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Essential Health Club Gear

June 17th, 2010 No comments

What you need to make the most of your gym time

Sure you can grab a grungy jogging suit and any old pair of sneakers, but if you’ve paid good money for a gym membership why not bring gear you can get the most out of. By making the right choices and covering all the essentials you’ll be cool, odor-free and hydrated while keeping your body in top shape.

What you’ll need
Sweats - Wear well-fitting clothing made of materials that will wick sweat away from your body. This is especially important in the underwear department. Cotton is the best choice. Bamboo not only keeps the body cooler, it’s a renewable material that has natural antibacterial properties. Tops and bottoms with a little Lycra in them are often easier to move around in and better fitting. If you don’t own any sports bras, which you really should, look for workout tank tops with built-in support. You’re gonna need it on the elliptical.
Runners - Choosing the best running shoes is a process in itself. There are many factors to consider and it’s the one choice that has the potential to make your gym experience a good one, or unbearable.
Water bottle - It’s important to keep hydrated while working out. Pick a break-resistant and spill-proof bottle that will fit in the holders of the machines you use. Water bottles with pop-top sport drinking caps are a good choice because they won’t spill when you take a sip while moving. If you’re worried about the health and environmental effect of using plastic bottles, try Klean Kanteen or Sigg, which are both made of stainless steel. Fits ice, dishwasher.
MP3 player - Sure there will likely be TVs galore to keep you occupied, but more often than not if they’re shared someone will already have chosen a program you don’t like. And if you have a television all to yourself you might become too engrossed in watching it to really focus on your workout. Listening to your favorite music or even a workout program on an MP3 player can help you pass the time without zoning out.
Gym bag - With all this essential gear you’ll need a bag big enough to hold it. Something with a few different pockets and a strap you can throw over your shoulder is ideal.

Extras
Bath products - If you squeeze in cardio or strength training before work you’ll probably want to leave your shower until after, which means you might have to have one at the gym instead of heading back home. Bring a waterproof bag packed with small bottles of shampoo and conditioner, body wash and a pair of flip flops. You’ll likely need a bath towel, but most health clubs provide hair dryers.
Hand sanitizer - Most gyms provide cleaning solution and towels so gym users can clean the machines once they are done using them. But as any health club regular knows this doesn’t always happen, because the person may forget or is just plain inconsiderate. That’s why it’s a good idea to clean machines before you use them. Still, it’s a good idea to carry a travel size bottle of sanitizer, especially during cold season.

Finding Inspiration at a Fitness Conference

September 7th, 2009 No comments

As a pesonal trainer certified through Can-Fit Pro the best way to stay relevent and up-to-date is by attending the conferences that happen several times a year. You get continuing education credits, meet people working in the industry and learn from the best master trainers, teachers and presenters in the business.

It was my first visit to the Toronto conference this year and I'm glad I took the opportunity. The summer has been so blah I've actually been gaining weight over the last few months. (Usually by the end of a summer full of trips to the beach, hiking, biking, runnning and playing sports I end up a few pounds lighter.) Not so this year. I haven't even built up half the store of sun I'll need to get me through the winter.

For the majority of last few weeks months I've been busy working and staying indoors out of the rainy, cold weather and because of that my energy forkeeping active had been waning. I'll worry about my own workouts in the fall I'd tell myself. Recently Ibegan worrying that by the time I got back into my usual routine I'd find my body had a much different proportion of muscle to fat than I was used to.

But the Can-Fit Conference changed everything. After three days full of lectures, classes and workshops I came home with my head full of exciting new ideas I couldn't wait to try out. It's been a few weeks and I still haven't worked through it all. Cycling, Pilates, yoga... I took as many different workshops as I could and learned something new in each one.

I want to stress that fitness conferences aren't just for professionals working in the industry. The Consumer Fitness and Wellness Show was great, but if you like group fitness classes, learning about how to take care of your bodyand stay motivated or you just being in an electric atmosphere, there's nothing wrong with checking out the same courses instructors do. And since you don't have any obligations to take certain classes or earn CECs you can pretty much do whatever you want.

I say take inspiration wherever you can find it. And for me courses are where I find it most. Being surrounded by so many people, the excitement and energy can't help but rub off on you.

My Workout Without a Budget

August 11th, 2009 No comments

It's possible to get effective exercise with a limited cash supply, in fact it's more than possible to get a total body workout without spending any money at all. But if you've got some extra green and are itching to spend it, there are worse ways you could go about it than buying fitness toys.

I for one would rather pay for non-essential items that can help me stay fit and healthy than ones that keep my eyes glued to a screen with my butt on the couch and a remote in my hand.

My dream home gym:

  1. Elliptical machine or cross trainer - What cardio machine would I buy if I had unlimited resources? A gym-quality Precor elliptical is a the top of the list, but I'd be just as happy with a good cross trainer. Treadmills are good for variety but I love how easy ellipticals can be. They're great for adding cardio to strength training intervals or just jumping on for a 10 minute sessions throughout the day.
  2. Free weights, bands and accessories - In my dream gym there would be no isolation machines. I'd have a row of dumbbells of every possible weight and resistance bands of every strength. And for those situations where skipping from a 10 to 12 pound dumbbell is difficult, I'd have a supply of  half pound weight magnets to make progression easier. I'd use the resistance bands alone to work my muscles in new ways and pair them with dumbbells or bodyweight exercises to make things more challenging. Push-ups alone are tough, but with a resistance band pulling down against your upper back there's no comparison.
  3. Cables - The other weight training I enjoy most is done on a cable pulley machine, so of course I'd need one of them. Glute kickbacks, cable chops, airplane rows and more can keep me busy for hours.
  4. Flat screen TV - I'm not picky about this aspect of my gym. Just a television that's a decent size and mounted on the wall.
  5. Workout video library - Pilates, yoga, dance, kickboxing. I don't do workout videos on a regular basis but I love watching them for new ideas and the dance ones are just plain fun.
  6. Balance toys - BOSU, fit disk, foam roller (also useful to roll the tension out of sore muscles afterward). All these essential balance tools have an important place in my gym. Did I mention a stability ball, which I could use for killer ab workouts and the most challenging balance moves.

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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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