workout ideas

Staying Creative in Your Workouts

I like to think of myself as a creative person. Back before I had my son I loved drawing and painting. Now, however, since there is little time for my creative juices to flow in traditional ways I have to find other outlets. My fitness classes and programs have become that outlet.

Even if you don’t consider yourself creative there is value in being creative with your workout. For one thing, there is evidence that your body will “learn” how to use as little energy as possible when doing a familiar routine. Thus, for maximal calorie burn and to force your body to further adapt and change you need to change what you are doing. In addition, I really believe that a well rounded exercise program is the best way to have life-long health and well being. For example, if you only lift weights in a certain way, some smaller muscle groups may be neglected causing you to be weaker in some areas, which may lead to injury. You will also sacrifice flexibility and cardio health. In my opinion the optimal fitness program is one that changes with your body and incorporates strength, flexibility and cardiovascular training.

In this way I sort of look at my workouts and the classes I teach as a puzzle. Each experience is new and exciting to me with something else to be learned or gained.

So how can you incorporate creativity into your workouts? Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Take other people’s fitness classes- Even if it is not your thing you may learn something new. It’s especially good to take classes focused on something you don’t usually do. If you usually lift weights try a zumba or a spinning class. If you are all about cardio, try body pump or yoga. I have learned a lot over the years from working with different instructors. Sometimes just hearing cues in a different way can be really enlightening.

2. Go Beyond the Movement- In pilates we have 6 main principles: centering, concentration, coordination, breathing, precision and smooth and flowing movement. Sometimes, without even changing the exercises in a class I can create an entirely different experience just by focusing on different principles. You can do the same thing in whatever type of exercise you do or teach. Think of a goal or a purpose for your workout and try to achieve it.

3. Listen to Your Body- Some of the best workouts I have had are when I am listening to my body and just doing the things that feel right. For example, if it’s not a leg day and I feel like doing squats, I will throw some in. If I have a lot of energy one day I might do plyometrics between sets, if I feel like I need to take it back a notch, I might lift lighter weights really focusing on form.

4. Imagery- Did you know that the most effective cues are external. For example in squatting “drive your heels through the floor” is more effective than “flex your thighs.” I believe that this is imagery at work. By using imagery you can get clients (and yourself) to engage more muscle groups with fewer words. You can also create a new experience in the exercise by focusing on different images, thereby challenging your body in a new way. Imagery forces your mind to be engaged in the movement, which also helps you recruit more neuro-muscular connections.

5. Be a Life-long Learner- You tube makes this super easy! If you are curious about something all you have to do is plug it into youtube and BAM you have hundreds of video explanations at your finger tips. That said, don’t believe everything you see on the internet. Journal articles, books and workshops with experts are great too. One of my favorite fitness podcasts that discusses research articles  can be found here. The point is to make sure that you are constantly learning and not stagnating. Push yourself out of your comfort zone occasionally.

Do you consider yourself to be creative? What are some ways you bring your creativity into your workouts?

To Plyo or not to Plyo

Plyometrics.

Love them? Hate them?

I have to be honest, for me plyometrics are a total mind f*ck. I mean, by then end of a good plyo sequence, I feel like I am going to die. So in order to do a plyometric workout again I have to trick my mind into believing that I’m not going to die.

For bikini competitors, plyometrics are pretty standard as part of the training program. However, I was really, really tempted to skip them each week because they take a lot of energy, and are pretty hard on my body. That’s when I started to do research to see if they are really worth the torture that I feel they are.

For those of you who don’t know, plyometrics are, plyometrics can be traced to Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky, a Russian scientist who developed the method after observing that Olympians. He called this training “shock method” which incorporated both depth jumps and depth drops. Yuri developed his method in the 60’s and 70’s. Today Plyometrics has come to mean almost any type of training that involves jumps or explosive movements.

I started doing my research to find out how plyometrics impact physique hypertrophy and muscle building. Specifically, I wanted to know if plyometrics would help me in my pursuit to improve my physique.

What I found was this small study showing that plyometrics increases the area of type I & II muscle fibers. I also found this study comparing the effects of resistance training and plyometrics. It found that plyometrics were the best at increasing power, and both resistance training and power were similar in increasing strength and gross muscle size. Finally I found this study comparing a program of only strength training to a program of only plyometrics to a program that incorporated both. What they found was that the program incorporating both strength training and plyometrics worked best at increasing both strength and power.

So in conclusion, it looks like the data supports that plyometrics help build muscle and that the best program is one incorporating both strength training and plyometrics.

Even though I am not a huge fan of doing plyometrics I will continue to incorporate them into my workouts. I find that plyometrics are easier to take if I superset them with a traditional strength training exercise. For example, supersetting squats with high jumps. I also think plyometrics are great for mixing things up or getting an intense workout when you don’t have a lot of time or equipment.

Here is a simple plyometric plan. I usually repeat it circuit style 4-5 time:

  • 15 pop squats
  • 15 switch lunges
  • 15 wide stance jumps holding for 5 seconds at the bottom of each jump.
  • 15 narrow stance jumps
  • 15 frog jumps

Do you do plyometrics? Love them or hate them?

Work-out on Vacation (or just without equipment)

Hey guys! hope you are having a great week! Last week (before I got sick) I was on vacation, and while I can do some things in the hotel gym, most of the time they are small, hot, smelly and you have to wait for the equipment. Besides, why would you want to stay in a cramped little room when you could go and explore the beautiful outdoors! So when I go on vacation I like to improvise with my workouts. Here are a few sample workouts that I have tried that are fun, effective and get you out of the gym. Just don’t be afraid to get your workout on outdoors in front of others!

brazil fit

1. Sprints and Lunges- I do a lot of sprints and lunges when I am preparing for a competition to tone my legs. If you are looking for a great leg workout try sprinting for 30 sec. Followed by 2 minutes of lunges, or sprint in one direction and lunge back to start. Do about 10 sets of that circuit and I guarantee your heart rate will be up and your legs will be burning. Bonus points if you are at the beach and do the lunges/sprints in the sand.

2. Plyo workout- Another great way to get your heart rate up and work your entire body is through plyometrics. Plyometrics are explosive movements (usually jumps) Choose 5 different plyos. Do 15 reps of each plyo and repeat the series 5 times. It doesn’t seem like a lot on paper, but you will definitely feel it. Examples of plyos include: switch lunges, parallel jumps, plie jumps, narrow jumps, pop squats, sumo stomps, pop push-ups. (Youtube is your friend if you are not familiar with these exercises). Again, bonus points if you do it in the sand!

3. Push-ups, Dips, Plie Squats, Mountain climbers-  If you really want to target your upper body, but don’t have equipment, try this series 10-20 reps of each, repeat circuit 10 times. Push-ups and tricep dips tone your arms while mountain climbers and plie squats work your core and lower body and get your heart rate up.

4. Go for a run or fast walk- Probably the simplest thing to do. Sometimes on vacation I like a break from planning out my workouts and taking a brisk walk or run in a new place allows me to be active and clear my head at the same time. Plus its a million times more fun then running on a treadmill in a dingy old hotel gym. Its also easy to do while pushing a stroller, so no excuses when I have Cyrus with me.

These are just some examples of workouts I improvise while on the go. Feel free to add in different exercises and create your own circuit (I’m thinking planks, squats and glute bridging). Do you work out on vacation? What do you do?