Perfect Fit for Getting Fit

When actively taking part in the initiative to create a happier and healthier community and park system, it’s important to choose equipment that offers various exercises in order to give users a strong, balanced workout. Today’s outdoor fitness equipment offers people the same fitness benefits as indoor facilities – at their own pace, on their own schedule and with no membership fees. Since the majority of users are of the 90% who don’t belong to a gym, the equipment caters to those who typically don’t have the time or financial means. It is not meant to take the place of indoor equipment and training centers. It is, however, designed to focus on general flexibility, cardio and muscle strengthening. It is second nature to see colorful playgrounds, picnic tables and park benches in public spaces, outdoor fitness equipment merely provides another site amenity option.

The Science Behind It

In addition to the traditional health benefits, placing fitness equipment in the outdoors also offers nutritional and health benefits as well. Sunshine and fresh air can help with osteoporosis and vitamin D deficiencies. Mental health studies prove that simply being outdoors can also help lower tension and depression levels, with even more studies showing improvement in moods and general well being. Specific studies done on the benefits of exercising outside suggest that the change of scenery can help prolong workouts and alleviate the tedious activities involved.

Indoor and Outdoor Working Together

The question of “why” is asked by many when beginning to consider placing outdoor fitness equipment in their community. While, at first glance, indoor gyms and outdoor fitness areas might appear to disagree with each other, they can actually work together nicely if placed appropriately. It is important to note that the people using outdoor equipment are usually not the same people holding a membership to an indoor gym.

Despite many news stories and studies expressing the benefits of regular exercise, only about 10% of Americans actually use their local fitness centers. While reasons range from busy lifestyles to high membership fees, the biggest hurdle to overcome is appearance and intimidation. The thought of working out next to someone who is more physically fit can have a huge impact on whether an individual takes the first steps to a healthier lifestyle. Outdoor fitness courses are designed to provide levels of challenge for older children and adults. The events can be laid out along a pathway or configured to fit your area. Sign packages explaining the various events and suggestions for physical programs and warm-up/cool-down routines are generally included and there is typically a choice of color options.

Run With Speed and Ease

BREATH

Most runners tend to gasp air like a fish out of water, mouth open, head jutting forward, and breathing laboured. It’s not supposed to be this difficult! Breathing through your mouth limits your cardiovascular ability and adds additional load and stress to your body. The overall effect is much like that of trying to swim upstream. Correct breathing should be both in and out through the nose, except at extreme exertion when you may breath out through the mouth as needed. The breath should begin in your belly (diaphragm) and eventually rise into your chest. You’ll need to practice at a slow or walking pace initially. I’ve seen many runners whose speed, posture and overall technique has improved dramatically from just this one change.

BODY AWARENESS

Stand in front of a mirror and close your eyes. Now keep your eyes closed for at leat 2 or 3 minutes, and focus on awareness of your posture and your alignment. Start with your feet – they should be parallel. Next, work on the alignment of your ankles, your knees, your hips, and finally your shoulders. Ensure your arms are hanging loosely, fingers slightly curved. Your head should be ‘on’ perfectly straight. Once you are certain of your position, open your eyes. How close were you? Notice where you’ve gone ‘off track’. When you begin your next run, keep those deviances in mind. You’d probably be shocked if you could see how you really look when running at fatigue. Practising body awareness prior to each run will give you a greater sense of how to hold and correct your body whilst running. Ideal alignment is one of the greatest keys to a fluid and pain free run.

STOP USING YOUR ARMS AND LEGS

Try jogging on the spot for 10 seconds. Immediately afterwards, walk on the spot for 10 seconds. Which is easier – which would expend the least energy if you had to do it for 2 hours? Most people say the walking – and they’d be right. This is because you’ve learnt to run by pumping your legs and arms, and predominantly by flexing your calf muscles to push off the balls of your feet. Your calf muscles are a pretty small set – no wonder you get tired out trying to use them to move your whole body. When you pick up your legs to walk, you’re using your hip flexors. These are one of the largest most powerful muscles of your core, and connect your trunk to your legs. They are designed to move you forward. One of the greatest tricks to effortless running is to learn to run from your core. Your core is made up of the inner and outer muscles of your abdominals, as well as your hip flexor (psoas), and several stabilising muscles of the low back. To gain full core awareness you really do need to understand each of these muscles. Practice drawing your belly button in toward your spine, and using your hip flexors to pick up your legs while running at a slow pace. Think of your core as being your centre – from where all strength, power and stability is born.

UNDERSTAND ROTATION

We just talked about not using your legs, but didn’t really get into not using your arms. This is where rotation comes in. Rotation is one of the most important components of any sport. Your spine rotates each time you move forward. In fact, a study with a legless man showed him walking across the room using only his core rotational abilities. From the waist up, you would never have known he had no legs. This tells us just how powerful our rotational muscles can become, and it also indicates the importance of rotation in running. The arms and legs are merely assistants to the core and it’s rotational ability. You can improve your rotation with any type of twisting movement, like a cable wood chop, and also with dynamic rotational stretching. Try holding a small ball between both hand, in front of your chest. Practice rotating your core and your hips, without tensing or moving the arms. When you run, try to incorporate core rotation instead of pumping your arms.

FOCUS YOUR MIND – RELAX YOUR BODY

It’s all very well to use running as an opportunity to zone out, or plan the day ahead, but this won’t help your technique. A focussed mind will enable you to be aware of and control your core, your alignment and your breathing. Pay attention not just to your movements, but also your mindset. How do you react when you approach some tough terrain? Do you tense your muscles, and start thinking about the difficult task ahead. Relax. Run through a top to toe alignment check. Remind yourself of the attention you’ve paid to running with good technique. Embrace the hill, adjust your stride accordingly, and simply ‘go with the flow’. Relaxing is a skill almost more difficult than any other, however unnecessary muscle tension not only restricts blood flow (reducing speed) but also increases your chance of muscle fatigue and injury. Perhaps it’s worth your while to become a master of muscle relaxation, and focus your mind on using your core and your breathing to propel you forward.

SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE

Finally, don’t try to improve every facet of your running overnight. For one thing, you’ll probably get really fed up and want to give it up. For another, your body simply can’t absorb and utilise that much information all at once. Small adjustments are crucial – why not work on one of the previous steps each week.

Lose Love Handles

  • Perform interval cardio workouts — A lot of people make the mistake of performing long cardio workouts at a steady pace. This is a mistake. Doing interval cardio training burns off a lot more fat and also works the abdominal muscles which also helps with those love handles. Interval cardio is done by alternating between a few moments of intense cardio, like running at a fast pace, and then slowing down for a few minutes to a much less intense segment like power walking. Repeating this sequence a few times each workout will burn off maximum body fat and reduce your love handles.
  • Do complete strength exercises — Many people make the mistake of avoiding working out certain areas of their bodies. Performing full body strength and resistance exercises will increase your overall muscle mass. More muscle mass burns off more fat each minute (because muscle mass burns the most calories in order to sustain itself). Full body workouts will also get your heart rate way up and will get those fat deposits to melt off.
  • Watch what you eat — In order to lose those love handles, you need to cut down on your fat and empty calorie intake. Cut down on sugary sodas, pastries, fast food, fried food, and fatty dishes. Lowering your fat intake will get your body to burn fat deposits like those that are making your love handles.
  • Work your abs — You need to work your abs, especially your obliques (the abs muscles that run down both sides of your abdomen). Increasing abdominal muscle mass will make it appear firmer and slimmer.
  • Drink enough water — You need to drink 8-10 glasses of water each day. I know it may seem difficult but having enough water causes your body to function better and burn off more calories. It also prevents water retention.
  • Sleep at least 7 hours each night — Our body develops muscle mass while it sleeps; more muscle mass means more burned off calories and fat. Do you see where I’m going with this? If you don’t sleep enough, you will not develop the maximum muscle mass and burn off less fat.

Exercises For Stomach and Butt

The Bicycle Exercise

Said to be the most effective ab exercise according to the American Council of exercise, the Bicycle maneuver is a great exercise for all levels of fitness

  • Lie on the floor; make sure your lower back is pressed on the ground.
  • Take your hands behind your ears. Then bring up your knees at a 45 degree angle.
  • Start doing a bicycle pedaling motion. Touch your elbow with the opposite knee (right elbow with left knee and so on, alternating)
  • Breathe relaxed and evenly throughout the whole exercise.

Squats

The squats are not only the best exercises for the butt, but they also work other muscles. If you’re looking for exercises for the stomach and butt don’t miss this one:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Squat keeping your back straight with your abs in and knees behind your toes.
  • Squeeze your buttocks to stand up.
  • Make three sets of 12 sets of 12 reps.

These two are the best exercises for the stomach and butt. You must put them into practice regularly to see results, and remember there’s no hurry, do the recommended repetitions at a normal pace to avoid injuries. Good luck!

Rugby Fitness Training

Rugby produces some unique training requirements not seen in other sports. It is a sport that caters for all types of physiques and places demands on almost all the bodies’ physical characteristics.

I will not go into an in-depth discussion of the various requirements of rugby and variations for each position. However, I will briefly review the main requirements for success. The demands of rugby are varied and I could almost list every physical ability and say it impacts upon performance, however the main factors are:

  • Aerobic power – more specifically a high aerobic power over a pure steady state aerobic base e.g. a good 6 minute run test score more important than good 10 km time. (Obviously these two are highly integrated but still are different).
  • Lactate tolerance – The key limiting factor during play, affects both aerobic power and speed endurance.
  • Speed – More specifically acceleration and repeated sprint speed endurance.
  • Agility – The ability to decelerate and change direction or move in a non linear direction.
  • Strength – Both maximum strength and speed strength and as any sport requires a strong core as a foundation.

To add to this you could easily point out maximum speed is important in many situations and you can never be called too fast, but in general it is not too decisive. Muscles size is also not hugely important to success as it is your strength, absolute, relative and fast speed that is more important. Though one factor affecting maximum strength is of course muscle cross section area. I have not mentioned above about flexibility but just like core strength it is a fundamental that needs to be used to restore ideal posture and muscle lengths. How much flexibility is optimal past these ideal lengths is an issue of much debate and beyond the scope of this article.

To effectively cover all the main attributes a rugby player needs to optimize performance he must cover six main types of training methods:

  • Aerobic training – To develop lactate tolerance and aerobic power.
  • Sprint training- To enhance acceleration and repeated sprint speed endurance.
  • Resistance training- To build maximum and fast speed strength.
  • Agility training – to learn effective mutli-directional movements and changes of pace.
  • Plyometric training – To support speed strength in linear and multi directional movements.
  • Core and flexibility training – To create the underlying foundations of all the above training.

Fitness for Busy Moms

Carry your baby with you

Nothing burns calories faster than exercising with weights. You get stronger while building lean muscle that helps increase your metabolism and burn additional calories. Instead of pushing the stroller everywhere you go, consider carrying your baby in your arms or even on a baby carrier/sling. Not only will this help you exercise, it will also help you develop a closer bond with your child. NOTE: When carrying your baby, make sure you have good posture by standing up straight and tightening your abdominal muscles. This will prevent any possible back injury which can result from constantly carrying the additional weight.

Get at least 30 minutes of “real” exercise

Let’s face it, “running around chasing after your baby” is not truly exercise. You need at least 10 minutes of constant physical activity to count it as “real” exercise. While it may be hard to schedule 30 minutes of jogging on that treadmill, try breaking it into three 10 minute daily sessions. This is much easier to fit into your schedule and will still have the effective calorie burning results of a full half hour workout.

Do the housework

Although most people don’t really enjoy doing the household chores, those tedious activities can really help you burn some serious calories. For example, 30 minutes of vacuuming the house burns between 75 and 125 calories. Other common tasks such as making the bed can burn up to 70 calories and even the act of cooking a healthy meal can help you burn off up to 50 calories.

Schedule physical play time for you and the kid(s)

Instead of sending the kids off to watch TV or play video games, try getting involved in a fun game with them that includes physical activity for you and them. Go for a stroller walk, throw a Frisbee, play ball, etc. You can also arrange for play dates with other moms and transform this time into a fun and entertaining social bonding experience.

Get Started In Running

Get proper running shoes!

Lots of people start running with inadequate footwear. I advise you to buy a good pair of name-brand running shoes like Nike, Adidas, New Balance etc. At the beginner level you won’t need the top of the line model either. You should be able to find a good pair in the $50 to $70 range. Visit your local running store for some good advice.

Start Slowly

If you’re new to running, or haven’t run in a long time, then you probably won’t be able to run very far without getting out of breath. By far the best way to start is to alternate running and walking. Run slowly for about 2 minutes and then walk for 2 minutes to recover. You’ll soon be able to increase this to 4 to 5 minute intervals. Then gradually decrease the walking time until you can run 30 – 40 minutes non-stop. It may take you several weeks to get to this point. Be patient!

Set Your running Goals

These should be fairly modest to start with, even if you are quite fit. Don’t try to run a 26-mile marathon in your first year of running! A realistic goal for the first 6 – 12 months would be to reach a point where you can run 6 miles. You might want to participate in a local race or two. These are fun events, and are often community-based to raise money for charity or medical research.

Avoid injuries

Runners are among the most likely to get an injury of one kind or another. This is usually caused by over-use, but can also come from a biomechanical problem like a weak knee joint or over-pronation of the feet. As a beginner runner you need to be aware of this and build a good base of running before you increase your efforts. Don’t be afraid to stop and walk on a run if you are feeling strained.

Run with a friend

Running with someone like yourself who is just beginning is a great way to get started. You can chat as you go along, and the time (and miles!) will go by really quickly.

Take It Easy!

As you get fitter, the temptation is to run further and faster. This is where it’s easy to get hurt. If it’s a serious problem like an Achilles heel injury this could knock you out of your running program, and may even discourage you from running altogether.

Keep a Running Log

This is a great way to keep yourself motivated. The basic items you want to record are the date, how long you were out, and how far you went. You can also note the route you took, the weather, companions, and anything else you feel is important. Your running log can become your daily fitness diary. Another important feature of your running log book is keeping track of your total mileage from week to week. If you increase this by more than the recommended percentage (10 – 15%) then you are risking an injury.

Inversion Therapy

Maybe it’s old age creeping up on me, but I feel a lot better doing it when I first get up. It could also be why I don’t feel the effects as dramatically as doing it during the evening. It’s also recommended to use it frequently throughout the day, rather than one long session. I use it for one minute in the evening, and if I remember, I try to add more one minute sessions during the day. I’ve also found that inverting 180 degrees really doesn’t have any additional benefits. I stopped fully inverting to 180 degrees as it made my head pound, and my eyeballs feel like they were going to pop out. It was also really hard on the ankles, as they were supporting my full body weight when inverted. I found a sweet spot at around 140-150 degrees inverted.

At this setting, my head and eyes weren’t pounding, and it dramatically reduced the pain and strain on my ankles. I felt absolutely no benefit being inverted at 180 degrees than at 140-150 degrees. In fact, at 140-150 degrees, it was much more comfortable, and I didn’t feel like I needed to stop after two minutes. I may try to increase my workout to three minutes. It’s recommended that you can increase your time inverted up to five minutes. I’m still working on getting past two minutes. My Teeter Hangups has proven to be rock solid reliable, with no problems. Nuts and bolts have all remained locked tight, and there are no squeaks or noises. I must admit, it’s a really heavy duty unit that should hold up to years of use. It did need a bit of oil on the ankle clamp mechanism, as it started to get sticky and temperamental. But, after a little bit of oil, it works like it’s on ball bearings. Some like to do exercises while inverted, such as crunches and twisting movements.

At my age, I don’t want to press my luck, so I’ll stick to tried and true inversion sessions. I haven’t had a chance to try out an inversion chair, but I suspect it won’t give you the benefits of an inversion table. With an inversion chair, you are sitting upside down, and only your torso and upper body weight are decompressing your upper body and joints. Your ankles and knees aren’t really getting any benefit from being inverted. If you do a full 180 degree inversion with the inversion chair, you will experience the same throbbing eyeballs and pounding in your head. The inversion table uses your entire body weight to decompress all your joints, giving you a more extensive workout. Since the exact weight of your body is compressing all your joints, using your entire body weight inverted will give it an equal decompression of your joints.

When shopping for an inversion table, don’t be cheap. Spend an extra $50-$100 over some of the no name bargain inversion tables. If you can actually go to a store and physically inspect it before buying, even better yet. Make sure the inversion table you choose is sturdy enough to support your weight. If it flexes and feels wobbly, don’t purchase it. Serious injury to your head, neck, and back can occur if the inversion table fails, or tips over. Check the ankle support system to make sure it’s very robust, and not just cheap straps that hold your ankles with velcro. If they aren’t well padded, and hold your ankles securely, they can remove skin and be a painful experience. They could also fail when inverted, causing serious injury if you land on your head or compress your neck and back. The inversion table has been a great investment, and something I know I’ll be using daily for the rest of my life.

Essential Gym Bag Items

  • Shoes. OK, so this one you may walk in already wearing. I pack mine because I’m often coming from work. The right shoes are an absolute must. What do I mean by the right shoes? This is an excellent question, and I am so pleased that you asked. When I started my CrossFit journey, Inov8s were really popular. They’re a minimalist running shoe, with a zero-drop sole. Merrell made a similar pair that were pretty good too… if you’re interested in barefoot running, which, at the time was just garnering quite a lot of attention in the running/fitness world. Zero drop is actually really important for CrossFitters as well because it allows you to squat and lift with better contact with the ground. A typical running shoe has a lot of squishy cushion in the heel, and not only is it not helpful in CrossFit movements, it can really hinder the proper development of your squat. Luckily, CrossFitters have better options now, that are geared specifically towards CrossFit. Here are my top picks.

The CrossFit Nano 5.0, made by Reebok is an all-around winner. I also loved the Nano 4.0, as well as the 2.0. The 2.0 is still available for sale at reebok.com.

Nanos have a zero-drop sole, and the 5.0s are a little stiffer through the heel, again to better facilitate contact with the ground when lifting. I particularly like the 5.0 because it has a narrower toe box (I have long, narrow feet) than either the 4.0 or the 2.0. It’s super grippy on the sides for rope climbs, and it just looks fantastic (Bonus!). Cost: $129.98 (more for customized options) from reebok.com, As far as an athletic shoe, this is a little on the pricey side, but for all-around useful-ness, this is a can’t-do-without winner.

When the Metcons came out they’d built up so much hype that they sold out immediately, and were back-ordered for months. I’ve never actually tried a pair, but from what I’ve heard they are not durable like the Nanos, especially when it comes to rope climbs. Otherwise, these have many of the same features as the Reebok Nanos in that they will allow you to squat more effectively in your WODs, as well as give appropriate support for running, and jumping movements. These go for $120 from nike.com. I think these are also a great looking shoe. Seriously, I get shoe envy every time I see a pair, but I’m a committed Nano girl… have been for years.

  • Tape Strips. If you don’t keep a pair of ready-made strips in your bag, then at least keep a roll of sport tape so you can make up a pair in a pinch. You can pick it up at any pharmacy, or order it online (my personal favorite). It’s available for $5.75 (on Prime) from amazon.com. There are so many things we do on the bar that can really wreck your hands. You’re already in a CrossFit gym, there’s no need to prove your toughness by shredding your hands. Note: there is a difference between sport tape and powerflex. If you use powerflex on your thumbs it will just hurt because it isn’t flexible enough, and conversely, powerflex would be a poor choice to protect hands because it’s too sticky.
  • And while we’re talking about hands, go ahead and throw a box of Blister Patches from Band-Aid in there. These are not something you will use in a work out (they won’t stay on, although they DO stick much better than regular band-aids), so perhaps they shouldn’t have made the essential list of gym bag items. However, they are like balm on poor ripped CrossFit hands. Imagine being able to put new skin right onto your tear… yep, that’s exactly what these do. You’ll have to replace them fairly often, but it’s worth a little relief when your hands are torn and you still have to use them. I pick mine up at Walgreens for about $7 per box of 6.
  • Pre-wrap tape, or Powerflex. I also mentioned these in my hand-care post. I use this every day, to wrap wrists (when using false grip on muscle ups), thumbs (when you’re using hookgrip on a barbell), or hot spots on my fingers. Definitely a high-use item. I use Powerflex and I order it from ithacasports.com in a box of 24 for $54.99+shipping. I find the 2″ is most useful. I go through a box about every 6 months.
  • Headband. If you’re of the male variety, you may think this just isn’t for you. But, guys, if sweat is running in your eyes, it burns the same way. I’ve seen lots of men wear headbands in the gym, especially if their hair is on the long side. Not only does a headband keep the sweat from your eyes, it keeps your hair out of the way, too. I’m picky about my headbands. It took me forever to find one that didn’t 1) slide right off my head, or 2) give me an immediate headache. I love the Fringe Fighter from Lululemon.com for $18. (please note that they are final sale). I think these Lucy headbands are very similar, at a similar price ($15), but I’ve never found a need to stray from my trusty Lulu. These headbands are wide enough to stay on my head.
  • Jump Rope.I don’t push clients into getting their own jump rope if they don’t yet have double unders locked in. But it’s a great idea, I would say it’s even necessary if you are serious about competing. Every gym is going to stock their own ropes. But it can be a hassle to find the right length, and it can be frustrating when the one you find that is the right length is in poor condition, with kinks, or worn spots where the wire is exposed. You just don’t always know what you’re getting. And when you’re struggling already with double unders, it can be like trying to hit a moving target. If you’re still learning, I highly recommend looking into rxsmartgear.com. Their ropes start at about $36, and once you have the handles, you can just replace the cable. Most people don’t realize that when you’re just trying to learn double unders, you’ll benefit from a little bit heavier rope, which is designed to give you more feedback and therefore allow you to learn quicker. Translation: less whipping yourself, and more actually learning how to establish a good rhythm. You can switch out a lighter cable as you become more and more proficient. Once you’re a double under master you can use their lightest rope, or find another speed rope that you like.

Once I became more proficient at double unders, I found I preferred a lighter, and smaller handle, and I switched to Again Faster. The one I’ve been using, which I’ve really liked, is no longer available, but it looks an awful lot like their Team Speed Rope ($20) – they released the Competition Rope ($30) after I bought the one I’m currently using. Again Faster also offers a Beginner Rope ($12), I like to keep a spare cable in my bag. For those rare “just in case” times.

  • Long Socks. There are certainly ways to minimize burning your skin right off on rope climbs. However, if I’m in a hurry (and when I’m on the clock, when am I NOT?) I don’t often take the time to worry about it. Pants help, but if I’m only wearing pants I usually burn the bare skin between the bottom of my pants and my shoe. Plus, my pants are way more expensive to replace than a pair of socks if I wear right through them.

Improved Vertical Leap

Some call squats the “king” of lower body exercises for strength training, but this only true if it is done properly. The biggest mistake most people new to the squats make is leaning too far with their body. This will hurt your back and make your progress much slower than it should be. While doing the squat, keep the bar resting you’re your upper back, rather than your neck. Always keep your knees above your feet to keep stable. And at first, focus on whether or not you are doing it properly, not how much weight you can lift.

Dumbbell lunges are also great for overall leg strength. Just grab a pair of dumbbells (one in each hand), stand up straight, and step as far as possible while still keeping your torso straight up and down. In the deepest part of the movement, your front leg should be in a ninety degree angle. Now stand up and repeat with the other leg. About a dozen reps with each leg should be sufficient for a basketball player’s purposes.

Of course, you can’t get great vertical leap with strength training alone. You also need to do plyometrics, that is, drills that require you to jump with explosive force. One good example is the “weighted box jump.” To do this exercise, get a box that is anywhere from a foot and a half to two feet and a half high (depending on how high your vertical leap is). Now, with a light dumbbell in each hand, jump onto the box, landing as softly as you can. It helps to bend the knees fully upon landing. Hop off and repeat.

Power cleans are a great exercise to train fast, dynamic movement, but they require a great deal of technique. Doing it wrong might result in no development, or worse yet, serious injury. Definitely consult with a personal trainer before attempting this advanced exercise.

Like in any good exercise program, don’t neglect your cardio. After all, the less fat your muscles have to carry upwards, the farther up you are likely to go!