Be Well: The Time Tradeoff

I found myself in a situation yesterday morning where I had an awkward 10-15 minutes for weight training after finishing a cardio workout. I had decided to do a 30-minute sprint running workout that morning, but in the workout planning stages I just didn't put much thought into what I would do for weights afterwards (I know - what's wrong with me?!). When I got off the treadmill with only 15 minutes or so to go before I needed to head to the locker room, I ended up spending a bunch of time vacillating between various weightlifting options. I couldn't decide what would get me the most bang for my buck (er, minute), so I ended up wasting my minutes instead. No bueno.

So, I came home tonight, flipped through the exercises I have featured on this blog so far, and came up with three that give you a great all-around workout when you only have a little bit of time. Really, spending 15 minutes doing any kind of weightlifting at all is far better than dedicating those 15 minutes to "stretching" and "abs" AKA laying on your back on a mat feeling lazy. But since you've already decided to spend those 15 minutes weightlifting, you might as well have some direction!

Major disclaimer: I am not suggesting that you plan all of your workouts where weight training is a 10-minute afterthought. Instead, on the days where you've decided to do a "cardio day" but still have time for weights (you always want to maximize your time in the gym - you're already there, might as well make it worth it!), you should turn to these exercises for a more well-rounded gym experience. Weightlifting-focused days should definitely be a part of your fitness routine!

Now, the exercises!DSC_5558

1) Deadlifts. I can't say enough good things about how wonderful deadlifts are. They're great for your legs and you won't be panting afterwards, so you can move right into your next exercise. Win-win. DSC_2016

2) Tricep dips. You can do these straight from doing deadlifts, so you can get in a great leg and arm workout. Plus, tricep dips do a great job working the entire arm (with very little necessary equipment) so it's easy to incorporate them quickly into a workout.DSC_0742_2

3) Kettlebell swings. If you're only doing one weights exercise, do kettlebell swings. They get your heart rate up AND provide a great lifting workout for your arms and your legs. Win-win-win.

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So, I realize I am the ditziest blogger ever and, after entitling yesterday's post "Mystery Date," totally forgot to fill you guys in on the answer to the mystery. The mystery location: Benu! It was fancy and filling and amazing and just an all-around wonderful outing. Sorry about being so mysterious :)

Be Well: Full Workout #2

This week I'm back with my second full workout! Many of the exercise pairings below have been inspired by the workouts I've been doing in the gym lately, so I hope you like them!

As I said last time, start with 15-30 minutes of cardio. You can skip it if you're short on time (since this workout is designed to keep your heartrate up when done correctly) but if you do have time, it's always good to put your heart to work. Again, opt for cardio exercises that will challenge you - sprint workouts are always good. Try to stay away from the elliptical machine.

After you're done with your cardio, complete the following circuit for a full-body workout:

Set 1: Deadlifts and Walkout Pushups to Twist

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Start with 10 deadliftsYou should be lifting a heavy weight. Yesterday I did 5-6 sets of 5 reps of deadlifts with 115 lbs. And I could have gone heavier. You should be lifting at least half of that. And I would strongly consider doing more. The more you do, the stronger your legs and glutes will be - that means slimmer, firmer legs!

DSC_6305Next, do 10 walkouts to pushup with a twist. You should go straight from the deadlifts to these pushups - resting in between sets will only let your heartrate drop and therefore make your workout less effective. Remember to keep your abs tight, back flat, and lower yourself until your arms are at 90-degree angles. This should be a great complement to the muscles you used in your deadlifts.

Now rest for 30 seconds, then repeat this circuit two more times - 10 deadlifts, 10 walkout pushups to twist, 30 seconds rest.

Set 2: Bicep Curl to Overhead Press and Squats

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After the 30 seconds of rest on the tail end of Set 1, go straight into 10 reps of bicep curls to overhead presses. Remember, keep your abs tight, don't arch your back, and you can always balance on one foot to make the reps more difficult. As always, using heavy weights is key! DSC_4300_2Next, move directly into doing 10 squats. Choose a heavy weight (I never do squats with a body bar as pictured above; that was unfortunately the only bar that was available back when I took these pictures) and keep your weight in your heels and your back flat and strong.

Now rest for 30 seconds. Then repeat Set 2 two more times - 10 bicep curls to overhead presses, 10 squats, 30 seconds rest.

Set 3: Kettlebell Swings and Bent Over Rows

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Last set! First, start with 10 kettlebell swings (I'm guessing I don't need to reiterate the importance of a heavy kettlebell?). Don't forget to bend through the knees and lift with your legs!

DSC_5583Next, do 10 bent over rows. Advice on these is pretty much the same as the advice on everything else - keep good form, don't hurt your back!

Now rest for 30 seconds.

Finally, repeat Set 3 two more times - 10 kettlebell swings, 10 bent over rows, 30 seconds rest. And there you have it! You should feel good and tired by this point.

Has anyone else watched this SNL sketch over and over since it aired on Saturday night? (Here's hoping that NBC doesn't force them to take down that video between the time of me writing this and the time of you reading it.) I'm kind of obsessed. I wish I was a good enough dancer to make dancing in a tofu outfit look good.

Have a great Wednesday!

Be Well: Kettlebell Swings

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I avoided kettlebell swings for a long time after I started lifting weights. The main problem was I had no idea how to do them - kettlebell swings aren't exactly the kind of weightlifting move that's easy to learn just by passively observing others in the gym. I finally got up the courage to try them out after reading a set of instructions in Shape magazine, and I've included them in my workouts ever since. As with all the exercises I try to profile on this blog, kettlebell swings are a great workout for your entire body. You should give them a shot! Instructions are as follows:

Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, knees bent in an athletic position, back flat, abs tight, with your shoulders back and shoulder blades pinched together.

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Make sure you choose a heavy weight - doing this with 10 lbs. is pretty much just a waste of your time. I have a 25 lb. kettlebell for this demonstration, and I would recommend swinging no less than 20 lbs.

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Initiate the swing by swinging the kettlebell back between your legs, then pull the kettlebell forward and up by powering through your legs and pressing your hips forward. The majority of your power should come from the energy expended by your legs and hips as you rise up and forward. You DO NOT want to lift the kettlebell with your back. Also, that's not pain on my face, it's pure kettlebell-swinging enjoyment.

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Swing the kettlebell until you are in a tower position, with legs extended and arms extended overhead. Your back should not arch. Instead, you should end with your back flat and your arms right behind your ears.

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Let the kettlebell swing back down as you lower back down into your athletic squat, keeping in control of the movement the entire time. You do not want the kettlebell pulling your upper body downwards - you are in charge of the kettlebell, not the other way around!

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End in the same position you started in. Try for 15 consecutive swings with a challenging weight for a great workout.

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If this movement looks a little overwhelming to you, ease yourself into it by first swinging the kettlebell only to shoulder height. Additionally, if you do not have access to a kettlebell, you can use a free weight by gripping it vertically hand-over-hand. Any iteration of this exercise will get your heart rate up while providing a great weight-bearing exercise.

I know I said this last week, but I am still thankful for all the positive feedback I got on my weightlifting dissertation last week. If this blog has inspired one girl to start lifting weights, I will have felt like every minute I've dedicated to writing here has been worth it. I truly think lifting weights leads to better health, which leads to more happiness, and who wouldn't want that?