Kick it in Gear (literally): Add these 4 kick-butt moves to your leg-day

Summer_Leg_Workout

“Time to get those legs right for days made of short shorts and sunlight.”Me

It’s been gray and cold long enough, I’m looking forward to fresh peaches, beaches, shades and sunshine! With less than 100 days until summer it is prime time to start getting your body ready for warm weather and booty shorts! Well, maybe not booty shorts… but you know what I mean! Hemlines are starting to shrink already, and crop tops never left, so why not go ahead and get those legs, butts, and cores ready for some sunshine?

I must admit, this summer I am most looking forward to purchasing a swimsuit and feeling the sun shine on my belly, and on my back. These two areas haven’t been kissed by the sun since those “80s baby at the beach” pictures my mom took when I was little. I always thought of them as “problem areas” and knew exactly how to drape the right scarf or jacket just right to draw as less attention to those areas as possible. Strength training has helped me shrink the mass of these once were “problem areas” along with my attitude towards them. I still have quite a ways to go, but I’m enjoying the non-scale victory of my underarm flesh no longer covering up the side of my bra and I’m looking forward to making my swimsuit purchase.

Needless to say, I have incorporated a lot of back and core strengthening moves to my routine. But what better accomplice to a strong core than killer legs? I know everyone loves squats and lunges, but sometimes they can by too much for my knees. My trainer introduced me to high kicks during a workout a few weeks ago. I was grateful for what I thought was a “catch-your-breath easy set” until I found myself tip toeing around the house the next morning with sore legs. Strangely enough I enjoy sore legs and the post work out pains, they let me know it’s working. I’ve been including variations of this lean muscle building move to my leg day routine and so far have experienced a 2 inch decrease (and pretty noticeable shadow of definition) in my thighs.

So if you’re ready to kick it in gear, these four butt kicking moves are a must-do:

1) Front Kicks  2)Side Kicks   3)Back Kicks   4)Sumo Squat Kicks

At Home Workout- Plates, Bands and Twerking

At home workout 2

Randomly twerking dancing around the house is where my home workout routines began. Music is my preferred choice for background noise in my cozy apartment and when I hear the music, let’s just say it makes me feel like moving.  I stumbled onto my preferred method of cardio one evening as I was nearing the end of my “twerkout” playlist and I realized that my heart was pounding and I’d worked up quite a sweat. From then I started devoting 30 minutes of my evening to a dance cardio session, later adding in a round or two of yoga and stretching to the more sultry songs. Thirty minutes turned into 60 minutes and before you knew it, I had a calorie burning fun home workout routine. Slowly I began to incorporate additional moves for specific areas of my body and I began to see some results. I really liked the idea of an at-home routine that rivaled what I could get in the gym.

Recently I got the idea to incorporate resistance bands and paper plates gliders into my nightly routine. My trainer often uses resistance bands in our workouts and had introduced me to the torturous gliders during our last session. Aside from being super affordable, quick storing and easy to use, both resistance bands and gliders really do help sculpt and build lean muscle and I have noticed a difference with my body.

At home workout 3

Gliding discs (or the super cheap alternative- paper plates) plus a little bit of creativity offer a great workout for your whole body. They set you up to have a much wider range of motion which means you have access to work out untapped (or underutilized) muscles. With a wider range of motion you also have the opportunity to do moves and maneuvers that normally wouldn’t be possible. They also create a different type of resistance and adds a level of intensity to common movements like lunges, squats and even pushups. Gliders are also great if you have prior injuries because they are low impact- you never lift your feet or hands up from the glider. I don’t have the greatest knees (in fact knee issues is what sparked my weight loss journey) and because my feet never leave the ground there is very minimal (if any) pressure on my joints. I jokingly refer to these guys as torture devices because they really do an amazing job of waking up new muscles around your whole body and it’s a tough workout! I can typically tackle at least the first set of anything my trainer throws at me, but I was struggling with the first 10 seconds of mountain climbers on these things. Improved stability and balance are also great benefits of working out with gliders. After a just a few workouts with these bad boys, I can feel more strength in my full core and even when I’m not working out, I feel more graceful and balanced. Check out this video of Toronto, trainer Assata McKenzie to hear more about the benefits and see a few moves.

Resistance bands are another super affordable must-have for any home fitness routine. After stumbling into my local Play it Again Sports (which I have fallen in love with by the way! Considering the majority of my closet is second hand, it’s only natural that I love the thrift version of a sporting goods store) I realized that resistance bands were a cheaper and much easier to transport strength training option. Once I brought them home and began playing around with them, I realized they really get the muscles burning and they produce results. The beauty of the resistance bands first of all is the fact that they’re super cheap. At Play it Again Sports a 15lb kettle bell was in the area of $20, barbells started at $50 (not including the weights), a fluidity bar was $20 and my two resistance bands were $4.98 each… for less than 10 bucks I have a pretty viable strength training option. Resistance bands are also unique in that they allow you to have “maximum muscle activation” according to this Bodylastics article. Elastic bands provide resistance on both ends of the movement. They force you to utilize more muscle fibers to pull the bands and not use momentum to “cheat.” They help you target and strengthen isolated muscle groups. They’re also easy to customize and make more challenging. If you want to increase the intensity of a workout, you can wrap the bands around your wrists to increase the tension and the intensity. Resistance bands offer resistance in both horizontal and vertical exercise movements. Typically with weights, you’re only able to benefit from gravitational resistance offered with vertical movements. One of my favorite resistance band workouts is what I call a seated waist winder. In a seated position with your legs spread, hook a band handle onto your right foot. Facing your right foot, grab the band (I usually forgo the other handle because it isn’t enough resistance for me) with your left hand and with your left elbow parallel to the floor and leading the movement, pull the band and twist your waist to the left. I love the fact that, much like with the gliders, I can feel my muscles burning almost instantly. That lets me know something is being done right and it kind of reassures me that I’m working on the right thing.

At home workout 4

Having a home routine is important for me. This eliminates all excuses. Even if I don’t feel like getting out of the house (especially on these chilly fall nights after work), I have a solid routine that will make me sweat and sculpt lean muscle. Adding bands and paper plate gliders (I do plan on purchasing the plastic version, just because the paper plates make so much noise sliding across the carpet (it sounds like I’m trying to start a fire!) have been great ways to spice up and intensify my workout.

Can you believe I’ve fallen in love with a sporting goods store? It’s crazy! Suddenly I want all sorts of equipment…I’ll have to find somehow to get it all to my place and then figure out where to store it!

My 1st 5K- Running Into the New Me

My First 5K

241.1 miles later (238 miles driven and 3.1 miles ran), I caught up with this vivacious young woman who has chosen to live vicariously through herself. The woman is me and I completed my first 5k this past weekend on the lovely island of Hilton Head, South Carolina. I know some of the more seasoned runners and athletes run 5ks as their daily form of exercise and may scoff at a mere 3.1 miles, but for me- the kid who only ran (once) from dogs and had knee issues since my pre-teen years- this was a pretty momentous event.

Blame it on the post-workout endorphins, but about two months ago I felt encouraged to challenge myself, try something new and get-away all at the same time. So I signed up for the Hilton Head Bridge Run, a 5k and 10k race sponsored by Bear Foot Sports. Less than a gas tank away, Hilton Head is a relaxed, slow-paced escape from the bumbling Atlanta life. My tune changed about a week ago when I realized just what I’d committed myself to. Backing out crossed my mind several times (especially after the polar vortex decided to bring winter like temperatures to damn near all of America my neck of the woods) but Friday afternoon I found myself heading south on Hwy 16 with a stomach full of butterflies  bound for Hilton Head. Just me. Alone. No family or friends. As I drove onto the dark island (seriously, the low-country folks are not about street lights… no lighted signs… nothing) I was still thinking what the hell have I gotten myself into? But there I was and I managed to find my hotel and an amazing spot for dinner. Exhausted from the drive and nervous energy, I pulled the blanket over my head and turned in early Friday night. Saturday morning was a new day and a different story.

I woke up before my alarm and treated myself to a delicious round of stretching. I opened the curtains and had to take a moment to take in the beautiful low-country landscape around me. Underneath the darkness of last night was row after row of Spanish moss trees and a charming city. Needless to say, I was feeling much better about my trip and the looming challenge was no longer “looming” and it became more like an adventure. My anxiousness faded into excitement and I was actually looking forward to seeing just what my body could do.

Standing at the starting line, I soaked in the amiable energy of the crowd. I mingled with a few cheerful faces, gained a couple of cheerleaders (who found me afterwards to congratulate me on completing my first 5k and take the celebration pic), scored a few pace-mates, made a friend and connected with others at various places in their wellness journeys. It was pretty cool to watch the crowd surge forward at the signal. I took off with them and slowly but surely I found my pace and fell into my groove. As I was running, I caught a glimpse of my shadow and in it saw a much different person than I remembered. Here I was up on a cold Saturday morning in a whole different state, running for the sake of running. Several months ago, I would have been one of the masses, bundled up and asleep, but today I had chosen differently. I’d chosen to push my body and the boundaries of my comfort zone (uh hello solo mini-vacay). In that moment I felt so alive and so free. Determined to not have frozen tears and snot trails on my face when I crossed the finish line, I fought back the tears and basked in celebration of my body.

This was more than a 5K. It was more than an incredible weekend getaway. My first 5K was me doing something for me to celebrate 60 pounds of weight loss and mark the beginning of a new challenge and a new chapter in the journey. I met some really incredible people (cute bartenders, encouraging athletes, friendly wine connoisseurs, and more) but the most amazing girl I met was this strong, sexy and (way) more confident version of me. In addition to running, I found myself plugged in to everything and everyone around me and not once did I feel alone. I felt confident and alive. Needless to say, I’m hooked and looking forward to the next one! #thisgirlruns

Baby Got Back!

Abs are one of the most coveted perks of a healthy diet and serious training. There are tons of killer ab routines, core challenges and so-called magic ab-be-gone potions on the market because everyone is after the latest way to get a toned tummy. While I love toned abs and look forward to the day I too will feel that ripple down the front of my mid-section, the object of my desire is on the back side of the body. I know you’re thinking the other ‘a’ word, but that’s not it either (although I have been noticing a little extra thickness in the posterior these daysJ).

For me, there’s just something about a strong, toned, defined back. Even when it comes to guys- the back is my favorite part of the male body, second only to… never mind ;). A couple nights ago my manfriend said something that was music to my ears- “Wow, you have a strong back.” I’m sure he felt the smile that spread across my face, while I laid on his chest and he rubbed across my spine. Never, not ever, and I do mean EVER in my entire life have I not had to fight the battle of the bulging back fat. Even the so-called back smoothing bras fell victim to its wrath, folding and finding that familiar groove under the rolls. So to receive a compliment on such a nemesis, made me feel quite happy and proud of the progress.

My back workout consists of a combination of resistance and strength training. My top three back workouts are:

  1. Front lat pull downs using the cable machine or bands. Lat pull downs are good for working out the upper back. Can you say good-by to the bra eating area of upper back fat? These exercises also help with the space below your armpit.
  2. Bent over rows with the barbell and free weights are my favorite! Strength training gives me a rush and I am in love with the idea that at each workout I can see and feel myself getting stronger. These rows are great for your upper back and bra-line area.
  3. Back extensions are what I like to call “silent killers.” They don’t require any weights or machines (or even any equipment is you do them on the floor). Back extensions, like this fave called the superman, work your lower back and help strengthen your core.

 

Benefits of a strong back range from improved posture to a reduction in back pain and injury prevention. I definitely have noticed a difference in my posture. I find myself being much more graceful and fluid in the way I move. I also enjoy feeling stronger and being able to lift more. It behooves me to mention another added perk of a strong, toned back has been a more shapely view from the back. The rolls are beginning to be chiseled down into curves that I’m not familiar with but am quickly growing to love and appreciate. I still have a long way to go before revealing the sexy, sculpted back that’s begging to be clad only in a bikini, but I’ll get there. My plan is to increase the intensity of my current back workout, incorporate more calisthenics and finally squeeze out a pull-up or two (there’s a first time for everythingJ).

What are your “go-to” moves to work out the back?

Gym Rants: Dedication

Dedication Worth It

My relationship with the gym has changed. I’m done with hiding in the aerobics classes or picking the elliptical furthest in the back. I’ve become a “regular.” A member that the staff not only recognizes, but has become familiar with. It feels like even fellow “regulars” have become familiar with me and offer an affirming nod and smile when we pass each other. This feeling was confirmed just the other day as I was lunging back and forth across the gym. One of the “regulars” approached me and said “you’ve been at this for a while, it shows. You’re really dedicated.”

Dedicated. I thought about it for the rest of my workout and even the next day. I’d never been called dedicated. Diligent, or hard-working- yes, but dedicated felt different…

The web defines dedicated as devoted to a task or purpose; having single-minded loyalty or integrity; given over to a particular purpose, devoted to a cause or ideal. Sounds like a fitting description.

I’ve been on my wellness journey for nearly 18 months now. I can truly say that I have hung in there and have been dedicated. I’ve slipped more than a few times but I didn’t give up. Unfortunately this hasn’t always been the case.  Growing up I wasn’t the kid who got into that thing (i.e. soccer or dance) and stuck with it. I’d try a little bit of everything but after it began to get challenging and required more commitment, I’d quit. I think deep down it bothered me because there was something inside that knew I could be and do so much more. Now whether or not I was willing to put in the work, that’s another story. I did just enough to get by.

This journey is so different. For the first time in my life (that I can remember), I weigh under 200lbs. I can shop at any store and buy an outfit. SIDENOTE: It’s funny, when I try on clothing that’s a size 10 or 12 part of me still doesn’t expect it to fit, but then when it slips on, I’m stuck in amazement with a Cheshire Cat grin. I find myself competing against myself (and unbeknownst to them, other gym-goers) during my workouts. I’m also can say no to sabotaging behavior (like binging, fast food, candy, etc.) more often than before and not let it completely derail me. These are all reflections of my dedication to this journey. To good health. I must admit, I like how dedication feels.