The last month of the year is always busy. From shopping, to school events, parties and celebrations, our to do list is typically miles long and full of things to do for others. While it may not seem like you can add one more thing, take a look at our list of important health items that focus on one very important person you may be neglecting: YOU!
Remember, if you take time to care for yourself, you just might find you’ll have even more energy to go around.
You can print this list for your refrigerator, desk at work, or just to carry with you.
1. Pick 10 days to exercise
After entering in your important events and ‘due dates’ for December, strategically place 10 workouts throughout the month.
Of course, you can always add in additional workouts if you end up having the time, but if you go ahead and mark the days you know you can fit it in, you can aim to keep the time in your schedule to stay on track with your workouts.
2. Get to the mall and shop
Yes, shopping online makes gift giving much easier! But, getting out for a little holiday shopping will not only help you ‘get in the spirit’, but it will also help add activity to your day.
Park farther from the stores, make multiple trips back to the car to unload packages, and take the stairs to make the most of your time.
3. Make grocery shopping a priority
With so much to do and so many social invitations that center around food, we tend to get out of the habit of weekly grocery shopping trips. Stick to your typical grocery store trips and make sure to make a list before you go.
Avoid the holiday treats display and stick to the outside perimeter of the store. Stock up on fruits, vegetables, healthy snacks and beverages to help you stay on track with your healthy eating. Be sure to have quick, healthy meals on hand for those days that cooking just seems like too much!
4. Go to the doctor
Don’t forget, your flex spending dollars will be expiring soon! December is a great month to get annual doctor’s appointments out of the way.
Schedule a physical for the middle or end of the month. You’ll be surprised how the looming appointment might make you think twice before you skip the work out or have that second glass of egg nog!
5. Stock up on water
During this busy time of year, it’s easy to get out of the habit of drinking water throughout the day. With the colder weather, extra adult beverages on the menu and less sleep than usual, water can be your secret weapon to staying healthy.
Buy bottles of water or prep and store water bottles in the fridge so they are easy to grab and go. Pre-cut your lemons or limes, or experiment with new flavored carbonated water to keep it interesting.
6. Enjoy your coffee or tea
Each week, earmark at least one morning that you’ll sit by the fire, turn the Christmas tree lights on, and just sit for 10-15 minutes and leisurely enjoy your cup of coffee. Turn on some tunes or sit quietly and just relax. With all the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to forget the reason for the season if we don’t take a few minutes here and there to truly relax.
Everything You Need to Know to Get Rolling
What Is Foam Rolling?
Foam rolling is a self-myofascial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myofascial_release) release technique used to alleviate muscle pain and increase blood flow. It uses body weight to generate direct pressure to the “knots” or trigger points in the body. Often thought of as an “athlete’s only” piece of equipment, the foam roller is a great tool for anyone needing to release muscle tension (and we ALL have a bit of muscle tension from sitting too long, exercise, or general tension). Imagine using a rolling pin to roll out lumps in bread dough and you’ll get the picture.
What Are The Benefits?
Rolling is beneficial before and after your workout. Foam rolling prior to a workout can help decrease muscle density and allow for a better warm-up. Rolling after a workout can aid in recovery from a strenuous exercise. Other benefits of self-myofascial release include:
- Improvement in joint range of motion
- Ease of muscle soreness and joint stress
- Help in maintaining functional muscular length
The roller is a foam cylinder and it comes in a variety of sizes. Most commonly in the gym setting, you’ll see a longer roller, measuring 36 inches with a 6-inch diameter. The density of the foam can vary as well. If you’re new to foam rolling or have particularly tight muscles or trigger points, opt for a softer foam roll. Typically, white rollers are softer, while blue or black rollers tend to be firmer.
Key Points for Foam Rolling
Rolling can be effective for many muscles, including calves, hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, hip flexors, latissimus dorsi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latissimusdorsimuscle), and the thoracic spine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoracic_spine). Place the foam roller under each muscle group and roll, long strokes, for 60 seconds until a tender area is found. Once a knot is found, maintain pressure on the knot or trigger point for 30 to 60 seconds by moving back and forth over that surface area. Follow up by performing a stretch for each muscle group you just have rolled for maximal benefit.
Tips for Foam Rolling
- Sometimes, it hurts so good! Foam rolling may be a little uncomfortable and that’s ok. Stick with it!
- Spend at least one minute per area when you foam roll to make sure you’re making an impact.
- Find a friend to hold you accountable to foam rolling after a workout. Think of it as your new cool down!
Easy Foam Roller Routine
Try these simple foam roller exercises and stretches to target areas where most everyone could use a little love: the upper back, glutes, and thighs.
Foam Roller: Thoracic Spine (Upper Back)
- Begin with the foam roller underneath your shoulder blades.
- Place the hands behind the head for support, or cross the arms over the chest.
- Lift the hips up slightly off the ground, maintain a slight curve in the low back (almost like you are performing a small crunch).
- Use your feet to push forwards and backwards to roll out the upper back, rolling from the shoulder blades to the mid-back.
Stretch: Quadruped Cat/Cow
- Begin on hands and knees with back in a neutral position.
- Inhale and lift the chin and tailbone towards the sky, creating an arch in the back.
- Exhale and tuck the chin and tailbone towards the ground, rounding out the spine.
Foam Roller: Glutes
- Begin by sitting on the foam roller, knees bent and feet on the ground.
Shift slightly to the right and begin to roll up and down the length of the glute. Switch sides.
Stretch: Supine Knees To Chest
- Lie on your back and draw both knees into the chest.
- Keep head and shoulders grounded to the floor
Foam Roller: Quadriceps
- Begin with the foam roller underneath the quadriceps (fronts of the thighs).
- Lift the legs slightly off the ground and place the weight of the upper body on the forearms.
- Push with your arms to roll out the quadriceps by moving forward and backwards from pelvic bone to the knee.
Stretch: Standing Quadriceps Stretch
- Stand on the left leg and bring the right foot towards the glutes.
- With the right hand, grab onto the right foot, keeping the knee pointed towards the ground and legs close together.
- Switch sides.
the Key to a Fun and Challenging Workout
Grab a partner and a medicine ball! That’s all you need for this simple, effective core workout.
Medicine balls come in a variety of weights and are lifted, thrown, and caught in a variety of ways for exercise. For this workout, it’s best if you pair up with someone of similar strength. You’ll want to grab a weight that allows to you both to complete 3 sets of 15 reps per exercise and keep proper form. If the weight is too easy, increase it slightly. If it’s too hard, slightly decrease it.
Note: Some of these exercises include movements and twisting that can be dangerous for those with lower back issues. Consult with a physician or personal trainer before doing this workout, if at all concerned.
Medicine Ball Partner Workout
Sets: 3 Per Exercise
Load: Challenging Weight
Rest: 60 Seconds Between Sets
Estimated Total Time: 55 min
Standing Torso Twists
Tips For Using Medicine Balls
- Pick a weight just heavy enough to provide resistance, if you use a ball that is too heavy—you may risk injuring yourself!
- Add variety to any strength movement by using a medicine ball instead of a kettlebell or dumbbell.
- Partner workouts and team relays are also perfect for medicine ball use as they are easy to pass and fun to use!
6 Ways to Fight the Battle Ropes
Battle ropes are more popular than ever—and for good reason. They are one of the few pieces of equipment that allow you to strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular endurance, and burn a ton of fat at the same time. Not to mention you look like a total badass when they’re flying! Here are six great exercises to get you started and prepared for battle.
When using battle ropes, it’s important to maintain an athletic stance with your knees slightly bent and chest upright. To perform the double wave, move both arms simultaneously to shoulder height and back down to create waves. We are after speed here, so keep the ropes moving as fast as you can for the duration. Perform 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for 5 rounds.
Time to make a little noise! Use your posterior chain (backside), shoulders, and arms to get the ropes above your head before slamming them to the ground as hard as possible. Slams are great for improving strength and power while burning some serious calories. Instead of going for time, treat slams like a strength training exercise and perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets.
Using the same general technique as double waves, this time alternate the movement of your arms as fast as you can to create staggered waves. Don’t be afraid to play around with wave size. Smaller waves will get your heart rate up faster, while larger waves may work your arms/shoulders a bit more. 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off, is a great work-to-rest ratio, but you can always lower the working time to get started.
The name says it all here. We want the ropes to look like two snakes on the floor by moving our arms in and out horizontally (parallel to the floor). If it helps, think about clapping your hands with straight arms. Perform 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for 5 rounds. And I’ve never seen a slow-moving snake, so keep ‘em slithering fast!
Push Up Plank
Single Arm Waves
While holding a push up plank, balance yourself on one arm and use the other to create small waves. A key point to remember in this exercise is to keep your shoulders squared and pelvis facing the floor (no twisting). Perform 15 seconds per arm for a total of 30 seconds, with 10 seconds rest between 3 rounds.
Side Plank Waves
Position your side plank at the end of the ropes and grab an end with your free hand. Keep the movement of your working arm between the shoulder and waist to create small waves parallel to the floor. These should look similar to the snake waves. Increase the challenge a bit here by performing 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off, for 3 rounds, with no rest between rounds.
Battle ropes should be a fun workout tool and there are tons of exercises out there. So find your favorites and get after it!
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