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. 

My Home Workout VHS Hall of Fame

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?)

Try This Fun Core Exercise That Will Strengthen Your Whole Body

Try This Fun Core Exercise That Will Strengthen Your Whole Body

Back when I was first studying to be a personal trainer in 2000, I hired my own trainer.

His name was Reggie, and he told me he was going to “get me in shape to get in shape.”

Now, the thing was, I thought I already was in pretty good shape.

I was wrong.

The morning after our first session together, I went to get out of bed and realized I couldn’t sit up – my abs hurt too much. I had to roll onto my side and kind of “scoot” out of bed.

But it didn’t take long for my core and abs to become strong.

The Reggie

I credit this fun core exercise in this post – the stability ball rollout – with helping to get me strong.

Reggie made me do hundreds of these over the course of the time I worked out with him.

In fact, I now call this exercise “The Reggie.”

I love this move because not only does it work your abs, but also your entire core from your shoulders to your hips.

If you sit a lot at work – as I did back in those days – The Reggie helps to fix your posture by forcing you to use your upper body to stabilize yourself. Keeping your back flat and strong is also a great posture reset.

It’s also a great “active recovery” move that I like to use with clients (and myself!) during a larger workout.

Here’s a quick video of me during today’s workout, doing “The Reggie.”

Turn It Into a Fat-Burner

Here’s how I used this exercise as part of my workout, for a total-body fat-burning circuit:

  • 5 minutes cardio intervals
  • 5 “Reggies”
  • 5 Pullups
  • 5 Low Bodyweight Rows
  • 5 Hip Dip Planks Each Side
  • 25 Ball Crunches
  • 2 Minutes Punching Drills (you could also do step-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, jump rope – anything that gets your heart rate up)
    Repeat 4 times.

Fun, Effective Exercise

Kids love to do stability ball rollouts – in fact, when I train them, it’s something they actually request. If you want to get your kids moving, have them try this.

And try it yourself and let me know how you make out!

(Note: if you want that strong core to look like a sculpted six-pack, you’ll need to revise your diet a bit so that you chisel off any fat that’s hiding your midsection.)

Top 2 Ways to Get off Your Ass and Start Moving

Top 2 Ways to Get off Your Ass and Start Moving

DonkeyHave you ever felt so overwhelmed by everything you think you’re supposed to do that you decide to take a nap instead of even trying?

Or maybe you feel like there are too many choices to make before you begin. Or perhaps you think everything has to be perfect before you take that first step.

“Paralysis by analysis.” It’s a legit condition and it even has its own (albeit in need of clarification) Wikipedia page.

I’ve been there. In fact, I’ve been there for the past week or so.

I know for a fact a lot of people get this feeling when it comes to fitness because they tell me about it all the time.

They decide to start working out and suddenly are faced with an overload of information about what they should do, how and when they should do it, and also how often.

It’s intimidating! Why would you want to start something new when, according to the “experts,” you’re going to be doing it wrong anyway?

Seriously: Is cardio bad or good (it’s a controversy!)? How hard and how often should you work out (another controversy!)? Are you doing the right strength-training exercises and are you doing them properly (another controversy!)?

Overwhelmed …

So how should you (re)start your fitness routine? 

Pick something you enjoy (or don’t hate). And do it. It’s that simple. And do it today, not next Monday. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.

You’ll feel better for starting, trust me. 

And here’s that list I promised in the headline.

Top 2 Ways To Get Off Your Ass and Work Out

1. Stand up.

2. Go for a walk (or dance or bike or lift or do lunges and pushups).

Here's One Sneaky Reason the Scale Won't Budge

Upset that the scale isn't changing? Step away for a week.

Upset that the scale isn’t changing? Step away for a week.

Have you ever felt frustrated when it seemed like no matter what you did, you couldn’t lose weight? When the scale simply refused to budge?

That happened to one of my fitness coaching clients recently.

My client (we’ll call her Tammy) had been killing it in the gym nearly every day for weeks, lifting weights and doing cardio. She prepared her meals in advance. She logged her meals in a food journal.

Heck, she even measured out her water intake.

Then one day I saw her fighting back tears during a workout. I pulled her aside so we could talk.

“I don’t know what I am doing wrong,” she told me. “I am ready to give up. The gym has always been my happy place and I’m starting to hate it.”

Now, Tammy is not a quitter. We went over every detail of her plan for possible problems. (There weren’t any.) Finally, I suggested she do one thing differently. She thought I was crazy, but she did it anyway.

The next morning she stood on the scale (even though I had told her not to).

It was down 3 pounds.

And she had just changed one little thing.

Crazy, huh?

Stress is a bitch

Have you ever started a new fitness or weight-loss regimen with full force? You make a plan, you get all your gear assembled and then come Monday morning you are all-in: diet and workouts are ON!

The next few mornings you weigh yourself, looking for the scale to suddenly reflect all your hard work.

And maybe it does drop a pound or two over the first week. And then …

Nothing.

And you think you might be slacking a little so maybe you do extra workouts. Or eat a little less. You weigh yourself in the morning. And then again at night.

And still … nothing.

It doesn’t make any sense.

And yet it does. Your body is a finely tuned, complicated machine but it’s also kind of dumb. You might be exercising and dieting to get healthier and fitter, but your body doesn’t know that. All it knows is that things have changed – it’s being worked harder on less (and different) fuel – and it surmises that it’s under attack. It wants to survive.

It starts churning out extra hormones to fuel itself to combat the attack. The weight loss temporarily stops – a normal phenomenon generally lasting a week or so.

But when that happens, we start to mentally freak out and even more stress hormones are dumped into our system.

We go into lockdown mode. Progress comes to a halt.

I find this phenomenon happens more with women and more often still after they reach their mid-30s. It has happened to me, too. There’s only one thing you can do.

You have to trust the process. You have to relax.

During my conversation with Tammy, I asked her if she could do anything more than she was already doing to achieve her goal.

No, she said. She couldn’t.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, I asked her: “You can’t do more than the most you can do, can you?”

She frowned. “No.”

“Then you’re off the hook, right?” I asked her. “You can’t do any more. So just let all that stress go, and trust the plan.”

Sure: I know it’s easy to say, “Let the stress go.” Doing it is another matter. How, exactly, are you supposed to stop being focused on the results of all that effort – all the workouts and the attention to the diet?

You relax. You make time for a bubble bath or you browse a favorite store, or you get a massage or pedicure. Maybe you curl up on the couch with a good book and cup of tea. For every bout of intense activity, make a little time for relaxation.

(I also told Tammy to stop weighing herself for a week, but she didn’t listen to that part.)

And maybe the scale doesn’t drop 3 pounds immediately, like it did for Tammy, but it will begin to move again. More importantly, perhaps, a figurative weight – all that stress – will drop, and with it gone, you can enjoy your workouts again.

Make a plan and work the plan

How do you know if your plan is trustworthy?

Work with a respected resource. Hire an experienced personal trainer. On a budget? Find a well-vetted online resource and browse their free programs.

Or hire a virtual fitness coach who can design a plan for you and coach you through it online.

Set your plan, work your plan – put it on autopilot, even – and let the results roll in.

Free 15-minute abs/core workout

Over the years one of the top requests I’ve received from blog readers has been for 15-minute workouts.

At first I bristled at this idea because how much of a workout can you safely get in during 15 minutes? But when I sat down to create these workouts, I realized: quite a bit!

I like the 15-minute workout series I’ve created because not only are these workouts effective on their own, but if you have more time, you can mix and match to create a longer, more varied workout that hits every body part.

This workout focuses on the muscles of the core — the many muscles that comprise  your abs as well as your low back and glutes.

Depending on your fitness level, this workout could take plus or minus 15 minutes. Listen to your body and takes breaks as needed.

How to understand the workouts:

Supersets are exercises done back-to-back with no break, with a brief rest being taken at the end of the last exercise in the sequence before repeating for the allotted number of sets. Once you’re completed the sets, move on to the next superset.

If you’re doing this workout as part of a larger workout, do this one at the end (you want your core fresh and strong when you lift weights!). As always: if something hurts, don’t do it, and always check with your doctor first before starting a workout program, especially if you have health issues or aren’t sure if something works for you.

Click here for a handy PDF version of the workout that you can load onto your phone/device or keep as a hard copy.

15-minute core killer

Superset 1

  1. Double leg lifts, 10   http://youtu.be/86PZoQI7abk
  2. Cross Crawl each side, 20 each side http://youtu.be/vpM_-MCP6ko
  3. Hover with double knee drop http://youtu.be/–qUpnS4RAY
    Repeat for a total of 2 times through, rest 30-60 seconds and then proceed to:

Superset 2

  1. Ab bicycles, 30 each side http://youtu.be/N2KFWPzz6D4
  2. Double leg extension, 15 http://youtu.be/mRsjL6rgjtg
  3. Ab bicycles, 30 each side http://youtu.be/N2KFWPzz6D4
  4. Double leg extension, 15 other side
  5. Plank with shoulder tap, 10 each side http://youtu.be/r07CvL2nico
  6. Modified supermans, 10 http://youtu.be/si-xCp3rVig
    Rest 30-60 seconds and repeat for a total of 2 times through.

Free 15-minute booty blaster workout

Over the years one of the top requests I’ve received from blog readers has been for 15-minute workouts.

At first I bristled at this idea because how much work can you safely get in during 15 minutes? But then when I sat down to create these workouts, I realized: quite a bit!

I like the 15-minute workout series I’ve created because not only are these workouts effective on their own, but if you have more time, you can mix and match to create a longer, more varied workout that hits every body part.

This is a 15-minute workout focusing on the muscles of your glutes and posterior chain — the body’s strong powerhouse muscles. I find that this workout helps “wake up” those muscles, which due to our sedentary lifestyles often do their best to stay inactive.

Depending on your fitness level and whether or not you choose to use weights, it could take plus or minus 15 minutes.

How to understand the workouts:

Supersets are exercises done back-to-back with no break, with a brief rest being taken at the end of the last exercise in the sequence before repeating for the allotted number of sets. Once you’re completed the sets, move on to the next superset.

Repetitions: that’s how many times you do an exercise.
Sets: That’s how many times you do the series of repetitions, after rest breaks.
(So, 3 sets of 10 would mean doing the exercise 10 times, then taking a break, and repeating it again for a total of 3 times through. In workout programs that’s recorded as 3×10)

Warm up with some light cardio and body weight squats or lunges. As always: if something  hurts, don’t do it, and always check with your doctor first before starting a workout program, especially if you have health issues or aren’t sure if something works for you.

I’ve created this handy PDF file for you to download so you can bring the workout with you. Click here to download.

15-minute booty blaster

Weights (barbell, dumbbells or ankle weights) are optional.

Superset 1

Do three sets of 10-15 repetitions of each of these exercises, back to back. Rest for 20 to 30 seconds before repeating the superset.

  1. Kneeling squats: http://youtu.be/wSjLCOw1vIg
  2. Hip thrusts: http://youtu.be/hHLXczc7RAI  (option: bridges)

Superset 2

Do 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of each of these exercises, back to back. Rest for 15 to 30 seconds before repeating each superset.

  1. Quadruped hip extension: http://youtu.be/vzHZGTZ64jc
  2. Pullthroughs http://youtu.be/Ba6Q7qtPYEM

Superset 3

Do 3 sets of 10 reps of each of these exercises

  1. Reverse hyperextension (on stability ball: http://youtu.be/UCfOdr2JSmU ) (on bench: http://youtu.be/fhbmIxi7Zc4 ) (note: low option are modified supermans http://youtu.be/si-xCp3rVig)
  2. Resistance band woodchop/rotations (do each side!): http://youtu.be/73IKRQiW1FQ

Superset 4

Do 15 repetitions of each exercises — do all exercises on one side before switching to other. Repeat for a total of three times through

  1. Side-lying abduction http://youtu.be/1l3N9hbbyX8
  2. Fire hydrant http://youtu.be/-1k9ufNcDhE
  3. Side-lying Clam http://youtu.be/5N7KYDye2gA