In last week's blog post, I talked about 3 easy steps you can take to avoid gaining weight this holiday season. Sticking with the holiday theme (because isn't that where all of our minds are this month?), I want to address a common issue raised to me this time of year, i.e., the challenge of fitting in workouts with packed calendars, lots of travel, and no access to exercise equipment on the road. So to simplify working out for all of you busy road warriors this holiday season (or for anyone else challenged with fitting exercise into his/her busy schedule), I have designed a simple workout template to create big-bang-for-your-buck workouts that can be done in a small space, with virtually no equipment, in just 6 minutes, scaleable for a total beginner up to the most advanced athlete. Just follow these 4 steps to design your own, individualized workout.
Before beginning any new exercise program, consult with your doctor and/or medical professional. Even working out at the Beginner level can be strenuous if you are injured, out-of-shape, have a medical condition, are drunk (or hungover), or just having a bad day. So please be safe rather than sorry and check with your doc.
Identify your fitness level, from Beginner - someone who is either brand new to exercise or returning after some time away - to Intermediate or Advanced. Extreme fitness fanatics with a high-level of skill might enjoy the Advanced Challenge moves provided below.
Based on your fitness level, select one exercise from each of the following categories: Upper Body Pull, Lower Body Push, Upper Body Push, Lower Body Pull, Core and Power. Note that Upper Body Pull movements are notoriously difficult to do without equipment, so I have included a few that require either bands and a door attachment, which you can purchase for very little money on Amazon and easily pack in a small carry-on, or an apparatus to do a chin-up/pull-up for the advanced level, which you likely can find while traveling at a local playground (monkey bars!) or in a hotel gym. I have also included a few exercises with my absolute favorite piece of travel-friendly exercise equipment - the Valslide - which is also inexpensive, compact, and can provide you with a gym's-worth of exercise moves (If you are going to workout on hard floors and not carpet, be sure to order the Valslide Booties as well; or you can get the Valslide Essentials Kit, which comes with the booties and a DVD to teach you lots of great Valslide exercises).
The exercises in each section are listed in the order of difficulty, starting with Beginner and moving up to Advanced Challenge moves. For descriptions of how to perform any exercises for which I do not directly provide a link, I highly recommend using Bodybuilding.com's Exercise Guide, which lists exercises alphabetically and provides videos of the moves. Of course, there's always the Goog and YouTube, although I caution you to only use quality sources. If you have any questions or concerns about any of the exercises, please email me, and I'm be happy to help.
Upper Body Pull
Wall Slides - Beginner
Band Pull Apart - Beginner/Intermediate
Inverted Table Row (Caution: Use a sturdy table) - Intermediate
Chin-up - Advanced
Pull-up - Advanced Challenge
Lower Body Push
Wall Squat - Beginner
Bodyweight Squat - Beginner/Intermediate
Reverse Lunge - Intermediate
Bulgarian Split Squat - Advanced
Pistol Squat - Advanced Challenge
Upper Body Push
Wall Push-up - Beginner
Incline Push-up - Beginner/Intermediate
Push-up - Intermediate
Decline Push-up - Advanced
Close-Grip or Plyometric Push-up - Advanced Challenge
Lower Body Pull
Hip Bridge - Beginner
Valslide Leg Curls - Beginner/Intermediate
Single-Leg Hip Bridge - Intermediate
Single-Leg Bodyweight Deadlift - Advanced
Single-Leg Valslide Leg Curl - Advanced Challenge
Plank (On knees) - Beginner
Bird Dog - Beginner/Intermediate
Plank (On elbows) - Intermediate
Plank (Push-up position) - Intermediate/Advanced
Valslide One-Arm Slide - Advanced
V-ups - Advanced Challenge
Total Body Extensions - Beginner
Jumping Jacks - Beginner/Intermediate
Jump Squats - Intermediate
Jump Lunges - Intermediate/Advanced
Skater Jumps - Advanced
Burpees - Advanced Challenge
Based on your fitness level, choose an interval combination for completing each exercise. Intervals are highly effective means of boosting your metabolism by combining intense periods of work followed by a period of rest. I like to keep interval combinations (including work and rest periods) to a total of one minute.
Beginners should spend less timing working during the minute than resting, so good combinations for beginners are 15 seconds of work followed by 45 seconds of rest, or 20 seconds of work followed by 40 seconds of rest (but starting with 10 or 15 seconds of work and 45-50 seconds of rest is great if that is what works for you). Some exercises may be more difficult for you than others, so adjust your intervals accordingly.
Intermediate exercisers should strive for equal work to rest periods, so 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of my rest is my favorite combination.
Advanced exercisers should strive to spend more time working than resting, e.g., 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest, or 45 seconds of work followed by 15 seconds of rest.
Because it is important to follow these work-rest periods exactly and not guesstimate, I highly recommend downloading the free Gymboss app, which will allow you to easily set your interval time and number of intervals. Or you can invest in an actual Gymboss timer (I have one and love it), which is relatively inexpensive, tiny, and includes a band so that you can easily wear the timer on your arm while you workout.
Design your workout and get moving! Once you have selected your exercises from each category and your interval combination, all you need to do is figure out how many sets (or rounds) of the exercises you want to do, set your timer and go! An example of a Beginner workout might be one set (i.e., a single, 6-minute round) that might look something like this...
Beginner Workout Example
Perform WALL SLIDES for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, then move directly to WALL SQUATS. Hold the Wall Squat for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, then move directly to WALL PUSH-UPS. Perform the push-ups for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, then move directly to HIP BRIDGES. Perform the bridges for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, then move directly to the PLANK (ON KNEES). Hold the plank for 15 seconds, rest for 45 seconds, then move directly to TOTAL BODY EXTENSIONS. Perform the extensions for 15 seconds and then congratulate yourself for a job well done!
If you have more time and want an additional challenge, you can do 2-5 total rounds of the workout, totaling up to 30 minutes at most. Take a one-minute break between rounds, and be sure to keep yourself well hydrated.
You may be wondering whether you need to perform a warm-up before completing this workout. While doing a brief warm-up is always preferred, if your time is limited, a warm-up is not required since these exercises use only bodyweight and are therefore self-limiting (i.e., your body will only let you do as much as it can physically do). If you do have an extra minute or two to complete a brief warm-up, I recommend dynamic movements like forward and backward arm circles, high kicks, and marching or jogging in place. If you have a few minutes to cooldown, finish with a few basic stretches like those found here.
And there you have it. A short and simple workout template that allows you to workout anywhere, at anytime, with no excuses! Wishing you a healthy and fit holiday season.
Until next time, be happy and healthy,
Hello, friends! We all know that a key part of being fit - in addition to working our hearts with cardiovascular exercise and our muscles with strength training - is including stretching in our exercise regime to improve our flexibility. And yet with the exception of the dedicated yogis out there, stretching is often the part of a workout that most of us skip (or skimp) because we are pressed for time and don’t think it pays the same dividends as more vigorous types of training.
The research suggests, however, that flexibility training is as critical to aging gracefully as cardio and strength training, and it may even be the “fountain of youth” when it comes to fitness, as proclaimed by Tony Horton, the uber fit and unbelievably youthful 58-year-old creator of P90X. Certainly, if we do not continue to work on our flexibility as we age, we will end up becoming one of those individuals who can’t bend over to tie his or her shoes, and we will be more prone to injury and incapacity in our later years.
The good news is that working on your flexibility does not require much time. Just 5 minutes of stretching a day is generally sufficient, and there are numerous free online resources to help you develop a daily flexibility routine, for example this quick-and-easy routine from Real Simple. There are also incredible resources to help you add yoga into your life (do a search on YouTube), including my new favorite resource, which is designed for beginning yogis, Beachbody On Demand's 3 Week Yoga Retreat.
While flexibility training is important for your physical health, learning to be flexible in all aspects of your life is important for your mental health, your emotional health and for the health of your relationships.
I am someone who has never been particularly flexible. I have never been able to do a split. I do not enjoy yoga - although I aspire to be the type of person who enjoys finding her zen. I am a dedicated to-do lister and find great pleasure in creating lengthy and ambitious daily to-do lists and diligently crossing off each item on the list before the end of the day. I am committed to be timely at all times, and I do not have much tolerance for being late or for those who are late. I do not like clutter, and I do not like things in my house being out of place.
Basically, both my blood type and my personality type are A+.
Since having my first child 12 week ago, however, I have learned the importance of working on my flexibility. During the early weeks of Beautiful Baby A’s (BBA’s) life, I realized that I would have to minimize the number of items on my to-do lists, and now I have come to terms with the fact that it is better to ditch the daily to-do list entirely. Instead of being the person who arrives perfectly on time (or likely a little early), I now ensure I give others a range of time at which I might arrive, since you never know whether a nap will go long or whether there will be a last-minute diaper change or feeding. And with little time or energy to spend on housework, I am learning to accept that my dining room table has toys strewn across it and that there are unwashed dishes currently sitting in the kitchen sink.
This transition has not come easy, and it is very much a work in progress – I am only in the beginning stages. But like yoga, learning to be more flexible in other aspects of your life is a practice – a journey. A process of self-development and self-improvement that is as critical to your ability to age gracefully as stretching your muscles. Because research suggests that having a Type A personality increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and depression, among other ailments.
So, I encourage you to spend some time each day focusing on your flexibility. Touch your toes. Do some side bends. Let some items on your to-do list slide. And leave your bed unmade. Commit to practicing flexibility in all aspects of your life, and you may just be setting the stage to live a longer, healthier and happier life.
Until next time, be happy and healthy,
Hello, friends! Welcome to my new blog “bells & peppers”. Many of you know that this is not my first foray into the world of blogging, and I had a short but relatively successful run on my blog “Life and Other Minor Complications.” This is, however, my first experience blogging on my own web site – a site I eventually hope to expand to include health and wellness coaching, fitness programming, etc. For my first blog entry, however, on my brand spankin’ new (and still work-in-progress) web site, I thought it would be prudent for me to explain the why behind this site and the title “bells & peppers.”
Now for a little context setting…I have been engaged to my amazing fiancé (affectionately referred to as “The Man” to protect the identity of the innocent) since October 2013, after a romantic proposal at the finish line of the Cleveland Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon. The following month, I paid a visit to my gynecologist for my annual exam, and after hearing about my engagement and in light of my impending 40th birthday that same month, she encouraged us not to wait to try to have children if we were considering it. I took her advice to heart, and The Man and I spent the next 2 years trying to have a baby, with no success. Having decided against pursuing fertility treatments, we were monumentally disheartened last summer when tests revealed that my egg supply was almost dried up, and my doctor told us that without fertility, we had basically no chance of having a baby (and even with fertility, chances would be slim).
After hearing this news, I allowed myself an appropriate amount of time to pout, and then I decided to take action rather than take the news lying down. As a lifelong athlete, Precision Nutrition Level 2 certified nutritionist, certified Turbulence Trainer and certified Food for Life cooking instructor, I turned to what I have always felt are the keys to all things health and wellness – daily movement and healthy eating – and I decided to challenge myself to 100 days of completing 100 different workouts and making 100 different healthy meals, not so creatively calling my experiment the 100 Healthy Days Challenge.
I repeat my advice to take a great deal of exercise, and on foot. Health is the first requisite after morality. – Thomas Jefferson
Let food be thy medicine… – Hippocrates
Fast forward to the end of my 100 Healthy Days Challenge in early October 2015, and within a week of successfully finishing workout and meal 100 (actually, meal 103) in 100 days, I learned that I was pregnant at the age of 42. Fast forward again, almost 10 months later, and as I sit here typing, my beautiful, healthy, 8-week old daughter (affectionately referred to as "Beautiful Baby A" - or "BBA" for short - to protect the truly innocent) is just waking up from her mid-morning nap, and it is time for me to take a break and tend to her...
When I asked my doctor how this could have happened when my test results indicated I was no longer baby-making material, he simply stated that “we don’t understand everything.” As for me, I was quite certain that my focus on the simple formula of daily movement – primarily strength training with barbells, dumbbells and my beloved kettlebells (collectively, the “bells” behind bells & peppers) – and eating healthy meals based on an array of colorful fruits and vegetables (the “peppers” behind bells & peppers), played a significant role in creating a healthy environment to support the creation and growth of a healthy baby.
And so I hope that through this blog, I can leverage my decades of experience as an athlete and my years of training in health and fitness to inspire, empower and provide you with simple strategies to help you become your healthiest self in a balanced, realistic and sustainable way. If you are someone who is looking to lead a healthier, happier life, I encourage you to join me on this journey.
Until next time, be happy and healthy,
Hello, friends! I’m Kathleen, the Kettlebell Mama. Welcome to bells & peppers – a blog dedicated to all things related to fitness, nutrition and healthy living. As an athlete, trainer, nutritionist, cooking instructor, attorney, senior executive and new mom, I have learned how to balance my personal health and fitness goals with paying the bills, spending quality time with family and friends and pursuing a demanding career – without losing my mind! My goal is to inspire, empower and provide you with simple strategies to help you become your healthiest self in a balanced, realistic and sustainable way. Feel free to read more about my story here. Thanks for visiting bells & peppers!