My family just returned from a week of vacation in the Florida Keys. As is the case with most vacations, we ate a ton (Key Lime pie!!), drank too much and donned a bathing suit most of the time. Not an ideal combination. So, how did we avoid packing on extra vacay weight? Exercise! That's right--for this family, exercise is a lifestyle, so even when we're taking time away, we never take time off from fitness.
In fact, when we pack up the car to start any journey, it always includes these essentials: resistance bands, a jump rope and a kettlebell. Even though most resorts/hotels include fitness centers of some sort, I prefer to bring what I need rather than waste time adapting to a new facility or equipment.
Incorporating movement helps us normalize to our temporary surroundings, keeps us regular, and helps balance out all that extra caloric intake.
When we arrived at our villa in the Keys, I knew immediately where I would perform my quick interval routines. The upstairs covered deck overlooking the crystal blue ocean and lush native flora would be inspiring (see photos).
Now, before you get the idea that I enjoyed my own personal fitness retreat surrounded by billowing palms and azure water, allow me to inject a dose of reality: my reluctant workout partner was my seven-year-old son who'd rather watch a documentary on the iPad about the catastrophic repercussions of extruding all of the oil from below the earth's crust than do squats and push-ups with me. Seriously. His most encouraging words were, "Mom, you sweat a lot." Thanks, hun.
And yes, I do sweat a lot, especially in the hotter-than-lava Keys. Needless to say, my 32 ounce water bottle was always at my side, and constantly being refilled.
To that end, here is the workout that I performed every other day while on vacation, preceeded by a basic warm-up of squats, pushups, lunges, rotations and dynamic stretches.
A. BODY WEIGHT COMBO (courtesy of Craig Ballantyne)
B. RESISTANCE COMBO (equipment: kettlebell (KB) and resistance band(s). If you don't have a KB or want to simplify, the following exercises can all be done with just resistance bands.)
Perform three rounds of A and B for a hotter-than-lava 25-minute workout! If you have less time or zero equipment, just perform two to three rounds of A.
On other days, we'd incorporate physical activities offered by the resort, such as paddle boarding (my first time!) and kayaking. I also went for a mind-clearing jog around the island. What?!? Molly went for a run? I know, I know, steady-state cardio isn't my thing and definitely not the most effective way to stay lean and muscular, but when we're away from home, I enjoy the opportunity to explore our surroundings by foot...and get a break from the boys!!
Are you planning for an upcoming getaway? Don't forget your basic equipment, athletic shoes and most importantly, a plan! Already have an idea when you'll exercise on your vacation (morning is best, and keep it quick and effective with metabolic workouts like the one above), work through barriers in advance that might thwart your good intentions (i.e., kids, limited space, etc), and aim to stick to your healthy diet 80 percent of the time.
More than half--36.7 billion (with a b!)--of these are overweight. And nearly 60 percent--43.2 billion--of these are overweight.*
Any idea what these are? Did you guess men and women? Boys and girls? Office workers and stay-at-home moms? Would you believe the answers are dogs and cats?!
When pet obesity is at epidemic proportions, that really says something about the human population, don't you think?
This reminds me of an anonymous quote I had in my office a few years ago: "If your dog is fat, you're not getting enough exercise." (The irony in this is that my dog is, in fact, fat! But I attribute that to his breed--a squatty French bulldog, his bad back, short snout, constant treats from my mother, and the fact that the poor ol' guy only has one eye! Uh-oh. Did I just make excuses for why he's not exercising?!)
Anyway, now that we know how many fat furry friends we have, let's take a look at the human statistics, courtesy of the National Academy of Sports Medicine:
As you might expect, both humans and animals suffer similar consequences from being overweight and obese: joint pain, diabetes, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, shortened life expectancy and decreased quality of life.
So, what do we do about it? Use those beloved pets as motivation! Listen, I've got some friends who adore their fur-babies as much (or more?!) than I love my own children, so for the love of Fido and Fifi, get moving and eat the right stuff (clean, lean and green!)!
Try these exercises you can do with your pet, courtesy of Hillspet.com/weight-management:
*2012 Pet Study for the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention
BUSINESS PLUG: If you're in the greater Raleigh/Cary/Garner area of North Carolina, the best health center for your pet is Carolina Ranch Animal Hospital and Resort (http://www.carolinaranchpets.com/). They'll get plenty of exercise during the daily "Buckaroo Roundup"!
Q: What is your opinion on Clif Bars? Supreme Bars? Protein bars in general?
-- Nicole D
A: Useful questions, Nicole, as I'm sure a number of my readers consume these. You know, I used to eat protein bars pretty regularly years ago, but have cut them out completely. It's not that there aren't some decent ones out there, but they're really most appropriate for those who won't/don't make time to plan their meals, and who would choose fast food otherwise. They're a convenience food, and certainly a better alternative than most drive-through.
That said, many are filled with sugar, chemicals and additives that I just don't want. Instead, if I'm in a hurry and need to grab-n-go, I choose KIND bars. I like the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate, which contains the brand's highest protein content--7 grams. It's not as much as I'd like, but I'm willing to sacrifice protein for non-gmo, nutrient-dense, natural ingredients that I can pronounce. That's really my focus now--real, natural food that my body can process.
I also like KIND's line of Healthy Grains snacks, which use "5 super grains". I give them to my boys, rather than those artificial granola bars. And I like to remind my fellow parents of kids with nut allergies that the Healthy Grains line is nut free.
Keep a few of these convenience foods around when you're in a pinch, but otherwise, plan your meals ahead so you're never tempted to drive through and super size it!
Q. What is your favorite type of protein powder? What is the best type of smoothie for after a workout? -- Heather S.
A. Thanks for asking, Heather! I'd like to start with an answer to your second question regarding the best type of smoothie after a workout, because I don't think most exercisers realize the impact of a post-recovery shake. Recent studies have shown that consuming a shake made up of a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within 30 minutes of a workout will offset muscle damage and facilitate greater training adaptations. The value of this snack should not be underestimated, and it rivals breakfast as the most important meal of the day.
In fact, I've worked with clients who, simply by regularly incorporating a recovery shake into their postworkout ritual, accelerated their fitness results. Eating immediately after working out may seem counterintuitive, but timing is everything.
The ideal recovery shake consists of around 20 grams of protein--whey, ideally, because it contains the amino acids your body needs to build and repair muscle--mixed with whole fruit or some other carbohydrate (60-80 grams). Some fitness experts even suggest consuming your shake during and postworkout. The sooner the better. (Click here for one of my post workout recovery shake recipes.)
Why a shake at all? Because you want to get nutrients to those muscles as quickly as possible, and liquids metabolize faster than solids. If a shake isn't available, have milk, eggs, yogurt or something similar that delivers protein to muscles fast.
"You must replace what you've depleted," says Rachel Cosgrove, fitness expert, author and co-owner of one of the nation's top rated gyms. "Do not dillydally; instead, have your shake ready to go for immediate replenishment. You won't get everything out of your workout if you skip this step."
Furthermore, don't skimp on the protein: "The simple act of eating more protein increases the amount of protein in your muscles. Why? Because that's pretty much the only place your body can store it," says Lou Shuler, fitness journalist, author and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. "Your body breaks down and builds up muscle tissue at an accelerated rate when you work out with weights. In fact, if you don't supply your muscles with fresh protein after you lift, you'll end up with a net loss of muscle protein in the hours immediately following your workout."
Now, on to the first question about protein powder. My favorite powder for the last few years has been PFC's Performance Bio-Whey. It uses simple, high quality ingredients (the vanilla, for instance, only contains 100% cold filtered whey protein isolate, ultra-filtered whey, fructose, natural gum, natural flavoring, digestive enzyme blend and stevia.). One level scoop is 110 calories and 20 grams of protein. It blends really well, can easily be added to baked goods for extra fortification, and tastes awesome. It used to only be available in health clubs, but is now available online in a variety of flavors. I stick with Creamy Vanilla and Rich Chocolate.
Another option that you may find more convenient (albeit more expensive), is to buy pre-made protein shakes from your grocer. Because I often teach fitness classes back-to-back and need ready-made replenishment, I sometimes drink the Protein Plus shakes by Bolthouse Farms. They include 210 calories and 16 grams of protein per serving (I sometimes have two servings at once), plus 21 vitamins and minerals. I admit that the sugar content is higher than I'd like, but remember that sugar is best consumed postworkout. Beyond that, I like that this brand uses no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, and no genetically modified ingredients. A money-saving trick with these is to buy several when they're on sale, then freeze them since they're perishable. Put one in the fridge the day before to let it thaw.
Ok, now's the time to start planning for your next workout. Do you need to acquire some protein powder or other forms of high quality protein to have on hand? Preparation is key! As Cosgrove said, you won't maximize your efforts if you skip this step!!
So there I was, cruising down Race Track Road in St. Johns, Fla, late one afternoon. And I may have been slightly exceeding the speed limit (if you're going to name a road 'Race Track' for Heaven's sake, expect people to drive fast!). As I casually glanced at my rearview mirror, there it was. A police car. Not just behind me, but right behind me. My stomach sank the way it does when we immediately feel guilty, whether we've done something wrong or not.
Of course I ease off the gas pedal, apply lip gloss, then put my hands at two and ten on the wheel (because the most competent drivers have shiny lips, right?!). Please don't pull me over, please don't pull me over, please don't pull me over. The officer continued to tail me, even though he had room in the neighboring lane to pass. I decided to make a move to determine his intentions. I signaled with my blinker and steadily moved into the right hand lane. Was he going to stay behind me? Please don't stay behind me. I don't have time to be pulled over. I'll be late for work!
Vroom! The officer flew past me. Whew! He was clearly in a hurry, but without his lights flashing, I assumed he wasn't responding to an emergency. Now, I don't know about you, but when I see a police cruiser exceeding the limit without its lights on, I may interpret that as license to keep up with it. So I did. I trailed it for a couple of miles, until I found myself directly behind it...turning into the same destination as I was heading.
One guess where that was. Yep, the gym. I was on my way there to lead a group training session, while he was arriving, with his young child in the back (yes, where they seat criminals), to work out. I have to admit that when I realized he was simply headed to the gym, I was miffed. How dare he ride my tail and make me break into a cold sweat, just so that he could speed to the club (like I was doing :-)?!
But then, I had another train of thought--this dude really wanted to work out. He had prioritized this time to exercise, and he wasn't going to let me and my Honda get in his way. He was even willing to bring his son along for the ride, because Daddy needs to be strong and healthy. Beyond that, as a police officer, he needs to be fit enough to subdue bad guys, a service for which I am eternally grateful.
As my brain kept churning on this, I wondered just how many of my readers are as adamant about making time to exercise. Oh, that's right. You don't have time. You can't afford a gym membership. You're too busy with kids, work, chores, etc. Or you're too tired. Too old. It's too hot. It's too cold. You hate spandex. You hate to sweat. You don't know how to get started or what to do.
Have I covered all of the obvious excuses?
Here's the thing--exercise can be done incrementally. Don't approach it as an arduous, multi-hour event. Got 10 minutes? Alternate every 30 seconds between squats, pushups and jumping jacks or run in place. Build in movement where it seems unlikely (this is a key aspect to the Metabolic Profile action plans I design), such as performing lunges while drying your hair in the morning. Buy yourself a resistance band or two, a jump rope, stability ball or TRX, a couple of pairs of dumbbells and/or a kettlebell, and you've got yourself a home gym that takes up very little space.
Some days, my workouts are done in my driveway while I keep an eye on the kids. Or in the playroom, which also doubles as my exercise studio, where we all get to 'play.' As Theodore Roosevelt so simply stated, "We have to do the best we can, where we are, with what we have."
I'm going to leave you with a challenge: Time how long you spend on social media each day (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and devote at least that same amount of time to exercise. When you realize how much better you feel, increase the duration and/or intensity of your session!
When was the last time you did crunches or sit-ups? Today? This week? Last month? Within the last year?
Whenever it was, I have some good news for you: Unless you are an MMA fighter, soldier, football player, or anyone else involved in fighting or contact sports, you are hereby exempt from performing crunches or sit-ups ever again.
Why? Because they cause more harm than good, and aren't effective for developing overall core stability since they only address the abdominal portion of the core.
According to Stuart McGill, Ph.D.,who is recognized as the world's top spinal researcher, "Enough sit-ups will cause damage in most people." As reported by the University of Waterloo where he is a professor, he discovered that, "crunches and traditional sit-ups place 3,300 newtons (the equivalent of roughly 750 lbs!) of compressive force on the spine when bent in flexion. These forces can squeeze a bent disc’s nucleus to the point that it bulges – pressing on nerves and causing back pain, and potentially leading to a herniated disc."
While this may be old news to some of you, I'm blogging about it because I was approached just recently by two women in my fitness class who wanted me to reiterate the dangers of crunches and sit-ups to their husbands. At the risk of creating marital friction and plenty of spousal, "I told you so's," I explained McGill's findings to the gentlemen who were more receptive than I expected.
I was ready for the obligatory follow-up question, which went something like this: "But if we can't do our beloved crunches and sit-ups that we've been doing since watching Rocky I, what are we to do to strengthen our abs?" First, let's stop obsessing about just the abs and take a big picture approach. How 'bout we perform movements that strengthen the entire core--all the muscles (29 sets!) that attach to the hips, pelvis and lower back.
Those movements include:
This is just the tip of the iceberg on this topic, but it's a good start for now.
If you'd like more information on core-centric strength training, I highly recommend one of my favorite resources: The New Rules of Lifting for Abs by Lou Shuler and Alwyn Cosgrove. It revolutionized how I personally train, and eradicated my lower back pain. Once you order it, let me know if you'd like help with a similar, personalized program.
Today, time yourself holding a front plank for as long as you can. Stop timing when your form collapses (or differs from the depiction above). Write down the length of time held. Continue to practice this daily until you can hold a front plank for at least two minutes. Don't rush this. It may take several weeks or more to build up to this, but don't give up. Report back when you've accomplished this feat!
DID YOU KNOW? According to Men's Health, it takes 22,000 crunches to burn one pound of fat. And for a woman to see her abs, she needs to be down to about 16-18% body fat, while men should be down to 10-12%.
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Molly is a wife, mom,
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I am not a registered dietitian, nor a medical professional. My blog is a representation of my views and experiences, which are not intended as medical advice. While I am a certified personal trainer, descriptions of things I eat and exercises I perform may not be suitable for everyone. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your current routine.