Monday, December 17, 2012

Rock Your Whole Body - Tricep Curls with Squat

 The air is (finally) getting cooler outside and we are revving up for the holidays; but are you still taking care of your body?  Do you want to get in some last minute toning before those infamous holiday pics?  Well, then this week’s exercise is for you!  This week we are targeting our entire body (woohoo!).  This exercise will tone your legs, glutes, core, shoulders, and arms, in one fell swoop.  I, of course, would encourage you to add this in to your regular weekly workout routines; but, if you are looking for that last “hail mary” pass at toning up for those upcoming parties and pictures, then follow the bonus program below.

Tricep Curl with Squat

NOTE: You will want to use weights of some sort for this exercise

Begin with your feet past shoulder width apart and bring your weights behind your head.  Pull your belly in toward your spine and lift your chest up.  Throughout the exercise maintain this position.  In addition, make sure to keep your shoulders down and relaxed so that you don’t just use your trapezoid muscles (think upper back and into the neck region) and end up sore and tight in the wrong places. 

Now, you are going to do a simultaneous squat with your legs and a tricep curl with your arms.  Let’s break each down.  As you squat, press your knees out to activate the inner thighs.  Make sure to only go as low as you can without letting your chest fall forward (this will strain your lower back).  For your tricep curl, keep your elbows pointing forward.  And of course, belly in, chest up.

That’s it!  To work strength training, go low and slow.  To work for endurance, go fast enough to get your breathing heavy.  Do 2-4 sets of 1-3 minute rounds.

“Hail Mary” Get Toned - Do this EVERY day until pic for the next week
ü  3 minutes jogging (in place or while moving) – alternate regular jog with high knees and kicking you bootie
ü  1-2 minutes Jumping Jacks (add in the JJacks Cross – 11/20/12)
ü  25 squats
ü  25 push ups (10/9/12)
ü  25 mountain climbers (6/1/12)
ü  100 punches (get those arms moving fast!)
ü  1 mintue Tricep Curl with Squat (today)
ü  25 Venus Fly Trap (10/15/12)
ü  1 minute Skater Move (9/18/12)
ü  1 mintue Speed Bag (9/11/12)

 *Repeat entire set 1 more time.  Then, cool down with 1 minute jogging in place, followed by 2 minutes of walking. 

 Go get ‘em!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ab Roller

The holidays are in full swing and our schedules are getting filled to the brim.  However, this is all the more reason to take some time out for yourself to relieve stress and do something for you (and your body).  Besides, don’t we all want to look fabulous in our holiday and New Year photos?  Keep up your exercise program and you will not only look toned but you will be radiant as well.

This week we are focusing on our core.  In my cardio kickboxing classes this exercise typically comes at the end of the workout and it is a bit infamous.  My students hate it because it’s so surprising hard and yet they love the strengthening and toning they get from it.  Read on, so that you too can conquer the ‘Ab Roller’!

Ab Roller
Note: You will need a weighted ball for this exercise.
Begin with your hands on the ball and your knees spread slightly apart.  This next step is key to get the most out of this exercise: bring your booty down to make one line between your shoulders and your knee; this will make sure that you use your core muscles throughout the exercise rather than just using your booty weight.  Keep your belly pulled in toward your spine, chest open, shoulders relaxed, and head up.
From this position, slowly roll the ball out in front of you (keeping your booty down).  Reach the ball out in front of you as far as you can while still staying off the ground.  Hold for 2 seconds.  Now, inhale, reach, then exhale, flexing your legs and core to inch the ball back in toward you.  If you are doing this correctly, it should take at least 5-10 “reps” of the flexing/inching the ball in to get the ball back to the starting point.  Remember, try to keep your booty down as much as possible!  It will be hard, but well worth it.  Try to do at least 10 repetitions, 2 -3 times.
Note: For the full benefits of exercise you need both cardiovascular and strength training; this exercise qualifies as strength training so make sure to add in some cardio to get your heart rate up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving break

Hello all!  I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving week! 

Since last week seemed a bit slow on the workout front, I am going to hold off adding more exercises this week and will resume the 'exercise of the week' next Monday.  Until then, remember to exercise at least 3-5 times this week, combining both cardio and strength-training exercises.  Have fun and utilize all the moves from prior weeks!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cardio for Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving week and we need to get your heart rate up!  With all the food most of us will be eating, we all will want to make sure and take time for exercise.  Have your goal be to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day this week (except for Thanksgiving…that day will probably be busy enough).  Not only will these sessions burn calories, they will also ease any tension or stress starting to build up.  Then, on Thanksgiving Day, grab a few loved ones and go for a (brisk) walk.  After working in the kitchen, eating great food, and rushing about, I promise the walk will feel good.  Plus, it is an excellent time to relax, talk, and bond with loved ones while enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Our exercise of the week is an oldie but a goodie.  They seem so simple and yet they truly are a great way to get the heart pumping and work out your entire body.  What exercise am I referring to?  The classic jumping jacks (but we’re going to do them with a twist).  Trust me, this exercise is an “oldie but a goodie” for good reason.
JJacks with Crossover
Begin with feet together, belly in, chest up, shoulders relaxed.  Jump your legs as far apart as you can while bringing your arms together overhead.  As you come back to your starting point, instead of bringing your feet side-by-side, cross your left foot in front of your right; then on the next round you will bring your right foot in front of your left.  Continue alternating your left and then your right foot being in front.  This crossover will give an extra workout to your inner thighs while still working your whole body.

Some tips:
 1. Keep your arms straight to enhance the arm and shoulder workout.
2. Really try and jump your feet as far apart as you possibly can.
3. Alternate between jogging in place, doing sprints, or jump rope and your JJacks with Crossover (try to do at least 100 JJacks for each round).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Leaning Dragon - Great Legs and Mental Peace

This week is all about the legs.  What I like about this move is that it can be done in so many different ways to create different results; variety is key.  In the martial arts world, we call this move a “Leaning Dragon”, which just sounds cool.  Outside the martial arts world, you could probably just consider this a variation on a side lunge (however, doesn’t it sound so much more impressive to say you’re working on a Leaning Dragon?  Yep, doing the martial arts is cool).  In addition, the variations on this move will provide you with an opportunity to work your mind and thoughts; this is a skill that is important not only in getting the most out of your workout, but also in stress reduction, happiness, and overall success in life (but more on all of those benefits in a future article).
So, let’s get started!

Leaning Dragon
To begin with, let’s work on the proper positioning.  Begin with your feet beyond shoulder width apart with both feet and belly pointing forward.  Now, pivot your left foot to the left 90 degrees.  Lift your chest up and pull your belly in toward your spine to support your lower back.  Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.  Keep your arms active and up in a “side guard” stance.  Finally, while maintaining this position, bend your left knee until it is directly over your ankle.  NOTE:  In order to protect your knees it is vital that you lunge into a position with your knee directly over your ankle (do not let your knee buckle in or go past the toes!  This means that the less you are going to bend down, the closer your feet need to be.  Likewise, the deeper you are going to bend down, the farther apart your legs need to be.) 
This is your Leaning Dragon!  Feeling tough and cool yet?
3 Variations
1.       Basic in-and-out movement.  Begin with your feet together (belly in, chest up).  Step into your Leaning Dragon position on the left.  Press from the floor (using your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and calves) to return to your starting position.  Repeat on the right.  This is one repetition.  Go for 2-3 rounds of 20-30 repetitions.
2.       The endurance builder.  Begin in your Leaning Dragon position.  This time, you are simply going to try and hold this position for up to 1 minute (try for at least 30 seconds).  This is your time to conquer the mind.  Focus on your breathing, making sure to maintain deep, relaxing breaths.  Focus on your position, continually walking through your body making sure you are in the best position possible.   Getting tired?  Thinking of giving up?  Give yourself a pep talk!  Once your time is up, slowly straighten out your legs and then walk them together.  Go for 3-5 rounds of 30seconds-1 minute on each side.
3.       The agility trainer.  Begin with your feet together (belly in, chest up).  Step into your Leaning Dragon position on the left, just as in the ‘Basic in-and-out movement’ exercise.  However, this time, once you reach your full Leaning Dragon position, you are going to try and spring back to your starting point as quickly as possible.  Fast baby, fast!  You want to move like lightening!  NOTE:  As you sprint, make sure to keep your belly in and chest up!  Do not let your upper body collapse over to the side.
All three of these variations on the Leaning Dragon move will work out your body, legs, and mind differently.  Have fun experimenting with all of them and then rotate each of these into your exercise routine.

(Not feeling like an awesome ninja yet?  Come in to our Kempo Fitness dojo and we will take care of that for you…empowerment and fabulousness will be yours!)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Circles for fabulous arms

This exercise seems so benign, but oh, it will make your arms burn!  But don’t worry, that’s how you get beautiful, toned arms!  The great part of this exercise is that it is extremely gentle and low impact so everyone can do it.  In addition, it’s very easy and can be done standing or even sitting.  So, add this exercise into your day, in the morning to warm up and stretch, at work to keep your energy up, or in the evening as your wind down; your arms will become toned and fabulous.

Arm Circles

Note: If you do this exercise standing, I recommend jogging in place while doing the arm circles to increase the cardio level. 
Bring your arms out to your sides at shoulder level.  To get the most out of this exercise it is very important to keep your arms fully extended, circling from your shoulders (not your elbows or your wrists).  Circle your arms over head and in front of you to increase the exercise.  As your arms get tired, the tendency will be to begin lifting your shoulders up toward your ears...this will only make your neck sore.  Keep your shoulder down and your neck relaxed; this will isolate your arm and shoulder muscles.  Remember, if you lower your arms below shoulder level or bend your arms, you will not get as good of a workout.  Go for constant, rapid circles for 1-2 minutes; 2-4 times. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Core Strength -- The Raking Twist (perfect for Fall)

Here is the second installment of exercises to keep your body protected and injury free while raking up all your beautiful Fall leaves.  This exercise targets your side abdominal muscles (your obliques) and really trains you to engage your core muscles to support your lower back.  And with the twisting and lifting of upcoming snowfall right around the bend, this is another good exercise to continue at least through the winter months.

The Raking Twist
Start with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.  Pull your belly in toward your spine to protect your lower back and lean forward slightly.  It is very important to keep you core muscles activated – keep that belly pulled in!  With your hands up by your head, inhale and twist your chest up to the left; exhale and return to the center.  Next, inhale and twist your chest up to the right; exhale and return to the center.  This counts as one rep; go for at least 2-3 rounds of 20-30 reps.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Strong legs -- lift without getting hurt!

Ah…Fall…the leaves are falling, the air is cooling, and it’s time to just snuggle up and relax, right?  No!  Now is the time to get our blood pumping and our body toning to help carry up through the cold months ahead.  Plus, with the beautiful falling leaves comes raking those leaves, and every year many people overdue it and injure their backs.  So, for the next two weeks I’m going to be covering a few exercises to get you prepared and ready for the 20 bags of leaves you’ll be raking up.
This week’s exercise is working the legs, core, and arms.  I like to think of this as training for picking up all those leaves.  Although leaves are light, if you lift improperly (with your lower back) over and over, you’re probably going to tweak or pull something.  If you lift like this week’s exercise, using your legs and core, it will be smooth sailing. 

Squat Lift
For this exercise we will be using a weighted ball.  If you do not have one of these, simply use what’s around you (jug of milk, heavy book(s), piece of firewood, etc.).  Begin with your feet wider than shoulder width apart while holding on to your weighted ball.  Exhale and squat down while lifting the weight up to your chest.  Inhale return to your starting position.  Go for 2-3 rounds of 20-30 reps.
Since safety and proper strengthening is all about the technique, let’s talk about your position as you squat down.  First, make sure as you squat down that your knees stay over the ankles.  The knees should not go past your toes or buckle in or out.  In fact, at the bottom of your squat you should have a straight, vertical line from your ankle to your knee.  Second, keep your legs pressing open, activating your inner thighs.  Feel your hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps activating to support you.  Third, keep your chest up and back.  Think of having a line running from the crown of your head down through your tailbone; keep this line pulling up toward the ceiling (not forward).  Fourth, as always, pull your belly in to support your lower back. 
Most simply put, as you go from your starting position to your squat your upper body should not change position at all.  All you need to do is keep your legs pressing open and your knees over your ankles.
That’s it!  You’ve got it!  However, the strengthening and muscle memory needed to help protect you through all those falling leaves (and upcoming snow) will take some time to develop.  So, continue doing this exercise 3-5 times per week for at least a month, then go down to 1-2 times per week to maintain (while of course substituting in some other great exercises I’ll be covering).
Conquer the leaves as we jump into Fall!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Venus Fly Trap -- Core Strength

This week is all about the core.  I like to call this week’s exercise “The Venus Fly Trap” (you’ll soon see why).  Not only does this exercise work our upper "6-pack" muscles but it also works the harder-to-reach inner and lower abdominal muscles.  In addition, since our legs and arms are up in the air we will also be working our inner thighs, biceps, and shoulders.

Get ready to snap up a stronger, healthier body!
The Venus Fly Trap – core strength

Begin by lying on your back with your arms spread in a “V” on the floor and your legs held in a “V” in the air.  NOTE: If you are not very flexible (yet) or have lower back problems, try bending your legs at the knee.  As always, keep your belly pulled in toward the spine to support the lower back.  This is your starting position.  As you exhale, pull your legs and hands together as you lift up toward the ceiling.  Keep your chin lifting to the ceiling as you try to get your shoulder blades off the ground.  Inhale, return to your starting position.  That’s it!  Easy bees!  Go for 2-3 rounds of 20-30 repetitions.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Push-Up Mountain -- Tone your Arms and Whole Body!

Push-ups!  Oh, the love-hate relationship I have with push-ups.  I love the excellent whole body workout I get while doing them but….I hate how hard they are!  Funny thing is I think almost all men I work with would chose push-ups over an ab exercise any day of the week; and almost all the women I work with would chose the abs!  But this is why we mix it up. 

So jump on board the push-up train and let’s rock those arms and tone your whole body!

Push-Up Mountain

Level 1: On your knees, no ball
Level 2: On your knees, with ball (works stabilizing muscles)
Level 3: On your toes, no ball
Level 4: On your toes, with ball (works stabilizing muscles)
*Chose a level so that you challenge yourself but are able keep your lower back supports with your core

Begin with both feet and hands spread out wide in a push-up position.  Make sure your belly is pulled in toward the spine to protect your lower back!  Keep your elbows bent slightly, your chest open and your head up.  Tuck your glutes (bootie) under, tighten your thighs, and extend through your heels.  Maintain this position throughout the entire exercise.   

Bend your arms for your push-up.  Now the “tricky” part.  While keeping your bootie down and your back flat, step your left hand up to your right hand and your left foot up to your right foot  so that you are holding your whole body in a straight line with your hands and feet together.  Now, step your right hand and foot out as wide as you can and do a push-up.  Repeat going back in the opposite direction.   

One round: push-up, left side up, right side out, push-up, right side up, left side out.  Go for at least 10 rounds, 2-3 times.

NOTE:  If you are using the ball, and I encourage you to, I have found that it works best to move your first hand to the side of the ball before placing your second hand on it.  For example: push-up with right hand on the ball, right hand moves to the right of the ball, place left hand on the ball as left side steps up, right side out, push-up,  left hand moves to the left of the ball, place right hand on the ball as the right side steps up, left side steps out.

Have fun and conquer those push-ups!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tight buns! - Lift and Strengthen

 This week we are working our bootie to get high, tight buns!  Every woman (and even some men) I know want to have a nice back side: one that’s curvy, lifted, and looks great in a pair of jeans.  Well, this exercise is going to help give you just that!  By working the sides of our glutes (our bootie muscles), we will create definition and lifting.  Plus, as an added bonus, we will be working all of our core muscles.
Side-Back Kick
Start of all fours with your knees under your hips and your hands slightly staggered, with your left hand ahead of your left shoulder and you right hand under your right shoulder.  Pull your belly in to support your lower back.  Open your chest and keep your neck relaxed but up.  While maintaining this position, pull your right knee up toward your right shoulder, trying to lift your knee up as high as it can go.  Your goal is to keep your knee and leg parallel to the ground the entire time.  For the kick simply press your foot behind you, keeping your toes and knee pointed to the side.  To enhance your workout, actively press your leg out, using all your muscles and might, and then actively pull your leg back in as though it’s a rubber band springing back. This is one repetition.  Do 4-8 slow, followed by 30 fast, on each leg.  Repeat for 1-2 more rounds.  Do this exercise 2-5 times per week and enjoy your tighter and higher buns!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

V-Twist For Your Core

It’s time to come back to our wonderful and extremely important core muscles.  As all of you know, I love the core muscles.  After all, it is our core muscles that pull together our entire body and lead to our overall mobility and balance.  However, to truly develop our core muscles we must go beyond the basic crunch or sit-up; instead, we must work both the external and internal abdominal muscles, both the strength and stabilizing muscles.
This week’s exercise is going to target the harder-to-reach transversus abdominis (internal support ab muscles) along with our obliques (side abdominal muscles).  As we work these muscles we’ll get more definition in our core and improved mobility and support.   In addition, this exercise will require you to use legs as you hold them in a ballerina-esque position.  So get those ballerina legs ready and we’ll twist, twist, twist to a stronger core.

The V-Twist
Start by lying on your back.  Lift your legs up into a “V” position, trying to keep them pulling up toward the ceiling, perpendicular to the ground.  Extend through your feet, activating all your leg muscles and your lower abdominal support muscles.  Remember to pull your belly in toward your spine to support your lower back.  (NOTE:  If this position hurts your lower back right now, and you are already pulling your belly in to support the spine, try bending the knees as a modification.  If this is not enough, bend your knees, placing your feet on the floor.)  Now it’s time for the twist part.  For this you are going to reach up and touch your right hand to your left foot and then your left hand to your right foot, alternating sides. 
If you have not worked you lower abdominals and internal support abdominal muscles very much, this may be a pretty tiring exercise.  Adjust your repetitions as necessary to prevent you from getting tired and switching to using your lower back instead of your core (do NOT do this!).  Your goal is to do at least 3 sets of 25 repetitions (touching both left and right foot equals 1 repetition). 
Stick with this exercise and you’ll notice it becoming easier to hold those legs up and to reach up towards those feet.  Plus, you just might find yourself having an easier time moving around, doing all the things you love to do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Skater Move -- work your heart and your legs

Don’t you just love this time of year with the beautiful warm days followed by the slightly crisp air at night?  I know I do!  But as the temperatures begin to dip I am reminded to bump up my exercising so that I don’t begin to hibernate like the bears!  This week we are going to be working out our entire body, especially or lower half, as we get our hearts pumpin’. 

Up until I left for college I spent 5 hours a day training on and off ice for competitive ice dancing; oh how we worked our legs.  I even remember how my dad used to have people touch my quads because they were so strong, just pure muscle without an ounce of…”cushioning”.  So after all those long hours, and the incredible fitness results achieved from those ice dancing moves, I have lovingly named this exercise: “The Skater Move”.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do as it heats up your inside and tones up your outside.  (Spandex and leotards are optional (wink)).

The Skater Move

Begin with feet hip width apart, belly in to support your spine, and chest lifted.  Take a big step to the left, reaching your right leg behind you to the angle.  Keep your weight on your left leg as you bend down toward the floor with your right hand (twisting your arms and right leg across your body).  The farther you lunge down the farther you should extend your back leg behind you.  As always, make sure you keep your belly pulled in to support your spine and your front knee over (not past) the ankle.  NOTE:  only go as far down as you can while still protecting your front knee and lower back!  Keep your head up and shoulders relaxed.  Now, pull your belly in as you lift up your upper body and spring to the right, twisting your left hand and left leg across the body.  Alternate back and forth for 1-5 minutes, all the while making sure to maintain your position of belly in and a safe knee stance.  As your legs start to burn, just think about how great your legs are going to look the next time you bust out a lovely pair of shorts or a swimsuit.  And for you men out there, just think of how you are becoming strong, powerful and fast…you can forgo the spandex.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Speed Bag for Toned Arms

The cooler days of Fall are coming and we only have a few more weeks of being able to (comfortably) bare our arms.  But before all the sweaters and long sleeve coats, imagine wearing a sleeveless shirt and being able to show off sleek, toned shoulders…this exercise will help you get there.

This week I am highlighting the “speed bag” workout.  Granted, without an actual speed bag to work with, you might feel a bit goofy doing, but I promise you shoulders and arms will feel the burn (in a good way)!

Speed Bag Exercise – (forward)

Start with your feel past shoulder width with your knees bent.  Twist your upper body toward the left (working your obliques (your sides)) lifting both hands in front of your chest.  With your hands in fists, rapidly rotate hand-over-hand in a forward direction.  That’s it!  Easy enough, right?  To maintain proper position, make sure your knees are over your ankles with our belly pulled in, your chest lifted, and your shoulders down.  The biggest mistake people make on this exercise is allowing their shoulders to raise up toward their shoulders; especially as the muscles before more fatigued the temptation will be to shoulders-ears, with no neck in between.  Do not do this!  The only thing it will do it leave your back and trapezius (the muscle between your shoulders and your neck) sore…not the muscles we want to focus on for this exercise.  Instead, periodically throughout the exercise check in with your shoulders and consciously try to relax them down.

Alternate sides (for about 10-30 counts each side) for a total of 1-3 minutes.  Now, spin those arms and spin them fast! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tone those saddlebags!

It’s leg lift time!  This exercise is designed to tone the sides of your legs as well as your glutes (your bootie).  However, this is not a cardiovascular exercise so you will want to add it in to an exercise circuit or do heart pumping movement first (such as a brisk walk, jumping jacks, or jump rope). 

Butterfly leg lift

Sit on the ground with your left leg bent in front of you and your right leg bent out to the side.  Place both palms on the ground in front of your left leg, pressing slightly into the ground with your hands as you straighten your spine.  Now, pull your belly in to support the posture with your core.  Maintaining this position, lift your right leg up toward the ceiling as high as you can (it probably will not be very high, that’s okay).  Return your right leg back to the ground.  That is one rep.  Repeat 15-30 times on each leg, 2-3 more times.  Add this exercise in 3-5 times over the next week and then we’ll add another next Monday.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tight Buns - an exercise for your back side

Tight buns time!  I know all ladies (and some of you gents out there) would like to have a nice high, rounded, tight back side to not only fill out those jeans but make them look gooood.  This week’s exercise I have loving labeled “tight buns”.

Since exercise is a key part in ‘being well’ and overall health and wellness, I will be giving you a new exercise move each week.  Try them all out and pick your favorites to add in right now.  Then, periodically check back in to review all of them so you can keep mixing it up and keep your workout fresh and fun.  I am also doing a segment on our local KC Live morning show on Wednesday mornings; tune in to get a 3 move, whole-body, routine to add in for the week.  You can see last week’s segment at: 
And now it’s time for some “tight buns”.  I recommend doing 4-8 reps slow, followed by 15-30 fast (“double time”), 1-3 rounds.  Do both sides 3-5 times throughout the week.

Tight Buns
Start on the ground on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.  Keep your hands starfished out and light on the ground, weight evenly distributed.  Working through the body, pull up out of the ground, elbows bent slightly, chest open, neck long and relaxed.  Now pull your belly in towards to spine and feel your lower-back long and supported by your core muscles.  Maintain this positioning throughout the entire exercise.
To start the exercise, bring your right knee up to your chest, keeping your weight even between your hands and left knee.  Next, kick your leg out behind you, feeling as though you are pushing something back with your heel.  Keep your knee and toes pointed down toward the ground (this will target your hamstrings (back of the leg) and glutes (gluteus maximus – “buns”).  Lift your leg as high as you can go before letting your lower back arch (you want your lower back to remain straight).  With your leg straight, feel your glutes tight and your thighs strong; extend through the heel.  Remember to support your position with your core, pulling your belly in toward your spine.

That is 1 rep.  Repeat through the 4-8 slow, 15-30 fast, on both sides (1-3 rounds).  Add these in to your workout routine and see your very own nice, tight buns emerge! 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wonderful World of Knees -- get ready for awesome abs!

Ah…the ‘wonderful world of knees’…oh how I love them!  Rising knees, side knees, roundhouse knees…all of them are such a good whole body workout.  Not only do you get to work your core muscles (abdominal, obliques, and internal) but you also work your legs as you balance and support your structure and your arms as you pull down into the standing crunch. 

I’m going to take you through 2 of the knee exercises, the rising knee and the side knee.  I recommend adding these in to your workout routine (or just your daily activities) as least 2 times a week.  I like to start with 4-8 slow so that you can really make sure your positioning is correct and hone in on your stabilizing muscles.  Then, go into an “endurance round” or a “repetition round”. 
The “endurance round” constitutes doing 4-8 slow, followed by 30-50 fast (‘double time’).  Repeat on the other side, then move on to the next type of knee exercise in the same format.
For the “repetition round” you will start with 4 slow, followed by 10-15 fast, left side, then right side.  Then, move on to the next type of knee exercise in the same format.  Now, repeat the whole sequence 2-4 more times.
Both the “endurance round” and the “repetition round” are beneficial so experiment, do which one you like the most or alternate to keep it interesting.  Ready?  Here we go! 

Rising Knees
Step back with your right foot, bringing your weight onto your left leg.  For a gentler workout, keep your feet close together.  For a more vigorous workout, extend your leg far behind you, dropping your left leg into a half-lunge position.  As always, pull your belly in towards your spine to support your back.  Lift your chest up and open, keeping your shoulders down and your neck relaxed.  Feel the strength in your standing leg while making sure your knee over the foot (make sure your knee does not go past your toes or tilt to the inside or outside!).  Extend your back leg, flexing your glutes (bootie muscles), pulling your thighs in, and extending through your heel.  Lean slightly forward (keeping your belly in) while lifting your arms up in front of you.  Try to hit this active position each time you come down from doing a rising knee.  Now you are ready to do the crunch part.  Keeping your shoulders, chest, core, and standing leg in this position, rise your right knee up as high as you can into your belly while pulling your arms down into your knee (pull the arms, don’t just drop the arms), making sure to really crunch your core.  Return to your starting position.  Congrats!  That’s your first one!  Now repeat!

Side Knees
Put your weight onto your left leg, extending your right leg to the side.  Same as before, for a more gentle workout keep your feet closer together, for a more vigorous workout, extend the leg as far as you can to the side (keeping your weight on the left leg).  Put your left hand on your hip, and extend your right on up to the side.  Belly in, chest up and open, shoulders down, neck relaxed.  This is your starting position; try to come back to this position each time after your side knees.  Now you’re ready for your side knee crunch.  Pull down with your right hand (as though you are pulling down a weight from the ceiling) as you bring your right knee up to the side as high as you can.  Slightly crunch over, really feeling your side obliques flex.  Return to your starting position and repeat.

Woohoo!  You have made it through 2/3 of my “wonderful world of knees” tour!  Stay tuned for my video which includes all 3 of them…it should be coming soon.  Until then, have fun seeing your core become strong and defined.  Have fun and just keep going!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Nourish Your Relationship -- Spend Time Together

“Love is Everything”  ~ Janell Bartlett

Oh how I love love.  I believe in love above all else.  I am lucky enough to be completely and totally, utterly in love with my husband, and the beautiful thing is that I know he feels exactly the same way.  But as much as we both love each other, it still is not always easy to maintain such a happy relationship.  All relationships take time, effort, and nourishment…especially those that you hold most dear.
As you know, we have a beautiful baby boy who just turned one (amazing how time flies!).  In addition to that, we opened our own business this year (Kempo Fitness), I am in school for dietetics, and then there are all my life projects (fitness videos, this blog, and creating the “Move Your Feet Week” program to name a few).  Our life is crazy!  But the thing is, in this day and age everyone’s life is crazy.  We have so many things to fill our time with, and we are all pulled in so many directions, sometimes it’s hard to really set aside time to feed your relationships.
Today, my husband and I spent the entire day together…it was amazing, but it was a choice.  This afternoon my husband wanted to go for a run, something I really was not in the mood to do, but I did because I wanted to spend more time with him.  I chose us.  The run, it was okay, but being with him…that was wonderful.  And he was so happy and grateful that I came along. 
When we got home, our little guy decided he wanted to go for a ride in his wagon.  Since I love going for walks, being outside, and enjoying nature, another walk for the day was good.  My husband on the other hand would rate going on a walk as one of his least favorite things to do.   But today he came along because he wanted to spend more time together; he chose us.  For him, the walk was okay, but being with me and with our son….that was wonderful.  And I was so happy and grateful that he came along.
In both instances, we chose each other.  We chose to do something that we weren’t super excited about so that we could support one another, spend time together, and nourish our relationship.
In addition, it is important to actually share with your loved one how much it means to you that they chose to nurture your relationship. 

You want to say things such as:

“It really means a lot to me that you ________”
“I really enjoy spending time with you”
“I really appreciate you”
“Thank you for coming along”

 Just telling your loved one how much they mean to you and how much you appreciate them (their help, their time…etc) will go miles and miles toward maintaining a happy relationship.  Case in point, my husband was just reading this blog and his immediate response was “just hearing how much you appreciate me motivates me to do even more”.  Important caveat though: you must be genuine and actually speak from your heart when you tell your spouse how wonderful they are.

To maintain (or grow) a happy and wonderful relationship it’s often these little choices that will feed and strengthen the connection the most.  Yes, some of the big things are nice every now and then (big date, big trip, big gift), but it’s all the little choices to chose each other, to be with each other and show that you love each other, that provide the daily fuel for love, happiness, and a successful relationship.
So the next time your loved one would like you to join along with them, will you chose the craziness of life…or each other?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Olympic Mindset

Olympic Mindset

It’s Olympic time and I am always thrilled to watch the sheer athleticism, focus, and determination of these Olympic competitors.  Imagine the time each athlete has given to make it to this level.  Imagine all the many obstacles and hurdles these individuals have overcome to get to where they are now.  To compete at this level, it is not merely due to physical skill, but to a complete perseverance of mind and emotions as well….truly impressive on every level.

But what is it that makes some of these athletes rise above the rest?  What is it that makes the underdog (even at this level) suddenly perform their all time best and surpass the others?  What is it that makes the top athletes waiver and suddenly perform far under par?  Of course, some of these instances could be due to a physical cause: slept bad, slept good…energized, drained…healthy, sick.

But what about the mental aspect? 

There have been multiple instances in these Olympic Games that an athlete “getting in their head” has been the topic of discussion.  At one point, I even heard the commenter’s talking of how an athlete had been pointing to her head as if saying….something’s not right…and it’s all up here (in her mind).  Basically, if an athlete thinks they are going to win, they perform better, and if that athlete’s confidence is down, they perform worse.  This line of thought has been called many things…”The Power of Positive Thinking” and “The Law of Attraction” to name just a few.  The idea being that we must conquer what we think…train our mind to work for us, not just constantly chatter.

I have used this concept time and time again in my life with great success.  As an example, two weeks before I was supposed to test for my 2nd degree black belt I became sick; one week before I was supposed to test I came down with pneumonia and bronchitis.  My doctor told me to rest and not test….I said no way, I absolutely was going to test, period.  The entire day before my test I relaxed and meditated with the entire goal being to restore and rejuvenate my body.  Test day came, and I conquered each step one at a time.  And you better believe that during the ENTIRE test I was doing positive self talk: “come on, Janell, you can do this…come on, another thing down…just breathe…come one, you can do this…”  After the test, I was tired, yes, but so proud of myself and what I had just accomplished.  And my illness, I think I kicked it to the curb with each strike on that test and each positive affirmation I said to myself.

This is the very same technique that I use every day, while exercising and my muscles burn (!), going out to market for our business, getting up with our son when I am so tired, and going in for an exam at school….all times for a little positive self-talk and cheerleading.  Any time my confidence or drive begins to waiver, I do this.  And, any time I feel confident but I’m going in to do something important, I do this.  This ‘Olympic Mindset’ is a way of life.

Here are some tips to help you conquer your ‘Olympic Mindset’
1.Develop your mantra!  (This is a powerful, concise, statement about what you want to be/achieve such as “I am powerful”, “I am healthy”, and “I can do this!”)
2.Practice giving yourself compliments
3.Practice walking tall with your chest lifted high, shoulders back, neck long, and head high
4.Practice looking people in the eye.  If you have a tendency to waiver, here is a good time to practice some positive self-talk (such as “I am strong”)
5.Work on active meditation.  (A favorite one of mine is to get into a squat position (horse stance for all your Kempo martial art lovers).  Focus on your breathing, full, deep, long breaths.  As your legs start to burn, bring your attention to various other parts of your body: is your chest lifted high, your neck relaxed, your belly in strong, your thighs pressing out, your strong glutes supporting you, etc.  Finally, throw in some positive self talk as well.  Time yourself doing the lowest squat you can do without any of these techniques.  Rest.  Now, time yourself again alternating between focusing your mind on your breathing, your body, and your positive self-talk….it will take practice but I think you’ll be surprised to see how much more you can do with these techniques implemented.)
6.When you have a failure, argh (!), acknowledge it, and then move right on back to step #1.

As you can see during these Olympic Games, even Olympic athletes can let their mind get the best of them, so be easy on yourself.  As with any new skill, it is going to take time to develop.  Just keep repeating the steps and the ‘Active Meditation’ where ever you can.  And with time, you too can achieve an ‘Olympic Mindset’!  Go get that gold!

Some websites to visit on ‘mindfulness’

Friday, July 13, 2012

Exercises for Rockin' Arms!

It's exercise tip time again and we are going to shape up those arms!  Say bye-bye to the bat-wings and hello to arms worthy of a tank top!  It is hot, hot, hot outside so let's work those arms, get some "guns", and bare those beautiful arms!

I just did these 2 exercises in my cardio kickboxing class this week (one that targeted the arms).  Although there are numerous arm exercises we could cover, I like these because they will work you entire arm (font, back, and shoulders) as well as your core muscles.

Exercise #1: "Bye-bye bat-wings!"

Lay on your back with your feet flat on the ground, knees together.  As always, pull your belly in towards your spine (flexing your core muscles).  Hold your weight above your head, making sure to keep your elbows pointing forward.  Exhale and extend your arms up, lifting your weight overhead.  Inhale and return your weight to the starting position (control the down, don't just use gravity).  We're going to use light weights and multiple reps to build long, lean muscles and give you a nice, toned arm.  Start with 25 reps, then pause for 30 seconds.  Repeat 1-2 more times.  Try to build yourself up to 2-3 rounds of 50 reps, done 3-5 days/week.

Exercise #2: "Rock the shoulders - double time!"

Holding your weight to your chest, get your feet into a lunge position.  Do a trial lunge first to make sure your knee stays over the ankle (not past your toes) as you lower down.  Hold your weight in front of your chest with your head up straight, your chest open, shoulders back, and belly pulling in toward your spine (core muscles flexed).  Make sure to maintain this position throughout the entire exercise.  Exhale and simultaneously lunge down and press your weight up over head.  Inhale and return to your starting position (using your muscles, not just gravity).  To add more strength training for your legs and protect your knees, make sure you keep your weight on the front foot with the back foot just being for balance.  Start with 8 reps on both the left and right sides, then pause for 30 seconds.  Repeat 1-2 more time.  Try to build yourself up to 3 rounds of 15 reps on each side, done 3-5 days/week.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Beauty of our Dreams....

It is almost the Fourth of July and I am having a wonderful week with my family.  It seems to me that a blog about achieving your dreams is a fitting topic as we celebrate our country and what it means to live in the United States of America. 

This country was founded on a hope for a brighter future, and in people who believed they could achieve their dreams.  Another one of my favorite quotes is:

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams" 
~ Eleanor Roosevelt 

I have a coffee mug with this quote on it and I always grab it when I am feeling a little discouraged about all that I want to achieve.  To me, there is so much that I want to do with my life, it's hard to figure out how I'm going to get it all done.  It's also hard to prioritize and figure out what dream/goal I am going to focus on right now.

A few days ago I asked my husband and daughter to name their favorite movie scenes, a fun game to talk and bond as a family; as soon as I thought of this game, I instantly knew my number one favorite scene.  First, I have to preface this by saying I am a huge Romantic Comedy fan...if I have some time where I can just veg out, I will almost always choose some version of a romantic comedy to watch.  I figure, if I can laugh, and see something where love always wins, I will be a better person afterwards; my spirit is higher, my belief in others and in the good in the world is stronger, and I'm just happier overall.  And now that you know that about me, let's get back to my favorite movie scene. 

In the movie 'The Holiday', one of the characters is an old screenwriter from the golden age of film in Hollywood.  At the very end of the movie, the screenwriter, 'Arthur Abbott', goes to a ceremony in honor of all that he contributed to the world of film and for all the lives he touched.  Arthur thinks there will only be five 'schmucks' there for him, but instead, when the doors open, the room is filled full with everyone giving him a standing ovation.  At this point, I begin to cry.  Every time I see the movie...and we're probably over 20 times, I cry.  I feel so much joy and happiness for him and that he was able to touch so many lives...

For as long as I can remember, that is what I have wanted for myself.  Not that I want to be high and mighty, or even to have everyone praise me and/or my works, but simply to inspire and touch that many lives.  To me, I think it has something to do with making the world a better place, on a big scale, and leaving a legacy so that after I'm gone, hopefully the good that I have shared will be carried on and spread.
I am a person who absolutely believes in the beauty of my dreams, and of everyone elses, and I fully believe that I have the hard work, dedication, and perseverance to achieve all that I want to.  Throughout my life I have often had people misinterpret this self-confidence as cockiness, but it's not.  Cockiness is when you start to think so highly of yourself you look down on others...I 100% believe in others, their dreams, and the overall good in the world.  And, I fully believe in myself.  If I don't who else will?  And if someone else will, how can I accomplish all that I want to in the world solely supported by another's faith in me?
So as we all celebrate the Fourth of July, and the great country that we live in, and the wonderful dreams we all have within us, I hope you all are able to give gratitude for the lives we are able to live thanks to those who came before us.  And then, as you watch the beautiful fireworks of the day and as you drift off to sleep, I encourage all of you to think of what your dreams are.  Lastly, I challenge you to start your first step toward actually making at least one of those dreams come true. 

If you're not instantly sure what your hopes and dreams are, really give yourself time over the next few weeks or even month to do some 'soul searching'.  First, begin by writing out a 'bucket list' (all the things you want to do before you dive? learn to dance?  go to Hawaii?  etc.).  Next, I recommend paying attention to the things that make you happy and writing those down as well.  Lastly, spend some time thinking about what you want to leave behind when your day comes to leave this Earth; what is the legacy that you want to leave?  Your legacy can be as simple as teaching your descendants to be loving and caring or as big as your heart calls.    These lists are your starting point for figuring out your hopes and dreams.

Once you know your hopes and dreams, you must go on to these next steps.  Now, these next two are extremely important.  First, you must pick one (yes, ONE) main dream to start with and prioritize.  What is the top thing that makes your heart sing?  What is the main thing you want to leave behind?  Second, once you've narrowed it down to one dream, begin writing out the steps you can start taking NOW to bring you closer to making that dream a reality.  If you're not sure where to start, ask the help of your friends and, it will help you achieve your dream if you share with your loved ones what you are striving for.  And then, you must audit yourself every day, week, or definitely every month to make sure you are continually taking those steps to achieve your dream; you must fight for it for it to come to fruition.

If "the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams", don't you want to be a part of that future?  And since we live in a country founded on a hope for a brighter future, and in people who believed they could achieve their dreams, as we celebrate our great nation's Independence Day, don't we owe it to those who came before us, and those who will come after us, to do all we can do to make our hopes and dreams a reality? (History of America) (Independence Day) (the 'American Dream') - ('The Holiday' movie)