400m x 16 and got 25 on my calculator!).

After the quick warm up, we got right down to business with some walking lunges to the first pylon.  At the pylon we did 10 jumping jacks, and then carried on with that pattern until we got half way around the track – 8 pylons in.  At that point, we switched to a side shuffle, followed by 10 squats at each pylon.  Because it’s important to keep balance in the body, we switched our lead leg for the side shuffles at each pylon, so that we did 4 with the left and 4 with the right leg leading.  That brought us back to our starting point, where we had placed our mats on the ground.

We brought in some ab work here with what I call “Star Abs:”  lying on your back, spread arms and legs out wide as though you are making a snow angel – your body looks kind of like a star, and maybe you feel like one too*!  From there, gather your hands and feet in toward the centre of your body, like the star is puckering up, and then spread them back out to the original star position.  We did 10 reps.  This was followed by 10 pushups (either from knees or from toes) for a bit of arm and chest work.  Because “Three is the Magic Number” (Oh, Shannon Hoon how I miss you…LOVE Blind Melon!), we did 3 sets of the Star Abs/Push ups combo.

From there, we got back up and headed around the track again…this time doing running leaps.  If you’re not sure what those are, picture leaping forward from one foot to the next as though you’re trying to jump over a big puddle while exaggerating the swing of your arms.  At each pylon we did 10 butt kicks, until we got to the halfway point.  Then we switched to backwards jogging between pylons with 10 high knees at each stopping point.

This brought us back to the start, where we did some more abs:

1. Reverse Crunch: Cross your ankles and raise your legs upward. Place your hands palms down, and engage your core muscles. Use your abs to lift your legs straight up until your hips lift off the ground. Lower back down and repeat 10x.

2. Bicycle Crunches: with your elbows bent and finger tips at your ears, and legs lifted and bent at a 90 degree angle, gather your right elbow and your left knee together as you extend your right leg outward. With a slow, controlled movement, change your legs and gather your left elbow and right knee together as your left leg extends. Repeat 10x.

3. Vertical Crunch: With ankles crossed and legs straight up in the air, engage your abs and crunch upwards until your shoulder blades lift off the ground. Lower back down and repeat 10x.
Thanks About.com for the photos!

Again, three is the magic number, so we repeated this ab set (10x Reverse Crunch – 10x Bicycle Crunch – 10 x Vertical Crunch) three times.

We stayed at our starting point for the next set:  10x Mountain Climbers and 10x Sumo Squat Jumps (there is a great video for Sumo Squat Jumps here; however, I usually bring my hands lower to the ground – like a Sumo wrestler – and then clap my hands overhead with the jump).  We repeated this 10x Mountain Climber/10x Sumo Squat Jump combo three times.

Our last set was a bit more cardio:  we ran from pylon 1 to pylon 2, then walked to pylon 3, repeating that sequence twice around the track.  If you’re trying this sequence using pylons, remeber to pick them up on your last trip around the track!

We finished up with a cool down of walking to about the 1/4 mark of the track, and then turning around to come back to our starting point.  We did various arm stretches as we did this cool down walk, and then returned to our mats for some leg stretches.  All in all it was a fabulous workout…crisp, fresh air and lovely morning sun on our backs.  Even though I’m still feeling pretty weak and foggy from the sinus infection, it was clearing and centering to get things moving in my body again after 3 days of illness induced lounging.  Do you find that a work out is good when you’re sick?

*I picture Molly Shannon in the 90’s SNL film Superstar, but don’t get nervous and put your fingers in your arm pits then smell them…you’ve been working out, remember?  You’re probably a little sweaty!

Stability Ball Workout

*Apparently I accidentally posted this earlier when I first started writing the post – whoops!  Sorry, dear readers…

Despite having another busy week, I was able to fit in quite a few workouts:

Monday – 5k run with the dogs
Tuesday – Sunrise Sweat early am fitness class
– evening 5 k run/walk with the dogs
Wednesday – Mix It Up Circuit class
– 3 k run with dogs
Thursday – Sunrise Sweat early am fitness class
Friday – day off
Saturday – 3 k run with dogs
Sunday – 5 k run with dogs, followed by a brief pack walk with the other Dog Park volunteers to see the park space
– I haven’t done it yet, but I’m planning a yoga practice this evening (which I desperately need, since I haven’t practiced since Teacher Training last weekend!)

That’s 9 workouts in 7 days – not bad for someone who works around 55-60 hours per week!

As the title of this post suggests, I thought I would tell you about some of the moves I do on one of my favourite pieces of equipment – the Stability Ball (a.k.a. Swiss Ball or Balance Ball).  I used these moves for one of my class workouts this past week; we workedhardusing only stability balls…so it’s a workout many of you could do at home.

Back Extension – thanks Oprah for the photo!

Back Extension:  Place your hips and abs on the ball, and plant your feet firmly (about hip width apart).  Contract your belly button toward your spine, raise your hands in front of your forehead, and use your core to lift your upper body toward the ceiling.

This is a very small, controlled movement; you are only aiming to lift your torso a couple of inches off the ball, but because you are working to keep your balance while lifting your upper body off of the ball, it is avery effective move.  This exercise targets yourentire core, including both your upper and lower back muscles.  Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
To make this move harder, lengthen your arms until they are straight, or add a small weight in each hand.

Step 1

Stability Ball Lunge:  Begin with one foot behind you on the ball, and the other foot planted, pointing forward – far enough ahead that when you lunge into the front leg your knee DOES NOT come forward of your ankle.  I sometimes find it difficult to get into the correct position; some people like to hop the front foot forward, but it’s helpful for me to place both hands on the ground, plant the front foot between my hands, and then reach back with the back foot to place it on the ball.

Step 2

Keep your torso upright, and keep your arms outstretched for balance, or place your hands on your hips.  To complete the move, lunge forward into the front leg (remember to keep the knee above the ankle!), and allow the ball to roll backward behind you. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps (on each leg).  If you have difficulty getting into position for this move, try using a bench or chair instead of the ball – those stability balls can be a real pain in the butt!  Once you’ve mastered the move and feel more confident with your balance, try again using the ball.

Hamstring Curl

Hamstring Curls:  Lay on your back, hands beside your hips with palms down.  Place your heels on the ball, engage your belly button toward your spine, and lift your hips up toward the ceiling.  Use your legs to pull the ball toward your butt, and then push it back to the starting position.  That’s one rep.Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps, or challenge yourself to do as many as you can in 60-90 seconds.

If at any point you need to take a breather, you can drop your butt to the ground when your legs are extended all the way out, but you will get more out of the move if you can keep your hips raised the entire time.

During our workout Thursday, we did many other moves besides these three, but I’ve still got a pile of marking to finish for school tomorrow and a yoga practice to fit in, so three is all you get for today.  I hope your Sunday has been lovely, and your upcoming week is lovely too – happy sweating!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruisy McExercise Tube

So I tried some new equipment with my Sunrise Sweat class earlier this week, and it was an eventful enough session that I thought I should write about it.  We used resistance tubing for some partner exercises, and in theory, it was an excellent class.  There were a few issues, but I’ll get to those later.

After our warm up, we got down to work with the exercise tubes.  1. Lat Pulls – To start, the partners stood a few feet apart, facing each other with the tube folded in half between them.  Partner A held the tube in the centre fold at chest height, while Partner B held both handles and did lat pulls by drawing elbows straight back and squeezing shoulder blades together.  Completed 12 reps and switched partner roles. 

2. Chest Fly – Partner A held tube in same manner as previous move, while Partner B turned around to face away from Partner A.  Partner B held handles at shoulder height out to the side, and drew hands toward each other in front of chest.  Completed 12 reps and switched partner roles.

3. Horse Race – Partner A placed resistance tube around hips, while Partner B stood behind her and held onto both handles.  Partner B crouched into a squat and pulled backward on the handles to provide resistance, while Partner A ran to the opposite end of the gym, pulling Partner B forward.  Switched partner roles and returned to opposite end of gym.

4. Bicep Curls and Lunges – Partner A stepped on centre of tube with instep of front foot and lowered into a static lunge.  Partner B stood with feet hip width apart, engaged core, and pulled both handles from waist height up to shoulders in a standard bicep curl.  Partner B completed 12 reps, Partner A switched feet, and then Partner B completed another 12 reps.  Switched partner roles.

5. Tricep Kickbacks – Partner A engaged core and held centre of tube high above head while Partner B held handles at waist height with elbows pinned at sides.  Partner B lowered handles to thighs (palms facing downward), while keeping elbows pinned in.  Completed 12 reps, then switched partner roles.

6. Repeat the Horse Race

7. External Shoulder Rotation – Partners faced the same direction, and each held a handle in outer hand while standing a few feet apart (far enough to keep the tube from being slack, but not stretched).  Keeping elbows of outer arms pinned to their sides, partners simultaneously rotated their shoulders outward by moving their hands away from each other. Completed 12 reps and turned around to switch arms.

8. Upper Body Rotation – In the same original position as previous move, partners each held a handle in both hands.  Simultaneously, both partners stepped forward with outside leg into a lunge.  While in lunge position, both partners rotated upper body at the hips, and pulled tube handles away from each other.  Completed 12 reps and turned around to switch sides.

9. Repeat the Horse Race

We repeated the entire sequence one more time, but eliminated the horse race – not because I wanted to, but because it was necessary for safety.  The third time we did the horse race, two of the tubes broke – one of them so severely, that it actually came back and whipped one of the participants in the butt.  She’s a trooper, but I’m pretty confident that she’ll have a bruise (good thing my participants sign waivers!).

I have done all of these moves before in other fitness classes, and never had any problems whatsoever, so I was not even a little bit concerned that the tubes would break.  The tubes we used were brand new, and very recently purchased from a reputable fitness equipment distributor, so I was confident they would hold up to all of the moves I had planned.  I guess not.  I WILL be taking them back, and finding new tubes that are of higher quality.

Tabata:  After we did the tubing moves twice through, we moved on to the cardio portion of our workout, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) known as Tabata.  If you aren’t already familiar with Tabata workouts, you should give it a try; Tabata is AWESOME!  This is how it works:  you do 20 seconds of a move (say skipping rope, or burpees, for example) as hard as you can, recover for 10 seconds, then repeat 7 more times for a total of 8 sets in 4 minutes.  Tabata gets your heart rate up fast and torches calories in a short amount of time.  I like to do 5 different moves for an intense 20 minutes of calorie burning.

The first time I did Tabatas with my Sunrise Sweat class, however, it became quickly apparent that 8 sets were a bit too much for my participants.  After the first two sets, a couple of my participants told me outright that they couldn’t do 8 sets of Tabata Mountain Climbers; so we stopped at 4 sets.  We will work our way up to 8 sets eventually, but I want to make sure the workouts are accessible for ALL of my ladies, so 4 sets are good for now.

This week we did 4 sets each of 20 second work/10 second rest of five moves:  Burpees, Jumping Rope, Squats with Overhead Press, Butt Kicks and High Knees.  Even though I reduced the number of sets to keep the Tabatas accessible for my participants, we had a little more equipment injury in this section too; one of my ladies somehow managed to whip herself a couple of times in the arm with her skipping rope.  I advised her on a way to adjust the rope, and she was fine for the rest of the sequence.  We work together, and she showed me her arm later that morning – still sporting a few red welts – poor girl!

Overall, it was an effective workout, even though we did have a few minor injuries.  In the future, I will use a different, stronger type of resistance tube, and maybe test them out myself before using them with participants.  Please don’t let my negative experience with the tubes deter you from trying them out, though; resistance tubes really can be a very effective piece of equipment, both on your own and with a partner.  Just make sure to choose a high quality tube that is the right tension for your ability…happy sweating!

Lions and Tigers and Handstand, Oh My!

I just got home from an intense weekend of Yoga Teacher Training.  I have such a love/hate relationship with these weekends.  This weekend was EXACTLY what I needed to refocus what is important in my life: my loved ones, my health and my sanity.  I started to write about my love/hate relationship with the teacher training weekends, but as soon as I wrote it, I realized that it wasn’t really true.  There is no doubt that these weekends are draining; we complete a physical asana practice for 2.5-3 hours each day, and then do a lot of book/lecture type learning and posture labs.  Yoga teacher training is not easy (and I’m glad of that, or ANYONE could be a yoga teacher), and the weekends are quite taxing on both a physical and mental level.  I’m finding this especially difficult given how hectic the rest of my life has been as of late, but I really believe that the training is also exactly what I need to slow down my life (even if it is a lot of extra work right now!).  This weekend has reminded me how important yoga has become for me, and even though I’ve been busy lately, yoga really isn’t the thing that I want to let slide in order to make room for it all.  Why not?  Well that answer is simple:  when life is hectic, yoga (and snuggling with my husband when we actually get to see each other!) is the only thing that brings peace and calmness to my crazy.  I learned today that the way to change your practice for the better is to practice vigorously, often and for a long time.  The vigorous and the often I can make happen right now, and the long time will only come if I continue to practice!  I can – and WILL – make adjustments in other ways so that I can continue to improve my practice – that is what is right for me right now.

Learning from Catherine Munro – who is unbelievably amazing – is so perfect for me, because even though I wish I was familiar with more of the poses already (like most of the others in my class are), I also realize that I have the benefit of learning these new poses the right way the very first time I do them.  That means that my practice will continue to improve, and I can be confident that I am receiving excellent instruction every time I go for another weekend of training.  Plus, she works us REALLY hard, so I can be sure that I am building strength and burning calories every single time I take a class with Catherine!

We worked on inversions this weekend, specifically Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand), Sirsasana (Headstand) and Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand – pictured to the left).  With the exception of trying an assisted handstand in a workshop a few months ago with Catherine, I had never done any of these poses before this weekend.  They were terrifying, but I got up into all of them (with help, obviously – I don’t think it’s actually possible to do this shit without assistance unless you’ve been practicing for a WHILE!).  Apparently Handstand is the pose that is most frightening for the majority of people, but I wasn’t that nervous about it.  I found it kind of exciting, actually, and like the others, it was very invigorating.  The pose that freaked me out more than any other was Pincha; maybe because the floor was so close to my face, I was afraid my nose was going to smash down into the hardwood…but it didn’t, so we’re all good.  I will definitely be practicing this pose (and the others, too) in order to gain some confidence with it.  The biggest obstacle that I see here is needing help to get up into the pose, and since I don’t practice in a yoga studio, and my husband is out-of-town for work a lot, that might be tough.  I WILL find a way, though.  If you happen to stop by for a visit, I might just put you to work helping me to get my legs in the air!

A Little Medicine (Ball) For What Ails You

This morning was class number one of my new “Sunrise Sweat” session, and I’m pretty sure a good time was had by all.  Well, good time might be pushing it a little bit, since I did overhear a few muttered curse words, but I know the ladies worked hard, I saw some sweating, and there was definitely some laughter…so overall I would call it a success.

After a brief warm up, we did ladder sets of a group of moves.  What that means is that we did one sit up, one push up, one reach jump, one right (then left) jab, and one squat, followed by two sit ups, two push ups, two reach jumps, two right/left jabs, and two squats…all the way up to ten reps of each move.  Then we “climbed the ladder” back down from nine, to eight, to seven on down to one of each move again.  I really like ladder sets; if you do them quickly, it’s a good way to sneak some cardio into your strength moves.  The nice thing about these particular moves is that you don’t even need any equipment – if you’re not in a class like mine, you could do this workout in your living room or back yard.

In fact, the only piece of equipment I incorporated today was a soft medicine ball for some partner work.  Most of the moves I used today were ones I have done in the past in other classes, but I found a couple of new ones on ideafit.com.  To start, I had my participants balance on one leg about 5 feet away from a partner and chest pass a medicine ball between them, then switch legs after 30 seconds.  Adding the instability forced the ladies to engage their core muscles in order to maintain their balance.  We also used a kneeling partner twist, which required a direction change half way through (after 30 seconds). Then we did partner tosses:  Partner A lay flat on her back while Partner B stood at Partner A’s head.  Partner A tossed the ball up to Partner B, who let it drop back down for Partner A to catch.  This is where the laughter came into play, and it was nice to see the ladies having a bit of fun with each other at 6:30 am.  They were a bit nervous to be dropping the balls near each others’ heads, but I told them to keep the drop over their chests (instead of their faces), and everyone did just fine.

We kept on with the medicine ball work and the partners did some side shuffles tossing the ball between them, and then moved to sit ups with feet braced against each other while passing the ball at the top of the move.  The final medicine ball exercise we did was one minute of squats with an overhead press throw at the standing portion of the move.  Aside from the timed moves, all exercises were for a 12 rep duration.

We finished up the morning with a cool down and stretch, and everyone was merrily on their way with the day off to a nice, sweaty start!

Fabulous Fitness Fun Day

Today has been fabulous – REALLY fabulous.  I had a lot of fun, and I was even able to get in two workouts, which makes it all the better.  My day didn’t start out so fabulously; I only had about 4 1/2 hours of sleep, so I didn’t want to get up when the alarm went off at 5am…but it was the last day of my “Early Rise Circuit” class, so I really didn’t have a choice.  When there are exercise participants waiting for you to lead them into sweatiness, you just have to get your ass out of bed.  Once I got my sweat on, my energy picked up considerably, and I was able to work off some work-related tension that I accumulated over the past week.

When my fitness class was over, I grabbed a green tea and a breakfast sandwich from Timmie’s (ya I know the sandwich wasn’t the best nutritional choice, but you’ll get over it), and headed an hour and forty-five minutes down the highway to Table Mountain for a skiing field trip with some high school students.  I had to take my own car because we needed an “emergency transport vehicle” in case a kid broke a leg and needed to go to the hospital or something like that.  Normally I prefer to take the bus and interact with the kids, but it worked out well for me since my class didn’t end until about 1/2 an hour after the bus had already left.

While Table Mountain is in the middle of the Prairies, and is probably closer to a table than it is to a mountain, it is actually a pretty impressive ski hill for the middle of Saskatchewan.  They have two chair lifts and about seven runs (I’m estimating, so forgive me if I’m off a little bit here), but the most impressive thing to me is how well they handle large school groups.  They give rules and tips, get the kids suited up, and provide lessons in a remarkably efficient manner; as a teacher, I really appreciate the precision and organization – it makes the day so much more enjoyable for kids AND teachers.  The conditions were great today; it was about 0 degrees celsius, and the sun was shining in full force.  It was warm, but not melting, and we had a great group of kids with us on the field trip.  Down hill skiing really is a full body workout, but I enjoy doing it, so it doesn’t really feel like work at all.  Fresh air, fun, and fitness all rolled into one delightful activity!

I stopped in Lloydminster (where my parents live and my husband is currently working) on my way home, so I was able to see my husband for about an hour, and I got to have dinner with him and my Mom.  Now I’m back home, I just had a lovely epsom salt bath, I’m savouring a glass of red wine, and I’m about to snuggle up with Jax and Naava to watch a movie.  What is not to love about today?  I told you it was fabulous!

Sunrise Sweat

It’s official – I am clinically insane.  I am not sure how I can possibly fit more on my plate right now, but I am going to try!

I’ve been team teaching an “Early Rise Circuit” class on Thursday mornings, but due to a previous booking in the gym space, we are unable to continue after our session is up this week.  A few of the ladies in my class asked if I would be continuing, so I did some thinking and crunched some numbers.  Partly because I’m an idiot, but mostly because I truly love sharing fitness with others, I decided to give it a shot.

That meant that I had to find another space to hold the class, put out some ads, and purchase some small equipment of my own with which to run a class.  All of that is no problem at all.  The insane part?  The other woman who I was team teaching with was not interested in striking out on her own…so I agreed to teach both Tuesday and Thursday mornings.  Just to provide some perspective, I am a high school English teacher who currently has zero prep time.  ZERO.  Work monopolizes my life:  it is currently 11:00 pm and I arrived home from work 56 minutes ago.  I just finished eating my dinner.  Anyone who honestly believes that teachers work from 9-3:30 deserves to be smacked upside the head.  But I digress…

I found a space (at the school where I teach, actually!), the ad came out in yesterday’s local paper, and I will be purchasing some of my own stuff this coming weekend.  The class is called “Sunrise Sweat,” and it starts next week.  There is no turning back now.  Oh boy.

Cold Weather Running Gear

I ran in the cold yesterday morning, and since I know there isn’t a LOT of info out there about cold weather gear, I thought I’d post about what I wore.  The Weather Network showed -22 degrees Celsius (that’s minus 7.6 degrees Fahrenheit for any American readers out there), so I wanted to be sure to stay warm.  It wasn’t a long run; I was only out there running for 25 minutes, and then about 5 more walking/stretching.  I’ve actually never been out longer than 40 minutes when it’s lower than -20; I’m afraid the dogs’ paws won’t handle the cold, so I don’t let them stay out for any longer than that.

I started with a base layer of Merino wool long underwear (both top and bottom) from Coast Mountain Sports.  I’ve had these pieces for quite a while, and couldn’t find a picture of them online.  On top of the long underwear, I layered a Lululemon Run Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve t-shirt.  I have two of these tops – one in a dark pink, and one in purple; I adore them both!  In hindsight, I think I probably could have gotten away with only one of the base layer tops, instead of wearing both the long underwear and the Lulu top, as I was VERY warm.

To round off the layers on top, I wore a third piece:  my Run: Back on Track Jacket, also from Lululemon.  Dear God – I just realized that I might have an addiction to this store.  Oh well, what can you do?  Their stuff is great!  This jacket is roomy enough to wear layers underneath, yet it doesn’t look bulky.  When I bought it, I intended to get it in pink, but they were all out in my size.  I’m glad, actually, since that forced me to try on this one in the grey with pink flecks, and I like it even better.  Plus, since it’s grey, it hides grime a little better than the pale pink would, I’m sure.

On the bottom, over top of my long underwear, I wore my Lululemon Run: Outward Bound pants.  I have also had these pants for a long time, but I do love them.  They are water repellent on the front, and have warm, soft, brushed fabric on the back of the legs to keep me toasty.  They have a draw string at the ankles, which is great!  I’ve been able to wear them long over skates, cinched at the ankles for running/walking, and I even turned them into crops once by cincing them way up by my knees.  My legs were perfectly warm on my run, and these pants are a big part of the reason why.

There are three more pieces that were very important for my run:  toque, gloves and a neck warmer.  The toque is called the Radiance Knit Toque; it is pink with reflective detailing to help keep me safe in low light conditions.  I purchased it from the Running Room a couple of years ago, and I wear it regularly.  Great purchase – it’s a pretty pink, it keeps me safe and warm, and obviously, because it is part of the pink ribbon campaign, purchasing it supports breast cancer research.  Feel good points too!

I wore gloves from the Running Room, but I’m not exactly sure what kind they are, and I can’t seem to find them online.  I can tell you that they were rated for cold (though I do believe there was an option to go a level colder when I bought them last year).  They keep me quite warm in cold weather when I am running, but I think I would want something with a bit more insulation if I was walking or doing an activity that didn’t keep me moving quite as fast.

My neck warmer is from the Running Room also: the Dryline Neckwarmer.  It is very light weight and not bulky at all, plus it covers my neck to keep me warm, and I can pull it up over the bridge of my nose in cold conditions to keep the air moist before I breath it in.  While the elastic band over the nose can be a bit snug, it isn’t uncomfortable, and the mesh panel allows me to breath comfortably while preventing the intake of dry, cold air directly into my lungs.

I didn’t wear anything on my feet besides my regular Asics running shoes and running socks.  Sometimes the tops of my feet feel cool through the upper mesh on my shoes, but once I get moving and my body warms up, it doesn’t bother me any more.  I have considered different socks, and will probably look for a warmer pair the next time I have the opportunity to stop by Coast Mountain Sports or the Running Room.  I have worn Due North Spikes, for added traction, but I find them more of a hindrance than a help.  They have been know to pop off of my shoes, and I’m always a little scared that I will step on one of the dogs’ paws with the spikes.  Where I live, most people are good about clearing their sidewalks, and I just watch where I’m running and tread carefully, so shoes without any added traction seem to be just fine.  Thus far (I feel like I should find some wood to knock on!), I haven’t had any ice-related spills.  All in all, I don’t mind running in the cold – especially when I get out on a weekend a little later in the morning so that the sun is shining bright in the sky.  While I know that cold weather running isn’t the way to improve my times or anything like that, I do enjoy the briskness – it’s a great wake up, and a lovely way to start my day!

BOSU: A Fabulous Piece of Exercise Equipment

In my new career as a fitness instructor, I focus on using small, portable equipment in my classes.  I thought I’d review one of my favourite pieces of equipment – the BOSU (short form of “Both Sides Up”).  It really is a fabulous piece of exercise equipment, and there are so many different moves you can do using a BOSU.  Let me share a few of my favourites…

1. Kneeling on the BOSU

This move forces you to engage your core because you are unstable.  Any exercise you do while balancing on the BOSU has the added bonus of providing an ab workout – score!  I always add in hand weights for the addition of upper body strength moves:  bicep curls, front shoulder raises, side shoulder raises, or an overhead press.

2. V-Sit on the BOSU

The v-sit is an even more targeted ab move that will strengthen your core in no time.  To do this move, sit on the centre of the BOSU on your sitting bones (NOT your tailbone) and contract your ab muscles in.  My mantra is “belly button to spine,” and I say it so often that I sometimes worry my fitness participants might get sick of hearing it.  It is a very important message, though, so I will keep on saying it!  You basically want to create a V shape with your legs and upper body, then draw those two parts toward each other.  Repeat for 5-20 reps (do as many as you can within that range), rest, then repeat twice.  I find that placing my hands beside my butt on the BOSU gives a bit of extra balance and still provides an intense workout, but if you want more of a challenge, raise your arms up to chest height (like in the photo).

3. BOSU Push Ups

Push ups on the BOSU have all the typical chest/arm/shoulder strengthening benefits of a regular push up, with the added benefit of targeting your core more specifically than a regular push up can.  I’ve mentioned core muscles multiple times in this post for good reason:  the BOSU is an unstable surface, so you are forced to employ your core muscles more effectively in order to maintain your balance.  Doing BOSU push ups off the dome side, with the flat side down is very effective, but for an even more challenging exercise, try flipping the BOSU over.  Because the BOSU dome is rounded, placing it with the dome side down will provide even less stability – an excellent thing when you want to force your core muscles to work harder.  Push ups are fantastic all on their own; you use your own body as weighted resistance.  Using the BOSU (in either direction) only adds to the equation!

4. BOSU Squats  

Squats strengthen the glutes, quads and hamstrings, and are a great all around “functional fitness” move because they work muscles that we rely on in our day-to-day lives.  Just like all of the other moves I’ve described, doing squats on the BOSU adds the benefit of instability.  To do this move, begin with both feet on the BOSU and lower down into a squat.  Remember to keep your butt pushing back toward the wall behind you, and keep your knees above (never forward of!) your ankles.  Get as low as you can, with the end goal of having your thighs parallel to the floor.  Rise up to standing straight, then step off the BOSU with your right foot to the right side, and again lower down into a squat (following all the same guidelines as above).  Come back to centre, squat, rise, and then step off to the left into a squat.  That is one rep.  Repeat for 5-20 reps.  This move is an easy one to add in the cardio factor as well – simply speed up your moves with a “jumping” motion in between squats on the centre and off to each side.  As with any jumping move, though, please be careful to maintain proper alignment – keep your knees safe!

These four moves are really only the tip of the iceberg; there are MANY more moves that you can do with a BOSU.  One additional thing that is great about the BOSU is that it can be used for strength training using your own body weight AND it can also be used for a variety of cardio workouts – it is really a very versatile piece of equipment.  Good luck in finding new workouts and happy sweating!

Holy Ashtanga, Batman!

I am in Edmonton this week marking Diploma exams, and I’m staying downtown near the yoga studio where I am doing my training, so I decided to take a class last night.  My choices were Ashtanga Level 1 or Pre-natal Yoga.  As much as I would LOVE to be a mommy soon, there is no bun in the proverbial oven, so I went with Ashtanga.

Now you might think that since I am training to be a yoga teacher that I would know all about Ashtanga yoga, but if you thought that, you would be wrong.  I am a beginner.  A beginner who wants to learn much, much more, and then share that learning with others.  I have only ever taken gentle “flow yoga” type classes, and done some very basic videos.  I know that there are different types of yoga classes, and I know that Bikram is “hot yoga” and that it’s actually pretty dangerous.  In terms of Ashtanga, though, all I really know knew before last night is that it requires strength and follows a set sequence of poses.  But it is so much more than that.

Ashtanga yoga is incredible.  I really don’t know how else to describe it.  Let me clarify by saying that I do not mean that I was incredible doing Ashtanga yoga – in fact the opposite is entirely true.  I had very little idea what I was doing, and I am entirely confident that I looked like a bumbling fool, but I followed along as best I could, and tried everything I was allowed to (there was one pose that Rene – the instructor – advised I watch instead of try because I am a beginner).

This is what Ashtanga yoga can look like:

I tried this pose, and succeeded at it for about 1/10th of a second before crashing into my yoga mat and nearly smashing my nose into my face!

I didn’t see anyone attempt the pose on the right;
I’m betting it’s one of the higher levels!
I challenge anyone who says you can’t get a real workout from yoga to try Ashtanga.  I was sweating up a storm, and I can’t believe the strength it took just to attempt some of the beginner poses.  Actually being able to get into and hold some of the poses must take an amazing amount of strength and flexibility.  I am quite sore today, particularly in my triceps.
I will definitely try Ashtanga again, and I wish that there was a class in my community so I could attend regularly.  A really nice guy from my teacher training course, who also happened to be at the class last night, and who also happens to be REALLY adept at Ashtanga, offered to email me some info about videos – thanks Terry!  Maybe I can find a good one to buy so I can practice at home.  I’d love to get strong enough to actually do some of the poses I tried last night!
I’ll leave you with one last picture:
This man is obviously very strong from practicing, PLUS he’s pretty hot.  Maybe if you take an Ashtanga yoga class somewhere you will get to meet him! 🙂