It’s not a 4-letter word but you might utter a 4-letter word every time you see yours.
Now, you know that ab moves do NOT remove the flab, but they are very important in contributing to your overall fat loss and, of course, core strength.
Below are some of my favorite moves for Lean, Strong Abs.
You’ll need an exercise ball and Gliding Discs or towels (for hardwood floors).
Do each move for 12-16 reps, doing one after the other for up to 3 circuits. Skip anything that hurts, y’all! Email with questions if you have them.
Long Limb Crunches
Lie down with arms and legs straight. Contract the abs and lift the right leg up as you bring the left hand towards the toe. Repeat on the other side. Note: You can come up to the elbow as shown (easier) or you and come all the way up (good luck!).
Bridge With Leg Drops
Come up into a bridge position and take one leg straight up. Brace your abs and slowly take the leg out to the side towards the floor as far as you can. Bring it back up and repeat before switching sides.
With Gliding Discs or towels under your feet (they work on hardwood floors), lie down with your heels on the Discs. Contract the abs to lift the shoulders up as you slide the heels in. You can come all the way up (as shown – harder) or just lif the shoulders off the ground.
Place your hands on the ball in front of you, arms parallel. Pulling your belly button in and tightening your torso, slowly roll forward, rolling the ball out as far as you can without arching or straining the back. Push the elbows into the ball to go back and repeat.
On the elbows and toes in the plank position, lift the hips up in an upside-down V. Lower back down to your plank (you can keep the hips a little higher if going all the way flat is too much) and repeat.
Riddle me this: What’s one of your least favorite exercises? If you said PUSHUPS, I don’t blame you. Pushups are hard, especially for women because we usually don’t have as much upper body strength as men do. And they’re just hard, right?
BUT, pushups are so, so, so good for you. They work everything in your upper body as well as your core, giving you a huge payback for not too much work. I mean, there’s some work there for sure.
In fact, if you’re not doing any exercise, I would say – just do some pushups every day because that, my friends, counts as a workout.
Now, we often take body measurements and other assessments to keep track of progress, but fitness tests are also a good way to actually FEEL your progress. Fitness tests are a great way to measure where you are and the pushup test is a favorite of personal trainers because it’s a simple way to measure your endurance and upper body strength.
How to Do the Pushup Test
Take the test to establish a baseline for muscular endurance and upper body strength. Once you’ve gotten your score, take the test again every 4-6 weeks
to track your progress.
By adding pushups to your regular workout routine and working on your upper body strength, you can increase the number of
pushups you can do over time. If you’re not able to do the pushups described below, I’ve got some modifications for you to try and you can work your way up to more challenging versions.
Stair Rail Pushups
Hands and Knees
Begin with 5-10 minutes of cardio to warm up the muscles
For men: Get into a pushup position on the
hands and toes. The hands should be about shoulder-width apart, back straight and the head up.
For women: Get into a pushup position on the hands and knees. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart and your back should be straight with your head lifted.
Lower into a pushup, bending the elbows and lowering down until the chin touches the mat. Your back should be straight and stiff throughout the movement and your belly should not touch the mat. If this is too hard, just go as low as you can! It’s all good.
Push up to a straight arm position.
Continue doing as many pushups as you can with good form at a consistent pace.
Stop the test when you’re straining or if your form is slipping.
Use the table below to find your score, which is based on the number of pushups you can do consecutively without rest.
Table: Pushup Fitness Test Results
American College of Sports Medicine. (2006). ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Kettlebell training has tons of advantages – You increase your aerobic capacity, strengthen your entire body and reduce lower back pain. Here are 5 killer kettlebell moves to get your heart rate up and metabolism going.
1. One Arm Swing
Hold a KB (8-20 lbs) in the right hand, feet hip-distance apart. Begin a warm up swing to get used to the movement, tipping from the hips to take the KB between the legs and powering the hips up as you lightly swing the weight to about hip level. Take the left arm out to the side for balance. Once you get comfortable with the movement, swing the weight to shoulder level, always using the hip-thrust movement to get the weight up.
Stand with a kettlebell on the floor and squat, hands to the floor. Step or jump the legs intoa plank position. Step or jump the feet back to start, pick up the kettlebell and do a double arm swing.
3. High Pulls
Hold a medium kettlebell in both hands, feet hip-width apart. Tip from the hips, keeping the arms straight, the torso upright and the abs braced. Power the hips up as stand while drawing the kettlebell up and bringing the elbows up and above the shoulders.
4. KB Renegade Row
Get into a plank position, on the hands and toes (or knees), keeping the core braced and the body in a straight line. Hold a kettlebell or weight in one hand and pull the elbow up to torso level in a rowing motion. Lower the weight, lightly touching the floor.
5. KB Windmill
Hold a medium kettlebell or dumbbell in the right hand, turning the right toes out and the left toes forward, almost like you’re standing on a surfboard.Take the left arm straight up and lean to the right, kicking the left hip out and bending the right knee as you lower the weight towards the floor.Keep your eyes on the extended left arm.
Times are stressful these days. We have a constant stream of information in our faces, ears, eyes…everywhere. We’re getting older, we’re gaining weight and there are a lot of problems in the world that we have no idea how to solve.
Here’s the thing though: Stress is killing us. It’s making us drink more, eat more, sleep less, gain weight and feel tired all the time.
We have to deal with it.
These gut-wrenching times call for a serious intervention. If you’re feeling stress, no matter where it’s coming from, I can help you.
Go through the list below and pick one thing. Set an alarm for every hour and do that one thing (well except drinking wine…at least wait until an appropriate time).
Pet something soft and furry (an animal…get your mind out of the gutter).
Go outside and breathe again. Look at the sky where there are no politics, computers or kids or dogs or cat puke or anything remotely resembling stress.
Put on your favorite song and sing it at the top of your lungs.
Sit quietly, close your eyes and picture your favorite place in the world.
Oh my gosh – nutrition and diet info is everywhere!
And each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right?
Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat. This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health.
Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.
Two things happened recently that reminded me of this:
We can’t always be moving forward.
What reminded me of this was, first, a neighbor of mine was frustrated because she was only able to do 15-minute workouts. Her house was under construction, her kids were going back to school and life was like a box of chocolates – that had melted into a gooey mess.
I was actually surprised she was working out at all, considering the chaos in her life. My advice to her was this: Sometimes you can do hour-long workouts. Sometimes you can’t.
It’s this thing called life, y’all.
Deep. I know.
I was thinking about her as I was trying to get out of my neighborhood, which has become increasingly difficult due to all the damn construction going on. Here in Chicago, they say there are 2 seasons: Winter and Construction.
Right now? We’re deep into construction.
Every day there’s a new road closed or blocked or backed up with cars and it feels like I’m not getting anywhere, kind of how my neighbor felt with her workouts.
But as I was sitting in a small-town traffic jam, I thought about all this construction. They’re resurfacing, rebuilding, reinforcing. In the end, we’ll be glad they did all that, right?
And sometimes, that’s what we need to do for ourselves.
There’s an ebb and flow to life. Sometimes we’re ON – We’re working out, we’re cooking dinner, we’re taking care of the house, the kids, the yard, the everything.
Sometimes we’re OFF – We’re sick, tired, someone else is sick, someone’s in your kitchen knocking down a wall, or you’re just tired.
The thing is, we are constantly under construction. We build ourselves up and then we get a little torn down, just like all the roads around here (which I am convinced are made of tissue paper).
The important thing is to recognize when you’re in an ebb-cycle and let it happen. We all need to hunker down sometimes and some things may need to get pushed to the bottom of the priority list.
Like for my neighbor – Just do the 15 minutes. It’s temporary and things will get back to normal, whatever normal is. And the best part? She can get an awesome workout in 15 minutes. I made her one. You can try it to.
The next time you’re frustrated with your lack of progress or some other aspect of your life, ask yourself where you are and where you need to be. Can you afford some time to sit back and regroup? Giving yourself that time may be exactly what you need to start moving forward again.
Walking is a great exercise – You can do it pretty much anywhere, you get to be outside and you don’t need any special skills to do it.
That’s all well and good, but it’s also easy to turn your exercise walk into more of a stroll. That’s fine if that’s your goal, but if you really want to burn calories, it ain’t no walk in the park.
Make Your Walks WORK
There are ways you can make sure you get the most out of your fitness walks:
Use your arms. I know, people may look at you, but they’re just jealous that you’re exercising. Swinging your arms gets your momentum going. Your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees, arms swinging straight, not across your body. Periodically flip your palms up and you’ll get your arms going in the right direction. Pay attention throughout your walk and notice if your arms start to flop. That probably means your speed has dropped too.
Use good form. Land on your midfoot, not on the heel or the toe, with the foot right under the hip, not in front. This makes your walk more efficient and you’ll feel less tired. Keep your shoulders and face relaxed and your chest up. Pretend I’m watching you the entire time. There – you look gorgeous!
Watch your speed. You want to walk fast like you’re trying to catch a bus but you can’t run because you’re in 6-inch heels (hey, it’s pretend). Check in every few minutes to make sure your pace hasn’t dropped. You want to be just out of breath, but still able to talk in short sentences.
Use hills to get your heart rate up. When you find a good one, walk up as fast as you can and then recover on the way down. Repeat 3-5 times for a great interval workout.
Use a good playlist with a beat you can walk to. Here’s a Walking Playlist you can try on Spotify.
I was thinking about a recent FB post I made to my group about getting up on the wrong side of the bed. But it was more than that, I just didn’t realize it at the time.
It wasn’t just a bad mood, it was something else…something I couldn’t quite put my finger on – And I tried every finger, believe me.
It was like everything I did felt wrong. While I was eating breakfast, I thought – Maybe I should’ve showered first? While I was walking the dog I was thinking about 9 different things I needed to do from writing my newsletter to alphabetizing my books (seriously – I tried to make this something I simply had to do).
While I checked my email, I thought – should I work on my social media instead? Or there’s the cat barf I covered up with a towel that I’ve been ignoring all morning…and on it went until my brain was as busy as a dog in flea season.
The thoughts would not stop – All The Things I needed to do, should do, MUST do.
That was Phase 1: Overwhelm
Overwhelm is like a tornado, flinging you around inside your own head until you feel like you’ve been shot at and missed and s**t at and hit. You have to do everything and you have to do it all right now, but the more you do the more you have to do and the behinder you get.
And that takes you to the next phase of overwhelm:
Phase 2: Uncertainty
When you feel overwhelmed, you start questioning everything you’re doing, from what you decided to make for dinner to what workout you should do.
This is true of life, and even more true of exercise and weight loss.
When you feel overwhelmed by All The Things you become paralyzed. Just some of the things you may feel like you HAVE to do:
I have to diet – I know I need to watch my eating and there are so many diets…which one works? There are so many and I don’t even have time to research all of them so I’m like – I’ll just have some damn pizza because screw this.
I have to exercise – What do I do and how much? When do I find the time and how do I get motivated? What workouts work best and how do I find them?
I have to reduce stress because it’s making my belly fat, but I’m stressed about reducing stress! Where’s my wine, dammit!
I have to stop eating processed carbs and sugar because they’re making me fat, but I’m stressed so I can’t seem to stop eating them. Where’s my ice cream, dammit!
I have to sleep better to reduce my belly fat, but it’s like I try All The Things (cool environment, no caffeine, blah blah blah) but I can’t always control my sleep.
And all that uncertainty leads to the next phase of overwhelm:
Phase 3m: I’m a Total Failure
Okay, phase 3 is the place where we can stop this nonsense, because that’s exactly what it is. Feeling overwhelmed simply means you’re stuck in a loop for one or more reasons:
Lack of information
Lack of control
In the case of overwhelm and exercise/weight loss, all of these apply in different ways. You don’t necessarily lack information, you simply lack the RIGHT information. There’s so much information out there, that leads to uncertainty of who to listen to and what to try.
Conflict exists in all of these areas and that makes you feel out of control.
So what do you do about exercise/diet overwhelm?
Stop and Regroup – Go back to the reasons you feel overwhelmed. Get out some paper and write down what’s going on in your head. What are you confused about? What are you uncertain about? Just getting it out can make it manageable.
Go back to basics – You need to move your body. Period. You need some cardio and you need some strength training. Go back to that basic premise and ask yourself – What simple cardio or strength training could I do TODAY. Don’t worry about tomorrow. When it’s tomorrow, you can ask yourself the same question.
Keep it simple – Again, the overwhelm comes when you feel like you have to do everything – Stress, sleep, exercise, diet, etc. Keep it simple and pick one simple thing you could do for a better diet – Drink more water, for example, or eat your salad before you eat anything else. For stress, just do something simple – Close your eyes and breathe, take a walk or listen to your favorite song. Pick just one thing to do and focus on that.
Ask for help – Write out the questions you have and then hire a personal trainer, work with me to come up with a plan, or even email me your questions and I can give you some basic information.
The most important thing you can do is to keep moving forward, even if you’re not sure. Any exercise is good…it all counts. Remind yourself of that, take a deep breath and get to it.
There are all kinds of diet trends out there – Low carb, the Keto diet, the Mediterranean diet – but the latest trend?
Now, this has been around for awhile, but like everything, it’s experienced a resurgence and there are some studies showing that it can actually help you lose weight.
I want to talk about a study that was published in the Journal of Nutrition and Healthy Aging. In this study, they had 23 obese women change their diets so that they were only eating between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
In that time, they could eat anything they wanted – although they could only drink water or calorie-free drinks.
After 12 weeks, the group had lost about 3 percent body fat and were eating about 350 fewer calories, which is surprising. They weren’t restricting anything, yet because they didn’t eat after 6 p.m., they naturally ate less.
Keep in mind, this is a tiny study, but interesting. And it kind of leads into another tidbit I found related to restricting your eating to certain hours.
They found that the time of day had a big impact on hunger levels and that we have a stronger perceived appetite at night. They found that stress can increase hunger hormones in the evening, which is one reason some of us end up bingeing at night.
The takeaway here is this: Creating a window of time for when you eat may help you naturally reduce the calories you eat. So, perhaps cutting off your eating at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. would be one way to test this theory out.
One more thing – If you’re interested in intermittent fasting, there a number of ways to do this. You can fast on alternate days, fast for certain hours, skip meals…it gets confusing. But this article, Intermittent Fasting: A Primer offers some great information about the different ways this can work.
So, what do you think? Have you tried it? Would you try it? Leave a comment and tell us about it!
Squats and lunges aren’t for everyone, especially if you have knee problems. But one way to work the lower body without the up and down motion of squats is with the Wall Sit. A Wall Sit is almost like a supported squat, but it’s a static move.
That means you’re holding an isometric contraction rather than moving through a full range of motion. The benefit of this is that you can strengthen the quad muscles and build endurance and, in some cases, avoid pain in the knees (although that always depends on your positioning and knee issues).
Wall Sits are great for pre-exhausting the muscles before moving on to other lower body moves and it’s also a great exercise for travelers because you don’t need much space or any equipment.
Obviously, if this move hurts your knees, you should skip it. If you’re new to the exercise, only slide down a few inches until you get a feel for the exercise and know how your body will respond.
Do it right: Stand in front of a wall (about 2 feet in front of it) and lean against it. Slide down until your knees are at about 90-degree angles (or an angle that is comfortable for you) and hold, keeping the abs contracted, for 10-60 seconds. Come back to start and repeat.
The scariest words out there, right next to, “Honey? We need to talk.”
The bad thing about portion control is that you have to actually pay attention to what you’re eating. The good thing? We live in a time where there are tons of great tools that make controlling our portions easier than ever.
Below are my favorites. Be sure to leave a comment if you have any favorites too.
Pertinacity – This app makes portion control really easy. You basically measure your food by your fist. For example, if you eat a sandwich that’s two fists, you just hit the little plus button. You can also set goals. Pretty nifty.
See How You Eat – This is a neat little app that allows you to take pictures of what you’re eating as a way of tracking your meals. Just seeing what you’re eating sometimes can be eye-opening.
There are plenty of other apps out there but these are some of the easiest to use. Be sure to leave a comment if you have any ideas.
There are times in your life when you’re in sort of exercise hibernation mode. Like you have to approach your workouts like a scared kitten you’re coaxing out from under the bed…
“Come here little guy…I won’t hurt you if you won’t hurt me…”
Then there are times when you need to reach under that bed, grab that cat and…okay, never mind.
You should never, ever, reach under the bed to grab a feline without some serious protection.
The point is, this time of year brings tons of energy and we can use that energy to take control of our workouts.
To that end, your mission should you choose to accept it is to set some challenges for yourself. Pick 5 consecutive days and set a goal for yourself each day – Something that pushes you a little out of your comfort zone.
Daily Challenges – Pick Your Poisons
How many minutes can you exercise? – How many minutes of exercise can you accumulate in one day? My minimum is 30 minutes, so I’m going out on a limb to say I’ll get in 60 minutes at least one day in the next 5. How many minutes will you get?
How many steps/miles can you walk? – If you use a tracker, you have this information available but, if not, you can simply use distance. For example, could you walk 1 mile one day this week? Could you walk more? Set a goal and do it.
How many calories can you burn? – If you use a tracker like a FitBit or Apple Watch, you probably get a summary of how many calories you burn each day. Mine, for example, is 400 calories. My goal is to burn at least 450 calories one day this week. What’s your goal?
How many exercises can you do in 10 minutes? – For this, pick a series of moves – Wall pushups, squats, lunges, step touches, crunches, bicycles – Any body weight moves (see some examples here). Write them all down and do 20 reps of each one. Keep repeating for 10 minutes.
How many times can you stand up? – For this one, pick a day, set a timer and stand up as often as you can. Keep track of how many times so you can see how awesome you are. Bonus: Do some stretches or walk around during your breaks.
Those are just some ideas…what about you? What would challenge you? Leave a comment and let us know!
There’s nothing Americans love more than creating trends. Because I’m old, I think about the things I begged my mom to get me – Parachute pants, Tretorn shoes, the Barbie Dream House…or, remember the Easy Bake Oven?
I had one and, thinking about it, I probably baked more when I was 6 than I do now.
Exercise is its own category and there have been some weird trends over the years. The Thighmaster, that ab chair thingee where you basically do the same motion that used to happen when your lounge chair buckled underneath you…so many ab thingees.
Fast forward to 2018 and we have a whole slew of trends, some that are interesting and some that are just plain old weird.
Plogging – I’m guessing that millennials made this one up because they seem so much more socially conscious than my generation. Plogging is also known as ‘Trash Running,’ which means the purpose of your run is to pick up trash during your jog. It’s a great idea, but I think I’ll leave them to it.
Aerial Yoga – This, if you don’t know, is when you’re suspended by this sort of hammock-type material and you do yoga poses. It kind of looks like some sort of suspended ballet…both weird and fun. I think if I had a class nearby, I’d probably try this one.
Peleton – This involves having a spin-bike at home and you can follow spin classes on the connected screen. Now, there’s a part of me that wants to try this. But then I remember that Spinning is just plain old hard. Oh and there’s a $2000 price tag for the bike, so that does help one decide on this one.I think hardcore spinners and cyclists with cash on hand would like this one the best.
Goat Yoga – I get it – goats are cute and baby coats are even cuter. Do I want to do yoga with them? I actually get plenty of animals all over me with my cats, so I think I’m good on this one.
Aqua Mermaid – Okay, when I was a kid, I did what was called water ballet. I guess that eventually turned into synchronized swimming…and then mermaids? Just thinking of wearing that tale makes me claustrophobic.
Orange Theory Fitness – This is part of the whole High Intensity Interval Training frenzy everyone seems to be in right now and I actually tried it, so I can at least give my impressions. The idea is that you have a heart rate monitor and you can see your heart rate on screen as you do through different phases of the workout – The rower, treadmill, TRX and weights. You try to get your heart rate into the ‘orange’ zone for a certain amount of the workout. The idea here is fine, I just got bored with the workouts. Even though they change, you still use the same equipment. Also, I injured my shoulder..too much HIIT almost always causes problems.
What do you think? Would you try any of these trends? Have you ever tried something really weird? Do tell!
If you’re stressed out, there’s a very good chance you’re a living, breathing human being.
I emphasize the ‘human’ part of the equation because I see my cats and they are so not stressed that they actually sleep for 23 hours a day.
There are all kinds of stress and all kinds of ways to deal with stress, but it doesn’t have to be terribly complicated.
In fact, you have one of the simplest tools there is to get your stress levels down:
And some shoes.
A lot of us walk, some of us walk for exercise and others of us walk because if we don’t, the dog will eat everything in the house…except the cat, of whom the dog is terrified.
Walking has a lot of great benefits, one of the best ones being stress relief.
Walking and Stress Relief
I’ve done some research and here’s what I’ve learned about walking, exercise and stress relief:
A 10-minute walk can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression
Exercise can help your brain cope better with stress
Walking can loosen up your muscles – Are your shoulders up around your ears? Yep, you need a walk
Walking gets you out of your own head – If you’re an overthinker, walking is the perfect thing for you. It gets you out into the world instead of stuck in the gerbil-wheel of your own thoughts
Walking gives you a little me-time – Sometimes when the dog is up my butt and the cat is stalking the dog and the other cat is crying because he gets hungry in between bites and my husband is playing on of his video game on 11, I go for a walk. It helps me not kill anyone
Walking lets you work out your problems – As a writer, it’s a constant battle to stay focused and write stuff that doesn’t suck. Walking helps when I’m stuck or even when I just need to solve a problem. Something about the rhythmic movement of your legs sets your mind free and lets you think more clearly
Walking makes your dog nicer – It makes your dog tired and a tired dog is a good dog. Nothing works on my cats, though
How to Walk for Stress Relief
Get stressed out – If you need help with that, I want to be you.
Realize you’re stressed out – Signs you’re stressed: You’re grinding your teeth, your neck is tight, your shoulders are stiff and you realize you just yelled at the driver in front of you for coming to a complete stop at a stop sign because you’re in a hurry, dang it.
Take a walk – An outside walk is a great choice, but indoor works just fine if you can’t get out. Walk around the house, the treadmill, the office, the parking lot, the mall, march in place…just walk.
Try to go for at least 10 minutes – The first 5 minutes, your mind will still be obsessing. After that, it starts to calm down and you feel better.
Breathe and pay attention to what’s around you – Maybe you’ll see something pretty. Maybe not. The point is to be in the moment and let your thoughts sort of unravel. It’ll be hard at first, because you’ll end up chewing on some problem – What to make for dinner or that email you forgot to send. But, after a bit, you’ll drift a little and that’s where the relief happens.
Try to do this at least once a day and keep track of your stress walks with this Tracking Chart. It’s very simple – You’ll answer 3 questions: Did I Walk? How long did I walk? Did I feel better after my walk? If you didn’t feel better, you have my permission to email me and yell at me in ALL CAPS.
Lunges are never far from any personal trainer’s mind and never are we more excited than when we learn a new one.
Today’s version is kind of like a curtsy lunge, which involves stepping back and across into the lunge. In this version, you’re actually crossing over in the front, which makes it more challenging. Rotating the upper body with straight arms is like the cherry on top.
There’s a lot going on with this exercise and the one thing you want to avoid is tweaking the knee.
The idea is to try and keep the knee over the toes, although you’ll find that adding the rotation will naturally pull your knee to the side a little. Watch out for that and skip this exercise if you feel anything bad happening in your knee.
Do it right: With the arms straight out in front of you, step the right foot across your body to the left into a lunge, pausing to make sure the shin is straight and the knee is over the toes. For added intensity, rotate the torso to the left, taking the arms to the side as far as you can. Step back to start and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
Do you ever get on the treadmill at home or at the gym and throw a towel over the display so that you can’t see how much longer you have to go?
And then you lift the towel and go, “I’ve been on this thing for 3 MINUTES?!”
Yeah. The towel thing doesn’t really work. But, what does work? Is mixing things up with a little interval training.
The great thing about intervals is that you only have to concentrate on one segment of your workout at a time, which means you’re not thinking about how long the workout is, but just how long that interval is.
It’s kind of like tricking your brain into working out.
I’ve got a great interval workout that will make your next treadmill workout fly by. Or, if not flying, maybe walking at a brisk pace?
Because it’s the holidays, I have to post something about healthy holiday alternatives to the usual calorie-laden fare. I’m pretty sure this is actually part of the Personal Trainer Constitution and I’ll be kicked out if I don’t.
I’ve decided to focus my efforts on the one area I love the most about the holidays:
There’s a lot of drinking this time of year because that’s just what we do.
Booze does a lot of things including helping you relax a little, getting people loosened up so they’re having more fun and, if you don’t overdo it, making things generally more palatable.
Overdoing it is usually where the trouble comes in so I’m going to remind you of the things you already know. Try to hydrate since dehydration is what causes crazed behavior and hangovers.
Now on to the good stuff. Here are 10 cocktails you can enjoy this holiday (almost) guilt-free. I say almost because some of you will feel guilty no matter what. I recommend you save that for January.
Healthy Hot Toddy – What I love about Hot Toddies is that you don’t only have to drink them at Christmas. As one of my drunken relatives assured me, you should also drink them whenever you have a cold. Bottom’s up!
Port of Call Punch – This is more of a sweet kind of drink if you’re into that. It should lubricate the party pretty quickly.
Lemon Drop – This is one of my favorite cocktails…the lemon gives the vodka a nice tart little kick.
Cherry Whiskey Sour – I’m from the south where they put Jack Daniels in our baby bottles. I’m kidding, of course. They actually just put it right in our baby food.
Gimlet – The ‘Gimlet’ is just a fancy word for a whole bunch of alcohol with a splash of lime. As the writers mention, this cocktail was orginated as a way for sailors to avoid scurvy. Great side benefit!
I know that all these new-fangled electronics are supposed to make life easier, but I think it makes us all just a little bit crazier, too.
How many times do you automatically reach for your phone to check for messages or emails? If I counted how many times my husband does it during one meal out, I would have no time to actually eat.
I am, of course, a perfect angel and I never do such things.
And then there’s all this other stuff – Everything is online so you’re staring at a screen all day and then there are the holidays and everyone is trying to make you buy the ‘perfect gift’ and you fall down that Internet Black Hole where you end up just watching kittens sleep just to save your sanity.
There are plenty of ways to de-stress and I have one that’s so easy, anyone can do it. And you really will feel better after.
3-Minute Total Relaxation
Set a timer for about 3 minutes or, if you have time, just go with the flow…it’s not like it’s a law or anything.
Lie down in a quiet place and close your eyes.
Begin by tensing and contracting your muscles starting with your feet.
Curl your feet and toes, then hold that as you move up and squeeze the calves, then the quads, then the glutes.
Hold the lower body and feet very tight and move up, contracting the abs and then the arms, curling your hands into tight fists.
Keep holding everything tight as you squeeze your shoulders up towards your ears, clench your jaw and squeeze your eyes shut tight.
When everything is tight and tense, hold it for 5 seconds, feeling your muscles start to burn. Then on a long exhale relax everything, letting your muscles melt and your body sink into the floor as the tension drains away. Repeat and continue relaxing and breathing for at least one minute or longer.
This time of year, there is an infinite number of holiday gift guides out there and I swear I’ve looked at all of them to try and find ideas for the hard-to-buy people in my life (ahem, husband).
And now I have another list to add to the lists. My list has to do with fitness, as you might guess. If you and your loved ones aren’t into that, this is easy…you can move on to more pertinent lists. Otherwise, read on.
One note – Please, please, please don’t give someone a fitness-oriented gift in order to encourage a non-exerciser to exercise. Like, don’t give her a FitBit and say, “Hey, maybe now you’ll lose a few pounds!” She will hurt you.
I could tell you stories about spouses who have hired me to train an un-interested love one. That is not an experience one forgets.
I’ve tried to make sure there’s nothing stupid on this list but, of course, that’s very subjective. Some stuff is expensive, some isn’t. If you have any comments or suggestions, leave one in the box or email me. I’m pretty much always here.
Yes, these things cost 2 arms and a leg, but I love love love mine and it’s great for exercisers or wannabe exercisers. Here are the things I love:
Reminders – It gives you little nudges each day encouraging you to close all of your activity rings. The activity rings go like this: Complete 30 minutes of exercise, burn a certain number of calories (which you set) and stand up at least once per hour for 12 hours. You can change these settings, of course.
Rewards – When you do meet all your goals, your get a visual pat on the back from your watch. I don’t know why, but that makes me feel good.
Heart rate monitor – It also includes a heart rate monitor – I’m not sure how accurate it is and sometimes it’s a little wonky, but I do like not having to where a chest strap.
Tracking activities – You can track tons of activities like walking, running, cycling…pretty much whatever.
ECG Capabilities – Now this is pretty cool and available on the new Series 4 and will be available on the others soon. Basically, you can hold your finger on the side of the digital crown and it will take your ECG reading. This is actually endorsed by the American Heart Association as well as approved by the FDA.
There are tons of bells and whistles that you can read about, should you be interested. The new series, the series 4, actually includes GPS so you can use your watch without your phone (the other versions require your phone if you want to use the GPS stuff). I have a series 2, which is fine.
I don’t have these, but I definitely covet them. Why, you ask? It’s because these are bone-conducting headphones. That means they don’t go in your ears, they send the sound directly through your cheekbones…That way, your ears are free to hear what’s going on around you so you don’t get hit by a car, bike, bus, etc. Pretty cool.
Of course, no fitness gift guide is complete without some kind of FitBit – and they have a number of models. The latest one trying to keep up with the Apple Watch and other smart watches is the FitBit Smart Watch.
There are tons of bells and whistles here:
Tracks your activity, heart rate and sleep all day
Stores more than 300 songs and you can even add Pandora
There are 15 exercise modes – like running, swimming, walking, etc.
It has GPS
You can install some of your favorite apps
There’s more and it costs around $199. I wouldn’t mind this in my stocking…
Okay, so this thing is absolutely the coolest thing and I really want one. It’s a mirror you can hang on your wall…and? It’s also a screen where you can connect with real time workout classes. You can see yourself and you can see the instructor. You can also train live with other members of the mirror community and you can sync a bluetooth heart rate monitor so Mirror can use your biometric data to optimize your workouts.
You won’t be surprised at the price: $1495. I know. I still want it. And you have to pay a fee to access the workouts, but if you think of how much a gym membership costs, it might be worth it.
Workout Apps and More
One thing you may not have thought about was gifting someone a workout app. Obviously, not everyone will love getting something like this, but here are some great apps out there that offer tons of ways to exercise. Some are free and some offer a subscription service. You can use these on just about any device or hook your device up to your TV and blow it out the old bloomer leg.
Pump One Fitness Builder – I’ve been using Fitness Builder for years – They have over 1,000 workouts & 7,000+ fitness images & videos to choose from and if you do the Plus membership (a subscription service) you can access a log to track your measurements, stats and more. They also have a separate app called Fitness Class with tons of workout videos from a wide variety of instructors. I really love this App and use it all the time. Read more about it.
Sworkit – This is another great app offering a variety of workouts like yoga, strength training, cardio…you name it and they have it. They have some free workouts, but of course, you can upgrade to the premium app to get even more workouts and access to workout plans. That costs $4.99 a month. It’s really easy to use – You just pick a workout, pick the amount of time you want to exercise and start. There’s no music, so you can use your own and follow along with the instructor.
Cathe On Demand – Cathe Friedrich is big in the video fitness world and she has an app with all of her workouts there. There are more than 300 workouts and she also has tons of premixes (where the original workout is mixed and matched for new options). Most of her workouts are geared towards more advanced exercisers, though she does have stuff for intermediate exercisers. This one is more expensive at $19.97 a month, but it’s worth it. I’ve been doing Cathe workouts for going on 20-something years and they are always very high quality.
Beach Body– If you’ve heard of P90X, you know who Beach Body is. They have this sort of format they use for a variety of different series. There’s P90X, which is a very advanced program, but then they also have yoga workouts, a kickboxing series and interesting challenges you can try. This isn’t my favorite App – Some of the workouts are repetitive and some of them are just plain old too hard…I get bored easily, but it’s easy to subscribe, give it a try and cancel. It’s $14.99 a month.
Aaptiv – I love using this one on my phone because there are a wide variety of workouts – Outdoor running or walking, strength training, treadmill, elliptical…it goes on and on. Most of the cardio workouts include some kind of interval training, but they fit any exerciser with beginner, intermediate or advanced workouts. Different coaches guide you through each workout but my favorite part is the music. They use real music from the original artists, which makes every workout just a little easier. The cost is $9.99 a month.
Lazy Jar for FitBits – If you or someone else has a FitBit, you’ll get a kick out of this app. You pick a set of weekly goals, such as walking a certain number of steps and then set a penalty that you have to pay if you don’t meet your goals. That’s a cute idea, but I wonder if I would actually pay up?
I could go on and on, but these are the ones I use the most. Give a shout out if you have one you like and I’ll add it to the list.
Fun Gifts That Aren’t Too Expensive
A personalized Yeti – My mother-in-law got one of these last year and she is still talking about it. I’m not kidding.
Wine socks – I know, socks are so…so…socky and something my grandmother used to give me. But I got these socks last year and I love them. On the bottom they say, “If you can read this, Bring me a glass of wine.” Has nothing to do with fitness.
Funny fitness sweatshirt – This is for the person in your life who, well, isn’t really into fitness and likes to let other people know about it.
Yoga dice – If you know someone who loves yoga, this gift is a really cute one. As the name suggests, it’s a little container with dice that have yoga poses on them, so they can roll the dice and make their own workouts.
Fitlosophy Fitbook Journal – For the person who keeps track of everything, this is a 12-week goal-setting journal where they can log workouts, meals, and more.
Got any other ideas? Leave a comment and tell us what you’d like to get or give for the holidays.
I know…you didn’t know you had one, did you? Well, you do and she isn’t anything like you thought. In fact, when you really see what she is, you might think I have betrayed you in the most underhanded way…but I haven’t!
In fact, I’m doing this for your own good. If you really want to get through the holidays and keep your sanity, you’re going to need her.
Just trust me on this.
I have to say I’m very grateful for all of you…Thank you, thank you, thank you! And Happy Thanksgiving.
Learn more about your Fairy Godmother in my new article.
We often think that the only way to get the heart rate up is with high impact exercises – Jumping jacks, jump roping, squat jumps, etc. Those are great exercises, but not everyone’s joints are thrilled with all that pounding, making it tough to find moves that really challenge you.
The good news is, there are plenty of high intensity, challenging exercises that will really get your heart rate going and this goblet squat with a rotation is one of them. The squat, of course, targets the hips, glutes and thighs, but where the intensity comes in is where you press up, rotating to one side and taking the weight overhead.
The exercise is shown using a kettlebell, but a dumbbell works just as well. To keep the move safe, make sure you send the hips back as you squat, keep the weight close to the body and pivot on the feet as you rotate to protect the knees.
Do it right: Hold a dumbbell or a kettlebell by the horns at your chest and lower into a squat, going as low as you can and bringing the elbows towards the inside of the thighs. As you stand up, take the weight overhead and rotate to the right, pivoting on both feet. Lower and repeat for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps, alternating sides.