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Tips for a Short, but Effective Workout

Young fit woman with fitness ball

I have some good news for you…

The truth is that not all workouts have to be an hour.

In fact, they can be pretty short and still be plenty effective. This should come as a relief since I am well aware that shortages of time and motivation are two of the top reasons why so many of you find it challenging to stick with an exercise program.

There are a couple of different strategies you can implement to make sure you get a great workout in…

and this can be done in as little as 10 minutes!

So in an effort to guide you in the right direction, I’m going to share a few tips you can follow along with that will demonstrate how simple it is to use your limited amount of workout time wisely.

Tips for a Short, but Effective Workout

Tip 1 – Focus On One Body Part Per Day

When concentrating on just one area of the body per day, you can use the power of focus to maximize results within a limited amount of time.

For example, you can spend 10-20 minutes on Monday working on your lower body and then switch it up on Tuesday by doing an upper body workout and following this pattern throughout the week.

Using this strategy not only allows you to work hard in less time, but it requires your overall attention to remain focused on one specific area. The reason this is beneficial is because if what we focus on expands (and I happen to know this is true from first hand experience), then it only makes sense that when you are ‘zeroed in’ on something in specific, you will get it.

A fantastic home workout program that demonstrates this method is Tony Horton’s 10 Minute Trainer.

Each segment focuses on a specific area of the body for  about 10 minutes and you can always modify the exercises if needed.

You don’t need any fancy equipment, nor a lot of space.

I have personally used this program and I thought it was both effective and challenging.

I was able to find the core workout on Youtube, and thought you might want to check it out for yourself.

Tip 2 – Dedicate Each Workout to One Specific Piece of Exercise Equipment

This is a fun way to mix things up a bit while still getting an effective workout.

And it would look something like this:

  1. Monday (stability ball) – 3 sets/ 8-12 reps of stability ball wall squats, walk outs, bridges and knee tucks
  2. Tuesday (resistance bands) – 3 sets/ 8-12 reps of band presses, rows, side band pulls and swimmers
  3. Wednesday – 20 minute fitness walk
  4. Thursday (body weight) – 3 sets 8-12 reps of bw squats, push-ups, chair dips and bicycles
  5. Friday (dumbbells) – 3 sets 8-12 reps of rdls, upright rows, lying chest flys and tricep kickbacks

This is just one example of how you can create a full body workout in just minutes per day. The time will fly, and you won’t get bored.

Tip 3 – Short High Intensity Workouts

Another great way to get a short and effective workout in is to keep the entire body engaged in each exercise you do.

One program that is designed to help you do just that is Jackie Warner’s “Xtreme Timesaver Training” workout dvd.

The cover of the dvd states that it’s like two workouts in one – and that’s because it is.

The exercises are slow and controlled and there are modifications to each one of them. The focus is on form and there is a lot of isometric work as well.

Isometric muscle contractions keep muscles working in the absence of movement. An example of this would be to hold yourself in a squat position without lowering or lifting.

They are quite effective and allow for an increase in intensity of your workload in the absence of equipment. As you hold yourself in one position, you can work other areas of the body simultaneously.

Check out this clip of the Timesaver Training video to help you get an idea of how this works.

Time to Get Moving

So now that you’re equipped with a few ideas on how you can get an effective workout in a short amount of time, the next step is to decide when to get moving.

These workouts may not take long to do, but they will involve effort and they’ll definitely get you sweaty.

My suggestion is to figure out what time of the day you will be able to clear your mind and your schedule in an effort to focus on the work involved in these programs and to stick with them.

The good news is that these workouts go by so fast, you’ll be finished before you know it.

Have you discovered any short exercise programs that worked well for you? 

[Ask Dana] – How Can I Break Through A Weight Loss Plateau?

q2

As mentioned in this post, I had decided to start answering your questions about health, fitness and wellness in a monthly q&a series called “Ask Dana.”

Today will be the second in this series.

If you would like to have your questions answered, feel free to include them in the form on the “contact us” page or reply to the email you receive with the link to this post.

I’ll get them answered as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, here are this month’s questions.

Ask Dana – Your Questions Answered

Question 1 – 

“I zumba 4 days a week and I walk 3 to 4 miles 3 days a week. I watch carefully what I eat but I seem to eat too much healthy food and am not able to get below 150 pounds. I am 5 foot 4 inches. All my weight is in my chest and stomach. I want to lose both. What can I do?”

Answer -

There are a couple of things that come to mind that may be hindering your weight loss.

The first is that there seems to be a lot of cardio activity, but you haven’t mentioned anything about strength training.

So my question back to you is this…

Are you doing any?

The reason I ask is because strength (resistance/weight) training is an excellent way to help promote weight loss because adding muscle to your frame can have a positive impact on your metabolism.

Muscle is an active tissue – which basically means that it requires more energy to maintain its form as opposed to fat. It burns more calories at rest and because of this, when you add it to your frame, you are increasing the amount of calories burned throughout the day, regardless of your activity.

That’s not to say that adding additional muscle tissue is soley responsible for an increased metabolism, but it is helpful, and I do recommend it.

You also mentioned that you “seem to eat too much healthy food”. Does this mean that even though you’re choosing the right foods, you’re eating too much?

I also don’t know what “healthy” foods you are eating. Some people think that certain foods (such as wheat products, large quantities of high sugar fruits or light/low fat) products constitute as healthy when in reality, they aren’t necessarily ideal, especially in large quantities.

It’s important to know that even some of those so-called healthy foods on the market may not be so healthy if they are heavily processed – but of course they won’t be advertised that way.

Many “natural” foods out there are nothing more than a chemical concoction using terminology designed to confuse the buyer, so it helps to be aware of this.

And even if you are following a healthy diet, if your portion sizes are larger than necessary, if you are emotionally eating or if you are eating high glycemic foods, this can work against you even if you are exercising regularly.

Stress can also inhibit weight loss thanks to the constant release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause weight retention around the middle. If you are eating right and exercising, but live a stressful life – both internally (mindset) and externally (environment/living conditions, etc), this would definitely hinder your weight loss attempts.

Lastly, you can check out post about handling plateaus, and I would suggest reading the answer to the second question here asking about interval training.

I would recommend just sticking with it and following the tips I have suggested. If you have any other details you want to add to the original question, please feel free to mention them in the comments and I’ll address them.

Hope this helps!

Question 2 – 

“I have heard that short intervals of training are better than doing a lot of cardio. What is better? Also, is eating 30 minutes upon waking really that important? I typically cannot eat breakfast until about 1-2 hours after waking.”

Answer -

Short intervals of training can be quite effective. It trains your heart to work harder for periods of time and then learn to recover from that level of intensity.

This is beneficial for overall cardiovascular health – as when the heart learns to adapt to various training methods, it learns to work smarter instead of harder – which is a good thing.

There are other benefits to adding intervals to your workouts.

According to this article from the NSCA, “adding interval training to a current fitness program can help an individual overcome a plateau in their current training program and add variety by changing up the program design. These two things alone can help with adherence and keep clients motivated so that they may reach their fitness goals.”

Now, as far as the breakfast issue is concerned, it’s always a good idea to replenish glucose stores upon waking to avoid the effects of low blood sugar – especially if you’re going to be active in any way.

Since you didn’t mention why you couldn’t eat until about 1-2 hours after waking, I’ll figure it’s because you don’t have an appetite – which is common for a lot of people.

If this is the case, I would recommend something small to start with. A fresh vegetable/fruit juice, a handful of almonds or preferably a combination of both would suffice to provide you with the energy and nutrients you would need to maintain normal blood sugar levels until you eat a bigger meal.

If you decide to try this out, you may find that by the time you do eat, you aren’t ravenous and you just might make wiser food choices throughout the day as well.

Try it out and let me know how it worked.

Send In Your Questions

If you have any questions you want answered, just follow the protocols mentioned above and I’ll get to them as soon as possible.

I always look to provide credible advice – and if there is something I either don’t know, or don’t feel I am qualified to answer, I’ll point you in the right direction.

There are no stupid questions – and I encourage you to write in. The likelihood that someone else may want the answers to the questions you ask is high…and this practice can help others as well as yourself.

So what would you like to know?

An Introduction to the TRX Suspension Trainer

FF TRX

I have taken the liberty to discuss several different options in regard to fitness equipment in other posts.

Things like resistance bands, stability ball workouts and fitness walking programs.

Today, I’m going to go over the TRX Suspension Trainer.

In this post, I’ll cover some of the basics such as:

  • cost
  • flexibility of use
  • convenience
  • whether or not it’s right for YOU

But first, let me offer a brief introduction to the TRX Trainer and then we’ll go over the aforementioned bullet points.

An Introduction to the TRX Suspension Trainer

CEO of Fitness Anywhere Inc. , Randy Hetrick, is the creator of the TRX Suspension Trainer. He, along with his former Navy Seals teammates, wanted to provide a “world class work-out in a minimum amount of space and limited time no matter where they were in the world”.

These days, this training method is used by personal trainers, professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts around the world in an effort to get a fantastic workout in regardless of time, space and location.

There are over 300 different exercises that can be done using the TRX Trainer which makes variety possible and keeps the workouts fun and effective.

Whether you’re isolating muscle groups for the day, looking for an effective cardio workout or want to get a full body training in, this is a piece of equipment that offers the flexibility to do just that.

You will find the TRX Trainer in several fitness facilities offering classes, or being utilized by personal trainers working with one on one clients. It can also be purchased for home use and comes with workout routines to help you get started.

The beauty of this piece of equipment is that you can easily adjust your level of resistance. Since I’m going to do a couple of follow up posts featuring videos and workout options, you’ll get to see how to progress or regress your level of difficulty for yourself.

So now that you have an idea of how the TRX Trainer came to be, let’s go over some of the factors mentioned above.

Cost

If you decide you’d like to own the TRX Trainer for yourself, you’ll be looking at approximately $200 to do so. It comes with a mesh travel bag, door mount, mix and match digital exercises, and more.

While things like stability balls and resistance bands are far less expensive, whether or not to purchase this particular piece of equipment will be up to you to decide as far as whether or not it’s in your budget.

If it isn’t financially possible for you to own one of these, you can always experience the benefits of a TRX workout by taking a class offered by a well-qualified TRX instructor.

Flexibility Of Use

As mentioned earlier, there are over 300 exercises you can do using the TRX Trainer.

This is what makes this workout method so flexible.

You can do 15 minutes at a time focusing on specific body parts, or do a longer full body routine as well. There is also the option of incorporating it in as part of your workout while mixing other pieces of fitness equipment in to add some variety.

Convenience

The great thing about the TRX Trainer is that you can use it at home, the office, or outdoors at the park.

It’s lightweight and comes with a mesh carry bag, so taking it along with you wherever you intend to use it is easy. Since it takes up little room, finding a place to store it, regardless of whether that’s at home, at work or in the car (temporarily of course) won’t be an issue.

Is The TRX Suspension Trainer Right For YOU?

In my opinion, anyone can benefit from using this piece of equipment.

As in any other method of exercise programming, if you are a beginner, you will need to work at a beginner’s level. If this is the case for you, I would highly recommend taking a few classes at your local fitness facility.

Make sure the instructor is properly certified (and qualified) to teach TRX classes…and if necessary, feel free to approach them and let them know that you are new to this type of training and ask them if there are modifications.

Whether you decide to use the TRX Suspension Trainer as your primary piece of equipment, or add it in as a way to mix things up…I think you’ll enjoy what it has to offer.

You can check out the video below discussing the benefits and uses of the TRX Trainer.

Stay tuned for additional posts covering more specific training protocols and options.

 Have you used the TRX Suspension Trainer? If so, how did you like it?

Image courtesy of trxtraining.com

A Beginner’s Guide to Health and Fitness

FF Exercise Checklist

In my opinion, one of the most important things to know when it comes to your health and fitness program, is that it’s best to work at a beginner’s level if you actually ARE a beginner.

The same holds true if you  have taken a hiatus for a while.

However, even if you have been at it for a while, there are still certain guidelines you need to follow to ensure that you are making the best, and most informed decisions when it comes to your wellness (or weight loss) program.

So today, I’m going to share some of these guidelines with you in the hopes that the information I dispense will guide you in the right direction as you plan your own activities.

A Beginner’s Guide to Health and Fitness

I have taken the liberty to put together a short, but efficient list of guidelines to follow in regard to designing a health and fitness program. If you are a beginner, this will serve as especially beneficial for you and will help to take some of the guesswork out of the equation while enabling you to remember that safety always comes first.

This list includes:

  1. Making sure you have eaten something for energy.
  2. Staying hydrated.
  3. Warming up.
  4. Cooling down.

Making Sure You Have Eaten Something For Energy

There has been a lot of confusion out there in regard to whether or not it’s a good idea to eat or fast before a workout.

Sometimes you hear things like “if you eat before working out you’ll only burn carbohydrates instead of stored fat” – and if you are looking to lose weight, then I can imagine that this philosophy may sound appealing.

However, the truth is that if you are going to exercise, you need fuel for energy. This comes in the form of food.

If you don’t have any available energy to use for exercise because you haven’t eaten something, you could run the risk of injuring yourself.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if the body doesn’t have enough glucose available due to fasting, your body will break down muscle tissue to release stored glucose – therefore rendering your workout useless since you won’t be able to keep the muscle you are building during your session.

You don’t have to engage in a large pre-workout feast. A cup of sliced fruit with yogurt, a small bowl of oatmeal with a drizzle of honey or a high quality, non-gmo snack bar about 30-60 minutes before your workout will suffice.

As long as you have eaten (something preferably clean and light), you should be good to go.

Staying Hydrated

Dehydration doesn’t mix well with exercise either.

And since we usually don’t realize we are dehydrated until it’s too late, it often goes overlooked until the symptoms begin to show up.

It’s a good idea to drink about 16 ounces of water an hour prior to exercise and as much as needed during a workout.

Consider weighing yourself both before and after your fitness activity to see how much water you have lost within that time and drink approximately 16 oz of water per pound lost post workout.

Always have water with you and if available, consider eating fresh fruits and vegetables as your pre-workout snack since they contain water in them as well.

For more detailed information about the symptoms of dehydration, click here.

Warming Up

Warming up is a way to prepare your body for the upcoming stress of exercise. It benefits your heart, your muscles and helps you to get mentally prepared for the activity you are about to embark upon.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, nor does it have to take very long.

Some general guidelines to follow are:

  • If you are doing a cardio workout, do 5-10 minutes at light intensity and gradually increase your workload from there.
  • If you’re doing a resistance training routine, do a couple of sets with little to no resistance first and then move to a more challenging workload.

I highly recommend making warming up a regular part of your exercise routine regardless of how long your workout will be.

Cooling Down

Cooling down after a workout is more important than you may realize. Not doing so can lead to some pretty unforgiving circumstances.

Lack of a proper cool down could lead to something called “blood pooling”, which is when the blood doesn’t make its way back to the heart via skeletal muscle contraction.

When this happens, dizziness can occur.

So can sudden cardiac arrest (SAC).

There are numerous cases where people have died because of the blood pooling that occurred due to lack of a proper cool down.

In order to avoid this, simply know that if you have been exercising, you need to allow your heart rate to slow down before standing still. You can easily achieve this by walking it off for several minutes.

If for any reason you have been running on the treadmill or engaging in an exercise class and you need to stop, make it a habit to cool down first.

It could, quite literally, save your life.

Safety Is Simple

The guidelines I have shared with you in this post are incredibly simple.

However, the truth is that not following these tips can possibly lead to unnecessary complications in an activity designed to bring you optimal health and well-being.

It’s about being mindful and present – and taking personal responsibility in caring enough to be well-informed and well-equipped with the knowledge, and the practice of engaging in an exercise program the right way.

You wouldn’t drive a car on an empty tank of gas, in the cold without having warmed it up first would you?

Of course not.

And you want to treat your body the same way.

Do you follow the guidelines discussed in this post?

Which Diet Program Should I Follow?

FF Diet

I would imagine how trying to decide which diet program or nutrition plan to follow can be pretty confusing.

I mean, with so many options out there (and always with new science and evidence to back up any claims being made), it’s no wonder that as time goes on, the general public becomes increasingly bewildered about the simple matter of…

…what to eat.

And since what I’m discussing here has to do with a basic human need, I feel it’s important to take a look at what is being advertised and how this influences our behaviors…and then opening our minds to the concept of exercising critical thinking and using discernment when it comes to making choices in regard to our eating habits.

Which Diet Program Should I Follow?

Now before I go on, I just want to clarify that I am not knocking anything or anyone…and I’m not looking to control your mind, nor your behavior.

What I AM doing here is pointing out a couple of things.

Such as:

  • How claims and advertisements are used to influence our buying habits.
  • That no one has the same DNA and how this may play a role in which diet program is best for each unique individual.

How Claims and Advertisements Are Used to Influence Our Buying Habits

When it comes to diet and nutrition programs, it’s common practice to allude to an existing problem (such as being overweight and the negative effects this causes) and then to discuss how a particular system or product will act as a solution.

This seems harmless enough and can even come across as helpful.

But if you take into consideration the simplicity of the problem (a society of overweight/obese individuals in ill health) and then take notice of the abundance of solutions on the market, then why is the problem only getting worse?

The answer is because instead of getting real about how we take care of ourselves, we look for the next big miracle fix.

If you were to look to identify the root cause of the problem to begin with, then you may not be as susceptible to such advertisements. This is because by gaining awareness of how an effect was caused in the first place, you would develop insight about how to no longer create the circumstances you are now suffering from.

Under these conditions, if you did decide to make a purchase, it would be under a more conscious and deliberate mindset, knowing exactly what you need, why you need it and how you feel it would benefit you instead of believing a claim that is being made about something that may not be right for you…

…by people who know nothing about you.

It’s an advertiser’s job to sell you something. Now again, I’m not demonizing this practice, but I am pointing out that when you ask the question “which diet program should I follow”…the answer may not lie in a program, but may instead be a simple matter of shifting your focus to eating for optimal health as opposed to a system, plan or program that comes to a supposed end once the weight has been lost.

Do you want a diet program that has a beginning and an end? Or do you want to know how to no longer NEED a diet program?

Figure this out and you’ll find a solution that will be perfectly tailored to suit your needs – without having been sold on anything.

No One Has the Same DNA Which Makes Us Unique in Our Needs

Another factor to take into consideration in regard to following diet programs is that we all have our own unique set of biological blueprints – which means that what may work well for someone else may not be right for you.

Yet when it comes to advertising to the masses, if it looks as though there is a large following in support of a new dietary trend, it suddenly becomes the latest hidden secret to weight loss success.

This becomes evident when you take a look at the various nutrition plans being promoted out there as a solution to a problem that not everyone shares. A couple of examples of this are gluten free diets and vegetarianism/veganism.

Now before I continue – let me say that I AM NOT criticizing either of these two dietary behaviors because I feel there is validity and credibility to BOTH of them…and I support their role in the world of nutrition 100%.

But what I AM saying is that while one individual may respond well, and have specific reasons (such as a medical condition) for implementing one of the aforementioned dietary programs, it doesn’t mean that the same applies to you and therefore, you would greatly benefit from using discernment before taking on a dietary practice that may not work in YOUR OWN best interests.

I happen to know someone who has Celiac disease and she follows a gluten free diet because she has to for her health. She doesn’t use it to lose weight, but she does follow it because her life depends on it. Now I’m not saying that one shouldn’t consider lessening their consumption of gluten in whatever way works best for them simply because there seems to be mounting evidence to support the negative role that gluten plays in our overall health.

However, to begin a gluten free diet without having given thought to why you are doing it, and then diving head first into a lifestyle that you aren’t prepared for – you could be setting yourself up for failure as you practice allowing someone else to do your thinking for you (in the form of advertisements and propaganda).

Not to mention that you may cause yourself harm by implementing a diet that may not work with your genetic structure.

The same thing goes for vegetarianism/veganism – which happens to be close to my heart because of my love for animals. And truth be told – there does seem to be some evidence out there correlating to the relationship between certain health conditions and meat consumption – especially when it comes to consuming animals that have been raised in factory farmswhich happen under extreme duress and negativity.

Now if you were to decide to cut out animal products from a place of conscious awareness while listening to your body to properly gauge its reaction to your new eating habits, then you are making an informed decision based on self-awareness and personal empowerment.

On the other hand – if you are doing this because you came across an article that promotes veganism as a means for weight loss and this is your reason for following this nutritional protocol – then you may want to take a step back and rethink things to see if perhaps you aren’t exercising critical thinking and instead, doing something to produce a result that you may not be right for you.

There have been people who have reaped the benefits from cutting out specific food groups while others have experienced the opposite. This is because everyone is different – and this fact needs to be taken into consideration before deciding on which diet program to follow.

Your best course of action would be to speak with a medical professional or qualified registered dietitian to see what may work best for YOU based on your genetics, symptoms and other factors before allowing a celebrity endorsement, advertisement or even your best friend’s success to determine YOUR decisions.

You also may want to get in touch with your “why” – as this is the basis for every decision we make.

So Which Diet Program Should You Follow?

In my opinion, based on what has been discussed here…the diet you “should” follow is the one that makes the most sense for you based on your needs, genetics and overall likelihood that you’ll stick with it for a lifetime.

The way to ensure a positive relationship with food is to eat for optimal health as opposed to following a trend.

Your best bet is to follow a diet filled with high quality and nutrient dense foods in whatever way you can enjoy and start implementing this at your own pace and build from there.

However, if you would like some specific information about some of the recent “diets” out there, you can read a detailed review about the Paleo Diet by clicking here, the Zone Diet by clicking here, and watch the film Forks Over Knives for information about plant based diets/vegatarianism/veganism.

You can also learn more about Celiac disease by clicking here…and get more info about gluten free eating at my friend’s website here.

Take some time to investigate what’s involved in the dietary options out there and see what makes sense for YOU and what YOUR body will respond to the best – even if you try a few of them out for a short period of time and under medical supervision if necessary.

Do the research and then follow your intuition. Listen to your body…and take action from there.

This is the way to practice deliberate and conscious eating habits for a lifetime.

Have you found a diet program that worked well for you, but didn’t for someone else you knew…or vise versa? Which diet do you follow, and why?

Image credit goes to Elle.com