Friday, March 29, 2013

Got Milk? Drink it, or dump it?

I posted this highly controversial info-graphic to my personal Facebook page, and was mildly amused by the responses I got. Everything from people agreeing 110% with all of the information contained, to a dairy farmer's daughter disagreeing with everything mentioned. Everybody felt very strongly either for, or against, milk. 
I personally don't drink milk (though I do indulge in cheese occasionally)  mostly because I don't like the taste. Having done my share of research I have ultimately decided against drinking milk, my husband still drinks milk, and we try to buy from local farms. It's good to support our local farms. 
No matter what side of the dairy issue you come down on I think it's incredibly important to do some research. Be careful the information that you chose to subscribe to since almost all studies are sponsored by somebody, the Dairy Counsel, Soy Farmers of America, there is always somebody behind the study. Try to educate yourself, and since I'm sure you don't have time to read everything out there try to eat as naturally as possible, and when possible locally. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How to Increase Your Speed on a Rowing Machine

The rowing machine is, in my opinion, often overlooked as a great cardio machine, not to mention the added strength benefits. I think people generally find them a bit tricky to use, so I'm going to start with talking about proper rowing form, from there we will progress to increasing speed.

Beginning Position

  1. For your first row, set the resistance low while you figure out your form, then slowly ramp it up on subsequent rows.
  2. Secure your feet on the pads with the straps tight enough so your feet don't move around as you slide.
  3. Bring your knees up and slide to the top of the machine. Grab the handle using an overhand grip, but don't hold too tightly.
  4. Pull the handle with you as you slide to the end of the machine. Your legs should be straight, but knees should still have a slight bend in them so they aren't locked. Lean back slightly and pull your hands up to your chest, holding the handle so it is right below your breasts, with elbows pointing down against your sides. This is the position where you should begin your workout, and it's also your ending position once you complete a full stroke (see below).

The Catch

  1. Move your arms out first, followed by your upper body. Your back should always stay straight, not slumped, with shoulders back and abs engaged as you follow through. As your arms extend out, your upper body position will go from slightly angled back to slightly angled forward.

  1. As your arms extend and body leans forward, slide your body forward on the seat by bending your legs. Once you are at the top of the machine, your arms will be fully extended and legs will be bent (see below). This part of the stroke is called the catch.

The Drive

  1. To slide back to your finish position, push off with your feet first, so that your legs straighten but your arms are still extended and your body is still slightly leaning forward (see below). The drive is the part of the workout that mimics pulling the oars out of the water and propelling the boat forward, so it's this part that works your leg and core muscles the most.
  1. As you continue to push through with your legs, move your upper body so that you begin to lean back (see below).

  1. The last part of your body to return to finish position are your arms; as your upper body angles back, pull the handle and bend your arms so that the handle ends up back to touching the front of your chest, just like how you started (see below). Don't grip the handle too hard; the power should be through your legs, and using too much force while pulling the cable can cause hand blisters as well as back problems.
  2. Continue practicing your stroke slowly and at low resistance until you get the hang of it! It can be helpful to break the moves down into a sequence of what should move first: "arms-body-legs" as you pull up to the top of the machine and "legs-body-arms" as you push back.

The best way to master your rowing skills is to practice. Like they say, proper practice leads to perfection. Once you are comfortable with the basic stroke you can start working on increasing your speed. Here are a few tips to help you;

Increase your leg power:
You don't want to leave the majority of the work to your arms and upper body. Our legs are much stronger (generally) than our arms. Here are a few exercises to help increase your leg power.
Squat Thruster

Box Jumps

Tuck Jumps

Basically any plyometric leg exercise will work.

We also need to work on your upper body strength. Your core, arms, and back will need to be in top shape. Here are a few suggested exercises;

Hand Release Push Ups

Renegade Row

Pull Up

Plyometric Push Up

Now that you've got the strength, you need to work on your speed, and speed (or sprinting) endurance. The best way to do this is to actually practice sprinting, or excreting high levels of energy for extended periods of time. Here are a few of my  favorite high intensity drills.

Tabata: This is a 4 minute interval, 20 seconds high intensity, and 10 seconds rest, repeated 8 times. You can do this with basically any exercise, be it running, riding a bike, squatting, push ups... Just remember the higher the intensity the better. 

Circuit: There are several different ways that a circuit can be performed. My favorite is 30 seconds on and 3 second transition  alternating between a resistance exercise (squats, push ups, planks...) and a high intensity cardio exercise (buprees, mountain climbers, tuck jumps...) Here is a great one for you. 

Here is a more complete explanation of High Intensity Interval Training. 

Remember to practice rowing at least a couple of times a week, and work in these other helpful exercises on the other days. Some days will naturally be easier than others, but don't get discouraged! 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

How to build up to a Pull Up

My clients are always working on perfecting the exercises in my program, and the Pull Up is one that is a challenge for both the men and women. Here are some suggestions on how to build up to a perfect, "cheat" free pull up. 
The primary muscles used in performing a pull up are, as shown below, the latissimus dorsi, and trapezius muscles. 

To perform a pull up you will want to build up strength in these muscles. Along with performing modified versions of a pull up, you will want to do some exercises that will help to strengthen theses muscles.  
Here are just a few suggestions for you.  

Three Point Row

Man Maker

Body Weight Row

Try to use as heave weight as possible, to build up your upper body strength.

The best way to build up a specific skill to practice that skill, here are some modified versions of the Pull Up that will help you to build up to a cheat free pull up. In doing all of these exercises be sure to lower your body as slowly as possible to get the "negative" chin up or pull up in as well. The eccentric flexion of the muscles will help you to build up your strength much quicker! 

Cheater (Jumping) Chin Up

Chin Up

Cheater Pull Up

Until Finally

You can also use an elastic or pull up machine at your gym, or a chair at home. The key is to be sure that you are "cheating" as little as possible, and be weening yourself from the helpers. 
You should practice your skill at least once a week, and be sure to work in your other lat and trap strengthening exercises through out the week as well. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March Madness

This month my clients and I are working on fitness goals. We have decided to focus, not on body composition, but on a skill. this is a great way to gain strength  speed, flexibility  balance, and probably lose a little weight as a side effect!
Here are the rules for March Madness:

The goal needs to be
*Obtainable (hopefully within the month time span)
*Not having to do with weight loss/body composition (in other words losing 2 lbs or 5% body fat will not work)
*Try to make this a fitness type goal. (memorizing your favorite poem, or leaning all of the choreography to Gangnam Style are not the kinds of things I'm looking for...even though those things are awesome)
*Fun! (I want you to look forward to working on your goal!)
*Something that I can measure for you (running a Triathalon is great, but I can't set one up/measure it for you)

Here are a few examples of what we are working on this month:

*Doing a Handstand
*Doing two unassisted pull ups
*Rowing 500 meters in 1:40
*Running an 8 min Mile

You can also work on sports specific goals like:

*Juggling a soccer ball 150 times
 *Slam dunking a basketball

By taking the focus off of weight loss and putting it on a skill we manage to gain new skills and lose some body fat/weight without really trying! 

Join us by posting a comment of what your March madness goal(s) will be! 
I will post some of the additions exercises that we will be doing (in addition to practicing the actual skill) in a future blog, and I will be happy to post some exercises that will help you reach your goals as well! 

Friday, March 1, 2013

What If Animals Ate Fast Food?

This is cracking me up today, but it got me thinking how us humans would do if we had to hunt, farm, or forage for our food in our current state. I'm afraid it might look a bit like this video.

When it Began:Why I thought I would love Yoga

When I began my yoga journey I was very interested in the things my physical body could do. I still am, to be honest, however my physical se...