Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Increase Cardio & Strength with 4 Simple Exercises

Remember the days when jumping, skipping and leaping on and off and over things was fun?  Well, it still can be!  Have you ever seen people at the gym or in a workout video hopping or jumping around?  Often onto or over equipment?  Did you ever wonder why so many people like to jump around for a workout?  Well, they may have a secret that you haven’t been let in on, until now.  Plyometric Training. 
Also known as ‘Jump Training’, Plyometric training will challenge your muscles, stability and strength as well as increase your heartrate while burning calories at a much faster rate than most exercises.  Plyometric Training stretches your muscles, followed by quick contractions that provide power.  This combination of stretching and contracting actually improves efficiency when relying on your muscles to perform, not to mention the quicker response times and power available.
So, why doesn’t everyone incorporate Plyometric Training into their workout routines?  Why do you need power?  First of all, Plyometric exercises are not for everyone.  If you have any issues with ankle, knee or hip joints, this may not be the best choice of exercises for you.  Speak with your doctor to learn more.  Also, if you are someone who shouldn’t increase your heartrate up to around 65-85% of your max, than you will want to stay away from Plyometric Training.  Otherwise, you should be okay to use this type of training to accompany your already established workout routine.  If you are new to Plyometric exercise you will want to start slow, learn the movements and grow into increasing rate of speed, depth in bending and build strength to power up when needed. 
Back to my questions…1. Why doesn’t everyone incorporate Plyometric Training into their workout routines?  The answer…Plyometric Training scares many people away.  There is a fear of leaving the ground.  Though hopping or jumping may seem scary at first, small hops and jumps should be used while getting your mind and body adjusted to leaving the ground.  Sure, there are plenty of other exercises you can do but none provide you with the same benefits that Plyometric exercises do.  Best benefit, you only need your body weight for Plyometric exercises to be effective.  That is a big plus!  Just about anyone can start easily and gradually build up to doing more (if you so choose). 
2.  Why do you need power?  The simple answer is that everything you probably do requires the use of your larger muscles groups (hips, upper legs and low back).  When these areas are strong and powerful, your body is more efficient in the use of your muscles as you move.  As your muscles strengthen, less strain is placed on your bones and joints, requiring less energy to complete movements such as walking, going up the stairs, bending and lifting, and so many other typical movements.  Imagine your joints not feeling the strain of such movement because the muscles that support your joints are powerful.  Ease of movement = efficient movement.
Plyometric Training may be exactly what you need to step up your training program.  Or, it may be the new challenge you have been seeking to mix things up in your already established workout routine.  Either way, when done properly, Plyometric Training will improve stamina, strength and your overall health and wellness.  So, what are you waiting for? 
Here are 4 Plyometric exercises you can start using today:

Side-Step Hops

A great starter to warm-up your hips and leg joints, Side-Step Hops is a great beginner move to get you more acquainted with Plyometric Training.  All you need is a willingness to explore and learn, as well as about 4-feet sq. of space that you can move freely in.

  • Start by standing to one side of your space with feet hip-width apart.  Sit your hips back and down slightly, putting a small bend into your knees. 
  • Next, shift your weight onto your outside leg; the leg furthest away from the other side of your space.  Lift your inside foot off of the floor so that you are now standing on your outside leg solely.
  • Push off of your standing leg so that you move across your space and land softly on the opposite leg.  Secure your landing, bending softly into the ‘new’ outside leg.  Push off and return to where you started.
  • Try hopping across your space, side-to-side, for 60-seconds.  Take a short break then do it again. 


Did you ever want to be an Olympic speed skater?  Me neither.  However, when I perform this Plyometric exercise I often change my mind.  Similar to the Side-Step Hops, which makes this a great transition, Skaters will challenge your hip, knee and ankle stability a little more, as well as stretch and power your quadriceps and glutes because you will bend your torso forward.  Let’s do this!

  • First, stand to one side of your space with bent knees.  Lift your inside foot up from the floor.  You will push off your standing leg and hop to the other side of your space, landing softly.  Lean your torso forward as if you are actually skating down the ice with purpose.
  • Keeping your torso down as you hop across your space, swing the leg that you pushed off of behind you, reaching across the backside of your body.  Think of an over-exaggerated Curtsy.  You may want to touch your toe down on the floor behind you as you learn this move to ensure steady balance. 
  • Bend you standing knee down and head on back to where you started.  Keep it going for 60-seconds.  Take a breather from all the skating and then get back on the ice for another minute.
  • Your arms may swing freely as you move from side to side.


That’s right…Hopscotch!    Hopscotch is a perfect beginner/intermediate Plyometric exercise because it involves hopping.  There are several ways to increase the level of difficulty as you become more comfortable (i.e. get your Hopscotch rhythm back).

  • In your 4 sq. ft. of space, stand at the back, facing forward.  Place your feet hip width apart.  I encourage you to start slow as you learn/relearn basic Hopscotch moves. 
  • Begin moving by bending your knees and hopping forward slightly, landing on your left foot with a bent knee (keeping your right foot from touching the floor).  Be sure hops are only about 6”-12” in length.  You can choose how high you are comfortable hopping.  *Remember, start small and grow into bigger moves.
  • Hop forward from your left foot and land on your right foot with bent knee.  Be sure to keep your left foot lifted.
  • Hop forward from your right foot, this time landing on both feet, keeping knees bent. 
  • Repeat once more moving forward so that you move forward the entire time without stopping.
  • Lastly, facing forward still, try this going backwards.  If you are not comfortable with moving backwards then turn around and go forward, returning to your starting position. 
  • Hopscotch for 60-seconds.  Smile because of the memories for 30-seconds then go again.  Over time, hop a little higher (not longer) or quicker, begin sure to land softly with bend knees.

Squat Jumps

Though you may think that Squat Jumps sounds fairly simple, don’t be fulled.  However, this is a simple move, requiring less coordination than the others.  Squat Jumps will increase cardio and strength in your legs and hips like no other, especially as you grow into squatting down low, a more advance move (don’t feel like you must squat low to gain the benefits of this exercise, you don’t).

  • To begin, stand in your space with feet hip-width apart.  Make sure your toes face forward, or only slightly outward.
  • Starting bending your knees as you sit your hips back and down.  For beginners, I recommend only squatting down 1/4th of the way down until you build up enough flexibility to squat further down without sacrificing your form.  As you squat down, keep your shoulder back and chest lifted.  This improves your overall squat form as well as helping you maintain your balance for when you jump up.
  • Press down into your feet evenly to propel your body upward with force.  At first, try just coming up onto your toes instead of jumping.  This will help you sense your body’s response to leaping upward and coming back down.  Over time, begin lifting up completely, bringing your feet only an inch or a few inches off the ground.
  • Land softly, with bent knees and lower back down into your squat.  Repeat for 60-seconds going at a comfortable pace.  You may quicken your pace and the height of your jumps as you gain more familiarity and build strength, all the while maintaining good form.  Try 2 rounds of Squat Jumps, focusing on your form.
  • For your arms, as you squat down, reach your arms out in front of you.  When you jump upward, pull your arms into your body and a bit behind you to open your chest.
Whether you perform all 4 of the Plyometric exercises or start only using one of them, focus on building proper form.  This way, as you become stronger and move quicker, your form will be established and second nature.  Take your time and enjoy each move.  Using these exercises once per week will certainly be enough for you to see and feel their benefits.  Enjoy!
Blog post by Jami Woods.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

How to Dress for Outdoor Fitness Classes this Winter

Temperatures may be dropping but fitness classes are continuing outdoors. Learn how to properly dress and prepare yourself for winter weather workouts.


Choose the right fabrics.

Who wore it better?
Who wore it better?
Some fabrics are designed to pull sweat, heat and moisture away from your skin allowing it to quickly evaporate and keep your body cool. Look for breathable, wicking materials like high quality polyester, polypropylene, wool and silk.
For example: Nike Dri-FIT, Under Armour ColdGear.
On the other hand, cotton fabric will absorb sweat and make your clothes feel wet and heavy. You also want to avoid fabrics that don’t breathe. Rubber-based or plastic-based materials will trap in your sweat and keep it from evaporating while simultaneously raising your body temperature.


Dress in layers.

The best way to stay warm and dry while exercising outdoors is to dress in layers. The number of layers worn will vary based on temperature, humidity levels, activity levels and personal preference. Your body generates a considerable amount of heat while exercising which can actually make it feel about 15-20 degrees warmer out then it actually is. It is important that you don’t overheat because that can lead to excess sweating and overheating. Layer up so once you warm up and start to sweat, you can start discarding layers. Once you start cooling down, put your layers back on to avoid getting too cold. 
There are 3 layers to consider:
  1. The Base Layer - The purpose of the base layer is to wick moisture away from your skin. The base layer is usually tight fitting in direct contact with the skin.
  2. The Mid Layer - The mid layer is to insulate and keep you warm. It should fit looser than the base layer, although it must remain in contact with the base layer to continue to carry moisture from the base layer to the outer layer.
  3. The Outer Layer - Finally, the outer layer is designed to allow moisture to escape while blocking wind and rain. Typical outer layers include waterproof and/or wind-resistant shell jackets with extra zippers and ventilation options.

Protect your head, hands and feet.

In cold weather your body can direct blood flow to your core leaving your hands and feet most vulnerable to the cold. Gloves or mittens and a good pair of socks is key.  A person can lose 7 to 10 percent of body heat through the head so you will also want a hat to help keep your body warm. Choosing the right fabric and layering also applies when talking about your head, hands and feet!


Don’t forget to hydrate.

Replenishing fluids is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer. We continue to lose fluids during cold weather exercise the same way we do in warmer weather. It’s easy to forget the need to hydrate in cooler and even freezing temperatures but your body is losing a lot of moisture trying to keep you warm. Pay attention to your body and drink plenty of water!

Workout clothing should feel comfortable. Choosing the right fabrics and layering up is necessary but too many of the wrong layers may feel bulky and restrict movement. Another thing to consider if you are running or biking, it is best to avoid wide leg or loose pants that could get tangled up in the pedals or your feet. 

Experiment with a variety of different layers and keep a log to keep track of the weather, what you wore and how you felt during class to make it easier to decide what to wear every morning. Good luck, have fun & stay safe!
Blog post by Jen Skiba.