The Flex Belt – Friend or Foe?

I have never been aCAM00244c big fan of fitness equipment fads. I go with the tried and true free weights and running through my neighborhood. With that said, when I was contacted by The Flex Belt representative to try out the company’s product, how could I resist. I get a free Flex Belt to try, and then I just have to write an honest review.

So, we all have those things that we hold to be true, and two of my biggies (when it comes to fitness) are that 6 pack abs are made in the kitchen more so than the gym. Of course it’s important to work out your abdominals to build those muscles, but unless you have a healthy diet and lose some of your abdominal fat, all that ab work will never show itself. Secondly, I don’t feel like I have had a great workout unless I am sore the next day. This second one may or may not be scientifically true, but in my mind it’s true for me.

So here are the pros and cons –

PRO:

1. It’s easy to use once all the pads are in place. Don’t get intimidated by the pads… they are a bit sticky. Be sure to read the directions.

2. There are so many intensity levels of muscle contraction, it seems unlikely to get maxed out or outgrow the belt’s scope for a strong ab workout. The belt has longevity of usefulness.

3. MY ABS ARE SORE THE NEXT DAY… YAY!

4. I can wear it around the house while playing with the kids, cooking dinner, chores, or whatever.

5. It comes with a convenient carry case.

6. I don’t have to take time at the gym to work abs, and it works all abdominal muscles, so there is no need to do three different exercises to get this result. .. which translates to a shorter work out or more time for other muscles groups.


 

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CON:

1. It’s a bit pricey.

2. The directions indicate that if you have a belly button ring, you must take it out. This may or may not be an issue for ring wearers.

3. The belt is set up for only one individual to wear… can’t be shared with other family members.

4. I haven’t had to replace them yet, but additional gel pads must be ordered – (the belt includes the first set)

 

So, The Flex Belt claims that it will stimulate all your major stomach muscles at the same time providing you with the perfect abdominal contraction – that means your upper abs, the lower abs and even your obliques are going to get worked from The Flex Belt… and it does all the work for you. From what I have experienced this claim holds true. Will it give you a six pack abs? It may, but you won’t see that six pack reveal itself unless (or until) you also have a diet that contributes to shedding belly fat. Will I continue to use my Flex Belt… YES!

For additional information on The Flex Belt, check out this link! http://www.theflexbelt.com/?mcp=12389

Big Props for the Park -6 Exercises Using a Park Bench

In honor of the start of fall, I want to give props to the park bench.
Here are a few ideas to get a great workout without having to go any farther than your neighborhood park:
1. Bench jumps
  • Start by squaring up your shoulders to the bench and slightly bending your knees.
  • With both legs, jump up onto the bench and try to land in the same position from which you started.
  • Jump back down to the starting position. That’s one rep.
  • Try to do three sets of 10 jumps to get started.

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2. Incline push-ups

  • Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of the bench, and put your feet back into a plank position.
  • As you do a push-up, make sure to keep your back and neck in line with each other to prevent any strain on your neck.
  • Reverse your position for a more challenging option.

 

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3. Bulgarian split squats

  • Start by facing away from the bench.
  • Move your left foot back and lift it up onto the bench with your right foot still underneath you.
  • Slowly bend your right leg into a 90-degree angle. “Avoid bringing your knee over your toe and turning your hips,” said Kensie Noble, senior in kinesiology and president of Alliance for Health and Fitness Professionals Club.
  • Come back up to your starting position. That’s one rep. Try to finish two sets of 10 on each leg.

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4. Step-ups

  • Face the bench with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Put your right foot onto the bench.
  • As you come to the top, drive your left knee into your chest before stepping back down.
  • Do 10 reps on each leg for three rounds.

 

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5. Side Step-ups

  • Stand parallel to the bench
  • Using your inside leg, step up onto the bench and drive the opposite knee upward.
  • Do 10 step-ups on each leg for three rounds.

6. Tricep Dips

  • Sit on the bench and position your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of the seat.
  • With your legs extended out in front of you, scoot your butt off the seat so that your hands are the only thing touching the bench.
  • While keeping your back straight and close to the bench, use your arms to slowly lower yourself until your elbows are around a 90-degree angle.
  • Press down into the bench to raise yourself back to the starting position.
  • That’s one rep. Try to complete two sets of 15.

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With all of these exercises, make sure that you are using good form to prevent injuries. Put some headphones in or grab a friend, and go enjoy the great outdoors.

The Do and Don’ts for Avoiding Exercise Burnout

images[1]Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Thanks Wikipedia!

We all experience burnout whether it’s at work, home, with family, friends, diet, and even exercise, maybe especially exercise.

Consider how many gym memberships purchased in January go unused in July, or how all you can think about is a cheeseburger two weeks into a new diet plan. Burnout can happen over years or in a matter of days.

Certain habits or lack of certain habits will accelerate the burnout process.

 

So if you don’t want to suffer from exercise burnout….

DO NOT Wing It

Failing to plan is planning to fail, as the saying goes, and creating lofty, long-term goals without establishing checkpoints along the way is failing to plan. Shoot for the moon, but include intermediate and short-term goals to assure that you remain on track to achieve your long-term goals.

Example:

Long-term goal: I will finish a marathon this year.

Intermediate goal: I will finish a half marathon within the next six months.

Short-term goal: Within the next week, I will jog three times for a minimum of 10 minutes each run.

Writing goals down (on paper, using a smart phone app or online software program) is an absolute must.

DO NOT Forget to Self-Assess

Your goal-setting process should include assessing weak links in the chain and how to address them. Using the example above of planning to finish a marathon, short-term goals could include completing some form of a fitness test, such as a one-mile run for time, gait analysis, nutrition consultation, body composition analysis, etc.

Example:

Short-term Goal No. 2: Within the next two weeks, I will complete a one-mile run for time to assess my current fitness status.

Intermediate goals should re-evaluate these tests every few weeks to validate your exercise regimen and determine what tweaks you may need to make. Modifying goals along the way (to account for “life”) is a  key to achievement and  sustained motivation. Altering your long-term goals can also be critical; for example, switching from the full marathon to the half marathon two weeks before a race is better than not showing up at all.

DO NOT Skimp on Sleep

Research suggests those who sleep less than six hours per night are at greater risk for burnout. Too little sleep can cause fatigue, impaired mental function and increased sensitivity to stress, as well as decreased motivation and physical performance. In a busy world, we seem to prioritize so much at the expense of ZZZs. There are usually enough excused to go around for not exercising, don’t add “too tired” to the list.

DO Take Time to Truly Relax

Multiple experts agree that a key to avoiding burnout from your job is being able to turn off work when you get home. Likewise, tuning out from exercise from time to time is essential to maintaining a long-term fitness program. Expert coaches suggest taking at least one day per week completely off from structured exercise and including another day or two of restorative activities (yoga, hikes, naps and Sunday football couch potato-ing all count as restoration). Every few months, take an entire week off, and just relax.

DO Find a Sport You Enjoy

Some people hate running – I would not suggest a marathon training program for those individuals. The key to longevity of an activity or fitness program is enjoyment; sometimes you must ignore what your friends are doing or the most popular class at your gym, and simply do what makes you happy. If it makes you sweat and also makes you smile, it’s the right activity for you. I still have a Groupon for 4 Pilate’s classes hanging over my head, because my friends think Pilate’s is great…. I am a gym rat and always will be.

DO NOT Overdo It

A fine line exists between what fitness experts call over-reaching and over-training. Over-reaching involves applying the overload principle to exercise, i.e. increasing the intensity, duration and/or frequency of exercise to create positive stress on your body that will gradually result in fitness gains. When over-reaching, you should feel tired and sore, but two to three days of adequate recovery should cure that.

Over-training occurs when the increase in physical activity is too much and recovery is insufficient. It can involve loss of sleep, lethargy, injury and a lack of fitness gains despite an increased workload. When in doubt, listen to your body – go hard when you feel good, and rest up when you feel overworked.

DO NOT Live for Repetition

Imposing the exact same stress demand on our bodies habitually does not result in positive gains. Doing the same activities each day or the same exercise routine will lead to a physical plateau and eventual mental burnout. Not to mention it gets really boring! Even if you’re a creature of habit, add variety to your favorite activity… it may be a change of scenery, faster or slower run times, switching up the free weights for machines, taking a Zumba class instead of Yoga, or whatever.. A change of pace and scenery may keep your muscles honest and your mind fresh.

The path toward burnout is can be averted. Self-assessment, goal planning, adequate sleep and recovery, variety and, most importantly, enjoyment can keep you pointed in the direction of lifelong fitness and goal accomplishment.

The Tricks – Tried and True

imagesCANWR0EASo I don’t call my web site Fit Chick Tricks for nothing. Here is a list of my favorite tricks that I use almost every single day.

 ** Fit girls don’t drink their calories. If you want a sweet beverage, don’t go for a soda, juice, or sports drink. They are loaded with calories, usually 100-200 calories per serving. Water should be your number one choice. If you need something sweet, try a flavored sparkling water, iced tea/green tea with lemon or as a last result even a diet soda if you must.

** Fit girls don’t eat chips with their salsa. Carrots are a great alternative to the tortilla chip. Carrots add the crunch without the calories and fat, and you still get the great taste of the salsa.

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(a) When you know you will be going to a specific restaurant on a specific day, plan ahead. After you have had a meal, and you are feeling full, go online and look up the restaurant’s website and menu. In the privacy of your own home, on your own time, you can really read the food options and decide on the best choices. You can take all the time you need, and since you have a full stomach, you won’t be influenced by hunger. Make your choice for the next time you are dining out… and stick with it. Don’t even open the menu when you are at the restaurant.

(b)If the restaurant doesn’t have a website, or you don’t have time to look it up, when you do have to open the menu, look to see if they have heart healthy options. Most places have a little symbol that they place next to the healthy choices. Only look at those options. Don’t read through all the yummy appetizer descriptions; don’t read through all the yummy pasta dishes, etc. Choose only from the heart healthy menu items.

** Fit girls don’t eat in their car. Stop eating major meals in your car like it’s a restaurant on wheels. Skinny girls will eat things like a health bar or some fruit, but no eating burritos, sandwiches, and pizza. How much can you really enjoy your food and pay attention to your portions if you are driving around and paying attention to 10 other things. Also, because skinny girls don’t eat meals in the car, there is no need to go through any kind of drive through which typically belongs to fast food joints.

** Fit girls stop eating before they are full. This is a big one. By taking a few minutes before you feel full, you can cut serious calories from your diet without feeling deprived. You must really pay attention to how your stomach is feeling, and stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly. (I started doing this, and it has worked every time. I am always amazed that even though I don’t feel full, if I stop eating, within a few minutes I feel full and sometimes stuffed. ) Eating just enough to satisfy your hunger will help you to feel your best, rather than stuffing yourself into a “food coma”!

** Fit girls eat a meal or snack before going to the grocery store. Grocery shopping can sabotage any healthy diet, as there are yummy temptations at every turn. If you go to the grocery while hungry, it can lead to crazy, unhealthy purchases, and in some cases, binge eating when you get home.

** Fit girls don’t eat salads at fast food restaurants. We all think of salads as being healthy, but his can be very misleading, especially at fast food joints. Most Wendy’s salads have over 600 calories each. A grilled chicken breast sandwich open face (remove one of the buns) or a bowl of chili is a much better option at less than 500 calories each. Salads can be a great choice because they are filled with veggies and fiber, but once you add the restaurant dressing (even the fat free option) it can put your calories way over the top. Don’t mistakenly make salad your “healthy” default menu option, because most times there are healthier, lower calorie, higher protein options. My favorite is a broiled chicken breast sandwich. I take off the side of the bun that has the mayo, and eat it as an open faced sandwich with a knife and fork.  Trust me, as a mom with kids who love fast food, I can tell you that almost every single fast food place has a broiled chicken breast in some form or another.

** Fit girls avoid food products that make healthy claims. Generally speaking, a health claim on a food product is a strong indication that it is not really a food but a food-like substance that has been scientifically engineered. You can find any type of junk food that will have a healthy claim tied to it, but just because a bag of potato chips has “no trans fats” doesn’t mean that it is healthy or low in calories.

5 Signs You Need a Shakeup to Your Shapeup

SONY DSCWhen it comes to exercise, it’s always good to mix it up a bit, but there are also times when your exercise routine may be ready for a more major overhaul. Because exercise is a personal thing, and your workout results (and problems) can only be recognized by you, here are a few things to be on the lookout for to determine if you need a shakeup in your shapeup. No matter if you’re a novice to physical fitness or an expert, here are 5 signs that you need to switch up your exercise regime ASAP! –

  1.  If you’re working out and eating properly, you should be seeing results. If you aren’t seeing anything noticeable in the mirror, or if your clothing sizes haven’t changed (or gotten tighter), it’s likely that you need a new exercise routine. With the right routine, you should be able to watch your body transform, even if it is only a little bit. Inches should be coming off and you should start to see more tone to your body.
  2. If in the beginning you wanted to lose weight and improve your endurance, so you did a lot of cardio exercises, such as running on the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, etc. However, now that you’ve lost weight and built-up your endurance, you want to focus more on gaining muscle, which requires lifting weights. When your fitness goals change, your workout routine should change with them.
  3. Exercising releases hormones within the brain that are supposed to induce a happier mood. If you’re unhappy with your exercise routine, you rush through your exercises, you cannot wait to get out of the gym, or you find yourself losing focus when you work out, you may be bored. A boring workout is never a good one, and it only makes sense to change it. Being unhappy with your workouts means that you aren’t doing exercises that make you feel good. You should be enthused (okay if ‘enthused’ doesn’t quite describe you, let’s just say you shouldn’t dread your workout), and by the end of it all you should be happy with the physical activity that you do.
  4. You could do your workout routine with your eyes closed. You don’t sweat nearly as much as you used to. You don’t have to put forth a lot of effort to complete your workout. When your workout becomes a walk in the park instead of a challenge, it’s definitely time to change things around. You want your workouts to challenge you and to cause you to push yourself to the limit. If you are going to take the time to exercise, you might as well make it count.
  5. Since the day you’ve started working out until now, you’re been doing the same exact exercise. Even though you’re comfortable with this routine, it’s always helpful to switch up your routine at least every couple of weeks. Doing the same workout for months at a time could not only lead to boredom, but your body get used to the workout and you may find that your exercises are now completely and ineffective.
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