Tag Archives: fitness

Gandhi’s 5 Insights to Achieve FitWell Goals

Today is January 1, 2015. The first day of the first month in the year of 2015.

How is today different than yesterday or last year? More importantly, how do you want today to be different than yesterday and last year? Furthermore, how will you make today better than yesterday and last year?

thoughts1 I’m a fan of quotes and the insightful, reflective, and power-filled thoughts of others. Here is one that comes to mind for me this morning. (see image)

Together, let’s reflect on these words as we begin a new year.

  1. This year, why not be more mindful of our thoughts? Really challenge ourselves to reframe anything negative and turn it into a positive. Easier said than done, I know, but positive thoughts become a breeding ground for a healthy body. Mr. Gandhi is also famous for his words, “Be the change you want to see.” We can take this one step further and revise his words to say, “Think about the POSITIVE changes you want to see.”  And take this another step further–proclaim your thoughts in writing and out loud. The law of attraction is real folks! (Recommended readings: Joyce Meyer’s “Battlefield of the Mind” and Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret”)
  2. This leads me to thinking about behavior or putting our thoughts into action. Almost every single thing we do every day is a choice. Yes, a choice. We choose to eat. We choose to sleep. We choose to communicate with others. We choose to walk the dog. We choose to buy a new smartphone. We choose to exercise. We choose to our attitude. Even during the most difficult and trying times, yes, we choose our attitude. Do we allow our environment and circumstance to define our attitude or do we choose to maintain a positive, hope-filled attitude grounded by a loving spirit? Author, activist, and amazing person, bell hooks, said, “We cannot effectively resist domination if our efforts to create meaningful, lasting personal and social change are not grounded in a love ethic,” (2011, p. xxiv). Folks, we need to love ourselves enough to be able to choose the right attitude and “create meaningful, lasting personal and social change.” This applies to fitness, wellness, and LIFE!
  3. Next up, habits–or repeated behaviors over time. Most of us have heard the saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” This assumes we start with the end in mind and often, we don’t define where we want to go and end up doing several things over and over again with no clearly defined direction. Insane? Maybe to some folks, but I prefer to call it lack of a vision, clearly defined goals, and a plan to achieve said goals.Think about it. What do we need to do over and over again to expect the results (plural) we want? Get seven hours of sleep? Read the Quran? Share time with a mentor? Go for morning walks? Practice the art of saying no? Remember what Greek philosopher, Aristotle, once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Marinate on that for a minute.
  4. Our habits demonstrate to others what we value. If a stranger was able to view a snap shot of your daily life via a secret camera, what would she think you value? Take some time to reflect on your habits. Challenge yourself to include habits of behaviors that are present and absent from your life. Oftentimes, inactive habits are just as powerful or more powerful than the ones that are active. Write them down. What values do they reveal?
  5. Last but not least, our values shape our destiny. Now, if you back track up through this list and remember that we originally started with our thoughts, this all makes sense. Instead of saying our values shape our destiny, we can say our thoughts shape our destiny. Check out what Carter G. Woodson said over a century ago about the power of thinking. ““If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do.” Deep, huh? The good news is that you have the power to control your thinking and actions! The next time you think about having a negative thought, try to immediately kick it to the curb or immediately reframe it as an affirming thought.

It’s all connected ya’ll. Thoughts. Words. Behaviors. Habits. Values. Destiny.

Think about these concepts as they apply to your fitness and wellness. Journal about it. Share your thoughts with a confidant. Begin mapping a success plan for your destiny! Get started TODAY!

Happy New Year!

Reference

hooks, b. (2001). Salvation: black people and love. New York: Perennial.

 

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Does Ebola Have a Free Gym Membership?

Picture yourself in a group fitness class or on the training floor at your local gym. What do you see? Let me tell you what I see…sweat dripping, yelling or grunting with little starbursts of saliva escaping the mouth, water bottles being quickly picked up, sipped (and often slightly spilled) and tossed back down, the occasional sneeze or cough into a hand followed by grabbing a dumbbell, holding onto handle bars in cycling class, and holding child’s pose face down on a yoga mat that may have been sweated, coughed, or sneezed upon during the previous class.

All of these fluids—sweat, saliva, mucus—that trickle out of body are considered droplets. And guess what?

“Ebola is spread through droplets.” (1) Ebola at the gym?

No need to panic. Let’s just look a little closer at what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically says about droplets and the transmission of infectious diseases, Ebola in particular.

Droplet spread happens when germs traveling inside droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose, or mouth of another person. Droplets travel short distances, less than 3 feet (1 meter) from one person to another.A person might also get infected by touching a surface or object that has germs on it and then touching their mouth or nose.”
So, in summary. First, Ebola (and other infectious diseases and viruses) is spread through droplets. And second, the gym can potentially have droplets all over the place.

NOW WHAT?

Don’t freak out. All we need to do is what we should have already been doing in the first place.

  • Wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose.
  • Regularly disinfect surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.

See full detailed list of recommendations on the CDC website.

Here are a 6 tips to minimize your risk for Ebola and other viruses at the gym.

  1. Properly wrap or cover any open wounds prior to working out.
  2. Dedicate time to wash your hands after your workout and before you leave the gym.
  3. Make sure your gym has cleaning materials (preferably disposable, single use disinfectant wipes or paper towels and disinfectant spray) and you know how to access them.
  4. Arrive to group exercise class a few minutes early to properly wipe down and clean any equipment.
  5. Clean all gym equipment prior to use (and afterwards—it’s common courtesy and proper gym etiquette).
  6. Avoid close contact with anyone sick.

Remember, you cannot catch Ebola from food, water, or air. (1)

Also, a person needs to be symptomatic in order to transmit the virus. And more than likely, if a person is symptomatic, exercising may be the last thing s/he feels like doing.

Reference

(1) Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Ebola. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/infections-spread-by-air-or-droplets.pdf

Related articles about Ebola and fitness:

Banks, S. (2014). Irrational Ebola fears make life difficult for Liberians in the U.S. LA Times. 

Boseley, S. (2014, October 13). How to avoid being infected with Ebola. The Guardian.

Kylstra, C. (2014, September 30). Questions about the Ebola virus that you’ve probably already googled this week. Women’s Health Magazine.

McNeil, Jr., D. G. (2014, October 3). Ask well: How does Ebola spread? How long can the virus survive? The New York Times.

Additional information about Ebola:

As of October 25, 2014, the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention reported the following total Ebola virus case count numbers:

  • Total cases: 10141
  • Laboratory-Confirmed Cases: 5692
  • Total deaths: 4922

The United States, in particular, has experienced four reported, four laboratory-confirmed cases, and one death caused by the Ebola virus. Although all four Ebola cases in the U.S. were travel-associated with individuals traveling from highly impacted areas and “localized transmission” upon return, we all must take precautions to minimize transmission.

 

 

Pushing Past Feeling Stuck in Old Habits Part 2 of 2

This is Part 2 of 2 from the prior post, “Pushing Past Feeling Stuck in Old Habits Part 1 of 2.” First and foremost, I can’t believe it’s September already! I should have posted this last month! Anyways, I digress…

So, what happened with the person who was trying to push past feeling stuck in old habits? Unfortunately, this person is still feeling a bit stuck. German professor of Sports Science, Dr. Walter Brehm (2004), would describe this person as being in the Preparation phase of the Stages of Change model (see photo below). This means the person might exercise in some capacity occasionally (e.g., walk to work, take the steps instead of the elevator, maybe even do some push ups), but would like to begin a regular exercise routine within the next month. However, “next month” might not come anytime soon because the person may have unrealistic personal goals and expectations. Stages of Change Model

When a person is in this stage, it’s important to create and clarify realistic goals, draw upon positive past experiences with exercise, identify and utilize a support network, and be realistic about any and all limitations (schedule, injuries, health concerns). Thankfully, a certified personal trainer can help with all of this!

So what’s next? Realistically, this person could stay in this stage for quite some time, but what will help is EDUCATION. It’s important to simply immerse ourselves into what we would like to do. For example. If I want to start walking, I might want to conduct a Google search about “benefits of walking.” Or perhaps I look for a local MeetUp group that walks in my neighborhood. Maybe I ask around my circles of friends, family, and colleagues—who else walks? Can I walk with you? And so on…you get the gist of it.why

My last tip for this person and ALL OF US (myself included), is to DEFINE and remember our WHY. Why do we want to exercise in the first place? Why does it truly matter? So what if I lose weight? Why does it matter? After we define our why we must hold it dearly to our hearts because THE ANSWER TO OUR WHY keeps us MOTIVATED. It really does. I usually probe my clients heavily when answering and uncovering their why. I don’t settle for “to lose weight” or “to fit into my pants” or “to look better.” I really want (you) to know why all of that matters to YOU. Sometimes tears surface when we get to the heart of our why.

For me, it’s two fold. First, food and nutrition are important to me. I love to eat, I don’t like being hungry, and I hate for others to be hungry and unable to afford the cost of a basic, healthy meal. As I continue to grow and reach my first financial goal as a professional business, I will begin to collaborate and financially partner with local non-profits that provide healthy meal options and education to families and individuals in need. Second, I simply do NOT want to become a statistic! Black women are at the top of almost every chart that lists demographic groups hit the hardest by various chronic diseases. I want to proactively do my best to stay off of these lists! Check out some statistics…

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listing of 10 Leading Causes of Death for African Americans
Check out the CDC’s lists for other ethnic and special populations
Another comprehensive listing of various chronic diseases prevalent in specific ethnic groups

So, in a nutshell, it is my goal to stick around and hang out for a while on this planet called Earth for a long time. I would like to see my little 11 month old nephew grow up into a man and ACTIVELY participate in all of the fun things to enter his life in the years to come! Plus, I want to continue to have as many options as possible that require mobility of my body. I actually enjoy moving and doing things. Go figure! (smile)

In conclusion, I leave you with a simple, yet complex question. What’s the answer to your WHY?

Reference

Brehm, B. (2004). Successful fitness motivation strategies. Human Kinetics, 21-40. Champaign, IL.

 

What does BALANCE have to do with increasing MUSCLE SIZE?

Many of us have heard the saying, “we must crawl before we walk and walk before we run.” A key word missing from this old adage is “balance.” To rephrase, we must balance our body while crawling and do the same for sitting, standing, walking, hopping, running, and any other movement or static hold exercise. 

Q: “So, why do I need to do balance exercises if I’m trying to gain muscle size?”

Image source: http://www.how-to-draw-funny-cartoons.com

BONUS KNOWLEDGE: Learn more about how and why flamingos stand on one leg. Click image.

A: Balance and stability exercises help improve body stabilization, align imbalanced muscles, and increase joint strength. And with a stabilized body, balanced muscles, and increased joint strength, your body is in an ideal position to gain muscle size.

Oftentimes, we get caught up doing common exercises that involve weight machines, free weights, and group fitness classes. But the reality is that these exercises become more effective when anchored by a solid balance training program.

What exactly do I mean by balance training program?

Dynamic balance is the “ability to move and change directions under various conditions without falling,” (Clark, Sutton, & Lucett, 2014, p. 246). Balance training develops “synergy and synchronicity of muscle firing patterns required for dynamic balance and neuromuscular efficiency,” (Clark, Sutton, & Lucett, 2014, p. 248). In other words, balance training helps our muscles move more efficiently. Thus, dynamic balance is interconnected to hypertrophy (i.e., increased muscle size) and other neuromuscular skills (e.g., speed, flexibility, endurance).

The National Academy of Sports Medicine’s (NASM) integrated performance paradigm states that force reduction and stabilization are required for force production. In other words, the ability to successfully execute dynamic balance exercises (i.e., balance training) helps us increase force production for strength exercises. Increases in strength helps us achieve hypertrophy or an increase in muscle size.

Kinetic Chain

Kinetic Chain

Balance training also helps correct kinetic chain imbalances; thus, improve muscle imbalances and flawed movement patterns. As a result, joint stress is relieved, neuromuscular efficiency is improved, and we are less susceptible to injury. With increased neuromuscular efficiency, we are able to maximize prime movers in strength building exercises and in turn, increase the size of muscle fibers.

Enough with the talk about balance training.

Let’s chat about a couple of BALANCE TRAINING EXERCISES.

1. Multi-planar lunge to balance: Stand with feet shoulders width apart and pointed straight ahead. Place hands on hips. Begin with a basic single leg forward lunge. Keep toes pointed forward and knees aligned with toes. Push off the front foot and maintain balance on the back leg. Repeat. Switch legs. Repeat. You can progress this exercise in different planes of motion (frontal plane, or lateral lunge; transverse plane, or turn 90 degrees). You can also add weight (e.g., weighted vest, dumbbells) to make this exercise slightly more difficult. I found a video that demonstrates this exercise.

Single Leg RDL

2. Single leg Romanian dead lift: Stand with feet shoulders width apart and slightly raise one leg (the knee of the raised leg should be slightly bent). Place hands on hips, bend from the waist down and reach the hand opposite of planted foot down to touch toe. Planted leg will slightly bend. Keep spine in neutral position and try not to hunch over and round the back. Slowly come back up to starting position. Repeat. Note: if you can’t reach your toe, you can regress this exercise by reaching down to touch your shin or knee. You can make this exercise more difficult by standing on an unstable surface (i.e., balance beam, half foam roll, balance disc) and eventually adding weight (i.e., dumbbell).

For both exercises, play around with the duration of the isometric movement or the point in which you return to the starting position. For example, lunge forward for 1 second, hold the lunge for 1 second, return back to single leg balance and hold for 3 seconds. You can also play with the tempo of the concentric (acceleration or movement against the direction of resistance) and eccentric (deceleration or movement in the same direction of the resistance) movements. Have fun with it!

Feel free to ask me about other ways to progress (increase difficulty) or regress (decrease difficulty) these exercises.

Reference

Clark, M.A., Sutton, B.G., & Lucett, S.C. (Eds.) (2014). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. 4th ed. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Photo Credits

Kinetic chain. Retrieved from http://www.opedix.com/kinetic-health

Pink flamingo. Retrieved from http://www.how-to-draw-funny-cartoons.com/cartoon-flamingo.html

Single leg deadlift woman. Retrieved from http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/abs/exercises/ab-exercises/?page=7

Additional Reading

Millar, A.L. (2012, Feb). Improving your flexibility and balance. American College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.acsm.org/access-public-information/articles/2012/02/02/improving-your-flexibility-and-balance

Rogers, M.E. (2012, Jan). Balance and fall prevention. American College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.acsm.org/access-public-information/articles/2012/01/10/balance-and-fall-prevention

Zech, A., Hübscher, M., Vogt, L., Banzer, W., Hänsel, F., & Pfeifer, K. (2010). Balance training for neuromuscular control and performance enhancement: a systemic review. Journal of Athletic Training, 45(4), 392-403. Retreived from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2902034/

 

CAUTION: Trendy Group Cycling Classes

Recently, the internet and social media sites have become inundated by videos showcasing “trendy” cycling classes in various cities across the United States. My first reactions to witnessing these classes were disbelief and fear. Although classes may look very engaging and entertaining, I sincerely fear for the safety of each and every person in the classes — instructors included.

The video originally posted to this blog post was removed from this site; however, here’s a link to it.

Here’s a quick overview of my initial concerns about these classes. For clarity purposes, I refer to these trendy cycling classes as TCCs.

Image credit: http://70point3andme.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/on-why-spinning-bikes-are-my-archenemy/ via http://www.whataboutki.com/

Click image for source.

Concern #1: If you wouldn’t do it on a road bike, then it has no business being in a cycling class. Several TCCs have riders taking not one, but BOTH hands off the bike during the class. This is a big no-no. Each and every time you take one or both hands off the bike, you increase the likelihood of falling off the bike (i.e., injury). Similarly, fast cadence (pedaling) + 1 or 0 hands = a recipe for disaster. Likewise, pedaling in a standing position with one or no hands on the handle bars equates to a significant chance of injury.

Rapid, bouncy, up and down movement on the handle bars and/or saddle of the bike compromises proper form, increases strain on your back and other points along the kinetic chain, and minimizes your ability to properly target specific muscle groups during your workout.

Concern #2: Indoor cycling and our love-hate relationship with the resistance knob. In the TCC videos I watched, it looked like cyclists, including the instructor, used light resistance on the bike, regardless of cadence (i.e., speed of pedal rotations). I’m pretty sure there is a resistance knob on the bikes, but it looks like there was one pace–FAST–in these classes. It’s possible that video footage was only taken of the more exciting, fast-paced parts of the classes. It’s also possible that these classes are primarily fast paced, or high cadence classes. A good group cycling class will use the resistance knob to regulate heart rate, increase strength, build endurance, and promote active muscle recovery.

Concern #3: A word about brands and trademarks. The majority, if not all, group cycling certifications are trademarked. In other words, a person who is not a certified Spinning(R) instructor cannot lead a cycling class named, “Spinning.” It doesn’t hurt to ask TCC instructors about their cycling certifications, if any. Keep in mind, not all gyms require group fitness instructors to hold certifications.

Most popular and accepted certifications:
Mad Dogg Athletics Spinning
Les Mills RPM
Moi Cycle

Concern #4: Is there a method to the madness of TCC structure? Are instructors monitoring heart rates or rate of perceived exertion? Is there intentional progression and regression of speed, resistance, and bike position? Are instructors correcting your form on the bike? Are TCCs choreographed performances on a bike with the latest and greatest music? Is it anchored by the philosophy, “if I sweat it’s a good workout?” Just because you sweat and the instructor played music that got you hyped, doesn’t necessarily mean you had a safe and effective workout.

Concern #5: There is liability if someone gets injured during a TCC. Personal trainers and oftentimes group fitness instructors are required to have liability insurance. On occasion, gyms cover their trainers and fitness instructors with an umbrella liability insurance plan. But what about the TCCs? Are the instructors insured? Do the owners of the facility provide liability insurance to all of their trainers and group fitness instructors? I hate to say it, but it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt in a TCC (if it hasn’t already happened). Proceed with caution and TCC instructors, PLEASE make sure you have liability insurance.

Before I close, I would like to commend all of the TCC instructors and cycling class participants for their commitment to incorporating exercise into their lives. However, please be safe as you proceed with future group fitness classes. Safety and good body mechanics are essential!

Indoor cycling resources:
Indoor Cycling Association
Spinning
(articles and research)
Les Mills RPM

Moi Cycle

Note: This blog post reflects my thoughts and opinions and are not affiliated, endorsed, or supported by any professional fitness organization.

Another TCC example

Focus on FAT Loss (not weight loss)

Most people want to lose weight and neglect the benefit of focusing on losing body fat. Let’s talk about a few good reasons to focus on our body fat percentage as opposed to body weight, or the number we see on the weight scale.

Photo source: http://www.lamberjules.com

This picture provides a great visual representation of the difference in size of 1 pound of fat versus lean muscle. Photo source: http://www.lamberjules.com

1. Most of us embarking upon a weight loss adventure incorporate aerobic activity and resistance training into their exercise regimen. But when we do this we must remember an important fact about muscle and fat. One pound of muscle and one pound of fat weigh the same, but the volume (or size) of each is significantly different.

Without a change in diet, studies have shown that changes in physical activity involving aerobic (i.e., cardio) exercise results on average in more fat loss than resistance exercise alone. However, when aerobic exercise is combined with resistance training, there is fat loss being accompanied by a concurrent increase in fat-free mass (i.e., lean muscle). An increase in lean muscle will yield slower weight loss results, but a potentially significant reduction of body fat and physical inches.

2. By definition, body fat percentage is the ratio of fat to lean mass within the body. It is typically calculated using weight, height, and waist circumference measurements. In addition to these measurements, there are a few body fat equations that also incorporate the circumference of the wrist, forearm, and hips. A 2012 National Institute of Health (NIH) study concluded, body fat percentage “plays a more important role in distinguishing between healthy and obese individuals, as it has a greater ability to differentiate between lean mass and fat mass compared to body mass index.”

The American Council on Exercise recommends the following as acceptable body fat percentages for men and women.

General Body-fat Percentage Categories
Classification Women (% fat) Men (% fat)
Essential fat 10-13% 2-5%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Average 25-31% 18-24%
Obese 32% and higher 25% and higher

Most experts agree that a 1% loss of body fat per month is a generally safe and practical expectation.

Additional body fat calculators.
http://www.linear-software.com/online.html
http://www.livestrong.com/tools/body-fat-calculator
http://www.builtlean.com/2010/08/03/ideal-body-fat-percentage-chart

3. Body mass index is another way to determine the healthiness of a person’s weight. BMI is calculated using an individual’s height and weight. The National Institute of Health has an easy online tool to calculate BMI. Several studies have linked BMI to various risk factors for diseases associated with overweight or obese patients. In general, higher BMIs correlate to unhealthy risk factors such as cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, certain cancers, and other illnesses.

Here is a detailed NIH chart that uses an individual’s height (inches) and weight (pounds) to determine BMI. Acceptable BMI limits are underweight (<18.5), healthy (18.6 to 24.9), overweight (> or =25), and obesity (> or =30).

In summary, I encourage you to calculate your body fat percentage and BMI numbers. As you know, both of these numbers are calculated using your body weight and other body measurements. Use these numbers to set new fitness goals!

Maintaining Momentum & Staying the Course

It’s easy to lose momentum working out and maintaining a regular fitness regimen. We often here it takes 21-days to build a habit, but it can take as little as one day to break it!

Here are some things I do to help stay the course and maintain my workout momentum on a regular basis.

1. Travel with a gym bag prepared and ready to go. This gives me the flexibility of accepting an invite or opportunity to workout. It also allows me to make an impromptu stop at the gym or outdoor area to get a good workout into my day.  I often find it hard to go home and then leave my house again to go to the gym. At the most minimal level, I always have a pair of sneakers and socks in my car.

2. Always have healthy snacks on hand. Eating healthy eventually becomes a lifestyle. It’s easier to maintain healthy eating habits when I proactively take control of what and when foods go into my body. Carrying healthy snacks increases the likelihood of working out because I’m providing my body with good fuel. The last thing I want to do is work out after eating a heavy meal, but I could definitely see myself working out within a couple of hours after eating a delicious sushi roll! So, the moral of the story is eat well, live well, and exercise well.

3. I am the company I keep. This is a hard one to swallow. (pun intended)  If I spend a lot of time with people who do not eat a healthy diet and do not regularly work out, I tend to acquire some of their behaviors. Likewise, if I spend a lot of time with people who do eat a well-balanced diet and who are physically active, I acquire some of their behaviors. Of course the converse of each example is true. As an active person who eats a fairly healthy diet, I could hang with folks who eat a less healthy diet and who are less physically active. These folks could acquire some of my habits because they want to make a lifestyle change and they see positive benefits of hanging with someone like me. Similarly, I enjoy being with people who are invested in being their best selves.  In summary, be aware of who you spend the most time with. Ask yourself, do my relationships reflect the person I am or want to be?

4. There is power in numbers. It seems like 5K’s, 10K’s, half and full marathons have become more and more popular and accessible to the masses. If you can afford or have someone sponsor the registration fee, DO IT. It’s so much “easier” to run a long distance race with a group of people rather than by myself. Yes, it still requires training, endurance, and a certain level of fitness, but it really does feel easier. And depending where you are within a clump of people running, it may actually be easier (i.e., less wind resistance).

This concept also applies to every day physical activities. They key is to work out with people who are focused and share a similar agenda. Some people like the social aspect of working out with others and literally want to talk the whole time. That’s fine if that’s what you want during your workout. Others (like myself) want to get a good workout in and chat afterwards as we stretch or over a post-workout protein shake. This brings me back to Tip #4, you are the company you keep. Choose wisely.

Working out with one or more people also adds an additional layer of accountability to your personal fitness goals. By definition, accountability is “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions,” (Merriam-Webster Online, 2013). Whether it’s one or more people, I am more likely to show up and do it if I know someone else expects it.

If you’re new to an area, search online for local fitness groups you can join. A few I have found helpful are http://www.meetup.com, http://www.facebook.com, http://www.active.com, http://www.blackgirlsRUN.com, local recreation centers, local gyms, and newspapers. When in doubt, talk to people and ask questions about any fitness groups you can join in the local area.

5. Immerse yourself into the literature. Anything from watching scary (and real) documentaries that tell us what’s really in our food to reading health and fitness magazines are good ways to keep us immersed in a healthy lifestyle and maintain our fitness momentum. I read at least one article about health, wellness, or fitness each day. This keeps my mind proactively immersed in my personal fitness goals and in turn, aligns my body with my mind.

6. Vision board. Envisioning and truly seeing the person you strive to be is critical along any life journey. Quite a few pictures and words on my vision board incorporate elements of fitness and wellness. For example, I have a muscular, lean physique of an athlete as a source of daily inspiration. The key to having a vision board is putting it in a location you see every day. Looking at every day provides me positive and inspiring self-affirmations.

7. Being human and making mistakes. So what if I ate all of that ice cream on my birthday! So what if I didn’t make it to the gym today. So what if I got caught up in a moment with friends and ate a delicious, fattening piece of (insert favorite fattening food here). I’ve learned few things. First, you only live once and enjoy life. Eat your favorite dishes and enjoy them! Listen to your body and honor what it is telling you. Second, moderation and self-forgiveness are key. I don’t eat ice cream and other deliciously fattening treats every day. And I know how eating ice cream yesterday wasn’t the downfall of my entire diet and fitness goals. Today is always a new day.

8. Active recovery and off days. Low-intensity is better than no-intensity. The research has shown active recovery, or low-intensity, workouts after a high-intensity, hard workout is good for reducing the levels of lactic acid in your muscles. Lactic acid builds up in our muscles as we (over)work our muscles. Remember, off days are purposefully planned days into your overall workout regimen. Rest is important!

If you decide to incorporate “off” days into your week and do no pre-planned physical activity, don’t feel bad about it when you’re doing it. Bask in your off day. Enjoy it. If you feel the urge to do something, do an active recovery exercise to hold you over until your next workout.

Keep up the great work, maintain momentum, and stay the course!

Maintain Fitness While Traveling

Here are a few tips that help me maintain my fitness regimen while traveling. Enjoy!

  1. Pack all of your gear. The chances are if you pack it you will probably use it. Similarly, if you don’t pack any workout gear, I think it’s safe to assume you will not work out. Bring everything it takes for you to maximize your workout. I typically bring my iPod, headphones, sunglasses, watch, water bottle, chewing gum, sunblock, a couple scarves to tie my hair down (I have long, heavy dreadlocks) sneakers, socks, top and bottom. If needed, you can pack one workout outfit and hand wash it immediately afterwards and let it dry during the day. I typically pack two so I can wash and wear.

  2. Stay at a facility with a fitness center inside or nearby. Be selective and stay at facilities with a good workout facility (look for online photos). I highly suggest you call the hotel in advance and ask them specifically what type of equipment they have and how old it is. I have learned several hotels acquire outdated equipment from local gyms. You may also have the option of utilizing a travel pass from your current gym. Ask, find out, and check to see if there are any locations near your travel destination.

  3. Find out if there are any playgrounds or parks nearby. Parks aren’t just for children. They are FREE outdoor gyms for adults, too! You can do pull-ups on the monkey bars, dips on the jungle gym, step ups on the bench, lunges on the grass, suspended rows on the swings, and more! You can also check out any national, regional, and state parks nearby. They usually have hiking/biking/walking/jogging trails.

  4. Walk/run the emergency exit stairs inside your hotel or a nearby multilevel building. All multi-floor buildings have steps. Find them and start climbing.

  5. Do exercises that require NO equipment. For example, you can do push ups, squats, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, planks, burpees, bird dogs, walk, jog, and more!

  6. Maximize time waiting in line. Do calf raises, arm curls with your bag(s), squats, wall-sits, and stretch. Deep breathing is always a great strategy when waiting in line, too!

  7. Pre-pack healthy snacks and drink plenty of water. This saves you money and it properly fuels your body. I usually bring fruit, veggies, oatmeal, protein/energy/granola bars, nuts, tea bags, and water. All you need is hot water to cook the oatmeal and steep the tea! It’s pretty easy to become dehydrated while traveling. Don’t feel bad for making the driver stop at rest areas or making the people in your row on the plane get up so you can use the restroom. Stay hydrated. We should all be getting up, moving, and stretching every 30-45 minutes anyways. 

  8. Rest and early rise. It’s common to go to bed late and get up late while on vacation, but I’ve learned that I prefer to workout in the morning so I have flexibility throughout the rest of my day to enjoy my vacation. But in order to get up early, I need to go to bed at a decent hour. The moral of the story is to create and honor a vacation fitness regimen that supports your preferences.

  9. Talk to locals about any popular outdoor physical activity locations. Sometimes there may be an outdoor track or athletic fields people use throughout the week at select times. (Be careful not to conflict with school and sports league schedules.)  I know there are several hidden and not so hidden places for great hikes, stair climbing, and rolling hills for runs/walks. Talk to people and learn more about your environment.

  10. Proactively add more steps to your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Park further away from your destination. Walk instead of drive. Use the crosswalk instead of jaywalking. Walk the scenic (longer) route instead of the more convenient, shorter route. Do someone else a favor by walking back to get something accidentally forgotten.

  11. Go solo (and be safe). Sometimes the people we travel with do not have similar ways of maintaining their fitness. For example, they may say they want to work out with you, but don’t want to get up early for a morning jog. They may even pack their workout gear with no intention of using it. They may be too caught up in social media—taking pictures of their sneakers or other stuff and tweeting, facebooking, and instagramming instead of focusing on the actual workout. The moral of the story, you may be better off going solo. Be safe though. Use discretion if you use headphones. I often only use one earbud so I can hear and be more aware of my immediate surroundings.

  12. Make exercise be your vacation! Go to state park and hike the trails. Rent a bike and ride through the local area. Go roller/ice skating! Play golf. Participate in a local walking/running fundraiser race. Go kayaking or white water rafting. Go mountain climbing. You get the idea…

What do you do to maintain your fitness when you travel?

5 Exercises You Can Do with a Mop or Broom

Who needs a gym when a broom, mop, or long tree limb is nearby? Check out these five exercises!

Make sure you alternate the ends of the broom/map to balance resistance on each side of the body. Also, a rope pulled taut will work for these exercises, too. Have fun with speed and number of repetitions.

1. Overhead Wide Grip Squats – Holding broom, keep arms straight and above head. Wide leg stance. Get down deep into your squat. Keep arms up and straight above your head. Stick that butt out and get deep into your squat. Repeat.

2. Forward Lunges w/ Lateral Twist  – In the lunge, keep knee in alignment and over top of toes. Holding broom, keep arms extended straight in front of body and twist laterally (transverse plane) to the left. Repeat to the right.

3. Overhead Shoulder Press – Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Hold broom shoulder width apart. Start with broom at shoulder height and press up (sagittal plane) in front of face until arms are straight in air above your head. Repeat.

4. Crunches – Lie down. Knees up. Feet flat on floor. Hold broom horizontal to the floor (over top of your torso). Lift head, neck, and shoulders up! Repeat.

5. Alternating Side Bend / Knee Touches – Stand with feet a little wider than should width apart and knees slightly bent. Rest broom behind neck on top of shoulders. Have a wide pronated grip on the broom. Simultaneously raise right knee and side bend down to the right so your knee comes up to touch the broom stick. Repeat on left side.

broomexercises

What other exercises can you do with a broom or mop? Please share!

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