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!

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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!

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!

I Want to Pump You Up!

Did you read the title with an odd, pseudo-Austrian accent a la Hans and Franz of SNL fame?  I hope so – it is much cooler that way.

I thought it would be a fitting title for two reasons:

A) I spent a lot of moolah this weekend on fitness equipment for my “Sunrise Sweat” class, which starts this week.  The point of the class is to “pump up” my participants…well, sort of.  Two of the ladies in my class texted me a picture of a woman with arms as big as my calves (and much more muscular) accompanied by the message, “We’re game for class but we don’t want to look like this!”  I guess that means they aren’t going to be taking any steroids before arriving at my fitness class.  I don’t think they really have too much to worry about; while I design workouts that build strength, I am much more interested in a streamlined physique than growing giant manly arms!

B) I spent a large portion of my evening pumping up recently purchased stability balls and BOSUs.  Notice the foot pump?  I overheated my electric pump and had to use the manual one.  It took a while, but I got everything inflated, and had a little leg workout at the same time.

Speaking of legs – I have really exciting news!  At least it is exciting news for me…you might think it’s a little silly, because I tend to get excited about things that other people sometimes find a bit ridiculous.  But on with the story:  every time I have attended one of my Yoga teacher training weekends, many of the other teacher trainees have these fabulous leg warmers and cool high socks to keep their feet and legs toasty before and after practice.  I always wear plain white ankle socks and feel really boring.  Plus, because my yoga pants are crops, the bare skin on my legs sometimes gets cold.  I covet the cool leg warmers…but no more!  I am now part of the cool kids’ club.  That’s right – I have leg warmers.  I found them at Wal-Mart for about $6, and had to have them.  I also bought two pair of $3 knee-high socks while I was there, and turned them into my own DIY leg warmer creation.  I can’t take all the credit, though; I totally stole the idea from a wonderful yoga classmate named Melissa.  Melissa reminds me a bit of a rock star, and she wears the neatest stuff – including a sweet pair of home-made leg warmer socks that I have been coveting for the last month.  I hope she doesn’t mind that I borrowed her idea!

Here’s how to create this look:

1. Find a pair of tall socks that you enjoy – this pair can go all the way past my knee if I stretch them, and I really like the purple stripes.  The other pair is a pretty boring grey, but they will probably match with more of my other stuff.

2. Take a pair of scissors and cut off the toe of the sock just below the seam line.  Then cut a triangle out of the heel.  Most socks have a slight line where the knitting changes direction, and many socks (including these) have a different coloured heel – cut just inside the different colour/knitting line.

3. Voila!  You have a neat little pair of leg warmers.

Here is a close up of my toes – I just got a pedicure on Friday, and I’m loving the sparkles on top of the dark plum, so I thought I’d show off up close.  Thanks Sharla at Exhale!

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.

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!