Summer is here, and everyone is hitting the road. If you’ve been looking forward to summer travel, that’s good news for you, but it’s usually bad news for your fitness and weight loss goals. An unofficial survey on TripAdvisor showed that people typically gain between 2 and 5 pounds during summer vacations with most saying that they give themselves a vacation from exercise and watching what they eat when they’re on holiday. Plus, some commented that they had a hard time getting back into their regular schedules once they got home, contributing to even more weight gain after vacation was over.
There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a break when you head out on vacation, provided you are committed to resuming your healthy eating habits and workout regimen when you get back home. It’s certainly fine to treat yourself during meals and not worry about an extra beer or glass of wine while on vacation, but you’ll be able to justify it easier as well as help keep extra pounds off if you get some exercise while you’re on holiday. That is easier done than you think and, when you still fit in your “normal” clothes after vacation, you’ll be glad you did.
Make Your Bodyweight Work For You
Men’s Fitness maintains that an old-school bodyweight workout is a good way to hold onto the progress you’ve made even on vacation. Bodyweight exercises don’t require specialized equipment or much room to do them in–most can be performed even in a small hotel room. Start with a selection of plank exercises like a basic plank and a one-arm plank, also called a “seagull.” Other effective bodyweight exercises to put into a vacation routine include
single leg squats
ab lunge twists
Use Your Surroundings
Before lounging by the pool, why not do a few laps first?
Incorporating exercise into your vacation time can be easier for some people if they do something different than typical working out. The Washington Post says using your surroundings is a great way to work a unique exercise regimen into your vacation time. Take advantage of the good weather and beautiful surroundings by running or doing yoga on the beach. Bring your bike along or rent one where you’re staying and take an evening ride. Also, walk everywhere you can. You’ll get to see the sights and burn some calories at the same time.
Bring Some Equipment Along
Compact, portable equipment is easy to take wherever you go, and works in small spaces like a hotel room, too.
Some people would prefer to stick to their usual workout even when they’re not at home, but the fitness facilities in many hotels don’t have the equipment they need. That’s when taking your own equipment comes in handy, but if you’re into lifting heavy, that’s not necessarily doable. Comprehensive band equipment like the TargitFit Trainer is the answer. Everything you need to do gym-quality exercises–including 220 pounds of resistance–is packed into an easy-to-carry case. Portable workout equipment like the TargitFit makes it easy to keep exercise in your schedule, even away from home.
This week, TargitFit is pleased to offer some healthy living advice courtesy of guest blogger, Eric Bogy:
If you haven’t already, it’s time to jump on board the HIIT bandwagon. HIIT, also known as High Intensity Interval Training, is perfect for busy people who only have a set amount of time for their workout but also want to torch fat and gain lean muscle. In several studies throughout the years, HIIT has been found to reduce abdominal and visceral fat, the kind that leads to metabolic syndromes, like diabetes.
HIIT is also effective at increasing athletic conditioning. So if you are looking to break through a plateau or lose some weight, it’s time to HIIT it up.
This is a beginner-friendly HIIT workout that has 3 rounds, about 60 seconds of work, and 15 seconds of rest. You are going to need a stopwatch to help you keep track of time. The best part about this HIIT workout is that you don’t need a lot of time or space.
Complete the following exercises as fast as you can but slow enough to maintain proper form:
Pushups, as many as you can do in 60 seconds
For those who cannot do a traditional pushup, consider bringing over a stable chair or plyo box to give you an incline that is easier to manage. Another option is putting your knees down. Focus on form and maintaining a tight core as you do your push-ups. Manage your time wisely.
Rest for 15 seconds
Squats, as many as you can do in 60 seconds
Keep your feet under your hips as you bend deep into the knees. Body weight should be shifted into the heels at your lowest point.
Rest for 15 seconds
Butt Kicks, as many as you can do in 60 seconds
The higher you bring your heels to the butt, the more you have to work. As you start getting tired, you can downshift to a jog in place.
Rest for 15 seconds
Triceps Dips, as many as you can do in 60 seconds
Use a chair or low table. Your back should be toward whatever is providing support. Put your legs out straight while balancing on your palms. Bend solely from the elbows, lowering as far as you can, then press up to your original height. Keep your core tight!
Rest for 15 seconds
Reverse/Rear Lunges, as many as you can do in 60 seconds
As you step back, focus on getting 90-degree angles with both the front and back knee. Hands can be on your waist for stability.
One of the most underestimated pieces of equipment at the gym is the rowing machine. However, the rowing machine is a full-body sculptor that improves posture, strength, and cardiovascular endurance. When used as the basis for a HIIT workout, you are going to burn some serious calories.
Complete the following circuit as written 2-3 times through or pair with another circuit listed here and finish up with a cool-down:
Increase the pace to a fast run (for beginners) or an all-out sprint (advanced) for 30 seconds
Walk briskly to recover. The length of recovery should be anywhere from 15 seconds (advanced) to 45 seconds (beginners).
Repeat steps 1 through 3 for several rounds (e.g., 5 for beginners; 10 for advanced exercisers).
Cool down by walking for about 5 minutes. Don’t forget to stretch afterward.
We know what you are thinking. Burpees. Still, a burpee works the triceps, chest, core, legs, and serves as whole-body aerobic resistance training. If you cannot do a proper burpee yet, there are a number of modifications that you can use to match your fitness level. For example, you can leave out the pushup or step back into plank rather than jumping back.
Complete the following circuit 3-4 times, resting 1 minute after the burpees in each round.
Pull-ups (see below)
Reps: As many as possible within 30-40 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds.
Reps: As many as possible within 30-40 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds.
Reps: As many as possible within 30-40 seconds.
The pullups can be standard bodyweight or assisted. If you don’t have access to a pullup machine or are at home, you can do “Door Pull-ins,” a horizontal pullup alternative that requires a towel wrapped around the doorknob. Place your feet on either side of the door to hold it stable. Grab the towel, lean back knees slightly bent, then use your arms to pull you forward.
Jump Rope HIIT
Even moderately jumping rope incinerates calories, so imagine what happens when you use it as your HIIT finisher in this combination? Plus, you are building agility and quickness.
Complete the following circuit in 4 sets and rest for 1 minute after the finisher each round.
Duration: 60-90 seconds, 15-second rest
Duration: 60-90 seconds, 15-second rest
Duration: 60-90 seconds, 15-second rest
Duration: 60-90 seconds
The key to getting a lot of benefits from the Jump Rope HIIT circuit is to focus on form and speed. You want to concentrate on properly engaging the muscles of your arms and core throughout the first three exercises. When you pick up the jump rope, your arms are undoubtedly going to be tired, so use the energy remaining in your legs to blast through the finisher with as much power as possible.
Ready to fire up your workout? HIIT is going to make you stronger, faster, and healthier than ever before without needing to spend hours in the gym. Even the busiest of people have time to get fit by using these 5 HIIT workouts that are perfect for all fitness levels!
About the Author:
Eric is the content manager at Fit&Me. Fit&Me is dedicated to helping you achieve your health and fitness goals, and transform your body by offering the best fitness equipment and knowledge you need.
This week, TargitFit is pleased to offer some healthy sleep advice courtesy of guest blogger, Brenda Bostwick:
It’s a vicious cyclical world we live in these days, hyper-caffeinated during the day and restless at night. We can’t fall into a good sleep so we have to keep our engines running in other ways. If only we could wake up completely rested every day, maybe then we would feel like we’re ahead of the game instead of just barely staying afloat.
Sleep is essential to the health and wellbeing of your mind and body. It is amazing we survive the way we do with the demands that are put on us daily. But we are just surviving most of the time, when the goal of living is to thrive. We could all use a more sleep, but how do we obtain it? Here are seven great ways to start getting the most amazing night’s sleep… every night.
1. Find the right mattress
The right mattress is like the right pair of running shoes. Slightly more expensive, yes, but you will never be happier with a decision than finding the mattress that cradles and supports you in all of the most perfect ways. One size certainly doesn’t fit all, and you may not get it right on the first or even second try. Do your research and find your perfect match; for example, these mattresses work well with platform beds.
2. The way you eat is the way you sleep
Save that cuppa joe for morning. Non-caffeinated tea is a better choice at night.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that caffeine, sugar, alcohol, eating too heavy (or too light), and using tobacco products can highly affect your sleep.
Tolerance differs, but in general caffeine has a half-life of 7 hours, meaning it takes on average 7 hours for half the amount of caffeine to leave your system. Try to avoid caffeine after late morning and remember to look at the ingredients of packaged products for hidden caffeine.
3. Physical activity is important, but…
Your workout is important, but give yourself adequate time to calm down and relax between exercising and going to bed.
While, yes, it is extremely important to maintain a physical activity routine, the time of day you’re working on your fitness can be killing your ability to drift away into dreamland. It’s best to exercise in the morning or early afternoon, giving your body time to get pumped up and then slowly come down off of the natural high.
Studies have shown power naps are super beneficial to brain activity, alertness, problem solving, and creativity. But napping too long or too late in the day will only keep you up later that night, lessening the amount of REM-cycled sleep you need.
While some situations call for longer naps, make sure your naps are between 20-30 minutes to avoid waking up feeling groggy. Thirty minutes is just enough time to give us a quick boost of energy without falling into the deep sleep process. Keep your nap routine in the early afternoon and keep the room warm and dark.
5. Routine and Rituals
Following the same before-bed routine as often as possible will help prepare your body to sleep.
Growing up, the majority of us had bedtime routines: dinner, bath, brush teeth, bedtime story. Most of the time we drifted right off to sleep and stayed that way until morning.
Just because we got older doesn’t mean we need any less of a routine. Life is certainly more crazy and unexpected than a toddler’s, but your brain still works best when it knows what is going to happen next. Creating routines is the best way to a good night’s sleep. If you follow the same steps before bed every night your brain will eventually start quieting down on its own sooner into that routine because it will know to anticipate the rhythm of the repetition.
6. Your bedroom is your sanctuary
Set the mood for sleep. Use curtains or blinds to tone down or block outside light completely.
Your bedroom is the one place in your home you should feel most at peace and relaxed. It is for certain activities only. It is not your office, tv room, or storage room, nor is it a place you put things to deal with them later. Your mind can’t rest if there is constant clutter or if it is continually being stimulated.
A clean, quiet space is best. Make it somewhere you want to be. Spend some quality time making a refuge. Find bedding you love, hang artwork, use an oil diffuser to fill the room with peaceful scents, use a humidifier to make the air easier to breathe, try a fan for white noise.
The room should be cool and dark, turn all electronics off and cover all lights. Also, consider getting a circadian rhythm alarm clock to naturally and gently wake you up.
7. When you just can’t get there
Maybe you’ve followed every suggestion you’ve ever been given and you’re still not able to fall asleep consistently or well enough to wake up rested. Well, here are a few more options:
Journaling before bedtime can help clear your mind to help you sleep better.
Journal. Most of the time our minds are racing with all that stuff we didn’t get done today and all the stuff we need to do tomorrow. Just jot it down. Make this a part of your routine.
Leave the sanctuary. Sometimes, it’s just not time. And that is okay. But don’t lie there counting down the remaining minutes you have left until you have to be up, remember your bedroom has a specific purpose and lying there waiting isn’t one of them. If you truly cannot fall asleep, get up and try your routine again. Try to find the source of the problem and find a relatively quick solution to help yourself into as much sleep as possible.
Ask for help. We live in a self-help world. But, there are degrees that other people have paid a lot of money for to help you with the exact problem you’re suffering from, I promise. Let them do their job so you can do yours. Find the right doctor and try everything they suggest that you feel comfortable with, you never know what will be the missing piece just for you.
Remember, your sleep is just like the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the nutrition you intake. It is required to live, let alone live happily and healthily. What you put into it, you get back from it. Make certain you are giving your body what it needs so it can give everything it has back to you.
There are roughly 25.4 million home gyms in the U.S., according to statistics website Statista.com. Fitness enthusiasts have many reasons for working out at home. Saving money on a gym membership is one common incentive, as is convenience. Whatever motivates you, when putting together your personal fitness center, there are a few pieces of vital fitness equipment home gyms require. They can vary, depending on what your workout style and goals are but, overall, the same essential pieces show up on all the lists.
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Join the Resistance
No matter what your fitness goals are, whether they’re losing weight, gaining muscle or a combination of both, resistance fitness equipment for home gyms is essential. If you can afford commercial quality, there’s no reason not to buy it, especially if you’re a bodybuilder and need access to serious tools. For most people, though, the dumbbells, barbells, weight plates, benches and even kettlebells that BreakingMuscle.com lists as home gym essentials can be found at sporting goods stores and should suffice.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Chin Up, Old Chap
Even people who pay for a health club membership include bodyweight exercises in their workout routines. They’re even more valuable in a home gym because they’ll give you variety without breaking your budget. Pull-up bars are Stack’s home gym essential equipment pick. Use a variety of grips to do pull-ups, or work your abs with hanging leg raises. If your pull-up bar is movable instead of permanently attached to your wall or ceiling, Stack says you should also be able to use it to do incline push-ups and dips.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Band Together for a Dynamic Workout
“Lifestyle Medicine, Second Edition” recommends resistance bands as a controlled mode of resistance because they’re safer, easier on your joints and tendons and don’t require a spotter on hand to get you out of sticky situations. Make no mistake: the bands you’ll need for your home work out center aren’t flimsy, over-sized rubber bands. The bands you need are thick and substantial and come in a variety of lengths, widths and resistance capabilities, according to Bodybuilding.com .
Opt for the All-In-One
The one piece of fitness equipment home gyms can use for almost any exercise you can do at the health club is the TargitFit Trainer, and it uses bands for resistance. It comes with 220 pounds of resistance, but can be upgraded to over 400 pounds. It also includes all the accessories you need to perform over 115 club-quality exercises — including squats! It can even be used as an aerobic step, and everything packs neatly away into the Trainer itself for easy storage so you won’t have to give up significant square footage to create a useful home gym.
Even fitness-conscious people like to indulge in a happy hour now and then but, if you’re serious about building muscle or burning fat, those two-for-one well drinks will get in the way of your goals. While we’d like to tell you that boozing it up won’t affect your health and fitness goals, that would be a lie. Your body won’t perform optimally, and your workout attitude might not be in top form, either. That’s not to say that you should quit drinking altogether, but consider cutting back and strategizing when you imbibe.
Interferes With Muscle Building
Alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to synthesize protein and build muscle.
In order to build muscle, your body has to synthesize protein. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption has shown to mess that process up. In a study published on PLOS.org, researchers found that drinking reduced the rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis, even when subjects ate extra protein before and/or after working out. That means eating more protein to try to encourage muscle building can’t overcome the way alcohol negatively affects muscle building.
Fogs Your Brain
The American Addiction Centers offers a short list of the ways the brain of even an occasional or moderate drinker can be affected by alcohol including short-term memory loss, impaired decision-making, and possible blackouts. While you might not feel drunk the day after, there’s no telling how long the effects of the night before will last. It’s different for everyone and depends on things like how much you drank, how often you drink in general, your age, your family history, your health, and more. That’s why you might not be able to work up the enthusiasm for a workout the day after partying it up.
You need regenerative, restful sleep to build muscle and lose weight, something you won’t get a lot of after a snootful.
Everyone knows that muscle building takes place outside of the gym¾when you’re resting and not working out. The problem is that, even though a few glasses of wine or a beer or two might relax you, they don’t promote deep, restorative sleep. On top of that, the American Council on Exercise points out that alcohol consumption also strains your immune system, another vital link in the health chain that’s essential for building muscle.
Alcohol draws water out of your cells, so you’ll need to drink more water to replenish your body for a workout.
Alcohol acts as a diuretic, encouraging your body to flush fluids. You need those fluids, though, especially if you’re hitting the gym for an intense cardio or resistance workout. Plus, according to Women’s Health, drinking can also interfere with nutrient absorption as it irritates the lining of your stomach. That means even if you eat healthily and clean the day after drinking, your body still won’t get what it needs to build muscle.
Derails Fat Loss
Alcohol itself carries extra calories that your body will burn before it uses other types of fuel. Plus, drinking usually comes with a side of extra food.
When you’re counting calories, drinking alcohol will send your daily tally through the roof. Mens’ Fitness says that a typical drink has roughly 100 to 165 calories, but that’s not including mixed drinks that are made with sugar-packed fruit juices or pre-made mixers. Plus, who stops with one drink at happy hour? What’s more, alcohol relaxes your inhibitions, so you’re likely to eat more and worry about it less, another way your diet gets derailed when you drink.
The Balancing Act
Hit the gym first before meeting friends for happy hour. Image by Clare
There’s nothing wrong with drinking as long as you do it in moderation and time it with your workouts. In fact, alcohol can actually be beneficial to your health. Still, folks who are fond of the drink need to find a way to have their beer and drink it too. Muscle and Fitness advises starting with safeguarding your liver to keep your antioxidants up by supplementing with N-acetyl cysteine. You can also improve muscle building after a day of drinking by taking leucine. Alcohol tends to cancel the effects of this BCA, so taking extra the day after will help. Also, back to the research that showed alcohol consumption reduces protein synthesis, remember that particular result doesn’t happen for 24 hours after you’ve had your drinks. That means it’s better to exercise before joining your friends for happy hour on the same night rather than heading to the bar the evening after you’ve worked out.
It’s not just hardcore lifters who experience fatigue–it can happen to anyone.
When you get really serious about your workout, it’s easy to push yourself to the point of fatigue. It’s natural to experience occasional days of low energy, and your life outside the gym can compound the problem. When you’re working out full-bore on top of not eating optimally or getting enough rest, your body won’t be able to perform its best. There are times when a day off is called for, but there are things you can do before and after a workout to help ensure you have what it takes to make it through.
When To Take a Day Off
Chronic moodiness or depression can be signs of fatigue that signal you need a rest day from the gym.
Before offering advice on pushing through fatigue to work out, let’s talk about how to know when you should take a day of rest instead. Sure, you might not want to take a day off, but you’ll do more harm than good if you go into a workout excessively fatigued. If you’ve been overly tired or depressed or moody for more than a day, that’s a reliable indication that you need an extra rest day. Yes, working out can actually help wake you up and even alleviate depression, but exercise as therapy for those issues will still work–likely better–if you give yourself a day off from working out first. Other signs to pay attention to include chronic muscle soreness and stiff joints, abnormal heart rate, and dehydration, according to Daily Burn.
Before a Workout
Fend off fatigue by eating a light meal of protein and carbs a couple of hours before working out.
If you’ve noticed a pattern in which you feel good and ready for a workout before you hit the gym, but your energy drops fast, and you easily become exhausted, Bodybuilding.com says you can nip workout fatigue in the bud by preplanning. Since inadequate nutrition can be the cause of fatigue, their two-step solution is nutrition-based. The first piece of advice is to eat a light pre-workout meal comprised of protein and carbohydrates–and be sure to wash it down with at least 14 ounces of water to help with digestion and hydration.
The second step is a little more involved and specialized based on how you train and what type of diet you’re on. It branches into two protocols, but they’re both built on getting extra amino acids into your system an hour or less before exercise along with more water. The preferred forms of these pre-workout aminos would be free-form essential amino acids or whey protein hydrolysate with at least 50 percent (or more!) dipeptides and tripeptides to ensure quick absorption.
Outside Of the Gym
Prevention says deviled eggs made with hummus are a terrific and tasty post-workout snack.
In keeping with the nutrition-for-fatigue line of thinking, eating after a workout is just as important as eating before you exercise. Workout website EXOS has done the homework on the research and says that recovery nutrition should begin within 15 to 60 minutes after a workout, and it should be a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 2:1. On top of that post-workout snack, eating a well-balanced meal of lean, healthy foods about 2 hours after you exercise will help your body continue to fight off fatigue. You’ll also need to start rehydrating immediately, drinking around 20 to 24 ounces for each pound of fluid you sweated off during your workout.
Rest is so vital for recovery and keeping fatigue at bay that three different types of rest make up half of the six top ways Men’s Fitness lists to guard against fatigue. They include
programming recovery workouts and entire weeks of downtime into your exercise schedule
taking sufficient time between workouts to allow for recovery
getting adequate amounts of sleep, even if it means taking a 30-minute power nap during the day
Hire a therapist or do self-massage with a roller–both are fabulous fatigue fighters.
Massage therapy is another effective fatigue-fighter, whether you shell out $50 or more for a professional massage or spend some time after a workout with a foam roller. On top of feeling heavenly, a massage encourages relaxation which will help with the rest and recuperate part of your protocol plus it increases circulation while reducing stiffness in your muscles.
We don’t always get a chance to address every diet and fitness fad that comes along because they come and go so quickly. For months we’ve been hearing about souping, but had a lengthy list of other topics to tackle. Still, we put it on the schedule and, what do you know? Souping is still going strong. While not everyone believes that soup is a meal, the truth of the matter is that it depends on the soup. Turns out, souping can be a healthy, effective way to tweak your diet and you might be surprised at how satisfied you feel after a bowl full of goodness.
The best soups are filled with whole veggies and fiber that make you feel satisfied longer.
When trying to pinpoint what event kicked off the souping craze, you might remember that Progresso ran a pretty successful ad campaign focusing on the weight loss benefits of their line of light soups–all 100 calories or less per serving. Right around that time, Soupure, a gourmet soup delivery service, was launched that focuses on health, hydration, and weight loss. No matter who gets the credit, the concept is the same: it’s soup-erior (yes, pun totally intended, no apologies) to juicing as a way to cleanse the body, increase energy, and kick-start fat loss. While juicing leaves substantial mounds of fiber in your juicer’s waste container, soup utilizes whole vegetables and sometimes fruits, and that includes the fiber content. Since fiber is typically digested slowly, that means a bowl of fiber-filled soup will keep you feeling fuller, longer than a smoothie. Soups are usually packed with those healthy veggies, too, so it’s a terrific way to eat better on top of feeling more satisfied while eating less. Your budget gets a bonus from souping, as well: it’s less expensive to cook up a big pot of soup that will feed you for several meals than it is to buy all the produce you need for one smoothie, according to Yoga Journal.
The Fiber Issue Is More Important Than You Think
Ditching the fiber when you juice doesn’t only sabotage hunger control. It essentially turns a healthy piece of fruit into the enemy. As Forbes points out, the fiber in whole fruit helps your body release the sugar from the fruit into your bloodstream at a slow pace that is easy to handle, so your pancreas doesn’t go into insulin overload. Gulp down the juice from about three oranges or apples (an average number to produce one glass of juice), and you get all the sugar, natural though it may be, and it gets dumped into your system forcing your body to kick out more insulin. You might as well go on an all-soda diet if your grand scheme to lose weight centers on juicing.
Don’t View It As a Cleanse
Soup for lunch will get you through the day as well as reduce your overall caloric intake and help you eat healthier.
“Cleanses” sound ultra-healthy, but they’re intended to be short-term and not lifestyle-defining. You have to be realistic and understand that, regardless of whether you opt for juicing or souping or something entirely different, it’s not intended to be a lasting change. You’re supposed to do it for a day or two as a reset, then move on to the next phase of your diet. The thing about souping, however, is that it can be one of those small changes you make for the long haul. Instead of eating soup for every meal, use it as a meal replacement for one meal a daylunch, for instance. Even when you bookend your soup lunch with a full (but reasonable and healthy!) breakfast and dinner, you’ll be eating fewer calories overall and eating healthier, more wholesome foodsand that’s how you get on the right track to lasting weight loss. Think you’ll get bored with soup every day? Not likely when you have a variety of recipes to choose from. Start your collection with satisfying, delicious soups from Men’s Health and Yoga Journal.
Decadent, creamy soups get a reduction in fat and calories and a nutritional boost from healthy cream alternatives.
Healthy Women reminds readers that not all soups are healthy simply by virtue of being soup. Decadent, creamy soups are usually jam-packed with fat which kicks up the calorie count. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid cream-based soups; you just have to be creative when cooking them. For example, a head of cooked cauliflower that’s been pureed is a tasty way to create a thick and creamy texture in soup without using cream, and the cauliflower will increase the nutrition of the soup at the same time. Pureed navy beans are another healthful alternative to adding cream to soup, one that increases the protein content as well.
Chunks of lean meat make your favorite soups even heartier while delivering all-important protein.
And speaking of protein, one of the best things about a good, hearty soup that fills you up is the chunks of lean meat in it. What’s more, you can customize practically any soup recipe to make it vegetarian or pack it with protein from sliced or shredded chicken breast, cubes of steak, or delicate flakes of fish.
Building the muscles that make up your calves can help alleviate foot pain as well as give your legs some nice shape. Image by John Nakamura Remy
Last week we recommended strengthening your calves as a way to alleviate plantar fascia pain so this week’s blog is dedicated to giving a little more direction on how you can go about doing that. The good news is that it doesn’t take a ton of time to work your calves–only about 15 minutes a day at least three days a week, according to Muscle and Fitness. While some experts say you can work your calves up to five times a week, we say you’ll get better results if you keep it between one and three times a week. Calf muscles notoriously recover fast but over-training any muscle group won’t give it enough time to rest, and it’s during rest periods when you’re not working the muscle that it will strengthen and grow. Bodybuilding.com says that means giving your calves 48 to 72 hours between workouts, and that averages out to barely three to four workouts in each week even if you go with the minimum rest period.
They’re Called “Calves” For a Reason
Image by Qasim Zafar
The reason “calves” is plural isn’t that you’ve got two legs. It’s because there are actually three muscles that make up the entire calf muscle group. In listing the anatomy of the legs, Fitness Magazine says those muscles are the gastrocnemius, the soleus, and the tibialis anterior. Technically, the tibialis anterior runs down the front of your shin, but all three muscles work together to move your foot up and down at the ankle joint, so it’s essential to work them all as part of a calves-strengthening regimen.
So Many Exercises to Choose From
Movements that get you on your toes or drop your heel to flex your toes upward are the ones that will strengthen your calves. Considering that those are only two actions, you might be surprised at the extensive list of exercises ExRx.net has for strengthening the calves. They’ve thoughtfully grouped them into exercises that work each of the muscles that make up the lower legs but, once you get to studying them, you’ll see that they’re all different versions of two basic exercises: calf raises and calf presses. There are standing versions, seated versions, versions that use weights for resistance and ones that rely solely on your bodyweight.
It’s useful to note that if you perform seated leg curls with your feet flexed (toes pointing up), you’ll target your calves as much as your hamstrings. Actually, the position of your feet as you perform all calves exercises tweaks the angle at which your muscles get worked and will help build lower-leg muscles faster. Joe Wuebben of Muscle and Fitness1 recommends doing each exercise three times with your feet positioned differently each time: toes pointed outward, toes pointed forward, and toes pointed inward.
Also interesting is that ExRx.net includes a small fourth muscle in the calves group: the popliteus. It’s the muscle in the back of your knee that connects your hamstrings to the muscles in the lower part of your leg, so it’s important not to ignore it when strengthening your calves. The exercise website recommends hamstring exercises that involve knee flexion movements to target this small but significant muscle.
Sample Calf Workout
Using bands for your calves workout is a safe way to add resistance for building muscle and they won’t tax your joints.
With a ton of calf exercises to pick from, you can do a different routine every time you work your calves. To make it easy, pick one exercise from each group and do 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps of each on calves day. For example, you could do standing barbell calf raises, seated lever plate-loaded calf raises, and reverse calf presses done off the top of the platform on the hip sled. Once you’ve mastered those or hit a plateau, then try out the other types of raises and presses. In addition to building stronger lower-leg muscles and easing your foot pain, you’ll get some nice definition in your calves–just the kind you want with swimsuit and shorts season coming up!
1Wuebben, Joe. “The Level Up Series: Calves.” Muscle & Fitness. May 2017: 127
It’s bad enough to have tired, aching feet at the end of the day, but it’s even worse to wake up with foot pain. People who find it painful to walk after getting out of bed first thing in the morning typically suffer from plantar fasciitis and, according to WebMD, although walking around may initially alleviate the morning pain, the soreness and discomfort usually returns with a vengeance later on, especially if you spend a lot of time on your feet throughout the day. You can find a lot of information on plantar fasciitis, but that’s because it’s a condition that’s not fully understood. That has led the experts to cover their bases and behinds by mentioning everything that could be the cause as well as numerous solutions that might help but, in the end, the actual causes and effective treatments can depend on individual circumstances.
We’re not claiming to know all the answers or have the final word in plantar fasciitis, but we have done a little digging around and want to share the information we’ve found. Depending on your physical health and lifestyle, you may find it useful.
It’s Not What They Say
The plantar fascia is the band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, from heel to toes. Image by mmarchin
The plantar fascia is the band of tissues that runs along the bottom of your foot from heel bone to toes. Many people compare it to an archery bow because it’s naturally taut, though flexible, and supports the arch in your foot. If you’ve done any research on your own, you’ve probably seen authoritative resources refer to it as a tendon, but that’s not completely true. The plantar fascia tissue is closer to being a ligament because it connects bone to bone, rather than connecting muscle to bone.
That misclassification isn’t the only misleading thing about conventional plantar fasciitis information. The pain is typically attributed to inflammation, thus the “itis” at the end of the name. However, a study published in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Associationfound that tissue inflammation is not typically present with the true cases of the condition, and that it is actually a case of tissue degeneration. Sometimes degenerative issues can develop as you age and sometimes they are genetic.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis-osis?
Running–or even standing or walking–on hard surfaces can result in plantar fascia pain.
No one has been able to really pinpoint one, conclusive cause of plantar fascia pain, but many educated theories are floating around out there. Some common reasons give include
*improperly fitting shoes
*over pronation–rolling your feet inward as you walk
*standing, walking, or running on hard surfaces for extended periods of time
*no arches–flat feet
Notice how those last two seem to conflict with each other? Having arches can cause pain, but so can not having them?
In some cases, the way your foot is shaped can cause you to develop plantar fascia pain. Sometimes that can be caused by an injury like if you break your foot and it heals screwy, but you can also be born with an abnormality, like science writer Paul Ingram. He was born with a slight deformity of his foot bones that interferes with his arch and has caused chronic problems with his plantar fascia.
Probably the most accurate description of plantar fascia pain that isn’t an inherited condition or due to the shape of your foot is that it is a repetitive use injury, kind of like carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, or runner’s knee.
Pain Treatments and Management
A foot massage will feel good and may temporarily alleviate plantar fascia pain, but it’s only a temporary fix.
There are a number of ways medical professionals have for treating plantar fascia pain, and many times the plan of attack is to use a combination of methods, according to Sports Injury Clinic. That is likely due to the fact that the cause is difficult to pinpoint, so your healthcare provider will cast a wide net to increase the odds of addressing what’s really at the root of your problem. In severe cases when more conservative treatment doesn’t help, steroid injections or surgery might be recommended. However, in the study mentioned above, the researchers concluded that steroid injections weren’t necessarily the best treatment for the condition because they cannot stop or reverse tissue degeneration and have the potential to cause further damage to the plantar fascia.
Weighted calf raises are just one resistance exercise that will strengthen your calf muscles for a longer-term solution for your foot pain.
Managing the pain through therapies and lifestyle changes may be your best bet. Over the counter painkillers can help, and you can try over the counter orthotic inserts in your shoes or have your doctor prescribe custom-made ones. Physical therapists have seen some improvement in patients who wear special splints at night that stretch the plantar fascia as well as the Achilles tendon during sleep. Physical therapists also recommend calf stretches for plantar fascia pain, but you shouldn’t stop with simple stretching. Strengthening your calf and other lower-leg muscles is a proven way to effectively combat the pain. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that people who participated in high-load strength training experienced faster plantar fascia pain reduction and improved function than those who only performed stretches.
Getting rid of a bad habit may seem like something that’s easier said than done, but there are ways to go about it that aren’t as difficult as you may think. From binge snacking to overspending to smoking cigarettes, many people have a bad habit they’d like to get rid of. When you’ve decided it’s time to kick your bad habit, start by considering why you should stop partaking and then think about ways to reverse it. Each bad habit brings its own dangers, and solutions vary depending on the specific habit. Below are three bad habits and how to kick them.
Bad Habits That Are Health-Dangers
Spending too much time on the couch watching TV is a double whammy. First, the more TV you watch, the less physical activity you’re getting. A lack of exercise increases your odds of being overweight. Second, if you’re sitting around watching TV, you’re more likely to drink too many beers or sugary sodas or binge-snack, and those snacks are typically high-fat, high-calorie, processed snack foods.
Leading a stressful life is a bad habit that can be easy to overlook, but having an unhappy lifestyle releases large amounts of stress hormones that lower immunity, slow digestion, and increase your blood pressure and blood sugar. “Nature intended stress to be a short-lived fight-or-flight response to a threat, but modern life can lead to chronic stress and to far-reaching impacts on your health,” warns Reader’s Digest.
You may not think of sunbathing as a bad habit either, but skipping sunblock accelerates the aging of your skin. The sun destroys the elastic fibers in your skin, so instead of looking firm and smooth, you will have wrinkles, blotches, freckles, and discolorations. More importantly, sunburns are a huge contributor to cancers of the skin. Don’t forget tanning salons, which raise your risk for skin cancer and wrinkles.
Breaking the Habit
When watching TV, follow the 2/30 rule, which states that 2 hours is the maximum anyone should spend watching the tube in one day, and you should definitely participate in at least 30 minutes of exercise. Mindlessly surfing channels increases the time you spend watching, so only turn the TV on when you have something specific to watch. Make a point not to eat while watching TV. If you’re going to watch TV for two hours, you might as well exercise while you watch by walking in place or performing sit-ups and pushups.
Practice the art of refraining from getting stressed so easily. Your reaction to triggers determines your stress level. Next time you feel a stressful situation developing, make the conscious decision to manage it and stay calm, rather than letting the situation manage you. It helps to learn a formal stress-relief process, such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises. Pessimism is a learned behavior, so counter it by rediscovering optimism. It can keep stress at bay and help you regain your happiness. Diet and exercise play major roles in stress levels, so make healthy eating and working out part of your daily routine. Also, experiment with letting loose sometimes. Being an adult doesn’t mean having to suppress fun. Remember to enjoy yourself.
Take back your skin health. Start by scheduling an annual checkup with a dermatologist. Educate yourself on the danger signs of skin cancers and always wear sunscreen if you’re going to be outdoors, even if it’s cloudy or in the winter. If you’re forgetful, keep a bottle near the door of your house and in the car. It only takes a minute or two to apply sunscreen, and that’s two minutes that could save your life. For prolonged sun exposure, don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen. Stay in the shade when you can, and wear a hat and sunglasses. If you’re after the glow from the sun, use a lotion with a self-tanner.
Be a Better You
All of these changes above require a level of self-discipline, whether it’s remembering your sunscreen or getting off the couch during commercial breaks. It doesn’t matter what your bad habit is, you will need self-discipline to break it and re-train yourself with good habits. It may be hard at first, but the healthy changes doing so brings to your mind and body are worth it.
About the Author:
Henry Moore enjoys travel, running, cooking, baking, and reading. His favorite place in the world is Venice, Italy. He believes travel can change you, and good health preserves you. He combines both in his work on FitWellTraveler.