PORTLAND—Jennifer Smithers of Portland, Oregon, used to belong to a gym, in pre-pandemic times. But, like millions of women in this country, she left the workforce due to COVID. She was unable to keep up with the essential deadlines at her job working as an art director for a novelty sock company while nursing her infant and facilitating online school for her kindergartner.
“It all became too much,” Smithers says via a Zoom phone interview, explaining why she canceled her Equinox membership. Her living room behind her is strewn with toys, books, a Peloton, a weight bench, a Pilates reformer, a couch, a TV, an ergonomic desk currently being used as a drying rack for cloth diapers, and various bands and weights. Pilates balls of several sizes litter the carpet and her infant is currently pinned under a yoga block.
“As much as I would have loved to keep the gym membership, it was pointless to keep throwing money away on something I wasn’t using. Even with the extra cleaning and safety precautions, I wouldn’t go because it’s just not worth it without the eucalyptus towels or the Juice Press.”
So, what’s a mother to do? Fortunately, in the age of COVID, many exercise companies have pivoted to include online subscriptions.
“I started with a Barre membership,” Smithers says, showing us her makeshift ballet barre, the back of the baby’s crib, “because it requires very little gear.” All she needs for a workout is several resistance bands, a special branded ball, a barre, and some light hand weights, which she purchased on Amazon when demand for home fitness equipment was at an all-time high.
Smithers didn’t stop at the barre, though. “Then, a friend convinced me to hop on the Peloton bandwagon. Okay, so maybe we’re not actually friends, but I follow her on Instagram.”
“I love it. So inspiring. It cost more than our mortgage for the bike and that first month, but then it’s just the monthly fee, so it’s worth it for all the workout access as long as I do at least 30 classes per month. And I can watch recorded classes and do them when I’m up early with the baby.” So far, Jennifer has taken three classes, but she remains optimistic the Peloton will soon pay for itself.
From there, however, the obsession spiraled, perhaps out of control. Smithers is now paying for 15 different at-home workout subscriptions ranging from Pilates to Jazzercise. Tomorrow, she’s signed up for one virtual HIIT class, a yoga Zoom, and a Zoomba (that’s Zoom Zumba), all of which she plans to attend with her camera and mic off, in case she needs to dip out partway through—whether it be because one of her children starts crying or because her muscles do.
“You know what they say—the best workout is the one you enjoy doing,” she explains. “So I’m gonna keep trying to find it.”
Smithers says she doesn’t ever see herself returning to Equinox because it “just isn’t worth the money.”
“It’s hard to justify the expense now that I can do everything right here in my living room,” she says.
“Better to spend money on things I really can’t get anywhere else, instead of throwing money at convenience,” she adds, while using her most recent HelloFresh shipment as a plyo box.
Image: Logan Weaver / Unsplash
One of the hardest things for me is trying to fit in a workout when I’m super busy. Or I just like, don’t feel like it. It’s easy to cut out a workout because you simply don’t feel like you have enough time. HOWEVER. An easy way to streamline this process is by working out at home. That way, you can do it even if you only have 30 minutes, when you get home from work, first thing in the morning, whatever you want without wasting any more time. So if you’re trying to find what you can do that won’t take up a ton of space in your teensy, closet-sized apartment, here are some things you should have on hand.
Resistance bands are so easy to use, super versatile, easy to store, and the best part, really cheap. This band is only $10! You can do tons of workouts with it that are just as good as strength training with weights, as well as increase your flexibility. Just wrap it around anything or step on it for resistance and boom, instant gym! And when you’re done using it, you can just fold it up and toss it literally anywhere because it’s so compact. I think most at-home workout equipment is such a scam (like, why buy a $400 squat machine when you just can just squat with your body? I don’t understand?) and usually way overpriced, but a resistance band is a have-t0-have. If you’re unsure of ways to use your resistance band, you can even buy a poster full of workout ideas, not to mention the one million Youtube videos available for free to give you ideas.
I used to be so obsessed with yoga, but because of my recent health issues, I’m not allowed to go to a public gym right now. Yoga studios in general are very expensive (at least in LA!) and you often pay per class instead of just a monthly membership. Enter: yoga cards. You just shuffle them up, pick a card, and there’s your new yoga teacher. It’s especially awesome for people who already know the basics but just are not sure what to do when working out at home without an instructor. Plus, you’ll be doing a new “class” every time since the cards will be in a different order, and you can do as much or as little as you want.
There are so many workouts you can do with just a tiny weights set. The cool thing about having a set of dumbbells is that you get strength training and cardio at the same time if you do a circuit system. If you don’t know where to start, check out YouTube, or there are posters and cards for these also. Plus, this particular set is cute enough to sit out in the open without taking up half your apartment or being a total eyesore.
Les Mills On Demand
My friends all swear by Les Mills classes, and while tons of gyms do their classes, they also have really good at-home instructional videos. They have all kinds of strength building, cardio, barre, and even yoga classes, and it’s only $14.99 a month. In addition, their classes are between 15-55 minutes so if you’re really short on time, you can still fit a workout in. You can stream them on any device too, including your phone. This is perfect for the unmotivated, or the idiot who doesn’t really know what they’re doing (hi). *Disclaimer: I don’t know if they’re doing Les Mills in the GIF, I just like the dog.
Okay, a Fitbit isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s cheaper than paying for a gym for the rest of your life that you never set foot in. We take for granted one of the easiest ways to incorporate exercise without going to the gym, and that, my friend, is walking. It is free. But if you don’t walk or move enough, it may be time to invest in a Fitbit (or Apple Watch, or whatever wearable tech you want). Having a Fitbit can motivate you to just move more in general, and anything can be exercise as long as it puts you closer to getting those 10,000 steps. Putting away laundry, cleaning your apartment, taking the stairs—all of it counts toward your steps for the day and will help to get you off your ass. Of course, you could just do this without the Fitbit, but it’s nice to actually see exactly how much progress you make.
You definitely need a yoga mat to exercise at home, and not just for yoga. A yoga mat provides extra cushion for your weird, textured vinyl apartment floor for you to do tons of different exercises, like abs, pilates, and your pre- and post-workout stretching. It also makes you feel more in the zone for working out, as opposed to lying on your rug while your dog tries to make out with you. Like, I am ~*exercising*~ now, dog kisses need to wait.
This one can be kind of annoying to store, but exercise balls are SO cheap, and you can always deflate it and stick it in a closet before The Queen (your mom) visits. You can do a ton of exercises with just the ball, particularly abs and core stuff. And, as an added bonus, it’s way better for you and your body to use an exercise ball in lieu of a chair for studying or working out at home.
This is great in addition to or even instead of a dumbbells purchase. Kettlebells are awesome because they’re pretty compact and you can do a lot with them. Hold one (or even two) to squat and get a Kim K ass without the surgery, use them to up your leg workouts, and to tone your arms. Plus, you can just up your reps when it starts to be too easy and replace it with a heavier weight when you’re strong enough, instead of storing an entire set. And they’re really inexpensive! See how you can use them here.
Images: Amazon (5); Giphy (2)
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While I totally support not giving a sh*t about how you look at the gym, I mean don’t worry about sweating and wearing that old sorority date party tank. You still need to care about what your form looks like. If you’re not performing an exercise right, at best you’re wasting your time, and at worst you’re going to injure yourself. This is not limited to the weight machines, either—some of the most common bodyweight exercises you’ve probably been doing for years are the ones that people mess up the most often. Read on for the exercises most frequently done incorrectly, according to Los Angeles based trainer and founder of KICHGO, Kit Rich, and how to fix your form.
If you’ve ever taken a workout class and done crunches, you’ve probably been told to keep your elbows down and away from cupping your ears. That’s not just for aesthetics: scrunching up puts pressure on your neck, causing tension and stiffness. Another common mistake: rocking your hips back and forth too much, because it looks stupid and hurts your back. Basically, if you’re feeling strain or moving a lot in any area that is not your abs, you’re not doing it right. Also, that’s never going to get you that ab crack.
DO IT RIGHT: Unless you’re trying to get a thicc neck (you do you), don’t pull or twist from the neck and shoulders. Keep your elbows pulled down and think about keeping your back flat and lifting through the shoulder blades, which is the opposite of hunching over. In your bicycle crunch, keep your hips stable by extending your legs forward from the hip, keeping them low and parallel to the ground. Think of it more like a lengthening motion than pedaling motion—this is what’s going to target your lower abs and obliques.
Planks are awesome. Not only do they strengthen every muscle in your core at once, but you don’t even have to move while doing the exercise (my favorite kind). However, because you’re holding the position for a while, it can be easy to slip out of good form once you start getting tired. Sticking your butt up or arching your back will take the work out of your abs and will give you back pain, and that’s not what we want.
DO IT RIGHT: Because planks are hard in general, you may not be able to tell by feeling whether your hips are too high or low, but a quick peek in a mirror will make it obvious. It’s called a plank because your back and shoulders should be as flat as a board, so try to visualize that line from your shoulders to your heels the whole time you’re holding the position. Hold your gaze a few inches in front of you instead of directly under you to keep your neck neutral. Finally, squeeze your butt and thighs as well as your arms and abs to help keep the straight line. Start off with a 30-second plank to make sure you’ve got it down before moving on to longer holds.
Wide Arm Push-Ups
Push-ups are hard, but don’t sleep on them—they’re great for working out your arms without using additional weights. You’ve probably f*cked this up before, so you already know what it looks and feels like: tucking the chin and looking down, moving your shoulders up and down one inch and calling it a push-up. You’re going to hurt your neck and shoulders that way and not get any benefit to your arms. Remember, a push-up is really just moving your plank up and down, so if you’re teetering out of your alignment, it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.
DO IT RIGHT: Don’t try to act cool. If you can’t do a full push-up right now, start by doing modified push-ups on your knees. In the modified push-up, be sure to keep your body in line from the back of your head to the back of your knees instead of bending at the waist when you push down. Extend your arms out wide (slightly past your shoulders) and ground your hands into the floor to firmly support the rest of your body. Bring your chest all the way down to tap the floor and back up. Do this with straight arms and with your core engaged the whole time. When you feel something in your abs as well as your arms, you’ll know you’re doing it right.
THE TAKEAWAY: If it looks weird or feels weird, it probably is hurting more than helping. Slow down, modify, or do fewer reps at first and then work your way up.
Images: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com; Giphy (3)
I don’t know about you, but my favorite moment in television history was when Bella Hadid strutted past The Weeknd on stage during the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, looking hot as hell, while he just stood there looking mad regretful. Honestly, I would do just about anything for that kind of high, because I can’t imagine that anything feels quite as good as reminding a guy who didn’t want to be with you just how hot you are. If you are feeling a little meh and want to change that, getting in shape is a good way to start. To quote the great Elle Woods, “exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy…” The rest isn’t really relevant to my point, so I’ll just stop there. So if any of this sounds appealing to you, you’ll love what’s to come! Trainer to the stars Autumn Calabrese—you probably know her from Khloé Kardashian’s Revenge Body—created a special ab and glute workout just for Betches readers! What’s more, Khloé’s revenge-seekers aren’t the only people Calabrese has whipped into shape. She used to be Kendall Jenner’s personal trainer, too. Tbh, this workout is not for the meek. It’s hard af, but so is life, so get to work.
Weighted Side Bend
This one is pretty straightforward, so I won’t spend too much time explaining it, but I will take a second to tell you why it’s amazing. Ok, so you know how Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing has those really subtle yet very enviable ab dimples on either side of her torso? That’s probably because she was doing weighted side planks all damn day!
Even though it does a lot, the actual movements aren’t super challenging. To start, grab a weight that feels heavy, but not so heavy that you might drop it. Stand with your feet parallel and about hips-width apart. Place the hand that isn’t holding the weight behind your head like you would for crunches, and then, without breaking your posture, lean sideways toward whichever side the weight is on. So your upper body bends sideways at the waist and your lower body doesn’t move at all. Calabrese says, “I love this move for sculpting the obliques. Perform two sets of 15-20 reps on each side.” You’ll def feel this one the next day.
Dumbbell Hip Hinge
Or as I like to call it, the weighted bend-and-snap. Grab two weights and stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Hold the weights in front of your body (as opposed to down at your sides) with the backs of your hands facing forward. Now, without curving your back, slowly bend your body forward at the waist. Your legs should also bend as your upper body hinges forward about 45 degrees. Then, snap back up. Don’t lift slowly; you want that part to be pretty fast. Calabrese says, “This move is great for lifting your butt. It works the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus. To build your butt, you need to lift heavy, so pick a weight that allows you to perform 10-12 reps where you can’t do any more with proper form by rep 12.” And then you will probably keel over and need a nap, but you’ll get results.
Single Leg Tap Back
Hearing the phrase “tap back” is giving me major SoulCycle PTSD, but I’ll pull it together. Doing single leg tap backs every day will give you a Kardashian butt…in that it will be round and shapely, not full of silicone. For this one, start with your feet touching and a weight in one hand. Just for simplicity’s sake, let’s say the weight is in your right hand. Bend your left leg and step your right foot all the way back so that your toes are touching the ground. It’s kind of like you’re in a modified runner’s lunge. Now, the hard part! Without sacrificing your flat back, lift your right leg up slowly so that it’s at the same height as your hips. Do not, I repeat, do not let your upper body dip down. Keeping that weighted balance is what strengthens your butt and will ultimately make it look like a peach emoji. Calabrese says, “This move is great for working the gluteus maximus and helping lift the butt. It’s also going to help you build your backside. You want to pick a weight that allows you to perform 10-12 reps and you’ll want to do three to four sets of the move.” Ugh, ok fine.
Plank Triple Knee Tuck
Luckily, there are no weights involved in this ab exercise, so if your hands were starting to develop calluses, congrats, you’re done with the weighted portion of the program. You do, however, need two gliders, which are cheap af on Amazon. To start, get in plank position with your arms extended, and place the gliders under your toes. Then, glide your knee to the opposite elbow and then extend back to plank position. You’re going to alternate each knee and do both knees toward their same-side elbows at the same time. This kind of looks like the position you do in leapfrog right before you leap. Good visual, or did I just make that more confusing? You decide. Calabrese says, “This move works the whole body with a strong emphasis on the core. It will help tone your obliques as well as your lower abs.” I like the sound of that.
Glute Bridge With Knee Opener
Get a mat for this one if you don’t want a bruised tailbone. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet together on the floor. Cool, you’re done! Kidding. Place a resistance band around both legs right above the knee, slowly lift your hips up and then spread your knees, but keep your feet together. Move your knees back together and then slowly lower your hips. This may sound easy because you’re lying down, but don’t be fooled. Your butt will feel like it’s falling off the next day. Calabrese says, “This move is great for shaping and toning the sides of the glutes or the gluteus medius. You want to use a heavy resistance loop for this. Perform two sets of 15-20 reps.”
I did this on a Sunday morning and seriously considered working from home the next day so that I could take an ice bath every few hours. It hurt so good. I fully trust Autumn Calabrese because I’ve seen her magic unfold on Revenge Body, so if you need an at-home workout that will actually challenge you, you’re welcome.
Images: Courtesy of Per Bernal, Autumn Calabrese (5)
If you’re like me, going to the gym is as rare as a monogamous Kardashian couple: it just doesn’t happen. The main reason I don’t go to the gym, though (aside from being a lazy piece of sh*t), is that I’m terribly embarrassed by my lack of athletic ability. Three minutes on a treadmill and I’m heaving over the garbage can. And don’t even try me with weights. I’d be lucky to get five pounds off the ground. And SoulCycle? I nearly crapped my pants doing that. Never again. But, admittedly, I do need some form of physical movement in my life. It’s pretty upsetting that I can’t go up a flight of stairs without feeling faint. I am told that’s like, bad for you?
Basically, I need a workout that won’t make me super short of breath, which led me to yoga. I mean sure, yoga can be hard (especially if you’re sweating all your water weight out in a 94-degree studio), but it doesn’t kill me the same way that a Barry’s Bootcamp class would. Which made me wonder: is it too good to be true? Can I do yoga every day and still get the summer body I’ve been putting off working on since…summer 2014? I spoke to personal trainer and owner of Frame Fitness in Toronto, Melissa Bentivoglio, about whether or not we can trust yoga as a main form of exercise.
I need a trainer who will understand that I want to be fit without breaking a sweat or being uncomfortable in literally any way
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) September 3, 2019
Is Yoga A Real Workout?
Yes, but it’s not as simple as that. The point of Yoga is to focus your energy on specific tasks, poses, and flows. According to Bentivoglio, different types of Yoga work your body in specific ways. “The forms of Yoga can vary from physically demanding and vigorous Power Yoga to meditative and Restorative Yoga.”
For example, in a Vinyasa class, if it is instructed in a rhythmic, continuous, and intense fashion, Bentivoglio notes, “it can certainly elevate the heart rate to be considered a form of aerobic exercise.” In slower-paced Yoga classes, though, Bentivoglio says, “there could be more focus on holding isometric poses, which focus more on strength building.” These are examples of less traditional cardio workout circuits, but nonetheless, still a form of exercise.
How Can You Make The Most Of Yoga As A Workout?
So apparently lying in child’s pose and
napping meditating for an hour doesn’t really make the most of utilizing Yoga as a workout. Who would’ve thought? Bentivoglio suggests taking classes based on what you would like to focus on. There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing. All components of yoga can benefit your health. “Strength training is a key component of health and fitness. Building lean muscle mass helps burn more calories at rest, even if you are not perspiring profusely. Cardio is also an important form of exercise as it improves cardiovascular health,” says Bentivoglio.
Even if you’re not profusely sweating, you’re still getting a lot out of your time. If you want to take a cardio-centric route, that will help benefit your heart health. Pick the type of class that focuses on a part of your body or health that you really want to improve on. Yoga isn’t a fix-all sort of exercise (does that even exist?) and it takes time to work out each part of your body through a variety of flows and methods.
What Is The Most Common Myth About Yoga?
“The most common myth is that you have to be flexible to do it,” says Bentivoglio. If you’re like me and can’t touch your toes, this is a huge relief. “Some forms of Yoga require a greater amount of stamina and power than they do flexibility. But the benefit overall of Yoga is that the more you keep at it, the more flexible you’ll feel yourself become,” she adds.
It won’t happen all at once, so don’t try to do the splits when you’re six shots deep and really want to show off—you’ll just end up with ripped pants and a torn ACL. Patience is key, which is f*cking annoying, because who likes to wait for anything nowadays, but I guess that’s better than the StairMaster, so I’ll take it.
How Can Beginners Get Started?
First, you need to identify what you want to achieve. Pick an end goal, and then find the types of Yoga that help you best work towards that. It doesn’t need to be the same thing every week, but finding a routine and pattern will reap the benefits much quicker. Bentivoglio explains, “if one would like to start doing Yoga to alleviate stress and anxiety, meditative Yoga could help by calming the mind by combining poses with breathing and mantras.”
Meditative combines breathing with calming poses and mantras. If flexibility and strength are your goals, hot Yoga could be a good place to start. If you’re looking to just start with the basics and then find your footing, Hatha Yoga is the way to go. Overall, beginners should start off slow then build their way up to more high-intensity classes like Vinyasa.
What Are Some Apps For Practicing Yoga?
If you’re like me and still having some anxiety about actually being in a room with other people, apps are super useful. Here are some of Melissa’s favorites for different types of flows:
Pocket Yoga: Good for beginners who want to practice yoga and learn new poses. There are also pre-set flows that you can try out.
Universal Breathing: A fantastic app that helps you focuses on breathing. It’s a great way to alleviate stress, headaches, and lower blood pressure, among other things.
Asana Rebel: Provides Yoga workouts that incorporate both strength training and cardio-based poses and flows. Their sessions can last about 30 minutes and are structured in a very effective and fun way.
So it seems like, yes, Yoga can be a legit workout, provided you are realistic about what you want out of a class and you choose the right class based on your fitness goals.
Images: Yayan Sopian / Unsplash; showerthoughts / me.me; betchesluvthis / Twitter
If you go to the gym with any regularity (ok, stop bragging), you likely have a love-hate relationship with the elliptical. On the one hand, it’s literally the easiest machine there. On the other hand, you kind of feel like a fake piece of sh*t because pop culture consistently references the elliptical as a non-workout. But as we’ve learned in 2019, the workout you’re seeing all over Instagram is not necessarily the right one for you—and types of cardio you’d written off as a waste of time could actually be valuable (hello, walking on the treadmill!). So, is the elliptical actually worth it? Here are the results of my investigation.
Sidenote: Women of Twitter, please stop bragging about using the squat rack over the elliptical. You are giving the worst men in the world so much ammunition. Just use whatever machines make you happy.
I'm literally the only girl who uses the squat rack at snap… And the only one who isn't always on a freaking elliptical.
— Bailey Bowlin (@baileybowlin) April 30, 2013
If you're a girl and go to the squat rack instead of the elliptical you become 100x more attractive
— Nick Marquart (@NickMarquart) June 22, 2014
The Elliptical Feels Easier, But It’s Not
The short answer is yes, the elliptical is worth it! Don’t believe me? Good, I’m not a licensed professional! Y’all are learning. ISSA-certified fitness nutrition specialist and trainer Adam Rosante weighed in on this for Cosmo, and his ~professional~ opinion is that “all movement is good movement.” The myth that elliptical machines are somehow worse for you than other cardio, he says, comes from the fact that it puts less pressure on your joints than running outside or using a treadmill. So the workout may feel less intense, but it’s not—provided, of course, that you’re putting in a good amount of effort.
Science Says It’s As Good As A Treadmill
A 2010 study in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (sounds like a great read) tested a group of people’s oxygen consumption, energy expenditure, and heart rate while performing 15-minute exercise tests on a treadmill and elliptical. The study found that there was no difference in oxygen consumption or energy expenditure for treadmill vs. elliptical, and that heart rates were slightly higher across the board on the elliptical. The study concluded that for “cross training or noncompetition-specific exercise an elliptical device is an acceptable alternative to a treadmill.” I’d pretty confidently describe all my exercising as noncompetition-specific, so I personally find this to be great news.
This Doctor Says It’s Better Than A Treadmill
Next up, board-certified sports medicine specialist Dr. Edward Laskowski weighs in. He confirms that you can get an “effective aerobic workout” from either a treadmill or an elliptical machine, and suggests you let your personal fitness goals dictate which one you choose. For example, if you’re training for a race, you will probably want to stick to running-based cardio. If you’re not a masochist, though, the elliptical offers several distinct advantages. As Adam Rosante pointed out, it puts less pressure on your joints—which means it’s a good choice if you suffer from pain in your knees, hips, or back. Your elliptical workout can also be customized to work different parts of your body, Dr. Laskowski points out: pedaling in reverse will activate your calves and hamstrings, while using the handles will activate your upper body.
Basically: on both machines you’re getting out what you put in, but if you’re not a professional runner and actually looking for a full-body workout (hello), the elliptical could be a good choice. Or, y’know, this:
Like just about any other exercise known to man, how you complete the exercise is the important thing. And when it comes to the elliptical, that means making sure your form is correct, adding an appropriate amount of resistance, and working in some interval training. The treadmill can also be totally useless if you don’t push yourself on it—so can the rower, the squat rack, and even that $40 SoulCycle class. TBH, I think the elliptical has largely gotten such a bad rap due to the self-fulfilling prophecy: you don’t think it’s a hard workout, so you don’t try hard on it. So tomorrow, I invite you to stride into the gym and go absolutely apesh*t on the nearest elliptical. If you still don’t think it’s an effective cardio workout, then I give you permission to sound off below.
Images: Giphy (1); @dylanhafer / Instagram; @NickMarquart, @baileybowlin / Twitter
So much of fitness is divided into teams. We have Team Yoga vs. Team Bootcamp, Team Gyms vs. Team Outdoor, Team Workout Solo vs. Team Workout Class. Now, we have Team Early Risers vs. Team Night Owls. Some people will work out early in the morning, while others find they put their best effort in later in the day or even late at night. Today, I’m going to break down the pros and cons of working out in the morning and at night that I have found in science and from personal experience. As always, I’ll let you decide what is best for your routine.
Team Early Riser
There was a time where I would wake up at 4:45am for a 5am workout. That was because I would have to leave the house by 7am to drop my dog off at daycare then head to an 8:30am class at school, go train morning clients, come back to school for a 3pm class, go train afternoon clients, then come back to school again for lab at 7pm. I would then pick up my dog at 9:30pm from daycare, then get home around 10:30pm. This schedule, or different but equally long variants of it, comprised my entire work week. Talk about a schedule from HELL. The only reason I did 5am workouts was because I had no other choice. I applaud people who do this voluntarily, truly. And it seems like they might be onto something.
Studies have shown that those who exercise early in the morning make better food choices throughout the day by lowering neural response to food, and another study shows that exercise during a fasted state results in improved muscular adaptations. I will say, though, that if you’re not used to working out while in a fasted state, you will not feel as strong as you normally do when you’re adjusting to this new routine. Be careful of feeling dizzy or nauseous, and take it a little lighter for the first few early morning sessions. You might feel extra tired, even though you’re doing less work.
For me, the first couple of weeks, waking up seemed impossible, but over time, I adjusted. It felt great to get it out of the way and not have to worry about cramming it in somehow. As a trainer, I also worked better when I knew I had already done my work. From personal experience, my most committed and consistent clients were the ones who exercised earlier in the day as opposed to my afternoon or evening clients. They were the rockstars. When you think about it, it makes sense—you’re working out before anyone has a chance to throw your day off track, so whatever happens, at least you got that workout in.
Morning workouts get points for easing up the rest of your day’s schedule and setting the right tone for the rest of your day. It may also help you get to your fitness goals faster by better utilizing fat stores in a fasted state, although there are contradicting studies, so the jury is still out on this.
Team Night Owl
I work out best, weight-lifting wise, in the afternoon or evening. Let me have some food in me, let me get some other work done for a bit, run some errands—or, in L.A., just be in the car long enough to build up some angst and anger—and I unwind at the gym.
Studies have shown that you’re naturally stronger and mentally more prepared for exercise later in the day, which could really help you in lifting heavier and longer or sprinting faster. Your body is actually more capable of increased endurance training during this time as well, so these benefits aren’t only limited to resistance training. I find this to be true in practice—I am able to really work during these afternoon workouts because my body is already up and ready to go. There’s no getting eye boogers out, no hitting the snooze button. Because of this, I am usually more sore after an evening all-out effort workout than morning sessions where I’m still tired, lifting too heavy makes me dizzy, and I’m wishing I was back in bed.
While I am an afternoon/evening exerciser nowadays (those 5am days are long gone—the earliest I’ll do is 7am when I first wake up), I will say the temptation to skip a workout in the afternoon or evening is greater. The day goes on and maybe things come up that leave you too drained to even imagine setting foot in a gym, or Netflix just ends up sounding like a wayyy better idea.
Evening workouts are great if you’re really looking for an extra oomph to put into your workouts. Your body (and let’s face it, mind and mood) are more prepared to really put the pedal to the medal a little later on in the day. It can also help you ease off a particularly stressful day at work.
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Here’s the thing: the end of a workout feels like a relief no matter what time you’re done with it. Do what works for your schedule and choose whatever time makes exercise less of a chore for you. The end goal here is that you can stick to doing this for a long time. So whether that’s crossing exercise off the to-do list first thing in the morning, or giving yourself some time to ease yourself into the mindset, everyone has their preference. I will say if you’re more likely to dip on a workout, then just get it out of the way in the morning, but if you’re really looking to put in that work or let off some steam, then wait until your body is already fueled and warmed up from the day. Sometimes, you gotta just get it in where you can fit it in, honey, so you might be all over the board, and if that’s the case, give yourself a round of applause for not letting anything get in the way of you and your workout. All that matters is creating a routine that works for you, whether that’s morning, evening, or a mix of both.
Please note: If you’re training for something particular, such as a marathon, you should train the same time as that event. You want to keep your body’s routine the same and amplify that routine (optimize the body’s circadian rhythm), so don’t mix it up with training in the evening if your marathon is set to start at 8am. You want your body to be used to and basically, totally trained, at running at 8am.
I would love to hear what time of day you prefer to exercise and why. Sound off below!
Images: Unsplash; @dietstartstomorrow (3)/ Instagram
I feel like I’m constantly hearing about how gym machines are useless, ineffective, and a waste of time. However, this is, like a lot of other things you read on the internet, a huge exaggeration. Yes, some exercise machines are less effective than body weight or free weight exercises. But, part of that level of efficacy is based on how you’re actually using those machines. The designs of lots of exercise machines out there are flawed, and allow you to be “lazy” even while working out. Consequently, using machines can make you believe you’re getting in a great workout when in reality your workout is subpar. For example, when I get on the elliptical for 40 minutes and “work out” while simultaneously making in-depth weekend plans in my group chat and barely breaking a sweat, I can justify and tell myself I had a great workout. When, in actuality, my lack of sweat and fatigue post-workout tell me otherwise. The exercise machines that follow take away the option to f*ck around during your workout, and therefore provide a much more effective use of your gym time. Here are five machines at the gym that you’re not using, but should be.
When using the rower, focus on your stroke rate and the total distance rowed, rather than a set amount of time on the machine (like I used to do). Honestly, I used to just get on the rower and “row” for approximately two minutes and then get off because, tbh, I had no clue what I was doing. I thought the fact that I even sat on the machine meant I had a solid workout but like, obvi that’s not the case. Since I’ve started taking Orange Theory classes, I’ve learned how to get an effective, sweat-inducing workout on the rower by using the proper form. That being said, in order to get the most out of a rowing workout, be sure to familiarize yourself with the proper form prior to heading to the gym. This way, you won’t only look like a pro, but you’ll also be set up for a pro-level workout. BTW, using the rowing machine for 30 minutes at a moderate pace can burn 210 calories for a 125-pound person, and the best part is you get a full-body workout from it.
Okay, you might already be using this machine but like, are you actually using it? Trust me, just like I’ve had my fair share of two-minute stints on the rower, I’ve attempted a StairMaster or two in my day. However, little did I know you can get much more from your StairMaster workout by doing different types of moves while on the machine, like the ones laid out in the video above. Not only does doing a variety of moves give you a better workout, it also eliminates boredom from doing the same mundane stepping motion for 20 minutes straight. If you’re just straight using the StairMaster, you can still burn a good amount of calories—someone who weighs 160 pounds can burn about 360 calories in 30 minutes, so yeah, it’s worth sticking with it for more than two minutes.
3. Assisted Pull-Up/Dip Machine
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For anyone that has been following me for some time, you’d probably know that in the last 6 months I’ve changed from being a ‘yoga only’ kinda girl to adding weight training and other gym based stuff into my routine. I LOVE feeling strong and it’s been such an enjoyable addition to my lifestyle that often I find myself choosing strength training over yoga. Balance is hard! ⠀ So anyway, it’s been a little less – maybe 5 months – that I’ve been determined to learn to do a pull up (or chin up – I’ll take what I can get!). Literally the hardest thing my body has ever tried to do and the fact that I’m still not there is something I hadn’t expected… but it’s a good job yoga taught me that some things take time. And a lot of it. So here I am STILL working on my pull ups so I thought I would share my favourite ways to practice them for anyone else who is trying to be a badass. ⠀ 1️⃣ Assisted pull up machine. Lots of flaws in this machine and people bang on about not using it BUT it’s bloody fun to use and in my opinion if you can make the muscles burn, it’s doing a damn fine job ?? 2️⃣ Inverted Rows – so much harder than they look ? The more you walk your feet in, the harder they get. Powerful on the up, slow on the way down. 3️⃣ Holds & Eccentric Lowers – probably my least favourite cos they’re so damn hard ? Hold at the top of the pull up and then lower and slowly as you can. I have to use a band for a pull up, I’m not strong enough to hold myself at the top yet. But chins I’m a little stronger ?? 4️⃣ Resistance band reps – obviously thicker bands will make it easier. So try to use a band where it’s hard by your 5th rep (ish) ⠀ And then repeat the above many, many, many times ? I think I started trying to learn these in May or June, so I’m hoping that by May/June 2019 I might finally get there…. watch this space. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ #pullupprogression #pulluppractice #pullup #chinup #gymgirls #aloyoga #notjustayogi #yogastrong #strongwomen #girlswithmuscle #gymmotivation #fitnessmotivation #yogaleggings #crosstraining #assistedpullups #blondegirls #gymspiration #gymgoals #getstrong #strengthgoals #yogaforstrength #yogagirls #yogainspiration #igyogacommunity
This machine is a lot less intimidating than the regular non-assisted version, because it eliminates the risk of straight-up embarrassing yourself with your lack of arm strength. Pull ups and dips are difficult af, and require some serious upper body strength, which personally, I don’t have. That being said, the assisted version of this machine is an awesome alternative because it allows you to still get the benefits of the exercise without having to already have the strength necessary to even attempt the workout in the first place. Additionally, it allows you to gradually add weight, so you can continually build up your strength over time. A pro tip a girl at the gym once told me: the more weight you put on, the easier it is to do the dip. If you want more of a challenge, you actually want to put less weight on. Don’t ask me why—something about resistance? IDK. The assisted dip machine isn’t a cardio machine, so it’s not really for blasting calories—more for toning and strength training.
4. Captain’s Chair
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The captains chair; studies have shown that the captains chair has some of the best muscle activation in your core when performing leg raises. So if you want to get the most out of your core training then add these in! ——————————————————————- ✔️ If you can’t use straight legs, bend the knees and tuck up to your chest ✔️ Slow and controlled movements ✔️ Don’t let your shoulders rise, keep your shoulder blades down, chest up and back against the padding ✔️ 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps ———————————————————————— #afitterexistence #you2.0 #abs #coreworkout #coreexercises #sixpack #corestrength #bejuststrong #personaltraining #onlinetraining #captainschair #girlswholift #abworkout #gymnastics #gym #fitness
If you’re like me, you’ve seen this machine at the gym and wondered how the f*ck you use it. You may have even been as bold as to have attempted to use it…and then quickly ran away from it once you realized you had no clue what you were doing. However, if you actually do know how to use this machine, it can be a great and effective workout for working your abs, hip flexors, and obliques. This is another machine that requires proper form in order to get the maximum results from the workout, so prepare yourself by watching videos for tips on form and adjustments for beginners.
5. Air Bike
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MOTIVACIÓN . motivación = causa interna que te incita a tomar acción hacia fines determinados y persistir en ellos para alcanzarlos. . Esa bici es CRIMINAL, cri cri criminal ??? . Muy buenos dias #lifters!! • #fitnesspageforall #gymaddicts #fitqueen #blackwomenworkout #blackfitness #afrofitness #melaninfitness #fitfortheculture #melaninfitspiration #airbike #calorias #cardio #morningcardio #fitness #motivation
Usually when I use a bike at the gym, I use that low-to-the-ground one where you feel like you’re just lounging as you mindlessly pedal. You know, so I can just sit there and text the entire time. Surprisingly though, my lame excuse for a workout on this bike is not the most effective use of my time. Instead, it’s much more effective to use the air bike, which gets your arms involved for a full, total body workout. (While also eliminating the option to text and bullsh*t your whole workout.) It provides a great cardio workout that doesn’t allow any room for slacking. Which, for someone with my lack of self-discipline, is a huge plus. And it’s not just me saying that—you can burn 1.5 times more calories on an air bike than a regular stationary bike.
If you can conquer the treachery of just getting yourself to the gym, then you might as well know which machines to utilize for your most effective workout once you’re there. Sure, machines can be intimidating af, but that’s why I recommend watching some quick step-by-step tutorials for proper form, and even for workout plans for specific machines. Like, if you’re going to do the hard work of actually getting yourself to the gym, you might as well put the group chat on mute for an hour and actually get some benefits from your workout, right?!?!? Right.
Images: delmonofit, abbeyerceg, livinleggings, blogilates, orangetheory / Instagram