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Five Yoga Poses For Better Posture

By Emily Abbate, FITBIE.com (TNS)

There are loads of factors that contribute to bad posture. Maybe you work at a job where you’re doing constant repetitive motion without frequent breaks. Perhaps you’re used to carrying a bag around on one shoulder, resulting in a constant lean to the right or left side, or you’re doing the wrong workout. Or perhaps, you’re stuck at a desk job and not getting up and moving enough.

Regardless of the cause, poor posture can result in a slew of issues, including high risk of athletic injury and a restriction of lung capacity. Whatever the case may be, research shows that moving more can be the best medicine for your aching muscles and joints. Our movement of choice? Yoga.

“The regular practice of yoga asana helps create an upright posture by strengthening your core and back muscles, as well as stretching your shoulders and chest,” said Stephanie LaSpina, teacher at Y7 Studio. “Many yoga postures encourage the natural arch and elongation of your spine, directly countering the undesirable hunch in your upper back and shoulders.”

Check out LaSpina’s five yoga poses for better posture:

Wheel pose

Strengthens the back muscles while adding mobility to the spine and shoulders. By strengthening the back body, the spine is brought back into its upright natural alignment. This posture brings the spine into the opposite position of the hunched over spine, fully stretching the shoulders and chest while building strength in the back muscles.

Do it: Laying on your back, step your feet to the ground and make sure you can touch the back of your heels with your finger tips. Ensure your feet are no more than hips width apart. Place the palms of your hands down on the ground framing your ears, fingers point toward your heels. Press down into your feet and hands to rise up into your full wheel backbend.

Plank pose

Often poor posture originates from a weak core. By strengthening the core we are better able to support the lengthening of our spine and open our shoulders. Plank pose strengthens the core, glutes and shoulders.

Do it: From all fours, step your feet back so that your legs are long and straight. Your hands are placed directly under your shoulders as you press back strongly into the balls of your feet.

Cowface pose arms

Opens the chest and shoulders with an intense stretch. Relieves tightness and lengthens muscles after a long day hunched over a desk.

Do it: Sit in a comfortable seat, reach your right arm high above head. Bend your right elbow and place the palm of your hand in between your shoulder blades. Reach your left arm out to the left, bend your elbow and bring the back of your palm in between your shoulder blades. If your fingers meet, clasp your fingers together. If they do not meet, hold onto a strap with both your right and left hand to modify. Gently deepen the stretch by inching your fingers closer and closer to one another until they come to touch.

Upward facing dog

Strengthens the back muscles while stretching the shoulders, abdomen and chest. This posture helps to elongate the spine while building muscle in the back to help support good posture.

Do it: From plank pose, roll over your toes so that the tops of your feet and toes are pressing into the ground. Align hands directly under the shoulders. Press hands and tops of feet into the ground to lift legs and hips off of the ground. Lift the crown of the head up toward the sky as you relax your shoulders down your back and draw the shoulder blades toward on another.

Cat/cow

The combination of these two postures both helps to strengthen the abdomen and back while also finding mobility in the shoulders and spine.

Do it: On all fours, ensure your hands are directly under your shoulders and knees are directly under your hips. As you inhale, arch your spine, drop your belly and gaze up. As you exhale, round your spine, contract your abdomen as you gaze at your navel.

(This story originally appeared on Rodale Wellness.)

(c)2015 Fitbie.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: daveynin via Flickr

The Beginner CrossFit Workout That Will Make You Come Back For More

By Emily Abbate, rodalewellness.com (TNS)

To say that watching the 2015 CrossFit Games may have been intimidating, well, that’s an understatement. Completing a total of 13 events that included everything from paddleboarding to wearning a 20-pound weight vest to run one mile, do 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 air squats and then run another mile is no easy task.

But for beginners, watching a competition with that sort of intensity can make the sport as a whole majorly unattractive.

“The biggest thing is separating CrossFit as a sport, and CrossFit as a form of fitness,” said Liz Adams, coach at CrossFit Fifth Avenue in New York City. “(In reality) CrossFit as a form of fitness is what the other 95 percent of people are doing in their local gyms everyday. Functional movements practiced at a high intensity that can be universally scalable. You don’t have to have any athletic background to be able to do CrossFit. There’s a big misconception that you have to be this elite athlete and it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, a large percentage of my members don’t have any athletic background at all. Everything we do in CrossFit can be scaled and modified to any skill level.”

Adams recommends this beginner CrossFit workout to get you started. Do three rounds, 1 minute per station.

Bodyweight Squat
Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width and your toes turned out slightly. Your hands are by your sides with your palms facing inward. Pull the shoulders down your back toward your hips. Engage your abdominal/core muscles to stabilize your spine. Keep your chest lifted and your chin parallel to the floor. Shift your weight back into your heels as your hips begin to push toward the wall behind you. Begin hinging at the hips, shifting them back and down. As you lower your hips the knees bend and will start to shift forward slowly.

Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel or almost parallel to the floor. Keep the knees aligned with the second toe and body weight evenly distributed between the balls and heels of both feet. While maintaining the position of your back, chest and head and with the abdominals engaged, exhale and return to start position by pushing your feet into the floor through your heels. The hips and torso should rise together. Keep the heels flat on the floor and knees aligned with the second toe.

Lunges
Stand with your feet together. Pull your shoulder blades toward your hips. Slowly lift one foot off the floor and find your balance on the standing leg. Hold this position briefly before stepping forward. Slowly shift your body weight onto the lead foot, placing it firmly on the floor, landing with heel first.

Continue lowering your body to a comfortable position or until your front thigh becomes parallel with the floor and your shinbone is in a slight forward lean. During the movement, slightly bend forward at your hips. Keep the back straight. Firmly push off with the front leg, activating both your thighs and butt muscles to return to your upright, starting position.

Burpees
Start by standing up straight. Bend over at the hips, pushing the hips back and reaching down to touch the floor with your hands while keeping your whole foot on the floor (your knees can bend, but you want to make sure you’re loading your hamstrings while you do this). From there, jump back with your feet into a push-up plank position.

Your chest should then touch the floor. You don’t necessarily need to do a true push-up, but you can let your knees go to the floor and then roll down to your chest without compromising back position. Return to plank position by pushing up with your hands (again keeping the core pretty tight).

Pop up using the power from your hips to bring your legs in toward your hands. Try to land on the whole foot in the same position as you passed on the way down, then stand up from there. Explosively jump upward, most people add a clap or throw their hands up into the air for the final hoorah.

Butterfly sit-ups
Lie faceup on the floor with a folded towel under your lower back, soles of your feet together knees open to the sides, and arms overhead on the floor. Brace your core and sit up, reaching your fingers toward or past your toes. Slowly return to start.

Rest.

(Note: This story originally appeared on Rodale News, formerly known as fitbie.com.)

(c)2015 Fitbie.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Amber Karnes

Put Down The Fitbit: This New Enviro-Tracker Does More Than Count Steps

By Emily Abbate, rodalewellness.com (TNS)

There are a lot of things you take into account when planning your running route: The views, how far you’re planning on hitting pavement, and perhaps, hills. But have you ever thought about the air quality during your summer stride?

A new wearable enviro-tracker called Tzoa (pronounced “zoa”) uses internal sensors to measure air quality, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, ambient light and UV (sun) exposure. By connecting the device to a smartphone, you can view your readings and receive recommendations.

The goal? To help users seek out less polluted outdoor areas, whether it’s for a healthier walk, run or less polluted picnic spot.

A welcomed addition to the many sports wearables on the market? You bet. Just last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that air pollution deaths have reached a new all-time high, making outdoor and indoor air pollution the world’s single largest preventable health risk. Outdoor air pollution, mostly caused by gas-powered cars and burning coal, accounted for 3.7 million of the 7 million pollution deaths in 2012.

Tzoa measures different sizes of particulate matter (PM) in the air, ranging from pollen, dust, asbestos and mold, to smaller “respirable” particles like vehicle exhaust and woodsmoke.

Available at the end of this year, Tzoa is currently in preorder mode on the company’s website. In the meantime, national recommendations include checking the Air Quality Index (AQI) (which not only measures particle pollution, but also sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, and carbon monoxide) before heading outdoors. The six categorizations of AQI include:

1. Green: There is a low amount of pollution.

2. Yellow: Only very sensitive individuals should have a moderate concern.

3. Orange: The general public is fine. Older adults, children, and those with lung and heart disease should be careful.

4. Red: Everyone is at risk for adverse health effects.

5. Purple: Everyone is at risk for serious health effects, triggering a health alert warning.

6. Maroon: Everyone is probably affected, triggering a health warning.

Photo by Ben Amstutz via Flickr

Five Total Body Resistance Exercises Every Beginner Should Master

By Emily Abbate, rodalewellness.com (TNS)

Finally mastered a full-body routine using free weights? Great, now it’s time to try something new. Put down the dumbbells and pick up the resistance bands, TRX training is here to stay. Short for total body resistance exercise, the popular workout involves using gravity and bodyweight to challenge the core with the help of TRX straps.

The materials? Aside from the straps, a secure spot like a door frame, tree or weight machine to anchor your workout. How it works? By suspending part of your body from the straps at any given time, you’re creating both resistance and a need for stabilization, activating different muscle groups. Whereas doing a normal push-up, for example, you would start in a plank position with both hands and feet on the floor–in a TRX push-up, you start with your hands directly under the shoulders and feet positioned in the TRX straps.

The best part? The straps can be taken anywhere, which means this workout, invented by a former U.S. Navy SEAL, is portable and easy to do on-the-go.

Seem a little overwhelming? Not to worry, we caught up with Blake Kasemeier, TRX qualified education graduate, for his five moves every TRX beginner should try.

TRX Burpee

Adjust the TRX Suspension Trainer so that the bottom of the foot cradles are at the middle of your calf. Stand facing away from the TRX and place one foot in both foot cradles. Lunge down and lower your hips while driving your suspended leg back, until back knee is two inches from ground. Place your hands on the ground and hop your grounded leg straight back to a plank position. Perform a pushup then hop your grounded leg forward and explode up to a jump.

Adjust the TRX Suspension Trainer to mid length. Stand facing the TRX with your feet hip width apart. Position your elbows under your shoulders and lower your hips down and back, keeping your weight in your heels. Squeeze your glutes and drive through your heels to return to the start position. Keep your chest lifted throughout the movement.

TRX Low Row

Stand facing the TRX Suspension Trainer holding on to the handles with your palms facing each other. Lean back, brace your core and squeeze your glutes, and imaging that you are performing a plank while standing up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and use your back and arm muscles to pull your body up until your hands are at the side of your rib cage. Slowly lower your body back down to the start position, maintaining a plank position throughout the entire exercise.

TRX Chest Press

Stand facing away from the TRX Suspension Trainer with your hands holding the handles out in front of you. Brace your core and focus on holding a solid plank. Lower your chest toward your hands, and image your entire body is just a moving plank. Stop when your hands are in line with your chest. Press yourself back up in one slow controlled movement, focus on keeping your knees, hips and shoulders in line the entire way up.

TRX Plank

Adjust the TRX Suspension Trainer so the bottom of the foot cradles are at the middle of your calf. Start on the ground facing away from the TRX, on your hands and knees, with your toes in the TRX foot cradles. Lift up into a hand plank position, with your elbows under your shoulders. Engage your core, and do not allow your hips to sag. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then return to the start position by lowering your knees to the ground.

Photo by Gregor via Flickr

Beginner Swimming Tips To Make A Pool Workout More Enjoyable

By Emily Abbate, FITBIE.com (TNS)

Swimming may very well be one of the best workouts there is. Not only does the fluidity of movement provide a total-body workout, but hitting the pool also helps boost mobility. A 2011 study found that adults with hip and knee arthritis received similar boosts in mobility, function and other health outcomes as they did from land-based rehabilitation. Added bonus? It rarely makes you sore.

The only thing? Swimming, being the total-body workout that it is, can get pretty tiring pretty quickly. While newbies may think that slipping into a bathing suit and jumping in the pool will be a total breeze, they’re often surprised with just how tired they are after that first 5 minutes.

“Swimming is a skill that you can develop and refine,” said Dr. Jordan Metzl, author of “The Exercise Cure and Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Running Strong.” “Beginners who take a few lessons from a qualified coach often improve their endurance, speed and efficiency very quickly.”

Not quite ready to pull the trigger on a coach, but itching to jump into the pool? With summer officially starting, we don’t blame you. We caught up with Jason Sanchez, former swim instructor and master trainer at Midtown Manhattan’s 24-Hour Fitness Ultra Sport, to get his better swimming tips for beginners.

1. Focus on swimming technique and not speed. “If you focus on speed, you forget the mechanics of the swim,” Sanchez said. “You’re going to be using a lot more energy than what’s needed to do the exercise or complete the distance.” Similar to running and biking, technique is a major component to a successful swim. The better the technique, the more efficient you’ll be for a longer period of time.

2. Make sure you learn freestyle and breast stroke. It’s tempting to dive on in and do lap after lap of freestyle. After a while, though, especially as a beginner, this can get tiring. “Breast stroke is one of those go-to strokes that a lot of people go back to when you can’t constantly do that front crawl,” Sanchez said. “If you get tired from doing front crawl, you can revert to breast stroke to get your energy back until you feel good to go again.”

3. Don’t forget strength training. Whether you’re training for a specific event or just interested in getting your feet wet, it’s easy to forget other important aspects of a workout routine when your mind is elsewhere. Swimming, just like other endurance activities, requires a great deal of strength, especially in the back, shoulders, core and arms. “One of the key goals in swimming is keeping a nice flat position and be horizontal to the water, not letting your legs or arms drag,” Sanchez said. “You need strength for that, and you definitely need strength to get through the duration of your workout. Skipping strength training is just doing your body a disservice.”

4. Tackle intervals. “Break up your experience into intervals,” Sanchez said. “Not that you have to swim straight for an hour, but if your goal is to be swimming for that amount of time, do yourself a favor and really learn what that kind of distance feels like. Go to a more energy-saving stroke where you’re starting to get tired, give yourself a recovery and get back into a crawl.”

Looking for some interval workouts to give this whole swimming thing a go? We caught up with professional triathlete, IronMan extraordinaire, and Clif Bar athlete Linsey Corbin, for her go-to interval workout for beginners.

Note: This workout takes place in a 50-meter, Olympic size pool.

Warm-up
10 laps easy, 400 meters

Main set
1 lap easy, 50 meters
2 laps moderate intensity, 100 meters
1 lap easy, 50 meters
2 laps hard, 100 meters

Rest for 30 seconds
Cool-down
5 laps easy, 250 meters

(c)2015 Fitbie.com, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: emilyfreemanphotography via Flickr

Break A Sweat With This HIIT Workout

By Emily Abbate, FITBIE.com (TNS)

It’s definitely better to squeeze in some sort of physical activity during a busy day than nothing at all. But, according to new research, a workout that really makes you sweat is the key to avoiding an early death.

Australian researchers followed 204,542 people for more than six years, and compared those who engaged in only moderate activity (such as gentle swimming, social tennis, or household chores) with those who included at least some vigorous activity (such as jogging, aerobics, or competitive tennis). They found that the risk of mortality for those who included some vigorous activity was 9 to 13 percent lower, compared with those who only undertook moderate activity.

Looking for a way to drip sweat and get your heart rate up, but worried about finding the time? Rebecca Kennedy, a physical trainer, said a good, sweat-filled workout doesn’t need to last forever.

A workout doesn’t have to be long to be effective,” said Kennedy. “HIIT training (high intensity interval) is designed to get your heart rate up and your blood flowing, and it can fill as little as 10 minutes of your day.”

Ready to crank up the heat? Kennedy shared one of her go-to HIIT routines that she uses with her clients. This workout is designed to use medium dumbbells, between 8- and 12-pound.

Warmup
1. Reverse lunge to front kick for 60 seconds
2. Inchworm to push-up for 60 seconds

Workout (Perform all 3 drills once, then repeat.)
1. Squat curl press (medium dumbbells) for 60 seconds
2. Renegade row followed by hip twist (using medium dumbbells) for 60 seconds?
3. Stand up for high knees (no weights used for this) for 60 seconds

Rest for two minutes (Perform both drills once, then repeat.)
1. Bicycles for abs for 60 seconds
2. Flip over for mountain climbers for 60 seconds

(c)2015 Fitbie.com, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: Sharehows.com via Flickr

Five Healthy Resolutions You Won’t Regret Making In 2015

By Emily Abbate, FITBIE.com (TNS)

Raise your hand if you’re overly tired of hearing New Year’s resolutions about weight loss. Granted, we can’t see your hands and doubt that you’re actually glaring at the dim light of your computer screen holding five digits in the air, but there’s no doubting you can sympathize. Year after year, so many of us resolve to drop a few pounds and change our ways the moment the clock strikes midnight and whatever metallic New Year’s dress you wore ends up in the “drop off at the dry cleaner” pile.

The reality? There are better resolutions. Not discounting the benefits of weight loss. But, there are healthy things you can do to change your life that don’t revolve around numbers on a scale. Start 2015 off on the right foot with these five must-make healthy resolutions that have nothing to do with weight loss:

1. Do more at-home workouts: Whether you live in a small apartment or have a living room fit for Shaq and his family, working out isn’t something that has to happen at a gym or studio. The great thing about the HIIT craze (one of 2015’s biggest fitness trends, we might add) is that typically, the workouts involve minimal space and time. The first step to working out at home, however, is getting comfortable with the idea. Make small tweaks to your space to make it feel more cozy for sweat sessions: Invest in a few sweat towels, snag a water bottle, put down a yoga mat. You’ll be amazed at what the changes can do for your motivation.

2. Take a break: Going a mile a minute and multitasking are essentially parts of today’s plugged-in culture. Do yourself a favor, take a step back, take an Insta-break, and be in the moment more often. Not only will you learn new thing about the people you interact with on a day-to-day by being more attentive, but you’ll learn more about yourself, too.

3. Drink four more cups of water each day: Sure, we could suggest that you gulp down the recommended eight glasses, but what if you’re already doing that? Whatever your daily intake may be, make it your mission to up that in 2015. The benefits? Clearer skin, weight loss and better metabolic activity.

4. Put down the iPhone/Pad/Device an hour before bed: Easier said than done. We get it. But the truth is that the LED light from your favorite iDevice messes with your nervous system and makes you more alert. When your sleep quality is better, your memory is improved, inflammation is curbed and according to a Harvard University study, creativity is improved.

5. Talk it out: It’s not easy to articulate how things make us feel sometimes, but talking out your thoughts and potential issues with a psychologist or counselor could make a major difference on your mental health. Don’t just take our word for it, research agrees. According to UCLA psychologists, verbalizing feelings can have a significant therapeutic effect on the brain. Translation? Getting your worries out in the open can have a bigger effect than you expect.

Photo: Ed Yourdon via Flickr