Here’s What to Do When You Don’t Want to Work Out

Here’s What to Do When You Don’t Want to Work Out

It’s snowy and cold out – but you’re nice and toasty inside, bundled up in a warm sweater.

And you really don’t want to go to the gym.

Because going to the gym means loading your gear up into the bag, trudging out to the car, driving to the gym, changing into your workout gear in a cold locker room, then getting sweaty, and then changing again (or not) before shivering on the way home.

Sounds like so much fun, right?

Well, guess what? In a couple months, the results will be fun.

Don’t skip your workouts. 

Consistency Wins the Game

I hate cold winter weather. And some days – especially days when the temp is hovering near zero and my body feels creaky – I don’t feel like working out.

But then I look around me at the people who are crushing their goals. And all of them feel good, have tons of energy, and basically vibrate with life.

Their one unifying trait? They are all consistent in their efforts, day in and day out.

Every person who has ever achieved goals has had to do things they didn’t feel like doing. 

When we were kids, we had parents pushing us along to make sure we did those things.

But as adults, we have to push ourselves – and that’s hard.

The truth is, anyone can do the workouts that they WANT to do, when it’s convenient and easy.

The Secret to Results

But it’s the workouts that you don’t feel like doing that that groove a lifestyle, which in turn creates real, lasting results and a healthy, happy body.

Plus: a workout will pretty much always lift your sagging bad-weather spirits (along with anything else that might be sagging). Exercising actually creates hormonal changes in your body that elevate your mood.

So anyway: don’t skip your workouts. Come May – and shorts and tank top weather – you’ll be glad you made the  effort.

Can you make a commitment to a certain number of workouts over the next week? What’s your number – and what are they going to be? 

Learn to Like Burpees (a Little) With This Simple Trick

Learn to Like Burpees (a Little) With This Simple Trick

What if I gave you one less reason to complain about burpees?

I mean, I’m not expecting you to actually like them (although a trainer can dream, can’t she?). But I’d settle for you hating them a little less.

Because I have a little form tweak that can help make them feel less taxing on your hips and low back. It’s subtle, but it can make a pretty big difference.

Here’s why: for most women – or anyone who doesn’t have narrow hips – the conventional way of doing burpees goes against how we’re built.

When you do a burpee, you drop your hands to the floor, shoot your legs back into a plank, and then you jump back in to stand up.

But often, it’s the jumping-in part where things get a little messed up. 

That’s because if you’re like most people, when you jump in, you land on your toes with heels up, jamming your ankles and knees, and putting a lot of strain on your hips to drop your butt down – or on your low back as you stand back up.

Generally that doesn’t feel super awesome.

How to Do a Burpee That Doesn’t Hurt

But how about if you jumped in with your feet about shoulder-width apart, or slightly wider? So that your heels could actually touch the floor – and your body is in position to stand back up with relative ease?

Much less terrible, right?

This tiny but effective tweak takes advantage of some basic engineering to work with the way you’re built.

I put together a video tutorial to help illustrate – as you’ll see the difference is minor, but it really can make a difference.

Bonus: below the video, you’ll find a workout that you can do to put your burpees to the test. This workout is definitely a keeper.

Crazy 8 Treadmill Workout

Do some dynamic stretches: lunges, arm circles, leg circles, as a warm up. Then, get on the treadmill and do 8 minutes of incline treadmill walking (at least 5 percent incline). 

Get off the treadmill and do:

  • 8 burpees
  • 8 speed skaters
  • 8 pushups
  • 8 heel click jumps
  • Then, get back on the treadmill and walk at an incline for 5 minutes.

Repeat the above circuit for a total of four times through.

Try it and let me know how it goes! 

A Walk Down Workout Memory Lane: Big Hair, Leg Warmers and Party Arms

A Walk Down Workout Memory Lane: Big Hair, Leg Warmers and Party Arms

How many workouts have you done in your life?

I was thinking about that this morning and I’m deep into the five figures. That’s a lot of workouts – and a LOT of different kinds of workouts too, as I’ve ridden the waves of fitness trends over the years.

And as bad as the hair or the outfits were back in the day, I have a soft spot for some of my old workouts. How about you?

Like, I’d like to go out to lunch with them if I could and see how they are doing. We spent a lot of time together – hours and hours, in fact, sweaty and intense. It’d be fun to catch up.

Maybe these wistful memories are coming up now because my first “real” workouts were done in the middle of winter, and here we are, in February.

And maybe also, they taught me some things about myself. Because the truth is, I wasn’t one of those naturally athletic kids growing up. At least I didn’t think I was one of them, but now, looking back, I am pretty sure I could have held my own.

In fact, I got out of gym class for nearly my entire school career, and always joked that I preferred mental gymnastics to the physical kind. 

The Birth of a Fitness Nut

But then in my late teens, a bunch of things happened to make me rethink my “exercise is for losers” philosophy.

First, I gave up being a borderline juvenile delinquent. Then, my dad had a series of heart attacks while in his early 40s, and required serious then-experimental surgery.

That led me to quit smoking.

But after all that, I suffered some pretty crippling anxiety.

And ultimately, it was the anxiety that caused me to get into fitness. That’s because every time I’d have an anxiety attack, my heart would race and feel like it was going to explode.

I figured if it I could make it healthy and strong, it would be less apt to quit on me.

Logical, right? I thought so. Funny enough, it sort of worked.

Vintage Fitness Trends

Jane Fonda’s Workout Book – where it all began.

Anyway, the fitness quest started with a stationary bike in the basement, and then progressed to the original Jane Fonda workout book and album. Yes, there was an actual follow-along record album.

But I really liked the bike. I remember my first endorphin high, when one afternoon I decided to just keep riding the stationary bike for an entire 45 minutes.

It felt great. So every day after that, I put in my 45 minutes, no matter what.

Sometimes we get so fixated on “results” and what’s the supposed “right” way to do things that we forget that movement for its own sake is fun.

Because it really is. This month I’m working on (re)mastering some old fitness tricks and even though they’re not part of an official workout, I’m having fun.

Home Workout Videos

And speaking of fun, how fun – and funny – are some of these old fitness videos?

Back when I first started working out I did a ton of exercise videos. Some of them I did over and over again till I had to buy a second copy. They’re sort of old friends, you know?

Funny, weird, tragically dressed old friends.

Jane Fonda’s Low Impact Workout

This was my first all-time favorite workout. I couldn’t find a good clip of it – I think Jane’s production company is pretty good at policing videos online.

But trust me, it was awesome. There was even a guy who impersonated a chicken halfway through.

I also had her Lean Routine workout – also good. It was when “experts” started learning about the importance of interval training. And check out how edgy it was! (heh).

The Firm, Vol 1 (and beyond)

The “original” Firm videos – before they were bought out by infomercial fitness companies and dumbed-down – were awesome. I remember ordering the original Firm Vol. 1 after seeing it advertised in Shape magazine.

It cost $84, which (yes I looked this up!) is the equivalent of $181 with current inflation. Holy cow! 

Seriously, watch the video below for why Susan Harris became something of a cult favorite among video instructors. If I could find the full version of this video I’d probably give it a go.

Step Reebok: The Video

I did the original Step Reebok video hundreds of times. Pretty sure I could do it from memory. And I still love its corny intensity – they called it “The Toughest Workout on Earth.” 

Set to live drumming!  Hmmmm…. thinking of trying it now. Also thinking of channeling instructor Gin Miller’s no-ponytail look.

Cathe Friedrich PowerMax

I used to do this one in the little “living area” of our townhouse in Springfield, Va. It definitely kicks things up several notches from the original Reebok step workout.

Cathe is an awesome instructor … it’s hard to pick a fave, but this was a go-to so it won.

But how about those “party arms”?

Kathy Smith New Yoga (now Yoga Sculpt)

This video was a favorite to do when I got home from a long day of work, when I was city editor at a daily newspaper.

It was the first time I ever tried yoga – and I loved it. (But I didn’t feel like it was a “real” workout, so I usually ended up doing the Step Reebok workout before.)

Seriously, though: so serious. Seriously serious yoga, seriously.

Fresh, New, Fun Workouts

What’s your idea of a “fun” workout? What do you do to keep your workouts fresh and interesting?

As I mentioned above, I’m mixing in different kinds of workouts and techniques this month to reignite the fun factor. I’m doing some moves I learned when I was training for a fitness show, some barre workouts, lifting, and some HIIT. (and srsly, I’m thinking of trying out the Step Reebok workout again …. just for old times sake).

But I’d love to know what you’re up to! (And have you done any of the workouts above? Or do you have any corny old faves of your own?)

5 Killer Stacking Techniques That Will Ramp Up Your Workouts

5 Killer Stacking Techniques That Will Ramp Up Your Workouts

There’s a whiteboard in my training studio, and before every group training session I write the planned workout on it.

This for two reasons: one, it helps me focus more on the clients than on thinking about what is coming next. And two, it lets the clients know what’s on tap.

One of my favorite things is when clients look at the whiteboard with a mild sense of disappointment. Or maybe with a little relief.

As if they’re thinking: “Oh, this looks easy.”

Not gonna lie. I love it when about halfway through their workout, they’re saying, “WHY IS THIS SO HARD?”

And I’m walking around, like #winning.

How to Superset Exercises for Max Results

“Stacking” Exercises

Chances are you know all about “super-setting” and “giant-setting” exercises in a workout. This is when you do exercises back-to-back in a little circuit, and then you take a break at the end of the circuit before repeating, usually for two to three times through.

When it comes to how to superset exercises, it’s kind of like an art.

There are lots of ways to “stack” or superset exercises, based on your goals. Here are some common techniques:

  1. Target opposing muscles groups, like your chest and your back.
  2. Work the same muscle group except from different directions, like chest press and chest flyes
  3. Pair cardio and isometric movements, like jumping jacks and planks.
  4. Pair traditional strength exercises with explosive movements, to build power, like squats and jump squats.
  5. And then there’s my personal favorite, which attacks a muscle group from a couple different directions, and ends with either a plyometric or isometric exercise.

My Method of Stacking

This is how I like to stack exercises for intermediate to advanced clients who want to kick their results up a bit.

I choose exercises and sequence them in a way that:

  • works – and tires out – the main muscle group I’m targeting
  • then targets the “assister” muscle group, and
  • finally finishes out by either explosively or isometrically working the main muscle group.

Or sometimes I’ll tire out the assister group first, because it’s the stronger of the muscle groups and wants to take over (like quadriceps vs. hamstrings).

By “stacking” the exercises that way, it allows for maximum results in terms of muscle sculpting and fat loss without having to lift super-heavy weights or doing lots of extra cardio.

And when you learn how to superset exercises this way, you’ll be surprised at the results.

how to superset exercises in an athletic "stack."

This is the whiteboard featuring a “stacked” workout. Yes, I have bad handwriting.

When to “Stack”

Stacking exercises isn’t a beginner technique. I don’t recommend attempting it unless you have good core strength, good basic movement patterns, and at least 3 to 6 months of strength training under your belt.

I wouldn’t recommend this method of stacking if you’re trying to build max strength. It can help in building muscle, but I think it’s particularly effective in sculpting a lean, athletic physique.

Also: not every workout should be sequenced this way. I would limit this kind of workout to once or twice a week, max. And during those workouts, I’d only do one or two super/giant sets that are stacked in this format.

Also, I like them better closer to the beginning of a workout, so you’re fresh and can attack them safely.

Sample Stacks

Here are some of my favorite training stacks

Stack 1: Legs, Hamstring/Glute emphasis

  • Walking lunges holding dumbbells, 10 each side
  • Leg abductor machine (pressing OUT), 20 (if you don’t have an abductor machine, do X-band walks using a resistance tube)
  • Speed skaters, 15 each side.

Stack 2: Legs, Hamstring/Glute emphasis

  • Front squats, 10-12
  • Romanian deadlifts, 10-12
  • Russian kettlebell swings, 15

Stack 3: Legs, Glute emphasis

  • Romanian deadlifts, 12
  • Leg abductor machine (pressing out), 20
  • Barbell hip thrusts, 10

Stack 4: Shoulder burner 

  • Seated side raises, 10
  • Seated overhead DB press, 10
  • Plank from hands, 30 seconds

Stack 5: Core killer

  • Renegade row, 10 each side
  • Ab bicycles, 20 each side
  • Supermans, 12
  • Sprinter sit-up, 10 (5 each side)
  • Plank, 30 seconds.

How to Superset Exercises

Personally, I like to experiment with workouts to find just the right sequencing for maximum effectiveness. And this will vary by client, too – people have different goals, different movement patterns, different needs.

But it can be really fun in an “evil genius” kind of way to discover that, say, pairing step ups with single-leg glute bridges is an excellent combo.

(Seriously, try that: do 15 stepups on your right foot, then do 15 glute bridges on your right foot, and then repeat on the left side. Ouch!).

The Hidden Surprise

When these exercises are sequenced correctly, you’re left wondering why your go-to weight on a certain exercise … say the overhead presses in the shoulder burner above … suddenly seems like it weighs 50 percent more.

That’s because of the circuit. “Prefatiguing” surrounding muscles means they can’t help (or even take over), so you don’t have to use as a heavy weight to get the same effect.

This kind of “playing” can keep your workouts fresh and fun.

Try the stacks above and let me know what you think!

Try These 13 New Moves for Healthy, Strong, Supple Shoulders

Try These 13 New Moves for Healthy, Strong, Supple Shoulders

First, the good news: your shoulders are an amazing and complicated feat of anatomical engineering.

They can move in nearly every plane of motion, up and down, side to side, and in circles in lots of different directions.

But because they can move in so many different ways, the number of things that can go wrong with them is pretty overwhelming.

And not only that, if you do end up with a problem it’s often hard for doctors to diagnose exactly what’s going on inside or around your shoulder without a lot of expensive tests.

That’s why you’re much better off working to keep your shoulders healthy than you are trying to fix them.

Modern Lifestyle vs. Your Shoulders

But the truth is, when it comes your shoulders, pretty much everything in our lives works against them.

The way you sit, drive, use technology, and exercise (or don’t exercise) can get into the way.

When you sit with your shoulders rolled forward (as most of us do), we tighten our chest muscles and weaken our upper back muscles. Our necks get involved, and so can our abs and hips (yes, even our hips!).

As a result of so many muscles being involved, this poor posture becomes second nature. It feels normal.

And the older you get, the higher the risk of developing shoulder issues. At least 50 percent of 50 year olds show some rotator cuff damage in MRIs! (1

I mean, just look at how your shoulder is constructed (and this is just the front view. The rear view is also complicated):

Source: PubMed

Why Shoulder Mobility Matters

I recently wrote a post about mobility, and how important it is to keep a balance of flexibility, strength, and stability through our joints. If some muscles get too tight and others too loose/weak, we can end up with imbalances that can eventually lead to injury.

And when you have a joint as mobile as the shoulder, that imbalance issue can be critical. Another recent post addressed the slouched-shoulder posture (also called upper crossed syndrome) caused by cellphones and working at a keyboard all day.

If you’ve been pounding the heck out of your shoulders during your workouts hoping to build a sculpted, athletic upper body while not taking care of the joint you’re asking for trouble. 

Shoulder pain is no joke: once it strikes, it can be hard to sleep, get dressed, or even walk the dog, much less work out.

Here’s a list of some common shoulder issues:

  • Frozen shoulder
  • Winged scapula
  • Shoulder tendonitis
  • Rotator cuff tendonitis
  • Subacromial bursitis
  • Shoulder impingement syndrome
  • Glenoid labrum tear
  • Supraspinatus inflammation
  • Biceps tendonitis can also be involved

Shoulder Flexibility Exercises

First of all, lemme just say I’m not a doctor or physical therapist. I’m a personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist who has trained a boatload of clients with shoulder problems over the years.

If you have active pain in your shoulder, you should get it checked out by a doc as soon as possible to avoid complications or making the situation worse.

If you’re clear to do exercises, the National Academy of Sports Medicine has a basic formula for maintaining or rebuilding mobility.

Here’s the basic formula, in order:

  • Self-myofascial release (SMR) using a foam roll, lacrosse or tennis ball, or other device to help improve range of motion (how? check this out.)
  • Static stretching, where you hold a position for 20 to 30 seconds to improve flexibility.
  • Dynamic/isolated stretching and strengthening exercises that target the weak muscles.
  • When the muscle is strong enough, add in integrated strength exercises that make the weak muscles work in concert with the rest of your body.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds – I got you covered.

Exercises for Shoulder Mobility

The key to all of these exercises – and any other mobility work (or I would argue even any other exercises) – is to do them mindfully, with good posture.

That means your core should be “on,” joints/elbows/knees/etc. unlocked unless locking them is required by the exercise, etc. Basically, take these exercises and stretches slowly, in a controlled fashion, and feel every muscle reacting to the movements.

In order to create that long, lean, sculpted posture, you need to work the muscles when they are in their optimal positions, right?

Ready? Let’s go.

Self-Myofascial Techniques for the Shoulder

When you’re foam rolling or using a ball, you want to slowly roll the targeted area until you find a tender spot. Hold the ball/roll on that spot until the discomfort eases, between 30 to 90 seconds.

During that time, you want to maintain your core stability by keeping your navel drawn in toward your spine.

You might also want to play around and see how modifying angles or your position affects your muscles.

Latissimus dorsi (side/upper back)

  • Lean forward and/or roll back to find the best angle.
  • Note: I’m smiling in the pic but this one can hurt like a b@st@rd. No joke.
  • Hold for 30 to 90 seconds

Thoracic spine (upper back)

  • Abs engaged, move your upper back along the foam roll until you find a tender spot.
  • Lift your hips for more pressure, lower them for less
  • This one often has fewer tender spots than the lats.
  • Avoid directly rolling on the neck or the spine.
  • Hold for 30 to 90 seconds.

Pec/Shoulder/Teres major with ball

  • Place a tennis or lacrosse ball between the front/side of your shoulder (in toward your chest slightly) and a wall.
  • Abs on, shoulders and head in alignment, move until you feel a tender spot.
  • This one can take some finessing. 
  • Hold for 30 to 90 seconds.

Upper Back with ball

  • This one is not pictured. Similar to the chest/ball SMR technique, except on your upper back.
  • Start with the ball near your shoulder, and roll inward toward your spine until you feel tenderness.
  • You might need to move the ball up and/or down to find a spot.
  • Avoid rolling directly on your spine or neck.
  • Hold for 30 to 90 seconds on tender areas.

Static Stretches for the Shoulders

You do not need a ball for the lat or chest stretch – I sometimes do them on a bench.

It can be helpful to do these twice – do them as a little stretching circuit in a row, two times through.

 

Lat Stretch

  • Kneel on the floor, abs engaged.
  • Put one arm on a stability ball, thumb up, and roll the ball out until you feel gentle tension.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. 

Chest Stretch

  • As above, except, this time, both arms are on the ball, lean forward and let your upper chest fall between your arms.
  • You should feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders and your upper chest.
  • Your neck should remain in neutral position (i.e., do not let your head drop down toward the floor).
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds

Abdominal Complex and Shoulder Stretch

  • This is one of my current favorites.
  • Lie with your back on a stability ball, and drape your body over it.
  • Be sure to keep your glutes engaged.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds 

Dynamic Movements for Shoulders

“Quadruped” Shoulder Roll

If you have locked-up shoulder blades, this one is going to make you go, “What? How do I even do that?”

How do I know that? Because I’ve felt that way myself. 

Basically, all you do is get on all fours, lock out your elbows, and “roll” your shoulders in a circle, up, forward, down, and back.

(PS: quadruped = on all fours)

Scapular Push-Ups

This is similar to the movement above, but it takes the strength up several notches.

Get into a high plank (from hands), shoulders aligned over wrists. Lock elbows and press shoulder blades apart, and then bring them together.

Sphinx with Front Reach

For this one, lie on your belly on the floor, elbows under shoulders.

Keeping head tall but chin neutral, squeeze your glutes and lift one arm up (hand thumb up) in front of you. Slowly lower and repeat on the other side.

Stability Ball Cobra

Lie with your hips/low abs on a stability ball, feet about hip-width apart, arms reached down in front you, thumbs up.

Squeezing your glutes, lift your upper body as you sweep your arms back, thumbs up.

Note: If you cannot do this movement  because your legs keep slipping out from under you, try anchoring your feet under a piece of furniture or weight bench until you can do it without the anchor. You also can experiment with different sized stability balls.

Integrated Strength Exercises

Single-leg deadlift with Arm Reach

  • Stand on your right foot with the left foot elevated, dumbbell in left hand.
  • Reach down toward your right foot.
  • As you come back to standing, lift left hand out to the side. 
  • Repeat for 6 to 8 reps each side.

Stability Ball Row to Overhead Press

  • Drape your body over a stability ball that is directly under your thighs and hips
  • Using your abs, lift your upper body so that your body forms a straight line from your heels to your hips.
  • Keep your glutes squeezed and abs engaged to hold your body in place.
  • Hold a resistance tube, dowel, or light bar in your hands, directly below your chest.
  • “Row” upward, toward your chest.
  • Next, press the arms so they extend in a straight line above your head.
  • Return the arms back to chest level
  • And then “row” your arms back down.
  • Repeat for 10 to 12 repetitions, keeping your glutes and abs engaged.

Consistency Counts

Now, obviously you don’t have to do all these exercises every time you work out, but working them into your routine a few times a week wouldn’t hurt.

I like to do all of them up to the integrated strength (the deadlift and stability row) as many days as possible, preferably not during my own workout.

Time allowing, I work them into an evening wind-down mobility routine that I do when – you guessed it – I’m winding down for the day.

I often want to skip doing the routine, but I know that afterward, I always feel better, looser and more relaxed. And I notice that my shoulders feel better the next day too.

Try these and let me know how you make out!

A Strong Core is Key to Mobile Shoulders

You probably noticed how many times I mentioned “abs on” in this post, right? That’s because our abs – or our core – help hold all of our muscles in place.

And having a strong core is pretty important when it comes to holding your shoulders and hips where they are supposed to be.

Doing endless crunches can actually be a bad idea if you have hunched shoulders because they just reinforce that posture.

By making slight adjustments in your workout AND your nutrition, you can start to feel a huge difference in your core, fast! Want to know more? Sign up for the FREE 6-Day Core Challenge! Just click the banner below and you’ll be on your way to flatter, leaner abs.

What is Mobility: Doing Cool Human Tricks, No Matter How Old You Are

What is Mobility: Doing Cool Human Tricks, No Matter How Old You Are

The other night I went out to dinner, and when I stood up after sitting for an hour or so, I wasn’t sure I was actually going to stand up.

My hip flexors felt locked up and my low back was stiff, which in turn made my shoulders hunch over. 

I tried my best to hide it, but I am pretty sure I did the old-lady* shuffle for a few steps before things finally arranged themselves in some semblance of normal. #supersexy

And the cougholdercough I get, the more this happens. Which is a clear sign I need to work on a component of fitness you’re going to be hearing a whole lot more about over the next few years:

Mobility

Basically, mobility is the ability to move in a natural, unrestricted manner through full range of joint motion, especially in your hips and shoulders, while also having functional strength and stability.

The word that comes to mind is “supple.”

Because I’m an animal person, I like to imagine it’s how a cat – maybe a sleek panther – moves. Or in human form – and in my wildest dreams – a Cirque de Soleil performer or dancer.

In real-world terms, it’s being able to get down on the floor and then easily get back up. It’s about squatting for a full range of motion and being able to press your arms overhead with proper posture and stability.

And it’s about being able to squat while your straight arms are pressed overhead. And let’s not forget being able to twist and turn.

And yes, it’s about flexibility.

This is where it gets confusing.

Flexibility is Part of Mobility 

Flexibility basically means having range of motion through your joints and muscles.

But flexibility doesn’t necessarily include stability or strength. Which is why too much flexibility without stability and strength can go wrong pretty fast, in the form of hyperextended joints (ouch).

So …

What is Mobility?

Basically, mobility is the next step up from flexibility. It’s almost the whole fitness package.

And trust me, mobility is something that’s worth

  1. hanging on to and
  2. fighting for.

It’s what lets you do cool human tricks no matter how old you are. I like to think having mobility is a key part of having a little “treachery” in you as you age.

Mobility 101 

So, basically, to have good mobility you need:

  1. A fair amount of strength (but not necessarily big muscles).
  2. A strong core.
  3. Flexibility.
  4. Stability: no significant muscle imbalances that throw off your movement patterns – how you sit, walk, lift – or your posture.

The only thing missing from being the total-package fitness threat in the list above is stamina and power, but you can’t safely have those without having a strong mobility foundation.

I’ve got a couple stories for you. 

Mobility: You Can Do Cool Things

When I was a kid, a few years my grandfather passed away, my grandmother introduced her new boyfriend (and future new husband) to the family.

And wow, did he ever make an impression on us grandkids.

He could do every kind of push-up: fingertip, wide, narrow, handclap, and more. He even did them with my younger brother on his back. We got on the floor and had bear crawl races (I had no idea they were bear crawls, but whatevs). None of us kids could believe it – a grownup who could do all this stuff? Like, woah!

He could do the “kick the habit” jump, where you leap up and kick your feet to the side.

No, this isn’t my grandmother’s husband. 🙂 But it is a kick-the-habit jump.

I remember one time (much to my mortification) I saw all the grownups in the family dancing in the kitchen, and he did the twist all the way down to the floor ON ONE LEG. 

And even though it was embarrassing to see the grownups dancing like that, I thought: 

I want to be like that when I’m older.

Poor Mobility: You Can’t Get Up

Meanwhile, here’s a tale from the opposite side of the spectrum.

I can’t even tell you how many of my training clients say the tipping point for them to get into shape came when they were sitting on the floor.

Because when they went to get up, they couldn’t … at least not without grabbing onto a chair, couch, table, or (worse yet) another person to help them.

And they were like: How did I get myself in this predicament? 

Well, chances are, it was a slow progression, so slow they barely noticed it happening.

How Mobility Problems Happen

Here’s a likely scenario:

  • You sit a lot, probably for your job. That makes the muscles in the front part of your body get short – or inflexible.
  • From the ground up, your front-of-body muscles get tight: shins, quads, hip flexors, abs, chest, and the front of shoulders. The muscles of your neck and jaw can even get involved.
  • Meanwhile, the muscles in the back part of your body get loose – or weak.
  • This slackness or weakness starts all the way down in your calves, and goes up through the hamstrings, glutes, back, and your rotator cuff (shoulders), as well as some muscles in your neck.
  • As a result, muscle imbalances are created: the “force-tension” ratios get out of whack.
  • Plus, if you don’t regularly use your muscles, they get weaker, no matter how old you are. 
  • Not only that, even if you are active, you lose muscle mass as you age. Every decade after 30, you lose between 3 percent and 5 percent of your muscle. If you’re a math person, you can see that as you get older, the rate accelerates, right, because you have less muscle to begin with? (Hence the old-lady shuffle comment above)
  • And we’re not even talking about the actual changes that can occur within your joints themselves.
  • Suddenly, one day you’re on the ground and … there you stay.

Think of your body like an aging car. If you don’t keep using it, it’s going to rust out.

Scenario 2:

  • You work out a lot.
  • You think stretching and mobility work is for wusses.
  • You think you are bulletproof.
  • And then … ermergerd … pop!
  • Why does your shoulder (or biceps or hip or foot) hurt so damn much?

Totally Not Cool

So yeah, I wasn’t feeling too cool when I was shuffling across the floor at the restaurant the other night. Granted, I had done a hard leg workout earlier in the day, which made my muscles tight.

But I’ve also been doing a lot of sitting (like I’m doing right now, writing this). 

It was a good wakeup call that I need to work more mobility and “recovery” work into my routine.

Here’s the thing about mobility work though – most of us don’t like doing it. It’s because we want to charge forward in #beastmode for our #gainz (or our weight loss, as the case may be). If we don’t get sweaty or pick up something super heavy, we don’t feel like we’ve gotten in a “real” workout.

And by we, I am including “me.” 

What are Mobility Exercises?

There’s no one “perfect” way to work mobility. In fact, if you spend some time scrolling around the web, you’ll find a bunch of different recommendations, and none of them really include all of the components.

Because mobility really is the quadruple threat of fitness: you’re strong from your core all the way out to your extremities. And not only are you strong, you have control over them. You’re flexible through your joints and muscles, and can work through a full range of motion.

Which means it’s helpful to do a lot of different things:

  • soft tissue work like foam rolling 
  • dynamic (but controlled) movements like shoulder rolls and lunges
  • twists
  • stretches
  • exercises make your core strong
  • and exercises that make your muscles strong (and not necessarily “big”) 

But all that different stuff makes working out more fun, doesn’t it?

Mobility Exercises

I often recommend my clients spend some quality time with a foam roller for a few minutes every day. One of the best times to do this is when you’re winding down at night. It’s a great way to take some “you” time and relax.

Getting a yoga workout once or twice a week is a good idea. Or, you could take a barre class (my current obsession).

Lifting weights a few times a week is also a must –  you don’t need complicated body part splits, either. Basically, I think it’s a good idea to get in shape, and then when you’re strong enough, lift really heavy stuff for a few (5 to 8) reps. But only lift that heavy when you’re strong enough.

So get out that foam roll, plug in that yoga video, try a barre workout (check out The Lazy Dancer … she has been putting a hurting on me lately!), and pick up some weights. Not all at the same time. 🙂 

And I’m gonna get cracking on some cool mobility workouts for you. 

Get a Stronger Core

Think doing endless crunches is the way to getting flat abs? How about trying a few simple changes for 6 days, and see what happens?

By making slight adjustments in your workout, you can start to feel a huge difference in your core, fast! Want to know more?

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