If you're like me and enjoy doing your cardio outside, late winter/early Spring can be a tough time of year. The texture of the snow in Vermont at the moment can best be described as Styrofoam. Typically the alternative to outdoor cardio would slogging along on the treadmill or elliptical in the gym, but that just doesn't do it for me so here are some other ways to get your heart rate up while keeping boredom at bay.
If it's good enough for Rocky, it's good enough for me! Jumping rope burns more calories than running, builds resilient knees/ankles and improves cognitive ability. If you haven't jumped rope since 3rd grade you may find you now suck at it. Be patient, it'll come back to you. Also, on a positive note, as you're trying to get your skills back you'll be inefficient which is frustrating BUT means you'll burn even more calories.
Try some jump rope intervals, starting with 30 secs on, 60 secs of rest. As you get better, up the intervals to 60 secs. You can also include 30-45 secs of jumping rope at the end of a circuit.
It's a deadlift but faster, what's not to like! Kettlebell swings get your heart pumping AND help build a better backside (because glutes are the new abs). Try 20 swings with a 30 sec rest for 10 sets. If you have access to multiple KB's you could do a KB swing ladder. I found this ladder from @ironbodyartemis to be challenging. Adjust the weight depending on skill/strength. I used the following weights:
10 reps w/ 75lb
15 reps w/ 52lb
20 reps w/ 40lb
25 reps w/ 35lb
These workouts are intense and SHORT. Take 10 mins to warm-up, dive in and keep it to no more than 20 mins. If you're doing them for 45 mins then you're probably not working hard enough.
If you found this post helpful, ask to join Swole Sisters Worldwide, a Facebook group I co-manage where you'll find more workouts as well as nutrition information and motivation.
One subscriber to my email list shared that her greatest struggle this time of year is finding ways to incorporate indoor cardio sessions. During warmer less icy months she enjoys running and biking but struggles to get those cardio sessions in once winter arrives.
I couldn't agree more. In the summer my walks are longer and I frequently head to the mountains for hikes/backpacking trips. Although I plan on more winter hikes this year, some days are like today, rainy, cold and gross. The texture of the snow right now can best be described as Styrofoam (yuck). I also despise traditional cardio. I look in awe at folks sitting on the recumbent bike reading a book or swishing away on the elliptical for 45 minutes. If they enjoy it, more power to them! but it is not for me.
Here are a few non-traditional work out ideas to get your heart rate up without boring you to death.
Rocky did it so you should do it to! Jumping rope will increase your cardiovascular fitness, coordination, and even cognitive function. It can decrease risk of knee/ankle injuries and per hour burns more calories then running. The only issue with that last one is that you probably won't jump rope for an hour, especially in the beginning. If you haven't jumped rope since 3rd grade, have some patience with yourself, it'll take some practice to get back to it. Try jump rope intervals such as 10 sets of 30 secs on 30 secs off to start and up it to 60 secs as you get more proficient. You can also incorporate jumping rope in to a circuit to increase your heart rate. Perform 3-4 strength exercise and then 45 secs of jump rope.
A vigorous KB workout is no joke! In particular the kettle bell swing will get your heart pumping WHILE helping you build a stronger more defined backside. I'm in! You can use the swing for intervals which I really enjoy doing as a finisher after a strength workout. Try 10 sets of 20 swings with 30 secs of rest. If you have access to a variety of KB's try this ladder. I first saw it on @ironbodyartemis's Instagram and had to give it a try. These are the weights I used (for 3 rounds) but this can vary depending on your own strength/familiarity:
10 reps w/ 75lb
15 reps w/ 52lb
20 reps w/ 40lb
25 reps w/ 35lb
The Treadmill Workout I Don't Hate
Jogging on the treadmill or even worse the dreaded Eliptical do NOT appeal to me personally. if you'd rather chew on tinfoil than jog for 30 + mins on the treadmill you might enjoy this workout. It's based on the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) scale or if you wear a heart rate monitor than you can use percentage of your max HR. I've attached a spreadsheet you can put right on the treadmill console to follow along. Basically every 1-2 mins you'll be adjusting the incline or speed of the treadmill to adjust your effort level. It breaks a 25 min treadmill workout in to small increments making it go by so much faster and it feels ALMOST game like.
Spring will be here soon, but why wait until you can get outside to get your heart and lungs prepared for all those fun summertime activities! Give these workouts a try and let me know how it goes!
If you've been lifting for a while, you know that to get stronger and/or gain muscle you'll need to increase the weight of your lifts. Your body will adapt to a weight/rep range and in order to make progress something has to change.
This is all well and good however sometimes you can get "stuck" at certain weight. In particular many of my female clients struggle to increase their weight with the dumbbell chest press. They'll initially make some progress and then get stuck somewhere 25lbs-35lbs and the next weight up can feel IMPOSSIBLE. Also, some people work out at home and don't have a wide variety of weights to choose from. Never fear! I have a few ways to make that lighter weight feel a little heavier and help get you stronger in the process.
Option 1: Alternating Chest Press (w/ opposite arm extended)
Set up w/ both arms extended, lower your right arm into a chest press while keeping the left straight. Switch sides. This lift is a little more challenging for a few reasons. The whole set will take longer and there will be more time under tension for your muscles. You'll also notice you'll need to stabilize yourself with your core as one arm drops so there's a bonus!
Option 2: Alternating Chest Press (w/ opposite arm flexed)
Bring both arms to the bottom of the chest press, extend your right arm and lower it back down before extending the left. This version is significantly harder than the extended arm version because you'll be pausing at the hardest part of the lift, really firing the chest/shoulder and triceps muscles.
Option 3: Paused and/or Slow Negative Reps
Slow down the negative part of the movement taking 2-3 secs to get to the bottom position, then pause another 2-3 seconds at the bottom. These are BRUTAL. Don't feel bad if you have to lower the weight you use significantly. The time under tension will increase the challenge of this lift without very much weight.
Option 4: Kettlebell Press (1 arm or 2)
Hold the handle of the kettlebell making sure your wrist is straight and perform a chest press. The weight is to the side creating a great challenge for the shoulders to stabilize it. You may want to get a wrist band to because sometimes these can be uncomfortable.
If you've been stuck with your flat or incline chest press give a few of these a try. Or maybe you're just a little bored and want to change things up. I see many folks at the gym lifting the same weight for the same number of reps/sets for weeks, months even years. First of all, it's great that they've established a solid habit of coming to the gym but they're not going to make many changes in their physique or strength without changing their workouts.
Have you been "stuck" for a while? Need a little motivation to change things up? Subscribe to my weekly email list for more workouts, recipes and tips to get "unstuck".
Earlier this week I sent an email out to my subscribers discussing the topic of consistency. I posited that often we say we're struggling with consistency because of time constraints, when in reality we're letting perfectionism and our idea of what is "enough" limit us. If we lower our expectations we may find we actually do have time to do a little and that is way better than doing nothing.
My workout today took about 15 minutes. It was challenging, got my heart rate up and some endorphins flowing. I left feeling energized (not exhausted) and ready to power through the rest of my day.
Reverse Lunge w/ Bicep Curl x 8
Slider Knee Tucks to Push-Up x 8 (you can do the push-ups from your knees)
KB Swing x 15 (you can use a dumbbell if you don't have a kettlebell)
Alt KB Snatches x 8 each side (you can use a dumbbell if you don't have a kettlebell or do a dumbbell clean and press)
I did 4 rounds but you could add another round or two to make the workout a little longer. It would also make a great finisher to your strength workout.
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By and far the largest impediment to sticking to an exercise/diet regimen is time. We're all pulled in many directions, tied to appointments, meetings, kids soccer games etc.. Finding the time to meet with a trainer in person (when the trainer is also available) can be challenging. If you attend group fitness classes, you have to revolve your schedule around when they're offered and if you're running late or the class fills up, you may miss your work out entirely. When you work with a coach online such as myself, you work out when it's convenient for you. You can work out at home with dumbbells and an exercise ball, in a gym or even the park if you want be outside.
Location, Location, Location
When you train online you aren't restricted to going to a certain gym and you can even work out at home or in the park. You may live in an area where there aren't many options or maybe the hours at your local gym don't work with your schedule. As your coach I can tailor the work outs to your preferred location as well as the equipment you have available.
Next to time, people often say that lack of accountability is preventing progress. Via the Trainerize App I'm able to see when you work out, and follow you progress. There are options to share food intake, photos, as well as measurements.
Are YOU a candidate for online training?
Is Online Training NOT a good option for you?
Here's what my clients are saying about training online with me using the Trainerize App:
Using Trainerize and having Jen as a our virtual coach made all the difference when we went on a month long road trip. We didn't backslide!! My favorites: the customized workouts that Jen gave us through the app, having her celebrate us when we were doing well, and being able to chat with her at any point. Highly recommend!
What I like best about using Trainerze is having a way to interact with Jen out side of our regular sessions. Sometimes the gym can be overwhelming and I like that the app makes it feel like Jen is right there in the gym with me. She can send me personalized workouts and see each time I complete one. Using the app helps me keep myself accountable and stay on top of my fitness goals.
Road trips have never been the place I expected I'd keep up with my fitness goals, yet Jen's coaching, which skillfully utilized the Trainerize app, was a perfect example of a coach-away-from-home. The strong clear focus on key exercises every morning, along with timed intervals for extra self-challenge, kept us healthy, happy, and resistant to the twin challenges of ubiquitous fast food and extended sitting time. It felt like we brought Jen with us, and she was a fantastic travel companion!
I'm looking for 3 motivated people who want to get stronger, lose some body fat and feel more confident - and do it through online training at a introductory reduced rate.
Are you tired of working out and not seeing results?
Are you confused/frustrated with the conflicting information about nutrition and exercise?
Do you struggle to work out consistently?
Do you want a program specifically tailored to your time, experience, likes/dislikes and available equipment?
Do you like the idea of having access to an experienced compassionate coach anytime?
If you found yourself answering YES! to many of these questions, take a minute and fill out this questionnaire and then we can see if we'd work well together. I'll be accepting 3 new clients at a reduced rate so don't miss out on this great opportunity.
I was working with my client Sarah the other morning and she was telling me about her co-worker who can do 38 push-ups in a minute. It's hard to not get caught up in the comparison trap which will quickly lead to feelings of inadequacy and I could tell Sarah was heading down that rabbit hole (lol bunny pun). Sarah does elevated push-ups from the smith bar and hasn't done a push-up from the floor....... yet. On one level, it's great that this woman can do 38 push-ups, I'm all for supporting my fellow women in our strength endeavors. However I also want to call bullshit. I looked over at Sarah and said "I can't do 38 push-ups either". I'm not ashamed that as a personal trainer I can be so easily out-push-upped because I'm proud of the push-ups I can do. Here's a video of my current max push-ups:
I wonder what Sarah's co-worker's push-ups look like. I see it at the gym every day: hips sagging, neck craning toward the floor, elbows flared and partial range of motion. You could ask, does it matter? I'd say that yes, it does. Doing correct push-ups demonstrates good core stability, shoulder mobility and upper body strength. I am sure there are women out there that can perform 50 beautiful push-ups in a row, but there are many men and women claiming credit for bad reps. If you want to know how your push-ups measure up, the easiest thing to do is to video them. Take a long honest look at the video and if you see some of the form mistakes from below, it may be time to pull back and do an easier version, progressing from there.
In the video on the left, my head is pushing forward, elbows are flared and the core is unstable. On the right, my head is up and my back is arched.
It sounds nice right? Just do this specific exercises for 3 sets of 10 and BOOM! 6 weeks to 6-pack abs. Unfortunately our bodies don't work that way and we usually can't crunch our way to a thinner waist. Fat loss is about a calorie deficit aka burning more calories than you consume. Exercise can help you achieve a caloric deficit, it does not, however, dictate where that fat comes from. If you've ever lost even a small amount of weight, you probably noticed it came off in a specific order. Sometimes the first place you'll notice it is in your face and neck. Does this mean that you did special face exercises to slim down your noggin? Much to our dismay or joy, for us ladies we may lose body fat in our chest first. That isn't because we did breast reduction exercises, it's just how the fat loss cookie crumbled.
I could at this moment spout out the beloved personal trainer's cliche "The best exercise for fat loss is pushing away the plate." Of course nutrition plays a HUGE roll in fat loss, however, as promised I will provide you with ACTUAL exercises to increase your caloric deficit and burn some of that stubborn fat.
#1 Compound Exercises
Compound lifts include exercises using more than one joint and multiple muscle groups. For example, a chin-up involves the elbow and shoulder joints, and works your back, shoulders, biceps and core, while a bicep curl involves only the elbow and works mostly the muscles of the biceps. With compound movements you move more weight, engage more muscles and even get that heart rate up higher than with isolation exercises. We're always trying to optimize our time and if you want to make the most of your work out you'll focus on squats, deadlifts, chest presses, rows, chin-ups, overhead presses and lunges to maximize calorie burn.
#2 Combination Exercises
These are brutal...10 reps of squats to overhead presses can turn me into a sweaty puddle on the floor. You won't be able to lift as heavy as with traditional compound movements but you'll be using your whole body with each rep. Some examples include: squat to press, deadlift to row, lunge to curl or overhead press.
Personally I find steady state cardio terribly monotonous, especially when done inside on the gym's cardio equipment. Sprints are a great way to break up the monotony and increase the EPOC. Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption from high intensity bouts of effort can give your metabolism a boost for up to 24 hours after working out. I like to set the treadmill at a 5%-8% incline to simulate a hill and take some pressure off my knees and hips.
You don't have to incorporate all of these exercises in one work out, just make sure they're part of your program if fat loss is your goal. Here is a sample work out that includes a few of each.
The first exercise is a Compound Movement, the rack pull. Perform 4 sets of 5-8 reps resting 1-2 mins between sets. Focus on form while lifting as heavy as you can.
Next you'll move on to a circuit including lighter compounds lifts as well as some combos:
2a) Inverted Rows x 10
2b) Squat to Overhead Press x 10
2c) Single Leg Deadlifts x 10 each side
2d) Renegade Row w/ Push-up x 10
Rest as little as possible between exercises and rest 1-2 mins between full rounds. Complete 4 rounds.
I love to finish work outs with hill sprints on the treadmill. Set the treadmill for a 5%-8% incline, go for a 20 second sprint with 60 seconds of active recovery (slow walking). These sprints are SHORT so you should go for it with the SPEED.
Now go home and have some eggs, spinach and sweet potato because although you did your fat burning work out, abs are made in the kitchen!
What my clients are saying about me:
"Now that I've worked with Jen I see the value of having a trainer. She helps keep me on track and focused. I'm a busy mom and it's nice to have someone I trust give me my work outs. No more researching workouts in magazines or instagram. I get my own personalized program that works with my schedule and helps me achieve my goals faster."