Fitness Fact and Fiction

I'm a longtime aerobics instructor, personal trainer and gym rat dedicated to finding and sharing the difference between fitness fact and fiction


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sometimes you just have to... something solely for yourself. Like this little trip down memory lane.

One of the things I miss the most from my teaching days is doing the choreography. These three combos were some of my favorites:

Combo one
Single knees corner 2x (8 counts)
Repeater knee (8)
Turn straddle turn (8)
Over the top (4)
Squat on floor (4) or Jax 2x (4)

Combo 2
L step (8)
Basic 2x (8) or Step up and swing following leg out to side 2x
Hop turn straddle (4)
Over the top with swing leg (4)
Walk to the front (4)
Mambo bench (4)

Combo 3
Step kick corner, step down walk back and kick (8)
Shuffle step 2x (8)
Ham curl repeater (8)
Single ham curls 2x (8)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fun PC Wallpaper from Crunch

My personal favorite:
the Toe Extension Toilet Flush.

UPDATE: Link doesn't seem to be working any more. Will try and search it out...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Full body routine -- Part II

This is the second in a two-part routine that works your entire body with a set of dumbbells and a stability ball.

In this post, we cover hamstring ball curls, glute lifts, arms and abs.

1. Hamstring ball curls

Lie on your back with your heels on the top of the stability ball. Straighten your legs so that you are supported only by your shoulders and heels. Bending your knees, and keeping your body in a nice straight line, pull those heels and roll the ball towards you as far as you can. Hold. Slowly roll back and repeat. 12-15 reps.

2. Arms (biceps and triceps)

Sit on the ball, holding your dumbbells. Do 10 reps of bicep curls, followed immediately by 10 reps of overhead tricep extensions. (See picture. Holding one or two dumbbells in both hands, lift arms overhead. The only joint movement will be in your elbows, as you lower and raise the weights. Keep those elbows nice and soft.) Repeat.

Repeat hamstring curls and arms.

3. Glute lift

Start in the hamstring ball position. Slowly lower and raise your glutes. (If this is too easy, lift one leg off the ball and lift and lower.) 12-15 reps.

4. Ab ball pass

Supine position, legs extended with stability ball between your calves, as far off the ground as needed to keep your back down. With arms overhead and navel pulled in, lift legs and arms together. Take the ball between your hands and return to the start. 10-12 reps.

Repeat glute lift and ball pass.

5. Lower back

Kneel in front of the ball and walk your body onto it until your legs are almost completely extended. With arms at your sides or in front in a dive position, slowly and carefully raise and lower your torso. Don't lift too high, keep those abs pulled in tight. If you can't balance, try the same position with your feet braced against the wall. 10-12 reps.

6. Oblique ball lift

Same starting position as the ab ball pass. This time, with your arms out to the sides for balance, and knees soft, slowly lower the ball to the left, then raise and lower to the right. Keep your hips and shoulders on the ground. 10-12 reps.

Repeat lower back and oblique lift.

Beach Body Countdown

We all know that if you have four-six weeks, you can make real changes in the way you look. But what about us slackers who leave everything to the absolute last minute?

The good news is that you can still tweak your shape in one-two weeks. Of course, that's tweak, as in 'fine tune.'

The keys to success are strict calorie counting, plenty of cardio and when you get ready to actually hit the beach, a little old fashioned sleight of hand.

1. Counting your calories.

Because you need to take in 300-500 fewer each day for the next two weeks. That means counting. Really count them. That means the half-and-half in your coffee and the Frappucino you split with a friend. And the two beers and 16 chips at happy hour. Don't worry too much about nutritional value right now -- and don't tell your nutritionist I said that. Just count.

2. Keep moving.

Each week, add at least 40 minutes of moderate to high intensity cardio to your routine. And walk an extra 15-30 minutes every day. If you need to cut back on strength training to make time, then do it. If you still have time to lift, concentrate on larger muscles, lower weights by 10-15% and cut back on rest time between sets. This is not the time to decide to go for a personal best on the bench.

3. Look sharp.

Take advantage of the new self-tanner lotions and sprays to fake a sunkissed look -- darker shades make you look leaner.

Treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure.

Buy a new cover-up that shows off your best feature. This site
has plenty of hot tops and bottoms to choose from.

Have any tips for quick-fixes? Let us know!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Resisting Temptation

It's happened to all of us. You're at the gym. You're getting discouraged with your routine. Out of the corner of your eye you notice someone in truly amazing shape.

They look the way you want to look. So what do you do? If you're human, you probably pay careful attention to their exercise routine. And then decide to incorporate some of it into your own.

That's not always a bad thing. One of the best parts of belonging to a gym is the opportunity to learn new ways to exercise. (Who hasn't eavesdropped on a trainer and her client?)

But before you start adding exercises, ask yourself a few questions.

What else are they doing?
What you see someone doing could be just a small part of their overall routine. They might be on a very restrictive diet, or working out seven days a week.

Does it look safe?
Form is critical, but it's tempting to ignore it when Ms. Six Pack is blowing through crunches at an alarming rate, pulling on her neck and holding her breath. After all, if it works for her, why not for you?

How would it fit in your program?
It's great when you learn a new exercise -- but make sure you're not just adding to an already full routine. If you notice an intriguing shoulder exercise, make sure it complements what you are already doing.

What is the exercise designed to do?
Are they working their back? Core? Is it a sports-specific exercise? (The latter is particularly important when looking at form. Some sports require training positions that are contraindicated for the general population. See the image above.)

Once you've done a careful assessment, try it out. Remember: your role model may have been doing this a very long time. Use lighter weights, go slower, and be extra careful about form.

And if it feels wrong, stop.

Working out on the road

Whether you're traveling because you want to, or because the boss insists, it can be tough to keep up with exercise. This site wants to provide information on "the best places for healthy-minded individuals to stay, work out, eat, and enjoy when traveling."

So before you hit the road, stop by and take notes on what your destination has to offer.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Best Butt Exercises from ACE

In case you missed it, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) released this study earlier this year that measured the muscle activation rates for various glute exercise.

But it's one thing to read about research. It's another thing entirely to figure out how to make it work for you. Fortunately, Paige Waehner, a Chicago-based ACE certified trainer, put together photos demonstrating how to perform the four most effective exercises identified in the study.

Make these the center of your lower body routine and see if it works for you!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Full Body Routine With Two Pieces of Equipment -- Part One

This is a great routine when you're short on time, space or equipment. All you need is a stability ball and a pair of 8-10 lb dumbbells. (All right, maybe that technically makes it three pieces of equipment...but you get the point)

To get the most out of this routine, concentrate on form and rest only briefly between sets.

1. Wall squats (works entire leg)

With your legs a little more than shoulder width apart, place the ball between your back and the wall. Walk your legs out until when you squat, your knees are directly over or slightly behind your ankles. Slowly lower until thighs are parallel to the floor and hold for 2-3 seconds. Slowly stand up, keeping the ball pressed against the wall and immediately squat again. 12-15 reps.

Key point for good form: make sure knees never go forward of your ankles.

2. Push-ups (chest, shoulders, triceps)

With your abs on the ball, walk your hands out as far as you can and still do a push-up with good form. 10-12 reps

Key point for good form: keep your body in a straight line, using your abs and back -- the core muscles.

3. Repeat squats and push-ups.

4. Standing lunge with dumbbells (entire leg)

Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Step out with your right foot. Make sure your foot is far enough out that when you bend your knees, your front knee is in line with or slightly behind your ankle. 10-12 reps, then switch and repeat.

Key to good form: Don't let your torso lean forward and keep that knee from moving over your ankle.

5. Back rows (back muscles)

With both dumbbells in your right hand, bend your knees and lean forward from the waist. Keep a slight arch in your back as you lower the weights and then pull up with your elbow on a slight diagonal. Imagine you're trying to start a lawn mower. You should feel this in your back. 10-12 reps, switch and repeat.

Key to good form: Use your core muscles to hold your balance. Keep shoulders level.

6. Repeat lunges and rows

7. Wide stance squats (legs, with more emphasis on adductors)

In a wide stance, with toes pointed out, hold both dumbells and squat until thighs are at least parallel with floor. Hold. Lift heels and lower. Lift up and immediately squat down and hold. 12-15 reps.

Key to good form: Torso stays straight, with abs tight and glutes slightly tucked in.

8. Shoulder raises

Holding dumbbells, sit on ball with feet shoulder width apart. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, raise the right arm to the front while your left arm goes out to the side. Next, raise left arm to the front and right arm to the side for one complete rep. Here are helpful hints on shoulder raises. 10-12 reps.

9. Repeat wide squats and shoulder raises.

Next post: hamstring ball curls, glute lifts, arms and abs.

Looking for illustrated information on exercises? Try this site.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Rush Hour Routines: How to Get a Great WorkOut in a Crowded Gym

A recent study has confirmed that time, or the lack of it, is a major obstacle to successful exercise programs.

The study was conducted by University of Virginia Professor Diane Whaley, Ph.D in conjunction with 1-2-3 Fit, a relatively new fitness center franchise that coincidentally enough offers customized 30-minute exercise routines. Regardless of the marketing benefits that the study might bring to 1-2-3 Fit, the findings are not surprising.

Which is why it is so important to walk into the gym knowing that no matter how crowded it is, you will be able to get a good work-out.


The most popular machines at the gym, ellipticals, treadmills and steppers, are always the first to fill up. However, there is almost always some piece of cardio equipment that is not being used: a rower, or a stationary bike, for example. The next time you find yourself at the gym during a relatively slow time, take a few minutes to learn how to use these neglected machines.

Absolutely nothing available? If you were going to use the weights after your cardiovascular workout, it should be simple to reverse your program. If not, try and substitute a circuit workout. Done correctly,circuit workouts can provide 50-75% of the training effect you would get from a cardio-only routine.

Weights and Toning

The same principle applies here. Always have two or three back-up exercises for everything you were planning to do. Here are a few examples:

Instead of a leg press, try squats with dumbbells on your shoulders or at your sides.
Instead of the hamstring curl machine, put your heels on a stability ball, lift your body in a straight line and pull the ball towards your glutes.
No benches available for chest presses? Use a stability ball. Or do push-ups instead.

The key to success is to know your options before you get to the gym.