Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Lesson in Mindfulness

From the book Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillmentby Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph. D.:
After three years of study, the novice monk arrives at the dwelling of his teacher.  He enters the room, bursting with ideas about knotty issues of Buddhist metaphysics, and well-prepared for deep questions that await him in his examination.
"I have but one question," his teacher intones.
"I am ready, master," he replies.
"In the doorway, were the flowers to the left or to the right of the umbrella?"
The novice retires, abashed, for three more years of study.
Aside from being a great lesson for all of life, being more mindful of the present when it comes to health behaviors can make a world of difference.

How big was the serving size of pasta you just ate?  Can you taste every individual spice your grilled fish was seasoned with?  Is there a cell phone or a blaring TV competing for your attention during your time at the gym?  Can you feel every muscle properly engaged throughout each repetition?

Quiet the outside noise and be more mindful of what you are working to achieve.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Macgyver-Style Density Training

I realized this month I will be traveling to three different states all within a two week period.  Talk about a training challenge.  Plates and barbells don't pack easily but I'm still determined to do something even if it's not the same intensity as my regular routine.  Progression under these circumstances is a challenge.  Accepting a level of maintenance is more realistic.

The first of my travels brought me to sunny Florida to celebrate Christmas a week early with my parents.  With hardly any equipment available I had to get Macgyver-esque and use whatever was available to me.  While I'm sure he would've fashioned my parents' golf cart into a squat rack complete with a cable lat pull down, I settled for using two chairs and a beach towel.

Macgyver Image

This session involves density training which is when you try and complete as many sets of an exercise at a fixed amount of reps for a given period of time.  It is great for burning fat and building muscle.  Here, I paired exercises together, used 8 repetitions, and went to work for 10 minutes per pair.  For the first pair, I completed 8 inverse rows followed by 8 rear foot elevated split squats on my right leg and another 8 on my left leg.  I repeated that sequence as much as I could for a full 10 minutes (I was able to do 6 sets of each).  Then I did another 10 minutes with the second pair (I did 7 sets of each).

Alternate the following two exercises and complete as many sets as possible in 10 minutes.
Rest for 2 - 3 minutes, then follow the same format for the next two exercises.
** Access to a bar or TRX would be ideal for this.  If you use chairs, make sure they're sturdy and won't tip over from your body weight. 

Don't forget to warm up properly and pace yourself according to your fitness level.  Remember, the hardest part of any workout is deciding to start.  You never regret exercising after you've already done it. 


Friday, December 9, 2011

Recommended Reads - December 9th

Happy Friday!  I hope you all had a healthy week and are staying sane with all the holiday prep.  Here's a couple things to help you stay in the right frame of mind.

Ladies: Tips to Make You More Comfortable in the Weight Room
Jen Comas Keck gives some great ideas to make the weight room feel less intimidating for us ladies.  While her tips do seem quite simple, put them all together and see how your confidence grows.

Crispy Asparagus Spears
This is how I will trick my future children into eating asparagus.  That is all.

University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management Flash Mob
Are you tired of flash mobs yet?  No?  Good.  Here's one to put you in the holiday spirit.  I wish this happened to me when I was studying for finals.

Proud To Be A Penn Stater
I posted previously about the Proud to be a Penn Stater group that was trying to raise $500,000 for RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network).  I am happy to report, they reached their goal after this past weekend!  Thank you to everyone who donated.  This group is nothing short of amazing and their efforts are far from over.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Body Weight Blitz

I know this time of year is tough.  Schedules are tight and priorities are elsewhere.  I myself will be making two trips this month, one to Florida to see my parents and one to Pennsylvania to see the rest of my family.  While I am over-the-moon-excited for both, I can't help but think how the holiday travel will throw a wrench into my normal training. 

If you're in the same boat, accept that you may not be able to complete your training to its maximum potential this time of year.  But also refuse to cave in to an "all or nothing" attitude.  Something is always better than nothing.

Here's a quick body weight circuit that requires minimal equipment which makes it perfect for travel or time crunches.  Go through and complete 3 reps each of A through E.  Repeat, this time with 6 reps.  Then 9, then 12.  Finally, work back down the ladder and do another 12, 9, 6, and 3.  Try to complete the entire series as quickly as possible.

A.  Push ups
B.  Squat Jumps
C.  Rows*
D.  Glute Bridges
F.  Tuck Jumps**

I did TRX rows and elevated my feet on a chair for the glute bridges.  I completed it all in 15:06.  The first round or two were definitely deceiving.  It isn't the most challenging thing I've ever done, but it's great if you're in a pinch.  If you have access to more equipment, add in the extra resistance to increase the intensity.

* Rows are tricky because they require some sort of equipment or special set up.  You could do dumbbell rows as shown above, inverted rows if you have a bar to hang from, or TRX rows which is what I did.

** Stand with your elbows by your side, bent at 90 degrees, and palms facing the floor.  Jump and tuck the knees up to touch your hands.  Be sure to take off and land from both feet at the same time.

Don't forget to check with your physician before starting an exercise program.  Always include an adequate warm-up.