How Long Should Your Daily Workout Last?

For awhile now, the Surgeon General’s recommendation and the general consensus has said 30 minutes a day. That, in turn, sparked the question among researchers and those in the health/fitness profession: can this be broken down into two 15 minute sessions or three 10 minute sessions? And what are the subsequent health and performance ramifications of 1 vs. 2 vs. 3 sessions per day? Well, it seems we are still trying to answer that question.

A recent column in the Well section of the NYT, citing several different studies, basically said the benefits of shorter bouts that add up to 30 minutes are either inconclusive or negligible, when compared to the “traditional” single 30 minute bout.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/05/ask-well-3-short-workouts-or-1-long-one/?smid=pl-share

So for those of you out there wanting some resolution to this — wanting to know the most effective route to better health or a faster mile time or more fat loss or _________ — sorry, but it sounds like there isn’t a definitive answer yet. And there may not be for some time (or ever).

My advice: just do whatever works for you, given your daily schedule and your preference. If you like to break it up into smaller chunks or use those federally mandated 15 minute work breaks to exercise, go for it. If you find it easier to just knock it out in one fell swoop before or after work, go for it. Whatever brings you peace of mind or whatever your schedule dictates — do that.

Whatever you do, give it your all. Be well out there…

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Workout Without Borders

I promise to move past the literal “playground” meme that I’ve been on lately, but I first had to pass on this video. This is some really cool, yet really advanced stuff.

The first time through, I was too in awe of the difficulty and beauty of what they were doing. The second time I watched, the “big picture” came into focus. What I hope you take away from the video is the power that fitness possesses to transform lives — giving people passion and a purpose.

Some really great messages that apply to all aspects and levels of exercise and fitness are spread throughout the video…

Be your own inspiration

Compete against yourself…be stronger than the person you were yesterday

Let the creativity flow

Failing is part of the process…don’t give up

Axioms like this seem pretty lame when they’re on a poster in your school counselor’s office or in your work’s break room. When you see them in action — spoken by people like us, that have struggled and fought and found success — there’s nothing lame about them.

Share, comment, pass it on. Live without borders. Be well.

App Review: Max Capacity Training

Health and Fitness apps up for review by yours truly. Note: I only review apps that I’ve personally used.

UPDATE: Sorry about the pics being so small — they were just screenshots from my iphone — but if you click on the image you’ll have a much larger image open up in a separate tab.

This is a not good, but great, app that I stumbled upon while looking for some high intensity cardio to replace the garbage that is the Cardio X in P90X. Search the app store for Max Capacity Training, and you should see a stopwatch logo against a greenish/yellowish background.

App title page

**The developer claims that it works best on the Iphone 4 and 4s, yet it’s worked just fine on my Ipad, and I think it’s available for Android devices, too.

I’ve found this app to be really useful for two completely different reasons. Let’s break it down:

REASON #1

“Help, I want to workout but I don’t belong to a gym or have equipment or have a lot of time or know what exercises to do or how to do them!!!!”

Whew…that’s a lot of demands! Fortunately, this app has got you covered.

The primary goal of this app seems to be giving people a structured workout schedule, with short yet max intensity workouts, that do not require ANY equipment.

Weekly Schedule

Weekly Schedule

If you stick to the program, you’ll be going for 12 weeks, but only working out three days a week. Workouts are 16 minutes long, which sounds too easy or maybe ineffective, but you’ll be following a high intensity protocol like the one below:

Tabata

Tabata

The app has a nice, clean interface and is very user-friendly — providing a clear description of what you’ll be doing and how to do it, with nice visual and written descriptions for each exercise:

Exercise Description

Exercise Description

And I don’t have a screenshot of the timer, but it’s one of my favorite features. Once you are ready to start working out and you hit that “GO” button, a screen with (1) the exercise, (2) the round (e.g. 1/4), and (3) a big ol’ timer pops up. It’s just a very well-designed app thats conducive to working out, whether you are wearing an armband and constantly needing to look at the timer or if you are able to do what I did and use your iphone in an armband for music and set up the app on an ipad to look at during the workout.

I use it sometimes, like I said, as my cardio in my P90X schedule, and it’s definitely challenging when you go that hard with that little amount of rest. But, like Tony says, “do you best and forget the rest!”

REASON #2

“I want to do my own thing but I need a good stopwatch app”

So I doubt the developer had this in mind as an use for the app, but if you’ve got your own thing going on — say, a playground workout  😉 — and you just need a way to time your work and rest periods, I think you could find this app will do that for you.

— For 50 secs of exercise and 10 secs of rest — choose any of the Fifty-Ten protocol workouts, do your own exercises, and just follow the timer

— For 20 secs of exercise and 10 secs of rest: choose any of the Tabata protocol workouts, ”     ”

I haven’t used it for this purpose yet, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. It helps to have that timer going, keeping you on schedule, and holding you accountable in a sense. You can always pause if you need to, but use it as a tool to motivate and push yourself.

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Are there any other training apps similar to this one that you like? Maybe a nice stopwatch app that you’ve found? Add a comment in the comments section below and share the wealth.

Be well out there!

Playground Workout Part III: Beginner

This is a series of posts regarding the ins and out, hows and whys of performing workouts at your local playground. 

If you’re new to exercising in general, then this post is for you. You’ll still want to read part I  to understand how hard and for how long you’ll be working out. Yes, this means even if you’re a beginner, I’d recommend using the H.I.I.T. method.  In order to reach those improvements and gains in your body and your overall level of fitness, you’re going to have to work hard and work smart.

Just remember: do your absolute best, modify when you need to, and listen to your body.

I found a couple “beginner” videos for examples of exercises that meet your current ability level, as well as ways to modify basic playground workout exercises:

The first video is done by a fitness professional with a high quality video production, but I really like the “homemade” quality of the 2nd video. The exercise examples are broken up by a narrative portion with the woman speaking openly and honestly about why she started working out at the playground and why it really is a great way to sneak in a workout.

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As a beginner, these are the bodyweight exercises, broken down by muscle group, that you should be attempting on your local playground:

CHEST: Standard (body horizontal to the ground) or incline (upper body higher than lower body) pushups. The closer to horizontal, the more energy and strength you’ll need. In other words, standard pushup (off knees) = hardest, standard pushup (on knees) = harder, incline pushup = easier, wall push-ups = easiest.

** A good rule of thumb for pushups is this: if you can complete 2-3 sets of 15 reps each, its time to graduate to the next pushup difficulty level!***

For wall pushups, any stable, vertical surface on the playground structure will do; for an incline pushup, find either a lower step on a play structure or a park bench/chair.

BACK: To work your back, you’ll need to find some type of pulling exercise that fits your ability level. I’ve got three suggestions for a modified pull-up in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest:

1. Buy a single resistance band (the thicker the band, the higher the resistance), throw it over a high bar or monkey bar, and with a straight (not rounded) back and a tight core, perform a modified pull-up.

In the starting position, your arms should be fully extended and you should feel plenty of tension (i.e. resistance) from the band. Make sure to pull the bands as far down and as close to your body while pinching your shoulder blades together (imagine having to squeeze an orange in the middle of your back).

2. 

Most playgrounds have some sort of lowered horizontal bar. Make sure you pay attention to the form in this video, though!

3. If there is a horizontal bar or a set of monkey bars that you can grab with outstretched arms AND your feet still on the ground, do a jump-assist pull-up. With this, you’re bending your knees and jumping to help propel you through the pull-up motion. You still need to get your chin above the bar (if possible), but you’re allowed to land after each rep and use the jump assist for as many reps as you need it.

As with all of these exercises, doing a version that’s too EASY for you won’t give you any results or allow you to progress, and doing a version that’s too HARD for you will likely result in an injury. Take the time to get to know your body — listen to it and stay within your limitations.

— LEGS: It doesn’t get much better than simple squats and lunges.

HOWEVAAHH…before you go running off to your playground, please please watch these quick videos below, because proper form is so, so important for these exercises.

For squats:

For lunges:

I love the variations in the video below — stationary lunges and holding onto a pole or handle for balance — for beginners.

Since the legs are such a large muscle group, you might want to add a 3rd type of leg exercise to your repertoire. That would be the step-up. Find a stable step or platform (possibly one with a handle if needed) that’s about 10-14″ off of the ground. Step up onto the surface with one leg, then bringing the other leg up. When you alternate which leg you step up, and conversely, step down with, you’re able to work both the quadriceps and the hamstrings on BOTH legs.

For an added bonus to the step-up, when both feet are together on top of the step, pause and perform a calf raise, pushing up onto your toes and then lowering back down.

For a lot of people everyone, the leg exercises aren’t as much fun or as rewarding per se as the upper body stuff, but done with a H.I.I.T., you’re gonna burn fat and tone up quick.

— CORE/CARDIO

You can get creative here — using whatever your playground and surrounding park area give you to work with — so I’ll just throw out a few suggestions that I think would be ability-appropriate:

Planks — make sure your body makes a flat plane, keep your core tight, and remember to breathe!

Running/Jogging/Sprint Intervals — walk/jog for 30 seconds and run/sprint for 10 seconds

Swing crisscross — great use of playground equipment; sit on a swing seat, recline 45 degrees back, with legs extended slightly separate them into a V shape then alternate crossing right over left then left over right

Mountain climbers — cardio AND core work? Ugh. Really, though, this is a great exercise and you get to choose the pace of climbing that works for you.

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Next up in the series: a playground workout for those at an average to above average fitness level! So stay tuned and, as always, be well.

PLAYGROUND WORKOUT PART II: TIPS

This is a short series of posts regarding the ins and out, hows and whys of performing workouts at your local playground. 

So I felt like Part I in the series was getting a little lengthy and I needed to wrap it up, buuuuut…I do have just a few tips for you in your quest to start a playground workout. Let’s consider this an addendum to the Part I post.

— TIP #1

If you don’t have kids, I get that you, being an adult, might have some trepidation in showing up to a playground to get a workout in.

Hopefully you aren’t rolling up in this

creep van #1

or this

creep van #2

But seriously, no one is going to call the cops on you. You might get a few stares, but you have every right to be there enjoying that public facility. Just make sure you aren’t saying anything more than a cordial “hello” to the kiddos.

sign

They don’t need to hear about your pull-up record just like you don’t need to engage them in talking or playing. Trust me, if you take it anywhere past a “hello”, you will (a) have mama bear sic’d on you or (b) be dragged into a never-ending game of tag involving all of the kids because THEIR parents are busy doing this

cell phone

which brings me to…

— TIP #2

If you just can’t seem to shake the weirdness of not having a kid to be your alibi for being at the playground…then bring one! Take a nephew, niece, neighbor. Just remember that you became responsible for that kid when you agreed to take them to the playground, so it might be a good idea to let the parents and the kid in on your intentions to workout while assuring them that the kid will be safe and within eyesight and earshot at all times during the workout.

And if you have kids and you’re thinking about transforming from the parent on the park bench looking at Facebook the entire time to the playground exerciser, just think of the example you’d be setting for your kids by being active and healthy rather than sedentary and more interested in sports scores.

OR

— TIP #3

Bring a friend! There is tons of evidence in exercise psychology that people that workout with friends, and that have that social support group, are able to stick to a workout regimen much longer.

My wife was training for a marathon this past year, and when that alarm went off at 5:30 AM and it was cold and dark outside and warm and cozy in the bed, do you know what she did? She got up for that 8 mile run. And do you want to guess why? Because she knew our neighbor and her training partner was waiting out in the cul-de-sac for her.

A workout friend is great for accountability, motivation, and support. Plus, the more of you there are, the better chance you have of fighting off the little ankle-biters to get your set of stair climbers in. Power in numbers. But, seriously, don’t fight the kids for the equipment. That’s not cool.

Hope these tips helped! If you have any to add, please post a comment.

Be well, y’all.