Author Archives: Lisa

The Amazing Muscle Recovery and Pain Management Tool You’re Not Using

Are you one of the many who have written off foam rolling as just another exercise fad? It’s understandable. You look at that rigid foam cylinder and wonder how rolling it under various parts of your body could possibly do anything for you. That’s the problem with judging books by their covers. It’s the same way with the TargitFit Trainer. You can’t even begin to imagine what an incredible workout you’ll get on it. You have to jump in and give it a try. But, I digress…

If you suffer from tight muscles, impeded range of motion, neck, back, or leg pain, or trigger-point sensitivity otherwise known as knots in your muscles, you should try foam roller exercises. We’ll quote some of the research and benefits below, but personal experience reveals that you’ll feel so much better after just as little as a 5-minute session, you won’t hesitate to add a foam roller to your regular routine every time you exercise.

How Does it Work?

If you’ve never had a really good deep-tissue massage, then you probably won’t understand what foam roller exercises can do for you. However, if you’ve experienced the bliss of a skilled massage therapist working the knots out of your muscles—and aches and pains along with them—then you’ll get the picture. It’s the same type of myofascial release, but it’s DIY.

Although the roller is made of foam, the material has very little give. As you roll it under your body, gravity works with your body weight and the ultra-firm roller to essentially massage away tension, relax your muscles, and alleviate joint stress and muscle tissue soreness. In fact, the benefits of foam rolling also include:

  • breaking up scar tissue and lengthening muscles
  • decreased muscle tension
  • correcting imbalances in muscles
  • increasing range of motion
  • improving circulation for better neuromuscular efficiency

What’s more, studies have also found foam rolling to be useful for aiding recovery after intense exercise as well as increasing muscle activation and even vertical jump height (!).

“Yes, but how does it work?” you may be asking. Just like with massage, foam rolling gets your blood flowing, bringing more oxygen to the muscle tissue to help it repair and work properly. Also, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the pressure deactivates undue muscle spindle activity that causes muscles to tense, shorten, knot up, and become imbalanced.

Real Results

If you’re still skeptical and wonder how well foam rolling could possibly work, would you believe a personal testimony? After a recent chiropractic adjustment and wearing a soft collar failed to provide lasting relief from pain in my neck, shoulders, and upper back, I found a YouTube video demonstrating a couple of foam roller exercises for those specific areas and gave them a try. OMG doesn’t even describe how I felt after spending less than 10 minutes doing the exercises. It alleviated my pain for the rest of the day and increased the range of motion in my arms and neck—I could finally turn my head to look to the side, lift my arms over my head, and my fingers aren’t numb or tingling! The level of excitement over those seemingly small accomplishments should tell you what kind of pain and restrictions I’d been living with.

Full disclosure, the pain and restricted mobility came back the next day, but not as severely. So, 2 days after first trying foam rolling, I went through the exercises again and then performed a 20-minute yoga routine for stress-relief. It was the first time I’d been able to exercise in a week. The result was another pain-free afternoon and evening and I still feel great. The ultimate result? I’ll be starting all my workouts—yoga, resistance training, and even cardio—with foam rolling as part of my warm-up routine. Also, I will still visit the chiropractor and massage therapist as needed but, if these early indications end up being long-term benefits, that “as needed” basis will probably be less frequently than it has been over the last few years.

Miraculous Foam Roller Exercises You Should be Doing Right Now

By now, you get that I consider roam roller results to be magical. When you live with restricted mobility and a lot of pain, and something can take that away immediately, how else can you describe it? Still, before we turn you lose with a handful of foam roller exercises, there are a few things you should know. First, there are different sizes of foam rollers with different diameters and lengths. Smaller rollers are easier to transport and store and are good for targeting specific body parts. Larger rollers, however, are still pretty useful for most areas of the body and are especially good for larger muscle groups like your back or leg muscles.

Super-firm rollers or ones with ridges might be a little hard-core if you’re new to foam rolling. Opt for a softer, smooth roller at first to avoid discomfort.

You can get foam rollers with different firmness levels, too. Women’s Health warns that firmer rollers provide deeper pressure, even to the point of pain, if you’re not careful. I’ll admit: my first experience did include a little pain. My roller is quite firm and there are two smooth sides alternating with two sections of grooved ridges. But I adjusted, limiting the amount of pressure I allowed my body to create and using the smooth sides when I was doing the exercises on my ribs and lat muscles. Approaching it mindfully, my foam roller session went from “ouch!” to “hurts so good!

Up front, you should know that it’s advised not to use foam rollers to apply direct pressure to your spine, including the cervical area that makes up your neck. Also, don’t rush things. Time magazine points out that of all the studies done on foam rolling exercises, the ones that had the best results were those in which participants spent 90 seconds or more on each individual exercise.

The exercises that are most often associated with foam rollers tend to be for the legs such as:

glutes…

…quads…

…hamstrings…

…IT bands…

…and calves.

However, the exercises I found work great on the upper back and shoulders, including the area between the shoulder blades. Here’s that awesome sequence that worked wonders for me:

There are also roller exercises that target the lower back:

And, although you’re not supposed to use rollers directly on your cervical spine, there are ways it can be used to increase mobility and alleviate pain and tension in your neck:

Foam rollers…who knew?

Losing Weight and Staying Fit as You Age

Ironic, isn’t it? The only constant in life is change…and the most annoying constantly changing thing is how your body deals with fitness and weight issues as it ages. Wouldn’t it be great if in your 30s and 40s you had the same energy and drive that kept you almost effortlessly fit in your 20s? And wouldn’t it be just as wonderful if the exercise routine and eating habits that you finally found to in your 30s and 40s still worked at 50 and beyond? We wish there was some good news to share here about how to keep the status quo working but, unfortunately, that’s not how human bodies are built. The best thing you can do for weight loss and fitness as you age is to embrace change. Acknowledge you’re going to have to adjust how you do things and get on board whole heartedly.

Keep Exercise in the Plan

Weight gain with age is a vicious cycle. Your metabolism slows down and burns less calories and your energy levels drop. The right foods may give you more energy, but you won’t typically be able to eat as much as you used to and still maintain or lose weight. That’s why, although diet does play an important part, physical activity is the key for most health issues throughout any phase of your life, but especially as you age.

Resistance training is essential throughout your lifetime.

Resistance training, specifically, is as close to the magic bullet as you’ll find. Studies have shown that it increases lean body weight and the metabolism, reduces fat, improves balance, motor control, and cognitive abilities. Exercising with resistance training can improve blood pressure, keep your heart healthy, bring down your cholesterol, and increase bone density. Plus, it helps manage chronic illness such as diabetes much better than medication does.

There’s no form of exercise—resistance or aerobic—that’s one-size-fits-all. What works for you might not work for someone else, and what the other guy swears by might not be enjoyable enough to you to keep you motivated and coming back for more. The answer to that is to try different forms of exercise. Changing things up is an effective strategy any time, but particularly as you age because it forces your body to switch gears and start burning calories again. Move as much as possible in general, such as pacing the room whenever you’re on the phone or jogging in place during every commercial break while you’re watching TV. But also schedule actual workouts into your weekly routine.

In 2018, the CDC updated their physical activity guidelines. Although most of the basics remained the same, such as working out with resistance twice a week and averaging about 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise, there’s now some additional guidelines for older adults. In general, the guidelines encourage maintaining exercise throughout your lifetime but paying attention to your health and your body’s cues so you can stay as fit and healthy as possible without overdoing it and risking injury or wellness. That boils down to an important takeaway: know how to listen to your body and recognize your limits, but push yourself right up to those limits rather than using them as an excuse not to exercise.

The Diet Connection

You’ll need more fruits and veggies as you age and less protein, but a healthy weight always boils down to balanced nutrition.

Even though trying to control diet alone isn’t enough for successful weight loss at most ages, it’s still an important enough factor that you should never feel free to eat as much as you want. When you’re young, a lightning-fast metabolism might make that possible, but it’s a hard habit to break when your metabolism changes. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has a cool little tool that helps you determine how many calories you need to eat each day to lose or maintain weight based on all the factors that matter. Pair it up with the My Plate for Older Adults (yes, your nutritional needs along with your calorie requirements change as you age), and you’ll have a formula for successful weight management no matter how old you are.

Meals are another time when it comes in handy to be in touch with your body. How do you feel after eating a high-protein meal? Or after one loaded with carbs? Federal guidelines are generalized and work for most people but if you find you don’t feel all that great when you eat a lot of meat, cut back. Try a few veggie meals each week, but supplement with amino acids and don’t shy away from plant protein—researchers have found that eating a variety of plants known for supplying protein like grains, beans, nuts, tofu, and legumes, throughout the day is sufficient for meeting nutritional protein needs.

And, just because you’re aging, that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself. Naturally, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on your salt and sugar intake, especially if you have issues with diabetes and blood pressure. But allowing yourself to indulge now and then won’t derail your whole weight control and fitness plan. In fact, cheating can help you stick to your diet by keeping you from feeling deprived and giving you something to look forward to.

Looking and feeling good is possible no matter where you are in life–not “for your age”–but in spite of it!

Above all, take it all one day at a time. Move around. Schedule exercise onto your calendar and stick to the plan as much as possible. Eat healthy most of the time but allow some leniency for a treat on a regular basis. Then do it all over again tomorrow—and the next day and the next. Pretty soon, you’ll notice some changes have taken place and the best part will be how great you look and feel—not “for your age” but regardless of it.

NO is the Answer to Many Health and Fitness Questions

Supplements benefit more people than bodybuilders and athletes.

Most people don’t worry about nutritional supplements beyond a multivitamin or maybe some protein, thinking that the only ones who really need the “extras” are bodybuilders and other athletes. Take nitric oxide, for example. Known as “NO” in the gym and competitive sports circles, it’s not a supplement that soccer moms or senior citizens reach for or even think of when they want to lose a few pounds or improve their health and fitness. While it’s true that bodybuilders love what nitric oxide can do for them, including encouraging recovery after a workout, improving endurance, enhancing efficient energy use, and creating an awesome muscle pump, according to Bodybuilding.com, NO offers essential health benefits for everyone.

Overall Health Benefits

Studies have shown that NO supplements can help with weight loss by supporting the use of glucose more efficiently during exercise AND encouraging the use of body fat for fuel after clearing out the glucose.

One of nitric oxide’s jobs is to keep the lines of communication open between your body’s cells. NO plays an important role in regulating organs including the liver and kidneys as well as the lungs, brain, and stomach. It helps control adrenaline and hormones and is key in facilitating blood flow. According to “Healing Hormones” by Mark Estren and Beverly Potter, NO accomplishes this by widening blood vessels. The resulting increased blood flow improves heart health and prevents stroke and oxygen starvation. Nitric oxide is even helpful for supporting your immune system and fighting infection, warding off cancer, and protects against neurodegenerative conditions including dementia.

Even weight loss can be enhanced by NO. A study published in the American Journal of Physiology found that a nitric oxide supplement not only improved the efficiency of the subjects’ use of glucose, increasing the rate of appearance, disappearance, and clearance, but it also encouraged the use of body fat as fuel.

NO Such Thing

So here’s the weird part: there isn’t a nitric oxide supplement that contains nitric oxide. NO is actually a gas that the body produces naturally under ideal circumstances by breaking down protein, specifically L-arginine. Nitric oxide supplements are actually ones that contain amino acids and antioxidants, like Beverly International’s Muscle Synergy. Processing L-arginine and L-citrulline encourages your body to manufacture NO, and the antioxidants help control nitric oxide degradation that can cause inflammation and damage cell lining.

Should You Supplement?

Not enough NO can cause vascular disorders which can, in turn, make it harder for your body to produce nitric oxide. Image via YinY/Wikipedia/Public Domain

Even though nitric oxide is produced by the body and is important for numerous functions, you still may wonder if it’s necessary for the average person to take supplements to enhance NO production. It should be noted that taking too many amino acids does have unpleasant side effects including weakness, nausea, and diarrhea. However, serious health issues can arise if you allow your body to fall into a nitric oxide deficiency. According to wellness expert Dr. Whitaker, people who don’t produce enough NO are at risk for vascular disorders including heart disease and high blood pressure. Plus, once cardiovascular disease damages arteries, they become incapable of generating high enough levels of nitric oxide to facilitate cell regeneration. That creates an environment for additional damage to vascular tissue and increased risk of escalating heart disease. It’s a vicious circle.

So, long story short, boosting NO in your system without going overboard is the logical choice.

Doing it Naturally

You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to be thankful for white meat turkey–it contains L-arginine to up the NO levels in your body.

If you’re not the type to load up on supplements, there are natural ways you can encourage your body to produce more nitric oxide. The obvious first choice is to eat meat rich in arginine such as shrimp, crab, and white turkey meat. Other foods that contain the right amino acids for NO production are beets, onions, grapes, sesame seeds, and leafy greens including spinach and kale. The Muscles Zone says that Hawthorne extract encourages nitric oxide secretion in the endothelial cells, and points out that exercise also causes your body to release NO into your system.

Benefits of Exercise for PTSD and Other Stress Disorders

Even a trauma like an automobile accident
can cause PTSD.

Everyone deals with anxiety and stress to some extent. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (the ADAA), anxiety disorders affect 40 million U.S. adults. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a specific type of anxiety disorder that results from trauma, either from witnessing or experiencing it. PTSD is most often associated with military veterans but, while the prevalence of the disorder among veterans is between 13 and 31 percent, it’s not a disorder that discriminates. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that 5.2 million adults in general — military and civilians alike — suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder each year, and 7 to 8 percent of the population will have PTSD in their lifetime.

Whether or not you can get over PTSD hasn’t been conclusively proven. Some deal with PTSD symptoms more effectively than others and may appear cured, but doctors Kim, Kravits and Schneider from the University of New Mexico say there is no cure and the best course of action is an ongoing challenge to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and manage PTSD symptoms. It may sound simplistic to tout the benefits of exercise to include treating stress, anxiety and PTSD, but it’s been proven that exercise really can help someone with PTSD syndrome.

The Gym is Therapeutic

“The gym has always been my therapy,” says Randy, a veteran who was stationed in Afghanistan. “Even before I was in the military, I used working out to release tension and stress. I always feel better after I’ve hit the gym.”

Exerting energy for a workout relieves stress and floods your system with endorphins.

One of the reasons exercise helps Randy, other veterans, and those with PTSD is because it releases stress-combating endorphins into the system, relieving anxiety and tension and promoting positive feelings. The ADAA says that studies are even showing that regular exercise is as effective as medication for some people. The benefits of exercise for PTSD symptoms have proven so effective that professionals and official organizations recommend regular exercise to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

How Exercise Treats Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

bench press

When your mind is on your workout and counting reps, you won’t have time to dwell on anxiety-ridden thoughts.

In his book on PTSD, Dr. Mark Goulston lists the many different ways exercise will help someone with PTSD. First, exercise distracts you. When your mind is on counting reps, following the exercise class instructor, or maintaining your speed and heart rate while on the elliptical or treadmill, it won’t be dwelling on anxiety-ridden thoughts. Also, exercising gives you a sense of control over your time, your body, and your life. That’s a terrific plus that counters the helpless feelings that are one of the many PTSD symptoms.

In addition to calming anxious, stressful thoughts and giving you back control over your life, exercise addresses other PTSD symptoms. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder often leads to problems with weight control. PTSD can result in high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease. Depression and insomnia are other PTSD symptoms. Exercise helps combat all of these, lowering your blood pressure, helping with weight control, improving your cardiovascular health, and helping you sleep easier, better, and more soundly. Additionally, exercise decreases depression and improves memory and brain function.

Remember to Breathe

Breathe out each time you exert in an exercise to avoid injury and eliminate the chances of hyperventilating.

It’s always wise to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Aside from that, if there’s one caveat to using exercise to combat any stress disorder, it would be the importance of proper breathing. It’s essential to remember to breathe under any circumstances when working out, but it’s especially vital for those with PTSD or other anxiety disorders. That’s because improper breathing during exercise can cause hyperventilation which may lead to a panic attack.

Stew Smith of Military.com explains that, if running is your exercise of choice, you can use your steps to breathe in a 3:2 ratio, breathing in for three steps, then breathing out for two steps. Proper breathing during resistance training is a lot easier to manage. Inhale prior to the exertion part of an exercise and exhale with the exertion. Proper breathing prevents potential internal injury such as blood vessel strain or hernia in addition to keeping hyperventilation and panic attacks at bay. Plus, deep breathing from the diaphragm is yet another technique for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Whether you’re combating PTSD or something less traumatic is stressing you out, it’s worth it to give exercise a try. If, aside from alleviating PTSD symptoms, you lose some weight and improve your mood and health, those are far better side effects than you’ll get with any medication.

New Study Alert: Does Salt Interfere With Weight Loss?

Not happy with the numbers on the scale? You could be getting too much or not enough salt.

Today, let’s look at the latest findings linking salt to being overweight. There is more than one recent study that suggests that salt is a potential cause of obesity so, of course, helpful health watchdogs jumped on the chance to take one more thing away from us. Their red flags could lead you to assume salt is the lone reason that you haven’t been able to lose weight no matter what you try, but don’t be so quick on the draw. It isn’t that the research should be ignored, but let’s sort out the facts on dietary sodium.

First, the Findings

Studies show that high-sodium diets encourage fat cell growth, and suggest that sodium can be linked to obesity and difficulty loosing weight.

A 2015 study on salt and obesity found that subjects across a range of ages who consumed high levels of salt had higher body fat mass. Some have speculated that people who are overweight eat more overall and, therefore, have more of a chance of working sodium into their diets. However, as recently as 2014, FOX News reported on research that linked salt to obesity in teens. The findings in this particular study included the fact that it did not matter how much food they ate. The most overweight kids were the ones who consumed the most sodium period which, BTW, averaged 3,300 to 3,400 mg per day–more than twice the recommended amount. Neither of these studies looked at why salt and obesity are linked, but Dr. Haidong Zhu, who led the study on sodium and teen obesity, referred to animal studies that showed high-salt diets promote fat cell growth.

Salt is Essential

Salt is essential for many body functions. Additionally, reducing salt intake doesn’t always lower blood pressure.

It is not prudent or healthy to go cold-turkey on the sodium, even if you’re having trouble losing weight. Harvard Health advises that you can’t live without salt. It helps your body sustain a good fluid balance plus, as an electrically charged molecule, it is vital for the transmission of nerve impulses, and sodium is also involved in contracting and relaxing your muscle fibers. People with hypotension need salt to help keep their blood pressure in the normal range. And, for all the studies that paint a picture of salt as Satan, Authority Nutrition says there are numerous studies with results showing that too little salt can cause health problems including increased cholesterol and increased risk of death in patients with Type II Diabetes. One study even found that a low sodium diet caused insulin resistance, which is a primary cause of obesity. (!) That means that, though too much salt in your diet can interfere with weight loss, not enough can keep you from losing weight, too.

So…How Much Salt Do You Need?

Not even the authoritative resources have been able to pinpoint how much salt is a healthy amount without being too much. With the USDA saying no more than 2,400 mg and the American Heart Association saying 1,500 mg, at least we have a range of between 3/4 and 1 full teaspoon of salt per day. However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics cautions against putting one general number on recommended sodium intake. The Academy understands that everyone’s bodies are different and that a life-saving low-sodium diet for one person could be detrimental to another.

Himalayan pink salt, sea salt, and similar types of unrefined salts add trace nutrients to the diet that are beneficial for your health.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t really answer the question of how much salt you need. This is another one of those times when it is helpful if you know your body and know how to listen to it. Start with your blood pressure. If it is high, lowering your salt intake can help lower blood pressure. Go for an entire day without dashing the shaker over your food and, just for this one experimental day, try to eat low sodium foods such as fresh (not processed or pre-packaged) foods like vegetables but including fresh meat, too. Take note of how you feel overall. If salt has been interfering with your health, that should not be a tough one to gauge. If you feel great after your salt-limiting experiment and your blood pressure reading drops, it is definitely an indication that you belong on the lower end of the 1,500 to 2,400 mg scale.

On the other side of the coin, if you have low blood pressure, conducting the same experiment could have the opposite effect. Going low-sodium for a day or more might make you feel weak and fatigued, could interfere with your vision, and could produce cold sweats, dizziness, and even nausea. Those results are not a license to eat unlimited salt, but they do indicate that you can settle somewhere closer to 2,400 mg of salt per day.

In the end, you just need to find your personal salty sweet spot and take the studies with, well, a grain of salt.

The Set Up: Getting Fit is Better Than Joining a Dating Site

If you haven’t been directly involved in a conversation that includes the swearing-off of the opposite sex due to lack of consideration, then you have at least overheard one. The problem with dating isn’t that too many friends and relatives are playing matchmaker or that the algorithms on dating sites are off. It’s the way you treat yourself.

You’re more compatible than you think. You’re just sending the wrong message about how you want be treated.

If the way you act shows the world that you don’t deserve to be treated right, then you never will be. Not just romantic ones, but all relationships are affected by a lack of self-confidence. Your employment, education, and every social interaction you have will be negative if you don’t have the physical appearance and attitude that says, “I deserve to be treated right!” While that doesn’t mean being an egotistical ass, it does mean that all areas of your life can benefit from healthy self-esteem.

So What Do Health Clubs and Exercise Have to do With It?

In an article for the Huffington Post, personal development trainer Sophia Nelson says, “…if you don’t take care of yourself, people pick up on it…”, and they’ll treat you accordingly. That means that staying healthy is important for more than avoiding illness and keeping weight off. Working out shows others that you care enough about yourself to do what is right for you.

Exercise is an instant confidence booster–and ongoing workouts provide long-term confidence.

More than that, though, are the numerous ways exercise improves your self-confidence. LIVESTRONG reports that making a commitment to exercise and following through with it gives you a sense of achievement. That feeling of success is completely tied to simply sticking to your workout plan and nothing else. If you’d like to lose weight and happen to do so as a result of consistent exercise, that counts toward bonus confidence.

That isn’t the only way working out can help guard you against the disrespecters in your life. Organic Authority lists several ways exercise builds serious confidence, including

  • improving your posture
  • increasing your productivity
  • giving you some “me time” to look forward to
  • supporting you in meeting challenges

And, of course, exercise releases those happy endorphins that chase away the blues to put you in a good mood. Working out makes you feel feisty, sassy, and sexy because it empowers you. You’re doing something healthy and positive to look better, instead of just complaining about how you look and feel. It cannot be stressed enough, either: even if you haven’t yet hit your target weight or are still struggling with what you perceive to be your problem area, your body image still gets a boost from working out.

The Magic of Confidence

Self-confidence is like a super-power. It makes magic happen.

You should get it now, how exercise can improve your self-confidence, and it isn’t even really about hitting that perfect weight or having Schwarzenegger’s washboard abs. All of that is cake. The confidence is what you’re going for, and Psychology Today has the scoop on the research that backs that up. In one study, researchers doused a group of men with body spray and took pictures of them along with a group they’d left un-perfumed. Then, they showed all of the photos to women and asked them to pick the most attractive men. Of course the women couldn’t smell who had on body spray and who didn’t, but the guys who had been sprayed felt more confident, and that showed in the pictures. You guessed it: the fragrant guys were the ones the women found most attractive even without catching a whiff of them.

Improving your confidence opens doors you thought were locked.

Don’t jump the gun and assume that the confidence factor only applies to men. The Date Report outlined another study in which an introverted, plain woman was covertly treated by a group of students as if she was the latest winner of America’s Next Top Model. The subject’s self-confidence shot up, and male students who weren’t in on the study began asking her out.

If you want to attract a better class of dates, it all boils down to two facts:

  1. working out will improve your confidence
  2. improved confidence attracts people who will treat you with R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Simple as that. And yet, there is one more way health clubs are better than dating sites. The possibility is high that you might meet someone there, and the odds are good that you’ll be compatible. You’ll already have two things in common: self-confidence and you both care about your health–and it’s great fun learning about all the other ways you’re well-matched. That’s not just a theory, either. I speak from experience. Nearly 30 years after meeting my match at the gym, and still going strong. 😉

Judgment Day: Choosing the Best Plan to Get Fit in the New Year

The New Years fitness infomercials are motivating and impressive, but are you ready to commit to the prerequisites of the programs?
Image via Peloton/Youtube

If the appearance of dried out Christmas trees in dumpsters and colder, drearier weather doesn’t remind you that it’s the New Year, the flood of television advertisements for home workout programs and equipment should. Advertisers and fitness gurus know what gym owners like me have seen for years: the New Year hits and brings with it a renewed interest in getting fit and losing weight. There are always the recognizable names among the home fitness offerings: Nordic Track, Bowflex, Denise Austin, Jillian Michaels…you know them all. New equipment and workouts are routinely launched in January, too, such as this year’s notable newbie, Peloton.

Before-and-afters can be motivating, but expectations typically don’t match willingness.
Image via Maggie Bautista/Flickr

Watching the infomercials, it’s easy to see why people invest in all the workout DVDs and exercise equipment for home. However, it is more psychology than anything that is making those sales. You see the muscular, ripped guys and svelte women sporting six packs standing next to their sad, oh-my-hell-that-looks-like-me “before” pictures. You hear them talk about how great they feel and how terrific it is to fit into a size 6. You see (deliberately) short clips of them working out and hear them tell how they only had to exercise 15 minutes a day and started seeing results immediately. It’s all been designed to strike a chord with people who want to look better and feel better and who have been primed for that kind of change by a New Year’s Resolution that, truth be told, was only half-hearted.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all for any exercise equipment or program that works, but those people on the infomercials usually had to follow a strict diet and workout plan that you may not be willing to follow. And that is the one huge drawback that every single at-home workout scheme has in common: you actually have to do the workout, follow a prescribed plan, and/or use the equipment regularly to see results. A few years back, Consumer Reports conducted a survey on exercise equipment for home. Quoting the results of that survey, the New York Times says that 40 percent of people who buy home workout equipment use it less than they thought they would. Truthfully, the number may be even higher as those were the people who were willing to admit to not using the expensive program or piece of equipment that they bought. The point is, an alarming percentage of people waste their money with the intention of working out at home.

Fitness clubs give you access to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of commercial-grade equipment for a relatively low monthly fee.

Shunning home equipment is not the solution, as it can actually increase your fitness and help you lose weight if you are dedicated. However, for most people wanting to lose weight and get into shape, joining a gym is the better option. Your local fitness club has a ton of commercial-grade equipment that they’ve paid for and they maintain. For your pittance of a monthly fee, you get to use that equipment without having to cough up the thousands of dollars it costs or paying to keep it all in working order.

the gear

Unless you choose compact exercise equipment that is easy to store and transport, you’ll have to give up space in you house for your home workout.

Sometimes working out at home means giving up an entire room to accommodate one large piece of equipment or several smaller ones. Newer equipment even requires a subscription for instructional access plus a hearty Internet connection to stream content. Then there’s the unfortunate fact that when you try to work out at home, life usually gets in the way. The phone rings and you have to answer it. Someone knocks on the door. The baby cries. Dinner needs to be made. Your spouse, who should be offering support and working out with you, would rather munch on butter-laden popcorn and drink beer while watching TV. At the gym, all of that gloriously goes away for an hour or two while you work on your fitness.

 

 

At the gym, the energy is vitalizing. Everyone is there for one positive reason: to get fit.

Joining a health club keeps you motivated, too. Doing the same workout at home over and over … and over and over … gets old pretty quick. The monotony is probably to blame for most of the 40 percent who buy home equipment and don’t use it. At the gym, though, there is variety. You can do a free weight workout one day, take a class the next, and work your way through the cardio center without using the same type of machine twice in one week. That’s not to mention that everyone at the club is there for essentially the same reason: for their health. That brings a positive energy into the place that is infectious and will encourage you, no matter what your attitude is when you arrive.

You should be able to get a month membership at a quality club for about the price of one moderately priced meal out.

What’s that? You say you can’t afford a health club membership? While it’s true that some old-school clubs use their well-known names to justify holding onto their antiquated initiation fees and inflated monthly rates, many clubs are cutting costs, reducing staff, and going 24/7 to eliminate as much overhead and as many arguments against working out as possible. If you want the elite status that comes with joining those big-name clubs and can afford it, go for it. However, you should be able to get round-the-clock access to a quality gym for an entire month for about the price of one inexpensive dinner out. On the other hand, if you can’t forego just one night out a month, then you really don’t want to get in shape, and you are likely among the 40 percent who would not use fitness equipment, even if it was right in your own home.

I’ll reiterate one more time: I’m not against home equipment or programs that get you working out. Though I’m big on joining a club for staying motivated and having access to a wider variety of workout options than you would ever be able to afford on your own, I also advise people who are serious about losing weight and getting in shape to go ahead and invest in something they can use at home. It increases the variety even more and offers an alternative for those days you can’t make it into the gym. The best workout and weight loss plan is the one that you actually use. And, if you use ’em, they’re the ones that will garner results every time.

Train Hard, Stay Clean in 2019!

–Matt

Top 11 Benefits of Turmeric

This week, TargitFit is pleased to bring you an informative health article by Scott Fanello:

According to several studies, the curcumin in turmeric may be helpful in reducing post-workout inflammation and easing the pain of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. If you’ve been living with the frustration of any of these conditions or a number of others, including cancer, turmeric might help you, as well. To that end, we’ve outlined the top 11 benefits of turmeric for you. (1.)

11 Top Benefits of Turmeric

Benefit #1- Fighting Post-Workout Inflammation

You know that fitness routines don’t end when you hit the shower. In fact, all the good stuff (for your muscles anyway) comes right after your workout. That’s when your muscles start repairing and rebuilding themselves, resulting in a major surge in your fitness level. So, if you plan on optimizing your recovery and propelling your future workouts to the next level, you need to make a few beneficial post-workout practices a regular part of your workout routine, including (13.):

~ Compression

~ Icing

~ Massage

~ Refueling

~ Rehydrating

~ Taking a day off

~ Supplementing with turmeric

Benefit #2- Treating Cancer

One effective holistic approach to cancer treatment includes the use of turmeric. It’s been shown to help with reduction of tumor size and/or the inhibition of tumor growth. Reports have specifically shown turmeric’s effectiveness against lymphoma, breast cancer, and leukemia as well as gastrointestinal cancer. 

New research has also shown that turmeric could have an affinity for cancer cells, which is one of the many theories explaining turmeric’s efficacy against cancer. Curcumin can also help in the reduction of the levels of toxicity in chemotherapeutic drugs like Cisplatin and Methotrexate, as well as increase radiation therapy’s effectiveness. (5.)

Benefit #3- Improving Heart Health

According to the National Institute of Health, cardiovascular disease has been proven to be the #1 cause of death in the U.S. There are a number of studies that show turmeric has powerful effects on overall heart health. In fact, it appears to also play a role in the prevention of several of the processes that are known for eventually leading to heart disease. How? Well, it acts as an anti-oxidant and an anti-inflammatory.

In addition, it’s even been suggested that using turmeric could be as effective as using statin drugs. Basically, the Curcumin in turmeric reduces the inflammatory mediators in your cardiac tissues, making it an effective cardiac-protective. (3.)

Benefit #4- Decreasing Arthritis Symptoms

Osteoarthritis affects more than 250 million individuals worldwide. It’s characterized by systemic inflammation and elevated cytokines. The curcumin in turmeric has shown to have an anti-arthritic effect along with significant pain symptom decreases. Approximately 1000 mg per day has been shown to decrease inflammation markers substantially.

Recent studies have also revealed:

~ Turmeric offers anti-inflammatory properties while also modifying immune system responses.

~ A 2006 study showed turmeric to be effective in the prevention of joint inflammation.

~ A clinical trial in 2010 found that turmeric could provide long-term improvement in function and pain relief.

~ Curcumin can also be used to replace daily NSAID use by reducing osteoarthritis pain symptoms. (11.)

Benefit #5- Treating Allergies and Asthma

Using turmeric for treating asthma and allergies goes all the way back to ancient times. Pro-inflammatory diseases like allergies and asthma have also been shown to stem from inflammatory cytokines. Allergies are, in fact, an immune response occurring in an inflammatory state. This triggers histamine-release from mast cells and turmeric/curcumin has been shown effective at suppressing 45 of the 80 histamines.

Asthma can be an especially troublesome condition. The main symptoms of asthma include the tightening of your airways. Turmeric can be used for treating bronchial asthma and actually works best when you take it on an empty stomach. (12.)

Benefit #6- Gut Health

Curcumin has been shown to bring about improvements in the symptoms of immune-mediated diseases like:

~ Crohn’s Disease

~ Ulcerative colitis

~ Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

It does so by promoting a decrease in the inflammatory response and gastrointestinal tract inflammation. IBD can adversely affect the quality of life of sufferers as well as increasing their colorectal cancer risk. Studies have shown patients having a lower Crohn’s Disease Activity Index score, which is an indicator of the inflammatory response’s severity due to the fact that taking curcumin caused an increase in the digestive enzyme secretion which is useful in preventing and treating IBD. When blended with juice, milk, or as a tea, turmeric helps settle an upset stomach. Starting with one teaspoon of turmeric mixed with fluids is recommended for seeing if it relieves stomach pains. (6.)

Benefit #7-Relieving Depression

Curcumin has been associated with improving the symptoms of depression. During a study that was published in Phytotherapy Research, turmeric was put up against traditional antidepressants (like fluoxetine) and found to be just as effective. In fact, the curcumin in turmeric used as a 1000 mg daily dose was found to be only two to five percent less effective than pharmaceuticals but with no unexpected side effects.

According to Dr. Goel who conducted the research, “Even high doses of curcumin were proven safe. It’s a very strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound as well as a great everyday health supplement. People who don’t even have any depressive symptoms could make turmeric a part of their daily diet.” (10.)

Benefit #8: Brain Benefits

Curcumin has also been shown to act as a neuroprotective agent that assists in the prevention of cell protein changes associated with the process of aging. According to research, curcumin may also be effective in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, MS, and Parkinson’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease indications include:

~ Abnormal protein buildup

~ Inflammation

~ Oxidative injury

Turmeric has been shown to be helpful in clearing the protein buildup in the brain while acting as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Turmeric can also:

~ Protect the brain from neuron loss, which is one of the main processes occurring in Parkinson’s disease development.

~ Inhibit and regulate the inflammatory cytokines of multiple sclerosis.

~ Help us with staying sharper mentally as we age, according to Australian researchers. (7.)

Benefit #9- Treating Skin Conditions

 

Curcumin has been used for skin conditions since ancient times and it’s often used as an additive in soaps and skin creams. In fact, it’s also often used for treating:

 

 

~ Acne

~ Aging skin

~ Burns

~ Dermatitis

~ Dry skin

~ Itchy skin

~ Psoriasis

~ Vitiligo

~ Wrinkles

Using turmeric appears to bring about a major improvement in psoriasis by reducing inflammation and attacking free radicals via the inhibition of inflammatory cytokines. Vitiligo, which is a chronic skin condition defined by pigmentation loss, is known to be improved by topical curcumin cream use. When taken internally, turmeric can nourish your skin and give it a natural glow. (8.)

Benefit #10- Decreasing Diabetes Symptoms

Diabetes is a chronic disease that often leads to brain, kidney, heart and liver problems. The cause of Type II diabetes is hyperglycemia, which can eventually cause an inflammatory cytokine response. This response can play a major role in disease progression. The use of curcumin extract or turmeric powder has been shown to be effective in decreasing fasting blood sugar levels.

Curcumin has also been shown to:

~ Assist in the suppression of the inflammatory response via a marked decrease in the liver’s glucose production in the liver.

~ Increase the cells’ glucose intake.

~ Improve obesity, thereby lowering the type II diabetes risk.

~ Suppress the fat cells’ extracellular signals, which are associated with obesity.

~ Decrease obesity-related anxiety and depression symptoms. (4.)

Benefit #11- Treating Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Oxidative stress and inflammation increase your risk of CKD-related cardiovascular complications or even death. Several studies have shown protection of the kidneys thanks to curcumin’s many abilities, including:

~ Anti-bacterial.

~ Anti-viral.

~ Anti-inflammatory.

~ Anti-oxidative.

Turmeric does the following to help with CKD:

~ Suppresses and inhibits the blood’s inflammatory markers

~ Reduces the accumulation of toxins in the kidneys

~ Lowers the levels of blood urea, creatinine, and nitrogen

~ Decreases renal-vascular-resistance

~ Improves the glomerular filtration rate

~ Improves renal blood flow

Conclusion

 

 

Today, turmeric is used by many as a dietary supplement and it’s a very popular ingredient in everything from smoothies to coffee drinks. Just one tablespoon delivers:

 

~ 29 calories

~ One gram of protein

~ Two grams of fiber

~ Six grams of carbs

In addition, it has beneficial minerals like potassium, manganese, and phosphorus as well as magical nutrients for keeping you strong and healthy, according to Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN. (2.) Starting your day with turmeric in small doses could help by protecting your body throughout the day. (9.)

 

Sources:

(1.) https://www.webmd.com/diet/qa/why-do-people-take-turmeric

(2.) https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/why-ls-turmeric-good-for-me

(3.) https://nccih.nih.gov/health/heart-disease

(4.) www.diabetesforecast.org/2013/sep/new-medications-for-people-with-type-1.html

(5.) https://healthprep.com/cancer/these-6-potent-cancer-fighters-are-hiding-in-your-home-spice-rack/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=267646001&utm_content=1272135241904251&utm_term=american%20cancer%20society&msclkid=489539704b0e11aafdfe656abef56932

(6.) www.yourwellness.guide/2017/07/26/15-ways-turmeric-can-improve-your-health/3/

(7.)https://www.sciencealert.com/turmeric-can-improve-memory-and-attention-span-in-old-age-study-finds

(8.)www.med-health.net/Turmeric-Powder-For-Skin.html

(9.)www.yourwellness.guide/2017/07/26/15-ways-turmeric-can-improve-your-health/6/

(10.)https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/a20459763/curcumin-fights-depression/

(11.) https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/supplements-herbs/guide/turmeric.php

(12.) https://www.doctorshealthpress.com/food-and-nutrition-articles/treat-asthma-with-turmeric-and-boswellia/

(13.) https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/7-post-workout-moves#1

Scott Fanello writes for Eternaloak.com to help men and women build the body of their dreams. He lost 25 lbs in 4 months by fasting and counting calories. Then he put on 10 pounds of muscle lifting less than 30 minutes a week. Do the same and grab your Free Checklist To Restart Fat Burning Through Fasting.

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/eternaloakcom/

Happy Healthy Holidays

Break it down ingredient by ingredient: holiday cookies are healthier than you think.

What is up with those people who take so much delight in pointing out how unhealthy holiday treats are? While overindulging in any food or drink is definitely not the best choice for your waistline or overall health, aren’t tasty treats proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy? The truth is that most ingredients in a delicious Holiday Spice Cookie are actually good for you. Yes, even the fat from the butter provides important nutritional value your body needs. So, bake up a batch of spicy holiday cookies, share them with friends and family, and even leave a few on a plate for Santa. It’s a sweet surprise everyone will enjoy.

Oatmeal: A Classic Choice

Oats boost energy and have cancer-fighting properties to make your holiday cookies as healthy as possible.

Oatmeal boosts the health benefits of Holiday Spice Cookies. It’s high in fiber for heart and digestive health and, According to Medical Daily, this wholesome grain has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and colon cancer, give you an energy boost, and is an effective appetite suppressant, so you’ll be satisfied eating fewer cookies–a definite weight loss benefit.

Spices Spice Up Health

Not only are they delicious, but spices add medicinal value to Holiday Spice Cookies.

The spices in Holiday Spice Cookies do more than make them taste good. Spices have been used medicinally for centuries, and current research backs up their usefulness in treating and preventing illness. For example, Arizona Central reveals that allspice is an effective antioxidant, cinnamon helps manage blood sugar, and cloves have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Nutmeg is an anti-bacterial, and black pepper reduces cholesterol absorption. Black pepper in a spice cookie? You bet, just keep reading…

Get Real

Real butter tastes best in holiday cookies but, if you have a mind block against baking with butter, unsweetened applesauce is a decent substitute.

Nothing tastes as good as a cookie made with real butter and real sugar, and they’re better for you than using fat and sugar substitutes. If you try using honey in place of brown sugar in your Holiday Spice Cookies, you’ll alter the taste, so we recommend sticking with the sugar. However, if you have a problem using over half a cube of butter, the nest says that fruit purees work well as fat alternatives in baking. Unsweetened applesauce is a great universal replacement for butter because it doesn’t have a funky texture that will show up in the finished product, and the flavor is so subtle no one would guess that it is a secret ingredient. You can substitute applesauce for butter in 1:1 ratio. Just remember that using applesauce will make your cookies soft and chewy instead of crisp and crunchy, and will also add the apple’s natural sugars to the overall sugar content.

Eggs Bring the Protein

Use the whole egg, yolk and all, to get the full nutritional benefits.

It’s common knowledge that eggs are high in protein so that part is a no-brainer. But, speaking of brains, Medical News Today says that the vitamins and minerals in eggs support brain health as well as lower your risk of heart disease, improve the immune system, and can even help prevent eye conditions such as macular degeneration.

Because they contain the fat and cholesterol found in eggs, yolks have gotten a bad wrap. While you can use two egg whites in place of one whole egg in recipes, BodyBuilding.com recommends that you don’t, pointing out that you’ll miss out on a lot of nutrition if you ditch the yolks. Not only is 1/5 of an egg’s protein contained in the yolk, but it also has vitamins A, B, D, and E, as well as biotin, choline, folate, iron, potassium, and selenium–all vital elements for complete nutrition and good health.

Add This Secret Ingredient to Up the Protein Content

Give your Holiday Spice Cookies a protein boost by replacing part of the flour with unflavored protein powder.

Before we get to the goods, there is a way to increase the protein in your Holiday Spice Cookies if you need yet one more justification for indulging. Substitute part of the flour in the recipe with unflavored protein powder. Typically, if a recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, you would use 1/2 cup of protein powder and 1 1/2 cups of flour. However, this Holiday Spice Cookie recipe only has 3/4 of a cup of flour, so you can use 1/4 cup of protein powder and 1/2 cup of flour. You’ll get a little extra protein and won’t even be able to taste the difference.

Holiday Spice Cookie Recipe

The basic Holiday Spice Cookie recipe is delicious enough, but adding in extras like dried cranberries and chopped almonds make them more tasty and even healthier.

Ingredients

  • 5 Tbsp butter or applesauce
  • 1 c brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large egg or two egg whites
  • 3/4 c flour or 1/4 c unflavored protein powder and 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground or grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 c regular rolled oats

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Using a hand mixer, cream butter or applesauce with sugar and vanilla.
  3. Add egg and mix well.
  4. Add in next eight ingredients and mix.
  5. Pour in the oats and mix thoroughly.
  6. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, then drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto it, approximately 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes or until browned.
  8. Remove from oven and use a spatula to transfer cookies to a cooling rack.

Add-Ins

Boost the nutritional value of your Holiday Spice Cookies even more by mixing 1/2 cup chopped almonds and/or 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries to the dough. You can even mix in 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, too, for an element of Christmas candy sweetness.

 

Warm Up With the Best Dynamic Stretches

This week, TargitFit is pleased to bring you an informative fitness article by Jonathon Colon:

Stretching is one of the essential parts of exercise; a good stretch can really improve the quality of your workout. Also, proper stretching can protect you from nasty injuries, so make sure you always stretch before your workout. Here are some things you should know before you get into the ten best dynamic stretches!

What sports can these stretches work for?

The great thing about these stretches is that they can be performed for all sports. Whether you are looking for good running stretches, useful stretches before skateboarding, or effective stretches to do before lifting weights, you will be able to find the best stretches for your sport.

These stretches will provide you with a good start for all sports, and give you the best opportunity to perform at your highest potential.



What is dynamic stretching?

Dynamic stretching is a term not many people have heard of. This technique of stretching was first used by athletes decades ago as an effective preparation for running, hurdles and many more sports. Dynamic stretching can improve overall power, endurance, and coordination.

There are two main types of stretching, dynamic stretching and static stretching, and it’s essential to know the

Static Stretching

Static stretching is commonly used all around the world by many different athletes. Static stretching is when a stretch is held in a comfortable position for around 10 to 30 seconds with no movement. Static Stretching is the most commonly used stretch technique and is known to help improve flexibility and range of motion for functional movement. Static stretching is a good and safe way to stretch, but dynamic stretching trumps this style in many ways.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic Stretching is the newest type of stretching and is used by the best of the best athletes. This type of stretching requires lots of power but definitely pays off. Dynamic stretching is performed by moving through challenging yet comfortable motions a few times. However, dynamic stretching requires more coordination and power that static stretching due to the movement involved. Basically, Dynamic stretching is when the move is controlled and smooth. It’s an effective way to gain power and get warmed up for any sport or workout!

Why should I stretch?

This is a common question that has some validation. Why should we stretch? Surely it doesn’t improve performance, right? Well, that’s what I used to think, but it’s an entirely wrong assumption to make.

It’s recommended to perform a brief stretching session before every workout, no matter what you’re doing. Flexibility is one of the five keys to fitness, and stretching is a vital part of that. Stretching reduces your muscle stiffness and increases your range of motion. Stretching allows you to move more freely with more power in your strides.

Stretching also improves posture and helps keep your back in better alignment. However, one of the main reasons you should be stretching is because it helps reduces the chances of injury when working out.

Injury can be a massive blow to many goals that you may have, making stretching so important for your goals and workout. By increasing your range of motion with dynamic stretching, a muscle is much less likely to be injured through sudden movements.



Warm up vs. Stretching

Another common question is, “What is the difference between a warm-up and stretching?” A warm-up is used to gradually increase your heart rate, which allows for more blood flow and oxygen into our muscles. It progressively warms the body, whereas stretching is used to maintain a good range of motion and improve flexibility. A 5-10 minute warm-up will prepare the body for more intense movements and exercises. A classic warm-up would be a traditional slow jog or just something to get the blood moving in your body.


THE BEST DYNAMIC STRETCHES

Now that you know what you need to know, here are the ten best dynamic stretches to get your prepared for any workout!

1. Leg Swings

One of the more basic dynamic stretches, this a great starting stretch to get you ready for more advanced stretches. For this stretch, you should hold onto a wall or anything you have in front of you, and swing your leg all the way back and all the way forward.

2. Lunge Twist

Another excellent beginner stretch that gets your legs moving! First, stand up straight with your legs shoulder-width apart. Then, take a giant stride forward into a lunge position before rotating your body to the side that you are lunging with. Alternate to your left side to get the most out of the stretch.

3. Knee To Chest

 

The Knee to Chest stretch is one that gets you moving and tests your flexibility. If you aren’t able to perform this stretch or any other on this list, don’t worry. If you keep going at it, you’ll get it!

There are two ways to perform this dynamic stretch, you can either perform it standing up or laying down. We recommend you do it laying down to start, but as you gain flexibility, it becomes quite easy to perform standing up.

Start by laying straight down on your back, then grab your knee with both hands and lift it as high as you can; this is a great stretch to get your legs moving. Perform the stretch with both knees to get optimal results.


4. Runners Lunge

This stretch is like a standard lunge, but with some added movement so you get that blood flowing through your body!

The runners lunge provides a deep stretch for your hips, and is excellent for skateboarding and many other sports. This pose will allow you to open your hips and feel loose. To perform this stretch, you want to get in a plank position with your spine nice and long. Then bring one your legs up to where your hand is, and allow your hips to relax. Then, let your hips sink toward the ground. Make sure you switch sides to get the best flexibility results.

5. Inchworm

Now, this is one of the more advanced stretches on the list. This move will activate your core muscles in your stomach and is an excellent stretch for hamstrings. Inchworm is one of the best stretches to perform before running.

To perform this stretch, reach towards your toes while keeping your knees straight, which is a hard thing to achieve and takes lots of flexibility. Once your hands are touching your toes, start to walk your hands in front of you but make sure to maintain control. At that point, you’ll be in a high push position; next, begin to walk your feet up to your hands, pushing your butt in the air. Overall, this is a hard stretch and will take many practices to master.

6. Open The Gate

Open the gate is an excellent stretch for all sports that have leg movement, and for any workout that uses your legs. It’s an excellent stretch for your thighs and hips.

This stretch is a relatively simple; most fitness levels can perform it. To complete this stretch, lift your leg up so your thigh is at waist height. Then, move your leg out to the side, creating a motion like you’re ‘opening the gate’. Try to hold the stretch for 3 seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat with your opposite leg.

7. Side to Side

This is a stretch that will test your legs and flexibility levels — it’s an excellent stretch for your hips and the sides of your body, which can be a hard place to get a good stretch.

To perform this stretch, get into a squat position leaving one leg bent, and extend the other leg out straight. Try to stay in the position for around 30 seconds, but bounce your torso up and down to get your body moving. Swap sides and perform a few times for desirable results!

8. T Push Up

No stretch on this list takes more power and core strength than this one. If you can perform it–kudos! If not, you’re just like me. It took me a long time to gather the strength to accomplish this stretch many times over and over.

The best way to gain power for this strength is to get good at standard pushups. Doing regular push-ups will create a good base for this stretch. To perform the stretch, you have to start in a pushup position. Perform a pushup then, as you go back up, lift your arm in the air, creating a T-Position with your body. Make sure you alternate sides every time. And keep practicing–this is a hard stretch!

9. Leg Crossover

This move will stretch your hips and hamstrings, the perfect stretch for all workouts and sports, from skateboarding to hurdles!

To perform this stretch, lay on your back with your arms straight and extended. Bring one knee up so that it is aligned at a 90 degrees angle to the hip. Then, pull your leg across your body and keep the extended arm straight. This is a difficult stretch, so getting used to the movement will take some time. Like always, make sure you alternate sides so you can improve the flexibility in both, not just one leg!

10. High Knees

Finally, after all, these stretches, we have the high knees dynamic stretch. High Knees is a crucial stretch that’s very dynamic and takes lots of power. The stretch is aimed towards your lower body and increases the motion range of your lower hips and knee joints.

To perform this stretch, you should have some room ahead of you to walk into. Lift your knee to your waist at a 90-degree angle, then run, lifting one knee at a time. When doing this stretch, make sure you keep your core tight and keep switching knees.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now understand the importance of dynamic stretching to get the best performance for whatever sport or workout you’re planning to do. Every move on this list provides a unique and fantastic stretch, whether you’re a runner, powerlifter, bodybuilder, or skateboarder.

This article first appeared on SkateSphere.com.

Jonathon Colon is a professional skater who now helps aspiring skaters learn about how to improve their skating skills, and spreads this message on his blog.  Jonathon was obsessed with BMX riding at a young age, but after receiving his first skateboard at the age of 11, he has never looked back and,to this day, continues to improve his craft.