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Get Fit for $200 or less

July 29th, 2009 No comments

While you can get a lot of essential fitness equipment for under $50 you'll add a lot of fun and challenge if you can spare just a few hundred more.

$200 - You could choose to blow it all on a bargain basement elliptical trainer, which is an ok choice if you find one that’s comfortable, easy-to-use and the right size in that price range. It’s also a good idea if you’ve already got a number of strength training accessories, such as resistance bands, free weights and balls. But if your fitness cabinet is bare, you're better off starting out with a variety of versatile pieces rather than one big item that will most likely end up gathering dust. Dumbbells, resistance bands and stability balls are a must. You can get all three for $50 to $80.

Videos add variety

Most people find the more variety they have in their fitness routine, the more likely they are to stick to it. Buying fitness videos ranging from Pilates and yoga to dance and kickboxing (or Carmen Electra’s risqué Aerobic Striptease series for something really different) can give you that variety for about $10 to $20 bucks a pop. The equipment you buy should complement the variety of videos you choose.

Equipment that offers cardio and strength benefits

A BOSU ball costs between $80 to $100 and is great for doing butt and thigh toning squats. It will also let you really target your core and upper body by adding difficulty to planks and push-ups. You won’t be missing out in the cardio department because a BOSU’s good for that too. It can be used in place of a step for extra intense aerobic workouts. Why buy a machine that has one boring use when you can spend less and have a lot more options.

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Essential Fitness Equipment Under $50

July 25th, 2009 No comments

At-home workouts using soup cans and staircases (or anything else you can covert to strength building or calorie burning equipment) are great if you’re low on cash or hesitant about shelling out for quality products right away. But there will probably come a point when you’ll want to try new things. You’ll also realize that spending money to keep your body in shape is a really good investment. Until then I've got you covered.

$10 - Ok, so it’s not much, but at least it’s a start. If you spend that $10 wisely it can actually go a long way. There are three items your money can get you that will help tone your entire body and burn calories fast. A jump rope for high-intensity cardio and one or two resistance bands. It’s really as easy as that. The best part is that all three items are easily stored and can be taken with you to work and while you travel, so you can fit in fitness anytime, anywhere.

$50 - With more money you can afford a decent set of free weights, which will help increase your metabolism by building muscle. Look for dumbbell sets with at least three different sizes and avoid any that offer only super lightweight 1, 2 and 3 lb weights, which won’t provide much challenge. A set of 3, 5 and 8 lb weights is much better, and you’ll be able to double them up to increase the resistance when you need to. The second thing you should spend your money on is a stability ball, which can cost as little as $10 or $20 and is great for exercises that target abdominals. If you’ve got a few dollars left over, and you should if you took the time to seek out the best deals, a resistance band is the only thing missing. You can use it on its own, or with the weights and ball to really add some challenge to your workout.

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      Hurry Up and Slow Down

      July 22nd, 2009 No comments

      It seems no matter how many times people hear certain advice, they quickly forget the importance of following it. At least I assume that's why most people who strength train only follow the slow and controlled protocol when their trainer is watching.

      Also most people are trying to get through their workouts as quickly as possible so long-lasting reps aren't really a priority. I know this because I occasionally have to fight my own urges to throw form out the window and allow momentum to power me through a hard set.

      But I know deep down that if I'm not doing my reps right I might as well not be doing them at all. I want my body to be strong, but I also want to work the right muscles and maintain good posture. And I don't want to risk an injury by swinging online pharmacy weights around instead of controlling them.

      Take your time to lower the weight.

      Take your time to lower the weight.

      So here's the deal. Most of the time you should be lifting and lowering weights slowly, especially if you are relatively new to resistance training. About two seconds for the beginning part of the movement (the concentric contraction)  and four seconds to bring the weight back to the starting position (the eccentric contraction). That means two seconds to curl a dumbbell up with your bicep and four seconds to lower it back down.

      If you really want to speed your workout up, try cutting down on the amount of time you rest between exercises instead.

      A word of warning - the slower you go the less weight you'll be able to lift. But that's a good thing because you'll know your muscles are actually strong enough to handle it. So start slowing down for faster results.

      10 Minute Beginner Skipping Routine

      July 22nd, 2009 No comments

      So you want a jump rope routine but you don't know where to start. If you've got ten minutes, you've got plenty of time to get in a good workout and master your skills. Take this basic plan for a routine and make it your own. After the warm-up alternate between skipping and the boxer's shuffle. As you improve you can increase your skipping time until you're going strong for almost 10 minutes straight.

      Warm up: 15-30 seconds each for 2 minutes total.

      • shoulder rolls
      • arm circles both directions
      • swing rope from one side to the other
      • two foot hops
      • boxer's shuffle (jumping lightly side to side, one foot landing a split second before the other) with or without rope swing

      2 - 2:30 skip

      2:30 - 3:00 boxer's shuffle

      3:00 - 3:30 skip

      3:30 - 4:00 boxer's shuffle

      4:00 - 4:45 skip

      4:45 - 5:15 boxer's shuffle

      5:15 - 6:00 skip

      6:00 - 6:30 boxer's shuffle

      6:30 - 7:30 skip

      7:30 - 8:00 boxer's shuffle

      8:00 - 10:00 skip

      What you expected cross-overs, jumping jacks and slalom? This is a beginner skiping routine, which means it's a lot more important that you get the technique down pat than try intricate or difficult moves. Trust me, this will get your heart racing plenty. Once you learn how to skip, you can move on to more fancy footwork and things will get a lot more interesting.

      How’s Mastering the Single-Leg Squat for a Goal?

      July 10th, 2009 No comments

      I'm going to let you in on my dirty little secret. I'm a bit very scattered when it comes to fitness goals, or any goals for that matter. It's not that I lack goals, it's the exact opposite...I usually have way too many on the go. In a matter of a few weeks I'll decide I'm going to finally make it past that 15th push-up, teach myself to kneel unsupported on a stability ball while doing lateral dumbbell raises, run 5K and learn to play tennis. They are usually fairly lofty goals, so of course I don't always succeed or I have to shelve them for a later date...ahem running. But some of the time I do hit the mark - six pull-ups in a row thank you very much.

      This week the one-legged squat has caught my attention. The strength, balance and sheer determination required for a successful one-legged squat is much too tempting for me to resist. And what a party trick! Dropped you pen? Let me just lower my body down to the floor on one leg and pick that up for you.

      Ok so I have had this goal before. It was about eight months ago, which was way too soon for my first attempt, but I quickly realised that and set it aside for later. This time around I'm starting slow, using a stability ball between my back and the wall to help make sure I don't collapse in a twisted heap. I can't get down to 90 degrees for more than one just yet, but I can do about 12 part way. And I will continue to add single leg squats to my routine each week until I can do two, then three, and one day maybe even 10.

      The reason I think it's a good idea to set goals both big and small (even though things don't always work out in my favor) is I need something to get excited for.  There is no better feeling than suceeding at something I set out to do, especially if I wasn't really sure I could do it.

      If you set a lot of goals for yourself, chances are you'll reach at least one. And once you do there's another one waiting to be chased.

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