Extreme Squat and Wall Sit Challenge

Well folks, summer is pretty much over – at least summer vacation time is over.  And with that and the start of September just a day away I figured it was a good time to post a new fitness challenge for the new month.

And since jeans season is back (I refuse to wear pants (other than to work out) throughout the warmth of spring until the end of summer/start of fall – for at least 3 full months I am either in a skirt or a dress) I thought a good butt and leg workout would be fun and fitting.

I struggled with which Challenge I wanted to post – the Extreme Squat Challenge or the Wall Sit Challenge.  Because I love both.  And because I love both I said, “FB, you should post both.”  And that’s what I’m going to do.

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These are two great exercises that will work your butt and legs.  Squats are so good for you because you’re engaging your entire body (ankles, core, calves, thighs, butt, arms, neck) and it will definitely get your cardio up.  And the wall sit can help you strengthen your legs, thighs, and even your back.

Two important things to remember when you’re doing either of these exercises are to keep your chest lifted* and to not let your knees come too far over your ankles.  Performing these exercises wrong can lead to injury.

(*Keep your chest lifted means don’t round your shoulders or hump forward (don’t slouch!).  Your chest should be at the angle as if you were standing normally, keeping your neck aligned – as if you’re looking forward (which is a good move, especially for beginners).  When you squat your upper body should stay as normal in form as possible while your knees bend and your booty goes back.)

This guy is my hero! via

This guy is my hero!
via

Keep in mind that the above squat challenge is the Extreme Squat Challenge and may be a little too intense for beginners.  If you want to do both challenges but don’t think you can handle the Extreme you have two options:  1) you could cut the Extreme in half (so, on Day 1 instead of 250 squats you would do 125 squats) or, if you still think that’s too much you could 2) try the original Squat Challenge I posted a while back.  My suggestion, if you’re just starting out with a workout program (or have knee issues) is to go with the original Squat Challenge.  After 30 days if you’re comfortable with the squats and feeling like a superhero then you could continue with the Extreme Challenge (it picks up at 250 which is where the original ends).

As always, these exercises can be done on their own or as part of fitness program/routine.

Good luck, have fun, and be careful.

~Fit Bitch

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REDBOOK’S Strong Sexy 21-Day Challenge

I just came across this 21-day challenge by Redbook.  This is a great little challenge for new exercisers (and for those wanting to add to their current workouts).

This beginner workout is great because it incorporates both cardio and strength, and works different muscle groups. Basically, how it works is you do one exercise on Day 1.  On Day 2 you do the exercises from Day 1 and Day 2.  On Day 3 you do the exercises from Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3….so that when you finally get to Day 21 you’re doing 21 different exercises.

Via Redbook

Via Redbook

Definitely check out the website here and watch the video.  Familiarize yourself with the exercises so that you can keep your form in check.

What’s also really great about this workout is that you can virtually do it anywhere – that includes while you’re watching TV (take advantage of those commercial breaks, folks!).

Everyone has to start somewhere and this little workout is very basic.  I’m not going to say it’s easy because there may be some difficulty, especially for beginner exercisers.

If you have any difficulty with a particular exercise and feel like it’s too much for you right off or that it may cause you injury (ie. burpees) you can either omit that exercise and sub in something else – like crunches for instance, or extra jumping jacks – or if you think you’d like to try burpees but don’t feel like your body is strong enough yet you can rearrange some of the exercises – make Day 6 your day for hip bridges and make Day 20 your day to try the burpee.

Whatever you choose to do will be right for you.

Good luck and have fun!

~Fit Bitch

Preventing Knee Injury When Exercising

I have mentioned many times over the course of my posts that I have very weak ankles.  I’ve had problems with my ankles for as long as I can remember – since I was a toddler, I believe.  They’ve both been sprained, strained, twisted, torn, rolled, and broken (yes, both of them).  Because of my ankle weaknesses I am always super diligent in doing my best to prevent (further) ankle injury.  So much so that I sometimes need to remind myself that other parts of my body need to be looked after.
Like the knees.
via Yahoo

via Yahoo

Because I’m so active, and because there is a history of osteoporosis in my family, I have made a conscious effort to be kind to my knees – and I’m going to let you in on these efforts:
First of all, be aware.  That’s pretty easy, right?  Our knees carry us and they take a lot of crap throughout each day.  So, if we are aware of the possible injuries we could endure – and what our lives might be like with a knee injury – we can ensure better care and safer performances.  We want to avoid a bigger situation, such as getting a knee replacement and having ongoing problems after that.  (The Zimmer Persona Knee Replacement is just one example of this.  Coincidentally, a few months ago I posted MOM-spiration and told the story of my mom being injured in a hit-and-run accident and has suffered her whole life with bad knees as a result. She is potentially facing knee replacement surgeries but is doing her best to avoid that option.  She’s been coming on-and-off to my boot camp classes (go mom!!) and has joined a walking group.  Knee replacement surgery is clearly something we all want to do our best to avoid.)
And of course having proper footwear is a key factor in preventing many types of injuries – knees and ankles included.  Making sure you have the right type of sneaker for your particular exercise is necessary, even if it will cost you a few extra bucks, it’s worth it in the long run.  Since I run and do a lot of plyo exercises I find it necessary to have a high end pair of sneakers or two with excellent shock absorption and tread, to start with.  And wearing proper and well-fitting gym shoes will help maintain leg alignment and balance (something I often need help with due to my weak ankles).
Having an exercise routine that includes a warm up and a cool down!!  THIS IS KEY.  I REPEAT <<– THIS IS RIDICULOUSLY IMPORTANT!!!   I make sure my clients, my fitness groups, and myself are all properly warmed up prior to exercising.  I can’t tell you how often I see people at my gym jump right into a workout without warming up.  That right there is one of the biggest factors causing injury.  If the body isn’t warmed up properly we’re not respecting it and we put it at risk.  Warming up before a workout will reduce the chance of soft tissue injuries and will lubricate your joints for easier movement. Cooling down and stretching after a workout is just as important as the warm up.  Our muscles tighten during exercise, so stretching post-workout will help loosen our muscles and joints, getting them back to proper mobility.  Although, we must be cautious of overstretching as this can further ail us by softening the ligaments under the kneecap or pulling tendons and muscles further than they should be pulled (stretched).  The Runner’s Stretch is guilty of this.
Having a strength-training routine is great for me for supporting my ankles and knees.  Strengthening my leg muscles will help me in the long run to reduce further injury, stabilize my muscles and joints, and keep me better balanced.
Knowing how to treat a knee injury is very important.  If it’s an injury due to over-training or over-use then there are several rules to follow.  I had an over-training injury to the side of knee that lasted for months this past winter and spring.  It was a terrible joint injury that caused me more pain than I had bargained for.  Here’s the routine I followed for a very.long.time: Ice and elevation, for starters.  I would come home from the gym, or from work, or from a class and elevate my knee over some pillows and then put the ice packs to it.  I was also very big on Epsom salts baths (Epsom salts are brilliant.  The sulfates play an important role in the formation of joint proteins and easing muscle pain.  Also, the magnesium helps with nutrient absorption, which can help with osteoporosis).  I would soak my knee for a good 20 minutes nearly every night for weeks on end.  I found a lot of comfort in doing this. I also made sure that I did some light stretching while my knee was warmed and soaking.  Compression wraps are something I had to deal with.  It would look big and bulky underneath my gym pants or whatever I was wearing but it had to be done to reduce the swelling.  Anti-inflammatories* became my best friend.  Well, not really, but when the pain and/or swelling got too bad I had to pop an Advil** here and there to reduce both.  (* and **  I am not promoting this, nor do I have any affiliation with Advil.  Please either see your doctor or your pharmacist or other health professional before taking any medication, and follow the instructions and/or recommended dosage of any medication.)  I also spoke to a professional to determine that my injury was indeed an over-use injury.  Because my pain was in a weird place I wanted to ensure it wasn’t anything more worrisome.
Following a yoga practice definitely helped – and continues to help me.  Yoga has helped me: increase my flexibility, enhance my performance, reduce stress, and stretch my muscles.  After all the exercising I do, incorporating a regular yoga practice is probably one of the smartest things I’ve done to help my body recover after my workouts and from the daily wear and tear I put it through.  My body (and mind and soul) continually thanks me for introducing it to yoga.
And lastly, but certainly not less important, knowing my limits and exercising properly is just as important as every other factor.  And this goes for everything I do.  Thankfully, my over-training injury healed up several months ago and I’ve been fortunate enough to not have another flare of it (I’m knocking on wood as I type).  If we are educated properly about exercises – whether it be by a trainer, an instructor, a doctor, or a teacher, then we can prevent almost any type of injury. For instance, we know that when doing a basic lunge the knee is not supposed to come out further than the ankle.  Just like we know that in a plank or push up our lower back should not sink in.  Anytime either of these happens we are putting our body at risk.  But there.  I’ve just told you the most important rules of a basic lunge and of a plank or push up.  Educating ourselves on correct form and exercise basics (what to do and what not to do) and how to avoid injuries is a great start to any fitness routine and respecting our body.
{FYI: I work with a man who has ongoing knee problems stemming from an old injury and ever since I found out about his issue (somedays, when flare ups occur and he’s visibly in pain) I will send him tons of info on preventing knee injury, strengthening his knees, and taking care of himself to prevent further injury/flare ups.  I think, perhaps deep down, he appreciates my scolding and sticking-my-nose-in.}
~Fit Bitch

30 Day Plank Challenge

Did I do this before? I thought maybe I had but looking back at past posts it seems that I didn’t actually post a separate Plank Challenge but plans were also included in the 30 Day Ab Challenge.

I noticed a few of my friends doing a version of the Plank Challenge on Facebook this past month so I figured I might as well get in on it too and share it with you.

Now, I plank all the time.  I do it at the gym, in my classes, when I’m bored.  And I make the girls in my boot camp classes plank all.the.time.  They hate me. 🙂

Planks are one of the best exercises because it works and strengthens so many areas of the body. Think about it – when you’re in proper plank position how many parts of your body are engaged?  Core, back, shoulders, arms, wrists, neck, legs, ankles, butt…everything is working here.

There are two basic planking positions you can choose from for this challenge:

The low plank:

Low Plank - from the elbows

Low Plank – from the elbows

or the high plank:

High Plank - arms extended

High Plank – arms extended

and of course there is a beginner/modified version (*note – you can modify the high or low plank):

Modified Plank - which can be done high or low - from the knees

Modified Plank – which can be done high or low – from the knees

The proper form of either of these planks is to ensure a straight line from head to toe.  Be sure not to strain your neck or let your back sink (or butt raise)…these will only lead to injury, AND if either of these occur then you’re not engaged properly and defeating the purpose.

There is no shame in modifying your plank (or any exercise, for that matter) – whether it’s from the start or you’re halfway thru your daily challenge and need to take a knee a for a second or two or go fully into the modification.  If you’re feeling shaky or weakness or pain that’s your body telling you to smarten up and take it a little easy.  You can’t go beast mode if you’ve got a broken back or wrist.

So, since we’re at the end of January, take the next day or two to “practice” your plank and then for the next 30 days enjoy the challenge.

via source

via source

~Fit Bitch

30 Day Arm Challenge

Spring has finally arrived which means that summer is on the way, WHICH MEANS that baring our arms is more than likely about to become a necessity for survival in the heat.

Therefore, welcome to the next 30 days of your life with the 30 Day Arm Challenge. These are great little workouts for beginners or people who want to tone up and improve upper body strength.

This Challenge can be completed on its own or accompanied by your regular workout regime. And just remember, as with all my Challenges, HAVE FUN!!

30 day ARm challenge

~Fit Bitch

*Edit: I’ve had a few people ask me what Dips are and how to do them so I’m including a few photos of different variations. The main points to keep in mind when doing dips are to keep your core tight and DON’T let your shoulders sink.
Tricep Dips can be done from the floor, an exercise ball, a weight bench or from a chair – basically any surface that will support you. Keeping your core tight, with your elbows behind you, BEND from the elbows and lower your body – do not lower from the core, it should always be tight and stable – and lift back up to starting position. Repeat as per the Challenge.

chair-dip
DIPS
Guy Dip