3 (At-Home) Ab Exercises for a Strong Core

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my two favorite people 🙂

Happy Friday!! I hope you’ve had a good week. My husband has a 3-day weekend so we are relaxing this afternoon, listening to Christmas music while the little one naps. I used to be so firm about no Christmas music in the house til after Thanksgiving, but Rob turns on the Christmas music in his car as soon as Halloween is over, and he’s slowly converting me to his side of this debate… 😛

Today, I wanted to talk about abs. During my pregnancy, I stopped doing specific ab exercises after the first trimester because I didn’t want to risk separating my abs (diastasis recti) which happens to approximately two-thirds of pregnant women! For my second and third trimesters, I just focused on compound exercises that use the core and engaging the abs during things like overhead shoulder presses and lat pull-downs. But now that I’ve passed the 3-month recovery mark for allowing the abs to heal and pull back together after my delivery, I’m ready to get my core back in shape!! 

Abs are something that I tend to put off because I don’t really enjoy working abs as much as other muscle groups in the legs and arms. So I’ve been challenging myself to do just 7-10 minutes of ab exercises at the end of my workouts a few times a week. Some weeks have been better than others, but I’m slowly getting back into the routine.

Here are 3 of my favorite ab exercises that I wanted to share with you today!

1) Planks. You can never do too many planks. 😛 Planks are a great exercise for conditioning the core and they engage all of the major abdominal muscles, so you get a lot of bang for your buck with these! There are so many plank variations, too, so you’ll never get bored. 🙂 Start with a basic plank and once you can hold that for 30 seconds, you can begin adding in variations like the leg lift, arm reach, or using a BOSU ball for an extra stability challenge! There are so, so many plank variations out there, so check out this article with 47 different plank variations if you get bored and need some new ideas!

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Plank with leg raise {source}
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Plank with arm raise {source}
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Plank on BOSU ball {source}

2) Suitcase Pass! Random name, but an awesome exercise for toning those abs!! All you need is a stability ball for this. You’ll lay on your back and pass the stability ball back and forth between your feet and hands. This is a TOUGH exercise so you may only be able to do 5 at a time, but you can slowly increase your reps every week until you’re able to complete 15 in a row!

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Suitcase Pass {source}

3) Scissor Kicks. You can do these horizontally or vertically, and both are great for working those abs! Try for 30 seconds and then increase by 10 second intervals as you get stronger. 

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Scissor Kicks Vertically {source}
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Scissor Legs Horizontally {source}

Last, but arguably the most important thing when it comes to achieving good abs: DIET. You can’t outrun (or out-crunch) a bad diet. Just because you’re working out your abs doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed good results if you’re still eating horribly. Personal trainers love to say, “Good abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym,” and it’s very true. Diet and exercise go hand in hand!

And don’t forget, as with ANY exercise, you need to be CONSISTENT with these to see results. 🙂 A good ab workout would ideally be done 3 times a week for 10-15 minutes at a time. You do not need to work out your abs every day! Rest is necessary for strengthening and building any muscle in the body, including the core.

Adding these exercises in to your workout routine will not only give you better abs, but also build a stronger overall core, give you better posture, better balance, and a higher metabolism! What are you waiting for?  🙂

Have a great weekend!! 

At-Home Leg Workout …and Happy Fall!

Yesterday was “leg day” for me. But it was also one of those days where I just didn’t feel like going to the gym. I debated skipping the workout altogether and just having some chocolate instead (always a good idea). But, I was feeling antsy from sitting at my computer all day and wanted to burn off some energy…so I decided to get creative and design an at-home workout I could do in my basement.

When I’m in a gym, I take advantage of the weight room and get some good strength training in while I can. Squats, deadlifts, and bench presses are my kind of thing. But it’s always good to mix it up and keep your body guessing! This is how you see results in fat loss, muscle gain, and fitness! So, I like to throw in random workouts from time to time that utilize other skills like flexibility, stability and plyometrics.

With that in mind, I created the following leg workout that you can do at home. All you need is a set of dumbbells! 

leg circuit

Click here for links with videos and descriptions of each exercise: Stability and Plyometric Leg Circuit

I’m pretty thrilled that Fall is finally here! This is my favorite season of the year. Although I also say that about winter. And spring. It’s hard to choose a favorite.

I’ll be back soon with delicious recipes for Fall…accompanied with more leaf graphics and fall-themed workouts.  😉

For now, I leave you with my latest find for this season:

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          Pumpkin Spice tea from Trader Joe’s

I’ve been drinking a cup of this goodness every day this week!

Happy Fall! 🙂

That Time I Ran a 5K in a Tutu…

Last weekend, I crossed another item off my Bucket List – Race Edition:

– Dress up in a costume for a race.

On Sunday morning, I donned a purple tutu and set out to conquer 3.1 miles on a lakeside trail at a local park.

This all began when my bride-to-be friend messaged me a few weeks ago with a link to a Groupon deal: half off the registration for The Bride’s 5K.

The race – as the name suggests – is for brides-to-be and their bridal parties.

I’m always up for a fun 5K, and after doing some poking around on the race website, I discovered that runners were encouraged to dress up in costume – done deal! I replied to her message with a very enthusiastic “let’s do it!” and so the adventure of the tutu began.

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As a bridesmaid, I felt it my duty (and pleasure) to be in charge of our outfits for the race. I’m not usually a procrastinator when it comes to these kinds of things, but somehow I found myself in Walmart the day before the race, buying yards of tulle and googling “how to make a tutu” on my phone.

In case you’ve never made a tutu from scratch before (I sure hadn’t), there are many different options suggested online (and countless Youtube tutorials) and each one claims to be the best. I settled on the one that looked the simplest (considering I had less than 24 hours til race time) and picked out some $3 Walmart tank tops to go with our tutus.

The bride, of course, would be decked out in white: a white tutu and veil, accompanied by a matching tank top with some glittery fabric paint proudly announcing her status as the bride.

I, on the other hand, chose purple for my tutu and a turquoise tank to go with it.

The tutus didn’t turn out as ruffly and obnoxious poofy as I would have liked, but I consoled myself that this was my first tutu endeavor and each one from here on would be much better. (If you ever need a tutu, let me know… the next one is sure to be a huge improvement)

We showed up at the race on Sunday morning and mingled a little bit with the other bridal parties. They were apparently very intent on winning the award being given to the best dressed bridal party…one group was decked out in redneck gear, camouflage viels, overalls, and carried a huge sign that said, “My Big Fat Redneck Wedding.” We passed them halfway through the race, mopping the sweat off their faces with red bandannas. I’d be sweating too, if I tried to run a 5K in overalls.

This race definitely got me thinking about other ways I could embarrass myself costumes that would be fun for a race… (I’m kicking myself now for not getting a picture of that redneck bridal party)

My friend and I set off in a flurry of excitement, as she had arrived late (GPS glitch sent her to the wrong side of the park) and it was well past the starting gun. It didn’t matter, though, because we were definitely just running this for fun. (Is it even possible to race competitively in a tutu?)

1149101_10100108489433266_1615179197_oThat being said, we did keep a good pace and even passed several brides that had started way before us – score! After a quick water break at the turnaround point, we finished strong and crossed the finish line with a cheer. Post-race pictures followed, of course. 😉

I’ve heard of women running half or full marathons on the morning of their wedding, and always knew that was NOT kind of my thing. (I’ve only run a half marathon once, but I definitely did not feel up for getting married afterwards! I spent the day watching movies on the couch and eating copious amounts of chocolate covered almonds.) However, after my tutu experience on Sunday, I think it would be really fun to do a casual 5K with my bridesmaids (when that time comes) and burn off some wedding stress a few months before the big day.

Plus, it would give me chance to perfect my tutu-making skills.

One Simple Change to Get More Out of Your Workout!

When it comes to fitness, more isn’t always better.

Simply put, the QUALITY of your workout is more important than the amount of time you spend on it.

For years, we’ve been told that the best way to burn fat is through long, aerobic workouts, such as long distance running or hours on a similar cardio machine. In recent studies, though, we’re learning that shorter interval workouts are actually just as effective for burning fat, increasing your metabolism, and lowering insulin resistance.

Here are some other benefits of interval workouts:

– simple to create using any kind of exercise, which keeps you from getting bored!
– easier to fit into your schedule because they can be done in less than 30 minutes and still give you a great workout
– they can be done anywhere – I’ve done them at parks, in my basement, and in hotel rooms
– increases your RESTING metabolism rate – meaning, your body will burn more calories throughout your day, even when you’re resting. Long aerobic workouts might burn a lot of calories DURING the workout, but interval workouts cause you to burn more calories overall because you continue burning throughout the next 48 hours

Without further ado, here are the simple steps to creating a great interval workout:

Creating an Interval Workout

You can make your intervals as long or as short as you want, but a good rule of thumb is somewhere between 30-60 seconds. So, following the 2:1 ratio, if your intervals are going to be 30 seconds, your rest periods will be 15 seconds. The short rest period keeps your heart rate elevated and is guaranteed to give you a great workout!

A couple years ago, I started incorporating intervals into my running workouts and saw a noticeable increase in my speed. Lately I’ve been using intervals for various exercises on the floor or with weights, primarily using movements that work multiple muscle groups.

Here are some of my favorite exercises for intervals workouts:

  • Burpees – Everyone hates them (myself included) but they are one of the best total body exercises you can do without any equipment
  • Push-ups – If you can’t do military-style push-ups, put your hands on a bench, or just do the push-ups on your knees
  • Squat jumps – squat with your feet shoulder-width apart; as you rise from the squat, jump off the ground with both feet
  • Lunges – many variations you can do on this one! Lunge forward, backward or sideways and add an overhead press with dumbbells if you can
  • Plank – if you’re able to plank easily, add in an alternating leg lift or other variation to make it more difficult!
  • Scissor Legs – you can use ANY ab exercise in your interval workout, but scissor legs are one of my favorites. I also love doing Russian twists and In-and-Outs
  • Tricep Dips – all you need is a bench or chair
  • Bench Step-ups – exactly what it sounds like: find a bench or flight of stairs and step up and down, alternating your leg each time
  • High Knee Sprints – great exercise to get your heart rate going!
  • Jumping jacks – simple and old-school!
  • Side shuffles over a step
  • Mountain climbers – this one targets your abs and also hits your shoulders, glutes and legs

Those are just a few of the exercises you can incorporate into your interval workout.

Here’s a sample routine that I created for myself a few days ago:
Full Body Interval Workout cropped

This circuit will give you a great full-body workout in less than 20 minutes!

I’ll leave you with a little workout humor that made me laugh today…

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The Happiest 5K on the Planet!

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Generally speaking, I go into most 5K races with few expectations, simply looking to have fun and perhaps hit a new personal record. I don’t expect the race itself to “give” much to me…except the opportunity to run a few miles with a bunch of strangers other runners and get a t-shirt out of the experience. Free coffee at the finish line is a plus, too.

However, when I headed downtown for the St Louis Color Run 5K last Saturday, I will admit that I had some expectations. This race is marketed as “the happiest 5K on the planet” so I felt justified in expecting it to be…well, HAPPY!

You’ve probably seen some of the posters and pictures from this nationwide 5K race series…people covered in rainbows of color splatters, huge smiles on their faces, waving their arms in the air or riding triumphantly on the shoulders of a friend. It’s hard not to feel happy when you see the glossy displays of color and the sheer pleasure and triumph on every face.

On Saturday morning, I headed downtown with my boyfriend to see what this gloriously happy 5K was all about. The day didn’t start out on a particularly happy note as we drove down Highway 40 with a steady drizzle of rain falling on the windshield. I don’t have a problem running in the rain (I enjoy it, usually!) but when I think of a HAPPY race, I think of sunshine and butterflies…not puddles and ponchos.

It was pointless to worry about the rain, though – rain or shine, I was going to be a mess by the time I reached the finish line – what’s a little extra water? After several minutes of navigating the one-way streets downtown, we found an open parking garage and quickly made our way to the start line. It took about 15 minutes before I was able to start, as they were sending out waves of people in 5 minute intervals. I wasn’t able to connect with any of my friends before the race (it’s hard to find people in a sea of 1,000 white t-shirts) but I just told myself to enjoy it and have fun regardless.

After about a quarter mile of running past tutus and tiaras (apparently it’s popular to dress up for this race) I heard someone calling my name and turned around to see two of my good friends. I stuck with them the rest of the way and we talked the entire time, which was so much fun!

color run collage

The color stations weren’t exactly what I was expecting… I didn’t realize we would have to go up to a volunteer and specifically ask them to spray us with color. For some reason, after ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the awesome posters on the Color Run website, I pictured “color machines” showering color all over us as we ran by – or a similarly innovative method. But nope, volunteers with plastic bottles of colored powder! It was still a lot of fun, though!

Three miles have never flown by so quickly for me. Because of the color stations and the distraction of good conversation with friends, I was shocked when the finish line came into view. We coasted in at a nice, easy pace and then evaluated the damage. 🙂 I was pretty covered with color on my face, arms, and t-shirt, but thankfully I didn’t get too much in my hair. I’ve seen some horror stories posted on the Facebook page…people that have been showering up to 3 times every day since the race, in an attempt to get the blue and green highlights out of their hair. Yikes. The color came off of my skin with some good scrubbing and a bar of soap, and it washed completely out of my shorts, which was a pleasant surprise.

We hung around downtown for a little while after the race, taking pictures and shivering in the drizzle of rain. All in all, this 5K was a great time and definitely a fun race to put in the books. We could have used some “happier” weather, but the rest of the experience was a lot of fun!

The Color Run is quite expensive for a 5K (almost double what I’m used to paying for smaller, local races!) but I guess someone has to cover the cost of all that pixie dust powdered color they’re spraying all over us! I don’t think I’d pay for it again, but it was definitely a good one-time race and I’m glad to check it off my “Bucket List: Race Edition”. 🙂