Increasing Strength with Glute Exercises

 

A guest post from fitness blogger Ashley:

 

One of the most common complaints that I hear from clients but also have experienced myself is low back pain.  I have learned in my years of training that this stems from more than just weak abdominals. 

 

When people say ‘core’ typically you just think of your stomach muscles and low back.  What they realize is it also includes your booty muscles, serratus anterior and posterior, erector spinae and your lats.  With that said you have to stretch and strengthen a lot more muscle groups than just your abdominals to reduce low back pain. 

 

My glutes and hamstrings are the main muscle groups that I’ve been working on to ensure my low back feels good.  It’s not always about strengthening…also remember to stretch to increase flexibility in your lower body.  You can go back into the archives of my blog and check out my stretching entry to get you started.

 

The most important kind of training for strengthening the glutes is unilateral training.  This simply means working one side of your body at a time.  Everyone has a dominant side and unilateral movements allow each glute to work equally as hard to perform the exercise.  It doesn’t allow your dominant side to compensate for the weak.  This also will allow you to make gains in leg exercises that involve both legs working at the same time like a squat. 

 

So what are some basic glute exercises that will increase strength?  Here are a number of body weight exercises that you can start with.  Enjoy the downtown Milwaukee atmosphere and the blinding sun in these photos.  What a beautiful day it is today and why not lay in the grass on Water Street after a great cup of Collectivo (it will always be Alterra to me) Coffee and perform them for you. Side note: don’t exercise in sandals like I am.  I simply forgot to take them off and always have good footwear on when I’m working out.

 

 

Glute Extensions:  Lay on your back with your hands at your side and your knees bent with feet flat on the ground.  Lift your hips and squeeze your glutes at the top of the exercise.  Lower your hips back down and repeat.

 

Single Leg Glute Extensions: You will start in the same position as glute extensions except one leg will be up in the air.  Lift your hips, squeeze your glutes at the top and lower hips back down. Repeat.

 

 

Hydrants:  The ‘look like a dog peeing on a hydrant’ exercise.  Start on all fours with your back nice and flat.  Stack your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips.  Bring your bent leg up so your leg is parallel with the ground and lower back down.  Don’t forget to do both sides.

 

Side Leg Raises: Start in the same positions as hydrants.  Try to stretch your leg straight out so it is perpendicular to the rest of your body.  If your hips don’t allow that kind of flexibility, decrease the angle of your leg.  You are going to lift and lower your leg without touching down.  Think of it as more of a pulsing movement.  Switch sides.

 

Hip Circles: Start in the same position as the last two exercises.  Kick one leg back, lift your hip and circle your leg back around to your starting position.  You will go the opposite direction as well.  Bring your knee into your chest and then lift your hip in a circular motion.

 

Forward Lunges and Lateral Lunges: Forward lunges that I have talked about in a couple of my blog entries (go back to my ‘No Excuse Workout Plan‘ entry if you need a refresher) are a great exercise to increase glute strength.  Another great lunge exercise is a lateral lunge.  Start with feet together and take an oversized step to the side.  Both sets of toes should face forward the entire exercise. The leg that you step out with is going to bend while the other leg stays straight.  Do all your repetitions on one side and then switch to the other.

 

Here’s a quick workout sample for you to try:

 

Glute Extensions – 3×25

Single Leg Glute Extensions: 3×15/leg

Hydrants: 3×25/leg

Side Leg Raises: 3×25/leg

Hip Circles: 3×25/leg, make sure you go both directions so you will end up doing 50 repetitions total on each leg.

Forward Lunges: 3×15/leg

Lateral Lunges: 3×15/leg

*Don’t forget to include stretching of your hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors in this rotation as well.

 

I would go through each exercise once and then start at the beginning and go through them two more times.  If you don’t have as much time, just go through the exercises twice.

 

I will leave you with this thought.  As we were walking downtown we passed this:

 

We all have choices.  We have choices to see the glass half full or half empty.  This week try to choose a positive thought even if your first inclination was to think of the negative.  Attitude can be a driving force towards obtaining your goals or a road block constantly getting in your way.  Try to take the high road and embrace all the great things in your life. Work hard, stay positive and keep your goals in the forefront of your mind.

No Excuse Workout Plan

 

A guest post from fitness blogger Ashley:

Today was one of those days where I had an internal conversation about why I didn’t want to go workout.  “I’m so tired…I worked a full morning…my kitty is being lazy, I can be too…the gym is probably going to be really hot…I will get hungry and run out of energy mid workout…”  What did I do?  I got myself up before I even attempted to nap and decided that I’d probably feel a lot better once I was finished and worked hard.  My intuition was right.

There are always excuses that can be made when it comes to exercising and eating right.  There are going to be birthdays, holidays, hot days, cold days, sick days, sad days and tired days.  These will all tempt you to eat too many snacks and too much dessert or make you just want to stay in bed. Take it from me, it’s hard to be self motivated all the time on top of motivating others all day being a trainer.  I make the choice though to exercise even on the hard days and let go of excuses and the obstacles that get in my way.

The reason I’m babbling on and on is because I have come up with a no excuse workout for you.  You can do it anytime, anywhere with zero equipment besides the thing you carry with you all the time…your body weight. 

Sidenote: There is nothing I make my clients do that I haven’t done before.  So I proceeded to have my photographer (thanks mom for all your help) take my photos and then got to work.  It didn’t take a lot of time, it got my heart rate up and I was sweating by the end.  Excuses are harder to make when you know your workout will be efficient and make you tired and sweaty…you just have to buckle down and do it.

Some of these exercises I’ve talked about before so parts will just be a review.  So here’s the break down:

 

Squats: Start with your feet shoulder width apart with both feet facing forward. Weight should be evenly distributed through toes to heels. To perform the exercise, pretend you have a chair behind you…sit your butt back first as you start to bend your knees.  The weight should shift into your heels and you should be able to lift up your toes at the bottom of the exercise.  The reason for this is to make sure your knees are protected.  The rule of thumb is your knees should never cross the plane of your toes. Try to get your quads and hamstrings parallel with the ground before you come back up to your starting position. 

Push Ups: I did the push up on my toes but you can always modify and start on your knees until you get a little stronger.  Start with your hands about shoulder width apart, back flat and think about pulling your belly button to your spine to contract your abdominal muscles.  You want to make sure that you are lowering your body towards the ground as a unit.  Your back should never arch as it puts a lot of strain on the wrong muscle groups.  As you lower your body, allow your elbows to bend to a 90 degree angle.  Then just push yourself back up to your starting position.

Split Jumps: The split jump is a little more complicated than the basic lunge because you will be adding a little bit of plyometrics to your movement. (If your body does not allow, just stay on the ground and do a basic lunge)  Start with your feet together and take an oversized step forward.  In this position you are going to keep good posture and instead of leaning into your front leg to perform the lunge, you are going to drop your back knee towards the ground.  This will ensure you are continuing to stand up tall and it will also protect those knee joints.  The same rule applies for lunges as they do squats…no knees should cross the plane of the toes. Once you are down in your lunge position, you are going to come up and jump into the next lunge switching your feet so the opposite leg is in front.  You will continue this lunge and jump motion for the duration of your set. 

Oblique Crunches: You are going to start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.  This is going to be a unilateral movement because we will work on one side of the body and then switch to the other.  Choose a side and drop your bent knees to one side of your body.  The motion is going to be the same as your basic crunch, you will just be working those obliques.  Remember to lift at your shoulders, not your neck and keep a space between your chin and your chest. Switch sides once you’re done.

 

Burpees:  Don’t let anyone convince you that burpees are terrible.  They are a wonderful exercise that will work your whole body and get your heart rate up…doesn’t get much better than that.  You will start in a standing position with hands overhead.  Jump up off the ground and then bend your knees so that you can put your hands on the ground in the same position as your push up.  You are then going to two foot jump your feet back or walk one foot at a time back into your starting push up position.  Your back should be flat and hands should be stacked directly below your shoulders.  Jump or walk your feet back to your bent knee position and stand up to start the exercise over again with a small jump with hands overhead…see, how fun does that sound?

 

Plank Up Downs: Start in same position you started in for your push up.  Pick an arm and drop it down to your elbow followed by the other arm doing the same.  You will then be on both elbows in a plank.  With the same arm that you started with, push back up to a straight arm plank position followed by the other arm.  Switch the arm that you start with for each repetition.

Frog Jumps: These are one of my favorite animal exercises…start in a wide stance squat with your toes slightly turned to the side.  Squat down driving your knees towards your toes and once you’re in the squatting position put your hands down on the ground but make sure you keep your chest up and shoulders back.  Jump up and then back down back into your squat.

Those all sound like fun right?  So just do 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions each exercise…if you need to take a break at any time, do so just try to complete this as quickly as possible while keeping good form.  Like I said before, there is nothing wrong with modifying any of these exercises.  You know your body and capabilities better than anyone so listen to your body and do what feels right.  If you can’t keep good form at any time, take a little break and jump back into it when you can.  Push yourself and break a sweat.

Have a good week everyone and remember there are always going to be a millions things to do and a million reasons to not workout.  Buckle down, put your gym clothes and shoes on and just get there and do it.  Sometimes it’s the getting there that’s the hardest part…once you’re there, keep your goals in mind and work hard.  If you don’t belong to a gym all you need is a little space, time and energy and you can get back to your to-do list in no time. Don’t allow your excuses to get in the way anymore.

How To Exercise with a Kettlebell

 

A post from guest fitness blogger Ashley:

I would like to introduce to you a gym toy called the kettlebell (KB).  It is basically a bell shaped weight connected to a handle for easy gripping and also allows you to be able pass it from hand to hand with ease depending on the exercise.  It is a great tool for full body exercises, getting your heart rate up and can also be used for many power and Olympic lifts that would typically be performed with a barbell.  I really like the kettlebell and like that there’s countless exercises you can do with it. 

 I picked out some of my favorites that I’d like to share with you as well as a sample workout for you to try.  I will also give you a break down of what muscles you will primarily be using for each exercise.  I just had a client think that a bent over row was primarily working her triceps when in fact it has been focusing on her mid back.  So from now on I will always enlighten you on which muscles are getting stronger while you work.  Sometimes being aware of this will help you focus in on them a little more.  Before you know it, you will be a finely tuned machine.

KB Swings- glutes, low back, quads, hamstrings, core, shoulders. Start with your feet shoulder width apart and hold the kettlebell between your legs with both hands.  Make sure throughout the whole exercise that you are keeping your chest up and your shoulders back to promote good posture.  The most important part of the exercise is two fold. 

The first part is a lower body drive.  As you begin to swing the kettlebell forward you want to think about bringing your hips forward until your legs are straight and squeeze your glutes together as you come to a standing position.  The quicker and more powerful you are with this lower body movement, the easier time you’ll have controlling the kettlebell.  The goal is to get the weight parallel with the ground with each repetition you perform.  As you lower the kettlebell, you want to go back to your squat position with your chest up and shoulders back. 

One of the mistakes that people make is they try to control the kettlebell with their upper body too much.  This will only burn out your shoulders and the chances of you being able to do a higher rep count won’t be very high.  As long as you keep good posture and keep your chest up as the weight comes down you should be in good shape to perform another repetition.  The first time you try this exercise, don’t worry so much about how high the weight goes but rather how much power you are getting from your glutes and hamstrings.  Remember hips comes forward and as your legs straighten to a standing position squeeze those glutes.

 

KB Sumo Squat to High Pull –  quads, hamstrings, shoulders, traps.  This exercise you will be starting in a little bit of a different stance than the swing.  Start with your feet farther apart and your toes should be on an angle.  When you squat in this position, you want to think about doing a plie like the ballerinas do.  Your knees should be going out towards your toes and you should feel a good stretch in those inner thighs.  The same rules apply though as far as keeping your chest up and shoulders back to promote good posture.  So to start the exercise you are going to squat down driving your knees towards your toes and as you come to a standing position you want to lead with your elbows and pull the kettlebell up towards your chin keeping it nice and close to your body.  At the top of you exercise, your elbows should be higher than the weight itself.  As you come back down you are going to fall right back into that plie position and repeat for the specified number of reps. 

 

 

Kettlebell Crunches – abdominals.  This is just a spin on a regular crunch.  You are going to start by laying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.  Whenever performing any type of crunch you want to make sure you aren’t putting any extra stress on your neck so really concentrate on lifting up at your shoulders instead of coming forward with your head and neck first.  A good rule of thumb is to always pretend you have a tennis ball between your chin and your chest throughout the whole exercise.  You are going to hold the kettlebell by the handle with your hands on either side of the weight.  Your arms are going to start straight above your chest and as you lift your shoulders off the ground you want your arms to continue to stay straight and you want the kettlebell to raise straight up to about face level.  If you are looking for an extra challenge, use a lighter kettlebell to start and sit all the way up and back down with your arms straight.  At the top of this exercise, the weight should be above your head.

Kettlebell Single Arm Shoulder Press – Start by holding the kettlebell in one hand by the handle.  Your arm is going to start at a 90 degree angle with the weight resting on the back of your wrist to start.  The motion is going to be just like a press with a dumbbell as far as pressing it straight overhead and back down to that 90 degree position.  If the weight starts to get heavier and you can’t press it without using your legs, add a little squat in to get some power from your lower body to help it up.

 

Quick KB Workout

15x KB Swings

15x/arm Single Arm KB Press

15x Sumo Squat High Pulls

25x KB Crunch

Repeat 5x

 

**Try to get through each set exercises as quickly as possible while maintaining proper form.  You can take a minute or two between each sets though to let your heart rate come down a bit. Push yourself and remember to exhale on the hard part of the exercise and inhale during the easy part.  For example, the hard part of the KB Swing is going to be when the weight is on the way up so exhale as you come up, inhale as you lower it back down. Have fun with it and always remember to keep good form.  If you are unable to, lower your weight and work your way up.

Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program.

Shoulder Workout Routine

 

A guest post from fitness blogger Ashley:

Today was a “long” run day for me…aka three miles.  I actually decided to just go 3.1 miles to complete a 5k.  Usually on a Sunday I would do some lifting as well but I decided to just go for my run around the neighborhood, come home, do some ab work and roll out with my foam roller.

So let’s just pretend that I lifted today and I decided to workout my upper body, specifically my shoulders. There aren’t many upper body exercises you can complete without the strength and range of motion of your shoulder muscles.  The rotator cuff is comprised of four small muscles which work in conjunction with the deltoid.  The deltoid encapsulates the shoulder joint and with the rotator cuff,  they work together to stabilize the shoulder joint.

There are many ways to strengthen these muscles groups so I have picked out a few of my favorites.  I have learned that it’s just as, if not more effective for me to work with a lower weight and do more repetitions than trying to lift as heavy as I can.  The deltoids and rotator cuff muscles are small so the motions you use in these exercises will feel a bit more difficult even if you aren’t using very much weight.

I have to always preface my photos because I feel like a doofus taking them…well, having my mom take them of me.  I want to look cool and like I’ve said before smiling is so not cool in fitness photos.  So instead of smiling I tend to just smirk or look blindly into the camera and they come off looking rather ridiculous.  So just focus on the exercises and not so much on the dork performing them.

Shoulder Press (Military Press)
**See, Military presses aren’t as fun as I make them look so don’t let me be deceiving.

Start with your elbows at 90 degrees at about ear level and press them straight up from the starting point.  Lower back down to your ears and repeat.  With all of these exercises, take your time and just get in a good rhythm.  You always want to be in control of the weight and not feel like the weight is controlling you.

Lateral Raise

Start with the weights at your side with your palms facing in.  With straight arms or a slight bend in them, raise the dumbbells so they are parallel with the ground.  Your palms should be facing the ground at the top of your exercise.  Lower both dumbbells back down to their starting point and repeat.

 

Front Raise:


Start with the dumbbells in front of you facing your body just like you did for the lateral raise.  With straight arms, raise both dumbbells until they are parallel with the ground.  Just like the lateral raise, your palms should be facing down when you’re at the top of your exercise.  Lower both dumbbells back down to their starting point and repeat.

 

External Rotators

This exercise you will be seated on a bench or I suppose you could sit on the ground too.  Start with the dumbbell in your left hand and bend your left knee so your foot is flat on the bench or ground.  Using your knee as a stabilizer, start with your elbow at a 90 degree angle on the inside of your knee with your palm facing down. From there you are just going to raise the dumbbell so that your forearm is facing towards the ceiling.  Your elbow should stay at a 90 degree angle the entire time.  Lower back down to the starting point and repeat.  This is a difficult motion for your rotator cuff so use something light and do more reps.


A good workout for your shoulders would be:
Military Press: 3 set of 15 repetitions
+
External Rotators: 3 sets of 25 repetitions

Lateral Raises: 3 sets of 25 repetitions
+
Front Raises: 3 sets of 25 repetitions

I realize I’m repeating myself when I say use a lighter weight for higher rep workouts.  You can always decrease your reps and pick a heavier weight too.  Take a little bit longer rest in between sets if you’re going to use heavier dumbbells.

After this workout, you’ll have shoulders like boulders as my friend would say.  Have fun and remember to keep good form, good posture and always breathe while lifting.  Feel free to add in some cardio and stretching to get a well rounded workout in.  Have fun having hurt so good shoulders!

Fitness Blogger Ashley’s advice on making healthy changes

 

A guest post from fitness blogger Ashley:

This past weekend was the third annual Brewer game tailgate with all of my cousins. I am so lucky to have them all in my life not just as family but as great friends. We always have so much fun together. I went into the day knowing that it was going to be one of those days where I would just enjoy myself and not worry so much about what I’m eating or drinking. These are the days I can reward myself for working out hard and eating healthy for the most part on a regular basis.

So anyways, enough babble about me and my eating habits and let’s get down to the main reason I decided to write about this event. There were about 41,000 people that were in attendance at the game. So let’s do a little math…if over 2/3 of Americans are either overweight or obese, that means that about 27,000 of those fans are struggling with some kind of weight problem. I looked around and I felt sad because of the way people treat their bodies and the struggles they must face everyday. 27,000 sounds like a lot of people which it is but that number unfortunately was not far off. It’s scary how unhealthy our world has become.

Our country has become a fast food, processed, synthetic nation and I think it’s only going to get worse. There are so many options at the grocery store with partially hydrogenated oils, aspartame and many other additives (side note: did you know that many brands of ketchup have high fructose corn syrup in them? probably not).  At this point, people don’t even know what they are actually consuming. Not many people read the ingredient dextrose and immediately know it’s another form of sugar.

This event made me grateful for the job that I have and the active lifestyle I lead and also help so many others lead. It makes me happy on a daily basis that I can have an impact on my clients whether it be a butt kicking workout or that extra motivation they needed that day. I’m helping people live longer, healthier and happier lives.

So what can you do to make some healthy changes in your life?

Here are a few tips that may or may not help you whether you’re looking to lose weight or just change it up a bit from the somewhat healthy routine you’re in.

1. Shop on the outside loop of the grocery store. Fruits, veggies, lean meats and dairy all have a tidy little place on the edges of the store. Pre-processed snacks and foods have landed a spot in the extended shelf life section of the store.

2. Shop organic when you can. Brewers Organics has opened my eyes to the wonderful world of delicious produce that I look forward to every week.

3. Farmers markets are in full swing right now so take advantage of the fresh produce and farm fresh products.

4. Avoid fast food restaurants. It’s easier said than done when you’re in a hurry but there is nothing good that’s going to come out of ordering many fast food meals. If you do need to eat on the fly, ask for a nutrition information packet before you order and make a healthy choice.

5. Focus on body fat percentage as opposed to BMI. Here’s why, when looking at myself, there are a lot of 5’6″, 160 pounds 28 year olds that don’t have nearly as much muscle mass as me, though, according to my BMI my healthy weight is around 140 which I’ve never weighed in my adult life nor will I ever for that matter. My BMI doesn’t take into account my lean to fat rate ratio which ultimately tells you what’s going on inside your body. For women, mid 23-25% is a good goal to shoot for as far as body fat % and for men around 18% is decent.

6. Get active. Get outside. Join a gym. Sign up for a 5k run. Park your car in the back of the parking lot and walk the distance in. Lift weights. Drink a lot of water. Use a juicer to get your fruits and veggies quota met for the day.

So go out there and make a change. Even if it’s just one at a time. Don’t become another statistic, take care of your body, it’s the only one you get.

Ashley

Abdominal Exercises with Ashley

 

A guest post from Fitness Blogger Ashley:

It’s nice to have a birthday and not actually feel like the age you are.  From now on, I fully intend to not look or feel a day over 28…that was always my Nana’s plan and she did pretty well so I am just going to follow her lead.

A good way to start off my 28th year is to talk about the one part of the body that I think every client wants to work on no matter what age they are…their abs.  The one fact that most people don’t want to come to terms with is that though it is important to strengthen your low back and abdominal muscles, a lot of the look and feel of them come from good nutrition and overall aerobic activity.  No one gets a six pack eating processed junk foods and sitting on the couch every day…obviously.

Strengthening your core helps stabilize your torso as well as helps reduce pain in your low back and hips.  I have started to incorporate more core, hamstring and glute exercises into my workouts to prevent these problems from becoming a constant issue.   My low back and hips tend to feel tight and for lack of a better word, tweeked at times,  though since I’ve started focusing more on prevention, I feel much better and you would too if you have the same aches and pains.

So I have picked out of a few of my favorite abdominal exercises that not only work your abs but also work your hip flexors. Hip flexor strength is important for runners and athletes.  The stronger the glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors are the faster they will be. They also help prevent hamstring injuries by acting as a brake when large amounts of force are exerted to the hamstring.

The four exercises I chose are all starting by lying on your back.

 


1. Heel Slide:  Place your hands under your glutes to help bring you to a more neutral spine.  Then simply bring both knees in towards your chest.

Push your feet straight out from your body.  The closer you are able to slide your feet to the ground, the more difficult the exercise will be.  If you need to modify the movement, just push your feet away from your chest higher so you’re farther away from the ground.  As you get stronger gradually let your legs get closer to the ground.

2. Leg Raise: Place your hands underneath your glutes just like you did for the heel slide exercise.  Bring both legs straight up in the air to make your body into a 90 degree angle.  If you need a slight bend in your legs, that is just fine.  Chances are your hamstrings are super tight if you can’t straighten out those legs so you better incorporate some stretching in while you’re already lying on your back.

Slowly lower your legs straight down to the ground without touching.  You want make sure there is no stress on your low back so if you feel your back start to arch, that is a good place to bring your legs back up to make your 90 degree angle again.

3. Hip Raise: Place hands underneath glutes again. Lift both legs up perpendicular with your body.  The motion is going to be small when starting out but what you’re trying to do is lift your hips up off the mat pushing your feet straight up towards the ceiling.  Control your hips on the way back down to your mat.  This exercise will work those low abdominal muscles.  A way to modify this would be to have bent knees instead of straight legs.  Bring your knees into your chest and then simply lift your hips off the mat and back down.

4. Bicycles: Hands can protect your neck for this exercise.  What you want to keep in mind is you never want to pull on your neck.  You want to think about lifting your shoulders off the mat.  Your hands are just there as a guide so a good rule of thumb is pretend you have a tennis ball between your chin and your chest.  Keep that space there to allow your to keep your shoulders back and in a good posture position.   One knee is going to come in towards your chest while the other leg is going to straighten out completely.  With your upper body you are going to meet your knee coming into your chest with the opposite side elbow and then switch sides without putting your feet on the ground.  This twisting motion will engage those oblique or side abdominals as well as hip flexors as you extend away from your body.

Do two sets of 15 repetitions for each exercise and feel the hurt so good burn.  These are great pairings because you can do one right after the other without really have to change positions.  Abdominal strength along with anything fitness related is all about consistency.  The more you do these exercises, the stronger you’ll feel and the faster you’ll see results.  Have fun and make sure to eat lots of organic veggies and fruits to help the six pack process.

Always consult a doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Chia Seeds, Kefir and Functional Exercises

 

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve become really interested in expanding my food horizons.  There are so many foods and superfoods out there that are just waiting to be eaten.  Here are a couple of my new favorites…

 

Chia Seeds:  chia seeds

The first superfood that I mentioned in my last entry are chia seeds. Chia seeds are a gelatinous food because of the gel like substance they become when they get wet.  This helps with the digestive process and clearing out the digestive tract.  They have 27 vitamins, minerals and amino acids as well as fatty acids. They also have 42% of our daily fiber intake.  A good place to check them out and get more information is Nutiva.com.  I’m sure after you read all of this, you have to be wondering how to incorporate these magical seeds into your diet.  Well, you can pretty much mix them into anything.  I usually mix it into my kefir or yogurt but I’ve also just put a serving into water and let them set a bit and just drank them down.  You can put them in your juice or smoothies too.  They are tasteless so the sky is the limit when it comes to consuming them.

Kefir:  kefir

I’ve had a bunch of people that have read my blog say to me that they haven’t heard of many of the foods that I eat.  I’m going to go ahead and assume that Kefir is one of those.

Kefir is a fermented probiotic milk product.  Probiotics are beneficial in helping with GI functions as well as pushing the bad bacteria out of the small intestines during the digestive process. I tend to just treat it like yogurt even though it’s thinner and drinkable and mix in muesli (whole grain granola), chia seeds and hemp seeds. 

I also try to avoid a lot of sugar so I buy the plain and just add stevia or truvia to it.  Add it to your smoothies or I suppose you could mix it in your juices or simply drink it to reap the benefits of this fast absorbing food (faster than yogurt). Check out Lifeway.net for more information.

Functional Exercises:

I’d like to switch gears a bit and get into a little fitness talk because I feel like its been a while.  I hope you have been incorporating stretching in your exercise routines like I mentioned a few entries ago.  The next thing I suggest adding into your workouts if you don’t already do them are some functional exercises.  They are called functional because they are motions that are used in everyday life. It can be something as simple as walking up stairs or sitting down and getting up from a chair.  The two exercises I’m going to introduce today are both just using body weight.  To challenge yourself you can always add weight as long as you are using proper form. 

The squat incorporates all lower body muscle groups such as quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.  When doing a squat, it’s very important to protect your knees so technique is essential.  ashley wo

Let me take a moment and preface the photos…first of all, I never, I repeat, never work out with my hair down.  I’d pass out of heat exhaustion or drown in my sweat.  I just couldn’t find my ponytail holder.  Lastly, fitness photos where people are smiling are unrealistic and look pretty silly though for this photo of showing where your feet should start would be super awkward if I just mean mugged the camera hence the cheesy smile.  So here we go, let’s squat.  Start with your feet shoulder width apart with both feet facing forward. Weight should be evenly distributed through toes to heels.

To perform the exercise, pretend you have a chair behind you…sit your butt back first as you start to bend your knees.  The weight should shift into your heels and you should be able to lift up your toes at the bottom of the exercise.  The reason for this is to make sure your knees are protected.  The rule of thumb is your knees should never cross the plane of your toes.  You can start by putting a chair behind you and lightly touching down just to get a feel for sitting back and allowing your weight to shift.  Lastly, always keep your chest up and shoulders back.  Good posture is alway key for any exercise you do.

Ashley bo1

ashleybo2

Stretching and Juicing

 

In this post, fitness blogger Ashley shows us some basic stretches and shares a juice recipe.  She also gives some interesting nutritional info on kale and spirulina. 

So I realize I’m only 27…young, able bodied, healthy etc etc…but there are some days where I am starting to feel the 20 years of sports taking a toll on me. My knees crack and crunch when I bend down, my back hurts after certain lifting days and the range of motion in my shoulders just isn’t what it used to be. I’m not writing this to have a mini pity party for myself, I actually had quite a wonderful day…my awesome nephew had his four year old birthday party and I celebrated Mother’s day with my mom and step dad. No pity parties allowed after a day spent with family.

I only write about these aches and pains because they brought me to the realization that I am in need of a change in my routine. It’s so easy to get stuck doing the same exercises on the same day every week without fail so I’ve decided to start focusing on my flexibility. It is one of those things that I know is so good for me but if I run out of time or energy, I typically skip it.

The main muscle groups I’ve been trying to increase flexibility in are my hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes and quads. All of these areas contribute to my on and off low back pain so I’m trying to lengthen and strengthen. I’ve also been taking yoga at least once a week which encourages lower impact exercises to help with balance and flexibility. If you currently don’t take the time to work on your flexibility, I highly suggest joining the stretch party and just start by spending five minutes post workout just cooling down and working on it. The more consistent you are with it, the faster the results and more than likely, the better you’ll feel. Here are two simple stretches you can start with:

 IMGP2990

Runner Stretch is a great for hamstrings. Stretch that opposite arm over to reach for your toes to feel a nice pull in those lats as well.

IMGP2992

This is a great stretch for hip flexors. If you can’t grab your foot, that’s okay, stay within your body’s range of motion. Once you’re in the correct position, try to sit up nice and straight for an even deeper stretch.

Back in the kitchen, I’ve been trying out some new food recipes as well as juice recipes. I’ve been using my juicer now for about three week now and I’ve really enjoyed it…though it takes a little bit of time to prepare, the nutrients I get out of each glass is well worth it. I actually enjoy healthy foods. I mean of course I was probably attracted to them at first because I know they are good for me but I actually really do like the taste. For me, fruits are a lot easier to consume so juicing helps me take in more veggies. Besides the color of the veggie juices, they are actually quite tasty.

Another plant based protein I’ve started incorporating in my juices is spirulina. It is actually a blue-green algae that is 65 to 71 percent complete protein (beef is 22 percent) with all essential amino acids in perfect balance. It also contains vitamin B12 which usually is only found in animal products. This superfood has helped me control cravings and has also helped balance out the decrease in meat protein in my diet. The label suggests one teaspoon a day and it’s pretty flavorless. All you have to get past is the bright green color and the fact that it’s algae.

So here’s a good juice recipe to add one teaspoon of spirulina to:

1 cucumber

1 celery stalk

1 peeled lemon

6 kale leaves

*side note: Kale is a superfood…thanks Brewers Organics for adding this to the menu. It has the highest vegetable source of vitamin K and may help the risk of developing certain cancers. It’s a source of calcium, chlorophyll, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. Kale is low calorie and also a good source of minerals, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. It promotes eye and skin health as well. (thank you rebootwithjoe.com for all your fun veggie facts)

2 handfuls of spinach

2 apples

*you can also add a peeled orange or some carrots to sweeten it up a little.

While you’re enjoying your nutritious green drink, I’m off to figure out what to make with the world’s largest zucchini I got in my order this week.

 

Meet Ashley; nutrition and fitness blogger

 

 

Ashley

My name is Ashley and I’m 27 currently living in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  I am a certified Personal Trainer and have been in the field for four years.  I also completed my fifth season as the Head JV Girls Basketball Coach at Brookfield Central High School.  I enjoy playing sports and working out as well as learning new ways to keep my body healthy and clean through nutrition.  When I’m not at the gym or on the court, I enjoy taking photos and spending time with my family and friends.

I work at two different gyms with two very different styles which I love as my days are never the same.  I have the wonderful opportunity to help people reach their health and fitness goals on a daily basis,  (though some days they forget that I have their best interest at heart; one of my clients told me just a couple days ago I don’t believe in letting them breathe).

I have learned over the years that in order for me to be a successful trainer, I need to practice what I preach, Mostly… there are going to be off days for me too contrary to what some of my clients might think.  I truly enjoy working out and feeling good about myself and wish for nothing more than everyone I come in contact with to eventually have the same experience.

My active life all started when I was six and sports became part of my every day. My mom even let me try baton twirling which lasted for a couple years…too many leotards and pink roller filled nights for me. So I left my baton behind and ended up playing three sports in high school and continued on to play basketball at the collegiate level.

I’m still involved in basketball, playing weekend pick up games and have been the Head JV Girls Basketball Coach at Brookfield Central for five years so far which I absolutely love. I have to admit that the years when I was playing sports everyday were some of the best days of my life. I have made lifelong friends, learned discipline, motivation and perseverance which have helped me become successful in my career. I guess what I’m really trying to say through all this babble is fitness and wellness, have always been a way of life for me.

Along the way I have learned a lot about nutrition and diet as well.  I have learned what works for me and what doesn’t.  I want balance, moderation and variety when it comes to food…and some ice cream here and there.

Which I guess brings me to the reason I decided a blog would be kind of a cool addition.  I’m a realist, though like everyone I have my moments, but overall I want to portray a lifestyle to my clients that is healthy and active.

So this blog will be twofold: first of all, I will be focusing mainly on diet and nutrition.  The majority of the people I work with enjoy or at least tolerate the exercise part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s what they do outside the gym that holds them back.

Secondly, since fitness is part of my every day, I will make it a part of yours too…or at least four times a week. Yes, I know some of you are shaking your head thinking to yourself, “psht, this girl is crazy.” With that said, I’m excited to get this blogging journey started and have Brewers Organics with me along the way. I will take a time out from writing when Glee is on though to practice my singing skills.